My Week 74: Canada Goose Coats, Soap Opera Confusion

Monday: Canada Goose coats

The temperature lately has been pretty nasty, hovering around the minus 10 or minus 12 degree mark. Most people can deal with this, but apparently, from what I’ve seen, things are MUCH colder in Toronto. I mean colder in like a philosophical or hypothetical way, because it’s really no colder there than anywhere else in the province, but Torontonians always seem to feel more put upon by winter than anyone else. The second the thermometer plunges below zero, out come the heavy duty parkas. People are bundled up like it’s the North Pole, with scarves wrapped tight around their faces, earmuffs, big woolly hats, giant mittens, and mukluks. And that’s just the guys—the women are even worse, layering woolen capes on TOP of their parkas. It’s ironic, because most people in the downtown core are coming in by subway and have to walk a maximum of two blocks to get anywhere, yet you would think they were all competing in the Iditarod. Now I know that last week, I was complaining about how cold I was, but I was dressed like a normal, human person, and had to walk almost two kilometres. Unlike the majority of Torontonians who are swanning around in their Canada Goose coats (that’s an awesome mixed metaphor about birds, am I right?).

About 6 weeks ago, I began to notice a strange trend on the streets of the downtown core—2 out of 3 people that passed me by were wearing these parkas with a big, red patch on the arm. Then, at work one day, I overheard a colleague say to another, “Ooh, your Canada Goose coat finally came in! Let me see it!” I was intrigued and really excited, wondering if the coat was either a) made in the shape of a goose with wing-like arms and a goose-y hood that had a beak on it or something, or b) had a big, colourful picture of a Canada Goose on it. On a side note, I have to say that I’ve never been very impressed with the Canada Goose as a national symbol—they’re annoying, honky birds, they sh*t all over the place, and have started refusing to go south for the winter because they are the biggest lazy-asses on the planet, so now we have to deal with their feces and honking all winter long. Anyway, the coat was produced, and I was sadly disappointed to see a dun-coloured parka with a fake-fur edged hood. Then I noticed the big, red patch on the arm, and I was like “Oh—THIS is what all those people are wearing.” So I asked, “Where did you get it from?” “Oh, I had to order it specially on-line, because I wanted it in a different colour than most people.” And it’s true—so far I’d only seen navy blue or black versions, but this one was like a dull brownish-green khaki colour. A bold choice if I do say so myself.

canada goose coat

But then it occurred to me that maybe I should be more Toronto-ish and get one of these coats. They couldn’t be THAT expensive, since so many people had them. There are university students in my condo building who wear them. So I asked a friend, “Do you know anything about these coats? How much are they and where do I get one?” “Well, I know you can get them at Holt Renfrew,” she answered. “I think they run around $800-$900.”

900 f*cking dollars for an ugly parka? Was it lined with gold dust? For $900, I could buy my own portable generator and heater, and hire someone to carry them next to me, blasting hot air at me. So I decided to investigate a little and find out exactly what the deal was, why they were SO expensive. My research resulted in the following:

1) Canada Goose coats are actually made in Canada, unlike many other so-called Canadian products. Once, Ken and I wanted to buy a leather couch and we were determined to “buy Canadian”. We went to a store and picked out a couch we liked. Until the salesperson admitted that the leather and wood were FOUND in Canada, then everything was put on a container ship and sent to China, where it was assembled. Apparently, it was cheaper to hire a boat, take a 10 day voyage, and use sweat shop labour, than actually BUILD it in Canada. So this could explain why Canada Goose coats are so expensive—adults make them, as opposed to 6 year-old children.

2) The coat weighs 7 and a half pounds and has been scientifically tested to withstand temperatures up to minus 75 degrees. I can see why this is important in downtown Toronto, where people regularly take their sled dogs to work or slog through the Arctic tundra to reach the office. Like I said though, Torontonians are convinced that their city is much colder than anywhere else in the province. I’ve mentioned before that most buildings have signs obsessively ordering you to use the revolving door so as not to let the precious heat out. As far as I’m concerned, though, if the temperature ever DID fall to minus 75, it would be like that scene in The Day After Tomorrow, where people just freeze on the spot, expensive coat or not. (As an interesting side note, the Canada Goose coat made its film debut in that very movie and its weight was probably the reason that one guy fell through the glass mall ceiling to his death.)

3) It’s not a coat, it’s a way of life. The Canada Goose website refers to their coats as “luxury apparel”, which is great if your idea of luxury is a choice of three blah colours, and having to see a chiropractor from carrying its weight all day. The website extolls the “values” of the Canada Goose coat owner, who are known collectively as “Goose People”. Seriously. Goose People are “everyday heroes who strive for excellence.” They “dream big dreams” and have “can-do attitudes which inspire us”. Dude, it’s a f*cking coat, not a missionary trip. It just goes to show you what a great marketing campaign can do. The biggest dream I have about a Canada Goose coat is actually being able to afford one, but if I had that kind of disposable income, I’d spend it on more practical ways to beat the cold, like alcohol and those little hot pads that go inside your boots and mitts. Plus, I have a $50 down-filled parka, which, although it was most likely NOT made in Canada, I bought locally, thereby supporting a Canadian business. It works just fine, is not in the least pretentious, is a lovely shade of red with gold buttons, and it definitely“embodies the spirit of adventure” if your idea of adventure is surviving the subway during rush hour.

Friday: Soap Opera confusion

On Friday, T and I went to our local car dealership to have snow tires installed on his car. The day before, in the wake of a snowstorm, he had gone off the road into a ditch at the outskirts of the city where he goes to school. He called me, and I arranged for a tow truck and for my dad to go out and stay with him. I was freaked out by the whole thing, and wondered if he had been scared, but T calmly pointed out that he was a teenager, and they all thought they were immortal, so when the car went slid down the incline sideways, he really wasn’t that worried. Unlike me, who announced, “I’m buying you snow tires. Don’t argue.” I was just grateful that he wasn’t hurt. (On a side note, here’s the conversation I had with his school when I called to say he wouldn’t be in that day.

Me: I’m just calling to validate my son’s absence.
Secretary: Is he sick?
Me: No, he had a car accident. He’s a little shaken up so I told him to go home.
Secretary: So, I’ll just call it “parent-approved” then?

I’ll leave it up to you to understand how I felt that the person on the other end of the phone didn’t ask if he was injured, and seemed to believe that I had somehow AUTHORIZED him to have a car accident.)

Anyway, we were at the dealership waiting for them to install the tires. In the waiting lounge, there’s big screen TV, and since it was the middle of the afternoon, there was a soap opera on. I’ve never actually watched a soap opera, but I recognized it from the strange way it was filmed. T had never seen one either, and we weren’t very interested at first, reading stuff on our phones, until suddenly T poked me and said, “What the hell is this crazy show?” I looked up and a man and woman were talking. She was fully made up with bright red lipstick and he looked like he’d been crying. Then the camera pulled back—they were both standing on the ledge of a building. I always thought soap operas were about romance and rich people, but this was really weird, so we started to watch. It’s hard to pick up a storyline midstream but here’s what we gleaned.

The girl on the ledge, or the guy, or both have been shot. She wants him to jump off the building with her for some unknown reason. She is wearing a hospital gown, and they both have matching bullet wounds. They argue then gaze into the distance. The camera cuts away.

A blonde woman is arguing with a doctor. He’s been keeping secrets (about what, it’s not clear), but the name Tony is mentioned. She’s upset about Kiki being shot. Who the hell is Kiki? How is Tony involved? Did he shoot Kiki? They gaze into the distance. The camera cuts away.

Another blonde woman is talking to a man called Sonny. Her hands are covered in blood. He seems to be a gangster type—is she his wife? She’s also upset about what happened to Kiki, and seems to be accusing him of having something to do with it, prompting T and me to ask each other, “What happened to Kiki? Do you know?!” Neither of us do. We all gaze into the distance. The camera cuts away.

An older man comes into the room where the first blonde woman is waiting. She slaps him across the face and tells him that none of this would have happened if he hadn’t blackmailed her into…smuggling guns? Is he Tony? Did he shoot Kiki? In the foreground, a nurse with a heavy German accent says to a doctor, “Zere is someone on ze roof.” They all gaze into the distance. The camera cuts away.

We’re back on the roof. The girl and the guy are arguing more heatedly. Another man comes to the door and sees the guy. “Tony, what are doing up there?” he asks. Finally, we know who Tony is. “Oh, Kiki, I can’t live without you, and I can’t live with what I’ve done to you,” he replies, looking at the girl. “Who are you looking at?” asks the other guy. The camera pans back, the girl is gone, and Tony no longer has a bullet wound. T and I look at each other and gasp. The girl is a figment of his imagination! The other man backs through the door, leaving Tony alone on the ledge. Nice friend, that one. Maybe he shot Kiki and doesn’t want Tony to know. Tony gazes into the distance. The camera cuts away.

The second blonde woman is now in a public bathroom. She finds a scrub brush and starts scrubbing the blood from her hands. Suddenly a really hot, half-naked man appears. Apparently, this is a MAGIC bathroom. They argue about doctor-patient confidentiality and he wraps her hands in bandages because she’s scrubbed them raw. Did the blonde woman shoot Kiki? Could this be an homage to Lady Macbeth trying to scrub the guilt from her soul? Are the people who make soap operas really that well-read? We all gaze into the distance and the camera cuts away…

…to a police precinct where apparently only two woman work because there is literally no other cop in the entire building. They are arguing. The older woman is begging the younger cop for a favour. “Just give me a few weeks,” she says. “Then I’ll tell you everything you need to know about Sonny, and Don, and Carlos, and Andy.” Ok, we know who Sonny is, but who the hell are all these other guys? Suddenly the older man from the previous scene who blackmails people into gun smuggling appears. “Captain, what can I do for you?” says the female cop. Captain?! He’s blackmailing people into arms dealing and HE’S the Captain of the police precinct? They argue and he tears up a warrant that she has for the first blonde woman. “I’ve given her immunity,” says the Captain.  For what?  we wonder. Did SHE shoot Kiki? Because at one point, we were sure she was Kiki’s mother. This is getting more confusing. They gaze into the distance. The camera cuts away.

We’re back on the roof. The doctor from a previous scene is there, trying to talk Tony off the ledge. Suddenly Sonny appears. It turns out that he’s Tony’s father. He jumps up on the ledge with Tony and… offers to jump with him. T and I hope he’s bluffing—we’ve grown quite fond of the both of them. More people arrive, and finally, Tony comes down off the ledge and into the arms of his gangster dad. The credits roll.

T and I look at each other. “So who the hell shot Kiki?” he asks. “Damned if I know,” I reply. We gaze into the distance.

My Week 73: Quirky Conferences, Motion Detector Lights

Thursday: I go to a conference

I was lucky enough this week to have been given funding to attend a local education conference with a colleague. The conference overall was an excellent experience, but not without some quirks. I’m not sure if this is typical of all conferences in general, but it was my first time attending one of these things and it was at times, bizarre. It was at a local hotel, and I decided on Thursday morning that walking would be a good idea, which it totally wasn’t, since the temperature was like minus 12 degrees, or what I like to call “f*cking freezing”, which is a technical term we use in Canada for pretty much anything below minus 5. By the time I arrived at the hotel, I was dying from that insane itchiness you get when you’re out in the cold then you come into someplace warm and your skin feels like it’s being eaten by piranhas. Plus, I was ten minutes late because I have a TERRIBLE sense of how long it takes to get anywhere, and this is not made any better by the strange Torontonian idea of what a “block” actually is. In most towns, a block is the distance between intersections, but in Toronto, the intersections can be at least a kilometre apart, so when someone says, “Oh it’s only three blocks away”, that can mean 40 minutes of what I call “lost walking”, where you walk and walk, the whole time feeling like you must have gone past your destination, and you keep asking people how much further it is, and they just keep saying, “Oh, it’s like one more block”.

At any rate, I was in pain, but happy to be inside, and I made my way to the registration desk. A very cheery woman took my name, gave me a lanyard with ID on it, then told me to hand in my ticket at another table for my “swag bag”. Swag bag?!! Now this was more like it—I was really excited because I know at the Academy Awards, the swag bag has things in it like make-up, and expensive jewellery, and coupons to Pizza Hut. After paying $3.50 to check my coat (I know, right?! What a rip-off), I presented my ticket and was handed a red, plastic bag, like a grocery bag. It felt pretty light, like it was filled with paper. “Is this the swag?” I asked the woman.

“Well, it’s the bag,” she said. “You can use it to put things in.”

This was sounding more and more like when I got my eyes lasered and thought the blue bags everyone was getting must be full of treats, but it was just cheap sunglasses and an eye drop schedule. Which was still one step up from this bag, which was, upon further examination, filled with paper. At least my laser bag had sunglasses in it, even if they weren’t Chanel or Dolce and Gabbana. And I already had a bag to put things in. So I shoved the plastic bag inside my own bag, feeling a little let down by the lack of swag, and went into the conference. Over the next two days, here are some other things that bewildered me, prompting me to ask the following questions:

1) Is it normal and not-rude for people to just walk out of a session while the speaker is still speaking?

The first thing I did that morning was see the keynote speaker, a famous, former football star who now spoke about his previous career and the importance of finishing his education. He was wonderful, very funny, and obviously had worked hard to put this speech together. I was standing at the back because of the lack of available seats, and wishing that someone would leave, so maybe this whole thing was my fault, because after about ten minutes, people just started getting up and walking out. I was happy at first—like a ninja, I quickly and silently slid into a vacant seat. Then it got super-distracting, as people just kept getting up and leaving, you know, with those little apologetic half-smiles as they make their way down the row to reach the aisle then scurry away like no one noticed them. By the time the football player was nearing the end of his speech, which was entertaining, funny, and emotionally moving, so definitely NOT boring, gangs of attendees were fleeing. And when he got to audience questions, people weren’t even QUIET anymore. They acted like it was the end of the movie and the credits were rolling, leisurely sauntering out and discussing where they were going for dinner. I wanted to yell, “Sit the f*ck down!” because I had checked the schedule and there were no other activities for another 45 minutes. Where the hell were they all going? It turns out—NOWHERE. The same people who were scuttling out of the grand hall were just standing around in the mezzanine when the session finally finished.

This happened on more than one occasion over the next two days, when attendees started abandoning the room with about ten minutes to go, causing the poor presenters to have to talk over the noise. Some of them would speed up their presentation, as if talking faster would make people more interested. It was really stressful—you could see the self-doubt on their faces, like “Am I boring?” No, but it’s almost lunchtime, and god forbid the tables in the food court are all taken.

2) Do presenters practice their presentations so they know how much time they’ll need?

The answer to this question is apparently not, as every session I attended finished with “Oh my god—I have so much more material to cover! How much time do I have? 3 minutes? OK, let’s see how many more PowerPoint slides I can whip through—I only have 50 left, but I think we can do this…” It was an unfortunate truth that the main point of each presentation got glossed over in the last few minutes. One poor woman was literally freaking out and exclaiming, “This is SO stressful! I’M SO STRESSED OUT!” I felt like saying, “You’re not the only one.” So, a word to the wise—plan accordingly, and time yourself so that you can end with the ending, not with the middle.

3) Am I really old?

I ask this because I came prepared to each session with a notepad and a pen. I took notes, old school style. Unlike the majority of the people in the room, most of them younger than me. Whenever a PowerPoint would go to the next slide, cell phones and Ipads would quickly rise above the crowd and everyone else would snap a picture of what was on the screen. EVERY screen. Presenters kept saying, “All of this information is on my website,” but it didn’t make any difference. It was like being at a rock concert but instead of screaming and lighters being waved around, it was eerie silence and cameras hovering in the air.

4) Are gluten-free meals the same as vegetarian meals?

Yes. At least at the Sheraton. I went to the keynote breakfast on Friday morning, featuring a marvellous Canadian writer. When I registered electronically, I indicated the gluten-free option for the meal. When the food came, it was an omelette topped with a poached egg, smothered in some kind of sauce. Aside from the overabundance of ovum, I was worried that the sauce might have flour in it, so reminded the waiter that I needed the GF meal. “Can you just bring me one with the omelette and nothing else on top?”

“Oh, don’t worry—we have special meal for you,” he said.

What he brought me was this: a plate of potato wedges, asparagus, and cherry tomatoes (fine), with a bowl of plain, poached eggs swimming in water (absolutely, pukily disgusting). I couldn’t even look at them—it was like the eyes of death staring at me. I should probably clarify at this point that I have an EXTREME aversion to any type of egg where the yolk and the white are not completely blended. Yes, I know it’s weird, but it’s based on childhood trauma. Once, when I was little, I looked into the refrigerator and saw a bowl containing a perfect canned peach half floating in delicious syrup. I didn’t question its existence—I just did what any child would do. I dipped my finger into the syrup then licked my finger. It was NOT a peach. It was an egg.  So, blech.  I made the waiter take away the eggs and ate the vegetables, which were fine and NOT vomit-inducing. Then I looked around and realized that my meal was apparently the fallback for the vegetarian option, as well as the kosher meal. Now as far as kosher goes, I think it has something to do with how animals are slaughtered, so I guess the eggs were cracked properly? But as for it being vegetarian—I ask again, as I have in previous blog posts (see My Week 60: Facebook Quizzes), since when are eggs vegetables? Just because they don’t have legs now doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have grown up to be actual animals if Farmer Brown hadn’t stolen the mother hen’s babies. I was talking to a guy later that day, and he was like, “Oh yes, I’m a strict vegetarian, although I do sometimes eat things with eggs in them, like cake and stuff.”

5) Am I five years old?

This is the opposite of number three. I ask this because A) in the Exhibitor’s Hall, I was accosted by someone dressed as “Clifford, The Big, Red Dog” in one of those Disney-like animal costumes, and a photographer who wanted to know if I’d like my picture taken with him. Why would I ever want that? I had no small children with me, and I don’t have a “furry” fetish, which is where you want to make out with someone dressed in a fur costume, but trust me—that dog was nowhere near hot enough. Sweaty, yes, but hot, no. B) I arrived at a session and took a seat at a table near the back. “No!” said the presenter. “You can’t sit back there. I need you to sit at this table near the front.”

“But I don’t want to sit there,” I said. I might have sounded a little petulant, but I hate sitting near the front—what if I need to go to the bathroom? Then everyone watches you leave and it’s really embarrassing.

“Well you have to,” she ordered.

It wasn’t long into the session when she showed us a movie trailer which ended with a donkey being hit and killed by a car. “I probably wouldn’t show that to a lower elementary class,” she said.

Really? Maybe because a donkey just got murdered? I didn’t want to see that, let alone exposed small children to it. Then she told us we were going to watch it AGAIN. But I couldn’t even sneak out, because I was sitting NEAR THE FRONT.

6) Is a presentation more enjoyable when there’s a sign language interpreter?

Absolutely! My last session on Friday featured a well-known guru with great ideas, but who spoke in a bit of a monotone. Fortunately, there were two sign language interpreters with her, who more than made up for her lack of style. These women were SO expressive and enthusiastic that I listened to the speaker but watched THEM the whole time. Way more entertaining. I don’t know where they get their training, but the way they were signing, it must have been the Royal Shakespeare Company. There was comedy, betrayal, death, and romance—never has “Developing Non-Fiction Writing Skills” been so exciting. Like Game of Thrones meets the Weather Channel.

Overall, it was a great time, and a wonderful learning experience. As for the swag, I DID get two free books and a USB stick, which was almost as good as a Cartier watch and made the bag completely useful.

Friday Night: Motion detector lights

On Friday night, I came home from Toronto. I went into the walk-in closet to get changed, reached up to pull the chain on the light to turn it on, but couldn’t find it.

Ken: The chain broke this week.
Me: How do I get the light on then?
Ken: I installed a motion detector light bulb.
Me: But I’m IN the closet. Why hasn’t it come on?
Ken:  You have to come out of the closet. Now walk to the right, along the side of the bed. Now walk to the left and move towards the bathroom door. Take two steps forward, then hop one step back on kind of an angle.
Me: What?
Ken: You did it wrong that time. Try it again. This time, make it more of a 30 degree angle instead of a 45 degree angle.
Me: Can’t you just get another chain?
Ken: No, this is way better. Oh, by the way, when you’re finished, you have to shut the closet door. If Titus walks past, he triggers the light.
Me: I didn’t realize Titus could do Country Line Dancing.
Ken: You’ll get used to it.

Ken was right. Now, if I want the closet light on, I just hum “Achy, Breaky Heart”, the magic takes over, and it’s all good.

My Week 72: Classics with a Twist, Valentine’s Day Competition

Wednesday: Classics with a twist

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

At any rate, I didn’t know what to expect with the movie. “Pride and Prejudice” is one of my favourite novels, and when it was originally written, there was nary a hint of zombie within its pages. I figured it would just be a cheesy excuse for blood and gore, wrapped in an Edwardian cloak. I was actually pleasantly surprised that not only was the original storyline intact, the integration of the zombie storyline was well-done and not illogical at all. Well, except for the fact that there were ZOMBIES. You can never really get away from the illogic of that. Still. But then my brother told me that there was another Jane Austen rewrite called “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters”, and I was like “WTF? Now we’re really stretching it. I’ve read that book, and it took place mostly on the moors. Is this going to be like ‘Snow Sharks’, where the sharks leave their natural habitat and swim through the snow, attacking unwary skiers?” (Okay, yes, I DID watch that movie, only because the only other thing on TV that night was reruns of ‘Two and a Half Men’, and I would rather gouge out my own eyes than watch Charlie Sheen in ANYTHING. “Snow Sharks” was much better, which isn’t saying a lot.) So I got to thinking that maybe I should hop on this bandwagon, and I came up with a few ideas of my own for integrated storylines.

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

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

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

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

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

Friday: Valentine’s Day should not be a competition

It happens every year, on pretty much every occasion—I get outdone by Ken. It’s bad enough that I have a terrible memory and Ken writes EVERYTHING down:

Ken: Guess what day it is today??!!
Me: Oh, god, no. What day is it?
Ken: It’s the 7
th
year anniversary of our third date! Here, I got you a little something…
Me: Sigh.

But it’s worse on the major occasions. We’ve been married for over 25 years, and Valentine’s Day is no longer a big deal. Or so I thought. But yesterday, this was the conversation:

Ken: Is it OK if I drop you off at the grocery store? I went to three different places yesterday, and I can’t find the thing I want to get you for Valentine’s Day.
Me: What? You don’t have to get me anything. It’s not a big deal.
Ken: No, I have this thing in mind. You’re really going to like it.
Me: All I got you was some chocolate…
Ken: That’s OK. I just want to get you something special. Do you want to know what it is?
Me: Um…OK?
Ken: It’s a digital picture frame!
Me: But that’s really expensive. All I got you was chocolates.
Ken: But you’re worth it. Don’t worry about it.

So this morning, he gave me a beautiful digital picture frame so I could have pictures of him, T, Titus, Raven, and all kinds of flowers, clouds, fences, and trees when I’m in Toronto. But I won in the end though:

Me: Here’s your chocolate. AND YOUR CARD.
Ken: Oh no! I forgot to get you a card. I’m so sorry.
Me: That’s OK. The present was enough. Don’t worry about it.

I may have snickered a little smugly to myself at that point. But don’t tell Ken. He’ll always be MY Valentine.

 

My Week 71: Subway Etiquette, Don’t Mix Wine and Cold Medication

Wednesday: Subway etiquette

Every morning, right before I go into my office building (by the regular door, NOT the revolving door. And yes, I choose to ignore the sign that says “Please use the revolving door. Help us conserve heat” on the grounds that a) the building keeps its lights on all night, so let’s not get all uppity about ME wasting power and b) I have an irrational fear of revolving doors and it’s just better for everyone if I’m not shrieking and panicking first thing in the morning. Sorry for the long sidebar), I get a copy of The Metro, a kind of local paper from this poor guy who stands by the subway entrance every morning looking like he’s DYING from the cold, I mean like he’s in PAIN. They must pay him a lot to do this, because I know there’s no way in hell I would pass out newspapers in this weather for less than like a gazillion dollars and all the wine I could drink. The Metro focuses mostly on downtown Toronto events and features writers who are not quite at the national level, but it’s still interesting and has good recipes on Thursdays. On Wednesday, there was an article about “subway etiquette”. It wasn’t anything earth-shattering, pretty common-sense stuff like “Let people off the car before you enter” and “Be aware of your surroundings as not to hit people with your shopping bags”. After reading through the article, it occurred to me that the author had obviously NEVER BEEN on the subway, because if this is all she thinks is needed to make the subway a pleasant experience for everyone, she’s living in a fantasyland. The same fantasyland where the downtown corridor DOESN’T smell like urine and garbage and people DON’T bark at you on the escalator in College Park. (I told a colleague about being barked at, and she said, “Oh that guy. He’s barked at me before” like it was a perfectly normal thing to do.)

At any rate, after reading The Metro’s tips for subway travellers, I decide to put together my own list of do’s and don’ts for Riding The Rocket. That’s not a euphemism for other “downtown activities”, it’s the cute slogan that the Toronto Transit Commission uses to encourage people to use public transit.

1) Don’t spit in the recycling bins on the platform. The other day, I was waiting for the subway, standing near the containers for recycling, paper, and litter, when a well-dressed woman crossed in front of me and spat into the recycling bin. All I could think was “Whuh?” Like, it literally made me inarticulate in my own head. Ken has this obsession with washing empty cans and jars in the dishwasher, and I always tell him it’s a waste of time because the recycling people will just wash everything when they get it anyway. I made that up to bug him, but now I really hope it’s true. If you really have to spit in public, like if there’s absolutely NO F*CKING WAY you can help it, at least use the litter bin. That sh*t’s just going to the dump, not reappearing as a yogurt container or a juicebox with someone’s expectorant imbedded in it.

2) Don’t talk to yourself. People get scared when you do that, especially if you’re having an obviously angry and animated conversation with someone imaginary, or with the cigarette packet in your front pocket. Your own personal narrative needs to stay in your own personal head. Or bring a puppet with you so that people will think you’re a ventriloquist; a whole new career might be waiting.

3) No dancing to invisible music. I’ve actually seen this more than once. The first time, it was a woman (I think) in what seemed to be a full burqa with nothing visible except her eyes. Then suddenly, she started doing this crazy dance up the aisle towards the door and waited there for another three stops, just jiving away. She might have had earphones on under her headcovering, but based on her behaviour, I was like “I don’t think she’s really Muslim…” Then there are the guys who play air-guitar, who drum on the seats, or just randomly sing along to whatever the alien chip in their tooth is broadcasting. It’s like unintentional busking where NO ONE wants to give you money—they just want you to get off the subway.

4) Don’t laugh when the subway turns into “Inception”. This isn’t so much an etiquette tip, but just a reminder for myself. The Toronto subway has these new cars that swivel so they can follow the tracks more smoothly. They’re white inside with red seats, very futuristic, and when they start going around the corner, they bend. If you’re sitting in the middle, all of a sudden the cars ahead and behind you will swing away and kind of disappear, just like things were all weird and bendy in the movie “Inception”. When the curve turns into a straightaway again, the cars all swing back into a straight line. It’s quite possibly the coolest thing I’ve ever seen, and every time it happens, I grin maniacally to myself. I can’t help it. And people either look at me strangely, or kind of nod and smile back, like they get it too. Here’s a picture of what it looks like; although it’s hard to tell, the next car has swung away. I’ve also included a picture of a squirrel who looks the same way I look EVERY TIME IT HAPPENS. No wonder I get weird looks.

subway

imagessquirrel (2)

5) Sit the f*ck down. What is wrong with people who INSIST on standing in the middle of the car when there are perfectly good seats available? Try taking the subway at rush hour when half the seats are open, but you can barely get on or off the car for all the people just standing there like idiots. Some of them are reading. If you’re that afraid of coming into contact with another human being that you would hold a book in one hand, hold the bacteria-ridden pole with the other, and try to maintain your balance in a moving vehicle for 5 kilometers, maybe you should just stay home. Me, I prefer to sit whenever I can, because you never know what’s going to happen. See number 6.

6) When you can’t get a seat and your subway car stops dead in the middle of the tracks, and you’re told the delay will be at least an hour and your arthritis is flaring really badly, do what I do—sink to the floor and sit there. At least 5 people will immediately jump up and offer you their seat, and when you struggle to get up, they will band together to lift you and support you. Because we all recognize that if you’re desperate and in enough pain to sit on the disgustingly dirty subway floor, you need some help. The subway might be a hotbed of weirdness at times, but people in Toronto are wonderful in a crisis.

Friday: Don’t take cold pills and drink alcohol.

This actually happened a week ago Friday, but I wasn’t ready to talk about it until now. I’m only telling it today because I think it’s important that people know how easily something like this can happen, and how the cold medication people play down the whole “mixing alcohol with this sh*t” issue. I was really sick last week, and finally resorted to taking a cold and sinus medication containing pseudophenedrine. It was OK in Toronto, where I would take it before bed and then go to sleep, but a week ago Friday, I was on the train, and I was feeling really crappy. I had a glass of wine, and right before I got off, I popped a couple of cold pills. Ken picked me up and we went to visit my aunt, where I had another glass of wine, which I didn’t quite finish. Then we went to Dominos for take-out pizza, and while we were waiting, we went to the pub across the street to have a drink. So not quite three glasses of wine in about two hours. Let me state for the record that I’m usually able to drink as much wine as I want at any time of the day, on the assumption that “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere” as my dad likes to say. In fact, it’s 5 o’clock while I’m writing this. Somewhere.

So we picked up the pizza, and then I had to go to the bathroom, so Ken stopped at McDonald’s. That’s the LAST THING I remember until I woke up in bed at around 10 pm. I don’t remember the drive home (thank god Ken was behind the wheel). I don’t remember eating dinner. I CERTAINLY don’t remember the terrible argument I had with T (and we rarely have a wrong word between us), where I ordered Ken out of the room, then irrationally insisted that T make a list of all the furniture he needed for university next year. When he refused, I got furious and told him that he needed to decide now, because “two months is like twenty years when you’re a teenager”, and I don’t even know what that means. I absolutely don’t remember bawling and accusing him of “leaving me forever.” I also don’t remember getting ready for bed. All I know is that I woke up at ten, looked at Ken and said, “What are we doing right now?” Ken just snorted derisively and kept watching TV. I said, “I’m going down to get a glass of wine. Do you want anything?” at which point, he looked and me and said, “I think YOU’VE had enough.” Then he told me what happened. I was totally confused and embarrassed. The package of cold pills didn’t say anything about not drinking alcohol, and even on the internet, it just said that mixing them with alcohol could make you sleepy. Then I read some other anecdotal stories from people who’d had similar experiences with the same cold medication—one guy said he had to go back to the pub the next day and apologize to his mates for being a belligerent assh*le, but he didn’t remember a thing after the second pint. So here’s a warning for you all. You never know how you’re going to react when you mix alcohol and medication, so better safe than sorry—don’t take the medication. (What? Did you really think I was going to say “Don’t drink”?! You know me better than that.)