Sunday, December 5, 2010
Although I did not care for her in the least, Kathy and I shared a moment in 1980. She was telling me about an uncle whose favorite song was “I’ll be home for Christmas”. He never made it. We both cried. My heart still breaks for loved ones who can’t be together for the holidays. Rich and I spent New Year’s Eve apart one year when mom’s hospital emergency saw me bussing it to Elliot Lake on December 31st . I was away from Rich, Dad apart from mom. We turned in at 12:01 am, both thinking about happier times.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
It was stupid to buy this year’s advent calendar so far in advance. Every day it reminded me of how little gets done in December, and how a whole year of not doing nearly enough can suddenly come down to the crunch . . . and how are you expected to get out from under all that when there are parties to go to and gifts to buy?
Then, to make matters worse, I opened the first day of my calendar with a message from Revenue Canada. The second was a meeting where the client didn’t show.
The third had better be chocolate.
For years our advent calendar has been a collection of 24 little elf hats. They come in different colours and have numbers perched Seuss-like on their tops. I used to put candy and treasure maps in them when Dan was little. This year we will put in karmic messages and take turns so that Dan doesn’t have to bear the brunt of the goodie-two shoedness. Since I’m dealing with a fifteen year old and an occasionally distracted husband, the duties will be light: pay someone a compliment, pet an animal, answer your God-damned mother when she asks you a question.
There was a massive blackout in the middle of the coldest part of the winter. Even bundled in my warmest clothes it was miserable waiting for a shuttle bus because the subway was not running. Bus after bus came, packed so full people pressed against the front window. Any cabs that came by had already been commandeered. Then a woman pulled up in front of me and beckoned me to get in her car. Three others were invited to get in her back seat. Traffic was slow but we were a cheery crowd thanks to the kindness of a stranger.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
There is no doubt I was an asshole when I was a teen. I did many things that I thought were funny, but were actually cruel. Like when my best friend and I went skinny dipping with my sister. Donna and I came out of the water first and we took Ann’s clothes up to the house. That forced Ann to have to run naked across a North Shore Road, which was luckily not all that busy. All the same it was a trick that I would not have appreciated at all if it had been played on me.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
So, just how big an asshole was I on December 7, 1979 when I joined my friend waiting for the opening of Star Trek: The Motion Picture? In my defence, I did manage to arrive by 6:30 in the morning with only 30-odd people in line, and it had been my idea in the first place; but it certainly didn’t help our case when more and then more of our friends came straggling in . . . and who then were the bigger assholes: us for letting them cut or them for expecting us to hold their place for three hours in the cold?
Sunday, November 28, 2010
It’s odd with me because I’ve always had a hair trigger when I’m in the presence of bullies. I think it stems from working with lawyers, or enduring my formative years riding the bus with Zimbo Bertrand and his siblings. It’s odd because I do not like conflict and feel like throwing up after an altercation, but I can’t let them get away with it. Something clicks inside my head and I feel like I have to speak up for the underdog. Thank Christ I don’t live next to Anne Coulter. I’d probably train Nim to shit on her lawn.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
So, imagine my surprise when I was presented with a perfectly good English synonym—epicaricacy—I’d never seen before. It was like opening a Rhyming Dictionary and discovering the rhyme for orange.
Which, by the way, is door hinge.
Friday, November 26, 2010
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
I no longer recall how far I’d gotten before I had to move, but I do remember deciding to recycle the collection rather than pack it. Back then you still had to soak off the labels, and that certainly took me some time.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
What I like most is that you steam the chicken in Step 2, then use the resulting stock in Step 6.
But most people prefer Step 1: “Turn on the radio such that it can be heard clearly over the din of cooking noises. Lock door to apartment/house. Pull beer from fridge. Open. Enjoy. Replace immediately upon completion of present beer.”
Sunday, November 21, 2010
½ cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup corn syrup
2 teaspoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla
Big pinch salt
Cream together butter and sugar; beat in corn syrup, egg, vinegar, vanilla and salt. Pour into uncooked shells (every 1950s eavesdropper worth her salt could make pastry from scratch). Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes and cool. Makes about a dozen.
The devil made her do it.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
“You know those glasses you can buy with the fake nose, moustache, and the bushy eyebrows?”
“That’s Groucho,” I said.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Monday, November 15, 2010
And so her family just keeps feeding her yarn.
Image based on the Original Pattern.
“He’s not so tough,” said Krebbs.
“No, only five guys catch him alone in the wrong neighbourhood and he stares them down. I heard he just singled out the biggest and said something like: ‘I don’t care what your ugly friends do to me, but I’m going to get you. I’m going to shove my fist down your throat, and I’m going to hold it there until you’re dead.”
“Big deal. He never even touched them.”
“Tough and smart . . . and you’re asking for trouble.”
Sunday, November 14, 2010
“I’m sore.” He had just played a rigorous game of squash before his wife’s water broke and was feeling the effects several hours later.
Sandra was a natural at childbirth. While it took me twenty-two hours and as many stitches to have Dan, her two labours averaged about seven hours. Completely natural with no pain medication. Still, she couldn’t be blamed for being unsympathetic. They say the closest a man could come to experiencing the pain of childbirth would be to pass a kidney stone. An eight-pound seven-ounce kidney stone.
I’d like to see Mr. Mason ask my mother to give up a broom she’d paid good money for.
Earl Haig Fabulous ’50s Group.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Friday, November 12, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Photo by Manu Pombrol on Flickr. All rights reserved.
Monday, November 8, 2010
“The big exception to this—” and he’d been waiting most of his adult life to pass this information along “—is that spot right in the middle of your forehead just north of the nose. Fuck with that too much, and you’ll be left with a crater where your third eye should be.”
With an incredulous, “Duh?” he returned to his oatmeal.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Sure, they’d helped her through her battle with cervical cancer, but she just couldn’t get past the stuff they had to say about her particular disease, mostly because they made her feel that if she’d been even the least bit promiscuous back in the day (and maybe she had) that she’d somehow brought the cancer down upon herself.
Just look at poor Farrah, she’d say. She’s dying of anal cancer. Which of you judgemental fucks wants to stand up in front of her family and friends and come up with a reason for that?
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Friday, November 5, 2010
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
“Stay home today,” I told him. “Or better still, take a trip somewhere nice. They can’t fire you if they can’t find you.”
February 9, 1980: “Listen, you are going to try to kiss her on the way home tonight, so you might want to practise a little first.”
June 11, 1974: “When that Grade 8 girl asks you if you’re going to the dance today, it means she wants you to take her.” Thomas Leuthard.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
But then, instead of explaining to us that all combustion—and indeed most of creation—is essentially a one-way street to maximum entropy, she promised an A to anyone who could find a way to reverse the process, a problem I’m sure one us would’ve cracked eventually had the school board not intervened.
“Oh my God!” Dan said as he found a small envelope among the discarded dinosaur and airplane books. It was a birthday card from his Pépé stuffed with 12 crisp $10 bills, just waiting for a rainy day.
Monday, November 1, 2010
“What are you supposed to be?” asked Mary looking down at him. “A Little Green Man?”
“I am trying to be The Incredible Hulk!”
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
A baby iguana is a beautiful thing – bright green and delicate. They skurried around the courtyard of the hotel where we stayed in Costa Rica and Sophy had fun chasing them. She and the girl she befriended while on vacation also delighted in the orange and black crabs that sidled along the beach, but most of all they adored the hermit crabs. Sophy asked for a container to bring some home with her. Her friend’s parents were letting their child do that. How could I explain that I was not the cruel one, not allowing Sophy to do the same.
Sophy loved all living things. She had no problems with bugs, except perhaps mosquitoes. So the display of insects at the Exhibition drew her attention immediately. You even got to take some of the bugs out and hold them. She cupped the hissing cockroach in her hand, studying it intently. I was looking at the stick bugs when I heard the woman gasp. “Ew!” she said, and I followed her gaze to see Sophy lifting the cockroach to her lips. “What?” exclaimed Sophy, “They’re kissing cockroaches, aren’t they?” A misunderstanding has taken its place in family legend.
“What do you do with it during the holidays?” I asked.
“I take Iggy home.”
And then I imagined this reptile, assuming pride of place in her living room, nestled among her collections of plaster angels and Crocs.
Photo copyright © 2013 by Xunbin Pan (Defun)
The Benefactors came and took one of us regularly. We never knew what became of them until Bright Eyes bolted through the gate one time when it was open. She had never been satisfied within the agreeable confines of the village. Later she came back to warn us how the Benefactors offered our loved ones to a Sky Demon in exchange for shiny adornments they wore on their fingers. The adornments brought great honour to the Benefactors, but our brothers and sisters died horribly, torn limb from limb. Then we realized the price we paid for our lives of comfort.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
She’d have been the first to deny it, but I suspect deep down she thought that owning a cat somehow made me effeminate. Which would’ve certainly been a strange complaint considering she otherwise appeared to be entirely enthralled by the homosexual lifestyle and often lamented the fact that I wasn’t nearly as fun to be around as her homosexual friends. She even made fun of my choice of the word—“homo-sets-choo-all”—as if it was the prissiest adjective I could possibly choose. She wanted a boyfriend who owned a dog, and she wanted a boyfriend who used the word “gay.”
“You’re breaking off with me because of my dog?” he asked, incredulously. “That dog loves you!”
Joan thought - that’s supposed to change my mind? And what about Brian? Funny he did not mention anything about HIS love for her. Only the dog. And what kind of a guy would allow his dog to torture his girlfriend every time she came over? Was she supposed to find his devotion to his dog adorable? Was she supposed to feel guilty because she could not return the love of this scabrous curr?
From now on she was dating only guys with cats.
Monday, October 4, 2010
My family was never that big on pets, and so, had I never had a girlfriend who loved cats, I probably would have never gotten around to getting one myself, and certainly not quite so soon after we’d broken up. Not long after, she visited me and in spite of her purported love of cats, made a point of letting me know that she was singularly unimpressed with mine. But by then I was stuck with my choice; and besides, as my friend Mike the vet had said, sometimes it’s nice just to have something else moving around the house.
Photo by Terri Windling.
Because we were known as animal lovers in town somebody brought us a baby raccoon they found beside her dead mother on the roadside. We raised her and she bonded with us so fully that we had no need of a leash. When we took her for walks she followed faithfully a few feet behind. People would tell us there was a raccoon following us and we would act surprised. It was a lot of fun until the vet refused to give her rabies shots. We had to release in the woods. I hope she had the skills to survive.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
Happy to have normal neighbours again locals came out from everywhere to tell us tales about the previous owner and the menagerie he kept in his house. Stories varied in scale and veracity and involved any range of animals from boa constrictors to lion cubs. The best ones were from tradesmen who had actually ventured down to the basement. “Aw geese, how could I fix the guy’s furnace with that panther staring at me?” One recalled. I have never cleaned a house so thoroughly in my life. Had the stories stopped with the monkey, I’d have been a lot cooler.
Saturday, October 2, 2010
That said, it was all the stuff they’d left behind that ultimately tipped me into home ownership, specifically that Lego spaceship on the second floor. If I buy this house, I thought, all that Lego could be mine . . . a basement full of tools and toys, a treasure trove of hardware, and an upright piano in the dining room! The house was ours in a matter of weeks, but it was some time before I realized all that junk was more of a curse than a coup. Take what you want, I’d tell my friends . . . but who wants a busted piano?
Photo by another victim of the Internet
When Steve’s great-aunt had to be moved into a nursing home, Steve and I made the trip to Ottawa to help his mother clear out the old family abode. We were told we could have anything we wanted, but when we got there anything good had been labeled with his sister and brother’s names. Later I helped his mother clear out the nursing home room after the aunt died. Again I was told I could choose something. I liked a lovely cranberry glass vase. “Oh, no, that has been in the family for generations.” I was put in my place.
Odd what we keep when we’re packing up someone’s life. When Mom died, I took her knitting and jewelry. Now with Dad the entire house must go. For us we kept the ancient tortière pans, a plaster statue of St-Antoine, his Knights of Columbus sword and of course Gerry and Laurette. They are on my mantle flanked by their rosaries, flowers and sympathy cards. A candle lights their path to the next world. It rests in a sculpture made by Cec, Dad’s godfather’s daughter. From some angles it looks like stained glass. Just sacred enough. Dad would have liked that.
Friday, October 1, 2010
The trick to that particular move was to collapse all my IKEA furniture back to its original form and to engage the help of three friends who didn’t much like each other. Two were in it for the promise of curry and beer, the third for the opportunity to boss us around for an afternoon, which he did very well. I’ve never seen a truck fill so fast, the stuff packed so tightly there was room left for two of my crew to sit comfortably in the back for the trip downtown, one in my wing chair, sharing a smoke.
It was a big enough van that it seemed to impress the truckers along the way. Funny because as far as I was concerned an automatic transmission was wimpy. But just about every time I encountered a truck on the long, lonely highway across the north of the province, the drive would salute me. And when I pulled the one-ton cube van into a truck-stop to eat, all eyes would swivel in my direction as I stepped out of the cab. It’s true there were few female patrons, but nobody bothered me as I read my book while eating.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
I played the copy of Flesh + Blood Roy burned for me when I was driving up to Elliot Lake to see Gerry. Back in the day, I’d bought the album and made a cassette so I could listen to it in the Dodge Dart on my daily trips back and forth from Gil’s house. Two weeks ago I’d sung to “My Only Love” as I drove along highway 108, and it would be the last time I saw my father alive. Time passes so quickly. I used to sing an octave higher than Bryan Ferry, but I don’t anymore.
“It’s not too late, I hope.”
“We broke up in August,” I say. “And here she comes in December with the perfect Christmas present. She couldn’t get that together when we were actually going out, but now that we’re supposedly trying to ‘still be friends,’ she’s nicer than she’s ever been, and the nicer she is, the more miserable I feel.”
And Tony says: “Of course you’re depressed, you idiot. That has to be the saddest song I’ve ever heard.”
Becky came to visit me in Winnipeg where I had gone to work after graduating from Theatre Design at the Banff School of Fine Arts, where we had been roommates in the dorm. I called Bill because I thought it would be fun for us all to get together. Bill was our lighting design instructor at Banff. Becky was delighted, until she realized Bill and I were engaged. One of the reasons Becky came to visit me in Winnipeg was to pursue Bill. She was sweet on him. In retrospect it’s too bad she didn’t get him, instead of me.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Because of Monty Python and Rowan Atkinson, Rich and I cannot watch any period English drama without throw away lines from the Holy Grail or Black Adder creeping into the room. In fact nobody does historical filth quite as well as Terry Gilliam, and his discerning eye for ratty clothes, spittle and dung has made most films look far too clean by comparison. If our hero doesn’t have matted hair or filthy fingernails, he has lost me. Sit through a Derek Jacobi mystery, and you can almost see the orange ric-rac trim from the Butterick Pattern B4574 Merry Man costume.
The biggest thing about suddenly being an adult in high school was that you could write your own notes. Not that any teacher would’ve ever asked you for a written explanation of why you’d missed class, but it was enough to know that you could write it and sign it if you really had to. Mostly, though, it wasn’t even worth their while to track you down, and so it was with great pleasure that I checked myself into the office at noon one day and proudly announced I’d spent the morning in queue for Star Trek, The Motion Picture.
I see my son turning away from the opportunity to be educated it is particularly puzzling for me. If I was in the position to do it, I would not hesitate to put myself back in school – any kind of class. Right now my daughter is at an amazing school and I am envious of the classes she is taking – philosophy, dream psychology… and life drawings lessons! Maybe after the kids leave home I can indulge in some adult education. Right now, working full time and trying to run a household my schedule simply does not permit that luxury.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Since my pal Skiz has become an educator I’m getting a view of the proceedings from the other side. Three weeks into term and so far she has received a litany of outrageous requests from parents ranging from the relatively innocuous grilling over lost clothing to detailed instructions on how to clean their child’s bottom. This is what separates a vocation from a job. If it were me, I’d hang this warning over the door to my classroom: “Get outta my class if you can’t wipe your ass”. Of course, the parents would have to read this to their children.
It’s not as if I even needed a calculator for school, because they didn’t even let us use them in class back then. Those were the days when they still expected us to carry our multiplication tables around in our heads and anything less than rote learning and raw skills would be cheating. And so I bought it just to have it . . . and play, I guess. Now, of course, math class and science comes with a bucket of calculators, a literal bucket from which they hand the things out so that every student has all the help he or she needs.
Generally I always had really good relationships with most of my teachers. In retrospect I wonder about my grade four teacher who made me take a test on a subject I had missed while being away sick. I had adored her – maybe that was not reciprocal. In grade five I came head to head with a teacher who simply did not like me from the start. It was a huge eye-opener to me that I was not, for once, the teacher’s pet – and that teachers are not infallible beings on whom a person can always count for wisdom and reason.
That was my introduction to band politics. Even a chimpanzee couldn’t save that act. And after that I learned that if I wanted to be coddled and fawned over I was in the wrong business. This was devastating for me, an only child and a Leo. I was raised to believe that I was the smartest, my voice was the prettiest and that everyone loved me. Phenomena reinforced daily by parental encouragement. In fact, from an early age I slept with the covers over my head just to make sure that the sun really did shine out of my ass.
Monday, September 20, 2010
The beach at Sauble is unabashedly public, but if you ever do get tired of the crowds, for a mere $15.00 a day, you can drive as far as you want down the Indian’s beach for a bit of privacy. The people with lakefront lots have adjusted as best they can, just as they’ve learned to tolerate the cottagers from further inland walking past their property to the sand. On my route, for instance, I’ve noticed that a conscientious someone has posted a sign behind their fence warning of poison ivy, even though there is none to be seen.
There were three partners in the firm so it was natural for the staff to draw comparisons to the various famous trios from film and literature – The Three Musketeers, The Three Amigos, and of course The Three Stooges, although it was never determined exactly which partner was Larry, Curly or Moe. Then a fourth partner came on board, although he was kind of a silent partner because, although he was considered equal in the hierarchy, his name was not added to the company letterhead. At that point we switched to the Marx Brothers, and the recent addition was naturally Harpo.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
“I think is was the same people who invented mimes.” I answered.
“Ah, the bloody French.” Suddenly it all made sense to Rich.
Our conversation then turned to antiquated ideas of fun, activities we now view as perverse: Punch and Judy theatre, urban zoos, circuses and the creepiest of all entertainers: The Clown.
Although I have to acknowledge a girlish affection for the Detroit-based Oopsy Daisy, my love for clowns ended there. All that face makeup and satin just didn’t register with me. There was something creepily avuncular about Bozo with his Larry Fine hair, and although technically a puppet, H. R. PufnStuf was particularly distasteful with his big yellow head and little baby voice. That theme song “H. R. Pufnstuf, who’s your friend when things get rough?” sounded the death knell to my Saturday cartoon watching. Better to be out riding my bike than subjected to Jimmy and Freddy, his talking flute.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Friday, September 17, 2010
They say these drinks offer nothing but empty calories, but really, aren’t those the fullest, most perfect calories you can buy?
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Attention Americans: It’s all that sugar that’s making you fat, not the fat! And yoghurt without fat isn’t yoghurt, it’s jello—opaque, bacteria-flavoured jello!
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Monday, September 13, 2010
Sunday, September 12, 2010
I may buy generic drugs and store-brand cereal, but yes, Steve Jobs has made me his bitch.