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.

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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

My Week 92: Playground Safety, Titus the Sensitive Dog

Thursday: Playground safety

I was watching the news at lunch on Thursday, and there was a feature on “playground safety”. A very serious and sincere woman was instructing parents on how to “inspect” their local playground to make sure it was safe for their children. Her following gems of wisdom made me realize how much the lives of children have changed since I was a kid:

1) “Make sure the playground equipment is on a soft surface such as sand or wood chips.” This is so that, in case of a fall from the monkey bars, it’s less likely that the child will suffer a broken bone. Well, in my day, we didn’t have “playground equipment”. There were swings and slides, and they were usually on concrete pads, and if you happened to fall off, it was no skin off anyone’s knee but your own. The best piece of playground equipment from my childhood had to be the giant metal rocket at Churchill Park. You had to climb into it via a metal ladder that went all the way up through very tight openings to platforms at different heights. The whole structure was on a slight angle and the top platform was probably 20 feet off the ground, which made it all a little disorienting, but you were encased in a metal cage (picture a rocket-shaped Wicker Man), so it was perfectly safe unless you lost your footing and slipped off the ladder. But see, all this taught us to be CAREFUL. It was like when hockey players used to play without helmets—they thought twice before trying to block a slap shot with their heads. Now, it’s just a free-for-all, with pucks flying everywhere, and kids leaping from platform to platform or swinging maniacally off stuff without a care in the world. Really though, in my day, we had better things to do than be all supervised on a playground. The best playground in the world when I was a kid was a construction site. I remember the good old days, racing around among the nails, concrete blocks, and roof trusses, then a gang of us would swing down into the basement through an open window, and play tag. Was it dangerous? F*ck yes, it was dangerous. One time when I was too small to get in and out by myself, the neighbourhood kids swung me in, then forgot about me later when it was time to go home. After a couple of hours, my mom started to get worried and, eventually a search party found me. Sure, it was scary being down there by myself, screaming for help and whatnot, and sure, I have an intense fear of climbing through tight spaces like windows or holes in metal platforms, but it made me TOUGH. Not like these babies today.

rocket2

2) “Thoroughly inspect the equipment to ensure there are no damaged areas or sharp edges.” This is good advice for today’s playgrounds, which are all made out of plastic and easily broken. Or vandalised. Kids today, am I right? But that was the great thing about the slides and swings of my youth. They were sturdy and iron and medieval-looking and held together with giant bolts and chain ropes. You couldn’t damage them if you tried. You would literally need a gang of kids wielding sledgehammers to even dent the slide in my neighbourhood. Was the bottom edge sharp? Sure. Was it rusty? I would certainly hope so. Otherwise, what was the point of getting a f*cking tetanus shot?

3) “Teach your children about the ‘zone of safe passage’.” What the playground safety expert meant by this was that parents need to assist kids in observing other kids swinging and running, and figure out how far away they need to be from them to not get kicked or knocked down. When I was a kid, no one taught you that sh*t—you learned via the school of hard knocks, pardon the pun. In other words, if you ran by someone on the swing set and got a foot in the face, you very quickly learned the “zone of safe passage” on your own. There were no adults screaming, “Veer left, Tommy! Veer Left!! Remember the zone of safe pass—Oooh!” Our parents taught us one rule, and it was the most important rule of all: “Never chase a ball onto the road. But if you’re already playing on the road, move when you see a car coming.” That was their wisdom, and it saved my life many a time. Actually, both of my parents saved my life at one time or another. Mom saved my life at a baseball game. It was before the age of netting to protect the spectators, and a fly ball was coming straight for my head. She stuck out her hand and deflected it away. The bruise on her hand later was a very good indication of what might have happened to my skull if she hadn’t been so quick-thinking. She also saved my brother from drowning on more than one occasion. My dad saved my life one day when he happened to look out a bedroom window and saw me dangling by the collar from the branch of a pear tree in our backyard, slowly choking. I’ve never seen him run so fast. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for helping me survive to adulthood.

4) “Smoking is now banned on playgrounds, so be vigilant and remind those who might not be aware.” NO SMOKING?! What? I’m sorry, but the only reason that I’m only slightly asthmatic is because my lungs were toughened up by years of second hand smoke (and first-hand as well, of course—it WAS the seventies). It’s funny how attitudes change over the years. When I was a kid, ANYONE could buy cigarettes. I still remember my mom giving me a note and a couple of dollars, and sending me to the local store to buy her a pack of Rothmans. I’d stand there in line with the other 6 year-olds, shooting the sh*t about the latest Barbie outfits, or what construction site or vacant lot we’d be meeting at later, or what vacationing family had left their milk door unlocked, then spending the change from the cigarettes on sugar candy. (Milk door, in case you’re wondering, was a tiny door next to the actual door. The milkman would open it from the outside, put the milk in, then the family could open a second door from the inside and get the milk. If you went on vacation and forgot to lock the milk door, you were an open target for the neighbourhood kids. The smallest one, usually me, would squeeze through the opening and let the others in. So if you came back from a trip and all your cookies and cigarettes were gone, you knew you’d forgotten to lock the milk door.) But people back when I was young were not as knowledgeable about the dangers of smoking. In fact, my mom, like many women, smoked through both her pregnancies. Of course, she’ll tell you she’s glad she did, because otherwise, my brother, who has a Ph.D., and I would be “insufferable” and much taller than his 6’1” and my 5’6”. Now, of course, women are so paranoid that they won’t eat peanut butter if they’re pregnant because it “might cause allergies”. Me, I say expose ‘em early and often—it’s the best way to toughen them up. I remember once being told off by a colleague when I was pregnant with T for drinking a Pepsi. No, not because it wasn’t a Coke—she said, “Don’t you know what the caffeine might do to the baby?” I was like “Hopefully keep him awake all day so he doesn’t kick the sh*t out of my stomach tonight when we should both be sleeping.” I feel terrible though—he might have gotten MORE scholarships to university if I’d gone with Pepsi Free.

Overall, I just think that monitoring your child’s every move is counterproductive to childhood. And of course, I’m exaggerating about my own youth—my parents took very good care of me and my brother, but not in that “in your face” kind of way. My dad calls it “Carefully supervised neglect,” which to me, means that you let your kid be a kid, but you’re always there to stop the baseball or the hanging, as the case may be. Personally, I’ve tried to embrace that saying, but I get that it’s not always easy. The world seems to have become a more scary place than it was 40 years ago, or maybe as an adult, I’m just more aware of it now than I was when I was young. All I know is that the first time T wanted to go to the store by himself (it’s just around the corner and he was 10), I had to stifle every protective instinct I had. He was gone about 30 seconds when I broke down and begged Ken to act like a stealth ninja and follow him at a safe distance so T wouldn’t know he was there. Ken, of course, obliged, and came back to report that T was fine—that he had made it safely through the four-way stop and was on his way home with some sugar candy and a pack of smokes.

Saturday: Titus, the sensitive dog

Since I’ve been home in recovery mode, I’ve had a chance to spend more time with Titus, and I’ve come to realize that he’s a very sensitive dog. That is to say, he doesn’t want to hurt your feelings. I know this because he likes to jump up on the bed and cuddle, but after a while, he gets bored and wants his own space, but the way he does it is very interesting:

Me: You’re so sweet. Who’s a good boy?
Titus: Is that rhetorical? Because obviously me.
Me: That’s right. You ARE a good boy. You’re so snuggly.
Titus: Yeah, this snuggling is great. Wait—what was that?
Me: What?
Titus: That noise? Didn’t you hear it?
Me: No—where are you going?
Titus: Hang on a second. I’m just going to look out the window.
Me: Do you see anything?
Titus: No. Wait—I think it’s coming from downstairs. I’ll be right back.

Then off he goes. Half an hour later, I’ll go down, and he’s lying on the couch in the family room.

Me: What are you doing? I thought you were coming back.
Titus: Oh…I, uh…I wanted to keep watch down here in case there was a burglar or something.
Me: Or is it because there’s more room on the couch and the TV is turned to your favourite show?
Titus: Look, I’m sorry. It’s just that it’s cooler down here, and I know how much you hate the Weather Channel.
Me: Sigh. Will you come back later?
Titus: Got cookies?
Me: Yes. I’ve got cookies.
Titus: OK. As soon as the local forecast is finished.