My Week 192: Antiquing, Bones of Contention, Just Bones

On Saturday morning, Ken said to me, “Hey, let’s go to the Christie Antique Show.” I did what I always do and immediately said, “Yes! Let’s do that.” Then I did the next thing I always do and immediately had second thoughts and regrets, especially after looking on the website which said that there were free shuttle buses from the parking lot to the show site. All I could think of was the line-up to get into the parking lot, the line-up to get on the bus, and the obvious huge crowds of people that would be there. So I said, “Maybe let’s not go after all,” but Ken was insistent, even when I was all sad and whiny and like, “I don’t wanna go to the antique show. Don’t make me go to the antique show,” but he made me go anyway on the grounds that “it will be fun.”

Before we left…
Me: I’m taking my wristlet. I don’t want to lug a huge purse around with me.
Five minutes later…
Ken: I’m taking my camera.
Me: You always take your camera. Why are you telling me this?
Ken: Oh, I just thought we were announcing things to each other.
Titus (from outside): I’m taking a dump in the back yard! This is fun!

In the car…
Ken: Why are you staring at me like that? Is there something wrong with the way I’m dressed?
Me: I wasn’t staring at you. I was looking past you out the window.
Ken: No, you were looking at me.
Me: How would you even know that?! I’m wearing dark sunglasses. Besides, you look fine. You’re wearing a black T-shirt and a black plaid shirt. You match. (*under breath*) Unlike when you wear your red plaid shirt and lime green T-shirt.
Ken: What?
Me: Nothing.

A moral dilemma…

Me: Did you see that video on Facebook about the job interview question?
Ken: The one where you’re driving in a lightning storm and you see three people at the side of the road?
Me: Right—“You see your best friend who once saved your life, a beautiful woman, and a sick elderly lady standing by the side of the road in a lightning storm, and you only have one seat. Who do you take?” It was easy. I solved it right away.
Ken: What do you mean, “you solved it”? Did you watch the video to the end?
Me: I didn’t need to watch it to the end. The old lady sits on my lap in the driver’s seat, my best friend sits in the other seat, and the beautiful woman sits on HIS lap.
Ken: You’re not allowed to do that. You only have one seat.
Me: I can do whatever the f*ck I want. It’s MY ethics. I’m like the Kobayashi Maru.
Ken: No, you’re Kirk. But it doesn’t matter. That’s not the right answer. Why don’t you EVER watch videos to the end? The CORRECT answer is: You give your keys to your best friend because you trust him to take the old woman to the hospital and then come back for you.  This leaves you alone with the beautiful woman. Then he comes back and—
Me: This is starting to sound suspiciously like that logic problem where you have a rowboat and you have to take a bunch of animals across a river. It’s a MORAL DILEMMA, not a logic problem, Ken. Also, why do I want to be alone with the woman?
Ken: So you can hit it off with her.
Me: That’s why my solution is more ethical. I put the woman on my best friend’s lap so that HE could hit it off with her. I’m self-sacrificial as f*ck. There. I win. ALL THE JOBS ARE MINE.
Ken: Sigh.

Then we got to the antique show, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought. We had no problem getting parked, got a bus right away, and made it into the showgrounds less than 5 minutes after arriving. But then we realized that there were 100s of dealers and we needed a system, which was basically to wander down one row and back up another, saying, “Have we been down this aisle before? Oh yeah, I remember the giant elephant statue.” We have a friend who had a booth, and we finally found him. He said he was having a pretty good day, selling quite a bit and whatnot, when Ken pointed to a large box of bones at the front of his tent. They were priced at $5 each. When we asked about it, he said that last month, a guy came into his store with this big box of bones, wondering if he’d buy them. He was skeptical at first, but they sold like hotcakes (if hotcakes were all dirty and decomposed). So when the guy came back with another box, he bought that too, and brought them to sell at the show.

Friend: People are going nuts for them. I’ve already sold most of them. Quite a few people have been teachers, you know—want to use them in their classrooms.
Ken: What kind of bones are they?
Friend: Cow bones. I think.
Me: Cow bones?
Friend: Probably.

I don’t know if I want my child in a classroom where the teacher is like, “Hey kids, check this out! It LOOKS like a human femur, but the guy told me it’s probably just a cow bone.” And the weirdest thing was, he wasn’t the ONLY dealer selling bones. There were so many of them that we lost count. There were skulls, antlers, jaw bones, full skeletons of small rodents, you name it. We walked past a booth where a guy was showing a woman a skull that was on top of a log with a branch going through the skull’s eye socket. He was actually saying this: “Sometimes when animals die in the forest, they do it on top of logs and such, and then they decay there. So I’ve arranged the skull and log like this—kind of like a nature scene.”

At the end of the trip up and down the aisles, Ken and I came away with a single antique window, because we needed it for the greenhouse we’re building because why WOULDN’T we be building a greenhouse? (See the picture below–it’s a work in progress, and I’ll post another picture when it’s complete.) Also, in the process of looking for hinges in Ken’s workshop, I came across a tinfoil packet on a shelf. When I opened it, I was like, “What?! Are these BIRD SKULLS?!” and Ken said, “Yes, I was going to use them for a photography project.” When he’s done with them, I know a guy…

Work in progress

Alas, poor Yorick.

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My Week 191: Big Words, Flushed Away, My Superhero Posse

I like big words and I cannot lie.

I have a certain penchant for the multi-syllabic. I mean, why use a merely utilitarian word when a grandiose one will do? I have to be honest though—I don’t use unusual or archaic words in everyday conversation because I consciously think “Hey, it would really impress people if I said, ‘It’s not my forte’ as opposed to ‘It’s not my thing’”. I just really like words that are precise and carry a certain nuance, and I use them without even thinking about it, until someone looks at me and goes, “Huh?” Here are a couple of examples:

1) A few years ago, Ken and I were shopping for a new bedroom suite. We went to a local furniture store, and a very nice salesman started hovering, as they do, so we engaged him in conversation. When we told him we were looking for a king size headboard and footboard, he must have assumed we were tabloid celebrities who lived in Las Vegas because he immediately took us over to this incredibly overdone monstrosity in wood and gold lacquer.

Sales Guy: What about this set? It’s really stunning.
Me: I don’t know. It’s a little ostentatious.
Sales Guy: Austin who?
Me: Um, like ornate and pretentious.
Sales Guy: I don’t know any of those words.
Me: Super fancy?
Sales Guy: Oh, sure, I can see that. Maybe this one over here…

2) I was down in Ohio with my rugby team and we stopped at an ‘All You Can Eat’ pizza place. I’m always amazed by American restaurants, with their gigantic servings. The cost was $7 and people were piling their plates sky-high with pizza then coming back for more. I was with a group of teenaged rugby players, and they were in seventh heaven, as you can well imagine. But I couldn’t find any knives and forks, so I said to the woman behind the counter,” Can you tell me where the cutlery is?” She looked at me blankly for a moment, so I repeated, “I can’t find the cutlery”.

 Server (long pause): I don’t know that word.
Me: Oh, um—utensils? For eating?
Server: You mean like a fork?
Me: Yes! Exactly like a fork.
Server: Oh! They’re over there by the soda.
Me: The what? Oh, you mean the pop? Thanks!

And this wasn’t me being a dick, seriously. For example, when you call Swiss Chalet here in Ontario to order take-out, the last thing they ask you before your order is complete is “Would you like condiments and utensils?” and you’re expected to know what that sh*t is or you don’t get your chicken.

But just because I like big words, doesn’t mean I’m actually smart in other ways. The other day, I was in a meeting with a director and some other managers (all women, thank goodness), and we were talking about some catering we’d just had. The catering company served Montreal Smoked Meat sandwiches almost every day, and I referred to it as ‘ubiquitous’, at which point, someone turned to me and said, “That’s a big word.” I replied, “Sorry, I meant, like, ‘monotonous”. But then the meeting continued and it went on for a while. I’d been drinking a LOT of green tea that morning, so when we got to the last item on the agenda, I said, “Will this be a long one? I have to use the Ladies, so if the answer’s ‘Yes’, I’ll just pop out really quickly.”

The director said, “Oh, just use the one in here.” For context, we weren’t having the meeting IN a bathroom—we were in a boardroom that actually had a full bathroom with a shower in it, for some bizarre and unknown reason. We all made jokes about how no one would listen to me, but for good measure, I turned the faucet on high just to drown out any obvious noise. When I was finished, I stood up, turned around, and was at a complete loss. There was no discernable way to flush the toilet. No lever, no handle, no button, nothing. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t stay in there forever—I mean, I was in the middle of a f*cking meeting. People were LITERALLY waiting for me to come out. So finally, I opened the door and stood there.

Director: What’s wrong?
Me: I—I don’t know how to flush the toilet…
Everyone: What?!
Me: There’s no mechanism that I can see whatsoever. I don’t know how to flush it.

One of the managers jumped up and came into the bathroom with me. She looked around and pressed a switch. The lights went off. She turned the lights back on, then we both stood there looking at the toilet.

Manager: She’s right. There’s no handle.
Director (coming over): No, there has to be.

Then we all stood there staring at the toilet. Finally, the director crouched down and looked around. “I think I see something!” she said. She reached around the back of the toilet and pushed a button, at which point the damned toilet flushed, and everyone dissolved into hysterical laughter.

Director: And now we all know how to flush this toilet.
Me: Indubitably. I mean, “Yup.”

Me and My Superhero Posse

On Thursday night, my train was an hour and a half late. We finally boarded, and I was talking to Ken on the phone when I found out that not only had I been seated in a foursome, which I hate, but also that he had just bought some antique windows for me, and one of the panes was broken.

Me: Are you f*cking kidding me?
Ken: The lady was really sorry. It broke in her car. She knocked five dollars off the price.
Me: Five dollars?! What am I supposed to do with a window with a broken pane?
Ken: We can fix it.
Me: OK. Sigh. Sorry. I’m really tired and a little punchy.

At which point I said to the three women sitting in the foursome with me: “Just to clarify—I won’t actually be punching anyone.” They all smiled and one of them said, “Oh, that’s OK”, like if I DID punch someone, she would be fine with it. They seemed like nice ladies. But because we were sitting in the back foursome, we were jointly responsible for breaking the window and helping people out of the train if it derailed, according to the conductor who explained how to get the hammer out of the box mounted above the window. Then I realized that the sticker on the window by the box looked exactly like Thor’s Hammer, and I said to the woman next to me, “Do you think if you just say ‘Hammer’, it will come flying out of the box right into your hand?” because why the hell WOULDN’T anyone wonder that, but she just kind of looked at me and shrugged, so obviously she was NOT going to be in my superhero gang.

Mjolnir, come here!

But now, I was not only tired, but a little sad at the thought that I didn’t have a superhero crew like Deadpool or Tony Stark or Starlord, so I messaged my friend M from work:

I was originally going to call myself Captain Middle-Aged Woman, but the superpowers of being financially responsible and possessing comfortable walking shoes didn’t seem like skills you would need in a fight against a supervillain unless it was Millennial Girl, and also M had some awesome ideas about our outerwear:

And it was nice to know that, on a day where work had been long and stressful, and the train was really late, that I, Trainwine, have friends who wouldn’t hesitate to be part of my superhero posse. I had a name for M, but I think in retrospect, I’m calling her “The Kickboxer”, because she broke her foot a while ago playing soccer, but she still went to kickboxing (here’s her blogsite–she just started out, so give her a read: I Left My Dress In the Fridge  ). We also decided our other friend should be “Italian Thunder” because she brings the boom AND the pasta to the party. So look out supervillains—Trainwine and her posse are coming (at least if it’s before 11 pm and it’s not raining because as everyone knows, I don’t dry well).  And if you, dear reader, want me to give you your own superhero name, ask for it in the comments and I will oblige. I think that just might be my idiom. Indubitably.

My Week 190: What New Hell Is This? Also, Happy Mother’s Day!

For a little while now, I’ve been experiencing things that put me in mind of hell. I feel like Dante, making my way through a landscape that just gets more and more bizarre. And every time I think I truly know what my own personal hell would be like, something happens that’s even worse. Oh don’t worry—none of it is truly tragic. I recognize that people go through things that are absolutely nightmarish, but in keeping with the spirit of this site, my version of hell is more like a Monty Python sketch, but one where Terry Gilliam plays all the roles and John Cleese is nowhere to be seen. And unlike Dante, I don’t have the 9 circles of hell—I have the Five Dickish Rings.

Dickish Ring One:

It all started a few weeks ago, when I was working offsite. Every day, I would either have to drive from downtown Toronto and back, or from my actual house and back. One particular morning, I was driving in the dark, in the rain, surrounded by transport trucks kicking up spray, and the only radio station I could get was the one that does news and traffic incessantly, which was probably the WORST thing about the whole experience, and I thought, “This is my personal vision of hell—driving on this damned highway forever with a guy who is PRETENDING to be in a f*cking helicopter but who is actually just a winged demon, and who is telling me that traffic is jammed from Townline Road to Mississauga due to volume.”

Dickish Ring Two:

After the nightmare that was working for 16 days straight without a day off, I finished work and came home. Ken had bought us all tickets for ‘Mardi Gras Night’ at the community centre. I had this weird idea that the local Lion’s Club was going to transform the community centre into a dimly lit enclave where we would go incognito in our fancy masks, and gamble the night away to the strains of jazz music and incense. I actually know nothing about Mardi Gras, if you haven’t guessed from the previous description, but if Mardi Gras means fluorescent lights, people dressed in jeans and ball caps, and a guy yelling out numbers to the elimination draw every five minutes through a loudspeaker, then Fat Tuesday it is. Well, there WERE beads. One string of dollar store beads per table. We got there early and snagged them so that I, my mom, T, and his girlfriend (the lovely V) each had one. All I could think was “This is my own personal version of hell—wearing plastic beads, sitting in an incredibly noisy small town community centre surrounded by drunk people and losing money to a man who looks like he wants to staple your elimination draw ticket to your face.”

Dickish Ring Three:

I walked to the local grocery store last week with a colleague who wanted to buy salad for lunch. There were many delicious options—spinach with chicken, dried cranberries, candied pecans, apples, and balsamic vinegar was my particular favourite if I was going to actually eat salad. What did she pick? Spring mix with hardboiled eggs and chunks of avocado in a blue cheese dressing. I honestly said to her out loud, “This is my own personal version of hell—being force-fed that sh*t three times a day.”

Dickish Ring Four:

I came home on Thursday night. Ken was away at a conference, so I was naturally a little nervous at being home alone, but at least I had Titus and Raven. On Thursday night, Titus pretty much ignored me because he was pissed off at Ken for not being there to walk him. On Friday night, it was another story:

Titus: Hey, whatcha doing?
Me: What do you mean, ‘what am I doing’? I’m sleeping!
Titus: I need you to open the door. I’d do it myself but I don’t have opposable thumbs.
Me: What? I let you out three times before bed. It’s 3 o’clock in the morning!
Titus: The heart wants what the heart wants.
Me: Fine! Make it quick. (long pause) Where the hell are you?!
Titus: I was just taking in the night—
Me: MORNING
Titus: —air.
Me: OK, fine. I’m going back to bed.

An hour later…

Titus: Hey, whatcha doing? By the way, my tummy’s a little upset…

This went on for several hours. All I could think was “This is my own personal version of hell—being woken up at night every hour by a dog who may or may not have diarrhea, so you HAVE to get up and let him out just in case. If you do, he will disappear into the night, giving you no choice but to wander around in the cold night air in your bathrobe and slippers to find him. If you don’t let him out, he will have pooped all over your favourite Persian rug. It’s literally the devil’s version of Schrodinger’s Dog.”

The devil incarnate.

Dickish Ring Five:

On Saturday, I had a book signing, which is to say that I was invited to come to a local mall by a book store and promote my novel. I was a little nervous, but I thought, ‘People do this all the time. I’m sure they have it all organized.” When I got there, right before 1 pm, there was nothing set up at the store. I saw the owner, and he said, “Oh right. There’s the table out there, and here are a couple of book stands. See you later.” The table was in the middle of the mall, right between the Fido Mobile Booth and a lady who was raising money for Cystic Fibrosis. I sat there for two hours while people walked by me and stared at me. Thankfully, my parents, my aunts, and a friend came by to say hi. My parents and my aunts pretended like they didn’t know me, and took a picture of us all so at least the five teenage boys who work in the Fido booth wouldn’t think I was a total loser, but after my family left, I still had another hour to go. At 2:30, I thought, “This is my own personal version of hell—sitting at a table by myself in the middle of a busy, incredibly noisy mall, while strangers walk by and stare at me.” At 2:56, I thought, “You can do this. You only have four minutes left”, at which point I realized that I was making a low, keening noise under my breath and slightly rocking back and forth in my chair. Finally, at 3 pm, I put my books back into my bag and went into the store. “Oh, don’t you want to stay for a while longer?” he asked.

“No, I’m good,” I said, which was a total lie. What I really wanted to say was “Go to hell”.

But later that day, I was at the grocery store, and I bumped into a really nice young guy that I used to work with. We exchanged pleasantries and then he said, “There’s a newspaper article about you pinned up on the bulletin board in our staff room. You’re a famous author now, right?” And while Sartre might have claimed that hell is other people, they’re also heaven sometimes too.

Happy Mother’s Day. Whether you’re a mom, an auntie, a second mom to someone, a special person who cares about your friend’s kids or whatever, here’s to all the wonderful women who make strong connections with children and give them great lives.

My Week 189: I’ve Got The Power

I don’t know about you, but I’m frankly very sick of all this extreme weather. Two weeks ago, we had ice storms. Ice storms in April. As T.S.Eliot once famously said, “Oh my f*cking god, April—you truly are a dick.” I believe that was in his greatest work “The Wasteland”, or “Etobicoke” as it’s known today. (I tweeted this out at the time, and it didn’t get a single like, as opposed to my lame tweet about Canada being ready to defend its sacred Maple Syrup, which got over 200 likes and numerous retweets, all of which taught me one thing: that people don’t appreciate obscure literary references and I should stick to tweeting about Maple Syrup). And then of course there’s terrible flooding out East in Saint John or St. John’s— I’m not sure which one. I initially thought that it must be the height of Canadianism to name two provincial capitals practically the same thing, but then I looked it up and the capital of New Brunswick is actually Fredericton, so I guess the height of Canadianism is to NOT know all the capitals. I DO know that up until recently, Canada had 9 teams in the Canadian Football League, and two of them were called the Roughriders. One of them was the Roughriders, and the other was the Rough Riders, just so you could tell them apart. This would be like if the NFL, for some bizarre reason, named half its teams The Patriots. Can you imagine the play-by-play (which I have to do because I have never watched the CFL)?:

Commentator 1: And the Roughriders take the field.
Commentator 2: As do the Rough Riders. Go teams!
Later…
Commentator 1: And the Rough Riders have scored a touchdown!
Commentator 2: Aw—now the Roughriders are behind by 22 and a half points.

Anyway, about the weather. I came home early this week with the intention of getting some writing done. I had the remaining chapters of my new novel laid out, and I’m itching to get it finished because I sent some sample chapters to my publisher and he said they’re definitely interested in it. But then I sat down to write and realized that I had forgotten about the chapter I had started BEFORE working 16 straight days in Etobicoke, and I had no plan for it. So that meant a lot of pacing, and thinking, and sitting and staring into space while the whole thing crystallized in my mind. By Friday morning, I knew what I was doing and I sat down at the computer. I was getting close to finished when I noticed that the wind outside had REALLY started to pick up, like the trees in the yard were whipping from side to side in a rather alarming way, and things that used to be on the porch were now in the middle of the yard. Then the power started to flicker. Then it went off. I tried to call Hydro but the line was busy, as always. But then the power came back on, so I stopped panicking and finished writing. Ken came home, and we went out to see Infinity Wars at the VIP theatre with T and his girlfriend. It was pretty good, even if I hadn’t seen all the other movies and had no idea who half the people were. Luckily, T was with us, so I could ask him, even if it meant being subjected to a LOT of eyerolling:

Me: Who’s that?
T: That’s The Falcon.
Me: The what? I don’t remember him from the last Avengers movie.
T: Which one was the last one you saw?
Me: The…Avengers? Who’s the guy with the mechanical arm? I feel like I’m really out of touch here.
T: Bucky. Stop talking.
Me: Where’s Batman? I heard he dies in this movie.
T: Mom! Batman is DC, not Marvel. They’re two different universes!
Me: So no Aquaman? You know what this movie REALLY needs? The Wonder Twins.
T: Sigh.

But then the Guardians of the Galaxy showed up, and I was like, “This is so unfair! How come the raccoon and the tree are here, but I can’t have Batman?!” But apparently, the Guardians are “Marvel” too, but just from a different franchise, and I had to resign myself to drinking wine, eating my poutine, and silently wondering where the f*ck Vision and Wanda came from.

After the movie, Ken and I drove home. But as we got into town, I noticed something terrible. There were no lights on anywhere. No street lights, no house lights, nothing. And sure enough, the power was out in the entire town and surrounding areas. I checked Facebook on my phone and someone had posted that power wouldn’t be restored until the next day at 6 pm.

So I did it all by the numbers.

1) Get out all the jar candles.

I have a drawer in a desk in the living room, where I keep jar candles. I currently have 23, all in varying shapes, sizes, and states of use. Why, you ask? Because the POWER MIGHT GO OFF. I started lighting them with a lighter wand thing, which ran out of butane by number 17. I haven’t used matches since I was a teenager, and I couldn’t get them to light on the sandpaper strip on the box, so I just stuck them in the open flames of the other candles. I am nothing if not resourceful. Candles lit. Check.

2) Find all 8 flashlights and realize that none of them work. Look for batteries. Try to install the batteries into the flashlights by the light of a “White Linen and Vanilla” jar candle. Remind Ken that “the pioneers might have been way better at living rough than me, but I bet their houses didn’t smell as good”.

3) Also remind Ken that under no circumstances should he open the fridge in order to keep the food from spoiling. Open the fridge myself to get out a bottle of wine.

4) Lie in bed in the dark, drinking wine and plotting my revenge against nature by candlelight. Eventually blow out all the candles so that I don’t set the house on fire.

Day Two

In the morning, we checked again. Now Hydro was saying the power wouldn’t be back on until Sunday at 6 pm.

5) Have a minor meltdown, and order Ken to take me out to buy a barbeque so that we could cook dinner (our previous bbq had broken during the winter when I rather vigorously threw open the lid and it snapped off). I also bought one of those big camping lanterns. The only instructions for its use involved three pictures that were all upside down. After ten minutes, I lost my sh*t and called for Ken. He looked at it, then pushed the button and it came on. “You have to press harder,” he said.

“Yeah, well, just wait until you have to put together the barbeque!” I responded. Which he did. In under the time suggested in the instruction manual.

6) Call my mom and complain about the lack of electricity.

7) Call my aunt and complain about the lack of electricity.

8) Post on Facebook complaining about the lack of electricity.

9) Realize my phone battery is almost dead.

10) Remember that our neighbour has a generator. Message her to ask if I can use it to charge my phone. She says yes.

11) Take my phone and a bottle of wine across the street. Spend a couple of very pleasant hours with my neighbour, talking and drinking while my phone charges.

12) Go home and light all 23 jar candles again. Lie in bed, drinking wine and plotting revenge against Ontario Hydro, who will rue the day they ruined my plan to kick back and watch Netflix so that I could get caught up on The Avengers movies. Enjoy the aroma of “Lavender Sky” mingled with “Christmas Berry”. Read the fifth book in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series and get seriously pissed off at being over halfway through and still not knowing who the f*cking Wolves of Calla are.

13) Blow out all the jar candles and go to sleep. Wake up sometime in the night and realize that the hall light is on. Wake Ken up to tell him, but he already knows and has been watching Netflix without me. I forgive him, silently rejoice, and congratulate myself on being hardy like a pioneer. Make plans to buy my own generator. Just in case.

My Week 188: The Mystery of the Box of Porn on the Porch

Well, I’m finally back to normal routine, which means I can actually sleep in on the weekends. It’s amazing how those few extra hours can mean the difference between being alone in your car and having a screaming match with the nametag you’re wearing around your neck that got caught on your ear whilst you were trying to remove it, and staying calm when you get knocked out of HQ Trivia at question 4 because you don’t know ANYTHING about American geography. On Tuesday, I said to the nametag “Get off me, you stupid f*cking piece of sh*t!!”, but last night, knowing that I had an infinite number of hours to laze around in bed, I simply looked at my phone and quietly whispered, “Calling the lines on the periodic table ‘periods’ isn’t very f*cking creative.” Note that I’m no less sweary when I’m rested—I’m just more subdued about things.

Anyway, on Wednesday, Ken sent me a BBM (which is like a text message that very old people use with a Blackberry, and yes, I had to download a specific app onto my iPhone to receive them because Ken won’t text like an actual human being) which said, “There’s a box of books on our porch. Do you know anything about this?” After work I called him to find out more:

Me: What’s this about a box of books?
Ken: I came home and there was a cardboard box full of books on the porch.
Me: What kind of books? Can we put them in the little library?
Ken: I don’t think so. Some of them are kind of…adult.
Me: You mean, like, porn? Did someone leave a box of porn on our front porch?! Who would do that?!
Ken: Well, they’re kind of porn-ish. There’s one about 50 Shades of Grey from Christian Grey’s perspective.
Me: Putting aside the fact that somehow you know his name is Christian, what else is there?
Ken: There’s some pretty racy stuff…Also, I only know his name because I read the back of the book.
Me: Sure, honey.

Then he read me the synopsis of one of the other books, which is a ‘Harlequin Blaze’ novel: “For venture capitalist Adam Sutherland, attending Camp Winnehatchee’s reopening was a no-brainer. He’s even reuniting with former camp counsellors to chip in and help revive the camp. What he ISN’T expecting is to find a girl sleeping in his bunk. Or that the girl is none other than Julia McKee, who went from shy and awkward to scorching hot babe…Julia intends to show her bad-boy childhood crush just how to put the ‘wild’ back into the wilderness. And this time, he’ll be the one left wanting more…”

Me: OK, we definitely can’t put that in the little library. ‘Scorching hot babe’? That sounds super-cheesy, and kind of like a guy wrote it. What does it say about the author?
Ken: The bio says that the author is a woman who has written 65 books for Harlequin Blaze since 1993. Get this—“she enjoys music, theatre, and musical theatre.
Me: A woman of wide and varied interests.
Ken: Also, “She is active working with high school students in the performing arts and lives with her cat.”
Me: What? Does her school board know she writes porn? Do you think that “active working with high school students in the performing arts” is a euphemism? Is this where she gets her story ideas?! There is so much wrong about this…that poor cat.
Ken: Well, we can’t put any of these in the little library, that’s for sure.

No porn, please!

Let me explain about the little library. A couple of years ago, Ken and I wanted to do something for our community. We have no actual library, and on the weekends, the school library is closed. So we built a cupboard, mounted it on a pole, and stocked it full of children’s books so that the kids in our community would be able to find something to read on the weekends. It’s been very popular, and regularly, I can look out the window and see a family stop, peruse the shelves and pull out a book. In the past, people have donated books to the library, but they’ve always been children’s books, except for the one time someone gave us a box of Spanish textbooks, which we donated to Value Village. Everybody in town knows that it’s a CHILDREN’S library. So why would someone give us porn? (And believe me, I opened up a page, and it’s very explicit. Also, in order to write this post, I had to touch one of the books that someone else had read whilst ‘enjoying’ its graphicness, and as if that wasn’t bad enough, I realized after that there was someone’s blond hair sticking out from between a couple of pages, so I am now in full-blown handwashing mode). Is it someone who read My Week 181: 50 Shades of Eww and wants to keep that ball rolling? Do I need to put up a sign that says, “Donations are welcome—no porn, please.”? Or conversely, a sign that says, “My marriage is fine!” in case it’s someone who’s just trying to be helpful?

At any rate, I have no idea who the books belonged to, but now, I’ll be walking around town on the lookout for a blond woman with a big smile on her face.

My Week 187: Things I Say That No One Understands

I’m currently navigating myself through the 7 circles of hell, also known as Mississauga, and I think I’m at about 5 and a half, so I’ve moved on from wrathful to just damned sullen. Here’s a little something to make you giggle.

Wednesday: I have a lot of sayings that apparently no one else understands.

So a while ago, I was talking with some colleagues about the similarities between two pieces of writing that we were looking at. I happened to remark, “It’s probably just a coincidence—you know, a million monkeys and a million typewriters, right?” Everyone looked puzzled and a little confused, so I clarified—“If you give a million monkeys each a typewriter….?” In retrospect, this was NOT a clarification, and everyone continued to look at me with confusion. I tried again.

Me: If you give a million monkeys a million typewriters, eventually one of them will write the bible. You’ve heard that saying before, right?
Colleague: Why would a monkey write a bible?
Me: No, it’s a saying. It’s the idea that random events can happen if you have enough time—and monkeys. So eventually, after hammering away, one of the monkeys might just randomly hit the right keys to recreate the words in the bible…sorry, it’s just a saying. I’m not implying that the person who wrote this, or the bible, is a monkey…

At that point, I started to get panicky, because I want my colleagues to think that I’m at least a little bit mentally competent, and I was starting to sound kind of like a crazy monkey-lady, which is like a crazy cat-lady, but with monkeys. Obviously. Then it occurred to me that I have a lot of strange sayings that I expect other people to understand, but a lot of the time (I’ve come to realize) they DON’T.

Once when I was still teaching, I was discussing Hamlet with my students. It was the scene where Ophelia, Hamlet’s girlfriend, gives him back all the ‘remembrances’ he’s given her, under the direction of her father. Hamlet freaks out, tells her to get to a nunnery, and curses her out, even though he loves her. So I said, “That Hamlet—talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face, right?” The kids were like, “Why would Hamlet cut off his nose? What does that mean?” So I went into this lengthy explanation of how if you’re mad at your face and you cut off your own nose just to piss off your face (I didn’t say piss, of course, but something innocuous like ‘tick’), then all you’ve done is wreck your own face, because you’re mad at yourself, and now you’ve made yourself more unhappy—AND noseless. I said, “Come on—none of you have EVER heard that expression? No one’s parents or grandparents have EVER used that expression?” To which one student replied, “My grandparents aren’t that old.” Ouch. Wow, really? Because I’ve inherited a lot of my weird sayings from my family, over the course of many years. Here are a few of my favourites, and I’ll be honest—even I’m not sure exactly what they mean.

1) “If ‘ifs’ and ‘ands’ were pots and pans, there’d be no need for tinkers.”

I have, after many years, interpreted this to mean that if you go to the Lagostina store a lot, you put pot-repair people out of business. This saying has numerous applications because it sounds very charming and clever, and it makes people think twice before they wish they had more pots.

2)“If hell was in Yoker, you’d get over for a penny.”

Where the hell IS Yoker? Plus, I would think that going to hell wouldn’t cost a measly penny—it would cost your ETERNAL SOUL. That one, I don’t even begin to understand. My dad knows what it means, mostly because I think he made it up. Or one of his Scottish ancestors did, when he was drunk on Scotch at a bar in Yoker.

3) “You’re such a dog in the manger.”

This is a very unusual saying, and I don’t know where it comes from (Ken), but it refers to a dog that doesn’t really want to BE in the manger (which is like a cattle stall), but he stays in there only because he doesn’t want the cow to enjoy the manger. Ken grew up on a dairy farm, so I imagine this happened a lot, with people constantly chasing dogs out of cattle stalls and whatnot. In human terms, this would be like a person who has called dibs on the long spot on the sectional couch, then won’t give it up to someone else, even if they’re really uncomfortable after watching the first 5 episodes of “Stranger Things Season Two.” Of course, I would NEVER do that.

4) “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”

No they wouldn’t. From what I’ve seen of the local panhandlers in my neighbourhood, if wishes were horses, beggars would sell them for a hot meal and a warm bed. What would a panhandler do in downtown Toronto with a horse? First, they would have to feed their horses, and most of them don’t have enough money to feed themselves. This would most likely result in people sitting on sidewalks with signs that said, “Help me feed my horse.” Would you feel sorry for someone with a sign like that? My favourite homeless guy, who sits outside of Loblaws, has an adorable little terrier named Onyx, but he’s smart enough to keep a bag of dog treats next to his sleeping bag as a way to engage people. When someone says, “What a cute dog,” he asks if they would like to give Onyx a treat. Then people feel so sorry that Onyx is homeless too that they give him money to help feed the dog. And it works. Over the last 2 weeks, I must have given him at least 10 dollars, and one day he remarked that he had just run out of treats for Onyx, so I bought him a bag when I went into Loblaws. He was very grateful and blessed me, which was nice, all things considered. I can’t see that happening with a horse though. I definitely wouldn’t buy a bag of apples for a homeless guy’s horse. Even if he was my favourite panhandler like Francis (that’s not actually his name, but it’s what I call him in my head). I have a least favourite panhandler too—he’s the guy at the entrance to the Gardiner Expressway who has a sign with the Macdonald’s logo on it that says “Hungry and not lovin’ it”. While the sign is clever, he isn’t—he runs in and out of traffic with the sign and a coffee cup, banging on windows, and almost causing car crashes. A lot of panhandlers try to brand themselves with signs like “Can’t work, brain injury, please help”, or “Give a nickel for a kid in a pickle”, but Francis is more subtle—he doesn’t have a sign. He just sits wrapped in a sleeping bag, with a ball cap in front of him, and then he just smiles at everyone and says “hello” in a very pleasant way that makes you WANT to give him money. I’ll bet if he had one wish, it wouldn’t be for a horse, it would be for world peace, because that’s the kind of guy Francis is. I think.

5)“What you lose on the roundabout, you save on the swings.”

I love this saying. It basically means the same as “6 of one, half a dozen of the other”, so essentially, everything balances out. But it makes me think of carnivals, and that puts me in a festive mood. Of course, it could also refer to people with inner ear disorders, like Ken. Once, we went to a carnival in New Hamburg and I convinced him to go on the Tilt-A-Whirl. So we paid “for the roundabout”. Then he got so sick and dizzy that he couldn’t go on any more rides. I had to half-carry him home because he could barely walk. Except we didn’t really “save on the swings” because we had already bought tickets for some other rides, and ended up giving them away to random people because Ken was like, “Ooh, I felt like throwing up. Ooh, please take me home.” So technically, we lost on the roundabout AND the swings because Ken was a big baby. A big, nauseated baby.

I asked T what kind of sayings I use that he thinks are weird, and this was the conversation:
T: Well, you say f*ck a lot.
Me: That’s not a saying, that’s a swear word.
T: But I tell my friends, “Like my mom always says, ‘F*ck.”
Me: *laughs hysterically*

When he read this, he got upset and said I was making him sound like he talked with an English accent. I don’t know how that’s even possible, but I encourage all of you to imagine that he DID say all that with an English accent. And speaking of English accents, I leave you with this saying, in the immortal words of Oscar Wilde: “I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying”.

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.