Global Population Crisis

Bang. Bang. Bang. A thunderous knock at the door startles Chris to his feet. He edges toward the door. The worn floorboards creak beneath his bare feet.

“Who is it?” He asks.

“USCPC sir. Please open up,” the voice answers sternly. 

Chris slowly cracks the door open and peers out. Standing on his small front porch is a short, balding man in a black nylon jacket and khaki pants. He taps his right index finger on the white block letters USCPC printed across the left breast. 

Behind the short man’s left shoulder stands a tall expressionless soldier in an all-black special ops uniform. His clean shaven head glistens in the sunlight. An M-16 rifle is slung across his chest, while a handgun rests in the holster on his hip and the large knife is strapped to his thick, powerful leg.

“How can I help you gentlemen?” Chris asks.

The short man assumes, “Chris Jackson?” Chris nods his head down once to the affirmative. “Mr. Jackson, name is Detective Strauss with the United States Center for Population Control.” He motions to the other gentleman with him, “This is Officer Smith. I have a warrant to search your home, but I’d like to have a short chat first.” He holds up a piece of paper stamped in official government seals, “Will you please let us in?”

Chris hesitates for a moment, then opens the door the rest of the way, allowing the men to enter. “Please come in. Let’s have a seat in the living room. It’s more comfortable than standing in the doorway,” Chris says as he leads them into the room directly beside the front foyer. “Have a seat,” he says, motioning to the armchair beside the fireplace. Chris flops down on the couch. The detective sits in the armchair facing Chris. Officer Smith stands silently by the doorway of the room.

“Would you like something to drink?” Chris offers.

“I would love a glass of water,” says Strauss. He turns to his partner, “Smith?” Officer Smith remains motionless. “I suppose that’s a no?” Strauss assumes.

Chris yells over his shoulder to his wife in the kitchen, “Honey, we have some guests. Can you please fix us each a glass of water and maybe a snack?” Chris turns back to the detective, “It’ll just be a minute. So what can I help you with, detective?” 

“Mr. Jackson, I am sure you are aware of the government’s new laws on population control,” Detective Strauss infers.

Chris puts his feet on the coffee table. “Please refresh my memory,” he replies. 

Chris’ wife, Ellen, enters the room balancing a tray with four glasses of water and some chips and dip. She hands one glass to the detective and one to Chris. She places the snacks on the coffee table between the two men.

“Honey, please take your feet off the table,” Ellen insists.

Chris pulls his feet off the table and sets them back on the floor.

Ellen turns to Smith, “Would you like a glass of water officer…?” 

“Smith,” he answers. “No thank you.”

“Well I’ll just put it down here in case you change your mind.” She says as she places it on a small table beside the officer. “How about a chip?”

Ellen lifts the bowl of chips off the tray to offer to Smith. He helps himself to a single chip and raises it to his mouth.

“Wait,” Ellen says, “You must try my famous dip.” She places the chips on the table and picks up the small crystal bowl of dip. Smith helps himself to a generous scoop. “There you go hon’. It’s good, isn’t it?” Smith nods, his mouth full. Ellen flashes him a smile, places the dip on the table and walks back toward the kitchen.

“Honey, will you please join us?” Asks Chris.

Ellen stops and turns back to face him, “Just a moment, my love. I have to get something from the kitchen.” She leaves the room.

Chris turns his attention back to Detective Strauss, “So Detective, you were saying?”

Strauss takes a sip of his water, “Wow! That’s very good.”

“Reverse osmosis,” Chris informs the detective, “It removes the chemicals and many of the unnecessary minerals from the water.”

“Very well,” says Detective Strauss as he places the glass on the table. Chris leans forward and reaches under the coffee table. Officer Smith aims his M-16 at the back of Chris’ head.

Chris lifts his hand up from underneath the table. He places a coaster on the table top and slides it toward Strauss. “Don’t want to ruin the finish,” Chris says as he flashes a wink at Strauss and places his glass on the coaster. “As you were saying?”

Smith lowers his firearm. 

“Yes. The new law set in place by the US government stipulates that every child born in this country must be assigned to an adult at a one to one ratio.”

“So they say,” replies Chris.

“They do,” says Strauss. “I am also aware that you currently have three children. A son named Caleb that is registered to you…” 

“Correct,” says Chris.

Strauss continues, “A daughter named Rachel that is registered to your wife, Ellen?”

Chris confirms the statement, “Also correct.”

“And a second son named Chris that is registered to a… Kristina Jackson?”, asks Strauss, implying he’d like a further explanation.

“Yes,” Chris confirms, “Kristina is my sister. She is, um… barren. To her credit she was overjoyed when little CJ came into our lives, and even happier that we chose her to be his sponsor.”

“Well that’s just fantastic. And what you say corresponds with the information I have here,” Strauss confirms.

Chris jumps to his feet, “Splendid! Well gentlemen, thank you very much for the visit. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some chores to get to.” 

Strauss interrupts, “There is one more thing that we have not discussed.”

“And what might that be?” Asks Chris.

“Your wife, Ellen. She’s pregnant isn’t she?” Pries Strauss. Chris’ slack jawed reaction comes as no surprise to the detective. He motions to Chris to have a seat. Chris begrudgingly sits back down on the couch. “She’s pregnant and there is no one to register this baby to, correct? Your parents are both deceased, are they not? Ellen’s parents are also deceased, is that correct? Neither of you have any more friends or family to whom you can register this child?”

“That’s correct,” Chris’ words fall out of his mouth like a sack of marbles dumped out onto the floor. He takes several deep breaths.

“Do not worry, Mr. Jackson, you have a number of options. First, as you may have heard, you can move north to Canada. Their government has been generous enough to set up settlements in the northern prairie provinces to take in families with unregistered children. It’s by far the most humane option and I urge you to take it. You won’t have to move until the baby is born, however, I recommend making the journey before your newborn comes along. It’ll make it easier on everyone involved.”

“And what are my other options should I choose not to move to the frozen tundra?” Chris asks, snidely.

“Well,” Strauss heaves a long breath, “Option two is to hand over the unregistered child to the government.”

“What will they do with a baby?” Chris worriedly asks.

“I can’t tell you, as I am not privy to that information,” Strauss admits. “And the third option is that one of the children is destroyed. In this case, I can have a doctor here in the next week to perform an abortion so as to avoid any unnecessary bloodshed of one of your other young children.”

Chris places his head in his hands. His body heaves as he sobs, releasing his frustration and fear.

“I’ll be honest with you Mr. Jackson,” says Strauss, “While it may seem extreme, at least you have the option to relocate. Two other, much larger countries, are simply hoarding and massacring children and the elderly. Many other regions are completely war torn. Tens of thousands of bodies are being incinerated everyday. Billions of people around the world don’t have the opportunity that I’ve presented to you. So… what would you like to do?”

Chris ponders for a while. He stands back up, “If you’ll excuse me, I must speak with my wife.” He leaves the two men in the living room and walks down the hall to the kitchen.

Detective Strauss shoots a look at Smith. “Seems like a fairly reasonable guy. I think he’ll do right by his family, don’t you?,” he whispers as he scoops some dip onto a chip.

Smith takes a deep breath, “I don’t feel well.”

“What?” Strauss asks. 

Smith switches off the safety on his firearm, “I think there’s something in that dip.” Smith turns a pale grey and begins sweating profusely.

Strauss drops the chip back into the bowl. 

Smith violently bends over at the waist. His blood filled vomit hits the floor with a splat, spreading across a two foot radius.

Ellen creeps into the room from behind him. She presses the barrel of a loaded glock to the side of his head. “Easy there, soldier. Just drop the rifle.”

Smith swings toward Ellen as she pulls the trigger, painting the walls with a shiny new red coat. Smith’s large body hits the ground with a heavy thud. 

A second gunshot is fired by Strauss straight into Ellen’s chest. Strauss stands up out of his seat. He creeps slowly toward Ellen’s body. As he steps out of the room and back into the foyer, he lifts his head to see Chris standing at the end of the hall. Strauss points his gun down the hallway. 

A third gunshot rings through the air. Strauss examines the pistol. He ponders momentarily about whether or not he has pulled the trigger. A sharp heat fills his gut. He presses his hand against his belly. Bright red blood oozes out of the hole, soaking his clothes and hand, dripping onto the hardwood.

Strauss glances down the hallway. Chris has disappeared from sight. Tilting his head upwards, he sees Caleb, the Jackson’s eight year old son, sitting atop the staircase that leads directly to the front door. His small pistol smokes while the bullet lodged in Strauss’ gut wears him further down by the second. Strauss fires frantically as Caleb takes cover.

Chris steps back into the hallway and fires one shot from his .44 Magnum, ripping Strauss’ leg wide open. The detective takes a step backward, slipping in Smith’s vomit. The hardwood jars him as it becomes closely acquainted with his tailbone. Ellen kicks the gun away from his hand from her lying position. Chris slowly approaches and helps Ellen to her feet. They stand together hovering over Strauss.

“These new vests are great, honey,” Ellen says as she taps her chest. “Frontline tactical. Got a great deal,” she says with a giggle.

“We need you to do something for us,” says Chris.

Strauss slides his body toward the door frame and sits up against it. “What do you want?”

“You are going to give me the password to your phone,” says Ellen as she rifles through Strauss’ pocket.

“What are you going to do?” He asks.

“We’re going to report this as a false alarm,” she replies.

“No.” Strauss heaves a breath, “What are going to do with me?” 

“Would you like to see?” asks Chris, deviously.

Chris grabs Strauss’ legs. He drags the detective down the hall, flings open the door to the basement, and pulls his bleeding body slowly down the stairs. Strauss’ head bounces off each step, one by one until it finally hits the concrete of the basement floor. Chris flips on the light, revealing a four foot high stainless steel tub, a long stainless steel table and an industrial bandsaw. He drags Strauss to a pole in the middle of the room and leans him up against it.

The ceiling joists creak as Ellen drags Smith’s body down the hallway.

“Strong. Isn’t she?” Chris asks rhetorically.

The loud thumping of Smith’s body crashing down the stairs worries Strauss as if the whole house is about to collapse. Ellen follows slowly behind. She steps over Smith’s limp body, approaching Strauss. She crouches down beside him.

Ellen whispers softly in Strauss’ ear, “You see, detective Strauss, this is where we dispose of nosey law enforcement agents, shitty neighbours, and basically anyone who threatens our family.”

Chris slides on long, black rubber gloves, and steps into a full hazmat suit. He straps a pair of swimming goggles to his head. He opens a large door in the corner of the room, removing a solid frozen body. The victim’s highway patrol uniform clings to his frigid corpse. Chris lays the body on the table beside the band saw. He and Ellen lift Smith’s oversized body and force it into the freezer. Chris shuts the door and confirms that it is well sealed.

Chris flips the switch on the bandsaw and the loud whirring drowns out all other sounds. He cuts the body into several pieces, rolling each one off the end of the saw, into a large plastic bin.

Ellen, crouches beside Strauss again to yell in his ear, “You see, detective, we have to freeze the bodies first. Otherwise the blood will be everywhere. We cut up those bodies on a band saw cuz they’re easier to handle that way. Then my darling love will put the pieces into that stainless steel tub. It’s  filled with acid to dissolve the remains.”

A weak cough escapes Strauss’ mouth. He winces and passes out from the pain.

Chris smashes the big red killswitch on the saw. The blade slows to a stop. He removes his gloves and places them on the table. He walks over the unconscious detective. He wakes Strauss with a hard slap to the face. “Welcome back,” Chris says with a chuckle.

Ellen whispers into Strauss’ ear, “Try to relax,” She slides behind the detective, “It’ll all be over soon.”

The rough texture of a thick rope presses against Strauss’ neck, scratching and cutting the skin. His eyes roll back in his head as his breathing slows. His limp body slumps to the floor.

CoronaDiary: Aftermath of a Global Pandemic

The following diary entries were found on the body of John C. Simmons on November 10, 2021. His notes and short pages were in shambles. The information has since been sorted through and pondered over until a young writer was able to assemble it into a coherent synopsis.

June 14, 2020

Day 90 of quarantine. This is the first time in my life I haven’t had the opportunity to go out and enjoy my birthday. FaceTiming with friends and family has filled the days, reminding me of better times. Once this all blows over, I’ll be on the next flight home to see my parents. I miss them. I miss my mom’s warm embrace and I miss my dad’s comforting and familiar cynicism. I just can’t wait for this to be done.

The pandemic is revealing all the flaws in our country and national leadership. Proving the complete incompetence of our president and his administration, the Governors have taken over commanding their states. Some are better than others, but they are all an improvement over the man that was supposed to make this country great again.

Trump’s now picking fights with China over the old “you started it” nonsense. I don’t disagree that this stemmed from China, or Trump’s assessment of the situation equating it to an arsonist lighting a house on fire during a party. How did it go? Something like, “If you’re at a house party and some idiot lights a fire in the bathroom, you don’t blame everyone, you blame the arsonist.” Which is absolutely correct. 

What he failed to mention was that if the other guests smell smoke and just stand around denying there’s a problem, or worse, fan the flames; to some degree they are also to blame.

Either way, I don’t think this is the time to pick fights. We need to work together to get through this.  

August 26, 2020

What the fuck happened to this world? I’ve spent months now locked inside my studio apartment. Cut off from the outside, my family, my friends. The internet has been down for the last 3 weeks, cutting off the entire home food delivery system; something we’ve been forced to accept as normal once all the supermarkets and grocery stores were closed. Restaurants and bars were done a month ago once they proved to be irresponsible in the fight against COVID-19. 

Yesterday, the news erupted. After months of partisan bullshit, mindless squabbling, and division that this country hasn’t seen since the civil war, the hammer finally came down, ending the reign of our inept leader. A leader that ignored all warnings and cared only for himself, his image, and his money.

While most publications and broadcasts didn’t even bother to objectively analyze what had happened, choosing instead to point fingers and continue their bitching, the report from PBS read something like this:

Forty-fifth president Donald Trump was relieved of his post today after a mother of two young girls and sole caregiver to both her parents lost her family to COVID-19. The president, as he regularly did, denied responsibility over his late and inept response to the pandemic. His departure came in the form of a hollow point bullet during a press conference this morning. Secret service officers didn’t even so much as flinch to save Trump. The shooter, who has been allowed to remain anonymous, was unobstructed in her quest to punish the late president. Hooded and somewhat shielded from the camera lenses, she marched directly up to his podium, drew her firearm, and unloaded the entire magazine of her semi-automatic pistol into the president’s body on live TV. When pressed for information, Secret Service agents, Trump’s administration, and all other suspected parties have remained silent.

Melania fled the country with her son, Barron. They haven’t been seen since late June. I have to say, I don’t blame her. 

Ivanka, Jared, Don Jr. and Eric have each been accused of several counts of embezzlement, racketeering, and conspiracy to commit fraud. They’re waiting for their trials in an undisclosed prison. Tiffany, “the embarrassment”, is the state’s prime witness.

Mike Pence, the silent VP, has stepped into the president’s position against the wishes of Congress. They felt he’d be “inadequate” in handling the crisis. Most citizens suspected he’d try to “pray the disease away”. I was one of them.

Instead, Pence actually surprised us all by allowing Dr. Fauci to immediately enact the exact measures that were required and recommended months ago. And to think, all it took was a pandemic, a full government cover up, and a loaded gun to put this country on the right track.

November 16, 2020

The world is fucked! A bunch of states have been without power for weeks. Everyone’s panicking. The growing number of low income areas have spiked the suicide and murder rates. The body count from COVID-19 is now more than 10 million worldwide. But the number of indirect deaths are more than triple that.

Trapped in my apartment until earlier this week. I had to leave quickly. The place was starting to smell and some looters had been busting down doors and robbing people in their apartments.

I’m using an old gas mask I used to use for smoking weed to keep me from contracting anything. I’ve got a backpack with a few supplies including a hunting knife, a blanket, a couple of lighters, a few other basics, and this small notepad to keep track of days and jot down some thoughts. It’s the only thing keeping me sane.

I’ve been sleeping for no more than an hour at a time and scavenging for food. I don’t know if I’ll make it. I need to find permanent shelter too. I’ve been doing my best to blend in with crowds of homeless people. Thieves don’t seem to bother them. They move in huge packs like a zombie horde. I just do my best to blend in while keeping some distance. 

Pence has proven his lack of ability by making similar mistakes to Trump and falling victim to the powers of the lobbyists, proving Congress right. He was removed from office. 

Bernie Sanders and the rest of the Senate now run the country as a Council in place of appointing a new Commander-in-Chief. They are working everyday to restore order and balance to the country, but that time is long gone.

The 2020 presidential race was cancelled two weeks ago, exactly one day before the election after Democratic nominee Joe Biden lost his battle to COVID-19. I can’t believe they’ve bothered to drag it out this long. The country is falling apart and they’re just going about their business like nothing’s happening.

The rest of the world is also a giant shit pile.

China has now taken over as the most powerful world leader in recorded history. They’ve formed a stranglehold on the rest of the world and driven almost every nation into poverty. 

The remains of The World Health Organization have now reported that the Chinese government downplayed the virus and covered up hundreds, maybe thousands of early deaths so that the world would under-react and be overwhelmed. 

They began a full investigation into China’s role and exactly how they’ve “weaponized” the virus, asking for the U.N. to intervene. But, as China’s power grew virtually overnight, they used their new influence to disband the U.N. and crush the investigation.

For the sacrifice of a few thousand Chinese citizens, the People’s Republic of China has taken the reins by decimating the global economy and turning countries on themselves.

America was going to go to war with China. Hell, I wanted to blast those assholes to the moon. But knowing that it would essentially destroy the planet, we seceded, ironically on Sept 11. 

Sanders agreed to be ruled under a new constitution formed by a coalition of American and Chinese officials. This won’t go well.

January 22, 2021

Millions more are dead across the planet. This fuckin virus has destroyed the world.

Mom and dad both got sick around Christmas. Mom pulled through, but dad didn’t make it. It ripped through him like a thresher through a wheat field. Mom’s living with Christine now. I don’t know how long they’ll be able to last. The apple really doesn’t fall far.

Sander is a fuckin’ idiot! China went back on its word to form a coalition. They began ruling from “on high” with an iron fist. Rationed medical supplies and leveraging everything they can to keep other nations on their knees, the New Republic of China has risen. Fuck!

They’ve hoarded all the best scientists, medicine, and vaccines for themselves, leaving the rest of the world to fend for itself or fall in line for a few crumbs.

Europe’s been completely quarantined with no one allowed to enter or leave. It has become its own little world within a world. It seems crazy, but they’re probably better off.

Canada and Russia were able to rally their people to save the majority of the population. Their access to some of the largest reserves of natural resources also proved useful to China. Putin and Trudeau, a couple of sleazy, anti-American communists, agreed that the lives of their people were more important than previous alliances. So they’ve now sided with China.

The overlords have appointed tens of thousands of soldiers along the American / Canadian border and several thousand on the Russian border with Eastern European countries to keep Europeans from leaving their isolated hot zone. China’s president has issued a shoot-to-kill order on both fronts.

We used to mock Canada and Russia, now we envy them. I still hate both countries.

March 11, 2021

I abandoned my place months ago and running with the homeless had its own issues. 

I’m holed up in a bunker that I found out in the middle of the wilderness. It’s totally stocked with enough canned food to last me a while. It has solar panels and a power bank for electricity. I’ve put in a bunch of sniper ports for 360 degree surveillance. There’s also a bunch of guns here and my vantage points will give me the upper hand over trespassers. I fear everyday that the owner of this place is alive and on their way to take it back.

America didn’t cooperate with other world leaders, nor did the citizens when it came to following any rules. Everyone’s fuckin “civil liberties” were too important. We never learned from our mistakes and now those freedoms we once enjoyed, are gone.

Between the virus itself, which has now mutated and is much more dangerous, and the citizens of the country turning on one another, more than 150 million Americans are now dead. Murder and theft is the new normal for a country that used to be the pinnacle of modern civilization.

Some nights I sit and reflect on the way we used to be as Americans. All the things we took for granted, the ability to come and go as we please, visiting friends and family, connecting with and loving one another. Then I think about the way we squandered those blessings. I try not to cry. It’s tough, but emotions are a weakness.

June 14, 2021

I’m tired and the confines of this bunker are starting to get to me. 

My sniper ports have come in handy a few times. There’s a ravine about a half mile away where I dumped the bodies. It didn’t feel right. None of this does. But it’s getting easier. 

There is one broadcast that my small radio picks up. It’s on all day and mostly just static. Once a day, they play a ten minute global news update. When it does play, I’m just happy to hear a third voice.

India tried to fight back against the power of the New Republic of China. Bunch of idiots! With America’s entire arsenal and elite special forces hired as mercenaries, China crushed them in a matter of a few days. Of the 900 million Indians left after the COVID-19 outbreak and civil warring, China obliterated more than three quarters of the remaining population in the short battle. The global population is now down to just under five billion.

My 30th birthday has come with some more terrible news. North Korea has joined China, Russia, and Canada. Kim Jong Un finally came out of hiding and has pledged every man, woman, and child to China’s war efforts. The “Little Rocket Man” will sacrifice his entire country to save his own hide and keep what power he has left.

August 25, 2021

I’m trapped in the bunker most days. I’m starting to hear more voices. Sometimes they’re from a passing nomadic tribe. Sometimes they’re not. 

I’ve spent some time outside camouflaging the bunker. The odd wanderer gets a little too curious sometimes. I’ve rolled 25 more bodies into the ravine.

Solar panels are starting to fail, and I have to limit the power I use. I’m hunting now. I’ve learned to dress my kills, cook on an open flame, cure meats and filter water on the go in preparation for leaving this place.

I never thought I’d say this but I’m moving to Canada. It’s a long trek, probably 20-30 days walking, but if I can cross the border, I’ll try to blend in as a Canadian and live the rest of my life there. Eh!

October 1, 2021

I’m so tired. The voices have gotten louder.

It took longer than I thought, but I made it to the border of Michigan and Canada. My journey here was mostly uneventful. The cured meats and water filtration have kept me going. I found shelter in abandoned homes and barns, even an old steel mill. I can just imagine that place at its peak. Hot, steamy, hundreds of workers keeping the manufacturing machine moving. But now it’s cold and still; the temperature of death.

I avoid other people at all costs. I had one close call with a small family in the steel mill. I came around a corner and was face-to-face with a man holding a lifeless child, a woman that looked like she had been beaten and possibly raped, and a young boy that hid behind his parents. I said nothing. I just pushed past them. I hope they make it.

I’ve scouted the border patrol for the last 24 hours looking for any sign of weakness. There are few, but they exist. Tomorrow I will cross, but for now, I must save my strength.

October 3, 2021

I made it. I’m in Canada. The cold weather is already starting to move in. I need to find shelter before the temperature drops any more. We never got this shit weather in Tennessee. But we had a lot of it growing up in Albany. 

I’m happy to be in a safer place, but I can’t stop thinking about what got America to this point.

After all the fear mongering, it turns out the biggest threat to our safety wasn’t immigrants, terrorists, taxes, our leaders or the government they formed – it was ourselves. Our hubris. Our inflated sense of self worth. It was the individualism and freedom we boasted about for decades, centuries even. We failed to listen to those that were smarter than ourselves. Foolish pride superseded our better judgment. But ultimately it was our inability to realize that there is no greatest or freest country. On this big spinning rock there are only humans, our beliefs, and whether or not we have the capacity to love and care for one another.

Photo by Scott Rodgerson on Unsplash

NPH: Hockey School Run by Former Pros

“I’ve always been the guy to bring people together, taking the young guys under my wing and looking out for them. Helping with confidence and including them in the group on and off the ice.” This love and eagerness to pass on the understanding of the game is why former New Jersey Devil, Matt Corrente started the elite, Next Pro Hockey (NPH) school four years ago. Alongside his brother David, a decorated University hockey and OHL champion and Kineisologist, and friend Domenic Monardo, an AHL and ECHL alumni, the three set out to create an experience for young players that would not only teach them fundamentals and perfect their skills, but would also be an enjoyable experience.

Matt Corrente fires a slap shot!

As an elite level player, Matt was exposed to a bevy of different hockey schools and camps. Remembering some of his earliest hockey school memories, Matt wants to give his students the most relevant and exciting experience. “As a kid, I went to every hockey school and I remember there were some that I dreaded going to. They have to understand that there’s a time when they have to put the work in but you also need to have fun.”

While fun is something that is desired by all students, Matt insists that the most important things these young players can learn are respect, and how to skate. The former improves and educates the students as people, teaching them to value others. The latter, much like respect, is a fundamental that is 100% necessary for success. Matt understands the importance of perfecting these two attributes at an early age, “The younger, the better for each of these aspects. Some older students come in with bad habits that need to be broken or reformed. It’s just easier to start them off on the right track.”

For Matt, David, and Domenic, steering their students in the right direction goes well beyond just treating each other well and burning laps around the ice. The school focuses on getting the kids to do drills and exercises they don’t normally do. The typical session starts with power skating with an emphasis on edge work. The group is then broken into stations to hone specific skills in all areas of hockey including shooting and passing, stick/puck control, and battle drills. The drills are constantly changing to give the students variety and work on the intricate nuances that separate the all-stars from the average player.

A group of promising young athletes.

Separating NPH from the standard hockey school is the continuation of training once the players have left the ice. Matt’s goal with the school is to train the future stars of hockey by giving them instruction on how to think and act like a professional. “We go into as much detail as possible like what to eat the night before a game, on game day, on practice day, how to warm up properly, stick handling drills, or how to warm up with a buddy.” NPH also teaches students about other aspects of elite level hockey of which most young players are never instructed. From dressing room etiquette to presenting themselves both on and off the ice, NPH offers young players a complete professional hockey training experience.

TOOL: Fear Inoculum Tour

In my 23 years of being a TOOL fan and having seen the band live eight times, I can confidently state that the Fear Inoculum Tour harboured their best performance I’ve ever been fortunate enough to experience. And an experience it was.

The Show

The colourfully vibrant visual effects rocked the senses beyond that of any previous concert. Mind bending projections and lasers engulfed the backdrop. Moving lighting rigs pulsed like the music’s heartbeat. And an innovative use of ropes that performed like a transparent screen between the crowd and the stage offered a level of depth that perfectly matched the depth of what I call TOOL’s rock symphonies. After many years of evolution, TOOL’s show has finally become a cohesive unit to make one of the most complete concert experiences ever. 

The only downfall would have been for anyone at extreme viewing angles. Since the visually captivating effects are designed from a front-and-centre vantage point, experiencing what the light and stage technicians intended would require a seat from approximately somewhere in front of the stage. The difference between a head-on view and what the people saw at those extreme angles is the difference between just watching and truly experiencing the show.

The Band

Danny Carey was tight as hell, hitting every beat and carrying the tempo on his shoulders as only a man of his stature and ability can. As one of the best drummers in the world today, Carey had no problem executing with pinpoint precision for the entire length of the set. 

Justin Chancellor’s bass didn’t just add subterranean frequencies, it packaged and air mailed them via a drop kick directly to your chest. To hear a slappy bass or just a low end can be a treat, but Chancellor took the instrument’s potential to a new level.

Adam Jones’ guitar sang every song like Luciano Pavarotti, absolutely nailing all intended notes, noises, and nuances. His artistic creativity was on full display and we as adoring fans lapped it up gratefully.   

Maynard was… well… Maynard. Thunderous vocals, angelic melodies, strange animal like movements made him the icing on the TOOL cake. 

The Finale

TOOL covered songs from every album, save for Undertow, providing a more than acceptable cross-section of their musical catalogue. However, the final song, Stinkfist, was preceded by something not normally seen at TOOL’s shows. Maynard allowed everyone to take out their phones, even jokingly calling for the security to “stand down”. Unfortunately, the irony was probably lost on the majority of the audience, since the song is about the ongoing cycle of boredom and stimulus. Nevertheless, fans itching to use their little digital comfort rectangles didn’t hesitate to whip them out and film the entire closer.

While they were busy screwing around with zooming, getting a steady shot, and optimizing their audio, none of which would ever do it justice, magic was unfolding before their very eyes, as was something else. 

The way the band left the stage felt almost like a farewell. Since the new album is advertised as the culmination of TOOL’s evolutionary music, it’s only fitting for this to be the final tour, with all the members open to go on to whatever other projects they’d like. While I hope this isn’t the case, there was an overwhelming feeling of closure. 

TOOL may very well be done, but the music, the community, and the inspiration of their art will live on. Who knows? Maybe they’ll release a new album in 20 years called “Afterlife” or maybe not.

Cheers to Danny, Adam, Justin, and Maynard for all the great music, and to the stage, lighting, and sound crew for the absolutely mind blowing experience.

The Parallels of the Cannabis and Beer Industries

As the “budding” cannabis industry continues to “blossom”, we are beginning to see the industry take shape. It has already begun to morph into something that I believe mirrors the beer industry.

While I can’t bring price into the conversation because I believe that we still have a lot of head way to make in this brand new industry, I can compare the products, which I definitely have more experience with.

Canopy Growth is the ABInbev of the Canadian cannabis market. They both produce massive amounts of a mediocre product, have huge advertising budgets, and cater to casual smokers, less educated in what comprises “high-quality”. Aurora, which has a couple of good strains, would be the MillerCoors of the industry, and I guess I’ll call Tilray, the Sapporo of cannabis, although I have much more experience with Sapporo’s beer than I do Tilray’s cannabis.

What I find fascinating though is that since the cannabis industry was illegal for so long, the small batch producers haven’t had to wait for some craft product explosion to find their niche. There are plenty of smaller growers that are pumping out some mind-blowing and mind-expanding strains that would leave companies like Canopy and Aurora scratching their heads about how they could possibly compare, if only they actually cared.

These smaller growers aren’t all necessarily on the legal market and I don’t recommend someone put themselves in any legal danger, but the quality level isn’t even comparable to the big players and is far more nuanced in flavour, look, smell, taste, and most importantly – the high.

Over time, I’m sure some other companies will pop up, conglomerates will reshape the landscape, and the education level of the general public will increase. When that happens, I hope that the producers in this exciting new industry give the people what they want instead of just growing mass quantities for the sake of profits.

Trump is NOT the cause of Racial Division

Everyone is so quick to point a finger at Donald Trump for his remarks about race and people of other countries. While his words are deplorable, he is not the cause of the racial divide. 

Donald Trump may be a lot of things; a liar, a self-centered misogynist, possibly a promotional genius, but the one “favor” he’s done for his country is pry the lid off the underlying racism that is woven into the fabric of the USA.

Racial divide has been a part of America’s history for generations. This group versus that. These people don’t like those people for whatever inane reason. But it has always been present. What Trump has done is show everyone that it is alive and well. And maybe, just maybe, shedding the light on this fact, he could inadvertently help to stop racism. It won’t be today, but he certainly is paving the way for rational progressives to be taken seriously.

There are only so many jokes that can be made at the expense of the belligerent ramblings of Donald Trump, but eventually the greater majority of the American people will wake up and understand that they need to stop laughing at the cheap shots and begin to take these matters more seriously. Citizens of the same country shouldn’t be fighting among themselves, but rather for a better future for their children and grandchildren.

Regardless of the leader, the hatred and superiority complexes of the divided groups need to be fixed. So start today, by being a better person, treating everyone you come in contact with, with kindness and understanding. After all, the strength of a country lies within its citizens working as a cohesive unit, while treating everyone as an individual with dignity and respect. It certainly does not or at the very least, should not rely on a figurehead like the “president”.

The Steps to My Personal Success

The journey to discover my passion started in a state of depression, caused by unemployment, self-entitlement, and a million excuses.

I would sit around expecting things to happen to me. But I was playing a fool’s game. My sense of entitlement and unwarranted expectations only served to drag me down further. That is until the day I discovered Gary Vaynerchuk (aka Gary Vee) and my life was changed forever.

In order to find happiness in my career there were a number of steps that I had to go through. It eventually took a multitude of sources to allow me to progress through the stages of finding myself, but Gary Vee was the one that was able to get me started on that path. As I discovered each one, I did my best to make note of everything and appreciate those people that have assisted in this journey.

I now offer my discoveries and process for turning my life around to anyone that may feel lost and is looking to do the same.

Step #1 – Self-Awareness

little boy, discovery, self awareness

Self-awareness is more than simply self-consciousness. I believe it requires self-discovery that can only be achieved through vulnerability and the strength to ask yourself introspective questions. Gary Vee’s has a more in-your-face approach to anyone seeking a starting point or making excuses for why they are not successful, but the message is the same.

What makes you tick? What motivates you to get up in the morning? And most importantly, what are the things that you dislike and know you won’t enjoy doing?

Think of general topics such as helping others, being a leader, storytelling, creating art, public speaking, and the list goes on. Do not expect to find your passion in this step, even though it is a possibility. Rather, try to understand how you function as an individual and what drives your ambition.

After asking myself these questions among others, I discovered that for the most part, I hated the things I had been doing. I couldn’t stand selling products or services anymore, I hated repetitive manual labour and my body just couldn’t take it. I also found that the photography and videography industries, at least the parts I enjoyed, moved too slowly for my level of patience. But mostly I began to understand that I enjoy conversing, teaching, and creating.

It was then that I found my calling.

Step #2 – Finding Your Passion

Finding my passion came out of two realizations. The first being the result of my trials through self-awareness and the second from a YouTube video I saw that had to do mainly with business and marketing. However, I was able to apply it to my personal life and discover my purpose.

In 2009, Simon Sinek published his book Start With Why,which led to his now famous Ted Talk that many marketing firms and institutions use as an example of successful marketing. It was all about finding your Why.As he spoke, I likened it to my own search for purpose. I found that I wanted to do something that I could create on my own, at my own pace. I love storytelling and developing new ideas and I found that my calling is writing.

Unfortunately, I had always had doubts as I was led to believe that writers are broke, depressed, and often stuck in a rut from which they never emerge. As this doubt ate away at me, I turned back to my old ways of getting high and sitting around watching YouTube. There I stumbled across a short clip of Gary Vee on Joe Rogan’s Podcast, and he said something that cemented my decision. 

Step #3 – Triple Down on What You’re Good At

triple down, playing cards, poker, poker chips

“If you’re lucky enough to love something that you’re good at, become Tunnel. Fucking. Vision.” This was the line by Gary that truly spoke to me. He followed up that sentiment on other videos, stating that I should, “Triple down on what [I’m] good at.” And he was unbelievably correct. 

He also drilled into my mind to tell the naysayers to go fuck themselves; that their negative opinions were not worth listening to. The doubts I previously had were quickly washed away, and I embraced any support I was given. I also knew that this was something I had to do regardless of the opinions of others.

As a subsection of step number three, you could find yourself a support person; someone who will act as sort of a cheerleader for your new journey. While not completely necessary, I would have probably stumbled a bit was it not for the support of my wife and parents.

It was then that I decided to go back to school for some online writing courses through a local community college. I also picked up a full time retail job, which I knew was a short-term play, and that my career would be spent writing.

The program was short and I was able to finish it, doing very well, in just over a year. In that time I heeded some more advice from both Gary and an eye-opening conversation that I had with my wife’s cousin.

Step #4 – Hard Work and Hustle

hard work, hustle, dirty hands

Gary is constantly talking about hustle and hard work, but I didn’t really know where to start. However, I remembered a conversation with my wife’s cousin that gave a real world example of what hustle truly looks like.

She was in the process of hiring someone for a junior position at her place of employment. She had dozens of candidates that were filtered through and she whittled her options down to less than a half dozen interviews. 

All the young women that she interviewed had similar education and credentials. How she made her choice was based on a single question she asked each of them. “You graduated six months ago, what have you been doing since then?” Nearly every one of them answered in a similar fashion, “I have been job searching.” 

The person she did end up hiring had a different answer, which proved that she would definitely be the right fit for the job. Her answer was that while she had been searching for the right junior position, she was also working a part time job and volunteering. This statement displayed that she never wasted a minute. She found things to both keep her occupied and add value to the organizations she was affiliated without ever losing sight of her goals.

This story taught me about how hard work is valued beyond grades and the status of an education facility and motivated me to push past simply doing assignments and forgetting about them afterward. Instead, I worked incredibly hard to produce the best work possible, followed by pitching article ideas to magazines to get them published.

I am proud to say that in my first year of writing I had a few very short articles published on educational sites, a 2000+ word profile piece on a local musician and producer published in an online magazine, and two print articles published, one at 500 words and the other at around 2000 words for a 6 page spread. 

Without the constant push to hustle, none of these articles would have ever come to fruition. It was that willingness to hustle that also landed me a full-time job as a content writer.

Step #5 – Evolution of Self

Evolution of self, butterfly, cocoon, larva

Regardless of your chosen path, the best way to learn is to read, watch, retain, and most importantly – PRACTICE! Even with this article, I am practicing for the next one I write. My belief is that, should I cease to evolve, I cease to be what inherently makes me human.

So where do I find these learning opportunities? Everywhere! I will Google a specific query the second it pops into my head. I listen to podcasts and watch videos of people or topics that interest me and do my very best to actually listen. I engage in conversations with family, friends, co-workers, and strangers, which can be an excellent source of information and opinions. I also have the ability to pull information out of people and get them to open up in a way that sometimes even surprises them, and there’s no secret to it. It’s just a matter of shutting up and actually listening instead of just waiting for my turn to talk.

There are an unlimited amount of resources available today beyond that of traditional school that so many people don’t take full advantage of. These learning opportunities as well as seeking out new experiences are the way to truly grow as a person.

The saying knowledge is power is more relevant today than it has ever been, and that will not be changing anytime soon.

Step #6 – Consistency

I am currently working on improving in this area, as it is a task that’s never completed. Going back to the man that started me on this journey, Gary has said it time and time again that consistency is key to building anything. It goes hand in hand with step number four and is the way to not only remain relevant within your career, industry, etc. It is theway brands, businesses, and individuals achieve greatness.

Consistency also does not mean unoriginal repetition, but rather it is an ode to work ethic, creativity, and the ability to stick with something in both the good times and bad. If you are able to do so, you are almost guaranteed to achieve success to whatever level you wish.

Step #7 – Now That You Helped Yourself, Help Others

helping hand

Applying every bit of my being got me a career in a field that I love. While I did the work, it took some tough love to kick-start my journey, something that those who’ve achieved success should be paying forward. Rarely do people do it all on their own. Almost all of the time there is some outside motivation that acts as a catalyst in your journey toward success.

This list is not the definitive way to achieve your dream, but merely the process, which I developed and took note of as I was navigating through my own adventure. I offer it to you as a guideline, but your path belongs only to you and how you choose to pursue it is solely in your hands.

I’d say good luck, but luck has very little to do with it. 

Legalize it? Don’t mind if I do.

As I was rolling a joint yesterday, something donned on me that I hadn’t fully thought through. I feel that many people are also in the same boat when it comes to this realization. Legalization of recreational cannabis use is on the doorstep, and it is going to change the entire world.

Say what you will about Justin Trudeau, who he is and what he’s done or maybe hasn’t done, but at the end of the day, it is in his first term as Prime Minister that he is setting in place a global revolution. Cannabis legalization is two days away and as the initial first world nation to follow through with this long overdue change, Canada is about to lead the world to the next step in our evolution. Yes, it may sound corny or overstated, but the truth is that we have been sold a bill of lies for decades and we are finally waking up to this realization, and perhaps a number of other mistruths.

Over the next few years, more countries will begin to make sane legal changes, following Canada’s lead. Those countries will gain a profitable industry, including exports and healthy economic circulation, and drastically cut down on the expenses of court back-logging and over-policing a harmless substance when compared to that of alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceutical drugs. All of which will lead to a more prosperous population.

As citizens of Canada, we have a duty to make sure that we set a positive example for the rest of the world. We must act responsibly by treating cannabis and the newly legal industry with respect, and opening the eyes of world leaders to the undeniable fact that the War on Drugs has been lost and the benefits of this move outweighs any perceived drawbacks.

Let’s take the next step together and be the positive role model and change that the world so desperately needs.

I Didn’t Become a Writer

To the Positive Writer,

Submitted for your approval, a story that holds the truth behind a desperate and depressed individual seeking purpose in a world he once thought held nothing for him.

MY STORY

I was born in Hamilton, Ontario in 1982, to a man of Sicilian ancestry and a woman whose roots trace to England. He was a hardworking man that dedicated his career to building a successful business so he could provide for his family and she was a loving and caring mother that dedicated her life to making her family happy.

At 12 years old, my father put me to work as a helper for his delivery drivers. It was not a glamorous job, but I made more money than my friends and learned the value of hard work. I also ate all the french fries I could shove in my mouth since our customers mainly owned fish and chip restaurants.

That job went on for three summers, after which I graduated to the warehouse. I worked there each summer until I was 18 and eventually left to pursue a career in the culinary arts. I went to a culinary academy in Hamilton where I studied gourmet cooking and eventually landed a seasonal job over Christmas at an upscale Italian restaurant. Knowing it would be short lived, I moved to a steadier position running the kitchen at a hot table in a local grocery store.

After realizing that this life was not for me, I returned to school to take a year long business management program. I took several jobs following my graduation, but still hated what I was doing. So again, I went back to school and studied photography.

This new path led to several jobs in retail sales, school photography, food photography, wedding photography, and the one type that I actually loved, which was shooting live concerts. I inevitably moved into videography and did several independent projects. However, I did not fully dedicate myself to the craft. I became frustrated with the pace and lack of creativity in the projects and eventually lost interest.

For the next ten years, I returned to sales. I sold food to restaurants for four different companies. I gained unwanted experience with bad interviews, both on my part and the part of the interviewer. I was called in for interviews for pyramid schemes, hustlers, and borderline criminals. But all of these experiences only led to more self-doubt and depression.

In 2015, during a short stint of unemployment, I started a blog just for fun. I realized I enjoyed the writing process, but like always, I talked myself out of pursuing it, since all I had ever seen in the media about writers is that most of them are starving. So I pushed that idea aside and continued with my feeble attempts at landing jobs.

In 2017, I was once again between jobs, this time it was less than a month. I was indescribably depressed which had driven me to my wit’s end. I realized I just needed to change. I was scrolling through Facebook one day and discovered a man named Gary Vaynerchuk (details about this can be found here https://ceeyarsblog.com/2018/03/06/you-need-more-gary-vee-in-your-life/) and he basically told me to figure it out and get my ass moving.

This one 45 second video acted as a catalyst in my pursuit of happiness and a successful career in something I love. (I have outlined the steps I took in this article https://ceeyarsblog.com/2019/04/08/the-steps-to-my-personal-success/)

In May of 2017, I started a new job selling electronics in a retail store that was to act simply as a means to contribute to the household income while I did my schooling. At the same time, I started my first online writing class through a local college.

Now, just over two years later, I have finished my schooling, secured a full time job as a content writer, have had several articles published, and I try to contribute to my blog whenever possible. I am also currently working on a screenplay and a novel in my free time and will be starting an eight-week internship in September to gain more experience in sports writing.

As I am enjoying this adventure and truly loving what I am doing more everyday, I like to take time to reflect on how I’ve made it to this point and that I never really became a writer. The writer was already inside me, I just had to let it out.

Left and Right of Centre

For most of my life I didn’t really care about politics. I just assumed, as many do, that none of it mattered since the people in power would do what they wanted regardless of how their constituents think or feel. I decided a few years ago that I would begin to follow what was happening mainly in American politics, as Canadian politics seemed boring and not as appealing or entertaining.

I would speak to different individuals and listen to their viewpoints. Sometimes we ran around in circles, sometimes we would agree, and many other times we would simply agree to disagree. Either way, it never changed anything to do with policy or politics itself, but these conversations did help me to understand the basics regarding the political spectrum and the positions of others.

About two years ago, I was swayed to the far left in my mindset, and began, or so I thought, to care about the so-called “little guy”, being the disenfranchised and/or “helpless”. I followed the entire campaign of Bernie Sanders, finding myself agreeing with much of what he had to say. While everyone within the political spectrum attacked him, I felt that he was the most genuine of the presidential candidates. I was inundated with the opinions of progressive shows like The Young Turks, and found myself falling victim to the exact reactionary thinking that guys like Ben Shapiro and any scholar of logic and reasoning are telling their followers to be cautious of. This far left school of thought governed my decisions and how I voted when it came to the last Canadian Federal election.

About a year ago I started working alongside a young, intelligent guy from Florida. He was a Trump voter, but not really a supporter, as he was more anti-Hillary Clinton than he was pro-Trump. He also made a strong argument for the true definition of libertarianism, and how it differs from the fringe beliefs of anarchism. We agreed on some policies, disagreed on others, but always managed to keep our conversations civil, and showed enough respect to one another to at least listen to the other side. While these interactions didn’t necessarily change my mind, it assisted in an evolution of my thinking. I began to blame crony capitalism, lobbyists, and the allowed manipulation of the system, rather than capitalists and the super rich themselves, for the current social state of the US, and how it both contrasts with and mirrors that of the Canadian government and system at large.

Recently, I have been absorbing more centrist and right leaning content, in which I have found some truths, but don’t fully agree with everything that they have to say. It has fed the analytical portion of my brain, the same way that the progressive-liberal side fed my feelings. I found myself agreeing with capitalists and their right to pursue financial success without having to give up most of it to taxes, which tied back to earlier discussions about the essence of libertarianism.

As I continue to learn and shape my thought process and what I, as an individual, deem as to be successful strategies for creating a functioning and inclusive society, I have become increasingly more confused with where my loyalties lie. What I can say is that being more fluid in my thinking creates opportunity to see the good and bad of all sides’ policies, as well as landing me in the position of being both left and right of centre.

All things considered, I don’t believe that mankind has seen a perfect government, nor will they ever. But I do believe that somewhere buried in the policies of all of the parties and perhaps parties still to come, there is a healthy balance of social progression and fiscal responsibility.