Required Listening: Tell ‘Em by Sleigh Bells


I come from a long line of athletic alpha (fe)males—an award winning pedigree of national hockey stars, figure skating champions and gold-medal gymnasts. Athleticism and sportsmanship coursed through our family bloodline for decades until the day I was born. The day everything came to a screeching halt. My parents, god love them, never truly gave up hope in their mutual dream that I would someday take home an Olympic medal. And so for years (spending several thousand dollars) they searched (mostly in vain) for “my sport.” In fact, it’s fair to say I spent most of my formative years epically failing at everything from t-ball to karate.

While my athletic abilities may not have been up to the family standard, I did manage to pick up some awards along the way. Take for example the summer, while playing baseball, I took home the highly coveted “Flower Picking Award” in which I was recognized, not for my fly ball catching skills, but for my keen ability to braid dandelions into a complicated, but elegant crown.

There was also the time, while playing Hockey I received my first penalty—for delaying the game after I fell down and refused to get up. Sure, there was a lot for me to be proud of, but the biggest accomplishment of my notable Hockey career came when, without cause, a parent began referring to me as “The Rocket.” I didn’t even care that it was probably ironic. You see, I come from a town where you’re no one if you don’t have a nickname. So when The Rocket began to stick I knew I had finally made it. For twenty years I was known as Dan “The Rocket” and I liked it. That was until a few years ago, when, after a few too many glasses of wine, my mother shared a devastating truth:

“You’re not the real rocket, you know.”

(I know, right?)

You see I was often a sickly child– and one night while I was out of commission, my Dad (who won coach of the year that season) let my sister (the figure skating star) take my place for a game. Wearing my jersey, she wowed the crowd of parents with her agility, speed, and aggression — not to mention her signature victory move: a death-defying triple axle.

At first I was in denial. I didn’t want to believe my sister was the true Rocket. My mother does have a tendency to tell stories while under the influence of her homemade wine. Take for example the time when, during a dinner party she tried to convince all in attendance that she was a direct descendant of Katherine the Great. Now— I’m no historian, but what I do know of Katherine the Great is that she died due to complications from – well, lets face it, she f**ked a horse!

I carried this shame with me (The Rocket thing, not the horse thing) for most of my life, avoiding any kind of physical activity that could be misconstrued as being “part of an active lifestyle”. For years my pizza-and-coffee-only diet gave me all the sustenance I required, until one day it didn’t…

One minute you’re in line at the Korean grocery store, the next you’ve fainted and an elderly cashier is feeding you aloe water through a straw. It was a wake-up call like no other— and it started with three Korean grannies hovering above me, arguing which one should begin administering CPR first.

Things needed to change. At the age of 28 I was finally ready to take the first step towards living a more healthy and active lifestyle. And because I’m always a glutton for punishment— searching for new ways to embarrass myself, I chose to start things off at a high-end boutique gym in the heart of the entertainment district.

After work, I was ready to begin my first day as a card-carrying gym member. Having successfully completed my first spinning class, I retreated to the locker room, wedged myself between two naked men and proceeded to input my combination into a lock I had borrowed.

47, 14, 32 – Nope.
I tried again…

47, 14, 32 – Nope.
And again…

47, 14, 32 – Nope.

Twenty minutes later— most of my classmates had finished showering, and were each in various stages of re-dress. Not me. I was still crouched in the corner on my knees exhaustively and unsuccessfully inputting number after number into my lock. I had no choice. I looked over at my neighbour (my very naked neighbour) with a proposition in mind.

“Excuse me? I’m sorry to bother you, but would you be able to do me a favour?”

You can imagine the look I got in response…

“Would you mind trying your luck?” I asked, nodding my head to direct his attention towards my locker.

He seemed up for the challenge so I extended him one of my sweaty palms; the very one I had previously written my combination on. Although, following some profuse perspiration it was now mostly a smear of aqua-blue ink.

I read aloud the three numbers. He turned the dial around in circles like he’d been doing it for years. Rounding the final turn, the lock popped open with a devastating CLICK!

“Guess I just needed to give it some elbow grease. [Pausing for two beats] I definitely loosened it.”

He laughed nervously and dressed quickly— leaving me alone in the change room.

Without my glasses on I am legally blind. Post-shower I fumbled my way into the blurry and steam-filled change room— using my hand to navigate through the sea of colours until I felt my locker door (which I had purposely left open). Upon arrival, I continued my patting and tapping repertoire in search of my glasses – no luck.

Moving on without them I pulled on a pair of boxers, and then began to slide into a pair of jeans, one leg at a time.

“Excuse Me!” A startling voice boomed unexpectedly beside me.

“Oh, I’m sorry!” With one leg in my jeans I hopped to the side, giving the mystery man ample space to pass me.

“You’re like the worst thief ever!”

“I’m sorry?” I asked, sincerely confused.

“Um…you’re wearing my jeans!”

(Doing my best Janice impression from Friends) “Oh. My. God!”

There I was half-wearing another man’s jeans (while he stood by and watched). This was probably going to be a hard one to talk my way out of. Especially because it was only a matter of time before he realized I had also made myself comfortably at home in his boxer briefs.

I didn’t really know what to say, so I said what any logical, out-of-shape and naked 28-year-old would say while returning a stranger his boxers and half inside-out jeans in a heap.

“I’m blind! I’m so blind! …And sorry! I am so very very sorry. But also blind. Very very blind!”

I went on like this relentlessly for what seemed like hours, until somehow he seemed to believe me. Imagine that?

Humiliated, and feeling slightly damp under my arms from the stress, I reached for my deodorant stick, pulled off the top and watched in horror as a cloud of dried deodorant traveled like mustard gas past my locker and over to a certain jean-wearing good Samaritan. When the smoke cleared, we were both sufficiently covered in a thick layer of mountain breeze-scented dust.

This time I really was at a loss for words. What could I possibly say to recover from something like this?

(Doing my best Steve Urkel impression from Family Matters) “Did I doooo thaaaaat?

Just kidding. That would have been too easy (not to mention weird). I instead chose to go with my signature wide-eyed and opened-mouthed blank stare. Eyes blinking slowly.

“Man! You’re like the Master of Disaster, aren’t you?”

A Master of Disaster? Had he just called me that? I guess it was kind of true. And it did have kind of had a nice ring to it. Yes! That’s exactly who I was! I was THE Master of Disaster— and proud of it. I stood up a little straighter, sucked in my stomach, packed my bag and left with a swing in my step.

You see, in this gym, you were no one if you didn’t have a nickname. And why would you want to settle for “The Rocket” when you could be “The Master of Disaster?”