Detective Duos I’d Love to Watch

On Tuesday night, I was bored and there was nothing good on TV, so I decided to watch a rerun of 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. One of my all time favourites 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 in the BBC version of Sherlock, which I’ve rewatched several times on Netflix, 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 fiction writers (albeit a very small group) and I had high hopes for its ability to keep me happily occupied for the next hour while Atlas slept. 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 cosmic lung capacity, 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?! ? WHAT ABOUT THE DOGS? 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, and NO, I will not copy and paste your anti-mask rant regardless of my state of consciousness. But the kitten videos were 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 and Shia LeBoeuf. Because why the hell not? 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, who is as immortal as any supervillain. After they’ve solved every mystery (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, a 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 90 years old and Scottish, and Henning solves all the crimes by flying around and meditating. The show is cancelled when viewers discovered that Henning isn’t REALLY flying—it’s only special effects. Yogic flying is actually just bouncing in a lotus position, and everyone knows you can’t solve crimes by bouncing.

As a side note, I know that neither F. Scott or Zelda were magicians, but I liked the concept 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!
Me: OK, Ken.

Ken and I would make a great detective duo:

Me: Ken. The puppy just threw up.
Ken: It’s 4 o’clock in the morning…what does it look like?
Me: Pretty solid. Doesn’t look like food. Kind of stringy.
Ken: Stringy…string…rope. Ah ha! He swallowed that little chew rope he was playing with earlier.
Me: I don’t see it around here anywhere. Good deduction.
Atlas: Better out than in.

In other news, I was recently interviewed by Jenna Neece, writer and editor. If you’d like to learn more about The Mystery of Mydangblog, you can read it here

Forklift Fantasies, Atlas is Invincible

I really thought that a golden opportunity had knocked on my door the other day. I was sitting at my work computer reviewing some secret agency documents when my text alert sounded. I get very few text messages—in fact, the only person who texts me regularly is the comedian Jim Gaffigan. Somehow, I got on a list to receive texts from him, and while I’m sure he’s a very nice man, I wish I wasn’t on his list, because he texts me at least twice a day. I’ve written in the past that I have a very sensitive startle response, so every time the notification goes off, I just about jump out of my chair, only to discover that it’s yet ANOTHER clip of Jim doing stand-up or Jim forcing one of his many children to eat liverwurst. Random? You bet. I suppose I could text him back with “New phone, who dis?” but I don’t think he reads any of the replies, at least not any that I’ve already sent. Plus, I don’t want to hurt his feelings because what if I’m the only person who hasn’t dropped him by now, and then he’s like “Not you too, Mydangblog! I thought we really had something special! Oh, WHAT’S THE POINT?” and then he never does stand-up again and it’s all my fault? You know who’s a GOOD celebrity to have on text? Jeff Goldblum. He texted me once and I’ve never heard from him again, but he’s in my contact list so I can show people and be a little braggy without having to suffer through clips of him in The Fly or whatnot.

Anyway, my text notification went off, so I sighed and braced myself for Jim but it wasn’t him. It was potentially a dream come true. You may remember that I have waxed poetic on a number of occasions about driving a forklift. And why WOULDN’T I want to drive one? A forklift is like a golf cart with arms, and you should all know by now that the only reason I have EVER golfed is so I can drive the golf cart, and a forklift is just one step better. It’s like being a human transformer. If you’ve ever seen that Alien movie where Sigourney Weaver wears the forklift suit, you’ll know what I’m talking about. The only thing more badass than a forklift suit is in the final installment of The Matrix where Captain Mifune wears the human machine gun suit. They call it an Armoured Personnel Unit, but if it was me, I’d just be yelling “Get me my damned human machine gun suit—Player One’s got a dock to defend!!”

And what did this magical text message say? It said, “Urgent Requirements! Forklift Operators needed! Long hours and long term possible. Text TPI!” and there was a number to text back. Also, UNLIKE Jim, there was also the sentence “Text STOP to opt out”, but in this case, I would NEVER want to opt out. I was momentarily thrilled and was about to text back, “Yes! A resounding yes!” when I read it again. Long hours? Long term possible? That didn’t sound like much fun to me. I mean, 45 minutes would be good—that would give me a chance to tool around the neighbourhood, go to the park and rearrange some picnic tables, you know, the normal sh*t you do with a forklift (in this scenario, I’m obviously wearing a cape and a Spanish Inquisitor hat because no one expects the Spanish Inquisition, particularly on a forklift). But anything longer than that might become more like a job than a pleasure, and I already have a job. So I texted back, “Ooh, I’ve always wanted to drive a forklift. But I don’t think I could do it for hours, more just like around the block or whatnot. Thanks though!” That was the end of it, and I was a little sad, thinking I would never hear from them again, but about ten minutes later, my text notification went off again. I didn’t look right away, assuming it was Jim talking about manatees AGAIN, but no—it was from the forklift people. The text read, “Thank you!” So now I don’t know if that means they’re considering me and one day this week a forklift might pull into my driveway, but I have my cap and hat ready to go.

In other news, my new puppy is fearless and also has a huge ego:

Atlas: Ma! I will defend this abode from all intruders!
Me: Dude, I think you mean “commode”. You’re barking at the toilet.

Atlas: Watch me harness the power of electricity!
Me: Stop chewing on that electrical cord!

Atlas: Whee, I can fly!
Me: Do NOT try to leap into my arms from the top of the stairs.

Atlas: I have a gourmet palate!
Me: Well, that rug IS an antique.

Atlas: I’m a savage predator!
Me: The garden hose certainly agrees with you.

Atlas: I’m a hat!
Me: You aren’t allowed to sleep on my head!

Atlas: I’m Aquaman, Ma!
Me: Get away from the pond—you’re scaring the fish.

Atlas: I’m a very good boy.
Me: Yes, you are. Especially when you’re asleep.

Creative Wednesdays – Tooth Fairy

It’s almost the end of Wednesday, so this came in just under the wire. I’m thrilled to have another flash fiction story in The Sirens Call eZine. ‘Tooth Fairy’ is a strange little piece about what we’re willing to overlook to keep the things we love. I hope you enjoy my weird story–I can’t link directly to it, but you can read ‘Tooth Fairy’ on page 72 here.

Take Your Vitamins

I love vitamins. I know that sounds weird, but you probably need to know that most of the vitamins I take are gummy vitamins, and it’s like starting your day with candy. Candy that’s GOOD FOR YOU. And yes, I’m a “past-middle-aged” woman (unless I’m going to live to be one hundred and ten) and I’m too old to care if you mock me because they’re delicious. Every morning, I come downstairs and start my day with fruit-flavoured multi-vitamins, orange vitamin C, citrus-y Vitamin D and strawberry-vanilla Biotin. I take two of each, not because I have to but because I WANT to. It’s the first time in my life that I’ve ever cared about vitamins—even The Flintstones couldn’t tempt me to chew the grape sawdust that passed for a treat when I was a kid. Of course, I was an extremely picky child—you know how some parents puree vegetables into spaghetti sauce to disguise the taste? I wouldn’t even eat spaghetti sauce. Or pasta. In fact, the bulk of my diet was peanut butter on white bread and plain hamburgers. As an adult, I have a wide palate, and I’ll try, and eat, almost anything. I still draw the line at beets and peas, but everything else is fair game. Yet, like a child, I still need to have my vitamins disguised with copious amounts of sugar and gelatin. The only thing better than gummy vitamins would be if there was some kind of vitamin powder you could put into white wine, then I’d be the healthiest lush on the planet.

But despite my passion for vitamin candy, there IS one thing I hate about vitamins, and that’s shopping for them.

1) It doesn’t matter what time I go, or what store I go to, the vitamin aisle is always crowded by at least half a dozen people, all perusing the selection like they’ve never seen vitamins in their lives and are astounded that they exist. I’ve seen people take less time at art galleries or puppy parties than they do in the vitamin aisle. (Slight tangent—wouldn’t the world be a much better place if we could go to puppy parties once a week? How many puppies would we need? I’m thinking 6 minimum). Anyway, there I am, trying to find my vitamins, surrounded by people who are like f*cking ENTHRALLED by Magnesium. Even now, with Covid and stores limiting the number of people in them at any given time, the vitamin aisle is still the most popular hangout in the place. The other day I went grocery shopping at a store with a twenty-person limit, and TWO OF THEM were in the vitamin aisle, blocking my way to delicious health. Seriously, go look at margarine. That’s where the really big decisions need to be made if my recent experience watching people scrutinize margarine tubs is any indication.

2) There are way more brands and types of vitamins than are necessary. The vitamin aisle at my drug store is over 50 feet long and four shelves high. You’d think it would be alphabetical but it’s not, at least in no way I can discern. Some places group them by brand, some places by purpose, some by colour, some by flavour…

Vitamin Shelf Stocker: Where should I put the Vitamin C?
Vitamin Overlord: Next to the Echinacea.
Vitamin Shelf Stocker: Why? I thought it should go next to the Calcium…
Vitamin Overlord: Echinacea and Vitamin C are both immune system boosters. Put them on the bottom shelf where no one can find them. Screw your immune system, Brad!
Vitamin Shelf Stocker: Who’s Brad?
Vitamin Overlord (mutters): No one important.

See, and this is why the vitamin aisle is always crowded, because no one can find anything thanks to Brad.

In other news, I received an email from Amazon the other day about something I might be interested in based on my “current activity”. It was a recommendation for The Dome. I wrote back and said, “Thanks. I AM very interested in this because I WROTE IT. Lol.” They wrote back with a very snarky and passive-aggressive response that I shouldn’t have emailed them back because there was no one there to respond to me. The email was signed “Brad”.

Spoiler Alert

One of the bonuses of not being able to go anywhere for the last few months has been the ability to binge-watch TV shows without feeling guilty. Did I do a Tiger King marathon, becoming increasingly more disturbed and fascinated over the course of one delightful evening? You’re damn right, and I did the same thing with the Criminal UK/Spain/Germany series, Sex Education, Better Call Saul, Queer Eye, Picard, every Rupaul’s Drag Race episode available to humankind on a variety of platforms, and a myriad of other shows. And I did it all on WEEKNIGHTS as well as weekends. No remorse whatsoever. One thing I struggle with though, like many people, is that there are SO MANY shows out there to choose from that I quite often end up scrolling through lists relentlessly looking for something that catches my eye. Because more often than not, the titles make it very difficult to judge what a show is about. Tiger King was simple—it’s actually called “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness”. All three of those things are very enticing as far as I’m concerned. Same goes for The Haunting Of Hill House. There’s a house on a hill and it’s haunted—watch to find out what happens next! Then there’s The Witcher which is about a dude who’s a witcher—fairly self-explanatory if not a little derivative. And if you’re like “Hey! It was very original, dammit!”, let me summarize the premise for you thusly: a nearly immortal lone wolf-type who is very attractive to the ladies and has a relationship with a magical woman travels across a fantastical land with a group of dwarves. He and the dwarves skirt around a mountain containing their old mine looking for a dragon who is killing villagers nearby. Sound vaguely familiar? Of course, there are differences too—there’s a bloody and violent race called the Nilfgaardians who are kind of mutated elves—oh wait, that’s just like Orcs…anyway, it WAS a great show, and sorry for the spoilers, but if you’ve read Lord of the Rings, you already have a pretty good sense of the plot.

Speaking of spoilers, Ken and I were watching TV a while ago, and a commercial came on for a 6-episode mini-series about a female doctor who kills people with a hypodermic needle. The show was called “Mary Kills People”.

Me: Way to give away the ending.
Ken: Well, the whole commercial showed her killing people. It’s not like the title was the REAL spoiler here.
Me: Couldn’t they leave just a little bit to the imagination and call it “Mary May or May Not Have Killed People”?
Ken: At least we don’t have to watch it now.
Me: It’s such a dumb title. Can you imagine if the first Star Wars movie was called, “Luke Blows Up the Death Star”? What would be the point of seeing it? Why would anyone read Pride and Prejudice if it was called “Elizabeth Marries Darcy”? I like the trailer for Cardinal better.

Cardinal is another series I want to watch, but I have no idea what it’s about , except that there are two detectives investigating a murder in a cold town somewhere. The trailer doesn’t show much, except the one detective says to the other, “I’m happy to be working this case with you,” and then a block of ice containing what looks like a body is pulled out of a frozen lake. See, THIS is how it’s done, because at the end, I was like “What?! I need to watch this show and find out what happens. And who the hell is Cardinal? Is it a guy? Is it a bird? I need to know.”

It’s a certain fact that people HATE spoilers. Have you ever just seen a fantastic movie and you want to share it with a friend, so you only tell them the beginning? And then they say, “So what happens at the end?” and you have to first confirm beyond a shadow of a doubt that they will NEVER see it themselves, because you don’t want to be the one who spoils it for them? Have you ever accidentally given away the end of a book, and had people look at you like you bought the last remaining rolls of toilet paper in the store?

Of course, there are people who deliberately give away the endings of movies just to be a dick, and they’re hated almost as much as racists. And they probably get punched in the face more frequently, even though the racists deserve it more. Seriously, I think the only way Donald Trump’s supporters would ever turn against him is if he finished every press conference and Nuremberg-style rally with “And by the way, the head in the box was Brad Pitt’s wife. Such a great movie.” So the people who decided to call the series Mary Kills People are not very astute, in my books. Unless…maybe the series isn’t really about a female doctor who kills people. Maybe it’s just a ploy to get people who’ve exhausted all other options to watch it, and then those people will be like, “OMG, it was SO good! I can’t tell you what happens, but it’s not what you expect…Oh god, I wish I could tell you! Are you sure you’re never going to watch it?!” And maybe the body in the lake in Cardinal was put there by a female doctor named Mary. Don’t tell me. Don’t spoil it.

In other news, my puppy’s a ho.

Oh, he’s as sweet as pie most of the time, but he has two teddy bears. One is name Blue-beary, the other is named Thurston, and he is regularly having relations with both of them. Indiscriminately. It’s simultaneously hilarious and horrifying. We play a PG version of a certain game that we like to call Marry, Make Merry, or Murder. He decided he wanted to marry me (he demonstrated this by licking my face, rolling over on his back and waving his paws at me), make merry with Blue-beary, which he did with incredible gusto for such a tiny thing, and murder poor Thurston by attempting to rip his furry face off. And then he made merry with Thurston right after, and murdered Blue-beary. But he still wants to marry me, which I suppose will wear off when I tell him that not only am I his Ma, we’re not even the same species. Spoiler alert.

Creative Wednesdays – The Singular Discrepancy Between Poet And Object

Neuro Logical Magazine is a new on-line poetry journal. They had tweeted out “if you have a poem you don’t think fits anywhere, send it to us. I’d been working on this piece for a little while and thought, “I have no idea where it fits” so I sent it to them and they very graciously gave it a home. You can read “The Singular Discrepancy Between Poet And Object here.

If you have a poem that you really like and you don’t know where it “fits”, I highly recommend sending it to them. You can find them on Twitter as well @LogicNeuro. And here is a random puppy picture for you, just because.

And They Call It Puppy Love

Last week, I was getting dinner ready and feeling very lonely. Meal prep was the one absolutely certain time that Titus would hang out with me, lying by my feet and waiting for me to “drop” a few pieces of whatever I was chopping on the floor. He was very patient about it, and would instinctively move his head out of the way whenever I needed to open the cupboard with the bowls, and we would practice our Harry Potter spell commands while I was working. So on an impulse, I posted in the local Facebook group: “Looking for a dog to borrow while I’m getting dinner ready. Must like bacon and cheese.” It got a few laughs, but then I got a message from a kind friend who knew someone nearby with a litter of puppies. She sent this picture:

Guess which one I immediately wanted? It was obvious that he was a talker, and even more obvious that he was yelling, “Ma! Come get me!” (He admitted later that he was actually belting out that first vocal in Sabotage by the Beastie Boys because the other puppies were “being boring”, which made me love him even more. We arranged to go out the next night to the family’s farm to meet the puppies and choose from the available ones. When we arrived, one little guy came running right to me, and it was him! He hadn’t been taken yet so I decided on the spot that he would belong to us, and also that his name would be Alistair so that he could be my puppy butler. Fortunately for everyone, that name, and the concept of a puppy butler, were both immediately vetoed. We had a week to decide on another name though, because all the puppies were being rehomed after their first vet check and shots this past Thursday. So the hunt for a name began. I was determined that his name should be something like Titus, so we tried out several different options:

Me: I like Fergus.
Kate: No.
Ken: What about Rufus?
Me: Then we’d call him Roofie for short. I don’t want to be out in the yard yelling Roofie, Roofie!  What about Lazarus?
Ken/Kate: Ew, not for a dog.
Me: I like Sirius, but then people would call him Siri and expect him to provide weather reports and whatnot. Like “Siri, play the Beastie Boys.”
Ken: You want words that end in ‘us’? Fungus, mucous, an—
Me: Stop. What about Atlas? He’s going to be pretty big and strong, and also, he’ll help us find a new direction. It’s literal AND figurative.
All: That’s a great name.

So it stuck. It was a very long week, waiting until Friday to pick him up. In the meantime, on Wednesday night, Ken and I were watching TV when the emergency alert on our phones went off, scaring the sh*t out of us. Apparently, there was a tornado bearing down on our town and we were instructed by the Weather Network to take shelter immediately, which meant that Ken immediately went out on the front porch to “watch the sky”. We have a tornado safety plan, despite the fact that tornadoes are few and far between in our area, because I’m the Queen of Worst Case Scenarios, so why WOULDN’T I have a tornado plan? But in the five minutes between the alert and it subsequently being cancelled, my thoughts weren’t about OUR safety:

Me: OMG, do you think the puppies are OK? Should I call the farm?! Do you think they have a tornado plan?!
Ken: It’s fine. The storm is to the west of us.
Me I DON’T KNOW WHERE THAT IS, KEN.

Ken is nothing if not helpful, so on Thursday after work, he called me out to the courtyard where he’s building the new gazebo, which will never be finished, because he’s now decided to put a belvedere on top of the roof. “Look up there,” he pointed, and on top of the belvedere he had placed a small gyre with an arrow. “I fixed it in place so the arrow points North,” he said. “Now you’ll always know which way you’re facing.” And because it was such a sweet gesture, I DIDN’T tell him it only works if I’m IN the backyard when there’s a tornado approaching.

At any rate, Friday finally came and we headed out to pick up Atlas. A lot of the puppies had already been taken home by their new families and there were only a few left. As soon as we got out of the car, one of them came bounding over to me—it was Atlas. It was as though he already knew us and couldn’t wait to go home.

 

And now he’s home. I don’t know if you’ve ever had an 8-week-old puppy—we haven’t had one in years—and I’d forgotten how high maintenance they are for such tiny creatures. He had a great first night, only waking up a couple of times to be taken outside, but I was so worried about him falling off the bed that I could barely sleep. And yes, he’s sleeping on the bed with us, and I don’t want to hear about it. He’s very good-natured, but he gets bored very easily. Luckily, we have a LOT of toys that he mostly likes to chew on because he’s going through that phase where he wants everything in his mouth. Here are some of the games we’ve invented for his and our amusement:

Teddy Attack: This involves one of us bonking him lightly with a large stuffed bear while the other one squeals “Ooh, ooh!!” He enjoys this immensely and the game usually ends with him trying to eat the bear’s face.

Finger-licking Good: This is a game HE invented. It involves him trying to eat my fingers. Apparently, they’re “delicious”.

Pinball Wizard: Ken takes a rubber ball and bounces it off walls and cupboards in the kitchen while Atlas chases it and attempts to pounce on it without falling over sideways. My job is to rescue the ball if it gets stuck under the cupboard, and to upright Atlas if he can’t get up.

The best thing though is that after about ten minutes of vigorous play, he falls asleep for at least half an hour, which is what he’s doing right now by my feet as I write this. It’s a month today since Titus passed away and while Atlas will never replace him, he’s already found his own place in our hearts.

Creative Wednesdays – Lobster

“Lobster” is a very personal piece of Creative Non-Fiction, published by the wonderful Anti-Heroin Chic. Before you read it, there are a few things you might need to know:

1) Is it true? Yes.

2) Who’s Jimmy? That’s Ken. It’s OK for you to know it, because you kind of know him, but I didn’t want the world to know it too, and I’ve always liked the name Jimmy. It seems comforting somehow.

3) Are you OK? Yes. It’s been a long time and I’m over it. But a few weeks ago, I was going through a closet and found a box with a bunch of things from my teens and early twenties. Most of it was nice, nostalgic, but there was that envelope of photographs. I hadn’t seen them in years; I don’t know why I’d never thrown them away. You may, if you follow me on social media, have seen a couple of pictures from my teen ‘modelling days’ but those were taken by a boy at my high school who was the yearbook photographer and had fashion aspirations. When I found the envelope that I talk about in Lobster, that same fury came rushing back. If I was the person I was then that I am today, things would have gone much differently, but I learned a long time ago not to beat myself up for things I did when I didn’t have the advantage of years of knowledge and a stronger sense of self.

4) Where is he now? Long dead, I imagine, and lucky for him because, as my dad said to me late last night after he read the piece (before I could write this and provide some context), “He’s lucky he’s dead or he would have gone to his grave without any teeth.” Both my parents are wonderful people and I wish I’d been able to tell them about it at the time.

Anyway, now you have some context. Writing this was very cathartic for me and I feel honoured that Anti-Heroin Chic published it. You can read Lobster here.

 

 

One Man’s Junk

If you read the title of this post and you immediately thought of something naughty, get your mind out of the gutter! This is a PG-13-ish blog, so obviously, when I write an entire treatise on a man’s junk, I’m talking about something totally different, something I love more than anything—wow, it’s REALLY hard to avoid the innuendo here—so let me clear this up: I’m talking about Big Junk Day, and all the wonderful things that people throw away, things that are trash to them but treasures to me. The official term for this glorious week of pile-diving is Large Item Pick-up, but to me it’s just Big Junk Day.

It was Tuesday. It had been a particularly hard afternoon, because around 3, I’d been in a video call with my Director when suddenly I heard a loud buzzing and something large flew past my face:

Director: What was that?
Me: There’s a really big fly in here.
Director: There it is again!
Me: Oh my god, IT’S A GIANT WASP!!

So I did what any normal person would do—I called for Ken to bring me a fly swatter and both my Director and I held our breath as I tried to dispatch it quickly and mercifully, a difficult task considering how uncoordinated I am with a fly swatter (just for the record, I hate killing things, and usually try to put insects outside, but I was being attacked and had little choice*). Did I ask my Director if I could call her back in a minute? Of course not, because what fun would that be? No, I made her watch as I flailed around in my chair, slamming the fly swatter against the window several times until finally I caught it in a corner and sent it into the next life. Under normal circumstances, I would have used a tissue to pick it up and put it in the garbage, but I WAS IN A MEETING, so I left it there on the windowsill until I was done. Then the meeting finished, I turned to the windowsill and THE WASP WAS GONE. I still had over an hour left before the end of the workday, and there I was, a sitting duck for a very angry and vengeful wasp. I couldn’t find it anywhere—it hadn’t, in its death throes, rolled onto the floor, and I hadn’t seen it resurrect itself and fly off. So for the next hour, I sat at my desk with my feet up on my chair just in case. I haven’t seen it since, and I have no idea where it went, but suffice it to say, I’m keeping an eye open for something large, yellow and black striped, and slightly smushed.

And after yet another flying insect fiasco (remember the fruit fly from last week?), I really needed a break. So I yelled, “Hey Ken—do you want to go for a drive up and down the back roads?”

Ken: Why?
Me: That’s where all the best junk is. The junk that the other junk pickers haven’t gotten to yet.
Ken: Well, the weather IS charming. But I should keep working on the gazebo…
Me: Keep working on the—I just woke you up from a nap!
Ken: Let’s go look at junk!

We set out, up one concession and down another, with me yelling out instructions like, “Slow down! There’s a lovely pile of junk up here!” and “Ooh, look at these treasures!” and “I’m not trying to be judgmental, but the junk these people have is rather low quality—I thought they’d do better after last year.”

Now, before you think I live in a glass house and shouldn’t throw stones at other people’s junk, I can tell you that Ken and I put out a beautiful solid oak sideboard that we had once used as a bathroom vanity. It was in perfect condition except for the holes cut in the top for a sink and taps. But the woman who pulled up in her truck to take it was thrilled. “I have a slab of marble that’s just the right size to replace the top,” she said, as we helped her load it. See—we not only have great junk but we provide complimentary curbside service as well.

Our personal haul included the following: an antique magazine holder, an antique wood and wicker fern stand, a stained glass lamp shade (no damage at all!), a little red wood toboggan (perfect for a Christmas display), a leather suitcase with a travel sticker, 2 pond forms, an antique wool winder, 2 wrought iron chairs (Ken replaced the broken seats) and an ornamental concrete garden pedestal. More than made up for that elusive wasp.

But I’ve always had tremendous luck with Big Junk Day. One year, I was driving home and I saw a china cabinet, so Ken agreed to take me down the road to get it. As we stopped, a van pulled in behind us, kicking up gravel. Ken grabbed the china cabinet and started loading it, as young guy ran up. “Aw, that was what I was here for,” he said sadly. You snooze, you lose in Big Junk land, my friend. But then, he started rummaging through a garbage bag and pulled out a huge stuffed, mounted fish. And it was AWESOME. I said, “You should take that—they’re very collectible.” The guy put it back in the bag, but then as we were leaving, I saw him drive away without it. Well, I thought about that fish all night, and the next day, on the way to pick up Kate from school, I saw its fin still sticking out of the bag. So I did what anyone would do—I pulled over and put it in the backseat. Then I was worried, because Kate had a habit of throwing open the back door and tossing her backpack in, and I didn’t want Frank to get hurt. This meant that as I stopped the car, I locked the door and yelled out the window, “Be careful! There’s a fish in the back!” Kate was with some of her friends, and they all looked kind of puzzled. Then she opened the car door, jumped back a bit and said, “Mom! What the hell!”

Me: What?
K: Why do you have a stuffed and mounted fish in the back of the car?!
Me: I found it. I’m going to sell it. His name is Frank.
K: NO ONE is going to buy a dead fish.
Me: Sure they will. Lots of people would LOVE to hang a stuffed fish over their fireplace mantle.
K: Mom. Let me explain something to you. There are two types of people in this world. People who fish and DON’T hang what they catch over their mantelpiece, and people who fish and hang the fish they PERSONALLY CAUGHT over their mantelpiece. But no man should EVER mount another man’s fish….
Me: *snicker*
K: OK, yes, that sounded weird. But no one will buy it, I’m telling you.

We did sell Frank eventually for ten dollars at a yard sale. A woman admired Frank, who we’d pulled out of the shed to put by the side of the road on the grounds that none of us REALLY wanted a dead fish in the house, so I told her she could have him for free because, as it turned out, one of his fins was kind of cracked and flappy. She loaded all of her purchases into her car, then suddenly she came back to the house. “Here,” she said, holding out a $10 bill. “That’s for the fish. I know he’s worth a lot more.” When we protested that no, she could just have him, she insisted, and tucked the bill into a glass on the table. “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure,” she laughed, and then drove away. A woman after my own heart.

 (*Update: I found the wasp upstairs in a window so I got a glass and a piece of cardboard, caught it and put it outside. Live long and prosper, little friend.)

Smile, You’re On Candid Camera

Personally, I’m getting a little tired of always being on camera. I don’t mind meeting with my immediate team because they already know I’m wacky, but I think other people are quickly realizing that I’m more quirky than they thought. Last week, I was in a virtual meeting with our CEO and some other directors, and the CEO told us that she used to do psychological testing to determine intelligence and that the first question she would ask was “Does the sun set in the east or the west?” And if you know anything about me at all, you know that I’m directionally challenged and hold tight to my belief that North is up, South is down, and that East and West are randomly ‘out there somewhere’:

Me: How do I get to Home Depot from here?
Ken: Go west on the 401.
Me: I’m a grown ass woman, Ken, not a compass!
Ken: It’ll say right on the sign “401 West”. There will also be an ARROW.
Me: Will “the arrow” be pointing left or right?
Ken: Sigh. Do you want me to take you?
Me: Obviously, Ken.

In fact, the only direction I have ever been able to follow accurately is ‘twist cap and pour’. Anyway, we were at this meeting, and when she asked if the sun set in the east or the west, I was completely befuddled because I COULD NOT REMEMBER and did I ever really know the answer to that in the first place? I mean, I’m a wealth of trivia and regularly run numerous categories on Jeopardy except for Geography, but I thought to myself, “If this is an indication of how intelligent I am, I should know this!” so I started thinking really hard, and using my hands to track the course of the sun across the sky and doing vigorous mental calculations while the meeting continued on, and I had almost figured it out when I realized that one of my colleagues was trying not to laugh, and I don’t know if it was at ME or maybe she didn’t know the answer either. And then later that day in another meeting, I was listening intently as one should when suddenly, a fruit fly started dive-bombing my face and I did what any normal person would do—I started clapping my hands together in the air, trying to kill it but it was very quick and agile so it took several attempts and it wasn’t until it had been handily dispatched that again, I realized the same woman was silently laughing. And I will never know if it was at me or not, because when you’re in a Zoom meeting, EVERYONE seems to be looking right at you because they’re looking at their cameras, and now I think the best indicator of intelligence is whether or not you have your camera on during large meetings.

Also, my camera doesn’t add ten pounds, it adds ten YEARS and whenever I look at myself on the screen, I seem older, sadder, and much paler than I do in real life (at least I hope I don’t look that old, sad, or pale), so you can understand why I’d rather not be on screen.

(Ken just interrupted me to tell me that he caught a mouse in the live mouse trap he had put in the cupboard under the sink. We have a very old house, and every once in a while, one gets into the cupboard. I’ve named him Franklin. Ken’s taking him over to the park where he can frolic with the other field mice.)

Anyway, having to do all interactions, social or otherwise, on camera is getting a bit ridiculous. I’ve been having terrible shoulder pain, so my doctor (who called me on the phone), told me to get some physiotherapy. I called the clinic and they were only doing “virtual appointments”, which meant that I met with a physiotherapist using a type of Zoom.

Physio: Can you point to where the pain is?
Me: Here, here, and here.
Physio: Can you get a little closer to the camera? Like put your shoulder right up to it?
Me: Sure. Is this better?
Physio: A little down to the right. OK. Now, can you swing your arm like this? Hang on, let me just move further back so you can see what I’m doing.

And so it went. She was very nice and emailed me a PDF of exercises I could do, which haven’t helped at all because what I really need is acupuncture or a good massage, neither of which can be accomplished VIA ZOOM. The one thing that IS helping slightly is the new hot tub which is working quite well. The set-up was much more complicated than it needed to be though, mostly because the instructions were like the worst set of instructions I’ve ever seen, and most of them were just links to videos where you could watch a very young girl wearing a very fancy dress perform different aspects of the set-up. Here is a page from the manual that shows you all the parts in the box but doesn’t identify them by name, just by part number. And they are all the same scale, which makes it even more fun to figure out what they are:

This is my favourite page, where it explains what all the functions are the control pad are for:

Notice that they are so small that it’s almost impossible to read without a magnifying glass. In fact, the only thing you CAN read on this page is the warning, in all caps, that the use of alcohol or drugs can greatly increase the risk of fatal hyperthermia, prompting Ken to exclaim triumphantly, “Now I don’t need to build that tiki bar you wanted!” and I was like, “Just put a damn roof on the gazebo and we’ll call it a day, OK?!”

But we finally got it up and running, and it was fantastic:

Me: I love this. It’s so nice to just sit here in the warm, bubbling water and watch the sun set in the…
Ken: West.
Me: Right.

(Ken just got back from the park. He said Franklin scurried off into the high grass without so much as a backwards glance. Live long and prosper, my little rodent friend.)