Elf On A What?

Last week at work, we were talking about the upcoming holiday season, and a couple of people referenced the new Christmas ‘tradition’—the Elf on a Shelf. This merry little fellow is a posable doll, dressed in a red and white elf costume, which can offer hours of fun for parents, and apparently hours of terror for children. Every morning, the child will get up and find the elf in a new position, having done something clever or naughty during the night. And during the day, there is the reminder that the elf is “watching over you” from somewhere in the house. This, from what I gathered, allows parents to apply leverage to their little ones ie: “You’d better behave—Marcel (or whatever name the parents give the tiny spy) is keeping an eye on you, and if you don’t stop poking your sister, he’ll tell Santa in his daily report!”

While this may sound cute and festive on the surface, it has really insidious undertones. Isn’t it bad enough that “Santa” already knows when you’ve been “bad or good”, sees you when you’re sleeping, and knows when you’re awake? At least Santa is at the North Pole, and might be too busy to constantly monitor whether or not you fed all your vegetables to the dog. But now, there’s a creeper in your own home, who stalks you every minute of the day and reports back to the Big Guy for even minor infractions like colouring outside the lines or drinking straight from the carton or whatever. And there are hundreds of websites devoted to sharing things that people can do with their elves (and quite a few are NOT very PG 13). I took a look at some of them and here are the more disturbing places that the Elf on a Shelf can be found:

1) In a Nativity Scene: These irreverent parents replaced the baby Jesus with their elf, named DJ. He towers over all the other figures like a jolly, stocking-capped god. The shepherds look terrified, and the Wise Men look pissed off, like “We came all this way for that?” Mary just looks confused.

2) Trussed up in a toilet paper roll, wrists tied together, and hanging from the shower curtain rod, having been gagged with what looks like his own collar. This might be the first clue that your parents don’t really like the Elf on a Shelf—or that they’re serial killers.

3) Lying in a drunken stupor on top of a picture frame, after having used black marker to draw devil horns and tails on a family portrait. What kind of behaviour are you trying to role model here? Satan worship or vandalism? And then you wonder why, ten years later, your teenager is playing records backwards and spray painting the neighbour’s fence with pentagrams.

4) Reading the Bible: Not that reading the Bible is disturbing, but it kind of sends a mixed message. Does God have elves or angels? Plus it adds another layer to the paranoia you’re creating in your child. Now the little tyke is being watched by the Elf, Santa, AND GOD. I would just lock myself in my room and never come out.

5) In the hot tub, with a couple of Barbie Dolls: He looks REALLY happy. Maybe because all the Barbies’ hands are under the cellophane water. “Daddy, what are all those ladies doing to Buddy?” “Don’t worry, honey—they’re just jingling his sleigh bells.”

There also seem to be a lot of pictures of the elf defacing walls with crayon, gorging on maple syrup and candy, writing on mirrors, squeezing out toothpaste all over the counter, pooping out Hershey’s Kisses, and writing messages in spilled hot chocolate powder, which makes me think that parents are having way more fun with the Elf than their kids are. Sure, sure, I know that kids get really excited about ANYTHING to do with Christmas, and probably get a kick out of the Elf to a certain extent, but it’s all just a little too Orwellian for me, like the Thought Police have invaded Christmastown. If we really want to draw an analogy to 1984, then Santa is Big Brother, the Elf on a shelf is O’Brien, your child is Winston Smith, and your house is the Ministry of Love (which sounds like a very nice place, but that’s where all the torture-y stuff happened, in case you never read the book). Do you really want your children to wake up Christmas morning chanting, “2+2=5”? Santa was always good enough for me, cuz I loved Big Brother.

Eventually we’ll just blend Hallowe’en, Black Friday, and Christmas all together into a new festival called “Overconsumption”, where adults wearing elf costumes fight to the death in a two-month long tournament to win candy, toys, flat screen TVs and vegetable steamers for their kids. Overall though, I guess if you want to do the Elf on the Shelf thing with your kids, play up the fun, and tone down the fascism. And the sex. That’s my advice.

(As a side note, I would never have an Elf, but I DO have “Sock Monkey in the Wine Frig”. His only job is to make sure no one steals my wine.)

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My Week 273: Positive Spaces and Two Vignettes

Recently, I did the training to became a Positive Space Champion at work, which means that my name gets put into a database of people in a variety of different workplaces who support the rights of LGBTQ people, and also that I have an identifier on my office door that tells people I’m someone they can feel safe going to for support. It’s very important to me, so last week, I also did the training to become a Trainer, which means that I can help other people at the secret agency become Positive Space Champions too. My vision is a sea of Positive Space posters everywhere, so anyone who walks into the secret agency knows they’ll be accepted for their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or what have you— and homophobes will know they can immediately f*ck off.

Anyway, at the training, we were discussing the bathroom issue, more specifically, how did we get so weird about who goes into what room, and why are we so hung up on it? It’s almost the second decade of the 21st century, and people are still aghast at the notion of all-gender bathrooms. And I laughed, because the week before, this happened to me:

Ken and I went to a concert, and I had a VIP pass to meet the band and hear the sound check. Ken didn’t care about that, so he went shopping until the Meet and Greet was over, then we went to a restaurant nearby for dinner before the concert. The restaurant was a Moxies, a fairly well-known chain here. I had to go to the bathroom, so I asked the waiter where it was, and he said, “Go to the front doors and then turn right.” So I did. I came to a corner where there was a door. Directly next to the door were two signs: a male figure in a square and a female figure in a square. “Cool,” I thought. “Milestones has all-gender bathrooms” and I went in. When I finished doing what I needed to do, I came out of the stall, and there was a guy at the urinal, also doing what he had to do. He was facing away from me, which was just fine, so I washed my hands, and went back to the table. When the manager came over, I said, “It’s so great that you have all-gender bathrooms.”

Manager: Pardon?
Me: The bathrooms. They’re gender neutral. Very cool.
Manager: Um…we don’t have gender neutral bathrooms. The Men’s is right on the corner, and the Women’s is further down the hall. Which one did you go into?
Me: The one right on the corner. That would explain the man at the urinal.
Manager: THERE ARE ARROWS.
Me: I didn’t have my reading glasses on. Meh. Whatever.

Then we all laughed, and I was super-happy that the man at the urinal hadn’t seen me, because I would have been fine with it, but who know how HE would have reacted, like “Get out of my space, woman!!” Then again, maybe he wouldn’t have—I asked Ken if if he’d ever been in a men’s room with a woman:

Ken: It happened once. I went into the bathroom at work, and there was a woman standing there, looking at herself in the mirror.
Me: What did you do?
Ken: I went over to the urinal and used it.
Me: Like, right in front of her?
Ken: We didn’t make eye contact or anything. What was I supposed to do? I went in because I had to use the bathroom, so I did. I didn’t know why she was in there, and I didn’t really care. I just wanted to pee.

In retrospect, I should have known Moxies didn’t have an all-gender bathroom—I mean, the urinals were a dead giveaway—because a couple of nights ago I was out with my team and the restaurant actually DID have all-gender bathrooms, which was just a long hall of single stalls with their own doors and sinks inside, which makes perfect sense. At the end of the day, we all have the same bodily function needs, so stop worrying about who’s in the stall next to you. Just make sure you wash your hands.

2 Vignettes

1) On Friday, I was on the subway and a woman got on at the same time as me. She stood in front of some other passengers, and then randomly, she said this to another woman sitting there:

Where’s Waldo is a lousy audiobook. ‘There he is!…There he is!…There he is!’ That’s all it is.”

And then we got to the next stop, which took about 45 seconds, and she went to get off, but not before waving and telling the entire packed car, “May the force be with you!” I was still laughing at the Where’s Waldo thing, and I still am. I will be on my deathbed, surrounded by my loved ones, and I’ll start giggling, and when they ask me what’s so funny, I’ll just whisper, “There he is….”

2) When I had my book launch, the local Heritage society gave me a bouquet of flowers. Last week, Ken and I went to their Christmas banquet, but I was running late, so I asked Ken to choose a thank you card from our box of “cards for all occasions”. When I arrived, I asked him where they were, and he said, “They’re in my bag over there. I brought two so that you could have a choice.” I pulled them out. One had a bouquet of flowers on it with the words, ‘Thinking of You’. The other had two champagne glasses clinking with the slogan ‘Cheers’. So, a sympathy card and a wedding card. Neither seemed appropriate under the circumstances, but then I looked at the notes on my phone later and realized that instead of “Ken Thank you card”, it had autocorrected to “Ken Thanos card”, so maybe the sympathy card wouldn’t have been too far off. For half of the people there anyway…

By the way, I’ve decided to stop using My Week… for my posts as of next week. There will just be a full title. I’m doing this (unless there are some serious objections) because I have the feeling sometimes that people who don’t know me don’t read my posts because they think it’s just some weird-ass diary of all the mundane things that happened to me during the week, like:

Monday: I went shopping. I bought eggs.
Tuesday: I watched Netflix. The weather continues charming.
Wednesday: There he is…

There he is…

My Week 272: I Get Good News

I got a congratulations letter in the mail the other day, and it was very special. No, it wasn’t a response to a short story I’d submitted—usually THOSE emails are more along the lines of “We regret to tell you…” and they make me sad instead of excited. At least I’m averaging one acceptance for every twenty rejections so in other words, I’m no Stephen King but I don’t feel terrible 100% of the time about the fact that no one appreciates my weird writing. Anyway, this letter was from someone named Linda Rabenek. First, she thanked me. Then she told me how pleased she was to be writing to me. Finally, she congratulated me. About what? Well, apparently, my colon is a ROCK STAR. You might remember a few weeks ago when I wrote about my experience taking a colon cancer screening test—it seems I passed with flying colours and I didn’t even have to study. It would have been the best test ever if it hadn’t involved poo. But I’m thrilled to know that I don’t have colon cancer and also very gratified that Linda is super-pleased with me and the way I “take care of my health by getting checked out with the fecal immunochemical test (FIT)”. Kind of gives a whole new meaning to the word “Fitbit”:

Person 1: Ooh, I really like your new watch.
Person 2: It’s a FITBit.
Person 1: So it keeps track of your heartrate and steps and stuff?
Person 2: Something like that…

Therefore, in honour of this joyful occasion, I’m pleased to offer you some thematically related ideas for TV shows that I had:

A beach scene. People in uniform milling around. A body lying on the sand. Camera pans to a large poo beneath a palm tree. Cut to Danny.

Danny: It’s not looking good, boss.
Horatio: Tell me what you’ve got, Dann-o.
Danny: Large male, judging by size. Probably a vegan, based on the amount of broccoli and the self-righteousness smooth texture. Well-hydrated. Looks like the Number 2 Killer has struck again.
Horatio: (gazes sternly into distance). I’m making the Number 2 Killer my number one priority. He won’t get away with this sh*t again. Let’s roll.

Camera cuts away and credits roll to the sound of “Squeeze Box” by The Who. The title appears: CSI: Excremental.

Awesome, right? There’s also a new twist on Sherlock Holmes which I call “Alimentary”. It’s the same basic premise as CSI: Excremental, but with more deductive reasoning:

Sherlock: I’ve come to the conclusion that our victim is indeed a beet farmer.
Watson: How could you possibly know that, Holmes?
Sherlock: For God’s Sake, Watson—look at the colour of his scat. That slight pink tinge is a dead giveaway. Have I taught you nothing?!

Then there’s the “HBM” version of Game of Thrones:

Tyrion Lannister: The war is finally over—the Starks have won the Iron Throne!
Jon Snow: I don’t know about iron, but this throne is certainly cold.
Tyrion: Why is your face so strained, Jon Snow? Is winter coming?
Jon Snow: Something’s coming but it isn’t winter.
Sansa: Not enough Bran, if you ask me.

Other related titles:

Friends: The One Where Ross Takes A Dump
Breaking Wind
Bojack Horsemanure
Brooklyn Two-Two
The Deuce
Brown Is The New Black
Unbreakable Kimmy Sh*t
Poopernatural
Going Pains
Mad About Poo
Law and Order: Special Rectum Unit
The X-crement Files
The Big Bowel Theory
Hawaii Two-O
Shart Tank

Narrator: I sincerely apologize for this incredibly juvenile blog post. An discerning audience such as yourselves deserves better.
Mydangblog: Here’s a picture of a vintage cookie jar that looks just like a poo emoji!
Narrator: Sigh.

My Week 271: Frequently Asked Questions

This week has been an interesting one. Tell me all about it, you say? Of course—I’m always happy to answer your questions…

1) What is the most intriguing sign I saw this week?

Earlier in the week, I went to see my massage therapist because I hurt my shoulder and it wasn’t getting any better. She did an amazing job as always, and I left feeling all loose and whatnot, and as I was walking down the hall of the building that she had just moved into, I saw a door. It was a plain, grey door, a completely normal-looking door, but the sign next to it said “Room of Requirement”. Huh? I thought as I walked past, but I was tired and a little oily and just wanted to get home. But the door continued to perplex me, and then I got mad at myself for not having taken a picture of it to prove that I was just steps away from some Harry Potter space/time vortex, so I messaged my massage therapist:

Me: Strange request—is there any way you could send me a picture of the sign on the door in your office hallway that says Room of Requirement?
MT: Yes. I’ll send it shortly. Horizontal or vertical shot?

(Notice that she doesn’t even question it—that’s how well she knows me.)

Me: I wonder what’s in there…
MT: It’s the landlord’s room. I’ve never seen inside.
Me: Does your landlord wear a long robe and carry a wand?
MT: Lol.

I have another appointment next weekend, but before I go into her office, I’m going to walk past that door three times and think of diamonds.

2) What is the weirdest sign I’ve seen this week?

I don’t understand this sign. On the left is a perfectly lovely image of a parent possibly tickling a baby. Or maybe changing the baby’s diaper since the sign is on the change table in the train bathroom. Regardless, the baby looks like it’s having a good time. On the right, however, the parent is slamming the baby’s head into the change table and there’s an exclamation mark which is possibly a warning to NOT DO THAT. I think it’s supposed to mean that you shouldn’t unhook the change table while holding the baby under it, which I’d hope would be pretty intuitive. The best part is that both images have a braille explanation underneath and I wish I knew braille because all I can imagine is that on one side it says, “Put the baby on the change table” and on the other side it says, “Don’t slam your baby into the change table.” At any rate, it’s all very good advice, if a little weak on the delivery.

3) This fox?

This fox is there outside the door at the warehouse where I was working this weekend. It’s extremely realistic especially if you walk past it just as the sun is coming up. Did I scream very slightly and then let loose a string of epithets when I saw it? I may or may not have. Apparently, it’s there to scare off the geese which like to nest around the doors and then attack anyone who tries to enter the warehouse. I hope it works on the geese because it sure as f*ck worked on me.

4) Am I getting better at math?

Well, I THOUGHT I was. We got one of those weird Bits and Pieces catalogues the other day, you know the one where you can buy jigsaw puzzles, novelty socks, plastic garden gnomes and so on. There was this clock you could get that was advertised as a “fun” math clock. Instead of numbers to tell the time, there was just a series of mathematical equations around the dial.

Me: Hey Ken, check it out! This equation is a square root question—the answer is 2!
Ken: Obviously.
Me: What do you mean, ‘obviously’? I think it’s pretty good that I got the answer considering I haven’t taken math since grade 11. This question here is using long division. The answer is—
Ken: 4. It’s 4 because that’s the number on the clock. All the answers are the numbers on the clock. See, this question is using pi…
Me: And the answer is 9. I don’t even know how to do that kind of math but now I know the answer anyway. Stupid clock.
Ken: So you don’t want it for Christmas?
Me: How many fingers am I holding up.
Ken: The answer is one.

5) Would you rather have skulls in jars or disembodied doll baby heads in jars?

It’s a tough call. Personally, I’m going to have to say neither because I’m not a dark prince. But if I absolutely HAD to choose, I’d pick the skulls—they look more cheerful, especially that one guy near the back who thinks this whole thing is a laugh-riot. Also, they range in price from $110 to $235, which is a lot for only a head. For that price, I want the whole skeleton.

6) Balls?

Here’s a conversation I had with a colleague:

Tina: Oh, you have the Christmas ball that I gave you last year. Are you going to put it up?
Me: Yeah, I’m decorating my office on Monday.
Tina: I already did mine—come see. I put all my balls up.
Me: You have a lot of balls.
Tina: I KNOW! Do you want some of my balls?
Me: I’m good for balls. I have a couple of my own.
Tina: Balls! That sounds kind of funny, doesn’t it.
Me: Yes. Yes, it does.

 

My Week 270: Words You Can Say On (British) Television

There are a lot of TV shows that we watch in North America that are actually based on British shows. The Office is one of the better known examples, but there’s also House of Cards, Veep, and even Three’s Company, which was a TERRIBLE show in both venues. Sometimes the British version is better, and sometimes the American version is, depending on your taste, but the biggest difference between the U.S. and the U.K. is that British shows tend to be more racy when it comes to sexuality. Or at least more graphic, if my experience this week is any indication, and fair warning, if you’re uncomfortable hearing the word ‘nipple’ or ‘vagina’, then back away slowly and miss all the fun.

For a couple of years while I was living in Toronto, I loved watching a show called Botched, where a couple of well-known California plastic surgeons fix cosmetic surgeries gone wrong. It was a fascinating show, but also very frustrating at times due to the strange prudishness American television has about the human body. They don’t mind showing you a person being blown up or eaten by zombies, but if the person’s nipple is showing while they’re being ripped apart, then it’s an R rating for sure. So on Botched, they were always fixing boob jobs gone wrong, but they would blur out the nipple so you could never actually see the new result. One time, a woman had completely lost her nipple due to a botched surgery, so the surgeons got a tattoo artist to give her a new, 3D tattoo of one. I was so excited about how realistic it would look, but they BLURRED IT OUT! It’s a f*cking tattoo, for goodness sake! And it was the same thing every time someone had to have surgery on any part of the body that had to do with boobies or butts or genitalia—everything was censored. But still, it was a great show—the only problem was that when I moved home, I couldn’t get the channel anymore, so no more Botched for me, even if it was needlessly rated G.

But then I was scrolling through Netflix and I discovered another show called Botched Up Bodies and it was the exact same premise, only it was British. I immediately started watching it and if its American counterpart was rated G, this one is outrageously XXX. Not only are there nipples galore, but there are butts and balls all over the place. And vaginas—SO MANY VAGINAS. I had NO F*CKING IDEA that people were doing surgery on their lady parts. WHY???!!! The episode I just watched focused on a woman, I think her name was Sherry, who had had a botched “designer vagina” surgery. But the narrator is this really posh English lady so she said it like “designa” so that it rhymed:

Narrator: Sherry wanted the perfect vagina, but instead of getting the designa vagina she’d hoped for, all she got was a botched-up vagina.
Sherry: My vagina was lopsided. I was always so afraid of being judged for it so I had surgery to make it look more socially acceptable, more like all the other vaginas, but now my vagina is a nightmare.
Narrator: Let’s watch as Dr. Bob tries to give Sherry a nicer vagina. Ooh, that’s not good. Sherry’s vagina is a bloody minefield!
Dr. Bob: This vagina is an extreme fixer-upper.

The narrator legit said “Sherry’s vagina is a bloody landmine” and the analogy left me even more confused. So here are a couple of the questions that I have:

1) Who is judging people for their vaginas? I mean, who the hell is looking at them? Are people flashing them in the supermarket and then the other shoppers are all like, “Damn girl, that vagina looks asymmetrical—you need to get surgery”?

2) Who in their right mind would let someone put industrial grade silicone filler in their privates in an attempt to ‘even them up’? How do you even know it’s “lopsided”? Like how the hell are you seeing it? The only way I could actually see mine would be through a series of contortions that would most likely cripple me and there would be several mirrors involved. ANYTHING looks lopsided when you’re trying to look at it upside down and backwards.

3) What does “all the other vaginas” even mean? Where do you see THEM? Is there a gallery somewhere that I’m unaware of? I tried Google images and they’re all just cartoon vaginas, so is she trying to get one that looks like an artist’s rendering?

It’s a Fendi scarf.

4) What exactly is a designer vagina? Something from the Lagerfeld collection? Chanel Couture perhaps? Or that weird Fendi scarf as seen above? Is it like taking a picture of a hairstyle you like to your hairdresser and saying, “Do it like that?” or does the surgeon come up with the concept? And what if he’s really avant-garde or wants to make it all whirly like Seneca Crane’s beard in The Hunger Games?

Make it look like this.

And not only did they keep saying the word ‘vagina’ over and over and OVER AGAIN, they kept showing it. Like really close up. Which is when I realized that this show is perpetuating an anatomical myth. Sherry didn’t have surgery on her vagina, she had it on her LABIA, and I was like, “When did the word ‘vagina’ become an acceptable synonym for any part of a lady’s private area? Is this like how we say Kleenex when we mean tissue? But you wouldn’t say Kleenex if you wanted a sandwich, so can we just get the terminology correct and STOP SAYING VAGINA WHEN WE MEAN LABIA?! No wonder Brits are so confused—while I was googling “Gallery of Vaginas” an article came up with the headline “Half of Brits don’t have a CLUE where the vagina is… and it’s not just men!” and it’s probably because they watched this show. At any rate, the surgeons were able to remove the filler and reconstruct poor Sherry’s labia so that she didn’t have to worry about being judged any more. Well, we’re not judging her for her THAT, but…

Two other random thoughts:

First, Designa Vagina would be a fantastic name for a drag queen.

Second, I haven’t seen this show do any penis surgeries but I’m just waiting for the narrator to say something like “Stan’s penis is a bloody Gatling gun!”

My Week 269: Launched, When Pigeons Attack

Last weekend, I had a book launch for my new novel The Dome (shameless plug, and if you read it and like it, can you please leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads or whatnot? Also, here is a link to The Dome on Amazon.com (use Amazon.ca if you’re in Canada) before I get pigeoned to death lol!). Anyway, the local pub hosted it, and it was not without its funny moments. First, Ken had to go out of town suddenly in the morning and said to me, “Hey, I might be gone for a while so if you get a minute, can you decorate the cake?” We looked at each other for a second. I pointed to myself questioningly. He nodded in resignation then shrugged and left. This pantomime was in response to the fact that I decorate cakes in very much the same way that I wrap Christmas presents, which is to say, “like a small child”. But he’d applied the base coat—my only job was to pretty it up. He’d made two cakes and put them together to make a book shape. There was green and red icing, and a small CN Tower model. We had some muffins so I decided to take the top off one and use it for the SkyDome (that’s what it used to be called before it was bought by a series of corporations—it was called the Air Canada Centre at one point but I think it’s the Rogers Centre now, and I’m sure in a couple of years it will be owned by a beer company and be called something like The Heiny-Dome, but it will always be the SkyDome to me).

I put the model of the tower on one side, ripped the top off a muffin and stuck that next to it. It didn’t look much like the Toronto skyline, so I rooted around in a box of Hallowe’en candy and found some little Hershey bars that I could stick in the cake to look like skyscrapers. Then I wrote The Dome at the top. I stood back to examine my efforts and decided it needed something more, so I looked up images of maple leaves online and drew one on the left side. It wasn’t much of an improvement. The muffin was chocolate and it looked like someone had taken a dump on the cake.

I gave up, and went to get dressed. When Ken finally came home, he said, “What’s wrong?” I pointed wordlessly to the cake.

Ken: It looks great! The maple leaf is VERY professional, although I’m not quite sure what it’s for…
Me: It’s the symbol of the rebel movement IN THE NOVEL, KEN! Did you even read my book?!!
Ken: Oh right! Well, it looks just…super.
Me: No, it doesn’t. I suck at decorating.
Ken: I can salvage—I mean finish it for you. Don’t worry.

And he did. It looked much better after he worked on it, although he didn’t have a lot of time or supplies—the only thing left in the Hallowe’en box was licorice.

Then we got to the pub a little early to set up and it was PACKED WITH HUNTERS, and I was like, Oh god, are they going to be here all afternoon? There was a table of about 12 of them right in front of the stage area, so I jokingly yelled, “Hey, thanks for coming to my book launch!” and they all stared at me like I was a deer they wanted to shoot. Luckily, they were getting ready to go kill more stuff, and by the time the launch actually started, they were gone. The rest of the afternoon was fantastic, with between 50 to 60 people showing up. I did a reading and sold out all the books I’d brought with me. At one point during the afternoon, I started to tear up because I was overwhelmed by all the love and support I was getting from everyone. So thanks to all of you out there—it means a lot. And all the cake got eaten.

We now return to our irregular programming…

Last week, I went out for lunch with some friends from work. We were at a place called the Upper Deck where, in the summer, the windows are removed and it becomes an enormous patio. But the windows aren’t sealed tight in the winter and birds can still get in and out. We were sitting there talking and suddenly something plummeted from the ceiling and landed directly in my lap. I was mid-sentence and interrupted myself with a loud scream. Everyone, including ALL THE OTHER PEOPLE IN THE RESTAURANT, looked at me. I held up a giant pigeon feather and yelled, “What the f*ck!!” And it reminded me of the time a couple of summers ago, when something similar happened on a different patio.

Every restaurant in downtown Toronto, regardless of the size of their frontage, has at least one table out front in the summer, even if it blocks the sidewalk. Personally, I love relaxing on a nice patio with a cold glass of white wine in hand (even if said glass costs more than the actual bottle I can buy at the liquor store—Toronto prices are a rip-off), but there are some dangers to the patio life that need to be taken into consideration. First, you are an open target for panhandlers; to them, it must seem like shooting fish in a barrel. I’ve also heard stories of street people taking sips out of glasses or stealing fries off plates. But the biggest hazard to patio season is the wildlife, which brings me to the point of this story. I had gone with a group of colleagues after work for a drink. Patios are so popular in the summer that, when there’s no room on one, you can get put on a waiting list and the hostess will give you a disc that flashes and buzzes when there’s seating available. So after waiting for about 15 minutes, we made our way out to the patio at Jack Astor’s. It’s a great spot, high up and overlooking all the madness of Dundas Square, with misters that spray the air above you if things get too hot (I just realized that makes it sound a little like a gay bar—let me clarify that “misters” are large showerheads, not actual men. I was in a gay bar last summer and instead of spraying us with cooling water, the waiter yelled at my friend for putting her feet up on the outdoor patio chair. When I laughed and said, “Who are you, our mother?”, he replied, “Well, SOMEONE has to parent you, sweetheart!” It was fabulous).

Anyway, things were going really well, and I was totally relaxing into my drink, when I realized that there was a pigeon wandering around near our table. Pigeons are the panhandlers of the bird world—they have no problem at all approaching you to scam you out of your food or give you pamphlets about the impending apocalypse. I was doing my best to ignore the pigeon, who was getting closer all the time, but then I laughed at someone’s joke, turned my head, and for a horrifying split second, the pigeon and I made eye contact. Even though I looked away really quickly, the pigeon took this as an obvious invitation to join us, and began sidling over towards my chair. I tried to pretend it wasn’t there, but the effort of keeping one eye on the pigeon and participating in the conversation was making me more and more distracted and a little afraid. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE birds. I get super excited every time I see an owl on a hydro line, and Ken and I will race from window to window to watch a humming bird buzzing around our flower garden. But the pigeons in Toronto are another matter altogether. They have no fear of humans whatsoever, and they have these malevolent, beady little eyes that follow your every movement. So there I was, minding my own business and being stalked by a pigeon. Then someone asked me a question; I took my eyes off it for a second, and suddenly I couldn’t see it anymore. Then I felt something brush my leg, and when I looked under the table, the pigeon was NEXT TO MY FOOT. I moved my foot in a panic which made the pigeon fly up and start hitting my leg with its wings and talons. I screamed and thrashed at it—which made everyone at the table look at me like I was some kind of lunatic, but then I said, “Pigeon!” and they all smiled and nodded knowingly. So now, even though I love patio season, I’m also super-paranoid about pigeon attacks, and with good reason, if I’m not even safe from them in the winter. In fact, I’m a little suspicious of all birds in Toronto right now—on Wednesday, I was out with a friend when a sparrow landed on the sidewalk next to me. Instinctively, I told it to f*ck off and it flew away. You never know—it could have been the advance scout for a party of attack pigeons. I’m not taking any chances.

My Week 268: In Space, No One Can Hear You Drinking Wine

The other day, Ken and I were watching the news and there was a story on about the International Space Station. It was due to receive a shipment of supplies, among which was 12 bottles of fine French wine. “See,” I said, “I could totally be an astronaut if there was wine involved.” And then the story continued to explain that the astronauts wouldn’t be DRINKING the wine—it was an experiment to see how wine AGES IN SPACE. First of all, does anyone actually age wine? Aren’t you just supposed to drink it right away? I mean, the only time I EVER aged wine was when I had a bottle of Chardonnay and somehow it rolled under the couch, and I didn’t find it until we were re-arranging the furniture. And let me tell you, a Chardonnay that’s been lying next to a heating vent for three years pretty much tastes like cat piss. Well, at first anyway—then you get used to it. (Just kidding—I threw it out after the first glass).

At the wine store where my family “makes” wine, the owner is always telling me off for not filling the bottles high enough, because “too much oxygen will get in and, over time, will spoil the wine”, and I’m like, “How long do you think this case is sitting around for? Cuz I’ll be back next month.” And I put “makes” in quotations marks because our role is to order it, pay for it, then come back after 4 weeks and bottle it. What happens in between, I have no idea. All I know is that we show up at our appointment time, and put the wine in the bottles like a well-oiled Rube Goldberg Machine, with me filling the bottles, Dad corking, Mom as the label affixer extraordinaire, and Ken melting the foils on. We have it down to a fine art. (Fun Fact: I couldn’t remember the name of the Machine initially, and all I kept thinking of was a “RuPaul Machine”, but that would involve us the four of us being in drag and throwing shade at each other while we worked, and MY GOD, wouldn’t that be f*cking awesome?).

At any rate, as soon as we heard about the wine being aged in space, I said, “Well, I guess I couldn’t be an astronaut after all if there’s no wine. Watch—I’d get caught sneaking it and NASA would send me home on the next Russian shuttle” and Ken laughed and said, “That’s the ONLY reason?!” and he was right. Here are three other reasons why I could never be an astronaut:

1) I hate countdowns.

I’m the kind of person who thinks counting down is stressful. Like, when they say, “3, 2, 1, Blast-off!!”— do we blast off when we SAY “Blast off” or right AFTER we say it? And I know that some people HATE it when you ask questions for clarification and will get irrationally angry at you (*fake cough* NASA *fake cough*), but if I’m pushing a button that will launch me into space, I should probably know the EXACT moment to do it.

2) I abhor a vacuum.

I’m very much like nature in a lot of ways. For example, I have done several Facebook quizzes and know that if I was a fossil, I would be ammonite, if I was a dinosaur, I would be a Triceratops, and if I was a flower, I would be a lily, which is a weird coincidence because my first name is Hebrew for Lily. Anyway, just like nature, I hate vacuums. They are extremely noisy and yes, I know that a space vacuum is completely different, but I’m sure I would hate it too.

3) There are no Fluevogs in space.

Fluevogs are very fancy shoes, with only around 300 made in each style, and I have just discovered them. A couple of weeks ago, some of the women I work with went on an expedition to the Fluevog store, but I had to catch the train and couldn’t go. The next day they all came in wearing these outrageously cool shoes, all in different styles and colours—I heard someone once describe Fluevogs as the kind of shoes you would wear to an Alice In Wonderland Tea Party, and it’s true. I was super-jealous, and I wanted a pair too, but there was no way I was getting to the store anytime soon, so I checked the local Facebook Buy and Sell site and wouldn’t you know it? There was a pair in my size being sold for HALF PRICE by a woman who was a mutual friend of one of my friends, which meant we were almost sisters, and her house was on my way home from the train station. She’s only worn them once and they were gorgeous, so I bought them. When I got home, I showed them to Ken who said, “Aren’t those heels a little high? How are you going to walk in them when you have arthritis?” Silly Ken. You don’t WALK in Fluevogs. You just stand there feeling glorious. I don’t think NASA would appreciate me wearing pose-y shoes with my space suit, and I sure as hell couldn’t do a space walk in them, but DAMN they are f*cking fabulous. My Director saw them and called them “Bathroom Shoes” because you wear them somewhere special where you only have to walk to the bathroom and back in them. But wait—if space is a gravity-free environment, I COULD probably wear them all day.

So hey, NASA, if you’re interested in a middle-aged woman who’s ready to drink all your wine, is named after a flower, and who is prepared to drive your spaceship in the most kick-ass shoes you’ve ever seen, give me a call in 3, 2, 1…