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.

The Price of Love

They met at a party and went out to a dance club from there. He showed her his co-op on Park Avenue, loaded with antiques. The following week they went out for dinner and the proposition was made. All that could be yours, he said, along with my influential connections in the crème of New York society. She said, let me think. They had another date a few days later. He called first – what do you think? I’m still thinking, she replied. Answer now, or the date is off, he told her. No, the price was too steep, she thought.

Cheap at Twice the Price

Either G. Gordon Liddy or Timothy Leary said that the difference between Western and arranged marriages is that Western society may marry for love but spouses in successful arranged marriages love who they marry. Regardless which knucklehead said this, I’m sure he heard it from someone else. Still, wouldn’t we all like to hand pick our children’s spouses? Think of it: no tarts, no harridans, no thickies. Secretly, we’ve chosen one for Dan. And in keeping with tradition we will request the same bride price Gerry wanted for me: A Molson Canadian Pleasure Pack and a packet of El Productos.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Disco Bob

In my last year of high school, perms were all the rage, but Robert Cheung was one of the few guys who actually got one . . . so we started calling him Disco Bob. Every February, the Girls’ Athletic Association would sell carnations to be delivered on Valentine’s Day, and that year Bob purchased one for every girl in our grade so that no one would feel left out. Style and charm, but it did him no good, because the next year he invited us all to a banquet to announce his marriage to a nice Chinese girl his parents had found.

Cupid’s Arrow

Parents got a class list and instructions that no child should be left out. It is hard to convince a grade one girl that she has to sign Valentines cards for boys who torment her and she hates. Back in my day it was an exercise in humiliation. The cards were inserted into a decorated box with a slot on top. Then the teacher drew them out, announcing the names of the person on each card. Some kids made many trips and had a huge stack piling up on their desks. Others sat at their desks with a paltry few.

Monday, September 6, 2010

St. Valentine's Day Massacre

Scott was my first bonafide boyfriend. I bought his Valentine’s Day card weeks in advance and filled it with romantic messages, all in a tiny crabbed hand so as to pour as much teenaged emotion as I could onto the space provided. Then I baked him a giant heart-shaped cookie festooned with M&Ms that read “I love you.” I presented him with the gifts and sat back, awaiting mine. Nothing. “Oh wait” he said and ran home. In his haste he stepped on the cookie crushing it to bits. He returned with a Ding Dong from his mother’s kitchen. Git.

Will you be my Valentine, or you?

My career as a Casanova began and ended on the Valentine’s Day I sent a card each to two particular young ladies I fancied. One card was forward enough, but two felt a tad promiscuous, and sending both girls the same card, even if I had made each by hand, seemed just a little bit tacky. But you know what? It worked! A fifty per cent response rate, which, although I was happy with what I got, left me thinking that maybe I should have cast a wider net . . . and wondering what I’d have done had they all said yes.

The Rotation

Being handsome, cultured and wealthy, he got away with it. He had a different woman for every night of the week except Monday, when he took a break. He told women right up front when he met them. When he lost one woman, he would find another. The newest acquisitions got Tuesday, and the others moved up the rotation. If a woman stuck around long enough she could end up in the coveted Saturday spot. After three dates without sleeping with him, women would be eliminated.
Sleeping with him would be like sleeping with all the others, I told him.

Puppy Love

Rich calls it American-style dating—where someone has a Friday night date with one person, and then spends Saturday with another. Who does this? Maybe if you’re Mary Richards or The Fonz, but really? Most of us dog paddle our way through the stream of serial monogamy and we’re damn happy to have that. In fact, we are downright grateful. Ride on any form of mass transit and you’ll see that the uglier the couple, the more publically demonstrative. There they are, fresh from a Medieval-fair clinging to each other like their own perfume ad for really smelly people.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Just Dating

After we’d been going out for a while, Alison sat me down quite seriously and suggested we cool things down a bit and go back to just dating, which is what I thought we’d been doing all along . . . certainly not in the same way the Happy Days gang all wanted a date with Mary Lou Milligan, but neither particularly close to picking out our silver pattern. The problem, I think, was that I was just one of the many young men who’d responded to her personal ad, and she was starting to worry about all those great leads getting cold.

Self Love

Oscar was one of the most confident guys Joan had ever dated. They met when he simply started dancing with her at a pub night at college. He just assumed she would fall for him, and Joan could not help herself; he was strangely beguiling. After awhile, though, his self-centred behavior brought her to tears. During the relationship post-mortem with Sandy, Joan happened to mention how Oscar oddly had the only mirror in his bathroom perched on the back of his toilet. “Now there’s a man who loves himself,” said Sandy. “Oh,” Joan gasped, in realization of the truth.

Buttacelli's Venus

We have a beautiful new bathroom with heated slate floors and a large shower enclosed in glass. It’s an airy space filled with reflective surfaces. But, I’ve since discovered it’s really a venue for masochists. If properly positioned in the stall I can see my reflection from three sides. If I look away, another triptych of chub greets me in the huge mirror that runs the length of the counter. Before this, when staying in hotels I used to wonder what sort of sadistic design freak sticks a mirror on the wall immediately next to the toilet. Now I know.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Unlike Any Other

Having cornered the market on the most popular synthetic emotions, the cybernetic division at Sony decided to investigate the commercial possibilities of antisocial behaviour. Sure, most people wanted a robot that was happy and well adjusted, but hadn’t a fine-tuned misanthropy, to choose just one example, resulted in some of the most outstanding philosophy ever considered? The first models, unfortunately, immediately upon realizing how much they despised mankind, would logically and methodically set about putting as much space as possible between themselves and the consumer . . . until the development of a simple masochistic upgrade forced the poor things to stick around.

The Hen or the Egg?

You have to be a bit of a misanthrope to be able to properly observe the human condition. Those who live comfortably within mainstream society often do not notice the foibles and faults of humanity – it is all just normal to them. It is the misfits who exist on the fringes who are able to identify the irony of life and the hypocrisy of human behavior. And it takes a certain amount of guts to point such things out. Guts and gall that most ‘nice’ people do not possess. I wonder. What comes first? Living on the fringes, or misanthropy?

Friday, September 3, 2010

I like you, I really, really, like you

I was a huge fan of Mordecai Richler’s work until I watched a biography of the writer and thought he sounded like a real asshole. It’s not that he stopped writing brilliant books, I just couldn’t stick him anymore. The same thing happened after I learned that P. G. Wodehouse was a misanthrope. It ruined Bertie Wooster, and seemed as though Plum was laughing at me rather than with me. It is childish to want to like the people who provide us with our entertainment, but I can’t help it. I still wish I’d never heard Margaret Atwood read aloud.

One More Solitude

I was born in Montréal, within walking distance of the very best bagels in the country, but I must’ve been nine, on a long bus trip home from New York, before I saw my first Hasidic Jew. For all I know, back in the ’60s, Mount Royal Protestants didn’t even eat bagels and probably never mixed with the Outremont Jews, and I was already scared of the French, so when confronted with two boys—my age, even—with their little beanies and those odd curly sideburns, I chose instead to spend the trip playing cards with a couple of . . . girls!

Rest Stop

I think it was called the Green Rooster in Arthur. It was rooster something, anyway. The restaurant where the bus always stopped halfway between Toronto and Port Elgin. The driver gave you enough time to stretch, use the facilities and have a coffee. That day I ended up sitting at the counter beside the old auctioneer who was heading back to town on the same bus. Once his voice rang loud over crowds of bidders. He rasped he was in Toronto for one of his throat cancer treatments. A character who had loomed large in our rural community, now cruelly silenced.

Easy Riders

My favorite seat on the Greyhound is the front one directly to the right of the driver. It’s not a prize easily won as you have to beat the grannies at their own game. They’ve packed the night before and arrived three hours early. Like blue-haired llamas, they can stand for long periods of time. And they know you’re gunning for the same place. Upon securing the coveted spot they’ll put their Harrods tote bag on the empty seat beside them. You’re left to wend your way back through the unwashed as the bus starts its milk run to Sudbury.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Full House

Much as I like having the choice of any seat in the place, there is something sad about an empty theatre. It reminds me of the films I saw in packed houses, of queues downtown that stretched right around the block and back past the ticket windows, of seats far from the screen you still felt lucky to get. And so it was last night that I didn’t mind the cost or the crowds, I didn’t mind standing in line, because I was going to see a new blockbuster, and you know what . . . I got exactly the seat I wanted!

Petri Dish

I never went to movies when I was a kid. We lived in Quebec where there had been a horrendous fire in a cinema filled with children and many died. So there were laws about kids under a certain age going to movies. Once we moved to Ontario I saw my first movie in an actual theatre. “Santa Clause Conquers The Martians.” I went with my brother and some other kids. My mother was not all that keen on us going. Especially because it was wintertime and flu season. She always viewed movie theatres as giant incubators for germs.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Eat, Pray, Fumigate

Experimenting with the power of suggestion, I once cast a spell on Jim Morand. It was grade seven and I told him that yes, I was indeed a witch and with just a light touch on the shoulder I could make him itchy for the entire day. Of course after that he couldn’t stop scratching, thus confirming my supernatural powers. This week Scotiabank Theatre audiences were wracked by the scare of a bed bug infestation. Like Jim’s spell, the bed bugs were a hoax, but I defy anyone to watch the latest Julia Roberts confection without wriggling in their seats.

2001 in 1972

Famous Players had divided the Uptown theatre to allow them to show five movies at once. Typically, a major release would open in the Uptown 1, formed from the original balcony of the grand old theatre and still pretty spectacular on its own; from there, it would eventually move downstairs to the Uptown 2 or Uptown 3, each of which included half the original vaudeville stage; and finally end up in the tiny Backstage 1 or Backstage 2, which is where I finally saw 2001 in 1972, back in the days when a popular film could run there for years.

Photo by Ellis Wiley.

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