Archive for March, 2011

Uncle Filthy

March 29, 2011

I’ve heard it said that everyone is worthy of a story. I certainly don’t believe that everyone is interesting or quirky enough to capture the attention of a reader from beginning to end. My hope is that you feel that Uncle Filthy was captivating enough for you to read about him for a quick ten minutes. Uncle Filthy grew up as a stick boy for an NHL team back when there were only six teams. This was back in the days when goalies wore Brill Cream on their jet black hair and nothing else. No helmet, no cage, felt chest protector and leg pads that weighed as much as horse. Uncle Filthy’s mentor was a man with a big heart and a large penis. This man’s nickname is in the hall of fame and is the name of a pro shop which is an icon in the city in which it exists. This man with the large penis was a back up goalie that never saw a minute of playing time due to the fact that the number one goalie set a record for number of consecutive games played in the NHL. After waiting for years for a chance to play, this man was set up by the team he almost played for and was their official supplier until he passed away in the late 1980’s. It was around the year 2000 that I heard that Uncle Filthy was going to buy the pro shop that was created by his mentor and pull it out of debt and make it a respectable name once again to those that purchased ice hockey equipment. Uncle Filthy asked me to come and work for him at that time. Picture Willy Nelson with a deep baritone voice and one of the foulest mouths you could put on a human being. Picture Willy Nelson being high strung, outspoken, opinionated, misogynistic, over caffeinated, sleep deprived and driven. Uncle Filthy had a gold finger when it came to entrepreneurship. In a small pond, Uncle Filthy is a big fish who is quite successful. After spending a short period of time with Uncle Filthy, I realized that his unique and repetitious quotes were part of what made him worthy of discussion or a story. Like David Letterman’s top ten, here are Uncle Filthy’s top ten questions and declarations. 1. How are the faggots? 2. How’s the slapping, beating and whacking? 3. Filthy fucking sluts… All of them. 4. They are what they are… Ya follow me? 5. Gotcha, gotcha, gotcha… Right, right, right 6. You tell those cocksuckers no fucking discount 7. They caught him! Oh yeah, they caught him this time! 8. They are what they are. 9. Fuck the French 10. The Weasel Uncle Filthy as you may have surmised, was given the name unbeknownst to him for using the phrase, “filthy, slovenly, fucking, whore, sluts… All of them.” It was never clear who exactly “they” were. It was never clear who it was “they” were who caught em. What I do know is that “they” caught him at the train station with his pants around his ankles. I’m not sure who he was or who they were that caught em. I came to learn that “they” were what “they” were. Right? Gotcha. The faggots were everywhere and they were constantly and violently slapping, beating and whacking at all times. Maybe at the train station with their pants around their ankles. As I stated earlier, they are what they are. Nobody was allowed discounts no matter how friendly they were and if they were French, they were verbally bitchslapped. Behind their backs. “Fuck the fucking French cocksucking faggots. You know why those surrendering motherfuckers planted so many trees along the Champs Elysee? Because they didn’t want the German’s to get sunburned from marching in the sun… Goddamn frog speaking cocksucking filthy motherfuckers… I hate em all except Maurice Richard. Maurice was the man.” There were homosexuals who visited the store, loose women and Frenchmen and none were treated poorly, even the truly smelly and filthy people who stumbled in off of the street. Uncle Filthy was a tireless aficionado of a sport that I and many like me loved. From early in the morning until late at night, Uncle Filthy worked. At his age, he could probably retire comfortably and ride his Harley Davidson somewhere warm until it would be his turn to check out but I suspect Uncle Filthy needs purpose and something to constantly drive him. A couch potato he will never be. I left, “The Weasel” as the last thing and possibly the most important thing that made this quirky human being a person worth mentioning and reading about. The Weasel was a pretty blond girl with a voice that crackled like a thirteen year old boy whose nut was about to drop. She figure skated and bounced on a trampoline, used glitter and sang songs she heard on the radio. The Weasel was the daughter of Uncle Filthy and was the most important person in his life. Uncle Filthy had a common law wife who had one child. That young girl became the daughter of Uncle Filthy and although she had a first name, she was always called The Weasel. My daughter was a pre-teen who spent nights at Uncle Filthy’s and became friends with The Weasel. I eventually moved on and quit my employment for Uncle Filthy and my daughter and his daughter’s friendship slipped apart. I didn’t see The Weasel for years and assumed like my daughter, she was going to college, driving automobiles while texting, partying and agonizing over worthless young men who pass quickly like cars on an interstate highway. I was shocked to learn that life was not going that way for The Weasel. The Weasel fought a losing battle with cancer that took her at the young age of nineteen. Uncle Filthy spared no money doing whatever might have been possible to save her life. As twisted as Uncle Filthy could appear, he wanted his daughter to graduate, find a worthwhile man, start a family so that he could be a fantastically dote of a grandfather. None of that happened. I thought about losing my daughter who was once The Weasel’s friend and tried to imagine how I would feel seeing my daughter suffer and fade into eternity with a terminal illness and I can truly say that to lose one of my children, would be the worst thing that could happen to me. Given the choice, Uncle Filthy would have forfeited his own life so that his daughter could live a full and fruitful life. I know that much about the man and how strongly he loved his daughter. I had a falling out with Uncle Filthy some years back and boycotted his stores and ended our friendship. I tried to envision what the suffering must have been like for The Weasel and the fear of the unknown and the unexplainable anger, sadness and helplessness Uncle Filthy must have felt. I visited his store in the middle of the day and made a point of seeing him and saying hello. I offered my condolences. He stoically explained how everything came about and how it all ended. A young mother was buying some hockey equipment for her son or daughter and had a young toddler in tow. Uncle Filthy who had always been so crass and over the top with shocking expressions and questions smiled a sad smile as he looked at the young girl and told the young mother who was unaware of what he had been through, “Love her with all your might. Children are a gift.” I had tears in my eyes. I nervously grabbed a stick and flexed it. I flexed hard enough to get the lump out of my throat. Life like hockey is a fast sport. It is a lot of hard work and luck to make it from birth to old age. We all want to play the game successfully until the final buzzer. Not all of us do.


Farewell to Leg? or Staph Only

March 20, 2011

Anyone who has ever played ice hockey for any period of time has or will get hit with the puck.  When you see the professionals in the National League go down after blocking a shot and they look to the bench unable to put weight on a leg the way a wounded soldier screams for a medic, you have to understand that the pain is immense.

            A hockey puck is a piece of vulcanized rubber made rock hard by crossing sulfur with rubber that is 2.54 cm or 1 inch thick and 7.6 cm or 3 inches in diameter, weighing approximately  160 grams or about 6 ounces.  When shot off the blade of a stick, it could take out an eye, require a player to get stitches or leave a welt that hurts to even look at.

            All goalies can show bruises in place the chest and arms don’t quite cover and all others can tell you about nearly chewing off their own limbs to stop the pain after being hit hard in an unprotected spot.  I myself have had numerous toenails that died, stitches in the face from deflected pucks and shots to the ankle that made it impossible to support my body weight for a few moments.  One particular shot will always stick out in my mind for as long as I have a mind.

            I was tying up an opposing player in front of my net but was conscious of where the puck was.  A pass from left point to right point with a left handed shot, served as a perfect pass to one time.  The player who took the shot got all of it and it sailed up about six inches off the ice which is exactly where any coach will tell a player to shoot; from the ice to six inches above and you’ll score more often than not.  I saw the shot coming and had intended to move to give the goalie a clear view but was in a position where I could not move quickly enough.  The shot caught me on the inside of my left shin.  My shin guard never cracked but the pain was bad enough where I had to skateboard my way to the bench on one leg.  After missing a shift, walking back and forth until I felt I could handle skating, I hopped back on the ice and the incident was over.  I didn’t break my leg.  It stung like hell and was sensitive for a few days.  End of story…  Not quite.

            I drove along the QEW from Toronto towards Niagara on a warm summer day on my way to watch my daughter skate at a prospects camp and decided I would go for a swim.  My underwear was a black pair of hybrids that are neither boxers nor briefs and all though it was a bit snug and European looking to not draw attention in North America, I wanted to enjoy a great summer day and my underwear was the closest thing I had to swim trunks.

            It was in Burlington that I stopped at a lake side park where there was a beach for swimming.  A few people were jogging and a few were lying around the sand but nobody was in the water.  My thought was that it was June and though the water was cold, it was going to feel great on a hot day.  After thrashing around a while, I climbed out and laid on a rock until I was dry enough to scale off my wet underwear and slip on my pants commando style.  As I was walking to the men’s washroom, I happened to notice a small sign on a stick.

            Bacteria Day- Swimming could be hazardous

            As I walked away, my first thought was to rinse off so that I would possibly have sewerage from heavy rain against by body all day.  I gave my forearm a sniff and decided that nothing smelled putrid or out of the ordinary and so I did nothing further.  I got out of my wet underwear, slipped on my pants and hopped back on the QEW.  As the day turned to night, I began to feel the skin on my left leg getting tighter.  I flexed my foot back and forth and gave it little thought as I watched my daughter participate against other girls who were considered future Olympic prospects.  It was when I got ready for bed that I noticed a golf ball sized bump on the inside portion of my left leg, exactly on the spot where I had been hit by a slap shot almost a month earlier.  My first thought was that I had a blood clot and so I stayed up all night thinking that I may stroke out in my sleep.

            I went to see my doctor the next day Friday. The doctor looked like Omar Sharif.  If you’re not sure who that is, Youtube a clip of the movie, Dr. Zhivago.  He would be Yuri.  In any event, Dr. Zhivago told me that I was fine and that I just needed to ice my wound.  When I explained that I received the injury almost a month earlier, he looked at me blankly and paused for a moment and then said something monumental.

            “Well…  You still need to ice it.”

            I received an ultrasound to rule out a blood clot and was sent home with instructions to ice my wound.  The golf ball continued to grow and now my leg was as hot as a brick wall after being beat on by the sun all day.  I returned to Dr. Zhivago’s office not more than thirty six hours later.  The doctor looked annoyed to be seeing me initially.  I explained that I had flu like symptoms such as a fever and joint pains.  He looked at my left leg from the knee to the ankle and had a look of shock on his face.  The conversation went as follows:

            Doctor Zhivago:  This is very bad.

            Me: Yeah?  It wasn’t so bad two days ago.

            Doctor Zhivago: Well it is very bad now.  You will need to go directly to the                      

            hospital do you want me to call an ambulance?

            Me: No.  I drove myself here…  Hospital?  How long would I need to be there?

            Dr. Zhivago: A very long time.

            Me:  How long?

            Dr. Zhivago: Very long.  You must go now.

            Upon arriving at the hospital with my necessities for my hospital visit that was going to be a, “long time”, the nurses put me in a room and swabbed my golf ball with a one foot Q-tip and generally treated me like I had leprosy.  I was left in the room alone for about a half hour.  The nurse came into the room to declare that I did not have MRSA (Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus), what I had was just the ordinary garden variety Staphylococcus or Staph.

            I was admitted, blood was drawn and an IV was immediately hooked up so that I could get constant antibiotics to kill the infection that created a beachhead in the area where I was hit by a puck.  The pooled blood became overrun with bacteria that entered my skin upon swimming in Lake Ontario and quickly infected the bruise and began to spread in my leg.  It became impossible to support any weight on my infected leg.  I was given a CT scan and went in for surgery.  Two days later, the surgeon who looked like Steve Martin from Little Shop of Horrors, who had the thickest pair of glasses I had ever seen came in to check on me and drop a bomb.

            Steve Martin: How ya feelin, kid?

            Me: I don’t feel any better.  I still can’t stand on that leg.

            Steve Martin:  Well you should feel pretty crappy.  We didn’t get it all and it’s

           spreading up your leg.  It could get into your bone and could kill you.  Get some   

           rest, I’m gonna need to fillet you in the morning.  If we don’t get it all this time,                      

           you may lose your leg…  Get some sleep.

            I didn’t get any sleep.  They gave me Valium and all that did was kept me from blinking or getting mad for not being able to sleep.  I kept looking at my sick leg and hoped to hell that it wouldn’t have to be removed.  The anesthesiologist looked like John Wayne Gacy.  He asked me how I got the injury as he put the cyanide in my IV like Jim Jones and just like that I was out.  I came to hours later with a room full of friends and relatives. 

            Steve Martin did get it all the second time.  After fifteen days and two surgeries, I was allowed to leave the hospital with two legs.  I had a six inch long cavern that was an inch wide and three inches deep.  I could see my bone at the bottom of the cavern.  I was assured that it would close and that I would not get re-infected.  I was back on the ice in six weeks.

            When I get bruises now, I ice them.  When I get cuts, I cover them and put on bacterial cream.  I learned the hard way that the things you cannot see are still there and they can change and end your life very quickly.

            If you watch NHL highlights tonight, you will see Patrick Eaves of the Detroit Red Wings, block a shot with his left leg during a penalty kill.  He was unable to skate to the bench.  After the puck was cleared out of the zone, Niklas Kronwall pushed his teammate to the bench with his stick so that they could get a change for him.  It was an unusual attempt to help a teammate off the ice while the puck was in play.  I do have total empathy for Patrick Eaves.  I suspect he will have that left leg on ice tonight.

            Ten to eleven games to go for most teams and the only lock so far is Vancouver.  The west is still wild and may come down to the last game of the season to determine three to four spots.  In the east, Toronto and New Jersey have been coming on strong.  Will either team beat out others to take the final two spots in the east?  Remember Philly last year.  Nobody would have expected them to make it to Stanley Cup finals.  They should have been golfing in June.