My Week 213: Speaking My Mind, I Am Your Sunshine

I, like many people, have difficulty speaking my mind. I’m usually a pretty polite person, and I’d prefer to engage, as one does, in passive aggressive banter rather than outright conflict:

Me: So I haven’t seen you all week, but you’re going away to a conference this weekend?
Ken: Is that OK?
Me: Fine. Whatever.
Ken: Are you sure? It doesn’t sound fine.
Me: No, Ken, it’s perfectly OK. You go be you. Don’t worry about me all alone here.
Titus (from other room): I’ll be here!!
Me (yells back): That’s right, you will! At least SOMEONE wants to spend time with me!
Ken: Sigh.

But we all know that passive aggression is not the best way to problem-solve, and as I write this, Ken is merrily enjoying himself in a place called Bolton instead of working on the porch with his loving wife sitting inside where it’s warm. I’m actually not really mad about it though because he had to sleep in a sleeping bag last night and that’s his karma.

But wouldn’t life be a lot simpler if we just asked for things outright? Case in point: last Friday, I was taking the subway from work to the train station with a couple of colleagues. It was standing room only, and we were holding onto the poles by the door to prevent ourselves from flying around the subway car every time it pulled into a station. There WOULD have been a seat right next to me, but it was occupied by the leg of a woman who was sitting in the seat next to it. She obviously didn’t want anyone sitting near her. Also, she was muttering to herself and pulling wads of used Kleenex out of one coat pocket and stuffing them into her other coat pocket. When she was finished, she would repeat the process in reverse. Anyway, I was standing there talking with my colleagues when the woman suddenly reached up, punched me in the arm, and yelled, “You need to stand over there! You’re too close to me. Go away!”

I was happy to oblige. Now, at first, I was kind of annoyed, but then I realized something: THIS WOMAN IS MY HERO. How many times have I been in a situation where I wanted to shout the exact same thing, but my politeness allowed me to suffer in silence? Just the week before, I was in Shoppers Drug Mart looking for hair styling products and it seemed like every single person in the Eaton Centre had decided to do the exact same thing. And for some reason, they were mostly men, so I couldn’t see over them, let alone reach anything on the shelves. Wouldn’t it have been fantastic if I could have just yelled, “You all need to f*ck off and go buy vitamins!” Or on a packed elevator to demand, “Everybody out on 15. No, I don’t care if it’s not your floor, LINDA—just get out!” Or at a meeting: “I don’t care how crowded it is around this table–if your chair bumps into mine one more time, I swear I will throat punch you, Bob.”

I feel better already just thinking about it. And in the spirit of throat punching and yelling at people to f*ck off, I’m happy to announce that I was nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award, which is “peer recognition for bloggers who inspire positivity and joy”. The irony is not lost on me. I was nominated by a very cool guy, Simon Farnell of Planet Simon. Check him out—he writes about science, technology, inventions, and also writes great sci-fi fiction. He’s also very upbeat, positive, and engaging, which explains why he was given the award before nominating me. In keeping with things of this nature, I have to answer some questions, but as usual, I’m going to answer some of his questions but mostly the ones I created for myself:

1) What country do you come from?

This is an easy one. Canada. That’s why I’m so full of humour and vigour, and extra ‘u’s, and maple syrup. And it’s ‘zed’ not ‘zee’.

2) Have you solved the mystery of the mouthguard you found on the floor?

No, I have not. I even called the dentist to find out if we had gotten another mouthguard made for Tristan and forgot about it. The receptionist said no and was a little freaked out by the story when I told her about finding the mysterious mouthguard in the middle of the floor where it had suddenly, magically appeared. I feel like I need to try it on again one more time, just to make sure it’s not mine, but that could just be an excuse to swish wine around in my mouth.

3) What place are you in currently in the hockey pool?

I’m in second place. I WAS in first but one of my Andersons got injured and can’t play for a few days. What a baby.

4) Have you discovered how you are like Jeffrey yet?

No. I finally got up the nerve to ask my colleague and he laughed gently and said, “Oh, I don’t know. You both have the same…persona.” He wouldn’t say any more than that. But Jeffrey is in our hockey pool, and guess who’s in first place ahead of me? So maybe we’re both really good at hockey stuff.

5) What is your dream destination?

The Hermitage in St. Petersburg. Ken and I have already booked our trip there for next summer.

6) Why did you burst out laughing in a meeting on Thursday?

We were looking at a prototype for an approval process and one of the managers said, “See—if I click this we can see the work flow” and he did, and the screen said, “Your flow is running”. So I snickered, but then I looked around the room and no one else was laughing so I didn’t make the joke I was going to make. I’ll bet that lady on the subway would have said it though.

7) What is your favourite movie?

I have a LOT of favourite movies. Right now it’s a tie between Alien Vs. Predator, Pitch Black/The Chronicles of Riddick, and Mad Max: Fury Road. You’d never guess I actually have a minor degree in Film Studies. Also, I just saw Venom yesterday, and as someone with a minor degree in Film Studies, I can give you my professional opinion: it sucked.

8) What crazy thing did you do on Friday night?

Ken and I went out for dinner and I had a couple of glasses of wine, so I made him take me to get my ears double pierced.

9) Are you happy with your current life?

Well, I just got my ears double-pierced, so yeah, I’m living my best life, obvs. Seriously though, I decided a few weeks ago (the week I met Gary Numan all by myself even though I was full of anxiety) that I was going to do things even if the thought of them scared me.  And there is nothing scarier than letting a total stranger punch holes in your ears.

10) Do you have any new and interesting bathroom stories?

Somebody’s a little anal.

Why, yes I do. A couple of weeks ago, I was in a professional office building and needed to use the facilities. As I sat there, I realized that this sign was on the inside of the stall door. I don’t think I’ve EVER seen a more micro-managed bathroom in my life. I mean, how many rules do you need to have? What kind of people normally utilize this facility that warrants a poster like this? Were there problems in the past with people just throwing their used TP on the floor in disdain, or having riots like in the movie Carrie where the other girls attack Sissy Spacek with tampons? At the bottom in very small print, it says, ‘Help and support Little Miss Tidy’. I don’t know who that is, but she deserves a good swirly.

Now, according to the rules, I’m supposed to nominate other people for this award. Frankly, I follow a lot of people, and you all make me happy, so it’s really hard to narrow the list down without me worrying that I’ve left someone out, but here are some people who are very positive and would probably never throat punch anyone–but they can tell you that for themselves. Also, my nominees have to answer question 1 and 5-10, but 2, 3, and 4 are yours to create.

Often Off-Topic


Ms Graceful…Not!



The Lockwood Echo

Was That My Out Loud Voice?

Greater Than Gravity

Superman Can’t Find a Phone Booth

I’m Sick and So Are You



My Week 212: Doing The Math

Math Story 1

The other day, Ken and I were having a discussion about the newest educational fad: Growth Mindset. This is fancy term, based on “brain research”, that people can learn to do things if they BELIEVE they can do them. So you can see why it’s so fancy and all—pretty complex stuff. And you can also see why Boards of Education are spending money like crazy to teach people how to implement it in the classroom. I’m sure there’s nothing more motivating to a struggling student than yelling at them “If you can see it, you can be it!” (Growth Mindset sounds suspiciously like the lyrics to an R. Kelly song. He believed he could fly, although I don’t think that worked out too well for him). I wish my high school math teacher had quoted Boyz to Men to me—for sure, I’d be a quantum physicist now, instead of a smartass who can’t figure out what half of ¾ of a cup of flour is (I just eyeball it). Anyway, I was like, “So after years of NOT being able to do complicated math, if I only BELIEVE hard enough that I can do it, I’ll be able to learn it?” Ken assured me that it was true. But that night I had a nightmare where I was trying to do math, and f*cking it up royally. Then suddenly, the numbers all turned into little roasting chickens in their own casserole dishes, and instead of doing math, I was basting them with a red wine sauce that I had made and worrying that they were going to dry out in the oven. Even my subconscious knows where my strengths are. But maybe that’s all changing, because on the weekend, Tristan was doing his math homework:

T: Math, math, blah, blah, dividing by zero.
Me: Oh, that’s easy. Whenever you divide by zero, you end up with the same number you started with. Like 15 divided by zero is 15.
T: No, it’s not! You can’t divide by zero.
Me: Sure you can. I have 15 things. There’s zero things that go into it, so I still have 15 things.
T: That’s NOT how it works. It’s impossible. See, if I put 15 divided by zero into my calculator, it says “Error”.
Me: I paid good money for that calculator—what’s wrong with it?
T: Nothing! You just can’t divide by zero.
Me: But I just did.
T: But you’re wrong. Zero would go into 15 an infinite number of times, so it can’t be calculated.
Me: But I just calculated it.
Me: Look. If you have 15 slices of bacon, and you try to divide them by zero, how many slices of bacon do you have left? 15! Because you have eaten zero of them!
T: 15 is the REMAINDER. IS there bacon?
Me: Sure. Do you want 15 slices or zero?

Math Story 2

I have a Chuck Norris desk calendar that Ken gave me last Christmas. I love it. I don’t know what it is about Chuck Norris jokes that always make me laugh, but there are several people in the office who appreciate them too. If I have one that’s specific to a particular person, I give it to them at the end of the day just for fun. For example, in February there was a page that said, “Once Chuck Norris roundhouse kicked an exclamation point. That’s how question marks came into existence”, so I gave it to one of our editors. She thought it was really funny and pinned it up on her cubicle. Most people have embraced the Chuck Norris calendar, so when I got a page the other day that said, “Chuck Norris is the last digit of pi”, I knew exactly who it should go to—one of the new women in the office who specializes in math-type things. The problem was that in the picture, Chuck wasn’t wearing a shirt, and personally, I think that in a professional office, we probably shouldn’t be putting up pictures of half-naked men. Or women. (Funny story—I used to work with another math-type person who put up an 8 x 10 glossy picture of a very good-looking young man in her cubicle. He was naked from the waist up. I mentioned it to someone, as in “I don’t know if that’s very appropriate” and the person responded, “Oh, it’s OK—that’s her son.” I’ll leave it to you to consider whether that’s actually a funny story or just super-creepy.). So anyway, I very carefully took a sticky note, traced Chuck’s torso, coloured it in with black marker, and then cut it out and taped it on. It looked just like a very stylish T-shirt. I took it over to her, and said, “I thought you might appreciate this”, but she just looked at it with a weirdly dubious expression.

Me: It’s Chuck Norris.
Her: OK.
Me: It’s a joke about math.
Her: OK.
Me: I thought you might like it. I made him a shirt.
Her: Oh.

So I left it on her table and walked away. Later, I went by, and it was still there, but the tiny T-shirt I’d made had been carefully peeled away.

Math Story 3

So this is technically not a math story, but it has numbers in it. If you remember, I joined a hockey pool a couple of weeks ago. I made my picks based on some pretty random factors—I now have a Mr. Smith and a Mr. Anderson in keeping with my Matrix theme, and I picked up a guy called Kailer Yamamoto, because I thought it was a cool name and someone had scooped up Yanni Gourde right before my turn. At any rate, I am currently in first place out of 16 teams with quite a healthy points lead, which led to some subtle accusations that I might be a ringer:

Co-Worker: So. You’re in first place. Guess you know a bit more about hockey than you let on.
Me: Uh, no—I mean, I understand hockey, but I don’t follow statistics or anything. I don’t even know who won the thingy last year.
Co-Worker: If you’re referring to the Stanley Cup, it was the Washington Capitals, as I’m sure you’re aware.
Me: No, I…I’m sure I’ll be in last place by the end of the season and you’ll win the $560 dollars.
Co-Worker: $320. There are 16 of us, remember?

Of course, he was only pretending to give me a hard time, because he’s a pretty decent guy, but that still hasn’t stopped me from calling out, “I’m number 1!” every time I go by his office. Because 1 is the best number.


My Week 211: Classics with a Twist

It’s Thanksgiving Weekend here in Canada and I’m hosting 12 people, so here’s a throwback for you that I hope you might like!

Classics with a Twist

A little while ago, my brother and I went to the Carlton Street Cinema to see Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I love the Carlton Street Cinema because a) it’s literally right across the street from my condo, so if I go there and the theatre is too crowded, I can just leave and not feel like I wasted a huge trip or anything b) they serve wine and c) there’s wine, which I might have already mentioned. It’s not a VIP cinema or anything; in fact, the individual theatres are just a little bigger than the media room at a really rich person’s house, so when I go there, I can pretend that I’M the rich person and everyone else in the theatre are my guests, except, unlike my own house, I can’t scream, “Will you shut the f*ck up?!” at the people down front who won’t stop talking and giggling. Which happened when we were there with a particularly annoying threesome consisting of an elderly man and two female companions, who laughed hysterically and loudly at the most inappropriate moments, causing me to ask my brother, “What the hell is so funny?” My brother, who has a Ph.D, explained it thusly: “I have no idea. Maybe they’re stoned.”

At any rate, I didn’t know what to expect with the movie. Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourite novels, and when it was originally written, there was nary a hint of zombie within its pages. I figured it would just be a cheesy excuse for blood and gore, wrapped in an Edwardian cloak. I was actually pleasantly surprised that not only was the original storyline intact, the integration of the zombie storyline was well-done and not illogical at all. Well, except for the fact that there were ZOMBIES. You can never really get away from the illogic of that. Still. But then my brother told me that there was another Jane Austen rewrite called Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, and I was like “WTF? Now we’re really stretching it. I’ve read that book, and it took place mostly on the moors–there was literally one scene that took place near open water! Is this going to be like Snow Sharks, where scientists resurrect an ancient giant shark that had been frozen in ice and it swims through the snow, attacking unwary skiers?” Okay, yes, I DID watch that movie, whose budget was approximately $7000, most of which was spent on the giant shark head that you can see in the poster. Just the head. They couldn’t afford the rest of the shark. I have, however, not yet seen Avalanche Sharks, the synopsis of which states “a bikini contest turns into a horrifying affair when it is hit by a shark avalanche”.

Anyway, I got to thinking that maybe I should hop on this bandwagon, and I came up with a few ideas of my own for integrated storylines.

1) Gone With The Wind and Chupacabras: On the eve of her debutante ball, the vivacious Scarlet O’Hara finds herself defending Tara, and her inept suitors, against a swarm of small, spiky, bear-like, goat-sucking creatures. Casting aside her idyllic plantation upbringing, she devotes the remainder of her life to protecting the South, declaring “I’ll never go swordless again!” With the help of the dashing Rhett Butler, and her devoted servants (“I don’t know nuthing ‘bout killing chupacabras, Miss Scarlet! But I’ll learn!”), she drives back the chupacabra hordes with nothing but her trusty sabre and her wit. Her job is, of course, made easier by the almost complete lack of goats in Georgia. Ultimately, however, she is betrayed by Rhett Butler, who unbeknown to anyone, is the Chupacabra King and is planning to take his minions to the North. When Scarlett finds out, she’s appalled:

Scarlet: Rhett, if you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?
Rhett: Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.
Scarlet: Well, f*ck you then. Prissy, hand me my sword. It’s time the Chupacabra King lost his crown.

2) Citizen Kane, Sasquatch Slayer: On his deathbed, Charles Foster Kane, newspaper tycoon extraordinaire, and a bit of a d-bag, utters his final words: “Rosebud”. No one knows what it means. His private life was a mystery; however, throughout the film, via the use of tabloid-esque newsreels, it is slowly revealed that he had another calling aside from the news business: to hunt down and slay every Sasquatch in the country. Taken in as a child by a millionaire, William Thatcher, Kane is trained in the art of surveillance and becomes noted, and ridiculed, for his numerous Sasquatch sightings. He builds a “scandal sheet” empire, based on stories about alien invasions, government conspiracies, two-headed babies, and the Kardashians. All the while craving respect and legitimacy, he turns to hunting Sasquatches in order to prove to the world that he’s not a madman. He runs for governor, with the campaign slogan “The truth is out there” and posters featuring blurry photos of Bigfoot. After a devastating loss at the polls, he builds a fantastical estate, “Xanadu”, where he lives in isolation until his death. Once the contents of the estate are inventoried, it is revealed that “Rosebud” is the name on a glass showcase found in a hidden room on the estate. It contains a stuffed, 6 foot-tall, ape-like creature.

3) The Wizard of Jackalopes: A young, mid-west farm girl gets caught in a hurricane and finds herself in a strange land. After cavorting and singing with a group of tiny, hard-drinking people, she meets a couple of witches, one good, but a little creepy and passive-aggressive, and one who seems to be bad, but whose redeeming quality is that she loved her dead sister whose crushed body lies under the farm girl’s flying barn. The bad witch vows vengeance and disappears in a cloud of red smoke. The farm girl, whose wide-eyed innocence quickly becomes super-annoying, teams up with a robot, a zombie, and a griffin in order to make their way to the Emerald City and meet a wizard who can solve all their problems. After a series of misadventures, they are confronted by the bad witch and her army of jackalopes, giant rabbits with fierce teeth and deer antlers, and are forced to fight to the death. They all die. (I have to stop here, because when I was a kid, there were so many commercials in The Wizard of Oz that the damn movie was over three hours long, and I always fell asleep at about the half-way point. I have no idea how it actually ends.)

So there you have it—three fresh ways to look at the classics. I also have another idea about an FBI agent, haunted by a childhood attack by killer lambs, who is chasing her serial killer nemesis, an unhinged fellow who likes to dress in sheepskin and calls himself The Mutton Man, but it’s not “fleshed out” yet, haha.


My Week 210: Swimming in the Hockey Pool

Yesterday, one of my colleagues said, “I’ll be back in a bit. I have to go to the hockey pool meeting.” And I was like, “There’s a hockey pool? Why didn’t I know about this?”

She said, “Were you in it last year? Because I think the invitation only went out to people who did it last year, but you can come with me if you want. I’m sure it will be fine.”

And that was all well and good, but I hate to go places where I’m not invited. I also hate to go places where I AM invited, if you’ll remember my anxiety last week over meeting Gary Numan. But I had conquered my fear last week, so maybe I was on a roll. After a little hemming and hawing, at which point she said, “Ok, see you later,” I yelled, “Wait up!” and went with her, the words ‘I’m sure it will be fine’ ringing ominously in my ears.

Sure enough, there was a reason for the ominous-osity. I walked in the room and said cheerfully, “Hey, does anyone mind if I join the hockey pool?” I was met with glares and complete silence. My poor colleague sat down at the far end of the table while I waited. Finally, the organizer sighed and said, “It shouldn’t be a problem. I’ll just create another team. It’ll mean less players available for everyone, but that’s…OK.”

Let me just state for the record right now that I don’t even like hockey particularly, nor do I follow any team. I had no idea what a ‘hockey pool’ even was—I thought we would just pick a team to win the Stanley Cup and in about ten years from now when this year’s hockey season is finally over, the person who picked the winning team would get kudos or whatnot. But I realized that things were quite a bit more complicated when I looked around the room and realized that everyone else had roster sheets, statistical analyses, and printouts of players listed by position. I had nothing but a vague sense that I was doing this wrong. In fact, I had to leave within the first couple of minutes to get my cellphone, because I had to set myself up in an app that would track my team, which was a “fantasy team” made up of any players I wanted. I have no idea what was said in my absence, but when I came back, it was pretty obvious that there was a certain level of impatience in the room as I tried to log on and get this sh*t done as fast as possible so that the DRAFT could start. Yes, draft. All 12 ROUNDS of it. 

We had to pick a number out of a hat, and I got 15. There were 16 people, so that meant I got to pick almost last, which sounds sh*tty, but I was relieved because it gave me some time to think about hockey and any players that I knew the names of. There were 2: PK Subban and John Tavares. They were both picked before it was my turn. When it came to me, I looked at the player list projected on the board and yelled out a random name. Everyone murmured in approval, so I was feeling a little more confident, but because I was second-last and the next round started from the bottom, I had to pick again almost right away.

With all eyes on me, I picked another random name, and the guy across from me said, rather snarkily, “You can’t pick HIM. You already have a goalie” to which I replied “Oh, is that what the G after his name meant?” and everyone rolled their eyes. The man next to me shoved a roster over and said, “Here. Pick from the D list” and I was about to say, “Oh come on—I’m sure SOME of them are very nice men” when I realized that D must stand for Defence and not what I initially thought it meant. So I picked another name, and there was a visible sense of relaxation around the table as it became apparent that I was no threat to anyone who, for the twenty dollar buy-in, was trying to build a serious, winning team.

We got through 6 rounds before someone came to the door demanding the use of the room for a webinar. So far, here are the players I picked and why:

1) Frederick Anderson: I like his last name. It reminds me of The Matrix, and hopefully he has some special powers like Neo. But he’s a goalie so I hope he doesn’t do that bend-y thing to dodge the puck. If he lets in a goal, I’m going to say, “Mr. Anderson…you disappoint me.” Also, he plays for Toronto, and that’s where I live sometimes.

2) Tyler Seguin: There’s a character in my new novel named Seguin. Maybe it’s an omen. A GOOD omen, not like those Damian movies. He’s also Canadian. I just looked him up and he won the Stanley Cup in his rookie year, so maybe I’m good at this after all.

3) Morgan Rielly: I’ve always liked the name Morgan, and I like that he spells Rielly in an eccentric way. He also plays for Toronto, and I’m trying to build a Maple Leafs roster as best I can, because THIS IS THEIR YEAR. We say that about the Leafs every year, but now I’m on board with that.

4) William Nylander: Also a Maple Leaf. His name rhymes with Highlander. That was a great movie, and it would be f*cking fantastic if hockey was a competition where the teams fought with swords. I think the tagline for the movie was “There can be only one” and that’s just like winning the Stanley Cup.

5) Matthew Tkachuk: Early in my teaching career, in the year 1997, I had a student named Mike Tkachuk. I sent him to the office once for continually yelling out in class “This sucks!” He was talking about some music we were listening to—he wasn’t particularly inclined towards anything other than metal and spent a lot of time stoned (these are two separate facts about him—I’m not implying that people who like metal smoke a lot of marijuana). The principal made him write a list of 25 better ways to say “This sucks”. To his credit, he did it, and handed it to me at the end of the day. I laughed my ass off—number 10 was “Snow is better than this music”, number 15 was “This music is worse than vegetables”, and number 25 was “This isn’t music to my ears.” He was actually a pretty clever kid when he tried. He was so pleased that I found it funny that he never gave me a hard time again. I still have the list after 21 years. I hope Matthew Tkachuk is just like that. And he plays for Calgary, so at least he’s on a Canadian team.

And he carefully numbered it.

6) Mark Giordano: He was a panic pick. I had just realized that PK Subban’s brother Jordan plays for the Leafs so I was all set to pick him, but then everyone yelled at me that he was a rookie and probably would be playing in something called the AHL (?). My next pick was a guy who was 6 foot 5 because THAT’S TALL!!, but he was in some kind of contract negotiation, so I went with Giordano, who is the CAPTAIN of the Calgary Flames, so ha ha, hockey pool people.

Apparently, we have to do the last 6 rounds on Monday, but I’m getting pretty good at this. One of my favourite movies is Alien Vs. Predator, and not only is there a hockey team called the Predators, there’s a player on that team who looks just like the guy who works at the liquor store that I go to…

Thanks, Lord Stanley, for this awesome cup.

My Week 209: Vancouver Tour of Death, I Meet Gary Numan

Vancouver and the Tour of Death

The final leg of Ken’s and my grand adventure was Vancouver. The ship docked and since we didn’t want to drag our luggage all over the city, we opted for a bus tour that would show us the sights of Vancouver and then take us to our airport hotel. We got on the bus and set off, and that’s when the Tour of Death began. Our bus driver was called Len. His first announcement was that he was just the bus driver, not a tour guide, but he would do his best to tell us about Vancouver. Then he confided in us that he was actually a musician who had once had a record deal. “But now I’m a bus driver so that I don’t starve,” he intoned ominously. Len was apparently obsessed with the darker side of life, and the tour went something like this:

“The Vancouver Aquarium is somewhere over to the right. A couple of years ago, all the Belugas died. No one knows why. Now they have no Belugas. It’s too bad.”

“This is a nice park we’re driving through. In the spring, someone killed a lot of the Canada geese. The person was never caught. What a shame.”

“If you look to your left, you can see the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge. It’s called that because in the 50s, part of it collapsed and killed a lot of ironworkers. They actually had to get divers to bring up the bodies. Very sad.”

“We’re now driving through Stanley Park. A few years ago, there was a terrible hurricane that killed most of the trees. When I was a teenager, we used to come here and get drunk. You can’t do that now, because there aren’t enough trees for cover.”

“This part of town used to be really nice, but there’s a lot of drugs here now. Trust me, you do NOT want to know what it looks like when someone ODs on fentanyl.”

“Now we’re in Gastown. Well, New Gastown really—the original area burned to the ground in the late 1800s. That was QUITE the fire. People were just, like, burning. Oh, check out that clock tower!”

“If you look to the right, you’ll see a restaurant called ‘The Old Spaghetti Factory’. It’s haunted by the ghosts of a little boy and girl whose bodies were found in the walls. It’s a great place to go for pasta.”

“This area of the downtown is renowned for its foodtrucks. They’re all licenced so that people don’t catch some kind of infection. Do you know how many people die EVERY YEAR from food poisoning? It’s A LOT.”

“I hear that you guys saw a lot of smoke on your trip from all the forest fires. We should take a moment to remember all the animals and people who lost their lives in forest fires over the years.”

“Wow—the tour is done. I can’t believe it went by so fast. Just give me a minute though, folks—parking this bus is a blood sport.”

It was so bad that every time he started to point out a site, Ken and I would try to guess what new tragedy had happened there. A stabbing? People dying of smallpox? A small, unexpected tornado? But the best part was when he started plugging for tips: “I have two great kids—a boy and a girl. I don’t have much but I promised to take them to Disneyland when we can afford it. We have a jar on the kitchen counter that I put any extra money in, and you should see their little faces when that jar looks fuller. I tell them, ‘One day, kids, one day’….”

When he started that last story, I said to Ken, “Please tell me his children are OK!” so we were both pretty relieved that it was just a gratuitous ploy for a gratuity, one which we did not oblige him with.


I Meet Gary Numan

This past Tuesday, I got to do something I’d always wanted to do—I met Gary Numan. He’s a musician in case you didn’t know—big in the Eighties, but has consistently been putting out albums his whole career, including his latest, “Savage”, which is outstanding. He’s sixty years old now and still touring like the rock star that he is. Leading up to the Meet and Greet, I was a real wreck, because I have a LOT of anxiety about going to new places and meeting people by myself, but Ken was working and couldn’t come to Toronto. The venue was just around the corner from work, and with a lot of encouragement from my work superhero posse, The Kickboxer, J-Nine, and the French Connection, I made my way to The Phoenix Concert Hall. I was second in line with about 25 other people, and when I walked up the ramp to the stage to meet Gary, my heart felt like it was pounding out of my chest. He was wonderful and kind and very easy to talk to, and he put on an incredible show. But by the end of the whole experience, I came to a startling revelation—I AM OLD. Here’s why:

1) When I came back down the ramp, my first thought was, ‘They really need to put handrails on this thing—someone could fall!’ Also, I said it to myself in a very annoyed voice.

2) The guy who was organizing the Meet and Greet, Dave, was super-enthusiastic but he swore A LOT:

Dave: Hey Everyone! You’re looking f*cking great! So happy you could come to this f*cking thing!

Later, I had a chance to speak to Dave personally:

Dave: Toronto is a f*cking nice city!
Me: Yes. Yes, it is.
Dave: The people are so f*cking friendly!
Me: Yes. We certainly are that.

I mean, I swear A LOT myself, yet I found myself talking to Dave like I was his elderly aunt instead of saying, “You’re f*cking right it’s nice!” I found myself at one point thinking, ‘Gosh, Dave likes to swear’, and then I thought, ‘Stop being such a f*cking prude.’

3) I originally didn’t have a ticket to the show because I didn’t realize the Meet and Greet didn’t include it. When I went to the box office, the girl said, “Oh, we only have tickets left for the floor but I can put you at the side of the stage.” I was like, “Side of the stage? Excellent!” She took me to an area with chairs that was barricaded off from the rest of the floor and handed me over to the security guard, who showed me to my seat.

Me: This is great! What awesome seats!
Security Guard: Well, when we realized that the clientele for this show was a more elderly crowd and might have certain needs, we set up this special area. You’ll be safe here, and you can sit down when you get tired.
Me (thinks, then shrugs and smiles): That’s very kind of you, dear.

4) When the opening band came out, I thought the guitarist looked an awful lot like Dave. Then he stepped up to the mike and said, “Hey Toronto, how the f*ck are you?!” I smiled indulgently and said to the woman next to me, “Oh, that Dave!” Then they started to play, and the thought that immediately went through my mind was, “Wow. This is very loud.”

5) I rocked out hard when Gary Numan came on, and barely sat in my chair at all. The next morning, I woke up, got out of bed, and realized that my knees were killing me. My voice was hoarse from singing along and yelling (I may or may not have screamed “We love you Gary!!” at more than one point during the show—it was dark—nobody knew me), and I spent the day exhausted, just like the old lady that I am. But it was f*cking worth it.

My Week 208: Alaska Is Cold, Stuffed Squirrels

The journey continues…

First, just for the record, I did NOT pull the emergency brake on Canada One.

(As a side note, I’d like to share that I finally had the chance to do the following on my regular train this week as I was sitting in a group of 3 other people by the emergency exit:

Car Attendant: So you all know what to do in case of emergency?
Me: Absolutely. I call out “Mjolnir”, the hammer inside the box flies into my hand, I use it to break the window, and I lead everyone to safety.
Car Attendant: Uh…
Other People: *stare in confusion*
Me: The hammer won’t come if I call it?
Car Attendant (laughs): No, but I enjoyed the Thor reference, ma’am.
Me: Please—just call me TrainWine.

TrainWine is my superhero name in case you haven’t read My Week 191.)

Anyway, the Canada One train that Ken and I were on did, however, eventually stop in Vancouver, and that’s where the next leg of the journey began. We boarded our ship, the Celebrity Infinity, in record time. I have to say it was an excellent ship—there was a lot to do, and our cabin was extremely comfortable with a lovely balcony that we couldn’t use because it was freezing; in fact, if Ken had a dollar for every time I said, “Why? WHY IS IT SO COLD?!” he could have paid for the whole trip. If you know anything about me, you know that I’m always cold, and a trip to Alaska, in retrospect, is something I should have thought more carefully about.

So cold it’s glacial.

At any rate, we had a lot of fun onboard, going to lectures, silent discos, and trivia contests, where we met a lovely pair of English couples who, at the end of the trip, gave us their names so we could look them up on Facebook. Unfortunately, the names they gave us were supercommon, like “Mary Jones” and “Jane Smith” and there are hundreds of those names on Facebook so now I’m worried that they didn’t really like us after all, and we’ve been ghosted by English people.

In addition to fun times on the ship, we also did 3 shore excursions. Here are the highlights:

1) Icy Strait Point

We paid $90 each for a tour called “Taste of Hoonah”. It was advertised as a tour of the town, with a stop for an “Alaskan Beer and Local Cuisine Tasting”. The driver’s name was Bill. The tour consisted of three stops: the ferry dock (there was no ferry but we learned that it cost Bill’s family $400 to go to Juneau for shopping), the local public school (Go Braves!), and the Icy Strait Lodge, where we had the tasting. The lodge owners greeted us with “So what do you want to drink? The first one’s free.” Um, beer…? Then everyone got a small dish that had three tiny things on it—a piece of halibut wrapped in bacon, smoked salmon on a cracker, and a miniscule crab cake. I have a severe shellfish allergy but I also love bacon, so I told the woman about the allergy and asked, “Was the bacon halibut thing cooked near the crab cake?” and she looked at me like I was crazy. “Of course not!!” she exclaimed. “Everything was cooked separately.” So I ate the halibut. 3 hours later, when I was doubled over in the ship’s bathroom, I whispered to Ken, “I think that woman lied to me.” Luckily it was just a little cross-contamination so I didn’t need my epipen.

6 out of 10 for Bill, because he was very sincere and it wasn’t his fault that Hoonah is boring.
2 out of 10 for Icy Strait Lodge and its crabby halibut and dishonesty (the 2 points are for the bacon).

2) Juneau

Our tour in Juneau was “Gold Panning and a Salmon Bake”. Our tour bus driver was also named Bill. The tour was very disorganized, with buses coming and being too full. We chose to wait for a second bus and received tremendous gratitude and goodwill from the tour company, but little did they know we had a hidden agenda—the other people who would be on the first bus with us were an extended family of 6 adults and 9 kids under the age of 10 from Las Vegas. One of the kids was named Tyler. I know this because every two minutes, one of the women would scream, “Tyler!! Stop that!!” So we had to wait fifteen minutes for the next bus, but I’m pretty sure it was worth it. At the gold panning, they gave us pans with dirt in them, and everyone immediately found some teeny flakes of gold. It was really exciting until I realized that the pans were pre-loaded—when Ken and I scooped our own dirt from the river, there was nothing, and I was sad because I had visions of finding a huge nugget and waving it in Tyler’s face (yes, his entire family was still goldpanning when we arrived. Tyler had, at that point, fallen in the river and was wandering around soaking wet as the woman continued to scream his name). But we came away with a small vial of our gold flakes as a souvenir.

Then we went to the salmon bake. The food was great, and there was live entertainment in the form of a woman playing guitar and singing famous songs that she had ‘modified’ for the tourists. Our favourite was her rendition of “Proud Mary” which included the lines ‘Salmon keep on churning, cruise ships keep on burning,’ and if that wasn’t f*cking ominous and perhaps a little telling about her attitude towards tourists, I don’t know what was.

Rating :          
8 out of 10 for the Gold Panning because for most of it I was super optimistic that I would end up rich.
7 out of 10 for the Salmon Bake because the food was great but I’m pretty sure that the singer was throwing some very passive-aggressive shade at us.
10 out of 10 for Tyler because of his ability to not give a single f*ck.

3) Ketchikan

It was pouring rain when we arrived in Ketchikan, and it didn’t stop all day. We were soaked by the time we got on the tour bus, whose driver was called Helen. She was oblivious to the fact that we were cold and wet, and that the windows of the bus were so fogged up by our dampness that no one could see out of them. This kind of ruined her tour “patter” which consisted mostly of her saying stuff like “If you look out the window to the right, you can see a bald eagle” or “If you look out the window to the left, you can see a totem pole”. We were all too busy trying to wipe the windows off and shivering to see much of anything. The best part of the tour was when she took us to a totem-carving centre where they had these bizarre stuffed squirrels dressed like explorers, cowboys, and other things.

Price Tag: $265

Also, at the end of the tour, we stopped by a river to see bears fishing for salmon. Now, normally I’m terrified of at the mere thought of bears, but there were several elderly people in our tour, 2 of them with walkers, and I knew I could outrun at least half of them, and probably Ken too if I had to, so I was like “Bears? Cool. Whatevs.”

6 out of 10 for the cold, foggy bus.
10 out of 10 for the creative taxidermy.
8 out of 10 for me for overcoming my fear of bears. I’m deducting 2 points because my attitude was a little mercenary.

Overall, Alaska was beautiful, despite the frigid August weather, and the cruise ship was the nicest one I’ve been on so far. Next week, I’ll finish up with a quick tale about our return to Vancouver and the Tour of Death, and then we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled lunacy. Cool? Whatevs.

Howdy, pardner.

My Week 207: Vacation Part Two: Crazy Train, Braking News, A Little More News

I left off last week at the point where Ken and I were about to board the train. According to my Via Rail GPS tracker, the train was over two hours late, so I called Via to make sure. “Oh no!” said the woman on the phone. “Those trackers are never right. The train is absolutely on time. IN FACT, it’s early. You should get over there right now!” So Ken and I packed up everything superfast and called a cab. The cab driver was very pleasant and chatted with us amicably while he drove extremely slowly and took as many detours as he could, because the train station was only 5 minutes away and he wanted to extend the ride as much as possible, even tucking himself in behind a slow-moving dumptruck.

We were getting a little panicky, but we got to the train station in Edmonton, which is quite possibly the dirtiest, sketchiest station I’ve ever been to, with about 10 minutes to spare. “Oh no!” said the man behind the desk. “Those people at the call centre are never right. The train is absolutely two and a half hours late. IN FACT, you should go find something to do.” So Ken and I checked our bags superfast and called a cab to take us to the shopping centre we saw on the way over to buy a magnifying mirror (I had forgotten mine at home, and I needed it to put on mascara, which sounds stupid, but if you have to wear reading glasses, you’ll understand how necessary one of those is to not gouging your own eye out with a mascara wand). The second cab driver was also very pleasant and chatted with us amicably as he too took the slowest way possible back. We would repeat this one more time before the morning was over but we are now intimately familiar with 121st Street and all of its numerical tributaries.

A somewhat pretentious moniker.

The train finally arrived though, and Ken and I proceeded to our car, named Elgin Manor. Manor, indeed, if the grand home in question had worn carpeting, torn upholstery, and smelled like a urinal cake. Still, there’s a certain charm to rail travel, so I’m told, and when we were shown to our room, which was approximately 8×8, with a large window and its own sink and toilet, I was actually quite pleased with the whole set-up. And then we were off. By this time, it was lunch and we made our way to the dining car. Via actually has its own on-board chefs, servers, and a rather smarmy maître-d, Philip, who greeted us and showed us to a table for 4.

We weren’t sitting there for more than two minutes when he showed up again with an elderly man and said, “Right here, sir.” The man sat down and I looked at Philip questioningly. “Oh,” he said, “It’s a busy time so we need to put people together at the tables.” If you know anything about me at all, you know that being forced to talk with a random stranger is something I would NEVER willingly do, yet there we were. Luckily, Ken did all the heavy lifting/chatting, and the old dude was actually pretty interesting, having fought in ‘Nam and been on an aircraft carrier. But for the whole meal, we were literally the only people in the dining car, so I was calling bullsh*t on the “busy time” rationale for forcing me to eat with a stranger. Then later, when it was dinnertime, it got worse, as Philip immediately took us to a table already populated by a couple a little older than us. I was about ready to scream, but I didn’t want to offend the couple, and Ken was excited about taking pictures of the scenery. Unfortunately, the woman we were seated with didn’t have a problem being offensive herself.

Me: That’s a great shot, Ken. Too bad there’s such a glare on the windows.
Woman: There’s ALWAYS a glare on the windows. It’s because of the light inside the train.

5 minutes later…

Woman: And then we climbed Chichen Itza.
Me: Oh nice. I climbed a Mayan pyramid once too.
Me: I don’t think so. One of the other ones.
Woman: TULUM.
Me: No, not that one. It was in Costa Maya.
Me: I’m pretty sure there are more than just those two. I can’t remember its name, sorry.

They’re actually not, lady, but I really didn’t want to argue with her anymore about it, and I just looked it up now and it was Chacchoben. The final straw came though when she made what seemed to be a racist remark, and I was done with her sh*t so we left them and the still empty dining car. The next morning at breakfast, when Philip arrived to take us to a table, I announced loudly, “I’m not sitting with anyone. We want our own table.” Philip looked pretty pissed off, but since there were 12 tables empty, he didn’t have much choice. Do not force me to make friends, PHILIP—I will throat punch you.

Prestige Class Observation Car: Only allowed in here after 4.

It was really pleasant though, sitting in our cabin, or up in one of the Observation Cars, watching the scenery roll by. The mountains were gorgeous, and at one point, the engineer slowed down so we could all ogle a bear walking along beside the tracks out in the middle of nowhere. Then it was time for bed. Our car attendant came in, and with the pull of a few levers, our chairs collapsed and bunkbeds came out of the wall and ceiling. I looked at them skeptically, already planning for a worst case scenario.

Me: I’ll take the top bunk.
Ken: I thought you wanted the bottom?
Me: We don’t know how secure these things are, Ken. You outweigh me by a good 75 pounds. If the top bunk collapses, it’s probably better for both of us if I’m in it. I promise not to crush you.

2 hours later:

Me: Ken! Can you help me get down the ladder? I need to go to the bathroom.

2 hours later:

Me: Ken! Ladder! I have to go to the bathroom again!

1 hour later:

Me: Ken–
Ken: Why did you have to drink so much wine?!

But the bunkbeds were very comfortable, even if the ladder was a pain in both of our asses. The next day was pretty leisurely, and we spent time wandering around the train, which was kind of like Snowpiercer (if you’ve seen the bizarre movie with Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton, you’ll get the reference) in that it was over a quarter mile long, had 19 cars and two engines, and its own class system where one end of the train was the Economy class where people slept sitting up in their seats, the middle section went from berths to “Sleeper Plus” where Ken and I were, and it got more exclusive until the other end of the train, where the Prestige cabins were. The Prestige people had their own lounge, which the rest of us plebeians were allowed to enter after 4 pm, although I heard that the Prestige folk were a snobby, tightknit group who gave everyone else dirty looks when they came in and muttered ominously about amputating people’s arms by sticking them out the train windows.

There are at least five…

And that’s where I saw the Emergency Brake sign that said you could pull it if you had a valid reason. So I leave you with this—the top 5 valid reasons to pull the emergency brake. Next week, we will explore Alaska and have fun in Vancouver!

Top Five Valid Reasons to Pull the Train’s Emergency Brake

5) I need a better picture of that bear. There was a glare on the window.
4) I appreciate the “History of Alaska” lecture, but William Seward did not say, “7 million dollars? Whatevs.”
3) Philip, you’re a dick. Get off the train.
2) The Economy passengers have organized a coup and are marching on the Prestige Lounge.
1) Racist on board!

A Little News

Some of you might already know this if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, but I just had my second YA novel accepted for publication. The Dome will be coming to a bookstore near you in 2019, and I’m over the moon!