Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

My Childhood

When I was twelve, I looked forward to Friday nights. I lived in Toronto’s Little Italy where our neighborhood featured markets, shops and cafés specializing in Italian goods and cuisine. Our neighborhood also had a theater featuring movies shipped directly from the old country. It was there my dad would take me every Friday night to enjoy some one on one time away from the family. I believe it is also there my fondness for films emerged.

Movie theater
Movie theater

For today’s Freedom Friday, allow me the liberty to tell you about this part of my life.

Before the age of ten, I grew up in some of the roughest neighborhoods in the city. The school I went to was once voted the worst school in all of Toronto by a group of concerned citizens. My family eventually moved out of there and took up residence in Little Italy. It was a great place to live, school nearby, lots of places to play, and I had plenty of friends.

My dad made it a habit to build traditions in our family as a means to bond us to certain times of the year. Saturday nights were big at our house. It was Hockey Night in Canada night and should there have been a game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens, God forbid, it would have been the most epic night of the week.

The other big night was Friday night. My favorite. My mom would make something quick for us to eat—typically a soup, a plate of sandwich meats and bread, or simply a bowl of pasta—so that we could leave as soon as we finished eating. The theater was down the street from us and it took about fifteen minutes to walk there.

My mom always made sure I brought a sweater; even if it was during the hot summer months. She always said it would get cold in the theater. She was right. I still remember that to this day where I sometimes bring a sweater with me to the theater—yes, even in the sweltering months of summer.

I loved the walk there with my dad. We talked about silly things a nosey kid like me liked talking about. A thing like where we would sit when we got there was a hot topic. I wanted to sit to the side and he wanted to sit in the middle. So imagine where we sat. Nowadays, I love the middle. It’s the best seat in the theater.

The Spaghetti Western
The Spaghetti Western

Once we arrived, we’d check the movie posters. If any of them were a spaghetti western, I’d be jumping on the spot with excitement. It wasn’t hard for him to figure out which one we’d see.

From there, the other events are a blur. I remember the popcorn he’d buy me, the seats we sat in and the waiting in anticipation. Sometimes the theater would have a cartoon showing before the movie, which made the evening even more exciting.

After the film, and having found our way outside, the fresh air that hit my face was incredible. I can never forget the sensation of walking back home with gunslingers on my mind. My dad always got a kick from seeing me excited talking about the best parts of the film. How can I forget such a memorable evening?

I suppose I should have given this article a title like, “My Dad,” or “Movie Night,” but in actuality, calling it anything else other than “My Childhood” wouldn’t have made sense to me. Although it’s a snippet in time, I think you get a good idea of what my early life was like reading this.

I was an ordinary kid with my whole life ahead of me. Isn’t that the way childhood should be?

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

Do you have fond memories of your childhood you’d like to share?

Posted in Women Who Wow Wednesday

Jess Bhamra

When I saw Bend It Like Beckham for the first time ten years ago, I laughed so hard, I never thought I’d recover. Thankfully, I did and now I’m able to tell you about the star character for Women Who Wow Wednesday. Her name is Jesminder “Jess” Kaur Bhamra (Parminder Nagra) and she likes football—soccer here in North America. She likes watching it. Playing it. Breathing it. She’s a regular fan.

Parminder Nagra & Keira Knightley
Parminder Nagra & Keira Knightley

One day, Juliette “Jules” Paxton (Keira Knightley) watches her play against the boys and she decides to approach her about an offer that may very well change her life. Jules wants Jess to come along and have a trial with the Hounslow Harriers, an all-girls football team. Jess doesn’t know what to say. She asks Jules if she thinks she’s good enough. Of course Jess is good enough, otherwise Jules wouldn’t have asked her.

There’s one problem. Jess is Indian playing English football. Under normal circumstances, this would be acceptable, but Jess’ parents are very strict about what their daughter can and can’t do with her life. One thing she can’t do is play and horseplay with the boys in the park. This is off limits. They also do not like their daughter to wear shorts, which amounts to revealing too much of herself to the opposite sex. In other words, they do not like her “running around half naked in front of men”. Did I mention her parents are strict? Yeah.

Parminder Nagra as Jess Bhamra
Parminder Nagra as Jess Bhamra

Adding to Jess’ list of “things I hate my parents do to me when I want to do something else,” her mom wants her to learn how to make a full Punjabi dinner—meat and vegetarian. Her parents wouldn’t be able to show their face in the temple otherwise. Did I mention that her parents also forbid her to continue with her football career? They want her to start acting like a real woman, settle down, think about the future and kids, just like her unhappy sister who also follows their traditions in these modern times.

So what does Jess do? She sneaks around, going against her parents’ wishes in order to fulfill her dream of playing in an all-girls football team. Why? Jess feels that if she didn’t try her best with achieving her dream, despite her parents’ wanting her to keep their traditions, then she’d feel like a total failure for the rest of her life with nothing else to live for other than cook, clean, do the dishes, laundry and look after the kids.

Remember, all this is on top of her being the only Indian girl on her team.

If anything’s certain, Jess has a will to overcome. She doesn’t allow the negativity in her life to rule her sanity or her motivation to accomplish her goals.

Jess is a true achiever who is better than “good enough”.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

Have you ever heard of the movie Bend It Like Beckham? If you have, what did you like about Jess?

Posted in Women Who Wow Wednesday

Torrance Shipman

When I hear people say, “Oh, she’s only a cheerleader.” I say, “Yeah, can you perform a front handspring, step out, round off back handspring, step out, round off back handspring, full twisting layout?” That’s when the glazed look falls on their face. Torrance can. I wouldn’t have her performing full twisting layouts on Women Who Wow Wednesday otherwise.

Kirsten Dunst as Torrance Shipman
Kirsten Dunst as Torrance Shipman

Torrance Shipman (Kirsten Dunst) is up for captain of the Rancho Carne High School cheerleading squad in San Diego, California. We’re talking about the premier five-time national champions. Big Red, the current leader, is retiring. After a quick vote, Torrance clinches control and her first order of business is to assert her ascent to the throne. The dreaded words Wolf Wall fly from her mouth and everyone groans. Up they go, building one of the most fearsome pyramids in cheerleading. A few failed attempts doesn’t deter Torrance. She wants it. One last time and they make it, but in the air, the squad swivels, tilts, and shakes until Carver, their lead cheerleader, slips to her demise.

Les: You know, everyone’s saying that your ambition broke Carver’s leg.
Torrance Shipman: When really it was the angle in which she slammed into the ground.

Nothing will hold Torrance back from achieving a sixth national win.

Bring It On's Torrance Shipman
Bring It On’s Torrance Shipman

Bring It On is one of those movies that doesn’t have much of a plot, but it sure has a lot of heart. Spawning four sequels, whenever I need a good jolt of can-do attitude, I pop this into my player, sit back and let the positive vibes fill my soul.

Without giving too much away, Torrance’s challenge is keeping the team together after Big Red’s departure. This means quashing the rebellious takeover plans of two of the Rancho Carne Toros’ wannabe bosses and keeping everyone happy after a major revelation nearly disintegrates their chances at the Nationals.

Did you know that cheerleading accounts for almost two-thirds of all catastrophic sports injuries among high school girls? Imagine the enormous pressure on Torrance’s shoulders after Carver’s accident. Any ordinary person would have said buh-bye. Not Torrance.

Among the best attributes in Torrance’s character is her unwillingness to quit. No matter what gets in her way, she seems to thrive on overcoming obstacles. Her determination of wanting to remain the best causes her team to rise to new challenges, explore new ideas, and work harder than ever in order to attain perfection. She’s not one to take it in the chin and lie down. She a fighter. And fighters tend to go the distance, even if they are cheerleaders.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale October 22.

Have you seen Bring It On? What did you think of Torrance? Did you like how she led the team in spite of the failures?