My Week 186: Deathly Foods, Weird Signs

Currently, I’m working in a foreign land known as Mississauga, so I leave you with this–I hope you enjoy!:

Wednesday: I make a list of things that I’ve ingested that made me feel like I
was dying.

I can often succumb to peer pressure, when it’s about something that’s
supposed to be good for my health. For example, I haven’t eaten gluten (well,
except for the occasional juicy, wheat-y pizza) for almost two years because I
have arthritis and someone told me it was better for my joints. It was hard at
first—gluten-free baked goods, especially tortilla wraps, can taste a lot like
cardboard. Also, everything is made of rice. To be honest, I do feel better for
it, and I’ve found alternatives that are almost as good as the real thing. But the
other day at work, a colleague was extolling the virtues of Oil of Oregano as a
cure-all and preventive for almost everything known to humankind. It can cure
the common cold, prevent Montezuma’s Revenge, and apparently turn water
into wine. A bunch of us decided that, with super-busy days coming up, and it
still being flu season and all, we would troop down to the health food store en
masse to buy some of this miraculous elixir. Little did I know what I was in for.
I like oregano—I grow it in my garden, and I sprinkle it on pizzas, and use it to
season pork tenderloin, among other things. How bad could an oil made from
oregano be? The man at the health food store said it was a distilled oil and
could be “pretty strong”. Well, I have a hardy constitution—I’ve eaten haggis–
so what the hell? The directions said to put four drops under the tongue. I did
that. My immediate reaction was, “This isn’t so bad. I—OMFG!!” Then I
thought I was GOING TO DIE. My tongue went numb for about 20 seconds,
but then the sensation came back, and that was worse, because all I wanted
to do at that point was rip my own mouth out with my bare hands. Perhaps Oil
of Oregano was meant to build one’s character as well as one’s immune
system, you know, under that old adage “What doesn’t kill you makes you
stronger”? I had always previously thought of that as a metaphor for dealing
with nasty people, but if Oil of Oregano was a person, then it would be
SATAN. Then it occurred to me that I had been here before, doing that same
“Kill Me Now!” dance. So I decided to make a list of the top food type things
that I had ever ingested that made me also feel like I was dying.

Death by herb

1) Gorgonzola cheese. Once, Ken and I were overseas, and the person we
were staying with, a wonderful host and one of my favourite people, made us
dinner. It was gnocchi tossed in melted gorgonzola cheese. I loved gnocchi
and the whole thing looked fantastic. Then I took a bite. Some people claim
that they quite like gorgonzola—I call these people LIARS. Gorgonzola
cheese tastes like mold growing on sweaty socks—the black mold that
medical dramas always tell you will kill you. I didn’t know what to do because I
didn’t want to be offensive, so I choked down as much as I could stomach, then claimed that jet lag had made me too tired to eat. Jet lag is a good
excuse for just about anything, especially avoiding food you don’t want to eat.
The other really good excuse for that is “I just had those dilating drops put in
my eyes at the optometrist and I can’t see what’s on my plate.” I pulled that
one out as a child to avoid eating veal—don’t tell my mom.

2) Barium. Remember, this is about things I’ve “ingested”, not things I’ve
eaten. No one in their right mind would ever willingly want to EAT barium (OK,
you could say the same about gorgonzola cheese) but still, barium is like a
medical thing, not an actual food substance. If you ever have stomach
problems, you might have to go for a procedure called a barium swallow.
Notice that it’s not called “Olive Garden’s Lunch Special” because the
expectation is that you will NOT enjoy it—and no one is going to treat you like
family while this procedure is happening. Barium is a mineral or something,
and according to Wikipedia, “has a low toxicity”, which means it has more than
zero toxicity, so it’s only SLIGHTLY poisonous. But still, if you’ve ever had a
barium swallow, it feels like you’re being FULLY poisoned. I had to have this
procedure done once. The nurse handed me a gigantic glass of what looked
like pink chalk pureed with a little water. I looked at it dubiously, and she said,
“You have to drink the whole thing. Don’t worry—it’s Strawberry Flavour.”
Strawberry Flavour, my ass. Next time, flavour it with a little Drambuie—it’ll
still be death in a cup, but I’ll feel better about it. After I had choked and
gagged the whole thing down, and my eyes were tearing from the effort, it
suddenly occurred to me that I had no idea how my body was going to get the
stuff back out, and I had this horrible feeling that I would never be able to use
the bathroom again—that it would sit in my stomach like concrete for decades,
laughing at me.

3) Deep-fried squid. Deep-fried squid actually tastes really good. I had it once
at a restaurant where we were having a “sampling” menu. I love sampling
menus, because you can try something, and if you hate it, you don’t have to
eat any more of it. So I tried the deep-fried squid, (one little piece because it
was a French restaurant where I guess they expect you to smoke so many
Galois that you aren’t hungry enough for full portions), which came with spicy
peanut sauce. Squid is delicious. It is also, as I found out later, a member of
the mollusk family, and I’m severely allergic to shellfish. After about 20
minutes, my lips started to swell, and on the ride home, I was feeling dizzy
and out of breath. By the next morning, I was extremely ill and the inside of
my mouth felt like someone had taken a flamethrower to it. I had no idea what
was going on, but Ken did some research, and we discovered that there was
a good reason why I felt like I was dying–because I just might have, ha ha.
Thank God for tasting menus with very small portions.

4) Eggs that are not scrambled. Eggs are interesting. Essentially, they’re
imaginary chickens. I can never understand how people who say they’re
vegetarian can eat eggs, but some people do on the premise that “they were
never fertilized”. But aren’t they still animal protein? Anyway, I love scrambled
eggs and omelets, basically anything where the white of the egg and the
yellow part are mixed together so you can’t taste either of them separately.
Together, they are a heavenly component of the “All Day Breakfast”, one of
my favourite meals. Separately, they are like death on a plate. The white part
tastes like the sulphurous fires of hell (in other words, like eating flatulence),
and the yellow part is—well, I don’t know because I’ve never tried the yellow
part because its simple appearance is enough to put me off. That liquid-y,
slimy thing that some people love to “dip their toast in”. Why the HELL would
you dip your toast in a liquid baby chicken? So gross.

5) Extremely sour candies. Isn’t that an oxymoron? What is it with people and
extremely sour things? The other day, I was in a store and on the candy
display were bags of “Extreme Sour Gummi Bears”. The “i” in gummi was in
the shape of a lightning bolt, and the slogan was “Try to eat more than one”.
The gummi bears on the bag had FANGS. Where is the pleasure here?
Candy is supposed to be a treat, a reward for doing something good, like
using the potty. Can you imagine how long kids would be in diapers for if you
gave them rewards that made them scream in agony? Depends-Nation.
Candy is not supposed to be scary. A couple of months ago, some of our
summer students brought in ‘extreme sour candy’ and challenged me to try
one. They were all grimacing and gagging, but I have more “mature” taste
buds, so I accepted the challenge. Let me tell you, there is no taste in nature
like an extreme sour watermelon candy. Within 10 seconds, my extremities
went numb and I could no longer feel my face, either inside or out. Very
casually though, I plucked it out of my mouth and gently put it in the garbage
can. Never let them see you sweat. Or swear.

Friday: Weird signs that I’ve seen (NOT of an apocalyptic nature).

Yesterday, I was in the Bay, and I had to use the ladies’ room. As I was
leaving, I noticed a sign on the door that read, “All criminal activity in this
bathroom is closely monitored.” I stared at it for a minute or two, trying to
figure out exactly what it meant. First, what KIND of activity are we talking
about here? The only people I’ve EVER seen in that bathroom are elderly
ladies. I mean, the Bay is not exactly Forever 21. Could there be a gang of old
toughs who frequently gather in said bathroom to fence their stolen Hudson’s
Bay blankets and Estee Lauder cosmetics? And what does “closely
monitored” mean? Are there security guards looking at hidden cameras
whose reaction to every criminal transaction is “Huh. Take a look at that.
Interesting. We’d better keep monitoring this. CLOSELY.” Then I was
reminded about another interesting sign that Ken and I had seen the other
day. It was one of those mobile signs at the side of the road, and it read,
“Jesus said, ‘The only way to my Father is through me.’ My first reaction was
this:

Me: Did you see that sign? I don’t believe Jesus said that.
Ken: Whuh? Why not?
Me: Well, don’t you think it sounds a little violent? I never think of Jesus like
that. You’ve read the Bible. Did Jesus really say that?
Ken: I don’t remember.
Me: No. From what I know about Jesus, he would have said something more
like, “It would be really nice and just super if you could let me help you find
your way to my Father”. Something non-aggressive, you know. That sign
makes it seem like there’s going to be a bar fight, and Jesus is all like, “Hold
my beer! You’ll have to get through me to get to HIM!” Like Liam Neeson or
The Rock or something.
Ken: OK…

Then I was reminded of my favourite sign from a few years ago, outside a
church, which said, “Take Jesus on vacation with you”. Ken and I were
planning a trip to Great Wolf Lodge with T, and I went into this reverie about
what would happen if you literally COULD take Jesus on vacation with you to
the waterpark. Would you have to stop him from trying to baptize the kids in
the wave pool? Would all the water in the park automatically become Holy
Water? Would he get annoyed if strangers kept splashing him? Would he be
like, “OK, I’ll go down the waterslide as long as I don’t get my hair wet?
(Because that’s what I always say.) Would he multi-task, and deliver a quick
sermon while he was on the white water raft with a bunch of other people? At
the end of the day, I could picture him in a lounge chair, surrounded by small
children, telling them parables until it was time for Pizza Hut and Pay-Per-
View. At any rate, it would be a hell of a lot better than taking Satan on
vacation to the waterpark with you. He’d be “that guy”, you know, the one who
wears the super-tight Speedo, always does the cannonballs into the pool, gets
everyone in a 20 foot radius soaking wet, and laughs like he thinks he’s so
cool. He’d hog the Jacuzzi, make all the water boil, then force everyone to
take Oil of Oregano. No wonder Satan never gets asked to go on vacation.

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My Week 185: Good for the Soul, The Titus Challenge

Mindfulness

Last week, we had a staff meeting and the powers that be brought in a guest speaker. We’ve had these before, always on the same topic: how to relax and be stress-free. What does it say about a job when your superiors continually think you should all calm the f*ck down? Personally, I don’t find the job particularly stressful, considering that in a previous life, I was responsible for overseeing the wellbeing and antics of over 90 teenagers a day, and regularly brought home hours upon hours of work that had to be completed on the weekend. Also, I now work with really nice colleagues who never harass me by text message or call my house late at night to yell at me. At any rate, regardless of the comparatively little stress I struggle under in the workplace, we’ve had a succession of “mindfulness” speakers. The last one told us that “anxiety is a choice” and that if we simply opted to get out of bed each day with a positive attitude, we could live anxiety-free lives, and I was like, Damn! If I had only known that YEARS ago, imagine how different my life would be?! All I have to do is CHOOSE not to worry incessantly about whether I just said something dumb, or whether my hands are clean for the fifth time in one hour, or whether my cat secretly is plotting against me (she is—I just asked her and she admitted it), and my life would be perfect. Ironically, this particular speaker then got really angry when people started leaving the room, and insisted that we were not allowed to look at our phones during her presentation, and I so badly wanted to say, “Why don’t you just CHOOSE to let that not bother you?”

The speaker this past week was much better, mostly because she used comedy to disguise her oversimplifications, and everyone loves a good laugh, am I right? The first thing we had to do was identify 3 things that we did in the past week to help us relax, write them down, and then share them with our table. I put “Wrote, Drank, Watched America’s Next Top Model” because I am nothing if not honest, and also I didn’t think anyone would believe me if I put Yoga, Meditation, Listened to a Podcast on the Benefits of Kale—they all know me too well. Interestingly, when it came time to share, everyone at my table had a variation of Drank, which either says a lot about the times we’re living in, or that I’m a bad influence on my team. But the best part was her Stress-Wheel, which was divided into sections that we needed to give attention to. My favourite was Soul, which I’m assuming was a metaphor rather than an ACTUAL soul, because I don’t think God would be too impressed if you landed at the pearly gates and you were like, “OK, I killed a few people, but I ATE KALE.” The list of things she proposed to help soothe the soul is as follows:

1) Yoga

OK, what the f*ck is with the obsession with yoga? I just googled Yoga Poses and they all look incredibly painful and not relaxing at all. She made us do a yoga pose which involve standing on one leg—how the hell am I supposed to relax when I’m freaking out about falling over in front of 100 people?

2) Walk somewhere different

I live in downtown Toronto. I walk somewhere “different” simply by stepping out my front door, and it’s not relaxing in the slightest when a large man wearing a pink mini-kilt demands that you look at his ass.

3) Don’t use a watch

If I get rid of all the things that tell me what time it is, then how will I know what time it is?! Yes, I know that time is a human construct, but if it’s not a watch, or a cellphone, it’s the sun in the sky telling me to go home. Also, I’m a grown-up, dammit—how will I know that it’s 5 o’clock SOMEWHERE if I don’t have a clue what time it is? Then I’ll be daydrinking and most likely get in trouble at work.

4) Unplug from human vacuums

This would be a great premise for a horror film about a mad scientist who turns people into vacuums, and then sends them out, like a cross between zombies and vampires, into the world to feast on the unsuspecting public who are innocently wandering around aimlessly without watches in strange neighbourhoods looking for kale chips, and every time they stop to do a yoga pose, the human vacuum attacks! And the only way to stop them is to unplug the mad scientist’s human vacuum machine, which is like a cross between an electro-shock machine, a Roomba factory, and a very large E-Z Bake Oven. (Yes, I know she meant people who suck you dry emotionally, but this is way more fun.)

5) Have a Screen Free Day

We all looked at each other and said, “Does she even know where we work?” I myself have 3 computer screens in my office, and I use all of them. And if I had a screen free day, then I would miss America’s Next Top Model, and there goes any relaxation I might get. Oh well, there’s always the drink.

The Titus Challenge

Titus: I hear you’ve stopped eating pork. You realize that means bacon too, right?
Me: Sigh. I know. It’s breaking my heart, but I saw a video recently of a pig solving a puzzle. Pigs are smarter than dogs, you know. I wouldn’t eat a dog, so how can I eat a pig?
Titus: Pigs are NOT smarter than dogs. For example, when was the last time you saw a pig who responded to commands based on Harry Potter spells?
Me: I’m sure there are pigs out there who could do that. Besides, you have a pretty sloppy Leviosa, so let’s not get carried away.
Titus: It’s Levi-OH-sa, not Levio-SA.
Me: Look at this video. She’s trained this pig to do 17 different tricks.
Titus: Damn. He gives a great high five.
Me: I know, right?
Titus: But does the Avada Kedavera spell render him seemingly dead?
Me: Dead? Like for a fraction of a second before you jump back up and try to snatch the Corn Pop out of my hand?
Titus: Dead, jumping in the air, whatever. No bacon? Now that’s harsh. OK, find me a pig that can do Leviosa better than me, and I might consider it.
Me: Challenge accepted. Accio the wine bottle, will you?
Titus: Is it 5 o’clock somewhere ALREADY?!
Me: I dunno—I’m not wearing a watch.

My Week 184: A Can-Do Attitude, or Simply In The Can

On Thursday night, I was waiting for Ken to call. I’d come home early on the train for the Easter long weekend, and we needed to get some groceries due to all the stores being closed on Friday. Finally the phone rang:

Me: All I need is pie shells, baby spinach, and strawberries. I’ve got the rest covered.
Ken: OK. I need to get chocolate chips.
Me: Why?
Ken: I have to make cookies for the Heritage Society bake sale.
Me: Fine, but don’t buy the ones from Nestle.
Ken: OK.
Me (pause): Don’t you want to know why?
Ken: Oh. OK, why?
Me: Because of the whole water thing. Buy Chipits. They’re made by Hersheys.
Ken: OK.

And then I realized that Ken has adopted a “Can-Do” attitude. The “Can-Do” attitude is currently de rigeur in some circles right now, and it’s when you agree with something because disagreeing is either 1) too troublesome 2) no one would listen to you anyway, or 3) you simply don’t give a f*ck. I think in the case above, Ken was agreeing because of any one of those reasons, but I suspect it was number 1, since he knows how I get when I have a “bee in my bonnet”. Also, where the hell did the saying “bee in your bonnet” come from? Because I’ve always taken it to mean that you get really fixated on something and can’t let it go, whereas in reality, if I REALLY had a bee in my bonnet or whatever headgear I happened to be sporting, I would be freaking out, flailing madly, and completely unable to concentrate on anything but getting the bee out of my…oh wait, I get it now.

Anyway, this whole “Can-Do” attitude thing is everywhere. At work, we’re constantly being told to have one, even when it doesn’t make sense.

Guy: Hey, how about this crazy idea?!
Me: No, that won’t work because of—
Guy: Where’s your Can-Do attitude?!
Me: I’m just being realisti—
Guy: CAN-DO!!!
Me: OK. Whatevs.

So that’s a great example of reason 2. And a while ago, I was at the Landlord Tenant Board Office, filing a complaint. I was illegally evicted from my condo last year, and I also filed a lawsuit, so I can’t really get into a lot of details right now. But suffice it to say that the dude at the LTB was extremely patronizing and strange, prompting me to react under reason number 3.

LTB Dude: Come here. You’ve put the wrong postal code on this page. I can’t change it for you—I can only tell you about it.
Me: OK. Can I change it myself?
LTB Dude: Yes.
Me: Can I use your pen?
LTB Guy: Yes.
Me: OK. I fixed it.
LTB Guy: I’m only here to take your submission. I can’t comment on anything that I’ve read.
Me: OK.
LTB Guy: If you have any questions about the contents, I can’t answer them.
Me: OK.
LTB Guy: So you have to make sure that everything that you want to send to people is in here, because I can’t tell you if it’s not.
Me: OK.
LTB Guy: So you have to make sure it gets to them.
Me: OK.
LTB Guy: (stares).
Me: I have a lawyer. I’m sure it’s all fine.
LTB Guy: Well, maybe your lawyer should—
Me: O.K.!

Can-Do, baby. Not a single f*ck given.

But there ARE times when I’m a real Can-Do-er, an adventurer, willing to try something new and different. The other night, I was having dinner with my cousin, a really cool guy that I see about once a year. We were at a restaurant I’d never been to before and when we’d finished eating, I excused myself to go to the ladies room. I walked into the stall (there were only two, so I chose the one that seemed the most ghost-free), but the toilet looked very strange. I stared at it for a second, then the lid started to go up. ALL BY ITSELF. I had a moment of panic where I thought I had made a fatal, haunted mistake, but then I realized that the toilet had these warm, glowing blue and red lights. It was a ROBOT TOILET. I hesitated for a second, but I really had to go, so I sat down. There was what seemed to be a control bar on the wall next to the toilet, and I didn’t have my reading glasses on, but in a completely devil-may-care moment, I decided to push one of the buttons. Suddenly, I was being sprayed by jets of warm water. It was delightful. The problem, however, was that it was completely body temperature and after a minute or two, I couldn’t tell anymore whether the “water” was coming from me or the toilet and it seemed like I had been sitting there for a lot longer than necessary. I had no idea how to stop it, so I tried standing up in the hope that the spray was motion-sensored like the lid or something, but it wasn’t, and the higher I got, the higher the jets got, and I didn’t want to get soaked so I sat back down. Then I started pushing the other buttons on the wall-mounted bar. Apparently, the first one controlled the water pressure and the water was now more like a geyser than a gentle fountain. The next one controlled the position of the spray, and I had now gone from front to back—it was incredibly aggressive and somewhat “invasive” and I was starting to worry that I would never get out of the stall in one piece. Another one made the toilet seat heat up. The last button played classical music, because why the f*ck not? So there I was, on a hot toilet seat, my nether regions being blasted by jets of tepid water to the strains of Tchaikovsky when I finally found the “off” button. After I’d dried off, I came out of the bathroom laughing hysterically, so much so that I could barely explain to my cousin what had happened.

Me: OH MY GOD. That was the best toilet I’ve ever sat on!
Cousin: OK.
Me: I totally need one for my house!
Cousin: O.K.

Come to me, my love…

 

My Week 183: Things That Boggle The Mind

In the great scheme of things, there’s a lot that I don’t understand, and like most people, I try to make sense of the world in the best way I can. But this week, there are five particular things that are throwing me for a loop. Here they are in order of when I thought of them:

1) Why are there so many dental floss thongs?

People litter all the time. I don’t understand why because it’s usually not hard to find a garbage can or recycling bin, but I see people tossing coffee cups onto the sidewalk, spitting out gum, and generally just being trashjerks on a regular basis. But the one thing I REALLY don’t get is that I see those little things you use to hold dental floss all over the damn place. In the last three weeks, I’ve probably seen at least five of them on the ground, either on the sidewalk outside of the grocery store, in a parking lot next to my car—you name it, a plastic dental floss holder will be there. We went on a wine tour with my dad last weekend, and there was one lying on the ground outside the winery. Which begs the question— whatever happened to flossing your teeth in the privacy of your own home? Why are so many people flossing their f*cking teeth in public? Who the hell flosses their teeth before they drink wine?! And what could possibly possess someone to throw these things on the ground instead of finding a garbage can? And if you don’t know what I’m talking about here’s a picture:

I’m a little confused as to what they’re actually called because I tried to google it, but I typed too fast, and apparently asked for “dental floos thing”, and for some reason Google thought I meant “dental floss thong” and gave me pictures of underwear, as well as a link to “Dental Floss Thong G-String Sexy Firm Bubble Butt Booty Dance”. I don’t understand that either. But now that I’ve told you about dental floss thongs, you will also be seeing these tiny pieces of mouth trash everywhere you go. Just wait.

2) Why am I cursed by the subway?

The subway hates me and I don’t understand why. I have subway incidents on a regular basis, and this week was no different. I had to go out to my brother’s because it was my nephew’s birthday, and that meant taking two different subway lines during rush hour to get there. I stood on the platform waiting, as train after train kept going straight through because they were so packed. Finally, one stopped and I got on board to travel two stations up to the next line. There was no room to move and I had my hands up under my chin. It was extremely claustrophobic and I was just barely keeping the panic from building by telling myself that there was only one more station to go when suddenly the train stopped dead, the power went off, and it stayed off for 15 minutes. The exact same thing happened to me a year ago to the day, when I was also going to my nephew’s birthday party, and just like last year, I had a full-blown panic attack, hyperventilated, and cried a little in front of about 100 people. The next day, I had to take the same train again, so I left work well before rush hour. This time, there was a man on the platform running back and forth, waving his arms and screaming, “F*ck you! F*cking subway! F*ck this!!” and I was like, “Ooh, what a coincidence—that’s exactly what I was saying to myself just yesterday.” Oddly enough, he was extremely well-dressed, which made it even more terrifying.

3) How can you think you lost your phone when you’re holding onto it?

I have done this on more than one occasion and this is a complete mystery to me. In fact, on Wednesday, I was in my office getting packed up to leave, and was completely freaked out because I couldn’t find my phone. I was turning around frantically and looking everywhere, wondering if I left it in the bathroom or something, when I realized it was IN MY HAND. And once, I was out shopping and I called T:

Me: Hey, I left you stuff for lunch.
T: OK, thanks.
Me: Hang on—oh sh*t, I can’t find my phone.
T: What phone?
Me: My cellphone.
T: You mean the cellphone you’re using to talk to me right now?
Me: Never mind. I found it.
T: Between your hand and your ear?
Me: Shut up.

Don’t tell me you’ve never done this, because you have. And if it wasn’t a cellphone, then it was your glasses. Or your keys, KEN.

4) Is it just me or is American politics incomprehensible?

I used to understand American politics but I don’t know if I do anymore, unless the following analogy is correct:

Watching American politics is like watching a hamster running really fast on one of those spinning wheels, but the wheel is spinning superfast, and then the hamster’s leg gets caught in the wheel, but the wheel keeps spinning and the hamster is being whipped around like crazy by the leg and its only choice is to die or chew its own leg off, but while its deciding, the f*cking wheel breaks and the hamster is crushed by the wheel, and no one is sure anymore whether the wheel is America and the hamster is politics or the hamster is politics and the wheel is America.

So if American politics is an extremely long, run-on sentence about a wheel murdering a hamster, then I nailed it. If not, then I don’t know what to tell you, and please feel free to add to this analogy.

5) Why are people so dumb?

I could mean this in just general terms, but in this case I’m talking specifically about people who are always banging the drum about free speech, and freedom of expression (as if you can’t say pretty much anything you want already, no matter how ridiculous it is, despite what the hysterical alt-right seems to think. Merry Christmas, by the way.). But those same people get super-pissed off when other people exercise THEIR right to free speech by protesting the other people who are saying the things that THEY want to say. You can’t have it both ways. Case in point. This past week, a sniveling grad student at a local university created a special club for people just like her who think that it’s hard being white. They invited another white power bandwagoneer to come and speak because it’s “their right to say unpopular things.” The topic of the event was “Ethnocide: Multiculturalism and European-Canadian Identity”, which sounds all fancy but it really just means “It’s sooo hard to be white because of all the non-white people.” Then they got mad when protesters came and–gasp–protested by USING WORDS. Now, I’m all for open and intellectual debate of ACTUAL issues, but come on. Racists are so boring and predictable—why bother debating someone who has nothing original to say on an indefensible position that’s based on nonsense? I mean, we live in a country where you’re ALLOWED to say stupid stuff, but don’t dress it up like it’s smart. If you want to make a name for yourself championing people’s right to be stupid, then become a lawyer and defend the idiots who throw their dental floss thongs on the ground.

 

My Week 182: Shark Week

OK, so this week has been pretty quiet. Not boring, per se, but nothing super-interesting happened, and at around midnight last night, I had nothing in mind to write about. Then, just as I was drifting off to sleep, a voice in my head said, “Sharks are so cool.” And then I woke Ken up and said, “In the morning, remind me that I need to write about sharks.” He was like, “Sharks. Right.” But then I wrote in down myself because I knew he wouldn’t remember; in fact, I just asked him a minute ago to remind me what I told him last night and he said, “Glass. You were going to write about glass.” Unfortunately, I am nowhere near as obsessed with glass as I am with sharks. And I know that sounds weird, living nowhere near an ocean as I do, but I’ve had a thing for sharks ever since I was little and we were in England, where we watched some fishermen inspect their haul and throw all the dogfish back in the water.

“What are those?” I asked. “They’re so CUTE!”

“They’re dogfish,” my mother said. “They’re like tiny sharks.”

And I was like, if this is how adorable a TINY shark is, imagine how majorly awesome a HUGE shark would be!! So this week, in honour of sharks, here are my top 5 Shark Moments, in chronological order:

1) When I was around 9, my grandmother offered to take me to the movies in another city, which involved a very long bus trip. This was in the days when the cinemas were on Main Street instead of in a strip mall or a ‘cineplex’. When we got there, there were two movie theatres on the same block. One was playing “Blazing Saddles”, the G rated comedy she was SUPPOSED to take me to see. The other theatre was playing “Jaws”. I begged her instead to take me to see “Jaws”, although I didn’t have to try to hard—my gran was one of those ‘laissez-faire’ English people, and her response was “Whatevs. Don’t tell yer mam.” If you’ve ever seen “Jaws”, you’ll know that by the end of the first minute, I was absolutely terrified. But after a little while, the terror turned into fascination, and by the end of the movie, I was kind of cheering for the shark, especially after that woman slapped Sheriff Brody, and I was like, “It’s not his fault—maybe you shouldn’t have let your kid swim in shark-infested waters—it’s not like he didn’t TRY to tell you all. And don’t be blaming the shark—he’s just doing what sharks DO.” By the time the movie finished, when the shark makes its first real appearance, I was in love. Later that week, I saw in the TV guide that there was a movie on about a shark, and I begged my mom to stay up late and watch it. She couldn’t understand why, and I get her point, because it was all about gangsters.

Me: When will we see the shark?
Mom: What shark?
Me: The movie is about a lone shark. Like Jaws.
Mom: (laughing) Uh no—it’s about a ‘loan shark’. That’s a man you borrow money from, and if you don’t pay him back, he breaks your legs.
Me: What?! I’m going to bed.

2) The next year, when I was 10, my brother and I were absolutely fanatical about this novelty record that had just been released called “Santa Jaws”. It was a collection of Christmas carols, all rewritten to include sharks. Our favourite was “God rest ye merry gentlemen/You’re not so merry now./The seaside signs said not to swim/But you swam anyhow.” It was brilliant. I just looked it up, and you can listen to it on Youtube (here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELZGHmrF9pA )

3) When T was little, I somehow transferred my love of sharks to him. When he was about 5, he had his heart set on dressing up like a shark for Hallowe’en. But try finding a shark costume anywhere—apparently the costume people think it’s OK to dress up like vampires, zombies, or culturally inappropriate Indigenous princesses, but sharks? They’re just too scary. The best I could do was find a dolphin costume, to whose mouth I stapled sharp, cardboard teeth. T was only 5, so he didn’t know any different, but I was like, “Aw man—that dorsal fin is all wrong. I hope the other kids don’t make fun of him.” He still got lots of candy, despite the dorsal fin debacle, and I was a very proud shark-mama.

4) A few years ago, I bought myself a shark puppet. It was on sale at the local store, and I brought it home and named it Marcelle. Whenever Titus was getting too hyper, I would put it on and speak to him in a deep, sharky voice:

Titus: There’s food! Food on the coffeetable! This is the best day ever—wheeee!!!
Marcelle: SIT DOWN.
Titus: Whuh—who are you?
Marcelle: I’m your worst nightmare. It’s time to be a good boy. Now, SIT!
Titus: (sitting) I don’t think this is ecologically accurate—
Marcelle: No food for you!

Eventually, I gave Marcelle to a colleague’s little boy. He was just too hard on Titus.

5) I saw Sharkwater, that documentary about sharks, and it made me cry. Then, last year, I went with my parents to Turks and Caicos, and my dad and I went snorkelling. The tour took us out to a place called Stingray Cove, where they had a lot of little stingrays that for some reason, they wanted you to hold and kiss. So we did, but at one point, the tour guide yelled, “Shark!” And I was like “Ooh, where?!”  Turns out they were small lemon sharks, who grow quite big and can be very aggressive towards stingrays. I thought it was the best thing ever, but the tourguides were all upset because they make their livelihood taking people out to kiss the stingrays, and didn’t want the sharks to hurt them. So there I was, standing waistdeep in water with my underwater camera, trying to get a picture of a shark, with these local guys all yelling at me to ‘Get out of the water!’ and ‘Stop encouraging the sharks!’  and ‘You’re going to get bit, crazy Canadian lady!’ I DID get a blurry picture of one of them before it suddenly occurred to me that, despite my tremendous sympathy for them, a shark might not know the difference between my leg and a stingray. And they already have a bad enough name without the headline “Ungrateful shark eats Canadian shark ally.”

Anyway, there you have it. Sharks. Because glass is dumb.

My Week 181: 50 Shades of Ewwwww

Have you ever had one of those weeks that seems to be theme-based? Apparently, my theme this week is “50 Shades of Grey”. Now before you all start thinking that I’m a very lucky, and also naughty, girl, let me assure you that it’s nothing quite so salacious. It’s just that the topic of either that particular novel/film or the subject of ‘adult’ fiction have both been coming up fairly regularly lately. It all started last week, when I was at the Page to Screen conference because I’d been invited to attend the cocktail reception by my publisher. He’s been my publisher for about 2 years now, but this was the first time I’d ever spoken to him, let alone met him—all our communication has been via email. Anyway, he invited me to go, because he was pitching my novel to producers in this kind of speed-dating style format, with the intention of getting someone interested in making it into a movie or whatnot. Over the last few weeks, Ken and I had engaged in some pretty thorough speculation about what he actually might look like. Ken was convinced that he was a tall, older, absent-minded professor type, and I thought he was probably middle-aged but distinguished. He has a VERY Anglo name, so imagine my surprise when I walked into the reception and was met by a rather diminutive man with a VERY strong Russian accent. Well, I don’t know if he’s actually Russian, but you know how the Russians get credit for almost everything these days, so whatevs. At any rate, I really enjoyed finally getting to talk to him, and he introduced me to a couple of the producers that he knew. We also had a conversation about my next novel:

Him: I read the synopsis. Is it science fiction?
Me: It’s more dystopian. You know, like post-apocalyptic Canada.
Him: Many people here are asking for science fiction. It’s popular.
Me: Yeah, it’s science fiction.

In my defence, there are definitely some science-y bits in it. But then he had to leave. I decided to stick around for a little while longer, because there was free wine, and that outweighed my discomfort with being in a crowd of people I don’t know. So I was standing there, minding my own business and drinking a nice Chardonnay, when I was approached by this trio of women. They wanted to know what I wrote, so I told them, “Young Adult fiction. My main character is 16.”

“Oh,” said one of them. “MY main character is 16 as well, but it’s not Young Adult. There’s LOTS of sex in it. I mean A LOT OF SEX. It’s very ADULT.” And it was kind of weird and creepy how she so cheerfully emphasized the amount of sex in her book, so I tossed back my Chard and excused myself. And now I’m worried about what kinds of films these producers are making.

Then earlier this week, we were out for a birthday lunch, and the topic of 50 Shades of Grey came up at the table. I’ve never read or seen any of it, but the consensus was that the books were poorly written and the movies weren’t much better. One of my colleagues said she had just seen it with a group of lady friends, and at that moment I looked down at my phone to read an email. When I looked back up, someone was saying, “And then they raised money and took all the kids at the school to see it.” And I was like “What?! That’s horrifying! What parent would allow their child to see THAT?!” Then everyone just stared at me because the conversation had moved on from 50 Shades of Grey to The Black Panther and I should probably pay attention to conversations if I want to contribute to them.

And yesterday, I was in the kitchen at work, and someone asked me what kind of novel I had written. When I told her, she said, “Do you ever write anything adult?” and I was like, “What, you mean, like porn? God, no.” She immediately clarified that she just meant books designed for an older audience, not “erotica”, but it occurred to me that there’s no real way to ask that question without sounding like you actually MEAN porn. IE: Do you write for a mature audience? Is your work meant for adults? Are your readers older? Because all I have to do in my head is put quotation marks around “adult”, “mature”, or “older” and it automatically sounds like it’s porn. But I could never write porn, not even that 50 Shades sh*t, because every single one of my female characters would giggle self-consciously and make jokes whenever anything remotely sexy happened. Face it—there are just some people who shouldn’t write porn. I’m going to now try writing something “adult”, just so you have proof:

Woman: I’m bored. Talk dirty to me.
Man: OK. Mrs. Smith, I’ve been looking at your lesson plans and you’ve been very naughty.
Woman: I have? Ooh. What have I done, Mr. Jones?
Man: Your rubrics don’t align with curriculum expectations. You will have to be punished. Please come to my office.
Woman: Your office? Tell me more.
Man (husky voice): I just had new carpeting installed. It’s builder’s grade, but it’s very nice all the same.
Woman: That’s definitely going to trigger my allergies.
Man (husky voice): Ohhh, your allergies eh? Maybe you need to have them spanked out of you.
Woman: *laughs hysterically*

That may or may not have been based on a real conversation between 2 people who have been married almost 30 years. The closest I’ve come to actual porn lately though was the movie Red Sparrow, starring Jennifer Lawrence. She plays a Russian ballerina that trains to be a sex spy, which is to say, someone who uses sex to spy on people, NOT someone who spies on people having sex. Anyway, there was a LOT of graphic action in this movie, which we had gone to see with T and his girlfriend, the lovely V. When the movie was over, we were all just like, “Well, that was certainly a complicated plot….” and “Gosh, the Cold War was an interesting time in history….” So probably not the kind of movie you want to see WITH your teenager. And now, I just took a break and peeked at Facebook, where one of my friends has posted an article about a Canadian trapper who was attacked by a randy 200 pound beaver, so I’m just going to leave things there.

Hey there, baby.

My Week 180: Star Wars Death Elevator, Purple Rain

Well, I managed to survive another week, and by survive, I mean LITERALLY not get killed. Over the course of the last few days, something terrifying happened, and something lovely also happened. Do you want the good news or the bad news first? Obviously, the bad news, right? Because we need to get the sh*t out of the way so that we can celebrate the good things that life has to offer. So away we go…

On Thursday, I decided that I wanted hot chocolate. I like to make it with half hot water and half milk, but the communal milk in my mini-frig was sour (sorry, M, but we aren’t drinking that sh*t fast enough—pick up the pace!), and I decided to pop down to the store on the corner to buy a new carton. I came back into the building with my bag of milk, and some hummus and crackers for lunch, and got onto the elevator. You may recall, if you visit this site often, that I am particularly phobic about elevators, and often have nightmares about them. You may also remember that a few weeks ago, I had an elevator incident where I accidentally pushed the basement button and couldn’t get to my floor for a few minutes. So naturally, I’m very careful now in terms of buttons. Of course, aside from the numbers, I don’t know what any of the other buttons mean. Most elevators just have symbols, which I have always related back to the Star Wars universe, and simply call them “Imperial Fighter”, “X-Wing Fighter”, “Darth Vader’s Helmet” and either “Princess Leia’s Hairdo”, or “ET, phone home” depending on which way the phone icon is facing. So yes, I know the phone is to call someone, but as for the rest, I am perpetually stumped. I never know which one opens the door or closes it, and 9 times out of 10, I accidentally shut the door on someone calling, “Hold the elevator!” and then seem like a total jerk, when actually I just DON’T READ BRAILLE. Like, I understand the importance of making sure the blind don’t get stuck in elevators too, but can’t these buttons be also labelled in regular WORDS? Is this a Canadian thing, where we expect people to guess how the elevator works? Some elevators have words, from what I’ve seen on the interweb, but not mine.

See the resemblance?

Luke, I am your alarm button.

Anyway, I got on the elevator and pressed “12” for my floor. The door shut. The elevator started moving, then it stopped. The light on the “12” button went out. Nothing happened for a second. And then the elevator DROPPED about a foot and then bounced up and down. I started stabbing the lobby button frantically but nothing happened. I looked at the buttons. Imperial Fighter or X-Wing Fighter?! How do I get these f*cking doors open?! I tried both, but nothing happened, and then the elevator dropped and bounced again. At which point, I pushed Darth Vader’s Helmet as hard as I could, not knowing whether this would result in a light sabre battle with the Dark Lord, but I would have gladly lost a hand to get off that elevator alive. A piercing alarm sounded. I kept pushing the Helmet Button and I heard a faint voice saying, “Stop pressing the alarm—we’re coming.” So I stopped for a second, and then the elevator dropped again. At which point, I resumed pressing the button and also screaming, “Help me! Get me out of here! Please! Someone help me!” I also started crying, so probably good that Darth Vader’s Helmet didn’t summon the Dark Side, because I would have been an easy kill at that moment. Suddenly the elevator doors opened, and two guys were standing there looking at me very concerned and apologetic.

Guy 1: Are you OK?
Me (crying a little bit): No.
Guy 2: What floor were you going to?
Me (crying a lot): 12.
Guy 2: Do you want me to go up with you?
Me (sobbing ridiculously): Yes.

On the way up, he apologized profusely. Apparently, he and his friend were checking for water leakage in the basement, and had locked my elevator at the exact moment that I had pushed “12”. So it was like an epic battle between floors, with me caught in the middle. By the time I got back to my office, I was in the middle of a complete panic attack. I walked in with tears rolling down my face, and was immediately surrounded by the warmth and care of my coworkers, who helped me to a chair, offered to get me water, and brought me chocolate because, as my colleague put it, “Nothing helps a panic attack more than chocolate”. And if anyone ever wonders why I work so far away from home, when I could try to find a job within easy driving distance, this is it. Except for the elevators.

So that was the scary thing, although it had a nice ending. The really cool thing that happened is this:

We recently brought on board a person whose job is, apparently, to understand what the secret agency does. I’ve had to meet with him several times, and the conversations go something like this:

Him: What’s this?
Me: It’s this.
Him: What does it do?
Me: It does this.
Him: Who’s involved?
Me: They are.
Him: What happens next?
Me: This does.

And then he fills in his fancy and complicated spreadsheet. He’s a very quiet, polite, older fellow, and doesn’t say much, at least not to me. Then the other day, he needed some information and came to my office. When he sat down, he looked at my tote bag, my hair, and a couple of other things in my office and said, “I see you really like the colour purple.” I said, yes, that it was a particular favourite. He responded with “I have something on me that I wish was purple” and he started rolling up his pant leg. And I was like, “Wait, what is happening here?!” (in my head of course, because I was alarmed, but also fascinated). He pulled the pant leg up to reveal a tattoo of the Prince symbol on his calf. Honest to god, it was the last thing I expected from this quiet, older man. Turns out, he and his wife are both huge Prince fans, and we spent the next little while reminiscing about Prince, and how wonderful he was in concert (I’d never seen him live, but my colleague had on several occasions). His biggest regret aside from getting the tattoo in solid black instead of purple, he said, was that he didn’t get VIP tickets for the last concert, because the people sitting on the corners of the stage actually got called up by Prince to DANCE with him. It was a lovely conversation, and it struck me how important it is to get to know people on more than just a spreadsheet level. And the best part was when I was telling Ken about it yesterday on the way to see a movie with T and his girlfriend, and just as I was describing how much this guy loved Prince, “Kiss” came on the radio, and all I could picture was this cool, quiet, older guy dancing his heart out.

Anyway, sorry that this week wasn’t as funny as normal, but a near-death experience can do that to you. I feel bad though, so I’ll leave you with this conversation that I had with a telemarketer last week:

Phone rings at 7:30 on Saturday morning, then stops. Ken has answered. I’m worried that it’s someone with bad news, because who the f*ck else calls your house at that time in the morning. I pick up the upstairs phone:

Heavily accented voice: …an illegal charge on your credit card. If you don’t pay right away, the police…
Me: Ken, this is a scam. Tell him to f*ck off.
Heavily accented voice: You f*ck off.
Me: No, YOU F*CK OFF.
Heavily accented voice: NO, YOU F*CK OFF.
Me: Ken, hang up the damn phone.

Yep. That’s me. Willing to engage in a swearing match with a telemarketer at 7:30 in the morning. Near death experiences have made me bold.