Sunday, December 5, 2010

We Wish you a Merry Mithras

This year I decided to study Mithraism. Mithra, the ancient sun god was born of a virgin on December 24th, sported a halo and wings and except for that (occasional) lion’s head of his could have been mistaken for someone else. If my dear cousin Denis was alive 2,000 years ago, he would have worshiped Mithras, the patron god of the Roman military. Scholars believe that the Romans imported the religion from the near East. Denis is spending the year in Iraq. I’d like to sway as many locals as I can to make sure they look out for him.

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

Keeping It Light

Last Sunday I got out the Advent wreath. It is really just a five candle candelabra that I decorate with Christmassy stuff. One candle was lit for our Sunday dinner, and one more will be lit each Sunday until Christmas morning when all candles will be lit. Steve derides me for hanging on to Christian traditions when I am no longer a believer. But I am pretty sure many of the traditions around Christmas are hangovers from pagan times. This time of year it is all about cheering up the darkest season. Any kind of sparkle and light will do.


We haven’t many traditions in our house, but we do like our advent calendars. This year it’s Lego again—one little model every day—and please forgive me, but I bought the damned thing in September, but only because they can be hard to find if you wait too long. One year we ended up with Playmobil instead, but they actually require you to assemble their 24 little toys into 24 little boxes, and I’m sorry but, if I don’t get to play with the toys, I at least want the excitement of not knowing what those toys might be.

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.

Festive Specials

I hear today that some malls in Toronto have banned the Salvation Army bell ringers from doing their job because of noise pollution. Apparently when they shake their money makers the silvery tinkle elicits some sort of Pavlovian response from the shopkeepers, and instead of the joy of the season these folks are filled with insensate anger. I think this prohibition is perpetrated by the Politically Correct Police, happy for the slack-jawed consumerism so long as it is not associated with the “C” word. Anyone who has really worked retail during Christmas doesn’t need a bell to tick them off.

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.

Hot and Cold

There was a massive blackout in the middle of the hottest part of the summer. The heat and humidity were palpable with not a breeze of relief. All the same we had the windows wide open. Probably the only difference it made was psychological. I woke to the sound of a car starting. It just sat there; fumes from running it began to seep into our bedroom. After awhile it stopped, then, just as I was drifting of it started again. This was repeated through the night. Our neighbour was sitting in her car running the AC to stay cool.

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

Mr. Clean vs. Mr. Freeze

How exactly do they expect you to clean a freezer? If you try to wipe it out when it’s running, whatever you’re using will likely freeze before it does any good. And if you do let it warm up enough for a proper clean, then where are you supposed to keep all your frozen stuff while you wait, your second filthy freezer? Come to think of it, the last time we managed to clean our freezer was only after that last long blackout left us without power for days, and we ended up eating things we’d had frozen for years.

Das Fleisch Balls

My Year of Eating Animals draws to a close. Throughout these months I’ve wondered if I’d go back to just consuming vegetables, fruits and scaly things, or continue as a carnivore. Dan has made up my mind since he’s announced that he will become a vegetarian. I wonder what has brought him around? Is he developing a conscience? Was it that traumatic viewing of Food Inc in last year’s geography class? Maybe it was paddling by a moose in Algonquian Park. Either way, the only thing standing between us and better karma is a freezer full of ethically tickled-to-death meat.

How Do We Survive Until Adulthood?

My friend, Roy, theorizes that the worst assholes of the world are probably suffering from some form of mental illness. Considering how much we are learning about psychology – and more importantly psychoses – I think he is probably right about that. Lately there have been some studies of the adolescent brain in which it was discovered that certain sections are not fully formed, leading teens to have very poor judgment in important decision making. This has led some scientists to declare that teenagers are virtually insane – so I guess that is why they act like assholes a lot of the time.

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

Assholes . . . in space!

It’s my theory that the real assholes of the world might actually be suffering from some mild form of mental illness. I’m not talking here about people that merely get on your nerves, but those who are suddenly so out of synch with acceptable human behaviour that you’re left with nothing in common but your indignity. When dealing with these assholes, however, it’s probably best to avoid confrontation. Because the asshole that can cut in front of you without a second thought is just as likely to be enough of an asshole to punch you out if called on it.

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


I am embarrassed that I lost my cool at the dog park the other night and said, “Oh Honey, YOU have to leave!” to the bearded ignoramous attempting to clear out a platoon of dog owners and their charges so that he, his wife and his dog fearing toddler could enjoy family time on a freezing night in late November in the park during off-leash times. I should have ignored him like Rich did. He was spoiling for a fight, leading his poor child smack dab into the middle of a dog pack. Some people are just asking for it.

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.

Lost Words

So many beautiful words in the English language that precisely describe what I want to say. And I know a lot of them. But when I want to use them, they often will not come to me. Much of the time they are there in my head when I begin a sentence, but by the time they need to be inserted they have disappeared leaving just a ghost on the tip of my tongue. I am left interrupting my narrative, stammering and muttering “What’s the word?” Then, hours later having the word come to me, when it is too late.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Noodling around the Internet yesterday, I found myself playing with the OneLook Reverse Dictionary, which lets you describe a concept, then spits out a list of related words. I entered “taking pleasure in the misfortune of others” knowing full well that, because there’s not a single English word that can handle it, I’d likely end up with the German word schadenfreude.
     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.


My goddaughter Maddie would probably argue that the minute her mother or I start wearing something, that fashion is officially over, never again to be worn by anyone under forty. The middle-aged application of trendy language has the same effect. Try saying “peeps” or “sick” or any hybridized mom dorkisms around a fifteen-year old and you will be met with rage and derision. It boils down to the misappropriation of language. My own teenaged self became indignant each time mom tried on “gross” and “it’s the pits” when she should have confined herself to cooking with gas and whistling Dixie.

Friday, November 26, 2010


I am not innocent of falling victim to trends. Some things are just too hard to resist. Such as furnishing with milk crates. They are such a great size for all sorts of storage, and you can stack them up to create bookshelves. Only to me the actual milk crates were just too ugly – usually that nowhere blue and always dingy and bashed up. So I bought the retail knock-offs that came in nice bright colours. Yeah, I succumbed to the second wave of the trend that started on the street and then moved into the comfortable bourgeois phase.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

It’s not really stealing if…

I didn’t have that many records, but when my ABBA started to crowd out my mother’s Belafonte, it was time to come up with my own storage solution, and it sure looked like one of those plastic milk crates I’d noticed in the alley would do the job. I actually thought I was the first person ever to have this idea, and I brought along one of my LPs to make sure it would fit. And since someone had been using them for garbage, not milk, it’s not really stealing, if you’re stealing from the person who stole it. Right?

101 Uses for Preparation H

From Kool Aide as hair dye to condoms as drug tamales, I love the idea of repurposing items, especially if their new use varies widely from their intent. You can use pennies to clean coffee carafes and just a dab of toothpaste will banish a zit. For years a Borden’s Milk crate housed my Who LPs, packed with just enough room for a languid flip to Quadrophenia. But here’s my favorite: Savvy fashionistas always carry a stash of panty liners and manicuring scissors in their purse for custom shoe cushions. Try it and you will never again resort to band-aids.


There are some bottles I cannot bring myself to part with. They are just too nice. And many of them prove to have further use after they are emptied of their original contents. Every once in awhile I get a bottle that would be perfect for another purpose, but I cannot get the label off because it has been glued on with some kind of super adhesive that will not budge. There should be legislation to force companies to have removable labels so their containers can be put to another use and still look nice. Re-using is better than re-cycling.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Another Recycled Soldier

My first apartment had a living room that had once been a dining room, complete with panelled walls, and a plate rail that ran all the way round. It was there that I started my first collection of wine bottles, with the goal of having it too run all the way round the room, no duplicates allowed.
     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

Bottle Mountain

“So I’m thinking you guys maybe drink a little?” Said Lester, the noodnik general contractor next door. I explained that we’re saving the empties for the steel-toothed lady. She scared us half to death one rainy evening when she called at the back door. She pulled a scrap of paper from her yellow slicker and handed it to Rich. The note was in English informing us that she had to go away but would be back and could we please save our bottles? We manage three bottles per week. She’s gone for seven weeks. We’ll have to drive her home.

Drinking Problem

“What’s Steve up to?” asked John, when I came to the door. At that moment Steve came around the side of the house, loaded up with beer boxes full of empties. He unloaded them into the van, then disappeared down the laneway again. We watched as he reappeared repeatedly, bringing armload after armload of empties to return to the beer store. “I can give you an email address to get help with your problem,” John called out to him. I guess there must be programs available for people who are too lazy to take their beer bottles back more frequently.

Twenty Cents a Bottle

There’s been a deposit on beer bottles in Ontario for as long as I can remember, but ever since the province started putting a deposit on wine and spirits, I’ve been tossing those in the wagon as well for the long walk back to the store. Most everyone I talk to in my neighbourhood leaves them out by the curb to be collected by the more industrious vagrants that rattle up and down the side streets with their overflowing shopping carts. These are the people I happily wait with in line, because we are talking twenty cents a bottle here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Rings of Slattern

I’ve been in a vegetative state for months, a shiftless loop of knitting and dog walking. You can count on two fingers the number of times I’ve ran. The never-ending renos are my excuse for not housecleaning. My neighbours’ kitchen extension is the reason why I haven’t gardened since August. Motherhood gets in the way of putting in a full day’s work while Wayne Dyer’s soul candy is the cause of my plateauing weight. And now I’ll have to drink more wine so that I have a stash of bottles to give to the bin-diving lady with the steel teeth.

Don’t Ask

I am a lazy cook, mainly because my dietary desires are not very demanding. Every Sunday I make a big batch of roasted vegetables that I eat for lunch the rest of the week. The selection of vegetables is based on what currently looks good at the produce market. Do not ask me for a detailed recipe. I can tell you in vagaries, but not specifics. I throw in whatever seasoning hits me – and I do not use measuring spoons. People inquire how many onions? How finely chopped? Whatever you like, I will answer. People seem to find this frustrating.

John Baxter’s Curried Chicken

There’s no room here to share the entire recipe for John Baxter’s Curried Chicken, I can’t even be sure that it’s his, although he certainly made it his own when I had him write it all down for me.
     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

Dial 668—The Neighbour of the Beast

Mrs. Miller made the best butter tarts. She got the recipe from her mom, who quickly recorded it while listening in on her telephone’s party line:

     ½ cup butter, softened
     1 cup packed brown sugar
     ½ cup corn syrup
     2 eggs
     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.

Perpetuating the Obsolete

Interesting how we have symbols and expressions for things that no longer exist. Often in front of phone numbers you see pictographs of those long discontinued black telephones with dial faces – something that most people have not seen in years, and many young folk have never seen at all. After I key in a telephone number on my office phone system, I hit a button that says ‘dial’ when there is no dialing going on at any point. I think there are still toy phones that have dials – teaching children something they will never again experience once they clear toddlerhood.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I’d horsewhip you, if I had a horse.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on Groucho Marx. Not even close. In fact, like so much of the stuff that happened before I was born, I probably got my first inkling of him from an old Warner Brothers cartoon, or maybe the tired impressions of uncountable b-grade comics, and there’s every chance I’ve never sat through a whole Marx Brothers film, but still I was flabbergasted when Nicole confessed to me that she’d never even heard of him.
     “You know those glasses you can buy with the fake nose, moustache, and the bushy eyebrows?”
     “That’s Groucho,” I said.

Tragedy and Comedy

Back when we could control our son’s pastimes, back when he was willing to watch movies with us, we had Laurel and Hardy marathons. All the fun ones- Brats, Way Out West, The Music Box- we greedily watched right away. It developed into a weekend obsession and we worked quickly through their roster, eventually coming to their later, inferior films. If you are a Laurel and Hardy fan do not watch Utopia. It’s their last film. Both men are older, Oliver’s fatter and Stan, his body wracked by diabetes, looks like a ghost. It’s like spotting the waddle on Oopsy-Daisy.

Abuse of Power

The doorbell rang at about 4:00 a.m. My room was closest to the entrance on the floor I shared with three other student roomers in the big Annex house. Two cops stood there. One a short older guy who kept insisting they could get to the upper floors to arrest somebody on the third floor by surprise. I told him repeatedly there was no access and they would have to ring the bell on the other door. He continued to badger me while the other cop, who was young and tall, made eyes at me over the old guy’s head.

Officer Requires Assistance

Walking back to my place, along Eglinton Avenue towards Mount Pleasant, we came across the largest assemblage of police cars I’d ever seen. The closer we got to the Swiss Chalet, the more cops there seemed to be, and yet they weren’t warning us back, because as it turned out there was no danger. Apparently some poor sod had left the restaurant in a wheel chair and tried to cross the street. There down the road was what was left of his chair; and all those cops weren’t there for us, but to protect the cop that had hit him.

Friday, November 19, 2010

My Groovy Neighbour

From the oil paint on her smock to her eighty-odd years of wisdom, Bridget has style. She’s the coolest person I know. For years I watched her, purple do-rag on her head, tending her magnificent garden. She had quite a past: A London foundling, adopted into a posh family whom she rejected, she became an artist and married a much-younger sculptor. One night with the rest of us far into our cups she finished the tequila, adjusted her lime green glasses, looked both ways and crossed the street home. Feist now lives in her house. We’ve yet to have drinks.

The Glamour

What else is style, but confidence? It is not what you wear, but how you wear it. If you can walk into a room with an aura of knowing you rock, other people will think you do. More important than any piece of clothing or accessory you can purchase is the ability to have presence. Dance lessons, fitness classes, anything that enhances your grace of movement will have a much more profound impact on how you are seen. You do not even have to be toned and trim, as long as you have comportment. It is like casting a spell.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sophisticates at the Gate

Things seemed simple enough when we started: try to ignore the fact most everyone at school is older, and therefore better, than you, do your time, and eventually it’ll be you at the top of the heap. And yet there we sat, looking down on the throng, only to see a new wave of kids coming in, with better clothes, better hair, and better music. And since we’d only ever been children in the ’60s and never of the ’60s, we’d never really developed a style of our own. We were the barbarians, and we had nothing better to offer.

Honey, I shrunk the Blundstones

Our Lainie says the mom uniform in suburban BC consists of yoga pants, a travel mug and a ponytail. Add a French manicure and these gals could be shopping at the Vaughan Mall. Inner city folks have a different vibe involving more attitude and less hair product. That’s how we recognize each other on winery tours. So imagine our surprise when last night at Aries we sat next to a family who, mullets akimbo, went on about hockey before spontaneously bursting into a round of Wavin’ Flag. Rich suspects Rob Ford parachuted them into the neighbourhood as the New Normal.

Loyalty Rewarded

“I’d rather fight than switch!” declared the models in the ads for Lucky Strike cigarettes, with eyes blackened to prove it. The height of brand loyalty. But are the brands loyal to you? I loved Lululemon yoga pants and Steve was under standing order to get them for my Christmas gift. Then one year the fit was different and I needed to exchange them. I ventured out on Boxing Day, something I had never done before. After slogging downtown I discovered that Lululemon does not make exchanges on Boxing Day. Lululemon treated me was atrociously. I will never go back.


As a conscientious and rather cynical consumer, I try not to let myself be unduly influenced by particular brands. Sometimes I even like to think that I’m somewhat immune to their effect, but here I sit in my tiny basement office and within easy reach I have my CANON scanner and my CANON camera, my PANASONIC phone, my VIRGIN mobile, CRAYOLA markers stuck in an empty tin of SPAM, a stand I built out of LEGO to raise my monitor, IKEA everywhere I look, a SHARP calculator, HARMAN/KARDON speakers, a WACOM tablet I hardly ever use, and APPLE APPLE APPLE.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Andrew my summer student always gave me grief about my preaching edgy design yet practicing a bland urban aesthetic. Day after day he’d sit in his ersatz office in our kitchen and point out the Pottery-Barneyness of Caesarstone and KitchenAid appliances. It’s not as schizophrenic as it sounds. Mixing slick with schlump is my take on the Japanese notion of the impermanence of beauty. My sink full of dirty hand-thrown pottery, black Comrags clothes loaded with cat hair. A fridge full of organic fruit and a drawer teeming with ho-hos. It’s not really me being slovenly. It is artistic. Really.

Imperfect Beauty

I have always thought that the difference between crafts that are art and crafts that are simply products is perfection. The more perfect something is, the less artistic it is, as far as I am concerned. A hand-knit sweater is lovelier than a machine knit sweater because of the changes in tension and the imperfections. I remember watching a documentary on Japanese potters who would throw a perfect vase on their wheel, and then knock a dent in it on purpose to make it more beautiful. The hands of artisans must be balanced with their humanity or they become machines.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Too Crewel for School

For one of our class projects, Mrs. May made us all sew, girls and boys alike. Nothing fancy: cut two identical halves, leave a gap in the seam, turn the whole thing inside out, stuff it, and stitch up the hole. An heirloom it would never be, but at least we’d have done it ourselves. She taught us the back stitch and the overhand stitch and warned us that there’d be hell to pay if she found out we’d been using a sewing machine . . . which, in spite of all my careful work, was exactly what she accused me of doing.

Get a Room

Whenever I shell out a couple of Bordens for a bias-cut schmatte held together by two artisanal buttons, I know I should get back into sewing. Mom was a seamstress, and her mother before her. It’s genetically predisposed that I should sew, and I can, but I hate it. I feel the back of my neck getting hot just thinking about it. Mostly it’s because I have no place to sew. If I awoke one morning to my own workroom, half of it devoted to wool and the other half showcasing a Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1 that’d be a different story.

Fabric Hound

The fabric piles up. Irresistible pieces from bargain bins and lawn sales; many from an interior design company where I once worked – tail ends left over winnowing their fabric store room. They are crammed from floor to ceiling into a closet in my workroom. I have no idea what I will eventually do with them. Every once in awhile I come up with a project to use a piece, but not enough to keep ahead of the incoming flow. Sometimes I cannot bear to cut into that piece once I have devised a use for it. I just love fabric.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Begonia Pope

Poor Begonia Pope suffers from a rather serious case of anterograde amnesia, which means that, although she can still remember things from before her accident, she can no longer form new memories. She can’t recall what she was doing five minutes ago, for instance, but she still knows how to knit. She’ll be making a scarf, but soon forget why she started or even how far she’s gotten, yard after yard without once looking down, beautiful and eccentric creations that never fail to fetch a good price on the High Street.
     And so her family just keeps feeding her yarn.

Image based on the Original Pattern.

Muffler Queen

“Not another one…can’t you knit something that isn’t a rectangle?” Dan asked, bemused by the constant stream of scarves that chug forth from my needles. Of course I can make other things, I just choose not to. Knitting is meditation for me, and those I truly love have either received their karma scarf, or are on my mental list of future recipients. Most of the people I’ve given these to really do like them. Maybe my former boss, or Louise the evil travel agent wouldn’t wear something I designed to wrap around their necks, but I wouldn’t knit for them.

Cover Up

Joan knew a guy who wore shorts until the snow fell, only then would he concede that he needed the protection of long pants. A lot of people seemed to be that way – always seeking to wear as few layers of clothing as possible. Joan welcomed autumn weather for the comfort of more clothing. Others would say, “Do I need to wear a jacket?” Joan asked, “Can I wear a jacket?” Gloves, scarves, hats - tights when she wore skirts – these provided a sense of security, like a shield against the outer world. The bareness of summer made her feel vulnerable.


     “You’re nuts!” said Corvus. “Didn’t you hear what he did to those kids last week?”
     “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

The Labours of Hercules

After hours of labour Sandra looked at Mike. “You’re what?”
     “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.

True Grit

Guys think ice hockey is a manly sport, but it is wimpy compared to field hockey that girls were compelled to play as part of the phys-ed curriculum in high school. Field hockey sticks are more like clubs, and the hard rubber ball could do every bit as much damage as a puck. Yet we did not have the defence of any protective padding whatsoever. There we were in our skimpy little bloomers out there on the cold windblown field. Penalty for high-sticking was to run ten laps around the field – no sitting in a comfy box on the side.

Floor Hockey

Floor hockey was one of the few games I was any good at. The rules were pretty much the same as regular hockey, except you played in the gym, with a thick ring of felt about the size of a dinner plate and sticks that had no blade. Our puck looked official enough, but there was no money for sticks, and Mr. Mason told us that, if we wanted to play, we’d better bring in a broomstick or something from home.
     I’d like to see Mr. Mason ask my mother to give up a broom she’d paid good money for.
Photo of John “Apples” MacKay by Ed Carter, from the Earl Haig Fabulous ’50s Group.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

What Position Does She Play?

Rich was unfamiliar with the unwritten Canadian rule that whatever is out on the sidewalk is fair game to any passerby. So when we saw that amazing dresser just sitting there, it took some convincing. I’ve never been coy about garbage picking and have dragged home everything from 100-pound oak doors to refrigerator parts. By far my favorite is a gorgeous brass lamp that, one IKEA shade later, sits in pride of place on my dining room sideboard. Even Rich loves it. Now if I could only get him to conform to that other Canadian rule: Don’t slag Paul Henderson.

Garbage Day

The woman’s house was carefully decorated. She took great pride in keeping up with the trends, and creating an attractive environment for relaxing and entertaining. It seemed like every time Joan visited her, there was another embellishment to the décor. Her friend was constantly upgrading. The slightest defect in her furnishings could not be tolerated. As soon as cushions got a little frayed, they were replaced. Or a tabletop would lose its sheen and it had to be tossed. “What a waste,” Joan thought. She was going to have to find out when garbage day was in her friend’s neighbourhood.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Major Marmaduke Lockhart Tindall

My mother gave me a photo of her grandfather to scan for a project my cousin was putting together: Major Marmaduke Lockhart Tindall in what looks, to my civilian eyes at least, like a pretty well turned-out uniform . . . except for the belt. The major might have been fifty or so when he posed for this, perhaps a young-looking sixty, but I’d bet that with every new uniform, from his time as private, he had kept the same belt. Five holes it has, and he’s on the last, but you can still see that each was used well in its time.

The Quest for the Perimenopausal Grail

I have two years before my next milestone birthday. My failing eyesight and waning pulchritude don't bother me because all the folks I love are cresting that same hill. I’m more concerned with lost opportunities and unfinished business. Onerous stews that have simmered on the back burner for decades. So there’s a long list of things I need to do by then and the top five are: Have a paperless office, finish my PhD, become perfectly bilingual, develop enough roadside confidence to drive on the 400 in February after dark, reach Enlightenment and get crack-whore skinny. Preferably in reverse order.


I never had trouble with all of those ‘milestone’ birthdays where you feel you are getting old because, as far as I was concerned, I left my youth behind when I turned 20. Somehow the jump from my teens was the hardest birthday of all. One reason could be that I had a great adolescence. My mother might disagree with the former statement, but I was having a ball. Yes, there was some angst – but mainly there was freedom and fun. And ambitions and expectations of life that (it became clear as I got older) would never come to pass.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Big Two Oh

Nothing had prepared me for my twentieth birthday. One day I was young and healthy, and the next I awoke with an odd lump on the back of my hand near the wrist: cancer, of course, or something worse, like whatever had happened to the guy I saw that same afternoon on the way to see Blade Runner. Surely he’d caught the exact same kind of wrist cancer, and it had spread upwards, wasting the muscles and burning the skin so that his arm looked like so much cured meat stretched over the bone. That’s how it felt turning twenty.

Les Collants Rouges

Mon Oncle Frank was a moose hunter in Rouyn, Quebec. So was his wife Alice. She always got the biggest, affording even the most distant relatives like us from Tecumseh moose burgers for the better part of the winter. Ma Tante had the bragging rights as a chasseur but Frank, a professional wrestler of the Killer Kowalski variety, owned the off-season. This was the 1950’s when everyone had his gimic. Frank came by his naturally. Born with two bumps on the top of his forehead and enhanced by a saturnine temperament, Le Diable enjoyed a repute that stretched to Noranda.

Victim of Ageism

The doctor frowned and made his pronouncement. “Bruises,” he said, about the hard lumps that had formed in my fledgling breasts. I was only ten years old when they arrived and therefore I was the victim of my big brother’s friends. They would never dare if I had been an older sister, but a younger sister was fair game, as far as they were concerned. Whenever they thought they could get away with it, they would ambush me and grab hard, copping a feel. When she learned the truth, my mother put an end to their game in short order.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Julie’s Nuts

Julie was always the odd girl out. The rest of us lived in the married-student apartments, while she lived across the street in the fancy tower with her single mother and the outdoor pool. Still, she once joined the tackle football game we were playing on the narrow patch of grass behind our building, although perhaps a bit too enthusiastically, and especially so during the pile on, when someone cried out that Julie had grabbed his crotch. The first time we could chock up to happenstance; the next time less so, especially when she herself announced the nuts she’d counted.

High School Confidential

If we as girls were subjected to those heinous blue gym “rompers”, the kind with the inexplicable two-inch belt and infantilizing big white buttons, our male equivalents, had they chosen to take up wrestling, were forced to wear something resembling a backwards one-piece Speedo. These were made out of some toxic synthetic stretch fabric and were usually in the school’s colours. Our rival school, Belle River had them in green. I assume ours was in dark blue, but because the crotches of those things looked like someone découpaged over a bowl of Christmas walnuts, I was too embarrassed to look.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Deterrent

Nowadays I see the high school phys-ed uniform is pretty much the same for both boys and girls – shorts and a top. Seems like the most practical thing to wear for most sports activities. Back in the seventies they still insisted that girls wear this ridiculous one piece thing that was like a shirt attached to a pair of short bloomers. No sleeves and a belt at the waist. It did not look good on any body type. I think that uniform was responsible for many a teenage girl deciding not to take phys-ed any longer than forced to.

Mr. Mason

Mr. Mason was the only gym teacher I ever had. Until grade six, our regular teachers did the job, herding us all outside to play kickball or something, but in grade six they handed us off to Mr. Mason, who made us change into shorts—no matter the season—and run laps. In grade seven, he started teaching us all about sex and health. In grade eight, I asked him why the skin on my feet was peeling so much. He laughed and said I was probably going to die. And I decided not to take gym in grade nine.

 Photo by Manu Pombrol on Flickr. All rights reserved.

Nanny McTitleist

Like a lot of closet OCD’ers, I am a picker. Maddeningly, Rich has flawless skin, and except for a very brief, tantalizing bout of cradle cap in 1995, so does Dan. The time the three of us had chicken pox evolved into a dermatological Greek Hell myth for me: Those glorious spots were there, like big, ripe peaches straining on the vine yet I remained unsated because of the threat of scarring. Impunitous digging could only occur on my scalp. As a future crone with alopecia, I will be known as that nice cat lady with the golf ball head.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Outsider

I am giving myself a backhanded compliment, but my clear skin as a teenager was just one more way I was excluded from the ‘crowd.’ Between classes the other girls would cluster around the mirrors in the washroom, moaning about their zits. Once I got one and pushed my way in, pointing it out, hoping to share sympathy with the others. All I got was derision and scorn. “You can hardly see it,” they sneered, “and have you ever had one before?” “You can probably eat chocolate all day and never break out,” they told me. And they were right.


“Take it from me,” said the father to his son. “I popped a few pimples back in my day; and the trick is to keep squeezing until you’ve got all the stuff out, every last bit, or it’ll just come back. Squeeze till you bleed, and you’re done.”
     “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.”

Mother (Ron) Hubbard

It’s 2:45 am and I’m awake wondering if my fifteen year old took a shower like he was supposed to. The angst is symptomatic of my slippery slope to poor parenting that began with letting him eat meat and stopped somewhere after the third hour of PS3. Wayne Dyer tells me that faith in the universal spirit will solve my problems. In an attempt to vibrate at a higher plane, I let the shower business go. This morning at breakfast I ask, “So Dan, did you take a shower last night?”

With an incredulous, “Duh?” he returned to his oatmeal.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Levelling the Blame

You give them the best you can give, what more can they expect? And every time you turn around the rules change. At one time everybody said, “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” Nowadays nobody believes that anymore. You cannot beat the bad out of a child. Yet people are always ready to blame the parents, even the parents themselves. I remember my mother moaning, “Where did I go wrong?” at one somewhat serious transgression I committed. I did not blame her. I knew I had made my own choice in the matter. And I learned my own lesson.

Passing the Blame

Louise hated the Canadian Cancer Society.
     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?


It was such a shame that Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson died on the same day. Maybe there was a minute or two devoted to her, but the bulk of the news went to The King of Pop. For me, as a goat-haired child of the ’seventies, she had the gold standard of beauty: rake thin with straight blonde locks that took to a curling iron like a fish to water. No mustache. I think she might have also been a fine actor when given the right roles. She should have had her own day. Maybe even her own week.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Sexual Revolution

Back in the seventies, in certain circles, there was a lot of pressure to explore every possible aspect of one’s sexuality. It was considered that you could not possibly achieve full sexual liberation until you had experimented with every position, and with partners of both sexes. Guys would insist, “you don’t know until you try.” It seemed to me, however, they were mostly interested in luring me into threesomes so they could have sex with two women at once, and spice it all up watching Lesbian sex on the side. Sorry, guys, I am very sure I knew without trying.

An Acquired Distaste

Miss Hudson, every morning, would bring her coffee from the teachers’ lounge and down the hall to her class in a little open box. The box was blue, with a red and yellow pattern painted on the sides, and with room for the mug and plenty left over for . . . what? I can’t remember. All I can see is that dirty old mug full of coffee, and loaded with sugar and cream, the smell of that coffee every morning, too close to my seat, filling the room and turning my stomach. And so, I don’t drink coffee. I’ve never even tried.

The Fascinating People of Roncesvalles

I think she was being nice when she described our neighbourhood, an enclave of artists, lawyers and CBC-types, as one of ‘genteel poverty’, living as we did in our crumbling century-old homes. Her inner Margaret Mead ventured out daily to observe and interact with the charming but primitive locals, so quaint with their take-out coffees and lefty newspapers like the Globe and Mail. It was a challenge to keep her from retreating to her room, a comforting Maeve Binchy in hand. Lunch at the local Polish diner was challenging. Taking her to my Trannie-friendly restorative yoga class was right out.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Hidden Style

She was impeccably elegant. Delicate features frames by a stylish hat; her expensive outfit accessorized perfectly. She caught my attention on the subway car because of the aura of excitement and joy that lit up her flawlessly made up face. I had seen that look before and I searched for the evidence I was sure would show itself. Just as I thought, there was the adam’s apple. She was a he; but very well done. I guess it is my costuming background that has provided me with the ability to sniff out transvestites, no matter how well they do it.

Purple Leather Pants

Were I as paralyzingly self-conscious as her, I’d do all I could to blend in. But here was a girl who dressed to stand out; who actively sought the attention, only to shrink from what little she got. It’s not as if I didn’t like her idiosyncratic style, and I was perfectly happy to have some of it rub off on me, but dating her felt sometimes as if I’d been cast in a remake of The Elephant Man, in which they’d given him a bullhorn so he could scream at everyone in the square not to look at him.

Dark Shadows

I think that Rich and I are closet vampires because neither or us like a lot of light. Our son is the same way and for the most part we live like moles, or rather, given the preponderance of candles in our house, Catholic moles. Except for my office, most of the rooms in our house are evening rooms, with wall colours and furniture chosen to look best after dark. I’ll admit that it is a pretty idiosyncratic style. It could be called ‘zen bordello’ or 'William Morris with glaucoma'. Potatoes last forever and houseplants only come here to die.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Some Light Sustenance

Illegal basement apartments sustained me through many years of working in theatre. There was little choice given my paltry income. Many of them were not all that bad. There was even one at the back of a house built into a slope, that had full windows along one side where the land fell away. But even so, when I met Steve and we could to pool our money for higher rent, it was a relief to get above ground. The first morning I woke up to sun streaming in the window instead of cloying opaque darkness was a joyous occasion.

There Goes the Neighbourhood

Our old neighbours, who were great neighbours, had grown too big for what was essentially a starter home. So, they were moving on up to a fully detached pile on the fancier side of Roncesvalles, leaving us behind in our modest semi to contend with the new neighbours—a young married couple plus kid—whose first order of business, before we had even met them, was to have the husband’s loud foul-mouthed friends lug sheet after sheet of drywall down the front stairs for what, in my growing depression, I could only assume would soon be an illegal basement apartment.

The Neighboor

I have no choice but to put up with our neighbour’s colossally invasive renovations. Her tiny semi will bust out to fill most of the backyard. By Christmas I will look out of our kitchen window and see brick. Our sunroom will be a sunroom only in the academic sense. The air is blue with burning diesel and vulgar machismo. But my neighbour is nice and I have to remember that. So right now I am sending over good karmic thoughts instead of sticking needles into the Suburban Kate doll I fashioned this morning after construction resumed at 7:30 am.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I Am What I Am

It would be a fair generalization to say that most of us fantasize of going back and taking a different route than we chose during at least one point in our lives. But who would I be if I had stayed in New York, or accepted that long term position at the Banff School of Fine Art that was offered all those years ago? How can I regret those lost opportunities, when it all turned out so well and I am in a happy place now? The answer is definitive. The choices were made and I am what I am.

Do Over

The first stop on my trip back through time found me talking to my younger self as he was leaving for work on October 25, 1996.
     “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.”
Photo by Thomas Leuthard.

It’s a Wonderful Life

We all muse about what it would be like to return to our youth, knowing what we know now. But in reality this would only work if everyone did it. I can’t image being back at St. Gregory’s with a 48 year-old brain and surrounded by my Nimroded peers. Or worse, what would bullies like Zimbo be like, their middle aged machinating brains forced to negotiate grade four with their tiny winkles. Nope, far better that we all age together, the lucky ones gathering wisdom along the way. Otherwise, the makers of Mike’s Hard Lemonade would be out of business.

We Have The Ability

It always feels like I should be able to go back and reverse things. For the first couple of days after I make an error in judgment I always have this voice in the back of my mind telling me what I can do to make things right when I revisit the moment in time where I messed up. I actually have to tell myself repeatedly that it is water under the bridge that is already far downstream. I wonder why it is that I have this strong instinctual belief? Maybe someday I will figure out how to do it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


To teach us all she knew about combustion, our science teacher filled a tiny aluminium pie plate with granulated sugar and held it over a flame as it slowly turned brown and bubbled, then smoke, then flame until there was nothing left but a brittle black crust.
     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.


Dad’s soul has 49 days to be reborn, and this is the final week of his passage. Next Tuesday, I’ll store his ashes and plan for a spring interment. Cec’s candle returns to the windowsill and life goes on. This includes the unending renovations to our house. Last night the three of us cleaned out Daniel’s bedroom preparing for today’s tear down.
     “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


Are you supposed to be Annie Oakely?” The guy at the Halloween party asked. Wrong era for a pencil skirt made of faux cowhide. And if I was Annie Oakley I would have a gun, since old Annie was a sharp shooter. No, I was just a generic cowgirl. Seems like people feel a need to pick specific characters for Halloween costumes. As far as I am concerned the object is to simply disguise oneself so that the demons who roam that night will not recognize the souls they have been sent to take back to the netherworld with them.

What are you supposed to be?

Peter is not a large man, but this did nothing to stop his daughter from coercing him into dressing up for her Halloween party as one of Marvel Comics’ largest superheroes. He painted his face and hands green and wore tattered black pants plus a matching green jersey for the chest over layers and layers of undershirts in an attempt to give the ensemble an illusion of muscle and bulk . . . for all the good that did.
     “What are you supposed to be?” asked Mary looking down at him. “A Little Green Man?”
     “I am trying to be The Incredible Hulk!”

Mrs. Dressup

Last night I was Boadicea. But for the faux leather and brass split-pin tunic recycled from my son’s grade five Beowulf pastiche, all the pieces for this get-up came from my own closet. Same as last year’s Voodoo-Creole-gypsy togs. All my stuff, just more of it at once. Huge layered linen top? Mine. Wrapped knee boots? Mine too. The 3-foot long braids and blue face tattoos, were off course Hallowe’en additions. Funny thing was that as I doled out candy and chatted with my neighbours, nobody said a thing about my costume. I think they were too polite to ask.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Unlimited Love

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.

Lust for (A) Life

She told me that the large, foul-smelling iguana next to her desk was the college’s mascot. “He loves football! Isn’t he cute?” she purred as the thing crawled up her shoulder, its claws clambering for purchase on her brown sweater. As her question was rhetorical she continued to sing its praises, all the while peeling potato chip sized scales from its body.
     “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.


Our science teacher kept snakes, a couple of boa constrictors who spent most of their days happily warmed in their private terrariums or lazily wrapped around a large branch he’d installed in one corner of the room. He also maintained a large supply of rats, nasty fat things that chewed at the wires of their cage with their sharp yellow teeth, oblivious to the cost of a freedom that would only ever come as an occasional treat for our class, when he’d pluck one from the pack by its long hairless tail and drop it in with the hungriest snake.

Photo copyright © 2013 by Xunbin Pan (Defun)

The Sacrifice

Life was good in our little village even if the gates always had to be closed. We had comfortable homes and the food was good and plentiful. All our needs were seen to daily. We snuggled together with our loved ones every night, secure in the knowledge that we were safe. Sometimes we saw the wild ones on the other side, and they sneered at our complacency, but we saw that they were scrawny and dirty and always looking over their shoulders. Our Benefactors cared for us, but they seemed to abhor the wild ones and hunted them down mercilessly.

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.

You May Now Eat the Groom

David Sedaris was in town on Saturday. He spoke about a place in California where couples can arrange to have their wedding rings delivered by an owl. After landing on the groom’s forearm, the bird deposits the jewelry in exchange for a live rat. To him, this was the first and only reason for he and Hugh to wed. But what if animals could symbolically act out a couple’s future? There might be cockfights and ant farms, beavers and bonobos. And at least one mongoose being slowly digested by a Vera Wanged cobra. I think I went to that shindig.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

In the short time we were together, Alison never seemed entirely comfortable the fact that there were men out there with cats, and that she happened to be going out with one. I don’t know where she had found her previous boyfriends—perhaps in the personals section of Field and Stream—but most of my friends, if they had any pets at all, owned a cat; or even more likely, were still living at home with their childhood pets, which surely would’ve been a bigger deal breaker than choosing to live with an animal that doesn’t care where it shits.

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.”

Pet Peaves

The dog was the deal breaker. Joan did not hate dogs, some day she thought she might get one, when she had time to give one all the attention a dog needs. But not this dog. This dog stunk. And it had this skin condition that made it scratch and bite large patches of fur off, and in those places the skin was scaly and creepy-looking. Not only that, but whenever she was at his place this dog would latch on to her leg and vigorously hump. “He just thinks you’re sexy,” Brian laughed. Joan was not going back there again.

“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.

Man’s Best Friend

For their twenty-fifth anniversary, my parents got a silver dog. Well, a dog with silver fur; a toy Schnauzer to be exact. Dad named him Brillo because of his wiry coat. He was a very sweet dog and very friendly. But the poor thing was never neutered and had developed the singular habit of self-fellation, especially after it rained. Our house backed onto a playground and Brillo’s foul-weather exhibitions delighted all the local urchins. Some people might train their pet to lie down or fetch but we, without ever trying, had the most popular dog show in the trailer park.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Like Cats and Dogs

My first girlfriend loved cats. She had two at home; but on any of our long evening walks, she seemed compelled to make friends with all the others we’d meet on our route. Even if one was sitting way up on a stoop somewhere, she squat low to the ground, put out her hand, and spend as long as it took coaxing it down the steps and along the path to the sidewalk, with me standing there like an idiot wondering if we’d ever get back to the kissing, which was what I liked best about our long evening walks.

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.
My first girlfriend loved cats. The next one loved dogs, and got all woodgie-woodgie-coochie-coo whenever she got one up close. She owned a lovely black lab, but had left it behind at her parents’ house while she pursued her dreams from a tiny apartment in the city. We walked that dog together exactly once while her parents were overseas, but that was hardly enough for me to make the big switch from cat person to dog. We were together a year, almost, but her pro-dog arguments remained unconvincing. And so for now, barring any further romantic entanglements, no dogs allowed.

Photo by Terri Windling.

Pet Walking

Mrs. Miller’s hippy son got a monkey then took off to India, leaving his pet with her. She hired Ann and me to take care of it. You might think a small monkey would be little trouble. The cage stunk if you did not clean it twice a day and those monkeys mark territory by peeing on their paws to leave their scent on everything. As well it needed a lot of attention to keep it from going stir crazy and pulling its fur out. But we loved to take it for walks for the attention it got us.

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

The Lion King

Like Roy and Mary, Rich and I bought our house as a power of sale. We couldn’t believe our luck - under $200 thousand for a three storey semi in a beautiful neighbourhood. The house was empty and freshly painted. It was only after we moved in that we realized why the place was so cheap: the previous owner had kept a panther and a leopard in the basement and once the paint fumes dissipated the smell of big cat was overwhelming. Our own two felines crawled around on their bellies for a month fearful of being snatched and eaten.

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

Power of Sale

We purchased our house under Power of Sale, so it was pretty much dead when we found it. No heat at all in the middle of November, and the power was off. The stove was gone, the cable cut, and someone had dumped the entire contents of the fridge before hauling that away too: a pound of butter in the kitchen sink, vodka bottles over the basement stairs, bits of their last Christmas still hanging, scraps of a life left behind. There’d been a divorce. Mary met the wife. “Why are you selling my house?” she screamed at our agent.

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

Not Family

I never met Steve’s Grandmother. Because we were not married my mother-in-law could not bring herself to tell this devout Christian woman that her grandson was living in sin. His grandmother also went to her deathbed not knowing that she had great-grandchildren. Even so, when she died Steve’s mom bestowed on me a needlepoint handbag his grandmother had made. I guess because I sew, and would appreciate it. When I use that bag, I am touched by evidence of this phantom matriarch – a needle and thread in the lining – she was always at the ready to make a quick repair.

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.

Half Way Home

The trappings of Dad’s eighty-five years of life fit neatly into six bankers boxes. This was a considerable upgrade from Mom’s things which filled five garbage bags, the majority of their contents sent to Good Will or parceled out among her surviving sisters. Sure there was stuff left behind: couches, rugs, tables, kitchen things, but these held no memories for me. We gave Dad’s friend Rita everything so it’s up to her now to decide what she wants to keep and what she wants to sell. I’m not sure if that was generosity or laziness on our part. Probably both.

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

A Moving Tale

When I finally left for my first apartment, everything I owned fit nicely into one trip uptown in a rented van . . . except for the desk, the one thing I left for my sister, but even that was more out of frustration than a lack of space. Three years on and I needed more truck, the next size up to something called a cube van. No great surprise, since I’d spent too much of that time filling my rooms with furniture, yet striking how my entire existence could still be contained in a remarkably small cube, one perfect unit of stuff.

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.

Solo Acapella

For me there are few greater pleasures than to be out on the road, burning up the miles to blasting music while singing full throttle. When I discovered the van I rented to move from Winnipeg to Toronto had no radio or tape player I wondered how I was going to make it through those vast stretches of Northern Ontario. Turned out I had plenty of music in my head and no problem belting out tunes acapella to amuse myself. It was probably one of the best road trips of my life. After all I was making a new start.

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

A Band Playing on the Radio

I discovered Roxy Music’s Flesh + Blood at Skiz’s house. There was something about the combination of Bryan Ferry’s voice and that signature syntho-echo that could make you feel simultaneously sad and horny, ancient and hopeful. That was a terrific coming-of-age summer for me. Skiz, Roger, Gil and I spent the season together, happily taking advantage of her pool, beer fridge, barbeque and her parents’ good nature. This was 1981 and I was already nineteen, I should have had this sort of experience years before, say at fifteen, but I just cannot imagine necking on the couch to “My Sharona.”

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.

Ex Mess 1987

It’s Christmas Eve, and I find myself walking home in the rain, alone for the first time in years, carrying the bottle of Italian red that “Santatini” left for me under the tree at Tim’s house. I’ve never liked Christmas at the best of times, but the last four months have been particularly trying, and even if the party did manage to cheer me a little, watching myself act out this holiday drama has left me feeling worse than I started. And since even that’s not enough, come midnight she just has to phone.
     “It’s not too late, I hope.”
Days later and I’m still playing the Roxy Music I swiped from the party, one song, over and over, trying to explain my dilemma to Tony.
     “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 and Me

I could not go home for Christmas that year. US Immigration said I could not leave the country while my case was still under review. Everybody else at Juilliard had gone somewhere else for the holidays and I was watching TV in my tiny room at the YMCA on Christmas Eve. Feeling very sorry for myself. The phone rang. My old college room-mate, Becky, was in town. We met up and went to see ‘Star Trek, the Motion Picture,’ together. It turned very quickly from one of the bleakest to one of the most memorable Christmas holidays of my life.

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

He’s not the Messiah, He’s a very naughty boy

We seniors of St-Anne’s Secondary School were prohibited from seeing Life of Brian. This meant that most of us hastened to a theatre to watch it. The movie was originally rated AA, but my best pal Carolyn had already turned nineteen, so we were a guilty shoe-in. Thankfully, I had given up confession after a particularly embarrassing session with Father Gary, so I really only had to deal with my own conscience. No problem. Anyone with two IQ points got the Python’s message, but thirty years later, I still can’t meditate on the Beatitudes without thinking “blessed are the cheesemakers.”

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.

Adult Education

High school in Ontario once lasted five long years, from Grade 9 to Grade 13. And so, while most everyone else on the continent was heading off to their first year of college, my friends and I were obliged for one more year to fold our gangly frames into the same seats we’d used since 13 and share the halls with children half our size. But slowly it came to us, passed around like a secret the office really didn’t want us to understand . . . the same government that kept us in school past 17 also recognized us as full-fledged adults.

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.


It is pretty hard to convince kids that one of the greatest luxuries of their lives is their access to education. I point out examples of Afghan girls risking life and limb, and persevering in spite of acid being thrown at them, in order to go to school. In the space of less than a century western society has managed to transform a much-coveted goal into an instrument of torture for millions of school children. Something has gone wrong and there must be a way to change it – to rekindle the spark of inspiration and the ambition to learn.

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


Regardless to what I thought of any of Dan’s teachers, I always pretended to like them. This was especially true in his early grades when I tried my hardest to win them over. His first teacher was an ancient Crone with an immunity to parental teat-suckling. At the end of the senior kindergarten year she left me with an outrageously ambiguous evaluation of my son. With her good eye focused somewhere in the ether above my head, she proclaimed “He is by far the most intellectually challenging child I have ever taught.” Some teachers were easier to like than others.

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.

Lloyd’s Accumatic 30

The computer bug bit me early, but with no desktop computers to be had in 1973, I had to content myself with a decade-long series of increasingly sophisticated calculators. But I found the money somehow, starting with the astounding sum of fifty dollars I managed to save towards the purchase of a Lloyd’s Accumatic 30, and that’s before I started indulging in the accessories: a Lloyd’s-branded AC adaptor to save on batteries, and then the rechargeable batteries when I discovered that the Accumatic 30 could do double duty as a battery charger. Unlimited, portable calculating power: how cool is that?

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.


The multiplication table was my first introduction to humiliation. My fourth grade class studied it while I was ill for two weeks with bronchitis. The day of my return to class there was a test and I failed it. Before that I never even got low marks, and not passing was unthinkable. It sent me into a tailspin that had me at the doctor’s being examined for a stomach ulcer at age nine, because I was fretting over a project that had to be perfect. And – I have never been able to get the multiplication table straight in my mind.

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.

The Sun will Come Out Tomorrow

My first file as a land claims researcher for the Department of Justice took my Lawyer-Bonobo and me to Sauble Beach. It would be the only warm and fuzzy claim I was allowed to work on during my two-year tenure, and it began terribly. Mrs. Peepers came on much too strong and had only begun dictating to the Chief how she would run the claim when we were dismissed. After that all that could be heard was our knuckle-walking retreat from the room. It took us three hours to drive to the reserve and fifteen minutes to get kicked out.

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

Leaves Three

Leaves three, let it be . . . I picked up that particular wilderness tidbit in Scouts, while my poor mother had to learn it the hard way when she picked up a bad case of poison oak weeding out the worst of our little suburban clover patch. Now, in city parks they actually protect the stuff, and post signs amongst the poison ivy so that you can count the leaves at your leisure and pass the lore onto your children . . . in spite of the fact that not all three-leafed plants are hazardous (clover), any more than i before e except after c (leisure).

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.

Send In The Clowns

Dad’s company had an annual Christmas party at the Cascade Inn, the most elegant venue then, in the small city where we lived. Part of the fun arranged for the kids was a film. The children would be led into a room to watch it while the adults socialized. We were not allowed to go to movie theatres and our family did not have a TV, so you would think that anything would thrill me. But every year my excited expectations were met with Larry, Curly and Moe. The Three Stooges never impressed me much. I just found them tedious.

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

Ronald McDonald is a Freak

On our way home from TIFF Rich and I saw a young man in a Dr. Seussian top hat balancing on top of a five foot pair of stilts. “Whoever thought this was entertaining?” he said watching the boy from our vantage point inside the College streetcar.
     “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

I Hanker for a Hunka Cheese

Perhaps to atone for their shameless hawking of sugar-coated cereal to unsuspecting children, the programmers at ABC would interrupt our regular Saturday-morning fare with public-service announcements that promoted the benefits of choosing healthy foods instead. Each featured a hideous animated character named Timer who looked like nothing if not a big fat fig balanced on a pair of impossibly skinny legs . . . well actually he looked a lot more like me when I started wearing the new down-filled jacket my mother had bought one size too big for me, and so my friends would shout: “Have you had a good breakfast today?!”

Whatever Works For You

I was raised on porridge for breakfast. I love the stuff. When I am a doddering old lady I can see myself exsisting on gruel. Such a dour image, but I would be happy and content. Given all that, I don't eat it for breakfast. In spite of all the advice about breakfast being the most important meal of the day, I find if I eat it I am less alert and I get hungry mid-morning. I don't think there are dietary rules that can apply to everybody. Every person should individually work out what makes them feel best.


I have a terrible addiction to cereal. I always have. It’s so bad that I only allow myself to eat it once a week. I’m also OCD about it: you have to put more milk into the bowl than you need, eat half - then fill up the bowl again with fresh cereal. My method works especially well with Cheerios and vanilla soymilk, and more than anything else proves that God’s alchemy is at work. A miracle occurs among those tiny Os floating in their little white sea. This perfect wet-dry balance makes my quasi-healthy breakfast taste like Lucky Charms.

Friday, September 17, 2010


You really don’t want to know what I just had for breakfast, but for the longest time it’s been pretty much sugar and caffeine . . . and since I don’t drink coffee and can’t handle tea on an empty stomach, more often than not it’s been a can of Coke (or two, if I’m feeling particularly sluggish) . . . at least until a few years ago, when I discovered “energy drinks” and realized I’d been under-medicating myself on caffeine and overdoing the sugar.
     They say these drinks offer nothing but empty calories, but really, aren’t those the fullest, most perfect calories you can buy?

Just Desserts

I watched the elderly woman pick at her meal. She ate only a few leaves of her salad and part of the slice of the pizza we were all sharing. "I just don't have any appetite left," she told us. I looked at her ample figure and wondered how she maintained that weight. Then dessert came and she managed to tuck it all away. She consumed it with such gusto, I think she would have licked the plate if she could get away with it. Well, not many pleasures left for the aged, they might as well enjoy their desserts.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hunger Strike

“You want this?” he asked, handing me a piece of cake still nestled in its Meals on Wheels plastic container. He’d already offered me yesterday’s meatballs and today’s pork chops. Dad’s given up on most things, especially food and the suppers that are delivered by the Elliot Lake volunteers molder in his fridge. Now he eats like a toddler: tiny bowls of oatmeal, chicken soup, toast. And like a child, his refusing to eat is one of the few things left within his control. But I’m hopeful that he’ll get through this rough patch because there’s always room for pie.

Land of the Fat Free

On our big road trip down through the States, we decided, as a respite from the restaurant chains, to purchase some real groceries for a picnic. And so I found myself stuck in a small-town supermarket somewhere in Pennsylvania looking for yoghurt, found myself staring at a wide wall stacked high with the stuff, but not one that I’d buy, because it would seem that Americans consider yoghurt a diet food and take out the fat.
     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

Road Hog

On the road, eating in restaurants. It's pretty hard to find the right choices to eat in the first place, and it's doubly hard to resist the array of poor choices that are available to order. At home I don't have much for breakfast - a latte and an orange juice. Yesterday I had an omelet. A vegetable omelet - sounds like smart eating, but it was giant sized and came with toast AND homefries. I ate half the omelet, half the toast and had just a taste of the homefries. Not a great start for sitting in the car all day.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Witnessed at the Guardian Drug Store

The young girl behind the register chewed her gum and waited for her to make up her mind. Propped up next to the Kleenex and lighters, the brown box of waxy Polish chocolates beckoned. That should have been her first warning: This item had been placed there in anticipation of a quick and thoughtless purchase. She struggled with herself, craving the candies, but mindful of her obesity and how this inner turmoil played out to onlookers. In the end she had to have them, and involuntarily sticking out her tongue, she placed the box in front of the ruminating cashier.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Terre des Pommes

Thanks to FedEx, I can watch my new 27″ iMac slowly make its way across the continent. It’s in Calgary now, and it’s got me thinking of all the Apple equipment I’ve owned, a list that only a geek could love: Apple ][ plus; Apple //e; Macintosh II; LaserWriter IINT, upgraded to a LaserWriter IIg, PowerBook 140; Apple CD Plus; Macintosh IIfx; Newton MessagePad 110, upgraded to a MessagePad 120; iMac G3 (Tangerine); Powerbook G3 (Lombard); PowerMac G5; iMac 17″ Core 2 Duo.
     I may buy generic drugs and store-brand cereal, but yes, Steve Jobs has made me his bitch.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Taking Ownership

There was a time when I was swayed by labels and could not bring myself to wear anything but the most current shoe silhouette. I would feel ashamed for those women who just did not seem to care. I must admit that I still have certain standards – you will not catch me out in public wearing track pants. But I will not be dictated to by trend-setters anymore. I have come to pity those women who are slaves to seemingly misogynist designers that demand they squeeze into ridiculous garb. It is better to develop your own comfortable style.

The Fun Vampires

We used to take our son to Bat Nights at High Park. These were lovely, under marketed events where a specialist from the ROM acted as our guide and we all walked around in silence, watching as the bats flew along the tree line and listening to their distinctive click-clicking. That was until Parents Magazine advertized it as a kids’ activity and set up a marquee in the middle of the field. After that the only nocturnal beasties to show themselves were screaming babies, petrified by the dark, their older siblings Jonesing for ice cream and frustrated parents. No bats.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

It’s worth it.

Don’t get me started on organic food; because really, like every other remotely worthwhile idea, it too has been hijacked by marketing in an effort to squeeze as much money as possible from an industry’s flagging product lines. Of course, there’s every chance it might actually be better for you in spite of everything they say; but it still takes a shitload of marketing to convince most people that the “organic” version of anything is really worth three times more than the familiar alternative sitting there on the shelf right next to it. But you know what? It’s worth it.

Reaping Bonus

After Dad died, Mom decided to move to Toronto. The big house was a lot of work, and she wanted to be closer to urban cultural activity. Although we were sad to give up our get-away destination on Georgian Bay, the change has mostly been good. It is this time of year when I miss that place most – Mom and all her neighbours had very productive vegetable gardens and at fall harvest they were always looking to unload their produce. We would be the beneficiaries of excess tomatoes, beans and zucchinis. Seems you cannot grow those things in small numbers.

Mrs. Bondy's Organic Owl-Pellets

“You’ve lost all perspective on how much things cost. ” Rich admonished me as I showed him the $6 packet of crackers I’d just bought at our local, extremely earnest Farmers' Market. And really, he’s right. When I was growing up in Tecumseh we had farmers' markets, but we called them ‘vegetable stands’. My friend Kathy still has one. No pinched-faced matrons buying their spawn $5 carob cookies, no ersatz hippies or reflexologists, just Mrs. Maitre waiting for Jeff to bring in the afternoon pick. I might buy stupidly expensive bread, but I won’t buy corn from a grocery store.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Priced Accordingly

There’s a tiny supermarket right up the street with narrow isles and tiny carts. For years it was a homely old IGA happily catering to all the little old ladies that live up and down Roncesvalles . . . until one day it closed, rebranded, and reopened as a shiny new Sobey’s Express pushing its “Ready Meals,” salads, and other food to go . . . all priced accordingly. So, now, if you’re considering cooking your own dinner, even from a can, for the money you’ll be spending for something as basic as carton of milk, you might as well be shopping at a convenience store.

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