My Week 209: Vancouver Tour of Death, I Meet Gary Numan

Vancouver and the Tour of Death

The final leg of Ken’s and my grand adventure was Vancouver. The ship docked and since we didn’t want to drag our luggage all over the city, we opted for a bus tour that would show us the sights of Vancouver and then take us to our airport hotel. We got on the bus and set off, and that’s when the Tour of Death began. Our bus driver was called Len. His first announcement was that he was just the bus driver, not a tour guide, but he would do his best to tell us about Vancouver. Then he confided in us that he was actually a musician who had once had a record deal. “But now I’m a bus driver so that I don’t starve,” he intoned ominously. Len was apparently obsessed with the darker side of life, and the tour went something like this:

“The Vancouver Aquarium is somewhere over to the right. A couple of years ago, all the Belugas died. No one knows why. Now they have no Belugas. It’s too bad.”

“This is a nice park we’re driving through. In the spring, someone killed a lot of the Canada geese. The person was never caught. What a shame.”

“If you look to your left, you can see the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge. It’s called that because in the 50s, part of it collapsed and killed a lot of ironworkers. They actually had to get divers to bring up the bodies. Very sad.”

“We’re now driving through Stanley Park. A few years ago, there was a terrible hurricane that killed most of the trees. When I was a teenager, we used to come here and get drunk. You can’t do that now, because there aren’t enough trees for cover.”

“This part of town used to be really nice, but there’s a lot of drugs here now. Trust me, you do NOT want to know what it looks like when someone ODs on fentanyl.”

“Now we’re in Gastown. Well, New Gastown really—the original area burned to the ground in the late 1800s. That was QUITE the fire. People were just, like, burning. Oh, check out that clock tower!”

“If you look to the right, you’ll see a restaurant called ‘The Old Spaghetti Factory’. It’s haunted by the ghosts of a little boy and girl whose bodies were found in the walls. It’s a great place to go for pasta.”

“This area of the downtown is renowned for its foodtrucks. They’re all licenced so that people don’t catch some kind of infection. Do you know how many people die EVERY YEAR from food poisoning? It’s A LOT.”

“I hear that you guys saw a lot of smoke on your trip from all the forest fires. We should take a moment to remember all the animals and people who lost their lives in forest fires over the years.”

“Wow—the tour is done. I can’t believe it went by so fast. Just give me a minute though, folks—parking this bus is a blood sport.”

It was so bad that every time he started to point out a site, Ken and I would try to guess what new tragedy had happened there. A stabbing? People dying of smallpox? A small, unexpected tornado? But the best part was when he started plugging for tips: “I have two great kids—a boy and a girl. I don’t have much but I promised to take them to Disneyland when we can afford it. We have a jar on the kitchen counter that I put any extra money in, and you should see their little faces when that jar looks fuller. I tell them, ‘One day, kids, one day’….”

When he started that last story, I said to Ken, “Please tell me his children are OK!” so we were both pretty relieved that it was just a gratuitous ploy for a gratuity, one which we did not oblige him with.

Soundcheck

I Meet Gary Numan

This past Tuesday, I got to do something I’d always wanted to do—I met Gary Numan. He’s a musician in case you didn’t know—big in the Eighties, but has consistently been putting out albums his whole career, including his latest, “Savage”, which is outstanding. He’s sixty years old now and still touring like the rock star that he is. Leading up to the Meet and Greet, I was a real wreck, because I have a LOT of anxiety about going to new places and meeting people by myself, but Ken was working and couldn’t come to Toronto. The venue was just around the corner from work, and with a lot of encouragement from my work superhero posse, The Kickboxer, J-Nine, and the French Connection, I made my way to The Phoenix Concert Hall. I was second in line with about 25 other people, and when I walked up the ramp to the stage to meet Gary, my heart felt like it was pounding out of my chest. He was wonderful and kind and very easy to talk to, and he put on an incredible show. But by the end of the whole experience, I came to a startling revelation—I AM OLD. Here’s why:

1) When I came back down the ramp, my first thought was, ‘They really need to put handrails on this thing—someone could fall!’ Also, I said it to myself in a very annoyed voice.

2) The guy who was organizing the Meet and Greet, Dave, was super-enthusiastic but he swore A LOT:

Dave: Hey Everyone! You’re looking f*cking great! So happy you could come to this f*cking thing!

Later, I had a chance to speak to Dave personally:

Dave: Toronto is a f*cking nice city!
Me: Yes. Yes, it is.
Dave: The people are so f*cking friendly!
Me: Yes. We certainly are that.

I mean, I swear A LOT myself, yet I found myself talking to Dave like I was his elderly aunt instead of saying, “You’re f*cking right it’s nice!” I found myself at one point thinking, ‘Gosh, Dave likes to swear’, and then I thought, ‘Stop being such a f*cking prude.’

3) I originally didn’t have a ticket to the show because I didn’t realize the Meet and Greet didn’t include it. When I went to the box office, the girl said, “Oh, we only have tickets left for the floor but I can put you at the side of the stage.” I was like, “Side of the stage? Excellent!” She took me to an area with chairs that was barricaded off from the rest of the floor and handed me over to the security guard, who showed me to my seat.

Me: This is great! What awesome seats!
Security Guard: Well, when we realized that the clientele for this show was a more elderly crowd and might have certain needs, we set up this special area. You’ll be safe here, and you can sit down when you get tired.
Me (thinks, then shrugs and smiles): That’s very kind of you, dear.

4) When the opening band came out, I thought the guitarist looked an awful lot like Dave. Then he stepped up to the mike and said, “Hey Toronto, how the f*ck are you?!” I smiled indulgently and said to the woman next to me, “Oh, that Dave!” Then they started to play, and the thought that immediately went through my mind was, “Wow. This is very loud.”

5) I rocked out hard when Gary Numan came on, and barely sat in my chair at all. The next morning, I woke up, got out of bed, and realized that my knees were killing me. My voice was hoarse from singing along and yelling (I may or may not have screamed “We love you Gary!!” at more than one point during the show—it was dark—nobody knew me), and I spent the day exhausted, just like the old lady that I am. But it was f*cking worth it.

My Week 168: June/September Relationships, A Micro-Story

Saturday: I realize I’m in a June/September relationship

Yesterday, Ken and I were driving back from grocery shopping when he said, “Can we stop at the cemetery?” While this might sound ominous to some people, I was actually really excited because someone in town has been playing a practical joke for weeks now, whereby they move the sign directing people to a new property development/subdivision in our small town to the outskirts, where it points right at the cemetery. The first time it happened, it was funny enough, but the person is nothing if not determined; despite the best efforts of the subdivision developer, the sign keeps magically reappearing across from the graveyard. I think it’s fairly obvious what kind of message the sign-thief is trying to send—that Drumbo is so boring that it might as well be a cemetery—but the big question is who? Is it a disgruntled teen, longing for the lights and action of the big city? Is it the previous developer, who wasn’t able to sell most of the lots and had to give the land up? (Also, it’s worthwhile to note that the previous development was called Aspen Hills, which is the most ironic name I could think of for a subdivision on completely flat land—luckily the new owners have called it “Oxford Meadows”, which makes more sense considering most of the lots are currently overgrown with weeds and wildflowers).

Anyway, it’s been giving us a bit of a chuckle, and yesterday, Ken wanted to get a picture of the whole scenario. So we stopped and Ken got out of the car, camera in hand. Ken takes a camera with him wherever he goes, “just in case”. He has a very popular Flickr account, and sometimes he gets over 8000 views in one day, so I cut him a little slack when he leans over and tries to shoot an interesting cloud through the windshield when I’m driving.

He got back into the car, having taken several photos of the sign and the cemetery, and then the fun began, as he tried to post the picture to Facebook. I watched him out of the corner of my eye, as he pressed buttons and muttered to himself:

Me: What’s going on?
Ken: Oh, nothing. I just have to—hmmm. Or maybe…
Me: Just use the image icon.
Ken: I will, after I write the post.
Me: You’re not done yet?
Ken: No, I’m trying to find Facebook.
Me: Maybe the problem is that you have a Blackberry. You know how the “interwebs” works, right? “I just can’t keep up with you kids and your newfangled gadgets and the Twitters. What ever happened to the good old days when people used typewriters?!” Oh wait, you ARE using a typewriter. Look at the keyboard on your phone.
Ken: Blackberries are great phones.
Me: Yeah, if you’re 75 years old. “I like to feel the keys go down when I press them, just like they did in the 1950s.” Also, could your screen be any smaller? No wonder you can’t find “the Facebook”.
Ken: Ha. Posted. So there. Oh wait, not yet—it’s a little laggy…by the way, Sheila has a flip phone with an ANTENNAE, so go make fun of her.

And then I was like, man, I really AM married to a senior citizen, because the thought had occurred to me earlier when we were in the grocery store, and all these old people kept greeting us.

Me: Who was that?
Ken: Oh, that’s Sheila. We’re on the Historical Society together.

Me: Who’s that?
Ken: That’s Bob. He curls at the same club as I do.

Then, 5 minutes later, we got stopped by an elderly couple:

Man: Oh hi, Ken!
Ken: Hey Gary. How are things?
Man: Good. We’re just here picking up some groceries for the Lion’s Club dinner on Wednesday.
Woman: Yes, it’s my turn to cook!
Ken: Ooh, I can’t wait!
Woman: See you both then!
Me: Oh, sorry, I won’t be there–I’m in Toronto that night. Darn.

You see, Ken recently became a Lion, which means he does civic duty type things like helping decorate the Lions Park trees with Christmas lights, or taking cookies to the Historical Society Sunday Tea (which I just had to wake him up from a nap to remind him to do). It’s probably quite telling that most of the members of these clubs refer to him as “the youngster” or “fresh blood”. In order to be initiated into the Lions, he had to learn the Lions Club roar, which is not as cool as the Mason’s secret handshake, and simply involves bending over at the waist, making your hands into little lions’ paws, then straightening up as you roar and reach your paws to the sky. He’s obliged me with a couple of demonstrations, and it’s kind of cute if you ignore the fact that a grown man is doing it.

In the long run, I’m glad that Ken is involved in so many community activities. It keeps him busy during the week when I’m not here, and the interaction with other people will keep him away from the Bingo Hall. But the dude needs a phone without an actual keyboard. Luckily, Christmas is coming. But now I’m getting worried that Ken is rubbing off on me, because last night at dinner, I dropped the F bomb in front of K and her girlfriend, and I put my hand over my mouth, apologized, and corrected it to “gosh darn”. Then I read back this post and realized that there isn’t a single epithet in it. My god—I’m an old f*cking woman!

Micro-Story

The other day, I was rummaging around in one of my desk drawers, and I found a piece of foolscap with the following written on it. It’s a little weird but I hope you enjoy it. It’s about karma, among other things:

The boy carefully opened the can of peas with a wooden-handled can opener. This would be his new killing jar, and therefore, couldn’t have any jagged metal edges which might damage his specimens. He dumped the peas into the garbage, and rinsed out the can. Then, taking down ether, plastic wrap, a rubber band, and cotton balls from the shelf above the sink, he prepared the chamber. When all was ready, he picked up his butterfly net and headed out the door, into the field behind his house. Putting his equipment down on a nearby rock, he waited for his prey to float by.

It was a lazy, warm afternoon and his eyelids felt heavy as he watched the skies for any sign of the fluttering prize. Over the last two years, he had amassed quite a collection, from the simple Monarch to other, more exotic species, each carefully caught in his own net, and then executed in a tin can.

As he sat, cross-legged, patiently watching and waiting, he suddenly heard a loud voice from somewhere far above his head:

“Ew!! Mommy, a bug—kill it! Kill it!”

“It’s all right, sweetheart, I’ll get it.”

And with that, a giant shovel slammed down from the heavens and crushed him into oblivion.

My Week 165: All I Want For Christmas Is A Transporter–But Not A Robot Cat

Yesterday, I turned 52. I keep thinking of myself as middle-aged, although if this is the middle, I want some kind of guarantee that I’m going to live to see 104. At what point do you stop being ‘middle-aged’, like what age is no longer realistic to double? 104 years old doesn’t seem like an impossibility any more, given advances in the medical field and the fact that people are more healthy than ever. A colleague from work lost her grandmother a while back, who had just turned 101, and the whole family was shocked because she was in such good health. Whereas, in 1850, most people could be expected to kick it before they turned 40, so I guess we’ve come far from the days of scurvy and black lung disease. And I say ‘I guess’, because frankly, I’m a little disappointed with the future I was promised when I was young. Not my own personal future, which has been pretty awesome, but the general future that was envisioned by cartoons, TV shows, and novelists, and which has completely failed to live up to expectations.

1) A couple of weeks ago, I was at a workshop, and we were invited to discuss what we thought the future would look like. Other people at the table were jabbering on about “entrepreneurship” and “global competencies”, but I was like, “Transporters. What’s the point of even HAVING a future if there aren’t any transporters to magically take you wherever you want to go?” Then the guy next to me whispered, “I don’t think you’re getting this” but I was like “NO. I TOTALLY get it. Star Trek built up my expectations, then betrayed me.” I mean, think of all the technologies that Star Trek predicted that we now have: doors that slide open when you stand in front of them, holograms, supercomputers that talk back to you, and a whole lotta other useless sh*t. But the one thing, the ONE THING that would really make MY life easier would be a transporter. Why have the science people been focusing their attention on building fancy coffee makers and rechargeable vacuums? I’ll bet James Dyson could figure out a way to transport astronauts to the International Space Station on a sub-molecular level if he put as much thought into a transporter as he did into a hand dryer. Why do I need to drive a car to the airport, get on a plane, and arrive in Paris 7 hours later, when I could just say “Teleportez-moi, Monsieur Scott!”?

2) Also, where are the goddamn flying cars? It’s bad enough that I can’t miraculously appear in Paris whenever I want, but my car doesn’t even FLY. Damn you, George Jetson. It’s 2017, and the best we can do is a ‘driverless’ Uber, which is just making a bad idea worse. And even worse is the fact that we still use dinosaur blood to run our stupid, non-flying cars, instead of electricity, like somehow, electric cars will destroy the world as we know it, or at least take money out of the pockets of billionaires.

3) When I was 6, I was obsessed with Aquaman. I was convinced that, by the time I grew up, there would actually be biodomes under the ocean where people could live in harmony with the creatures of the sea. I asked my gran one morning if she thought it would happen soon, and she said, “Never. People will never live under the sea.” And while her bad attitude made me angry, I knew that one day I would be vindicated. And I’m still waiting for that day to come. The only scientific advance that the people who created Aquaman are actually responsible for is casting Jason Momoa in the new Justice League movie, in which he will carry a sparkly trident and ride a shark. Yet I still can’t breathe underwater.

4) Where is my robot butler? I’ve made my peace with never having a monkey butler, despite recently having my hopes raised (I still think of you fondly, Ralph Van Wooster, and all the hijinks we would have gotten up to), but there is still nary a sign of the artificial intelligence that all the movies have been promising since I was a child. There are smart phones and smart homes and GPS in our cars and Siri/Cortana/Alexa, but where is the actual physical embodiment of the mechanical person who will do my bidding? The best we’ve come up with is a robot CAT. Why would I EVER want a robot that lies in front of the fireplace all day, sleeps next to my face at night, and surprises me by peeing on my rugs when it’s “in a mood”? Real cats can be dicks enough—why are we creating mechanical ones? And don’t be all like “Oh, come on, mydangblog, cats are so sweet.” Here’s what I had to deal with the other day:

Me: OK, I’m going out. I have to be at the car dealership in 15 minutes, so see you guys later.
Titus: OK, bye!!
Raven: I need to get into the kitchen. Open the gate.
Me: Sigh. Hurry up…What are you doing?
Raven: The dog is panting too hard. It’s off-putting.
Me: Don’t walk away from me. Do you want into the kitchen or not?
Raven: Yes. Open the gate.
Me: Here. It’s open. Let’s go!
Raven (sits back down): Nuh.
Me: I don’t have time for your bullsh*t, Raven! Fine—stay back here.
Raven (under breath): Boy, are you going to be surprised when you get home.

Let’s just forget robot cats and focus on robot monkey butlers. Then EVERYBODY wins.

5) Space Tourism. This might possibly be the greatest disappointment of them all. When I was a kid, people lived on the moon, they colonized Mars, and they travelled around the galaxy exploring strange new worlds. The actual real-life Voyager 1 was launched in 1977, and 40 years later, it’s JUST ABOUT to leave our solar system. Me, I want warp speed. We could have invented this a long time ago, but apparently scientists were too busy making blankets with arms in them, LED multicoloured flashing scarves, and realistic wind-up mice (“Watch their tails whir while they scurry across your floor!”). And yes, I DID just get my Bits and Pieces Christmas catalogue, and NO, there’s nothing future-y in it. Although you can relieve the stress you feel about not being able to live in a subdivision on Mars by purchasing a set of basketball net hats so that you and a co-worker can shoot balls at each other, although I think Human Resources might have an issue with that. It’s been almost 50 years since we first put a dude on the moon—how hard can it be to put a middle-aged woman on Uranus? (I am SO sorry about that one, but I couldn’t resist. I may be 52 physically, but I’m pretty much 13 years old in my head.)

All in all, by this point in time, I was really hoping that the world would have been more like Gene Roddenberry’s vision than George Orwell’s. Luckily, I still have another 52 years left, and Christmas is coming, so this middle-aged girl can dream.