My Week 99: Jet Lag Grumpiness, The Tragically Hip

Jet lag makes me grumpy. I’ll be the first to admit that, or maybe the second, as Ken is well aware of the fact that I’ve been a little pissy this week. The poor guy has a bad cold and slept on the couch the other night because he was coughing and didn’t want to wake me up. My reaction?

Me: What the hell are you doing?
Ken: Um…whuh?
Me: How many times have I asked you NOT to use the couch cushions as pillows?! They’re expensive, and you’re making them all squishy!
Ken: But I—
Me: NO, Ken. You need to stop treating the couch like a flophouse. Use your own damn pillows. It’s not like you don’t have 6 of them all cluttering up the bed and sh*t.
Ken: *weak cough, sneeze* Sigh.

At any rate, I hope he forgives me for my pillow rant, although it’s true that he has like a thousand weird pillows on the bed that he just can’t sleep without—unless he’s on the couch. The fact is that I’m in a continual state of grogginess, thanks to the 6 hour time zone change, and as I get older, I find it harder to readjust my body clock. But Ken wasn’t the only one who felt my ire this week. I hope you’re prepared for this, because I’m about to vent. Here’s the list of 4 things that are REALLY grinding my gears this week:

1) Telemarketers who can’t even be bothered trying.

Twice in the last week, I’ve been the target of a completely uninspired, or blatantly bulls*t phone sales pitch. I’m not sure what’s going on—maybe it’s the brutal heat we’re experiencing in Canada, but people aren’t even TRYING. The phone rang yesterday. We don’t normally use our landline, but the caller ID said “C. Becker”, so I thought it might be, like, a normal human person. I answered the phone:

Me: Hello? HELLO? (sounds of talking in the background).
Guy: What? Oh hi. Mrs. __________? (mispronounces my last name)
Me: No, it’s _____________.
Guy: Haha. Right. Sorry. So….this is just the duct cleaning people calling.
Me: The duck cleaning people?
Guy: No, ducts. You know, like your furnace ducts and stuff. So, we’re having a promotion.
Me: Ah, sorry. We heat totally with wood.
Guy: No problem! Thanks!

“Just the duct cleaning people”. Is that seriously how a company expects to make money? And why the hell are their sales agents using their own damn phones? Anyway, I had his name and phone number on my caller ID, so the other day, I randomly called him back. Don’t worry; I blocked my number first. I didn’t get to talk to “Chris”, which is what I’m calling him, but I left this ominous message on his answering machine in my best Count Dracula voice: “Would you like your ducts cleaned?! Mwah hahahaha!!!” Then I hung up, turned around and realized that T was staring at me.

Me: The duct cleaning guy…
T: I condemn your actions.

But it still wasn’t as bad as the other day, when I answered the phone and a guy with a VERY heavy accent said, “Hello. My name is John Smith and I’m calling from Windows. There seems to be something wrong with your computer—“, and I said, “F*ck off” and hung up the phone. Then I felt terrible, because I’m usually really polite to telemarketers, but how stupid did he think I AM? Now I’m worried though, because when we were in Iceland, I wrote most of last week’s post on a netbook using Windows, and when we came back to Canada, the netbook crashed. All I could do was call up the post on Word, then retype the whole thing, which took me hours. So maybe that’s my karma for being all swear-y at John Smith, and now my Windows might really be f*cked up.

2) Olympic Sexism.

Like many people, I’m disturbed by the level of sexism in the current Olympics. There have been many articles written on the subject regarding women’s achievements being downplayed or overshadowed by constant references to what they’re wearing or who they’re married to. And while I agree with all that, I also think that there are a couple of sports in which women are their own worst enemies by not saying “Screw this.” The first one that comes to mind is Gymnastics. How can you seriously expect people NOT to make a distinction between the genders when you have such a different approach to the floor routine? The guys are all serious and badass and tumbling around, and when they finish a run, they take one weird swivel-y step to turn around. The women, on the other hand, look like they’re trying out for Little Miss Gymnastic Universe—they do their routines with perma-smiles, and shimmy their shoulders and shake their pre-pubescent-looking booties for the crowd in between THEIR tumbling runs. I don’t get it. At one point, I was like “Shouldn’t there be a pole somewhere on that mat?” These women are all INCREDIBLE athletes—why is it the expectation of their sport that they act like pageant princesses? Do they lose marks if they don’t look pretty and sexy? Dump the glitter and gyrating, and bring women’s gymnastics into the 21st century. And don’t get me started on the seeming necessity of the women’s Beach Volleyball team wearing bikini thongs compared to what the guys wear. They claim it’s comfortable and allows them to play better—maybe having sand in your lady parts is a great incentive to win. And just for the record, I’d have absolutely no problem with any of this if the guys were similarly dressed in thongs or glitter or whatever. In fact, it might make me MORE inclined to watch men’s Beach Volleyball.

3) Kidbashing.

This one has been making me grumpy for a lot longer than a week, but hey, in for a penny, in for a pound. Is it just me, or are other people sick as f*ck of all the childbashing that seems to be de rigeur in the last little while? My social media outlets are jampacked with “50 Reasons Why Being a Parent Sucks”, or “10 Things I Hate About My Kids” or “Why Being a Mom Is Crap”. From Twitter hashtags to nasty memes, this whole cyberbullying of our children has to stop. Being a parent is AWESOME. There. I said it. I’m deeply sorry that I don’t want to cash in by appealing to the frustrated parent in you all, but I actually LIKE being a mom. My son didn’t drive me to drink (I did that all on my own, thank you very much). He didn’t give me gray hairs (do I have any? I’ll have to ask my hairdresser), and I would never dream of embarrassing him by openly mocking what he does on the internet. Sure, I talk about him, but it’s with affection rather than mean-spiritedness. You know what he DID give me? Laugh lines. Because kids are hilarious. But you’d never know this from some of the negativity aimed towards parenthood lately. I actually read a post by someone who described being a parent as being akin to living in a barren wasteland with an empty soul. WHAT?? All I have to say to that is “Grow the f*ck up. Did you really think that your life would stay EXACTLY the same as it was before you had children? Did you think you could still ‘party with my ladies’, have your semi-annual girls’ weekend, or continue to hit the bars on a Friday night? If so, then hire a nanny and stop complaining.” I’m not wholly unsympathetic—I understand that spending time with the wee ones can be a little overwhelming at times, and when I was raising T, there were certainly occasions (few, I have to admit) where I needed to vent. You know who I vented to? My mom. Or a good friend. Or Ken. I didn’t share my thoughts and feelings with thousands of strangers on the internet where my momentary self-doubt would be archived forever, and where my negative thoughts about childrearing could be seen by my child at a future date. The worst part is that it’s making younger women fearful of becoming parents. I read an article the other day by a journalist who was considering having children, but after reading some “mommy blogs”, she was so scared off that she was re-thinking the whole thing. The most ridiculous thing I read lately was by someone who was so unhappy about being a mother, and the worst part was that her husband got to go out working and be with adults. But then he would come home and leave his underwear on the bathroom door handle, and ON TOP OF EVERYTHING ELSE, she would have to put his underwear away. My first and only thought was, “Why the HELL are you picking up after a grown man?! Did you know that after a while, if you don’t pick up after him, he’ll have no clean underwear and will be forced to do his own laundry like an actual normal human person?” And now this poor guy feels like a dick because everyone on the internet knows he hangs his underwear on a doorknob.

Honestly, I don’t know how anyone can rightfully complain about being a parent. It really is the best gig in the world. You get to spend time with someone who is NEVER boring, and you get to teach them all the stuff they need to know. When you repeat “Can you say Mama,” over and over again, you’re creating neural pathways and networks. When you say “No, that’s hot—danger!”, you’re developing logic and reasoning. And when you say “Play nice and share,” you’re contextualizing the social construct. You’re a f*cking scientist, that’s what you are. So start embracing your inner Ph. D.—the internet, and your children, will thank you.

4) People who try to screw you over on Facebook buy and sell sites.

Ken and I are still trying to offload a lot of the furniture we had at the cottage we sold recently. The best way has been by using local Facebook buy and sell sites, but it can be frustrating at times. Most people are great—they come when they say they will, they give you the money, and they take away your stuff. Then you get the people who take two days of constant messaging and questions like “Is it in good condition?” (no, I posted it because it’s a piece of crap) to finally arrange a time to pick up an item. THEN they suddenly want to know if you’ll take half the asking price. You say No, then they come over when you’re out and try the same sh*t with your unsuspecting husband. But he’s no dummy (because you told him what the price was and he knows better that to barter on his own) so they leave empty-handed, having wasted everyone’s time. People like that are jerks. Enough said.

5) Amid all the grumbling this week, there HAVE been some good moments. Ken and I repaired the broken down antique settee that I got a garage sale and it looks great. I made risotto for the first time and it turned out almost OK. I bought groceries and it didn’t cost me a small fortune as it would have in Iceland. I saw Lisa, my Lancome lady, and she gave me a lot of free stuff. Which brings me to the thing that made me laugh my ass off this week. I saw my parents yesterday, and I gave my mom some peach-scented foot lotion, Calvin Klein body lotion, and lipstick that I got from Lisa. She called me last night:

Mom: I hope you don’t mind, but I gave the lotion to your Dad.
Me: No, that’s fine…
Mom: He’s decided to become a chick magnet so he needs soft skin.
Me: I—what?

So ladies, beware. If you see a really cool old Scottish guy who smells like peaches, you’re in trouble.

Saturday Night: The Tragically Hip

hip2

Last night was the final show of the Tragically Hip’s final concert tour. The lead singer, Gord Downie, has incurable brain cancer, and rather than fade away, he’s going out in fine Canadian style by bringing the country together. You might have seen the memes about Canada being closed for the night because our national broadcaster, the CBC, was showing the concert live across the nation for those who couldn’t get tickets to be there in person. Free. No commercial breaks. 3 hours of song. So that we could all embrace the band whose music was the soundtrack to so many of our lives. Hundreds of thousands of people watching all at the same time, some at huge parties with massive screens, some at home with the people they love, watching a man give everything he had left to the nation HE loves. It was inspiring and heartbreaking all at the same time. In a year that we lost Bowie and Prince, two other icons of our youth, it seems incredibly unfair that Gord Downie, man, machine, poem, should be lost to us as well. And when the time comes, we’ll miss him fully and completely. Just wait and you’ll see.

Here’s the link to one of my favourite Hip songs—Nautical Disaster.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8Fi46BFAF0

 

My Week 98: Iceland FAQs

Iceland FAQs

waterfall2

Ken, T, and I have just arrived home from Iceland. T really wanted to go back to Spain and practice his Spanish, but Ken and I were interested in a new experience. We were able to compromise, thanks to Air Iceland’s ploy to lure tourists into their country. They offer really cheap flights to Europe on the condition that you stop over in Iceland on the way there and back. This sounded like a great deal, and it satisfied everyone’s desires. So we were in Iceland for four days, then Spain for three days, then back to Iceland again for three more days. But Iceland has only recently become a major tourist destination, and if you’re like me, you probably don’t know a lot about it. It’s definitely a unique experience, but there were some questions I would have LOVED to know the answer to before we went. Therefore, I’ve decided to create a list of Frequently Asked Questions, a primer, if you will, to the Icelandic experience. Or at least from my own perspective.

First, let me say that we really liked a lot of things about Iceland. It’s very different from just about anywhere else, which is part of its charm. It’s visually stunning, and incredibly clean. You can drive around the whole island very easily, stopping just about anywhere to enjoy the gorgeous landscape. But it’s also a very quirky place, and if you plan to travel there, you definitely need to be aware of a few things. So here’s the list of questions that I would have wanted answered BEFORE we arrived:

1) OMG, should the water smell like that?!

We arrived from the airport around 11 pm, rented our car, and drove to the apartment we had booked through AirBNB. Bjorn, the owner, had left a key for us in a lockbox outside the apartment door. It was a really nice little place and we were relieved, because you never know when you’re booking things relatively sight unseen. It was late, and all we wanted to do was go to bed, so we’d be rested up for the next few days’ adventures. Ken went in the bathroom first to brush his teeth. When he came out, he said, “The water smells a little different.” I was like, “How different?” and he said, “Kind of like sulphur, but it’s not too bad.” Then I went into the bathroom and started running the hot water to wash my face. Suddenly, I was standing at the gates of the deepest part of hell, breathing in acrid fumes that smelled like someone had put a dozen hardboiled eggs in an airtight box and left them out in the hot sun. I called out to Ken, “I thought you said it wasn’t THAT bad! I’m dying here!!” Turns out the Iceland sits on top of a sh*tload of naturally scalding hotsprings which supplies 85% of the island with geothermic energy and hot water. The only downside is that it reeks. It clings to your skin for a good ten minutes after you shower, and it fills the air with what can only be described as “farts of death”. But it’s only the hot water—the cold water is just fine, and you can drink it straight from the tap. It tastes terrific and not like demonwater at all. But we didn’t know this at first, and we were really scared that there was a sewer line break or something, and that we’d end up with Icelandic dysentery. When we met our host the next morning, it was the first thing we asked him, and he explained that it was perfectly healthy and safe, finishing with, “You get used to the smell.” And it’s true—you do. In fact, it becomes kind of comforting and homey, like when your dog farts and you just look at him affectionately and say, “Oh Bowser, you’re so smelly, but I love you.” Plus, it might be nasty, but apparently the minerals in it are really good for your skin. Icelanders are EXTREMEMLY proud of their stinkwater and the best part is if YOU fart, you can blame it on the water, not the dog. Because your dog will NEVER smell that bad. It’s not everywhere you go though—some of the hotels must filter it out, which would account for the incredible cost (see question 3).

2) Will I be able to eat the food?

Well that depends on how hungry you are. Icelandic food is a little different. I don’t mean different like a little more spicy, or in a “using mayonnaise instead of ketchup on your fries” kind of way—I mean “pickled ram’s testicle” kind of different. I’m not a picky eater, but I have two problems that plague me when I travel: I can’t eat gluten (I have arthritis and it makes my joints swell) and I’m allergic to shellfish (I carry an epipen for that one). So any foreign country can pose a challenge, but I can usually find SOMETHING to eat. Iceland made it a little harder because not only do they have a LOT of seafood and bread on their menus, they feel compelled to weird it up. We finally found a restaurant in Reyjkavik called “Kol” where the menu had a couple of relatively straightforward items on it, and they brought warm bread up first. It came with some kind of spread, which was bright red and looked like pureed strawberries. Ken tried it and said, “It’s slightly sweet—try it and see if you can figure out what’s in it.” I thought it was supersalty and strange, then I got worried that maybe it had squid blood or something in it, so we asked the waitress. It was beet hummus. Why would anyone ruin perfectly good hummus by putting beets in it?! Maybe you like beets, but if you want to know how I feel about it, read My Week 48: Deathly Beets, and you’ll understand. And it’s not enough to serve your run-of-the-mill fish and meat. No, the Icelandic specialty is Minke Whale. I’m already unhappy enough that I’m not a vegetarian (screw you, bacon), but there’s no way I’m eating something that can carry on an actual conversation with another member of its species and is probably smarter than I am. Plus, don’t forget that I swam with dolphins last year, so I’m almost one of them. It would be like cannibalism.

But my favourite item had to be “Salted Cod and Deep Fried Cod Cheeks with Couscous, Carrot, Cumin, and Mussel.” Seriously, how many different aquatic forms of life do you need in ONE dish? And Cod Cheek? WTF is that? Do cods even HAVE cheeks? Wouldn’t they be really tiny and not even worth deepfrying? I know there are lots of people out there who LOVE eating talking animals, freaky vegetables, and baby sheep, and if so, then Iceland is the place for you. You weirdos. But if not, then there ARE restaurants that cater to the more timid among us, Our last night there, for example, we went to an awesome Thai place and the Massaman Chicken (yellow curry), Spring Rolls and Pineapple Fried Rice were fantastic.

Side note 1: Make sure you specify that you want your food cooked all the way through. Icelanders like to eat their fish “medium rare” and their beef while it’s still mooing. As we discovered.

Side note 2: Iceland is also supposed to be known for its fantastic hot dogs. I don’t know where this mythology developed or why. All I know is that we were all dying to try one, and when we did, they were simply pre-packaged boiled hotdogs, like any other storebought hotdog. Except they tasted kind of plastic-y. Oh well. They only cost $15 each (see question 3).

3) If I find something to eat, and it’s cooked properly, will I be able to afford it?

That depends. Did you win the lottery last week? Be warned—Iceland is unbelievably expensive, especially compared to Spain, which is often cheaper than Canada. At Kol, we had three main courses (two salmon, one steak), one glass of wine, one beer, and one milkshake. It totalled out at the equivalent of over $200 American. No appetizers—the asparagus spears that I wanted were $30—and no dessert. (Well, we got dessert but it was free to make up for the double recooking of my steak, which I had asked for to be cooked “medium” but kept being served bloody; dessert would have cost us another $60 otherwise). In comparison, on our last night in Seville, Ken and T each had homemade 14” pizzas, I had poutine with bacon and cheese, and we had wine and beer. The whole meal was not quite $25. Which is exactly what I paid for lunch at a cafeteria in Iceland which consisted of 5 meatballs, a scoop of rice, and a side of sweet potato cubes. Even the grocery stores are expensive when it comes to certain items. A block of regular cheese can run you 25 000 Krona (the Icelandic currency which makes you THINK you’re getting a lot for your money because of all the extra zeroes), which is just about $25, and a small bottle of Pepsi can run around 4 bucks depending where you are. Which just goes to show that it’s not about ripping off tourists—the cost of living there is just really high for EVERYONE.

And hotels? It’s enough to make you cry. One night’s stay at the Radisson in Reykjavik cost us $500 for a room that you might find in a Motel 6. It was the same amount that we paid for 3 nights in Spain for the three of us, or the same as one night in the most luxurious hotel in Canada. Check out Langdon Hall for a comparison. Our “hotel” near Hella was even worse. It was 43 km. on a gravel road to get to it, and when we arrived, there were three single cots; there was no TV, no wifi in the rooms, and no soap for the shower. I wouldn’t have cared if we weren’t expecting more for the price, but it was $425 for the night, and dinner at the restaurant there was $225 for three entrees, drinks, and two pieces of chocolate cake. A word to the wise—use AirBNB whenever you can, because it’s a lot cheaper than the hotels, and make sure your accommodation comes with a kitchen so you can cook your own meals and save a little that way.

hotel

4) Do Icelanders like tourists?

They seem to. But this tourism thing is pretty new to them, and they always seem slightly bemused by foreigners. It’s not obnoxious or mocking—it’s kind of charming, like they’re not entirely sure what to do with tourists, instead of taking advantage of us like other countries do. For example, most tourist attractions are free, and there are relatively few souvenir shops. The people are polite and pleasant, and almost everyone speaks English really well; in fact, they learn it in school. We were at a restaurant seated next to two elderly gentlemen—when they heard us talking, they struck up a conversation in almost fluent English with us. As Canadians, we felt very comfortable in a country that seems as friendly and polite as our own.

5) Will I have a good time?

Yes. If you appreciate beautiful scenery, unique geographic elements, and interesting things to do, then you absolutely will. It’s an amazing country. Even though I’m 50 years old and was still in recovery mode from surgery, I found myself compelled to clamber over rocks to walk behind waterfalls, hike for kilometres to touch a glacier, watch in amazement at geysers exploding (then run away when we realized the hot water was about to rain down on us), and make my way through lava fields just to touch the crystal clear water of a rushing stream. It’s a great country, and we now know how to explore it the next time without having to take out a second mortgage.

Now, here are some questions that are more particular to me:

5) Is there always that one guy who has to smoke?

Yes. You will find him at every tourist stop, standing in nature’s pristine beauty, blowing smoke into the crisp, clean air, then throwing his cigarette butt on the ground. He comes in all nationalities, shapes, and sizes, and he will annoy the hell out of you with his inability to get out of his car and NOT immediately light up.

6) If I go to a swimming pool, will someone steal my towel?

Yes. Believe it or not. This happened to us at the Blue Lagoon, the most popular tourist spot in Iceland. It’s a giant hot spring where the water is bright blue. It’s one of the few places we had to pay to visit and like everything else in Iceland, it was very expensive. The regular admission was $50 Euros (about $73) but we chose the “Comfort Package” for $75 Euros each (about $108), because it came with a rented towel. You couldn’t take your towels beyond the entry, where they had hooks and racks for them, but when we came out of the lagoon , both T’s and my towels were gone. Yes, someone jacked our $35 rented f*cking towels. The same thing happened to my brother at a public pool in Reykjavik. They had their OWN towels, and when they came out of the pool, they were all gone. He complained to the attendant, who just shrugged and said, “Yes, that happens a lot.” So maybe it’s better, and cheaper, to drip dry. Otherwise, I highly recommend the Blue Lagoon, which is superwarm and not too deep. They also give you silica mud to put on your face, and T used it to create a mustache, beard, and monocle, which made me laugh insanely, despite the theft of the towels.

7) What about those Icelandic men?

Every time we saw a guy wandering around, half-smiling and looking a little lost, you could bet he was Icelandic. A lot of men in Iceland seem perpetually baffled. By what, we were never sure, but it became a running joke with us. It started at the airport with an Icelandic man who wanted to bring two loose lacrosse sticks onto the plane with him, and seemed very confused when he was told he couldn’t. The female clerk gave him tape to wrap around them, and it took his whole family almost ten minutes to help him do it. From the airport to the city centres to the countryside, there were men who just randomly wandered around looking perplexed and a little helpless. Maybe in the same way that some women are said to have a “resting mean face”, Icelandic men have a resting “why am I here?” face. At any rate, they’re all very nice. Even if they don’t know where they are. You might not believe me about this, so go there and see for yourself. You’ll love it—if you can afford it.

NB: I didn’t say anything about Spain. Spain was as great as always, except hotter. If you want to know about Spain, you can read My Week 45: Adventures in Spain. It hasn’t changed:-)

 

My Week 97: Olympic Opening Ceremonies, Casual Conversations

olympic ringsFriday: The Olympic Opening Ceremonies

Ken and I, like many people, love the Olympics. Well, we kind of have to, because during the Olympics there’s absolutely nothing else to watch on TV, aside from reruns of Big Bang Theory and Murdoch Mysteries. Last night, of course, was the Opening Ceremonies, and I don’t know what it’s like in other countries, but Canadian TV stations were doing a countdown all day, and interviewing athletes, their parents, officials, politicians, and anyone else with a remote connection to the Games, including the guy who designed the Vancouver Olympic Opening Ceremonies. The commentator asked him if he was secretly hoping that the Rio Ceremonies wouldn’t be quite as good as the ones he designed, but he was very gracious, saying, “Of course not—all these ceremonies are different and special in their own way.” I don’t know about you, but after watching the Rio Opening Ceremonies, I was like “I don’t know about special, but it was certainly different.” Half of that was Rio’s fault, but the other half sits squarely on the shoulders of the Canadian commentators—between them all, it was like watching “End of Days” narrated by two of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. I’ve never seen so much doom and gloom at what’s supposed to be a joyous celebration before. Let me run it down for you:

The Canadian broadcast started with a video about the Games—I don’t know who made it, but I think the person could use a few lessons on “tone”. It began with the juxtaposition between the shiny Olympic facility and the gravely impoverished people who live just “steps away”. Cut to pictures of small children half-clothed and playing in the dirt. It was like a World Vision commercial—I almost expected a 1-800 number and Sarah McLaughlin singing “In the Arms of an Angel” in the background. Apparently, Brazil’s economy is tanking, they are rife with crime and conflict, and their environment is a disaster, according to this introduction, which then attempted to end on a “cheery note” with the idea that the Olympic Games is a source of hope for all Brazilians. I was like, “I sure as hell hope so, since they just threw what little money they apparently had left on this thing. They better win a sh*tload of medals because that will for sure make up for the lack of housing, food, and clean water.” It was the most depressing start to an Olympic Ceremony I’ve ever seen, but Ken and I were hopeful that once the festivities got started, things would improve. Things didn’t.

It began with people dressed as giant tinfoil bags.

Me: Why are they dressed in tinfoil tents?
Ken: Maybe it’s all they could afford.
Me: Maybe it represents all the garbage in the water. Is that a giant crab puppet?
Ken: Spider? Not sure. I think the commentator called this scene “Peace for the Earth”.
Me: Oh. That’s nice.

But the “nice” didn’t last long. Indigenous people arrived and started dancing and creating traditional tribal huts out of long bungee type cords (I’d heard earlier in the day from someone involved in the ceremonies that they were long rubber bands from an underwear factory) when suddenly the commentator announced (a little too enthusiastically I thought), “And here we have the European Invasion!” Menacing looking sailors on giant ships appeared—apparently that was the Portuguese coming to Brazil. The Indigenous people let go of their underwear bands and the camera panned to the other end of the arena, where giant hamster wheels had appeared, followed by a train of people wearing heavy blocks on their feet. “And of course, the Europeans brought slaves with them!” announced the commentator excitedly. “Many Brazilian cultures were first brought here against their will!” Things were getting frightening at this point, and I was feeling too sad to keep watching. But then the Japanese appeared. In complete contrast to the rest of the group, they were wearing white robes, and dancing while carrying red and white flags. And they were smiling. “Brazil has the second largest Japanese population in the world outside of Japan!” the commentator informed us. I guess they were the only cultural group not brought there against their will, judging by the fact that they didn’t look terrified. (The Japanese Women’s Rugby Team was still smiling today, even though they got their asses handed to them by Canada, in a 45-0 game. I’ve never seen a team so happy to just be on the field. It was absolutely heart-warming and completely in keeping with the Olympic spirit). Anyway, things got crazy at that point. I was jotting down notes on my phone, which I think will best convey my utter confusion at this point:

Parkour dancers building a wall. Is that a plane? Did it really just fly out of the stadium? Ken’s asleep. Wait, it was only a video. Brazil’s “second most favourite song”? What’s the first? Why is Gisele Bundchen here? Isn’t she German? Check Google. No, she’s Brazilian. She’s walking a loooong way. Still not there yet. God, that girl can stomp a catwalk, even at her age. Wow, she’s STILL walking.

Cutaway from Gisele to dubstep and twerking. The commentators are quiet—maybe they’re not sure what to say. Cut to commercial. Damn you Proctor and Gamble, making me cry with your Olympic mom commercials. Multi-coloured Chewbaccas and Tickle Me Elmos. 1500 dancers. More commercials featuring Morgan Freeman.  Finally, a video—it’s an indictment of global warming. Ironic, coming from a country whose water is so disgusting that the plants the kids are carrying would die if you watered them with it.

Then, just as suddenly as it began, it all stopped. The announcement came: Greece!

The parade of nations had begun. Now, this was the part that should have been the most joyous, and it would have been, except the Canadian announcers kept trying to fill airspace with random facts about each country. And in keeping with the overall tone of the evening, the facts were mostly random, bizarre, or depressing. Here are some highlights of the things we learned:

Albania: “They had a wrestler thrown out during the last Olympics for using the same steroids as disgraced Canadian runner Ben Johnson.”
Argentina: “The Argentinians are not very popular in Brazil, you know.”
Benin: “Apparently, they’re the unhappiest people in the world.”
Bermuda:  “You know, they ALWAYS wear shorts.”
Bosnia: “I hear their Olympic Stadium is still lying in ruins.”
Bulgaria: “Their entire weightlifting team has been banned for doping!”
Burundi: “Looks like they’ve run out of bicycles.”
Canada: “Ooh, here’s Canada!”
Qatar: We got nothing about Qatar because the commentators were still talking about Canada.
China: “The only time they lost a diving medal was to Canada. HAHAHA!”
Comoros: “As an island nation, they’re particularly worried about the rising seas.”
South Korea: “They’re here in their special anti-Zika uniforms. Good thinking.”
Croatia: “Wow, they LOVE their water polo.”
Denmark: “She’s only the third woman in Danish history to carry the flag. They tried to stop her from coming but she appealed.”
Dominica: “They’ve never won a medal. They have two athletes here, so only two chances this time!”
Egypt: “Remember the scandal in 2012 when they got caught wearing fake Nike uniforms?”
Micronesia: “That’s one tiny country.”
Estonia: “They have blonde triplet marathoners. You can’t miss them!”
Fiji: “He started playing rugby using a coconut. You can’t write this stuff!”
The Gs were ignored while one commentator went off on a rant about the irony of the Environmental theme when Rio was “plagued by pollution.”

Iran: “You don’t often hear funny stories about Iran, but here’s one…”
Iraq: “All 22 athletes are men. Gender equity, anyone?”
Liberia: “The terrible Ebola crisis…”
Libya: “Never won a medal.”
Nepal: “One team member lived in a tent for a month.”
North Korea: “The mysterious North Koreans. Did you know they say that Kim Jong Un bowled a 300 in his very first game? They claim he’d never bowled before.”
Russia: “Systematic doping. I’ll bet they’re the cleanest team in Rio now.”
Syria: “Dreadful, bloody conflict…”
Solomon Islands:  “They have a lot of sailors. Ron MacLean has a boat. Do you think he ever takes Don Cherry sailing?”
Tonga: “Look at their flagbearer. He’s all oiled up. He looks hot. Or he’s a show-off.”
Turkmenistan: “80% of the country is covered in desert.”
Turkey: “THEY won’t be hosting the games any time soon.”
And finally Brazil: “They’ve never been off the podium for beach volleyball!”

Next, it was time for the speeches. Unfortunately, The Big Bang Theory was on, and at that point, god, I needed a laugh, so we switched channels. I know that the Opening Ceremonies is a time for a country to showcase itself to the world, and I guess Brazil has more problems than some people, myself included, were really aware of. Hopefully, an expose of the economic and environmental conditions that exist there will lead to some kind of action. And speaking of action, the games are now in progress, and it’s already apparent that the doom and gloom of the kick-off is already overshadowed by the quality of the athletics and the character of the athletes, which is always the point anyway. And I’m sure the Closing Ceremonies will be a little more uplifting—after all, Brazil is guaranteed a medal for beach volleyball.

olympic rings

Thursday: Conversations

Ken: Did you hear the latest? People are upset that Justin Trudeau was taking pictures with his shirt off.
Me: Wasn’t he out jogging in the forest when someone asked him to pose with them?
Ken: I know right? Someone said, “Oh, his father would NEVER have posed shirtless.” But I just googled it and found like 4 shots of Pierre Elliot Trudeau without a shirt on WHILE he was Prime Minister.
Me: I’m confused. If it’s OK for Melania, why isn’t it OK for Justin? The shaming must stop. Besides, Putin did it first. On a horse.

Ken: I think I know that woman. She’s a retired principal. I think I was at a workshop with her.
Me: I thought she must be a stockbroker, what with the aviator sunglasses and the Bluetooth earpiece. Does anybody else even use those things anymore? At any rate, that’s a gorgeous Mustang convertible she’s driving.
Ken: Wouldn’t you love a car like that?
Me: No way. It’s, like, unseemly at my age.
Ken: Why?
Me: It’s OK for a teenager. If you’re a teenage boy and you drive a car like that, everyone’s like “Wow—good for you! You’ve hit the big time!” If you’re an older woman, you’re just showing off. It’s ostentatious.
Ken: But you have a sporty car.
Me: It’s a Chevy. No one is ever like, “Oh my god, look at that Chevy hatchback!” Yes, it’s cute and sporty, but it doesn’t scream “I have more money than brains.”
Ken: It’s still a nice car.
Me: Convertibles make your hair messy as f*ck.
Ken: Jealous much?
Me: Sigh. Yeah.

Me: I don’t know how to finish my blog.
T: How about “See ya, nerds!”
Me: Right. I’ll be sure to try that.

See ya, nerds:-)

 

My Week 96: A Salty Mystery, Ikea Cultural Kitchens

Thursday: Life’s little mysteries

I’ve certainly had my share of mysterious events throughout my life, and if you come here regularly, you’ll have heard about the inexplicable presence of long, blonde hairs in my condo, the strange case of the missing earring back, or the sudden appearance of a deer’s jawbone in my backyard. But what happened on Thursday night tops it all. And that’s not just a bloggy clickbait to get you to keep reading—it was truly the most random thing imaginable, and I’ve yet to find an explanation, either plausible or implausible, to account for it. Here’s the scene:

Ken and I were watching the Democratic National Convention. No, that’s not the weird thing. I mean, yes, it’s a little weird how I’ve been watching both conventions obsessively, since I’m Canadian. But I just find American politics fascinating in the same way that some people can’t seem to look away from a car crash. And right now, American politics is as close to a train wreck as you could possibly get. I can’t even write about Donald Trump anymore, because nothing I invent even comes close to the sh*t he actually says. I recently re-read some of my previous posts about Trump—the wall (Week 49), his first meeting with Justin Trudeau (Week 64), his conversations with other five-year-olds (Week 88)—and they all seem extremely, nay frighteningly, realistic. Aside from my imagining of Kanye West as his VP pick, I might as well be channelling him directly. On the other side of the aisle is Hillary Clinton, who I know virtually nothing about. Well, except for the bizarre nicknames that Trump has for her, like “Crooked Hillary”, which isn’t even particularly creative. Although I think if he went with something more sophisticated and alliterative, like “Heinous Hillary”, none of his supporters would know what he meant, since the vast majority of them look utterly baffled when he says anything other than “wall” or “muslim,” or “Constitution”. So after watching the gong show that was the RNC, I really wanted to see what the Democrats would be like in comparison. The DNC was certainly more upbeat—nary a hint of an appearance by the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse—but the reporters all kept talking about how Hillary needed to be seen as more human, which I thought was strange, given that Trump is simply a caricature and compared to him, my fish is more human. (There Mishima—I gave you an honourable mention. Now you can stop whining about how I talk more about the dog and cat than I do about you.)

I believe it was partway through Katy Perry’s performance on Thursday night when I first ran my fingers through my hair. You know, the way people do when they’re relaxing, and maybe a little bored, waiting for something interesting to happen, like a Bernie Sanders supporter disrupting the performance by running across the stage naked, a la the streaking fad of the 70s. But something felt weird—on my head, that is. It felt like there were grains of sand in my hair. I pulled one out, and looked at it closely. It was clear and crystalline. I put it in my mouth, bit down on it and realized it wasn’t sand. It was SALT. I had salt in my hair. A LOT of grains of salt. I turned to Ken:

Me: WTF?! I have salt in my hair!
Ken: How did you get salt in your hair?
Me: You tell ME!
Ken: Were you shaking the salt shaker really vigorously at dinner? Maybe some of the salt flew up in the air, and landed in your hair.
Me: I think you and T would have noticed if I was using a salt shaker like I was playing the maracas. This is insane. How could I get this much salt in my hair?

At this point, I actually Googled “salt in hair” to see if there was some rare, little-known disease that might cause one’s body to spontaneously produce salt crystals. All I got was “using Epsom salts as a hair rinse to prevent dandruff”. Which I had definitely NOT done. My only choice was to bend over and shake all the salt out of my hair. It was so distracting that I only paid half-attention to Hillary Clinton’s speech. From what I could tell as I was upside-down, she seemed to have better and more specific plans for America than Trump, from whose platform I could only discern that “things are gonna be SO good”. And despite the criticism of the guy on PBS who kept trying to mansplain to the two female PBS anchors that Hillary’s speech was flat, I thought she came off as VERY human. I, on the other hand, seemed to have turned into Lot’s wife.

The next day at lunch, I was still freaked out by what had happened, and I decided that maybe T had played a joke on me.

Me: I have to ask you a really weird question. I swear I’m being serious.
T (suspiciously): Um, OK. What?
Me: Last night at dinner, did you shake salt into my hair when I wasn’t looking? Like, as a joke?
T: (laughing hysterically): What?! Did I do what?!
Me: Don’t laugh! I found a sh*tload of salt in my hair last night and I don’t know where it came from.
T: How did you know it was salt?
Me: I tasted it.
T: What?! Why would you TASTE it?!
Me: BECAUSE I NEEDED TO KNOW WHAT IT WAS!
T: What if it was poison?!
Me: Why would anyone sprinkle poisonous salt in my hair? Just be honest. Did you sneak up behind me and do it?
T: No, Mom. I did not put salt in your hair.

I still have no idea where all that salt came from. I’m going to file this under Life’s Little Mysteries, along with the blonde hair in my condo, the missing earring back, the deer jawbone, and how Donald Trump became the Republican candidate for president.

salt

Friday: Ikea Cultural Kitchens

Currently, there’s a commercial playing non-stop on TV here for Ikea Kitchens. In the commercial, a large Italian family has gotten together for dinner. Everyone is running around to the strains of “Mezza Voce”, trying to prepare the meal. Suddenly, a tiny grandmother dressed all in black appears, and tastes the spaghetti sauce. The music abruptly stops, as she yells “Tutti Fuore!” which means “Everyone Out!”, and the whole family scatters in fear as the music swells up and resumes. I guess they were making sh*tty spaghetti sauce or something, and she’s going to fix it with her magical Italian grandma powers. I don’t know a lot about Italian culture, but their grandmas seem pretty scary, according to Ikea, which seems to be doing a lot of heavy stereotyping in the commercial. And then I wondered how Ikea would portray other cultures in the kitchen, like, say, my own cultural backgrounds of English and Scottish…

A large Scottish family has gotten together for dinner. Everyone is having a wee dram, and sword-dancing to the strains of bagpipe music. Suddenly, a stocky grandmother dressed in the clan tartan appears. She peers into the oven. The bagpipes stop abruptly—well, they kind of just die off, like the last gasps of a large farm animal—as she announces, “The haggis is no done yet!” and slams shuts the oven door. Everyone sighs and there are mutters of “Thank God”, and “Pour me another dram, Jimmy.” Someone hands the grandma a tumbler of Scotch. She tosses it back, and the bagpipes resume, like a large farm animal which has been suddenly been revived.

A large English family has gotten together for dinner. Everyone is enjoying a nice cup of tea whilst singing “God Save the Queen” acapella. Suddenly, a bespectacled grandmother appears, wearing a cardigan and slippers. She peers into the oven. Everyone keeps singing until the song is finished, because you never leave the Queen hanging, then looks expectantly at the grandmother, who says. “Dear me, the roast isn’t quite gray enough yet. And I believe those potatoes need to boil for at least another half an hour.” The family nods in agreement and there are calls of “Very well, then,” and “Cheerio”. Someone mutters, “Couldn’t we just order an Indian take-out?” The grandmother looks stern and pours herself a small glass of sherry, as the group begins to sing “Jerusalem.”

Ikea: Swedish for common sense. And stereotypes.

My Week 95: Weird Dreams, Raven the Pokemon

Saturday: I have weird dreams.

I’ve been a very vivid dreamer since as far back as I remember. In fact, I can still recall the first nightmare I had when I must have been about six. In the dream, I was lying in bed, watching a TV screen which had appeared on my wall. The setting was a small town, where a killer had poisoned all the food and drinks. When people ate the food, they turned completely white and died; when they drank anything, they turned completely black and died. It was a black and white TV, so that’s all I got—they might have actually turned red or yellow—who am to say. Nevertheless, I screamed so loudly that my mom came running in, and slept with me for the rest of the night. I still have a catalogue of dreams in my head, going back years—one of the downsides of having a somewhat eidetic memory—and I’m still a vivid dreamer, although my nightlife isn’t always as sinister anymore. You may remember not long ago, when I described a really funny dream I’d had where I was explaining algebraic concepts to a group of students. Okay, I realize that doesn’t sound particularly funny in and of itself, but the actual hilarious part of THAT dream was that my explanation was correct, considering how bad I actually am at math. I would love to know how I can understand something in a dream and be so completely sh*tty at it in real life.

Case in point: yesterday, we had a birthday party for Ken and T. Ken was turning 50, and T had just turned 18, so it was a milestone occasion. Almost the whole family came, and it was a lovely day, except for the fact that I still wasn’t feeling well, and Ken was running around setting everything up, serving people, and generally doing all the stuff I would normally do if I was more mobile. All the guests were helping out, but still—it was Ken’s party, and I was feeling really guilty for just lying in a lounge chair with a glass of wine. I was also feeling super-anxious, because we were sitting outside on the lawn, overshadowed by this gigantic ash tree which had recently succumbed to Ash Bore Beetle disease. So yeah, it was a big-ass dead tree which has been dropping more branches than microphones at a Kanye West concert. Which is to say, randomly and without any apparent reason. We’re having it taken down soon, but if you know anything about me, you’ll know that I’m the f*cking queen of Worst Case Scenario Plans. So I had one for the tree, obviously. Then Ken’s mom remarked that the tree looked like it was dead.

Ken’s Mom: Is that tree completely dead now?
Me: Yes, but don’t worry—I have a plan. If it starts to fall, we can all run around the side of the house. The house will protect us from being crushed by it.
Ken’s Mom (dark, ominous laughter): None of us can run that fast.

So yeah, my anxiety was peaking, and I’m going to use that as an excuse for the ridiculously awful attempt at a speech that I made after Ken and T had opened their presents. Ken started to thank people for coming, but I was like, “Wait—I have a special toast.”

Me: This has been a year of milestones for our family. I mean, like, since last July, not since January. A calendar year, let’s say. Anyway, last year, Ken and I celebrated our 50th anniversary—
Everyone: 25th!!
Me: What? Oh right, of course. Ken’s 50. We’ve been MARRIED for 25 years. Anyway, then I turned 50, and now Ken’s turned 50 and that’s really special because 25 and 25 is 50…
Everyone: ??
Me: And of course, T is 18 and an official adult, which is also really special, and now he’s going to university. So.
Ken: Yes. It occurred to me the other day how important these connections are to us all. I look around and see these people who are so important to our lives, coming together in kinship and love, and it’s a very special thing. Thank you all for coming.
Me: Wait! I’m not done yet! Anyway, Ken and I now have been together more than half of our lives, since we’re both 50 and well, half of 50 is 25—wait, is that MORE than half? Regardless, it’s been a wonderful first half—
Ken’s Mom (dark, ominous laughter): The next half might not be as good though.
Me: Anyhow, I’m drunk.

I wasn’t actually drunk, but being intoxicated was a better excuse than being sh*tty with numbers. I learned two things that day. First, instead of winging it, you should always plan your toast carefully and ensure there is no MATH in it. Second, that Ken’s Mom is a lovely woman but she’s kind of like Donald Trump at the Republican Convention, all gloom and doom and “the apocalypse is coming” at parties. Frankly, I would have preferred it if she was more like Melania—even if it meant getting Rickrolled.*

*MY mom is going to read this and be like, “I don’t understand the ending. What does “Rickrolled” mean?” It’s when someone pranks you by getting you to click a link that takes you to a clip of Rick Astley singing “Never Gonna Give You Up”. Melania Trump included words from that song in her plagiarized speech, and it seemed like someone had done a little Rickroll there. Glen Beck claimed someone did it deliberately to humiliate her, but I don’t think she needed any help. Love you, Mom.

So back to dreams. In my dreams, not only am I good at math, I can cut my own hair, fall from great heights without dying when I hit the ground, speak and understand foreign languages, and escape from serial killers. I’m also a pretty competent firefighter. The other night I had the following dream: my parents were at our house, and I was telling them about a dream I’d just had (yes, within the dream I was currently having) where they were dressed as detectives in trenchcoats and fedoras and carrying giant magnifying glasses (although it seems to me now that my mom was wearing a pith helmet instead of a fedora. She’s got great fashion sense.). Anyway, as I was describing the dream to them and they were laughing, I looked out the door and saw that there was a pick-up truck on fire on our lawn. I ran outside, grabbed the garden hose and started to spray down the truck (it was a vintage 50s pick-up, turquoise with white stripes and trim, just in case you’re wondering). Unfortunately, the hose tap wasn’t turned on all the way, so I started screaming for T to come out and turn it up. He, of course, was wearing his gaming headphones and didn’t hear me as usual, so I had to do it myself, all the while yelling at my parents to call 911. As I was putting out the fire, I saw a figure lurking in the bushes and realized it was the arsonist. I was just about to discover the person’s identity, when Ken woke me up. AND NOW I”LL NEVER KNOW, KEN!! It makes me crazy how I can’t stay AWAKE for the ends of TV shows, and I can’t stay ASLEEP for the ends of dreams.

My favourite dream of all is a recurring one, where I discover that our house has a secret wing. It’s a long hallway with three bedrooms on the right, and two bathrooms on the left, one on each end. It’s always SUPER-creepy and very cold, because no one has been in it for years, but it changes, and that’s what makes it fascinating. Sometimes the rooms are filled with antique furniture, sometimes they’re completely barren except for a few odds and ends in the closet, and sometimes the dresser drawers are full of vintage toys. The bathrooms—you don’t go in them. You can look in, but you just know better than to go in, like in “The Shining.” And even though it’s kind of scary, I always wake up happy that I’ve been able to explore it again.

When I came out of the anaesthetic after my surgery, I was dreaming that I was at a rock quarry with a group of friends and family. I was sitting on a rock, contemplating going in the water, and it was a beautiful day. I was really happy because I thought, “Either I’m still alive and dreaming, or this is a pretty sweet afterlife.” Then the nurse woke me up. Or DID she?! Maybe this is the dream, and the quarry is the reality. Either way, I’ll still suck at math.

Sunday: Raven the Pokémon

Raven: What the hell? Why did you just lob a tennis ball at me?!
Me: I’m playing Pokémon Go. I’m adding you to my collection.
Raven: Is that why the stupid fish has been calling me “Catchou”? That scaly little bastard! You know, I read his tweet. The reason I sneeze all the time is because my ancestors were so f*cking overbred that my nose is flat. YOU try breathing with your face all smushed in.
Me: C’mon, play along. Jump in this bag.
Raven: You and your non-virtual version of a virtual game can piss off. I’m trying to sleep here. Go find “Titusaurus Dix”. I’m sure he’ll play.
Me: You’re no fun, you know that?
Titus: Throw the ball, throw the ball!
Me: It’s nice that SOMEONE wants to be a Pokémon.
Raven: I think your gonna need a bigger bag.
catchou2

My Week 94: Sexy Roof Time, Feminine Hygiene Product Confusion

Wednesday: Rooftop Shenanigans

Last June, I wrote about the building next door to me (My Week 38 – Observing a Roofing Crew) and how the lovely roof garden I had been hoping to see bloom earlier that spring had been torn out and was slowly being replaced by a roofing crew whose antics were quite befuddling. There was a porta-potty which may or may not have been a time machine, judging from the way workers would enter it, stay in it indefinitely, then emerge looking thinner and much more sprightly. There was the foreman, whose area of expertise seemed to be showing the other guys how to lie on the ground and use their thumbs to gauge distance. And there was that one missing tile they all seemed to obsess about…. At any rate, the roof was finally completed in the late fall. All that had been done was to lay concrete tile down in two colours—light gray and dark gray—so that the dark gray looked like a kind of track. No flower boxes, no trees, just a fairly barren, sterile space. Pretty disappointing.

Then, this spring, I came home one afternoon, and there were bright orange pylons dividing the roof into quadrants, and even more bizarre, there were cheap plastic deck chairs lined up in certain areas. It reminded me of a really cheap cruise ship deck. Over the next few days, I would wake up and the deck chairs would be in new patterns thanks to the wind, but they would be back in position later in the day, so I assumed that SOMEONE was deliberating positioning them, but for what, who knew? An obstacle course, maybe? By late spring, there was one lonely plastic flower urn at each end. At this point, I was dying to know what the plan was for the pylons, deck chairs, and plants. Rooftop steeplechase? (By the way, this photo was taken with my cellphone–the roof is actually closer than it looks).

roof

Then the weather suddenly got warmer and people began to appear randomly on the roof. At first, it was a single person taking pictures of the skyline, or a mother letting her child run around the pylons a bit, or two elderly women walking the track. But once May came around and the weather became more summer-like, it was young couples sunbathing. Or doing OTHER things, if you catch my meaning. And don’t forget that my condo directly overlooks said roof, and that I have floor to ceiling window in Skylab, so if people are getting affectionate with each other and stealing shy kisses, I have a front row seat, not that I particularly want one. In fact, I’d rather not be in the actual theatre.

The final straw came this past Wednesday, when I got home from work. There was a young couple on the neighbouring roof in their bathing suits, drinking something they’d brought with them in a large pitcher. I sat down at my kitchen table to do some work and realized after a few minutes that things were getting pretty heated. I don’t want to sound like a porn writer here, but he had her up against the wall with his hands in her bikini top, and…well, I’m sure you can picture the rest. I thought about banging on the window, but it’s thick shatterproof glass and I doubted they could hear me. In fact, I was worried that if they saw me doing that, they might think I was cheering them on, which would be even more disturbing. They finally broke their clinch, and he paraded around while she went back to her plastic lounge chair. But I got to thinking—what if they really had no idea that anyone could see them? From the outside of my building, all you can see is the reflection of the city against the glass. And who would possibly imagine that you could be seen 25 stories up on a roof? That poor girl might be appalled if she knew she’d had an (albeit unwilling) audience. I decided that the next day, I would go to the building next door and speak to the concierge.

After work the next day, I went to the lobby of the building. The concierge’s name was Gerard which would have been more awesome if he was a butler instead of a concierge. Gerard Butler—you get it, right? Anyhow…

Me: Hi. Um, your building just had a roof renovation, didn’t it?
Gerard: Yes, it did.
Me: So, I live next door and my unit overlooks your roof. I just wanted to let you know that there are people having “sexy time” up there. I don’t think they realize that they can be seen.
Gerard: What?!
Me: Yes. This is the third time. It’s—well, it’s very distracting. I have floor to ceiling windows and it’s hard to avoid seeing it.
Gerard: Good lord! Can you describe them?
Me: Describe them? Well, it’s been different couples each time, but last night it was a male and female, young, wearing bathing suits. She was blonde, um, he was—well, he seemed to be quite well-endowed, if that’s any help. I just thought maybe you could put up a sign in the elevators or something.  My building does that about not throwing cigarette butts off the balconies.
Gerard: OK. I’ll let the management company know.
Me: Thanks. I’m sure they didn’t realize that everyone from the 23rd floor up could see them.
Gerard: And probably the Holiday Inn across the street too.
Me: Oh yeah! You guys could be the next new tourist attraction.
Gerard: Uh, no. We’ll take care of it.

He took my name and contact information (just my first name…also maybe one of the digits in my phone number was wrong—I don’t want to be known as the prude who shut down “the Romper Roof”). Later that evening, I saw a security guard up there patrolling, so here’s hoping that the shenanigans will cease. I can only imagine how they’ll phrase the elevator sign. Also, I just googled Images for “No Sex on the Roof” and a picture of Donald Trump giving a thumbs up was one of the hits. This could be his new campaign slogan: “I am the Roof Sex candidate. I will make Roof Sex great again. A lot.”

Thursday: The confusing world of feminine hygiene products.

As a woman of a certain age, I haven’t had to use feminine hygiene products for a while. But after my hysterectomy, I was forced to re-enter the confusing world of “lady gear” during my recovery. It started at the hospital, where the nurse sent me home with some “supplies”. It was like in Jaws when they see the shark for the first time, only instead of a bigger boat, I was like, “Holy sh*t—I’m going to need bigger underwear.” I withstood that for a couple of days, then I dug a package out of a cupboard from years back, and sent Ken to get the same, or equivalent, product. He took the package with him for reference, but when they ran out, I was forced to go shopping myself for something acceptable. In fact, it was my first actual trip out of the house after the surgery, which was a bit of a letdown because, Liquor Store, am I right? Then we got to Shopper’s Drug Mart, and you could tell I’d been out of the loop for a while and that Ken was quite the expert:

Me: I think they’re this way.
Ken (on the other side of the store): No, honey—you’re going the wrong way! The Feminine Hygiene aisle is OVER HERE.
Me: Oh my God!! Could you say that ANY LOUDER?
Random Guy (laughing): Don’t worry. I heard nothing.

After that embarrassing moment, I was then faced with the actual aisle itself. It was over 20 feet long, and full of colourful boxes and packages in all shapes and sizes. It was certainly different than when I was younger, and when you basically had two choices. Suddenly, there were products for every occasion. I looked at one box—it said “Up to 10 hours”. I was like, “I have to wear this thing for 10 HOURS?! No way!!” So I looked for something less intimidating, and less like a toddler’s diaper. And let me tell you, it was HARD. There were “flexi” products for the active lifestyle—not for me, since I wasn’t planning on riding a horse any time soon. There were things with wings and things with strings and things with super-absorbent cores. And there are now CUPS. I don’t even want to know how those work. And the names! Stayfree, Carefree, Always, Anytime—I’m sorry, but I was feeling NONE of those things. I was looking more for products called “What the F*ck?”, “Paranoia”, “Never Again” or “Sweet Jesus, Are You Kidding Me? At My Age?!”. And then, to make things worse, on Thursday I was in the Shopper’s Drug Mart near me in the city, and they are currently renovating the store, so the aisles were all mislabelled. I went down the Feminine Hygiene aisle and it was all greeting cards, and I knew that was wrong, because what kind of greeting card would accompany feminine hygiene? Instead of a little slot for money, you could put a tampon in it? Like “Hey, thought this might come in handy!” or “Use this for something special!”? Anyway, it turns out that what I was looking for was now in the next aisle over, which was currently labelled Family Planning. Do have any idea how hard it is to pick out a product when men are constantly wandering around you, looking for the condoms? I’ve never seen so many men looking so embarrassed in my life. The only thing that could have made it worse would have been if Ken was there, yelling “The condoms are in the next aisle over!!” I just hope I can get back to my “Footloose and Fancy-free” days soon now. Which, as I think about it, would be a great name for a feminine hygiene product.

My Week 93: Detective Duos, Plagued by Aliens

Tuesday: I am befuddled by detectives

On Tuesday night, I was bored and there was nothing good on TV, so I decided to watch a show whose title had intrigued me for a long time: “Houdini and Doyle.” From what I understood, it was about a detective duo at the turn of the century, and I love detective shows. My current favourite is the updated version of Sherlock Holmes called “Elementary”, starring the irascible Johnny Lee Miller, and Lucy Liu as Watson. I also adore Benedict Cumberbatch and that little hobbit who plays Watson in the BBC version of “Sherlock”, so I thought I’d give Houdini and Doyle a whirl. All I knew is that Harry Houdini was a Hungarian-American magician, and that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was the Scottish author of the Sherlock Holmes series, among other things. I love magic and I love Scottish fictions writers (or should I say “writer” haha) and I had high hopes for its ability to keep me happily occupied for the next hour. Unfortunately, the TV show was—and I’m being polite here—absolute sh*t. Here are my main complaints:

  • The plot was ridiculous. This episode took place in a town where everyone except the local doctor and a little girl suddenly died. People were just lying on the streets in their period costumes, or keeled over their dinners of mutton and ale. Even the dogs were dead. And so were the mice—I know this because Houdini pointed out a nest of dead mice under a porch in a very obvious way in order to prove—well, I’m not actually sure what he was trying to prove. Houdini and Doyle eventually decided that everyone died due to a large cloud of carbon dioxide which had escaped from a nearby mine and which had asphyxiated the entire town. And as convoluted as that all sounds, it wasn’t even the ridiculous part. The most illogical part of the whole thing was their explanation regarding the survival of the doctor and the little girl. I was hoping beyond hope that since the show revolved around a famous magician that there might actually be a supernatural or magic-y rationale, like they were both alien mutants with super lung powers or immune to the biological weapon that the government was experimenting with or something cool, but no. The doctor was in bed having a nap, and the little girl was sick and was also in bed. Therefore, they were BELOW the gas cloud and escaped its nefarious and deadly clutches. At which point, I yelled at the TV, “WHAT ABOUT THE DEAD MICE UNDER THE PORCH?! ARE YOU SERIOUSLY TELLING ME THAT ALL THE DEAD DOGS WERE TALLER THAN THAT KID’S BED?!” Yep, it made no sense whatsoever.
  • It made even less sense later, when having “solved” the first mystery, Houdini and Doyle then prevented the assassination of the President of the United States at a hotel because they had found a note with the words “King Edward” on it, and after thinking it was about killing the King, they realized it was the name of a hotel and got there just in time. All in one episode of 45 minutes (not counting all the commercials).
  • There were no magic tricks AT ALL. Considering the show stars one of the most famous American magicians of all time, there was a surprising LACK of magic-type stuff. Not even a f*cking card trick. They should have had Houdini in a locked closet, tied up with padlocked chains, racing against time to escape and thwart the assassination. Instead, he just knocked the gun out of the guy’s hand. Boring.
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was Scottish, yet he spoke with an English accent. Yes, they sound different. The English always sound like they’re trying to schmooze you, and the Scottish always sound like they’re mad at you, thusly:
    English: Darling, can you please be quiet?
    Scottish: HAUD YER WEESHT, CHEEKY WEE BISSOM!!
    But Doyle was always like “Good Heavens! What the devil happened here, my good man?” instead of “Whit? Awae wi’ ye, numptie!” Yes, I know that the actual Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was well-educated and spoke the “Queen’s English”, but it would have added something to the show if he’d used spicy phrases and unintelligible dialect. The plot didn’t make any sense, so why should the dialogue?
  • Houdini sounded Canadian and the whole show had a distinctly Canadian feel ie: it was kind of amateur-ish, like “Murdoch Mysteries,” where a Canadian detective in the 1890s “uses radical forensic techniques of the time, including fingerprints and trace evidence, to solve gruesome murders” (imdb) along with his partner, female coroner Dr. Julie Ogden . An episode was once filmed in the town next to mine—we were at Wine Bayou bottling wine, and when my mom found out, she ran out on us mid-cork just for a glimpse of Yannick Bisson, who plays Murdoch. I’ve never seen her move so fast. Anyway, I wasn’t sure WHY I felt like it was so Canadian, then I googled it, and it turns out that the show “has Canadian producers and comes from the same production company as Murdoch Mysteries.” Mystery solved.
  • Last, throughout the show, Houdini kept insisting that you always know when you’re dreaming because “You can’t read in your dreams.” This is patently untrue. Just last night, I was reading Facebook posts in my dreams and some of them were just as annoying as they are when I’m awake—I don’t give “amens” to anything, regardless of my state of consciousness. But the kitten video was a-DOR-able.

Anyway, in keeping with the current trend of unrealistic detective duos, like Murdoch and his Victorian female coroner partner, or Houdini and Doyle, I came up with a couple of my own.

1) “What The Dickens!”: This show stars Charles Dickens and David Copperfield, played respectively by Gerard Butler (because he’s a hunky Scotsman, of course—I wouldn’t watch it otherwise) and Matt LeBlanc, the guy who played Joey from Friends. In the show, Dickens has time-travelled to the future and meets American magician David Copperfield. Together, they investigate the disappearance of many large buildings and monuments, and battle their arch-nemesis Uriah Heep, played by Betty White. Because why the hell not? After they’ve solved all the mysteries (turns out it was Copperfield all along), Dickens returns to his own time and writes a very long novel called “David Copperfield” where he makes a LOT of stuff up, (he got paid by the word, after all) but leaves out the detective/magic part because he doesn’t want his heirs to get sued by Copperfield in the future for revealing his magical techniques.

2) “Fitzgerald and Wife”: In keeping with the fine tradition of married couple detectives, this show stars F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda. Every week, they are presented with a new mystery which they fail to solve because they are too drunk.

3) “Robbie and Doug”: This is a Canadian show starring famous author Robertson Davies, who almost won a Nobel prize, and Doug Henning, Canadian magician who ran for Parliament as a candidate for the Natural Law Party, which believes that all the problems in the world can be solved by learning the art of “yogic flying”. In the show, Davies just grumbles a lot about everything because he’s like 90 years old and Scottish, and Henning solves all the crimes by flying around and meditating. (Sidenote: For my readers outside of Canada, it’s important that you understand we DON’T have a two-party system. In fact, when Henning lost the election as the Natural Law Party candidate, he came in 6th out of 10. He beat the Marxist-Leninist Party, the Abolition Party, an independent candidate, and the Green Party. We also have the Communist Party, the Pirate Party of Canada, and the Marijuana Party. I am not sh*tting you. The Communist Party wants to make Canada a Communist nation, the Pirate Party is against copyright infringement and parrot abuse, and the Marijuana Party is all about Constitutional reform and women’s rights. Obviously. No, I’m kidding—all they care about is weed. My favourite party is the Rhinoceros Party, whose platform in the last federal election included creating a lottery where players could win a seat in the Canadian Senate, which is like winning “Cash for Life”, and pledging immediate orgasms at the ballot box to anyone who voted for them.) Anyway, back to the show. It was cancelled when viewers discovered that Henning wasn’t REALLY flying—it was just special effects. If you’ve actually ever seen yogic flying, it’s actually just bouncing in a lotus position, and everyone knows you can’t solve crimes by bouncing.

(PS: I know that neither F. Scott or Zelda were magicians, but I liked it too much to leave it out on THAT technicality. Also Ken just read this, and got really huffy:

Ken: I can’t believe you criticized Murdoch Mysteries.
Me: I didn’t criticize it.
Ken: You called it poorly made and amateurish.
Me: That was a generalization. ALL Canadian shows are poorly made and amateurish.
Ken: The BBC is just as bad.
Me: What are you talking about? The BBC is awesome!
Ken: Next time you’re watching Masterpiece Theatre, pay close attention to the terrible production values!

Ken’s very patriotic, at least about TV. Another thing I love about him.)

Thursday: Plagued by aliens

At the beginning of June, T went on a bus trip to Washington D.C. He also went to 6 Flags Amusement Park, where he won a life-size, blow-up purple alien. It’s called “Trumbo”.

Me: Oh! You mean like Dalton Trumbo, the American writer and director who was unfairly blacklisted by McCarthy for being a suspected Communist?
T: What? No, our bus driver’s last name was Trumbo.

It was bad enough that half of T’s prom pictures feature him and his assorted friends hanging out with Trumbo, but SOMEONE in the house (Ken) keeps posing him in very human positions, and in very unsettling places. The first time I came downstairs and Trumbo was staring out the window with his hands on the sill was bad enough. Then he was wearing a hoodie and standing by the door, looming over me on the hall tree, or lying prostrate on the floor in front of the door after a “night on the town”. Currently, he’s leaning casually against the couch in the back room. The other day, my aunt was over and thought it was T wearing a costume, that’s how realistic it looks. So, in the near future, if I suddenly disappear, you’ll know I was abducted by aliens. And no jokes about anal probes. I’m serious, Ken.

Trumbo 1

Trumbo 2