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.

Soundcheck

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.

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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.

Rating:           
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.”

Rating:
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.
Woman: WHICH ONE? CHICHEN ITZA?  
Me: I don’t think so. One of the other ones.
Woman: TULUM.
Me: No, not that one. It was in Costa Maya.
Woman: THOSE ARE THE ONLY ONES.
Me: I’m pretty sure there are more than just those two. I can’t remember its name, sorry.
Woman: THEY ARE THE ONLY ONES.

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!

My Week 206: Vacation Part One: All Signs Point to Edmonton

So, a few weeks ago, I reposted my very first blog from four years ago in which I had used a can of Febreze with the scent of “Alaskan Spring” and I wondered if Alaska really smelled like stale Old Spice cologne. After having just returned from Alaska, I can say with absolute certainty that the Febreze people are WAY off base. That can of Febreze should have smelled like a combination of salmon and Sitka pine tree because that’s what Alaska ACTUALLY smelled like. Not to say it was a bad smell—after a while you got used to it, and it’s certainly better than downtown Toronto, which I will always associate with garbage and urine. It’s funny how certain smells are linked to memory; for example, the scent of lavender always reminds me vividly of the first time I went to Scotland, and the house where we stayed had lavender pomanders scattered everywhere. I was nine years old, I’d never smelled lavender before and even today, it’s one of my favourite things—I grow it in my garden, I have sachets of it under my pillow, and many of my infamous jar candles are lavender-scented. However, I digress.

Ken and I just got back from our vacation, which involved flying to Calgary, driving to Edmonton, taking a train overnight to Vancouver, and then getting on a ship to Alaska. It was a long and complex trip, so I’ll be dividing my review into three parts, starting with the first 24 hours entitled (drum roll, please)…Alberta—What The F*ck Is With Your Signs and Streets?

I’m used to travelling abroad and seeing signage that’s very different than what we have at home in Ontario. For example, years ago, we went to Jamaica and were baffled by a road sign that said “Sleeping Policeman”. Turns out, that’s what they call speed bumps, which makes sense in a kind of weird way. In Key West, I saw this bizarre sign:

No coconuts?

It was outside of Ernest Hemingway’s house/museum where they have a lot of cats, but how many people were picking up the cats that they had to have a fancy sign made just for that? Were the people like, “I want a cat. I want a cat now. If I can’t have long hair or any fun, I want a cat.” And those cats were all like, “Stop it. Stop it. Stop it.”?* (There’s a reason for this asterisk–check out the end). I don’t even know where to begin with the prohibition of coconuts—were people using them to lure the cats into being picked up as in “Here kitty, kitty—I’ve got a lovely coconut for you”?

But the signs that we saw on the way to Edmonton from Calgary were like if you were living in a parallel universe where things were almost the same but just slightly different enough that you got confused. For instance, in Ontario, we have signs that say “Avoid use of engine brakes”. Engine brakes are internal brakes that slow the engine down instead of external brakes on the tires. They’re apparently more efficient but they make an incredibly loud noise and in residential areas, they can be “extremely disruptive”. In Alberta, the signs have the same purpose but they say “Avoid use of engine retarder brakes”, which is completely redundant since “retarder” means “to slow down” and a brake is “a device for slowing down or stopping” so essentially what you’re saying is “Don’t use your slow-y down things to slow down.” They also had signs for a “water spray park” as opposed to a water park (guess they feel it’s necessary to be super specific about the agressiveness of the water), “wildlife on road” instead of a picture of a leaping deer (all I could think was ‘Is this the same thing as ‘roadkill’ or do I need to look out for a bunch of deer having a party? They’re redundant about brakes but can’t be bothered to say “moving wildlife?’) and something called a “car turnout area” which is a place where you stop your car, and throw all your garbage into bins. These aren’t ‘picnic areas’ like we have in Ontario—there’s no seating, just a row of garbage cans, so what the hell are people in Alberta doing in their cars that they need these ‘turnout areas’ every few kilometres? The funniest was this one though:

Me: That’s a weird billboard. It’s an ad for a moving company called ‘2 Burley Guys’.
Ken: That’s makes some kind of sense, I guess.
Me: I’d agree, but they spelled ‘burly’ wrong.
Ken: Maybe it’s actually their last name and they’re trying to be clever.
Me: Maybe the name ‘Burly Guys’ was already taken so they added the ‘e’ to avoid getting sued. Although I can’t imagine there would be two companies with that same name. Think of all the alternatives: Husky Helpers, Rugged Removers…
Ken: Strapping Sapiens, Muscular Men…

5 miles down the road, we passed another billboard. It was an ad for a moving company. The moving company was called ‘The Burly Boyz’.

Ken and me together: Ah.

Then we finally arrived in Edmonton, and went to drop off our rental car. We had rented through Avis, which is the most laidback car rental agency on the planet. When I called Enterprise to get a quote, they said, “Well, you’re not dropping the car off at the same place you rented it from, and then there’s the tax, and the insurance etc., so it will be three hundred and sixty-four dollars and twenty three cents.” Then I called Avis, and they said, “Sixty bucks. Bring it back in one piece and fill up the tank before you drop it off.” When we had picked it up at the airport, I asked the guy, “I rented it, but can my husband be the primary driver?” and the guy just looked at me and said, “Yeah, whatever.” The drop-off in Edmonton was in the middle of a construction site, and it was hell trying to find it. We realized that we were miles from our hotel, and when we got to Avis, the girl said, “Oh, we have a store right near your hotel. Why don’t you take the car back there and they’ll drive you?” So, OK. Then we asked her for directions and she laughed:

Girl: Oh, you know, that’s not my strong suit. Let me check Google. OK. You go left on 103rd St., then right on 103rd Ave. Then go right on 104th St. and then left on 104th Ave. Then right on 109th St. and right on 109th Ave. Then you’ll turn onto 105th St., and it’s just a couple of blocks up.
Me: Is that close to 105th Ave.?
Girl: Yes, it is! Do you know the city?
Me: No. Lucky guess.

Apparently, in Edmonton they don’t believe in giving streets actual names—they just use numbers to f*ck up the tourists. Anyway, we finally found the Avis store, and dropped off the car again. Then the rental car agent there almost killed us by driving straight into oncoming traffic (he actually asked obliviously, “What’s all that honking about?” as people were swerving to avoid him). We finally got to our hotel, a beautiful place called the Chateau Louis Conference Centre. It was decorated like a French Castle, and the room was really comfy. The best part was that it was a five minute cab ride to the train station, which was located at…12360 121st Street.

The next day, we got on the train, which was only 3 hours late, and set off for Vancouver—but that’s another story. Stay tuned, but here’s a teaser for now. Imagine the list of “valid reasons” I might have come up with…

I can think of several…

On a side note, I’ve returned to work and things are completely back to normal. On Wednesday, I was at a meeting and one of the managers said, “Due to government cutbacks, we’re short-staffed at the warehouse, so we’ll all have to take shifts there.” I immediately clapped my hands together in glee and asked, “Ooh, can I drive the forklift?!” and everyone laughed, because it turns out he was ONLY JOKING. But I wasn’t, so my intense inner embarrassment was outweighed only by my extreme disappointment.

*Also, bonus marks to anyone who knows what Hemingway short stories these pieces of dialogue are from.

My Week 205: The Nothing Box Explained

So I’m still on a ship and the wifi is about what you’d expect, so for now, here’s something I worked up before we left. This blog may contain stereotypes, so sue me—if you can find me…

A couple of weeks ago, I referenced something called the “Nothing Box”. I’m not sure how many people know what that is, so I thought I’d provide some background and context:

Every morning, Ken wakes up super early to take the dog out for a walk. When he’s done, he comes back into the bedroom and immediately falls back to sleep. I’m a tolerant person, but I have my limits, and the other morning I announced, “If you want to keep doing this you’ll be sleeping in another room tonight.” And it was a REASONABLE response because A) I’m on my holidays and B) I have no desire to be awakened at 6:30 am on my holidays while Ken and Titus run out of the room then run back into the room, because they both are REALLY excited about their morning walk. While Titus is leaping on and off the bed and yelling, “This is the best day EVER!!”, Ken tries to sneak around getting dressed, but the more he uses his tiptoes, the more the wooden floor bounces, and then I’m wide awake. “What’s the problem?” Ken asks. “You can always go back to sleep.”

No, Ken, YOU can go back to sleep, but I CAN’T. Because I’m a woman and you’re a man. The second I wake up, my mind starts racing with all the stuff I need to do that day, and how I’m going to do it. When YOU wake up, your mind says, ‘Sleep Now’, like those creepy alien guys in the movie Dark City, and you’re like “OKAY!” , and you go back to sleep, all f*cking cheerful and whatnot. But me? I’m DONE. My mind is now turned up to 11, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Later that day, Ken posted a meme on Facebook that said women typically lose 2 to 4 hours a night lying awake thinking about stuff, and I said, “See? Even the internet knows I’m right.”

And I don’t want to generalize, but that to me seems to be the main difference between some men and women, like Ken and me. I heard once a long time ago on a talk show that men have a Nothing Box in their heads. So when you say to a man, “What are you thinking about?” and he says, “Nothing,” he’s telling you the absolute truth. There is literally NOTHING in his mind because he’s in the Nothing Box. And sometimes, I’ll ask Ken a question, and I’ll be waiting for the answer, and he seems to be taking a really long time thinking about it. Only he’s not. He’s still in his Nothing Box, and when I ask if he has an answer yet, he’ll look at me kind of surprised, like he forgot we were in a conversation. This happens quite often when we’re having a ‘debate’, and I’ll ask “What the f*ck is wrong with you?!”, totally expecting a response, because I’m NOT BEING RHETORICAL, KEN, but he’s actually just disappeared into his Nothing Box when he’s SUPPOSED to be figuring out the answer. I, like many women, don’t have a Nothing Box. I never think about nothing. In fact, I can’t even meditate—if you ask me to clear my mind, I immediately start thinking about how to do that, how long I should do it for, does my breathing sound weird, and also what does “empty’ mean in this context anyway? There are literally a thousand other things that ultimately prevent my mind from actually emptying. Ken, similar to a lot of men when told to empty their minds, are just like “Done. Let’s meditate.” Then they go into the Nothing Box and stay there for a while. It’s like the saying “Lost in thought”. When Ken is lost in thought, it’s just ONE thought that he’s contemplating, like shortcuts or compass points or homemade pizza. When I’m lost in thought, I mean I’m LITERALLY lost in a f*cking maze of bizarre and random ideas that jump from one thing to another like a hyperactive frog, but the one thing I’m ALWAYS doing is problem-solving and making decisions. Even if it’s not readily apparent to the guy in his Nothing Box.

But despite all the solitude in his mind, Ken is not good at the decision-making process. Oh, he can MAKE decisions all right, but then he pretends that he needs my help to figure out things, which is super-frustrating. We have had MANY debates over the years about why he does this—here are some examples of this little quirk of his.

Me: Let’s go for a walk.
Ken: Sure. Which way do you want to go?
Me: Towards the park would be good.
Ken: No, we should go towards the store so we can check our lottery ticket.

Me: Which one of these paint chips do you like best?
Ken: I don’t care. They’re both fine.
Me: I like this one the best.
Ken: No, that one’s too yellow-y. The other one is the colour we should paint the room.

Or more recently:

Ken: Should we check into the hotel first or return the rental car?

Me: Return the car.

Ken: No…blah blah obscure reasoning…

Me: WTF KEN?!

I always say, “Why did you ask for my opinion if you already knew what you wanted to do?!” Then I wait for an answer. But I never get one, because he’s in his Nothing Box. Lucky bastard.

It’s absolutely empty.

My Week 204: Vacation Planning “Worst Case Style”

Ken and I are about to go on vacation. We’re flying to Calgary. Then we’re driving to Edmonton. Then we’re getting on a train to Vancouver. Then we’re taking a ship to Alaska. This whole ‘adventure’ has kicked my obsessive need to plan for the worst into high gear. I already figured out how to survive a train derailment when we were in Spain, and the lifeboat drills on a cruise ship are a tremendous comfort to me. The plane I know I can’t do anything about unless it lands in water but I booked an aisle seat just in case. (Ken: You should wear running shoes on the plane in case it crashes and we have to go down the slide. Me: I’m wearing flip flops in case we’re in water and I have to use them like flippers.) But there are other forces outside of my control that are making me very stressed; for example, I already found out three weeks ago that the train will be arriving in Vancouver 9 hours late. It hasn’t even left the damn station yet–how do they know?! The best I could do was build a 24-hour buffer into each of these segments of our journey because anyone who knows me well, knows that I always plan ahead. In fact, if you’ll remember, in an earlier blog I talked about buying Tristan a book called The Little Book of Worst Case Scenarios so that even he, as a young child, could start to plan for disasters such as:

a) Bear Attacks: Make yourself look as large as possible and scream loudly to let the bear know you could take it in a fight. Do not run—bears are, apparently, very gazelle-like.

b) Driving a car into a river: Find an air pocket, wait for the car to be submerged, then open the door and swim to the surface. Tristan was like “I’m seven years old–why would I ever drive my car into a river?” I DON”T KNOW, TRISTAN. But if you plan for these things, you might SURVIVE them, and now that you’re twenty and have a driver’s license, it’s a damn good thing you know about this.

c) Bouncy Castle Mishaps: The survival rate for a bouncy castle you’re playing in which suddenly becomes untethered and floats away (which apparently happens more often than you think) is very poor. That’s why my child had boring but safe birthday parties.

So after years of careful consideration and planning, I feel ready for almost anything, like wrestling an alligator or even escaping from a burning bus. For example, I have hammers in strategic places around the house, which prompted Ken to ask, “Why do you have a hammer in the bathroom?” Answer: in case there’s a fire, and I can’t get to my new fire extinguisher, and I have to smash the bathroom window and crawl out onto the porch roof. Obviously. Here’s another example–in the winter, we put a wheelbarrow over the pond so that Titus doesn’t fall through the snow into the frigid water. This happened to our previous dog, prompting a very heated argument which had followed this earlier argument:

Ken: I’m going to dig a 3-foot deep pond.
Me: Don’t be ridiculous. Someone will fall in and drown.
Ken: No one is going to fall in. You’re worrying for no reason. It needs to be deep so the fish can survive the winter.
Me: I’m serious. Please, I’m begging you, don’t make it so deep.
Ken: I’m totally disregarding your emotions and I’m going to do what I want. Screw you. (OK, he didn’t actually say any of THAT, but he DID continue to dig a 3 foot deep pond despite my objections).

6 months later, we let the dogs out into the back yard. The pond was covered by a healthy layer of snow, and about ten minutes later, we realized that we couldn’t see one of the dogs, the really old one with bad arthritis. Yes, she had fallen into the pond, and it was too deep for her to climb out. Ken rushed outside and rescued her, prompting this heated argument, which I will sum up in one sentence:

Me: OMFG!! I TOLD you this would happen!! And the fish are all DEAD!!

Hence the wheel barrow which straddles the pond all winter. As you might already know, I also have a baseball bat under my side of the bed. This is the scenario for the baseball bat:

1) We wake up in the middle of the night to strange noises coming from downstairs.
2) Ken, as one does, offers to investigate. He puts on his housecoat and goes down with the dog, who is clearly agitated.
3) I wait, wracked with fear. There are shouts, commotion, then nothing.
4) I assume that the intruder has tied both Ken and Titus up, and is taunting them as he steals our stuff.
5) I quietly get the baseball bat out from under the bed and sneak downstairs. The intruder has his back to me.
6) Ken sees me, but luckily, he’s gagged so he can’t do what he would normally do and say something like, “Why do you have a baseball bat?!”
7) I swing, connect with the intruder’s head, and down he goes.
8) I free Ken and Titus, we tie up and gag the intruder, and then we call the police. Ta dah!

Would it happen like this in real life? Hopefully we’ll never have to find out.

So you see, I have impending disasters carefully planned, even in Toronto, where I live in a high rise building on the 34th floor during the week. This, of course, has led to a whole new set of worst case scenarios. For example, I have a balcony. Everyone is always like, “Awesome, you have a balcony—I’ll bet you can’t wait until it’s nice enough to sit out there.” Are you f*cking kidding me? Do you think there’s ANY way I will EVER sit out on a precipice that is over 400 feet from the ground? And here’s why. It occurred to me that the balcony figures prominently in several worst case scenarios, which I am slowly working my way through. Here’s the one I solved during my first month there, as I lay awake listening to the baby next door screaming like it was being throttled (it wasn’t, of course; when I politely inquired after its health in the morning, the mother told me they were “sleep training” him, and he was “very unhappy” about it. Oh yeah? I’ll bet he wasn’t as unhappy as me.) Anyway, I suddenly had this horrible thought that, say, I did take someone’s advice and try to grow pots of basil on the balcony. I go out there to water my plants, and somehow the door closes and locks behind me. I don’t know how that would actually happen, but say that it did. What now? I’m stuck on a 34th floor balcony, wearing only pajamas (because that’s what I was wearing when I started trying to solve this problem).

Option A: Scream for help. No, because I’m 34 floors up. No one on the ground can hear me, and the neighbours’ eardrums have been damaged by their ‘unhappy’ child.

Option B: Take off an article of clothing to wave around and attract attention. Well, I’m only wearing pajama bottoms and a T-shirt—which one do I use? I guess I have to decide HOW MUCH attention I actually want. But who will see me that high up anyway?

Option C: Start tossing the basil pots down to the ground until someone looks up and sees me (either topless or pantless) and calls the cops. This solution is unlikely because my experience with people downtown so far is that many of them are either completely self-absorbed and oblivious to the world around them, or looking down at the ground for cigarette butts.

No, the only sure thing is Option D: Keep an extra hammer out on the balcony. Then I can smash the glass in the patio door and get back into my condo. The hammer people must love me. Not only do I have several scattered around my house, I’ve purchased two for Toronto as well. I should probably put one in my desk drawer at work too, just in case. Fun fact: Via Trains are equipped with tiny hammers in boxes to smash the windows in case we are somehow trapped in the train. Nice to know they’ve been paying attention. Now if they could only arrive on time…

s.wordpress.com/2018/08/little-book.jpg”> Are there alligators in Alaska

Update: Ken and I are in Vancou

[/caption]Update: Ken and I are in Vancouver right now, about to get on the boat. Man, do I have some stories for you when we get back!

My Week 203: Another Mystery, Titus and I Talk Movies

My life is shrouded in mystery. If it’s not blonde hair in my condo, it’s porn on my porch. There are forces out there that cannot be explained…

So last Sunday, I followed my usual routine. I got up, sat down in front of my laptop and wrote for a while. Ken was in his office working on his photography portfolio (he just got accepted to be an ‘official’ contributor to Istock/ Getty), so when I was done, I came upstairs to see how he was doing. I was standing in the doorway to his office and we were talking when I looked down and saw it. I stopped mid-sentence and exclaimed, “What the holy f*ck is THAT?!”

Ken: What’s wrong?
Me: I—I—there’s a MOUTHGUARD on the floor here. Whose is it? How did it get here?
Ken: A mouthguard?
Me: Yes! Like one that a dentist would make. Where did it come from? It definitely wasn’t there a few days ago!
Ken: Tristan used to have one. Maybe it’s his?
Me: And it just randomly appeared on the floor outside your office?!

Um…what?

But I remembered that a few years ago, we had a nightguard made for Tristan. Maybe he’d left it at the house the last time he and his girlfriend, the lovely V, had stayed over. So I messaged him with a picture of the mysterious mouthguard, and here is the verbatim transcript of my gentle attempt to discover the truth.

Me: WTF, Tristan???
T: what is that
Me: A mouth guard!
T: whys it under a table
Me: I DON’T KNOW
                is it yours?
T: if it is its from kung fu
Me: How did it get by dads office?
T: the dog probably
Me: not what I expected to see under the table in the foyer!
T: that’s not my dentist mouthguard
                I have that here

So Tristan’s theory was that the mouthguard had fallen out of his kung fu bag when we were cleaning and that the dog had carried it upstairs and left it under the table outside of Ken’s office. Plausible, despite the fact that Titus insisted he had nothing to do with it and “would never put something so disgusting in his mouth”. But then we realized that Tristan’s kung fu mouthguard was a black ‘boil and bite’ so it couldn’t be that. I was deeply disturbed by all of this, so I left the thing exactly where we found it. When Tristan came home this past Friday, the subject came up again. We went upstairs and all stared at it in disbelief, like the strange plastic harbinger of doom that it was.

T: It’s definitely not mine.
Me: Then who the hell does it belong to?!
Ken: Maybe it dropped out of the cleaner’s pocket?
Me: Of course. Steph was carrying her nightguard around with her during the day while she was mopping, and it dropped out under this table 2 weeks ago, and she still hasn’t noticed it was missing. Obviously. Come on! You know, I had one of these when we were first married. Do you think it’s mine? I mean I haven’t seen it in almost twenty years, but you never know. Let me just try it on…
T and Ken: Oh my god, no! It’s filthy! Don’t! You don’t know where it’s—EWWW!
Me: Nope, not mine.
T: Mom, that was disgusting. You’re going to catch some kind of disease.
Me: I’ll just swirl some wine around my mouth. There—germs all killed.
T: Ugh. I can’t believe you did that.
Titus: I know, right?! Gross.
Me: It was a ploy. If any of you knew anything about it, you would have told me to stop me from putting it in my mouth. It seems that you are all truly innocent.
T: Well played, I guess…

But the question—and the mouthguard—still remain. Where did it come from? Is my house haunted by an anxious ghost with bruxism? Do I have a VERY forgetful cleaner? Did someone break into our house, take nothing, but leave it behind as a warning of further dental incidents to come? We may never know.

Titus and I Talk About The Movies

Me: So hey, my blogger friend Often Off Topic is doing a Dog Blogathon in a couple of weeks so for the challenge, I’m supposed to write about dogs and movies.
Titus: Cool, cool. I’m a huge movie buff. I’m still pissed off at you for not taking me to TIFF.
Me: Right, like I was going to take a chance on you trying to high five Sam Rockwell and slapping him in the face?
Titus: Fair enough. But I do love “the moving pictures”.
Me: Really? What’s your favourite movie?
Titus: Citizen Kane. Good old Rosebud.
Me: I know, right? That shot of the sled at the end gets me every time.
Titus: What sled?
Me: The sled. Rosebud.
Titus: Rosebud wasn’t a sled. Rosebud was the guy.
Me: What guy?!
Titus: The main dude with the big castle.
Me: THAT was Citizen Kane.
Titus: I thought Rosebud was his nickname or something.
Me (rolls eyes): What else do you like? How about Star Wars?
Titus: Meh. That giant cat was really annoying.
Me: You mean Chewbacca? He was a Wookie.
Titus: Chewy cookie? Yes, please.
Me: No, Wookie. So you didn’t like it?
Titus: It was confusing. I could never tell who the bad guys were. Luke and Leia made a cute couple though.
Me: They were brother and sister.
Titus: WHAT?
Me: And Darth Vader was their father.
Titus: You’re sh*tting me! Thanks for the spoiler!
Me: You don’t pay very close attention to what you’re watching, do you?
Titus: I like to multi-task.
Me: If by multi-task, you mean ‘beg for popcorn’, then no wonder you miss so much. So what are some dog movies you’d like to see?
Titus: Um…Slumdog Millionaire. That sounds GREAT.
Me: It’s not about dogs.
Titus: Huh?! OK, what about Reservoir Dogs?
Me: Again, not about dogs.
Titus: I thought it was some kind of nature documentary. Dog Day Afternoon?
Me: Nope.
Titus: The Dogs of War? Wag The Dog?
Me: Do you know any movies that are actually about dogs?
Titus: Apparently not. By the way, Soylent Green is people.
Me: I already knew that, but nice try. Here, it says on this website that Old Yeller is the number one dog movie of all time.
Titus: Sweet. We could watch that. What’s it about?
Me: It’s about a dog that gets…then the boy…uh…Reservoir Dogs it is!
Titus: Awesome–I love a good documentary.
Me: Do you want popcorn?
Titus: Is Jaws a shark?

A dog of discerning taste.

 

Black and White Challenge Week 6