Just a mid-week quickie where I was asked to write about how I got my first novel published. That’s the infamous Titus in the photo with me:-)
Kate: Where’s Dad?
Me: He’s out on the porch.
K: What’s he doing?
K: He’s what?
Me: Spackling. He’s spackling the railing.
K: Why do I feel like you’re just inventing words now?
Me: It’s a real word!
K: Use it in a sentence.
Me: Your dad is spackling the railings with…spackle.
K: So now it’s a verb AND a noun? I don’t buy it. Hey, Dad!
K: What are you doing?
Ken: I’m using spackle to spackle the railings.
K (*rolls eyes*): You people.
Me: By the way, it’s your fault the house is haunted.
And then I had to explain how it came to be that I was blaming my only child for the series of spooky events that had recently befallen us. Last Tuesday, I came home from work, went upstairs to change, and noticed that the linen cupboard at the back of the house was wide open. So I went downstairs and asked Ken if he had opened it. He hadn’t. And neither had I. In fact, we couldn’t remember the last time someone had taken something out of that particular cupboard. Then I messaged Kate, who also hadn’t opened it.
Still, there had to be a logical explanation, right? Maybe it swung open on its own, right? Except that the door is extremely tight in the frame and needs a very strong tug to move it. Then, on Wednesday, I went upstairs to said cupboard to prove to myself that the door could have quite possibly opened on its own.
While I was standing there and tugging, I happened to glance to my right and realized that the guest bedroom door was half-closed. Which it hadn’t been the night before when I was getting my work clothes out of the closet in that exact guest bedroom. I stopped tugging on the linen cupboard and pushed open the guest bedroom door. Guess what I saw? My eyes immediately went to the bookcase in the corner of the bedroom, whose door was now wide open, a door which had been closed tight via a magnetic latch the night before when I was getting my work clothes out of the closet. So I did what any normal person would do—I backed out of the room very quietly, backed down the hall, tiptoed down the stairs and found Ken:
Me (*whispering shakily*) The door to the bookcase in the back bedroom is now wide open.
Me: Come and see.
Ken (*staring at bookcase*) Are you sure it wasn’t like this before? Did you get a book out of there today?
Me: I took a book out a couple of days ago but I closed it. It was still shut last night. Ken, we need to search the house.
Ken didn’t argue. But after looking under all the beds, in all the closets, which was a little terrifying to say the least, thinking that some random stranger might suddenly jump out at us, we both had to admit that there was no one in the house. As Ken put it, “There’s no physical presence here.”
Which, of course, leads me to the only explanation I can think of. At the beginning of the week, Ken and Kate decided to break apart the old stone stoop in front of our house with sledgehammers to make a new set of stairs with a “better slope”. While they were merrily demolishing it, they must have released some kind of spirit, who flew into the house after years of captivity, and whose only desire was to snuggle up in flannel with a good book. When I mentioned it to both of them yesterday in what some might call an accusatory tone, Ken’s immediate reaction was, “It was Kate’s idea!” Kate, of course, had a better explanation, that the sledgehammering had shifted the house slightly and gravity had caused all the doors to move. We went upstairs to try out the theory—the linen cupboard, if not closed properly, WILL swing all the way open. The bookcase door WILL NOT.
I’ve told a couple of friends about this and the advice has ranged from ‘put salt in all the corners of the room’ to ‘install motion sensor cameras’. But there haven’t been any more incidents since Wednesday, so maybe it was just a fly-by-night phantom. Fingers crossed.
Last week, Ken and I decided to get rid of our landline. We both have cell phones, and no one EVER calls us on the landline except for telemarketers. At first it was fun toying with them:
Telemarketer: Good day. I’m Sanjay, and I’m calling with an exciting offer to clean your ducts.
Me: Well, I don’t have any ducks, but I DO have a very dirty goose. Do you think your company can handle that? He gets a little hissy with strangers and might poop on your agent.
Telemarketer: Pardon me?
Me: Is the shampoo bio-degradable? Does it contain sulphates or is it like the stuff they advertise on TV when they have to rescue birds from oilspills?
Telemarketer: (*hangs up*)
After a while though, it gets boring:
Telemarketer: Good day. I’m Sanjay and I’m calling–
Me: It’s an open concept house. No ducts. Goodbye.
In fact, the last time an actual person I know called the house, it was over a month ago:
Dad: Were you exercising? You sound out of breath.
Me: Good one. No, I was RUNNING FOR THE HOUSE PHONE. You know, my cell phone was right next to me.
Dad: Oh, ha ha. Anyway, I was calling for Ken.
Me: He’s out right now, sorry.
Dad: Well, when he gets home, can you ask him–
Me: Why don’t you call him on his cell phone and ask him yourself?
Dad: Oh, I, er—I don’t think I have his number.
Me: It’s 555-1236.
Dad: That number sounds really familiar.
Me: Maybe because it’s Ken’s CELL PHONE NUMBER.
Dad: No, I think it was a year.
Me: Like a year in the 13th century? Maybe it was a really bad year.
Dad: It was the Middle Ages. Presumably, they were ALL bad years. Anyway, I’ll call Ken myself.
Me: Are you going to call him on YOUR cell phone?
Dad: Oh, I, er—I left it in the car.
So most of the time, the house phone sits idle, and between the cost of the phone itself, the line to the house, and the long distance plan that costs up to $10 a month in service charges even though we no longer call anyone long distance, and the fact that we both have cell phones, the whole thing seemed kind of pointless. So I called Bell. I had to call them on the landline because I have a company cell phone with Rogers and I didn’t want to seem disloyal. Which is good because they put me through to their “Loyalty Department”. I explained to the woman what I wanted, which was to get rid of the home phone but keep the line for our satellite and internet because we live out in the country and have to be hardwired to everything. She was very sweet and understanding:
Bell Rep: I understand. You want to get rid of the home phone because you both have cell phones, am I correct?
Me: Yes, that’s right.
Bell Rep: Well, I can certainly do that. It just concerns me though.
Bell Rep: Well, if you ever have to call 911 on your home phone, the police and ambulance will automatically have your address. What if you call 911 on your cell phone and you’re too incapacitated to tell them where you live?
Me: Isn’t what you’re describing a ‘worst case scenario’?
Bell Rep: Possibly, but—
Me: You had me at ‘911’.
I talked to her for a little while longer, then I got off the phone and found Ken:
Ken: Did you cancel the landline?
Me: Don’t be silly. Picture this scenario—I’m alone in the house and I’m having a heart attack, but I’m too incapacitated to tell the 911 operator where I live. I could DIE, KEN!
Ken: Okay, so we’re keeping the landline?
Me: Obviously. Also, a guy is coming tomorrow to install our new high speed internet. But we’re getting a discount on our movie package because we’re such good loyal customers. I think it will all balance out.
And now I have to cancel our long-distance plan. Wish me luck.
I know that a lot of workplaces have group obsessions: some are fixated on a certain TV show, like Game of Thrones or Survivor (mostly because a lot of offices FUNCTION like Game of Thrones or Survivor, where they’re constantly trying to either stab each other in the back for control over Westeros or vote each other off the island), some have football/basketball/bowling pools where they discuss results ad nauseum, and some are relentless in their discussions about certain kinds of special diets and recipe swapping. I was never very much interested in any of these types of group activities—I might be in the hockey pool but my only contribution to any discussion about hockey is “That guy has a cool name. Why didn’t I pick him?!”— and I find myself in the same boat yet again. My colleagues are lovely people, a highly professional and somewhat esoteric group, who don’t watch a lot of TV, don’t follow sports, and aren’t really the “recipe-swapping” type. But they DO have a group obsession, and unfortunately for me, it’s EXERCISE. These people exercise ALL THE TIME. They talk about exercise, they have fitness plans, they are the most physically fit people I have ever met. It puts me to shame. I have to tell you right up front that I don’t exercise. EVER. My idea of exercising is pausing Netflix, walking downstairs to the refrigerator, and pouring another glass of wine. The closest I ever came to having an actual fitness plan was once, a few years ago, I bought a recumbent cycle, which is a kind of exercise cycle where you can sit in a comfortable reclining position while your feet do all the work. So it’s like walking fast, but the rest of your body gets to take a break. Awesome. And the best part is that you can drink while you do it. It was the most relaxing fitness plan ever—I would pour a glass of wine, sit in my Lazyboy/exercise machine and peddle away until I had burned off enough calories to offset the wine. After a while, the machine broke (I may or may not have spilled some Chardonnay on the control panel), and I moved on to a more satisfactory level of exercise, which is to say, none at all.
But now I feel the peer pressure of working with people who LOVE to exercise. They all have these electronic wristband things that tell them how many steps they’ve taken in one day. How many f*cking STEPS, you heard me. Last month, after walking the perimeter of the conference centre where we were working in order to discuss plans for the day, one of my colleagues cheerfully announced that we had just put in 3, 000 steps. I was like, whuh? And she explained that her goal was to reach 10,000 steps each day so now she only had 7,000 to go. I wanted to ask if there was like a medal or some chocolate as a prize, because I would be all over that, but from what I gathered, it’s simply an intrinsically motivated goal, which is to say, THERE IS NO PRIZE AT ALL.
Then the other day we were sitting at lunch, and everyone was sharing their plans for later. One person was going to Zumba class (I thought Zumba was the name of the elephant in A Jungle Book, but apparently it’s some kind of weird Latin fusion/cardio/dance thing). Another person was going to Aquafit, which is exercise that takes place in the water. I call this “having a vigorous bath”, but apparently Aquafit is also a cardio thing for people who need low impact exercise, having blown out their knee last year doing extreme yoga. EXTREME YOGA? WTF? I can’t even sit cross-legged anymore, never mind “extreme” cross-legged sitting. Someone else was taking tennis lessons and was gearing up for a sweaty evening on the court. The last person was “going for a run” because she needed to get back into shape for a marathon next month. (Who in their right mind “goes for a run”? The only time I run is if something is chasing me). Then they all started reminiscing about other types of classes they had taken in the past, sharing war stories about step class, and crazy instructors who went too fast or were too demanding, and so on. Then there was a lull in the conversation, and they all looked at me expectantly. What was I going to say—“I tried kickboxing once but the gloves were too heavy”? So I smiled nervously, stopped eating my cheesecake and said, “Does anyone have a good recipe for quinoa?”
Fun At Home 1
Me: (*goes into Ken’s bathroom): Ergh! Why are all the toilet paper rolls white?! How am I supposed to make my toilet look like it’s smoking a cigar?
Me: Nothing. (*leaves bathroom)
10 minutes later
Me: Come and look at my toilet. I saw how to do this on Facebook.
Ken: Haha! Hey, the paper towel rolls are brown. We could use one of those and it would look like the toilet was smoking a cigarillo.
Me: See, this is why I married you.
Fun At Home 2
Ken: Aw, the screen on this door is ripping.
Me: Good job I bought some spline the other day.
Ken: Yes, I used that spline on the kitchen door.
Me: It’s good spline.
Ken: Very good spline.
Me: Do you think we just like saying ‘spline’ A LOT?
Both: Spline, spline, spline, spline, spline!!!
Me: What a great word. Do you think it’s out of our system now?
Ken: I should spline so.
Lately, Ken and I have been consumed with watching reality shows. No, not reality shows like The Bachelor or Big Brother, which we have never watched because, let’s face it, even if you like those shows, you have to admit they’re pretty dumb:
Bachelor Guy: I was going to give you a rose, but then you ate sushi in a weird way.
Girl: I’m so sad now.
House Guy: I was going to save you, but then you ate all the sushi.
Girl: I didn’t eat all the sushi. It was Bob! And he ate it in a weird way!
House Guy: Bob! I might have known. You are evicted!
And please bear in mind that I have NEVER watched either of these shows and just made the previous sh*t up based on what I’ve seen on Twitter. I have no idea if I’m even close.
Ken and I, however, have been watching these very avant-garde-y reality/competition shows. The first thing we really got into was Forged in Fire, where 4 blacksmiths faceoff against each other to create knives and daggers and swords and whatnot. In the first round, they have to make a weapon and then test it on stuff like dead fish and sheep carcasses. Then it’s narrowed down to two finalists who go back to their “home forge” to create a super-weapon and isn’t a HOME FORGE the most incredible thing that you could possibly have? Like, “Hey honey—I might be late for dinner because I’m making a giant f*cking sword in my HOME FORGE”. Anyway, it’s a very cool show, with a judge whose only job is to attack things with the contestants’ blades and then say, very proudly like a happy dad, “Your blade will cut. Your blade will kill.”
The newest show we just watched on Netflix is called “Blown Away” and it’s a glassblowing competition, which might sound kind of tame, but BELIEVE ME, it’s very awesome and also the glassblowers get quite bitchy with each other. It started with 10 competitors and every episode there was a challenge, with one person “blowing the judges away” (I’m sure EVERYONE is glad the word ‘away’ is in there) and one person being sent home for being an utter disappointment. Spoiler Alert: I’m going to give away the ending so don’t read this if you’re planning on watching the whole season. In the last episode, it came down to Janusz, a very experienced glassmaker who was very technical and talented, and Deborah, a rather nasty person who was not quite as talented, but who talked a good game. They were tasked with filling a gallery space with something “immersive”, whatever the f*ck that means. Janusz did a whole series of pieces on climate change and hope for the future, and Deborah made a giant fried egg, a frypan, and a bunch of very phallic sausages. The judges were struggling with the whole thing, but then Deborah cried and said that her piece represented the way she’d been marginalized her whole life and SHE WON. With BREAKFAST. And there is literally a petition on Change.org to award the $60 000 prize to Janusz, so you can tell how much people were into this show.
Which got me to thinking. If I could create a new reality show, what would it be? Here are a couple of thoughts. Also, for the purpose of this post, Alex Trebek is the host of every show, because he is the best host of everything and I love him.
Show 1: Tanked
This show is a fish tank decorating competition. Every week there’s a new theme.
Alex Trebek: All right, contestants! This week’s challenge was “The 19th Century”. First up is Donna. Tell us about your tank, Donna.
Donna: Well, Alex, I tried to capture the essence of The Industrial Revolution by pumping coal dust into the water. I think I killed all the fish, but the concept is pure.
Alex Trebek: Interesting. Bob, tell us about your tank.
Bob: All my fish are wearing bustles and bonnets. It’s a signature 19th century look.
Alex Trebek: The judges have made a decision. Bob, please hand in your scuba diver ornament.
(*It’s been pointed out to me by a couple of people that there was already an American reality show called “Tanked”. I’d never heard of it, but apparently it aired on the channel ‘Animal Planet’. To clarify, their version was about INSTALLING giant fish tanks; mine is about DECORATING little fish tanks. Plus my show has Alex Trebek while their show’s hosts got divorced and the show got cancelled.)
Show 2: Stick It To Me
In this show, the competitors have to make everything out of popsicle sticks.
Alex Trebek: All right, contestants! This week’s challenge was “Iconic Buildings”. Donna, what happened here?!
Donna: Well, Alex, I tried to recreate the Eiffel Tower, but as anyone who’s ever participated in a team-building exercise knows, popsicle sticks aren’t stable at great heights, especially when all you have to attach them together is masking tape.
Alex Trebek: That’s a shame. Bob, tell me about your structure.
Bob: I built a scale model of the Globe Theatre.
Alex Trebek: Didn’t the Globe Theatre burn down?
Bob (*lighting match ominously*): That’s right, Alex.
Show 3: In the Bag
Who doesn’t love homemade purses?
Alex Trebek: I don’t understand what I’m still doing here.
Mydangblog: You’re the host of a reality show that I made up about people creating purses out of everyday household objects.
Alex Trebek: But–
Mydangblog: Shhhh. Everything is all right. Just ask about the purses.
Alex Trebek: So the challenge you were given was “purses made from clothing”. God, this is dreadful. Donna?
Donna: I cut off the bottom of the sleeve of a sweatshirt and hemmed it, adding a piece of cord. It’s now a cute satchel.
Alex Trebek (sighs): Bob?
Bob: I made a cunning “manpurse” by cutting the legs off these jeans and hemming the thighs. You can wear it as a fanny pack OR a courier bag.
Alex Trebek: Can I please go back to Jeopardy now?
Mydangblog: OK, but I want to be an answer in the Potpourri category, like “Who is a funny Canadian blogger?”
Alex Trebek: You mean “Who is a WEIRD Canadian blogger who keeps breaking the 4th wall?
Mydangblog: I’m good either way.
We now return to our regular program.