Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What was I looking for again?

Over the years I’ve developed an ability to pore over dry Sessional Papers or whip through microfilmed Indian Department records with the steely focus of a diamond cutter. But I can’t read newspapers without my simmering ADD boiling over. Forget the important scandal about misspent treaty monies, what I really want to know from that 1910 edition of the Toronto Telegram is why is that quarter-sawn rocker and side chair selling for $15.00? Would Doanes’ Pills work? Can one get a quality gentleman’s truss in Parkdale? Oooh, and look at Simpson’s new line of printed poplin frocks starting at 50¢….

Image: Based on Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalogue, 1908.

Grapes Are Very Popular

Amid the crush and bustle of rose sprays and wreaths, of muslin buds and lawn half-blowns and showy velvet American Beauties encircled by seamosses, one clustered-grape hat ornament sits out alone. “A very pretty cluster”, the Sears-Roebuck catalogue proposes bravely, but the truth lies in the bruising markdown from 75¢ to 44. In 1908, nobody wants a grape.
     Do not despair, downtrodden, despiséd cluster! Within 100 years, you shall adorn the diadem of the Diet Mediterranean, resolve the Paradox of France. As you merrily trip the liquor store aisles, affected Rosé shall wait upon you, your frenemy turned blushing fool.

Image: Based on Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalogue, 1908.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Poopsie Daisy

Liz immediately regretted letting out an unconscious belly-driven guffaw when Jone slipped off the icy stairs landing ass-up-and-Yurtle-like on the sidewalk. It was unkind and the event itself distinctly unfunny, but her immediate reaction was to laugh. Praying that her mortifying behavior went unheard, she helped her friend to her feet, brushed her off, and with solicitous murmurings sent her home. Afterwards she composed a mental list of these social transgressions beginning with the day she discovered a pile of shit and a soiled tube sock in a stairwell. Everyone else thought it disgusting, which really only made it funnier.

Image: Rebecca’s Novelty Importer.

Bonzo, the Origin Story

Shivering politely in the wings of Mister McAfee’s Travelling Circkus & Emporium, he remembered the last meal of the life once his. Provoked by the skin on his Fry’s cocoa and the meager scrapings of grapefruit marmalade, he’d mocked his mother’s nostrils – smeared carmine still with evening rouge, his uncle’s brandywined proboscis, and Little Hanna’s beet juice-splashed pug snout. Whereupon Little Hanna loosed a roar of hitherto-unsuspected magickal capacity, transmuting his nose entire. Grandmaman swept downstairs, squelched the moppet, and declared, “Florenzo Bonaventure, until your manners mend, go forth from this life, begone. Be known amongst men as Bonzo, Clown.”

Image: Rebecca’s Novelty Importer.

Pin Head

A fresh paper wheel of pins sat in my mom’s sewing drawer. They displayed in pairs: Red-red, black-black, yellow-yellow, blue-blue. When I pushed them through my doll’s head they became perfect adornment for her ears. And as long as I refrained from over zealously squeezing her little PVC face the look was safe as well as fashionable. After Laurette died I rediscovered these pins, fewer and smaller than I remembered, their cardboard mooring now long lost. Beautiful old pins-the type once used by Cold War strategists and now appropriated by lace-makers. But for me always dangerously fetching Barbie jewelry.

Image: Le monde épinglé by Jenny Brial.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Finding Jesus

Jesus returned to Earth today—again—in what was heralded as the one-millionth iteration of the Second Coming since the Large Hadron Collider accidently punched that hole in the firmament. And although the majority of manifestations now go unreported, the scientists at CERN have always been quite confident in their count and hope soon to be able to predict each appearance to within 20 metres. The mathematics, even, may well be divine, but try telling that to the Free Thinker who found Jesus last week bobbing in his septic tank or the Buddhist who found Him trampling the snow peas.

Le monde épinglé by Jenny Brial.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

First World Problems

It’s a winter of newsboy caps to die for, most of which don’t fit my big skull. Liz at work says if I wore men’s caps like she does . . . But, no, this isn’t a matter of feminism. It’s a matter of finding more hats by Lillie & Cohoe, whose deconstructionista Vancouver-made M/Ls fit me to an unexpected T. I’ve googled. I’ve trawled anorectic Yorkville shops. I've gotten my mitts on only three. There’s one place left. The Princess Margaret Hospital’s Wig Salon & Accessories Boutique. Problem is, would it be worse karma to go shopping there? Or, to avoid it?

Image: Le monde épinglé by Jenny Brial.

Monday, February 20, 2012

COR 1 Tecumseh

Early last week a high school chum posted a black and white photo of a Catholic youth retreat dozens of us endured in order to escape Grade 13 religious studies. I fought the guilt-stuffed Care Bear vibe throughout the entire weekend, but still went away with that euphoria usually reserved for mega churches and Branch Davidians. Luckily this Eloi-like stupor vanished in a day or two as people resumed their rightful spots in the Darwinian Petrie dish that was Ste-Anne’s. My brain cleared. I packed up my folk guitar, chucked the Sing-along Godspell and got the hell out of Dodge.

Image: Roy Schulze.

Headed toward Eden

Having driven out Adam and Eve, G-d set us cherubim at the Garden’s East Gate, bestowing upon us a restless sword of twisting fire. Vigorously did we wield her, till came the Renaissance and one tenacious motherfucker of a heresy. Besotted with some pissant little Graeco-Roman dart-throwing flowerbitch of a pseudo-deity named Cupid, the artists painted out our G-d-given sword and wedged us into diapers, fatted like calves. We’re big in chocolates now. Valentines. Wall ornamentuary. But every so often, one of us breaks free, making space again to wield that fiery sword. And harkens for footfalls, headed toward Eden.

Image: Roy Schulze.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sitcom Girl

She had started in Theatre Arts but ended up switching her major, never really giving up on acting, though: a broad, vivacious character in her own situation comedy, season after season, sowing confusion among the regular cast by telling one person one thing, then another something else behind his back; doting on her friend’s new baby, for instance, then confessing to her new boyfriend she really didn’t like children much, but that it was important to say what she felt the script called for.
     “But what about me?” he asked.
     “I love you,” she said . . . and took him by surprise.

Image: The Courtesy Table, designed by Marleen Jansen, photo by Wim de Leeuw.

Cold Affects

James and Julia were young newlyweds. Their Destination Wedding to Mexico was beautiful and really super meaningful because they donated all that leftover dulce de leche to a food recovery bank in Metlatonoc. Returning from their all-inclusive they settled easily back into their Liberty Village townhouse, just them and Sheldon their puggle. The weeks passed and their life assumed a blissful ordinariness of long workdays at The Pemberton Group (where they met) punctuated by fabulous brunches and weekend drives in their Scion xB. Life was perfect. Then James caught a Man Cold and after that, things were never the same.

Image: The Courtesy Table, designed by Marleen Jansen, photo by Wim de Leeuw.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Prisoner’s Dilemma

We have nothing to say about Julia Trefinus’ death. Nothing. Especially in this suite we’ve been placed in while “assisting with their inquiries.” We know they’re watching us. Like I'm watching Ryun. Each time he returns from an interrogation. Yes, he meets my eyes – but for almost too long. And when I sidle my thumb along the blade of the dull cheese knife that’s somehow the only cutting edge in the suite, his lips no longer flicker with excitement. Weakling. Fool. He’ll break and tell about the games we shared with Julia, about the tapes. Unless I get there first.

Image: The Courtesy Table, designed by Marleen Jansen, photo by Wim de Leeuw.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Hoochie Coochie

“The Internet is abuzz!” said the editor, “abuzz with tales of teens getting drunk on vodka-soaked tampons!”
     This editor, unlike some she could mention, had made it to the top the hard way and would be damned if she made things any easier for the next generation of girl reporters gunning for her job.
     “So, let’s make this a first-person piece.”
     After all, when she was their age, the doctors had actually recommended vinegar… and Lysol, for chrissakes! And besides, now all she could think of was this particular reporter hopping around her particular bathroom in search of the truth.

Jump Rope for Guilt

He wasn’t fat or skinny or ugly or smelly. He wasn’t dumber or smarter than the rest of us but Zimbo called him Moosehead, and for some telepathic cruelty understood only by fifth graders, the moniker stuck. Paul was constantly tormented. Mme. Bisnaire finally snapped, sent the wretch out of the classroom then spent the rest of the lesson reaming us out. Being good Catholics, our collective guilt led us to welcome him back with crocodile arms. Even the St. Clair Beach girls invited him to skip rope. But only that afternoon. The next day it was torture as usual.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Jump Rope Rhymes for a New Millenium

Skip, Momma Pony’s name is Pounce
Kitten’s name is Clop
Daddy, he cuts heads off
In the barbershop.

Sister likes the breast
Brother likes the thigh
Momma left us years ago
Daddy don't say why.

So, skip, Momma!
Skip, Momma!
A one, two, three
Back to your little family.

Yeah, skip, Momma!
Skip, Momma!
Anyone can see
How you miss your little family.

Sister’s Making MuffinsSister’s in the kitchen
Little Brother’s out in back
Sister’s making muffins
Little Brother's smoking crack.

When Sister heats the oven
Little Brother’s getting high
But Sister’s making muffins
Sugar muffins make her fly.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Le Temps Des Sucres

The year before we’d walked along the Welsh Wye Valley so for Dan’s first birthday we rented a cabin near Midland’s Wye marsh. New parents with no money, we spent the entire time hiking through the frozen woods, our little boy strapped to Rich’s back. I’ll always equate our son’s birthday with sugar-making time, as the bush was full of tapped maples. That happy weekend sixteen years ago we learned that forty gallons of sap made one gallon of syrup. So much for so little; a diluvian cautionary tale reminding us to savor the rare and sweet in our lives.

Image by Yvonne Boothroyd, Toronto

Some leaves take longer than others.

We take our time in Canada, until we’re sure we’ve got it right, and so established our country in 1867 but never did become fully independent until 1982. Our national anthem, O Canada, was composed in 1880, but the lyrics weren’t translated into English until 1906 and even then weren’t officially recognized until 1980. That said, my mother claims she always preferred The Maple Leaf Forever anyway, an alternative I never fully appreciated until hearing it sung by a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police at the close of the 2010 Olympics. Turns out the mountie was Michael Bublé.

Image from a photo by Yvonne Boothroyd.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Meet the Maples

On autumn weekends, Mrs. Maple liked nothing better than to cram the little saplings into the back of the Civic and drive to the retirement villa to admire the changing seniors. She’d ooh and aah at their pale cataracts and crow’s feet, the delicious fawns of their liver spots. The saplings would hip-hop the villa grounds, scouting out the longest white hairs to wax for their scrapbooks. When he was just a sprout, Mr. Maple himself had found a clump of prime grey, mysteriously snagged on a picket fence. Every Christmas, it held pride of place on the Maple mantelpiece.

Image: Yvonne Boothroyd.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Deer Pen Road

They had always kept deer at the High Park Zoo, until one February evening in 1999 when, according to the Toronto Star, some enterprising soul, looking to supplement his protein intake or perhaps his bank account, took a large knife into their pen and dragged one of the poor creatures to a nearby parking lot.
     They’d kept deer in High Park since the first animal paddocks were installed in 1893, but now the zoo officials said they had little choice but to review their security procedures.
     And so we got barbed-wire fences on Deer Pen Road . . . and no more deer.
Today, unfortunately, the greater threat to High Park comes not from the odd urban poacher so much as the barbarians that rode into city hall last year on a wave of suburban resentment. To them, together with the compliant bureaucrats charged with implementing an arbitrary 10% cut to their budget, the zoo is little more than a line item. And so, for the sake of that $224,600, they have chosen to close down more than a century of Toronto history and pack up the remaining animals by the end of June, just in time for the mayor’s annual backyard barbeque.

Photo by Alan Baillargeon.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Neighbour

I stalked the house for years before Feist moved into it. A former butcher shop, now over a century old and swallowed by ivy, with large multi-paned windows, a huge fireplace and a tiny painter’s studio outback. With the limitless funds of a daydreamer, I imagined how I’d add a peaked roof, shutters and window boxes. Each morning coffee in hand I’d open the hobbity oak door and step into the beautiful gardens, the legacy of Bridget, the former owner. Now that Feist’s moved out I can resume my Looky-looing with impunity and not be mistaken for a star fucker.

Image by: Alan Baillargeon, Amherstburg, Ontario

Friday, February 3, 2012

Outside the Box

Long before we’d reach the border fence, Tante Elfrieda proclaimed that her lips could never again be crossed by paprika. Given the ruddy wash of this spice through Hungarian cuisine, her proclamation seemed wondrously remote from reality. Like Charlotte Corday thinking that slaying Marat in his bath could end the bloody aftermaths of the French Revolution. Onkel Theo – a stalwart drinker – accompanied Tante Elfi along rain-damp cobblestones as she paled at menu after goulash-laden menu. Against all odds, one passed muster. Thus it was that, in 1987, from a plate of tough little quenelles, I was to first taste venison.

Image: Alan Baillargeon.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


The Department of Justice gave me a Dilbertian perspective on office types. Creatures unknown in my museum/ archaeology/ academic/trailer park past. I liked the gay paralegals and the kooky clerks with their CAMH-worthy inspirational posters and philodendrons. Others, like my boss and her bloaty merlot-soaked cronies, I could do without. Once in the elevator, a corner-office QC imitated me: “Like Laurie, like are you like going like home like now?” I couldn’t answer. I was entranced by how the halogen lighting turned his synthetic wig into a lurid pink possum. Perched coyly atop his livery head, it dared me to say something.

Image: Wayfair.

Doodily, doodily, didn’t.

According to the historians at DoodleArt, in 1973, the “do-your-own-thing-in-colour” craze caught on in North America, becoming a fad for all ages: teenagers, singles, families, and seniors!
     Were they as “with it” then as they pretend to be now, they might’ve had the courtesy to warn me that the uncountable hours I’d spend colouring their posters would pretty much guarantee the rest of the ’70s would pass me by. I never drank beer from a stubby, never had a chance at casual sex, and—speaking of shag—never even got to walk barefoot on a carpet you had to rake.

Image: Wayfair.

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