It’s A What?

Last month, Ken and I decided to rent a booth in an antique market owned by a friend of ours. You may be surprised by this, but years ago, Ken and I had an antique business called Washington House Antiques. It’s a fancy name—perhaps you were thinking we aspired to the Oval Office—but let me assure you the name came about because we lived in a house in Washington, Ontario and I’m the kind of person who named my stuffed animals Teddy or Rabbit or Koala. We had a store on our property, I had a booming eBay business, and we had booths in several markets. But then I started working full-time, and Kate got older and life just got too busy. Recently though—in fact, it was right after Big Junk Day—I looked around the house and realized I could be one step away from being featured on Hoarders. It would be an upscale episode where the psychologist would question my desire to hang on to 40 pieces of Beswick Art Pottery from the 1920s, and I couldn’t bear the thought of my family being brought in, ‘intervention-style’:

Mom: Honey, let them go. You haven’t even dusted them in months.
Dad: Och! They’re neither use nor ornament, lassie. Gi’ ‘em up!
Brother: Speaking as someone with a PhD, you could earn good money with those. Let me see the contract with the antique market. 10% commission? Not bad.
Ken (whispers): Don’t let them into my office!

At any rate, I had a lot of things in the house and sheds that I could use to stock a booth, but at a certain point, I ran out, and now I have to find other sources for things to sell. Which brings me to the internet and more specifically Facebook Marketplace, where the average person can list their absolutely weird stuff for free. Here’s a small sample of things that I’ve seen over the last little while that made me do a double-take:

There are many words that begin with the letters ‘sm’. Smell, smooth, smack, small, sment…SMENT? This is an ad that I actually saw a couple of months ago and I’ve thought about it every day since then. It’s a small statue of a boy holding a large misshapen bowl. The caption for the listing says “Sment boy”. Two things are noticeable about this ad. First, THE BOY IS NOT EVEN CEMENT. It looks like some kind of pottery or plaster that the person has painted with acrylic paint. Second, the paint brushes are standing in a jar labelled “Cayenne Pepper”. How the f*ck do you know how to spell “Cayenne” but not “Cement”?! Maybe the person was being really clever, like “I know it’s not really a cement statue, but if I call it Sment then no one can sue me for trademark infringement. Kind of like that Mickey Mouse/Mighty Mouse thing.” At any rate, it’s not very appealing, and I did NOT buy it.

This one looks very innocuous, but the real weirdness is in the description. This is a cat scratching post made of cardboard and fabric. The reason the person is selling it is because his cat is “too cool for it”. So I guess if you have a cat who’s nerdy or awkward, this is the perfect gift for them? Personally, I think the reason the cat doesn’t use it is because cats are notoriously lazy, and have no interest in walking all the way across a room to use a scratching post when they can just scratch the arm of the chair they’re lounging about in. I speak from experience.

Right now it’s July, 5 months into the middle of a global pandemic, and this charming display is being sold. It’s being advertised as a “Coffin shape diorama”. I can’t tell how big it is since the pictures of the measuring tape are all blurry. I’m just praying it’s not life-sized, because there are several disembodied arms and legs in there. To be honest, I can see a market for something like that around Hallowe’en. OR if you have neighbours who insist on having large parties with no social distancing or masks, I think this would be great to put on their porch as a warning.

This one boggles my mind. Why on earth would you want a pool thermometer with a large bowel movement attached to it like a handle? Seriously, if you’re willing to pay $17 for something like that, I will come to your house every day with one of Atlas’s poops and throw it in your pool for free. AND tell you if the water is warm.

I was scrolling through Marketplace when I saw this picture, and my first thought was, “Who’s selling that weird, sad-looking dog?” and then I read the description, which said “Antique Scarf”, and my second thought was “WTF? EWWW!” It’s a dead animal. I’m not wearing that around my neck no matter how ‘antique’ it is. Basically what you’re selling is a very old, very deceased—possum? Sorry, I’m not that familiar with the types of animals people drape across their shoulders these days.

Finally, I leave you with an enigma that will haunt me for the rest of my days. This is something my mother brought me last week. At first glance, it’s just a couple of bottles of essential oil. They’re both listed for medicinal use. One smells like peppermint and the other smells like cinnamon. The one that smells like peppermint is called “Peppermint”. The one that smells like cinnamon is called…“Thieves”.

(After having a couple of people explain what Thieves Oil is made of, I googled “Why is it called Thieves Oil” and the answer was “Its name was inspired by the legend of four French thieves in the 15th century who wore a special blend of rosemary, clove and other botanicals while they robbed the dead and dying.” ROBBED THE DEAD AND DYING? They probably wore those antique animal scarves too.)

One Man’s Junk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Week 264: Sew What?

I’m pretty good at a bunch of stuff. For example, I’m crafty, and I can take a piece of junk that I found at the side of the road and turn it into something pretty. In fact, this week, I was in our garden shed and saw the bottom of an antique piano stool that I had picked up in the summer time, and I made a toilet paper holder out of it, a piece of doweling, and a small finial that Ken found in his workshop. It’s the most fancy f*cking toilet paper holder that you could imagine.

I can also paint, I write a bit, and I’m a decent cook. At the present moment, I’m cooking Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people, and the turkey is in the oven as we speak (just as it was about to go in, the power went off. Then it came back on. Then it went off again, and I looked to the sky and said, “Don’t make me f*cking come up there!” The power is now back on). But the one thing I can’t do, the one thing I’d really like to do, is sew. Oh, I can thread a needle and attach a button to a shirt in a passable way if you don’t look too closely, but I can’t actually sew. When I was in Grade 8, while all the boys were having a fantastic time in the Industrial Arts shop, all the girls had to take cooking and sewing in the Family Studies classroom, and isn’t that the most goddamn sexist thing you’ve ever heard of? As part of our final project, the girls each had to sew something using a sewing machine. I made a vest. It was blue corduroy on the outside and blue sateen on the inside. It was horrifyingly lopsided. The worst part was that I had no idea how to use the buttonholer on the machine so it was a buttonless vest. Needless to say, I failed  Family Studies, mostly because I was incredibly pissed off about not being able to make a cool wood-and-welded metal candle holder like the boys and, having been a smartass from a very early age, may or may not have answered the questions on the final exam with joke answers:

Question: What is a dart?
My Answer: Something you throw at a dartboard.

My parents were called in to meet with the teacher. They were naturally furious at my deliberate self-sabotage, and my punishment was that I wasn’t allowed to go to the Grade 8 graduation dance. This just made me hate sewing even more; however, I forgave my parents long ago when I realized it was much better to have a story about standing up against sexism and paying the price vs. a story about a lame dance.

Over the years, I’ve never needed to sew—it’s amazing what you can do with a staple gun. But recently, I had a dilemma. I’d seen a picture in a decorating magazine that I really liked, and decided to redo our upper foyer. The problem was that the picture featured these beautiful curtain panels, and I must have gone to over 10 different stores but I couldn’t find anything REMOTELY close. So I went to the local fabric store, found the perfect fabric and bought a sh*t ton of it in the hope that I could just hang it and no one would notice that the edges weren’t hemmed. As I was paying for it though, the woman behind the counter said, “Before you sew it, make sure you—”, and I interrupted her with “Oh, I’m not sewing it. I don’t know how to sew and I don’t have a machine.” But instead of looking at me like I was an idiot, she said, “No problem—let me get you some HEM TAPE”.

HEM TAPE?! Did any of you know that this miraculous invention actually existed? That all you need to do is put it on a piece of fabric, fold the fabric over it, and iron it, and then the edges are FUSED TOGETHER?! I couldn’t believe my luck! So I brought the fabric and the hem tape home, and looked for the iron, because I haven’t used an iron in over ten years. But I found it in a cupboard, blew the dust off it, located the ironing board behind a door, and got to work. In under an hour, I had two big curtain panels, which I hung with these clip things that go over the curtain rod. Here’s what they look like:

My Family Studies teacher would be so proud.

Two quick things:

First, I completely forgot that My Week 260 was the 5th anniversary of this blog. Yep, I’ve been giving you a glimpse of my weird-ass life every week for over 5 years. Some of you have been here from the beginning, some of you are newer to the game, and one of you is no longer here (I miss you, Harry) but I want to thank each and every one of you for your support and for reading this nonsense.

Second, a box containing the author copies of my new novel The Dome arrived on my porch this week. I couldn’t be more thrilled. Apparently it’s been shipped to all the major outlets now too, so if you pre-ordered it, you should be getting it soon, and it will be on store shelves in the next couple of weeks. Here’s the synopsis if you’re interested:

“It’s the year 2135, almost four decades since the Water Wars ended. Much of the continent is a desert wasteland, and the powerful Consortium rules Adanac, one of the few habitable areas remaining, with an iron fist.

Cee and Dee, 16-year-old twins who share a special, almost psychic bond, are runaways from a Consortium workhouse. Now living as Freeworlders in the largest tent city in Trillium province, they’re determined to survive—Dee spends her days thieving with her best friend Rogan, and Cee makes a living selling his handmade woodcarvings to the Fancies, the wealthy elite. Like all Freeworlders, life is a struggle, made worse by the constant threat of The Dome, where punishments for the slightest offense are meted out by the Dome Master.

When devastating circumstances force the twins to become separated, all seems lost until the sudden appearance of a mysterious stranger who reveals some shocking truths. Rumours become reality, enemies become friends, and old foes resurface. Dee and Cee are tested to their limits as they confront the demons of their past and try to save the future, for themselves and all of Adanac.”

If you’re anywhere near the Drumbo Pub on the 9th, drop in for a drink. Happy Thanksgiving!

My Week 259: Does This Answer Your Question?

So I was recently tagged for a couple of blogger awards, and I know some people don’t like this, but for me, it’s always a chance to have a bit of fun with the questions. The first award was the Mystery Blogger award, and I was nominated by Simon from Beyond The Infinite, a cool blog about science, space, and exploring the universe. As a part of this award, I’m supposed to tell you three things about myself, and then answer five questions:

3 Things

1) In real life, people think I’m a very serious, professional person.
2) I collect small jewellery boxes that are made with seashells.
3) I talk to stuffed animals, just in case.

You can never have too many.

5 Questions

1) What is the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?

This ad, on a buy and sell site. It’s unsettling and at the same time, intriguing. Is it a challenge? Like, if I really want those beanie babies, am I willing to pay $200 AND defeat The Gatekeeper? And it doesn’t even say HOW MANY beanie babies there are. Who would post an ad for stuffed toys and accompany it with a picture so intimidating? Is the person selling the beanie babies against their will and this is a warning? I can just see someone taking their small child to pick up them up and being confronted by this person screaming “YOU CAN’T HAVE MY BEANIE BABIES!!!” You’d be scarred for life. This ad is strange and it really does engender more questions than answers.

2) If you could travel to any planet, which one would it be?

Uranus. Duh. Don’t you know me at all?

3) Do you ever give your cars (or other transportation) names?

No. I have a Chevy Sonic, and I call it “The Sonic”. Wait—I guess that’s kind of a name. In fact, it’s a very cool name, like a superhero name for someone who could fly faster than the speed of sound (is that actually even fast? I’m not as science-y as Simon so maybe he knows), or can destroy things with sonic waves. Wow, and I thought the coolest nickname would be Player One—now I want The Sonic, like Suzanne “The Sonic” Craig-Whytock.

4) What’s your weirdest habit?

Me: What’s my weirdest habit?
Ken: Obsessing over a piece of furniture or a vase being moved 5 millimetres from where you put it, and then yelling, ‘What the f*ck?! Why is it out of place?!’
Me: That’s not weird—it’s because I worry about ghosts, and THAT’S PERFECTLY NORMAL, KEN.

5) What are your 3 desert island must haves?

Ken, Titus, and an unending supply of white wine. I’d add my daughter, but I know she has better things to do than hang out with a drunk castaway.

I was also nommed for the Real Neat Blog Award, also by Simon, and the fact that he thought of me for both of these is incredibly kind and thoughtful, and I thank him very much. Some of these are his questions; some I just made up.

1) What was the funniest thing that you saw yesterday?

I was on the train sitting towards the back, and an elderly woman behind me got up and started walking towards the front of the car. She had a giant duffle bag slung over one shoulder and as she made her way up the aisle, she whacked everyone sitting in the aisle seat on the head with the bag. Hard. It was like something out of Monty Python, watching the reactions of each person as she hit them suddenly from behind, and her seeming obliviousness to the fact that she was leaving such mayhem in her wake.

2) What little known fact would you tell people about yourself?

My nickname is “The Sonic”.

3) Are you good at making speeches?

No. For example, last week at work, we were saying goodbye to some of our summer students, and one of my colleagues announced that I would be making a speech. I laughed and reached into my pocket to jokingly mime taking out a prepared speech but instead pulled out an actual piece of paper that said ‘chúc mừng năm mới’, which means ‘Happy New Year’ in Vietnamese. So I said THAT. People were confused. But here’s a little background as to why there was a piece of paper in my pocket that said ‘Happy New Year’ in Vietnamese. Several years ago, I was the principal of an International Languages site. The school had 13 different language groups who all liked to celebrate various occasions, and they each felt it was important that I, as the principal, welcomed the parents and guests in the large auditorium. Unfortunately, I don’t speak 13 languages, so they would all give me a greeting in Arabic, Farsi, Vietnamese, and whatnot. The MC would get up and start the show in their home language with me waiting in the wings. Then suddenly, the MC would turn and yell, “And SUZANNE!!!” I was always, without exception, taken completely unawares, and would have to rush up to the stage with my piece of paper, the greeting spelled out phonetically in my hand, and the crowd would go wild as I butchered their mother tongue.

4) Have you once again changed your favourite bathroom stall at work?

Why yes, I have. If you’ve been following along, it was initially Stall 5, but then I realized that the toilet paper in that stall ran out much earlier than all the other stalls, which meant that a great many other people had also designated it as the most desirable. I switched to Stall 2, but recently, it’s become less hygienic than I like. Stall 3 is uncomfortably in the middle and the door is usually closed, which is completely f*cking off-putting, and Stall 1, as we know, is haunted. So I’ve resigned myself to Stall 4, even though in some cultures, 4 is an unlucky number. Fortunately, the number 4 is relatively meaningless to me, like most numbers. Also, you probably know by now that if you nominate me for any type of award, there WILL be a discussion about bathroom stalls.

5) Favourite comedian?

John Mulaney. He’s hysterically clever.

6) Is that ghost still haunting your house?

I don’t think so. A couple of weeks ago, I went into the haunted room and the chandelier started flickering, so I whispered, “Shhhh. Everything is OK.” The flickering stopped and there hasn’t been an incident since.

7) What should new followers to this blog expect?

A lot of swearing, mostly.

Also, as some of you know, I write short fiction and a bit of poetry, but those things are very different than this blog or my novels. I recently had a piece of flash fiction featured in X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, so if you care to read it, you can find it here.

My Week 245: It’s Questionable

This week was insanely busy, and I didn’t know what to write about so Ken suggested that I answer questions from my fans, to which I replied, “I don’t have any.”

Ken: Fans or questions?
Me: Some of the former, but definitely none of the latter.
Ken: I’m your fan. Here’s a question: What would you NOT want to find in your house?
Me: What? Why are you asking me that?
Ken: Because a Florida man–
Me: ALWAYS the Florida man. What did he do this time?
Ken: Found an eleven foot alligator in his house.
Me: That. Definitely not that. What about you?
Ken: Ummm…snakes.
Me: You don’t like snakes? Since when?
Ken: Since always.
Me: 30 years and I did NOT know that.
Ken: I’m an enigma.

At any rate, I have no actual fan questions, so I’m going to make some up based on the notes and photos I found on my phone:

Fan Question 1) Is physics always right?

No. And my answer is in direct contradiction to a Jeopardy contestant who appeared a couple of weeks ago. Ken and I are currently obsessed with Jeopardy because there’s a guy on right now who’s won over 2 million dollars. AMERICAN dollars. That’s like 7.5 gazillion Canadian dollars, although I might be slightly wrong on the conversion rate. I’m no longer overseeing math people—now I have a really big team that specializes in language, so my math skills are getting a little rusty. Anyway, we feel sorry for the people who have to go up against “James” since he always rings in first and usually gets the answer right. If you ever watch Jeopardy, you know that after the first commercial break, Alex Trebek always asks the contestants questions about themselves—the questions are cheesy and the answers are sometimes cringe-worthy. So Alex asked this poor woman, “I understand you’re a physicist. Why do you like physics so much?” and she said, “Because physics is always right.” And I was like, “That’s BULLSH*T, BRENDA. Schrodinger’s Cat is not BOTH alive and dead. A cat is EITHER alive or dead, whether you can see it or not!” See, this is my issue with physics. You can’t claim that just because you put something in a box, that it exists in two simultaneous states. I mean, you can CLAIM it, but just because you say something doesn’t make it true. You can SPECULATE on the state of the cat, but that doesn’t change the fact that a cat isn’t f*cking magic. As you can see, I would have made an awesome physicist. And I would NEVER put a cat in a box, although if you’ve ever owned a cat, you know that they do love being in boxes.

Also, on the same show, Alex asked the other challenger, who was a Science teacher, this: “I understand that you use an unusual method to explain nuclear force to your students” and she said, “Yes, I tell them that protons and neutrons are attracted to each other the same way I’m attracted to Chris Hemsworth. Yowza.” OK, she didn’t really say ‘Yowza’ but as a former high school teacher, let me tell you that it’s completely inappropriate to talk about your imaginary love life with your students. EW. Just ew.

Fan Question 2) Who do you call if you have a noisy bathroom fan?

Apparently you call this guy—talk about a niche market. I can picture the high school Careers class with the teacher asking everyone, “So what do you want to do when you get out of high school?” and the one guy just lighting up: “I want to fix noisy bathroom fans!” and the teacher saying, “Amazing—there’s a school JUST for that! It’s called Hogwarts!” (I don’t know why I thought of Hogwarts, but it made me laugh so hard picturing this guy at a school for magic and wizardry pointing his wand and yelling ‘Reparo’ at bathroom fans. Also, his name in this strange divergency is ‘Tim’ as in the following conversation:

Dumbledore: Hmm. My bathroom fan seems to be on the fritz. Someone get Tim—he’s the best at repairing noisy bathroom fans.
Tim: Reparo!
Dumbledore: Thank you, Tim. Have a lemon drop.).

Fan Question 3) What has disappointed you most this week?

In the bathroom at work, there is a noisy bathroom fan—no, just kidding. There’s a plastic bag hanging off the tampon dispensing machine full of brightly coloured things. For weeks now, I’ve been speculating about what might be in the bag. Balloons? Toys? Tiny kites? Special prizes like you would buy at the dollar store and give to kids at a birthday party? I finally decided to end the mystery by looking into the bag. And lo and behold, it was full of feminine hygiene products wrapped in different colours according to size. Apparently , the dispensing machine was broken, so they just put all the stuff in a bag and hung it off the handle. It reminded me of the time when I was 8 and I had red measles (because I was vaccinated too early). I was feverish and delirious, and my brother went to the store and bought me a present with his own money, which was very sweet. I opened my eyes and thought it was a super-cool fancy water gun, but when the delirium broke, I realized it was just a long stick of bubble gum. At least in my brother’s case, it was the thought that counts, but the bag full of pads was just mean.

Fan Question 4) Are you a professional antiques appraiser?

Yes, apparently I am. A while ago, I was asked by the local Heritage society to act as an appraiser for their local “Antiques Roadshow” because Ken and I used to own an antique store. I hadn’t done any appraising for a few years, and I was super-nervous, but I had a lot of reference books and I knew a couple of the other appraisers. I held my own, being able to recognize a Parian statue, and accurately date a powder flask etc., and then a reporter from the local paper asked for a picture. It came out last week, and there I am, using a magnifying glass on the bottom of a pewter tankard and looking like a slightly maniacal detective, but the description refers to me as a “professional appraiser”, so now I know what I can do when I retire.

Fan Question 5) Did you recently buy a velvet dress from a thrift shop?

I had to. See, two weeks before, I was going through my closet and taking out all the stuff I never wear. I loaded up everything into several bags and took them to the local Goodwill. Then I came home and started to feel terrible because there was a particular blue velvet dress that I really should have kept. It was bothering me for a while, so last week, I popped into Goodwill, went to the dress section and there it was! I was so thrilled, and the best part? It was only 8 dollars. So I took it to the counter:

Cashier: That’s a really nice dress.
Me: You won’t believe it, but I donated this dress a couple of weeks ago, and I just had to buy it back.
Cashier: Why?
Me: Because I was wearing it on New Year’s Eve a little over 20 years ago and I had just found out that I was pregnant with my daughter. I was so incredibly happy, and we have photographs of me in it with a huge smile on my face. I really needed to get it back.
Cashier: Aww! That’ll be 8 bucks.

Money well spent.

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.

My Week 141: OCD Much?

Wednesday: OCD much?

Last week, I was looking at Facebook, and someone had posted an article about one of the many Kardashian creatures and her apparent OCD. The Kardashian in question is “Kloe”, and maybe she thinks she has OCD, but I took one look at her refrigerator and freezer, and I was like “No. Just no.” Because her refrigerator and freezer made MY OCD flare up like fireworks on Victoria Day. First, her refrigerator was JAM-PACKED full of stuff. And maybe it was organized by type, but the pickle jars were all squished up against each other (who the hell needs 6 jars of pickles anyway), the salad dressing was nestled up against the mustard, and there was no satisfying equi-distance between ANYTHING. But the worst part was that there were 6 butter sticks which were NOT stacked evenly, and the margarine tubs were on a tippy, nay, haphazard angle. Lady, just because you have six cans of Red Bull lined up in a row doesn’t mean anything other than you’re probably more wired than most people. Also, the sheer amount of stuff in that refrigerator mostly proves you’re some kind of self-indulgent shopaholic with more money than brains. Then I read on about how she takes several boxes of Oreos and tosses them into jars. Jars! You’re taking Oreos out of their neat straight rows and dumping them willy-nilly into glass containers, where the cookie dust gets all over everything. And what if some of them break in the process? Now you can’t even eat them.

So I was irked. My own OCD isn’t even that bad on most days—in fact, you might not even notice it, unless you look around my house and realize that all objects of décor are organized in patterns of fives (and sometimes threes or sevens), or you’ve watched me put groceries on the conveyer belt in a symmetrical fashion according to size and shape and with one inch of space between all items, or you’ve seen me in the bathroom washing my hands simply because doing that fills me with a sense of profound relief, or you’ve noticed that my thumbs are bleeding because my dermatophagia (which thank goodness is limited to my cuticles) is out of control right now and I’m not sure why.

Ken barely notices my own ‘quirks’, but a couple of weeks ago, it became VERY apparent, when I came home from Toronto and went into my bathroom:

Me: WHAT THE F*CK?!
Ken: What’s wrong?!
Me: The little clock goes on the right! The RIGHT!! Why can’t she remember that? It’s not difficult! There are only two directions—right and left. The little clock always goes on the right!! At a certain point, you’ve got to think she’s doing it on purpose!
Ken: Sigh.

The “she” in question was our new house cleaner. Now, before you start lumping me in with the Kardashians, like I have so much money that I can afford a maid, let me clarify that she only comes in once every two weeks, just to do the basics. With me in Toronto all week, and only seeing Ken on the weekends, the last thing we wanted to do was spend all day Saturday cleaning the house. Plus, I have to write, and dusting gets in the way of that. Obviously, a dirty house is a problem for me, hence hiring someone to help out. The cleaner is young and relatively inexpensive, but also apparently oblivious to the order of things. The first week that she came, she had left the cupboard in the kitchen in total disarray, causing me to have a small breakdown. “She moved EVERYTHING!!” I cried to Ken. He kindly suggested I get out the photographs so that I could put everything back. Yes, photographs. I take photographs of the way I’ve arranged things so that I know how to put them back, just in case. It’s especially helpful at Christmas, when I want to place ornaments in the exact same position as the year previous.  So I spent a good hour putting things back where they were supposed to be. Now, of course, I’m used to the fact that every other weekend, I’ll come home to subtle disarray, but there’s also some stress-relief involved as I re-order my world and then stand back and admire the renewed symmetry.

I think a big part of the problem is that I don’t like strangers touching my stuff, so hiring a stranger whose sole job is to touch my stuff was bound to be a problem. One that I’m slowly getting used to. But this past weekend, Ken and I had a garage sale, so you can only imagine how high my stress level shot up, as stranger after stranger wandered around my yard, picking up things and putting them down in different places than the ones I’d assigned to them. It took all I had not to follow people around, re-arranging behind them, or not yelling, “If you don’t want to buy that, can you please put it back where you found it?!”

Plus I hate how judge-y people are at yard sales:

Woman: Will you do better than $20 dollars for this table?
Me: It’s from the late 1800s, so no, I’m sorry.
Woman: But the legs are a little rickety. Will you go $15?
Me: No, sorry.
Woman: Hmph. Then I’ll pass.
Me: No problem. Can you please put it back where you found it?

Seriously. An antique side table worth 5 times the price and she passed at $20 because the legs were a little “rickety”. What, was she planning to sit on it? Otherwise, it was just fine as a table. But we did sell a lot of stuff, including Frank the stuffed fish whose story you can read about in My Week 34. A woman came very early, and bought a lot of things for exactly the price we were asking and never haggled once. She admired Frank, who we’d pulled out of the shed to put by the side of the road on the grounds that neither of us REALLY wanted a dead fish in the house, so I told her she could have him for free. She loaded all of her purchases into her car, then suddenly she came back to the house. “Here,” she said, holding out a $10 bill. “That’s for the fish. I know he’s worth a lot more.” When we protested that no, she could just have him, she insisted, and tucked the bill into a glass on the table. “Don’t argue,” she laughed, and then drove away.

The other best part of the morning was when my aunts came for a visit. After looking around for a while, one of them asked if she could dig up a little bit of Solomon’s Seal from my garden for hers. They both disappeared for a minute, then my other aunt came around the corner of the house with the plant hanging out of a bag.

“Hey,” I yelled. “That crazy woman is taking plants from the garden!! Lady! Those aren’t for sale!!”

Then I realized that some of my prospective customers were looking at her, as she blithely made her way to the car. “Do you want me to stop her?” one man asked, concerned.

“No,” I laughed. “She’s family. It’s all good.” Because family is ALLOWED to touch my stuff.

My Week 82: North Carolina vs. Bracebridge, Ontario, Big-Ass Clock Crisis

Wednesday: Weird bathroom laws versus weird noise laws

I was talking to a friend last Wednesday who happens to be gay, and whose girlfriend is very androgynous-looking, and she was up in arms about the bizarre law that North Carolina imposed regarding transgender people having to use the bathroom of the gender they were at birth. That in itself sounds complicated enough, but more perplexing to me was the fact that the law is called HB2. In my world, that’s a type of pencil, with the H standing for “hardness” and the B standing for “blackness”, so my first thought was that it was also some kind of racist law, but in fact, it’s just a moronic law, and the HB stands for “House Bill”. And that in itself is ironic, because it has nothing to do with the bathroom in your house, but with PUBLIC bathrooms. Then my friend showed me a picture on her phone of a guy who was very muscular, sporting a goatee, and who was covered with tattoos. “Wow,” I said. “He reminds me of Adam Levine.”

“He was born a woman,” she responded. “In North Carolina, he would have to use the same bathroom as you, or he’d be breaking the law.”

“What?!” I exclaimed. “I don’t want that dude in a bathroom with me. I’ve had to CLEAN men’s bathrooms—they definitely need their own space!”

Now, this might sound sexist, but it’s based on empirical evidence from two sources. First, if you’ve read this blog before, you’ll know that I worked in a donut store when I was younger, and the worst part about it was having to clean the men’s room at the end of my shift (I describe it in full detail In My Week 67: Disturbing Trends in Men’s Fashion, where I reveal the origins of the “poo beard”). Second, which you don’t know, is that a few years ago, I worked in a school which converted the 2 staff bathrooms in the main office into “gender-neutral spaces” to accommodate any transgender students we had. It was a great idea for the transgender kids, who never caused any consternation—the staff whole-heartedly embraced the idea of giving them a safe space—but the office ladies were aghast by the end of the week for quite a different reason. Apparently, there was at least one male administrator who couldn’t aim well, and the constant urine on the toilet and surrounding floor was freaking them out. Also, the men were in LOVE with the expensive hand soaps that the ladies had specially bought, and were using them in copious quantities. I was just impressed that they were at least WASHING their hands, but I recall one woman crying out in frustration, “It used to be such a NICE bathroom! Now, it’s just gross, and there’s never any soap!!”

And this is why the North Carolina law is so ridiculous. Well, one of the many reasons. It seems to me that they’ve suddenly entered the Dark Ages, when people believed that tomatoes were poisonous, that demons caused illnesses, that education made women infertile, and that autism was the direct result of childhood vaccinations. But that’s House Bill 3, which I believe the intelligent North Carolinian politicians are working on right now. Then I got to wondering what the underlying agenda might actually be, because I can’t believe people are stupid enough to honestly care what birth-gender the person in the stall next to you might be. Honestly, when I’m performing a bodily function, that’s really not on my radar. So it occurred to me that there might be a hidden rationale for this irrationality:

1) It’s a special infrastructure project designed to increase employment rates. Obviously, NC will have to hire special “inspectors” who will ensure that people are going into the right bathrooms. What KIND of inspection that will involve will probably decide the pay scale. Also, the birth certificate industry will spike, as people will have to carry those with them all the time, in case they need to pee. It’s tremendously forward-thinking—well done, Pat McCrory, for trying to improve the North Carolina economy. The whole world is proud of you.

2) It’s a secret plan to make all bathrooms “co-ed”. Think about it. If you make men who look like women use men’s bathrooms, and women who look like men use women’s bathrooms, then it’s a f*cking free-for-all. Also, it’s very confusing, and just writing that sentence took me three minutes because I was trying to make sure it was logical, and I’m still rereading it to make sure it’s correct. Which makes me think that if I’m having this much trouble with the logistics, then maybe the whole Bill was just a huge misunderstanding, and that it was passed because the General Assembly thought they were just CONFIRMING that men’s bathrooms were for people who looked like men, and women’s bathrooms were for people who looked like women, and no one was worried about transgenderism at all.

At the end of the day, no matter what the reasoning, the whole thing is outrageously stupid. Does anyone REALLY believe that a person would undergo years of therapy, hormone treatments, and painful surgeries just so they can spy on people in public bathrooms? Like there’s a whole crew of guys waiting for “Sally”, who used to be “Bob”, to come out of the ladies room, ready to pepper her with questions like “Was it clean? Was there fancy soap? Did you see any boobies? Did a pillowfight break out?” And women? There’s no way IN HELL that a woman becomes a man just to use a men’s bathroom. Trust me on this.

I asked Ken if he’d ever been in a men’s room with a woman:

Ken: It happened once. I went into the bathroom at ________, 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 don’t know if she was a cross-dresser or transgender or whatever, and I didn’t really care. I just wanted to pee.

So there you go, North Carolina—take some advice from a man who lives in the 21st century and stop worrying about 15th century problems.

transgender bathroom sign

In contrast to the backwater ways of North Carolina, recently the town of Bracebridge, Ontario came into the new age when it repealed an old noise bylaw that banned “hooting and hollering.” Yes, it’s now completely legal to hoot, holler, or make other “human noises” in this Northern town. At least until 2 am, when you could be fined for “drunken singing” or other disruptions to the peace. These are the things we worry about in Canada. Use whatever bathroom you want, but be considerate about where and when you hoot. Here’s the link to the full article, because honestly, I can’t make it any funnier than what it already is. My favourite line is “Stakiw [the Chief Bylaw Officer] said his department hasn’t been dealing with a hooting “crisis,” but had received some inquiries about kids and summer camps, which prompted the town to look into updating its current laws.” Oh, Canada—it doesn’t get better than this. http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2016/03/23/hooting-and-hollering-now-legal-in-bracebridge-ont.html

Friday: I have a big-ass clock crisis

Last weekend, I saw an ad on a local buy and sell site for an antique clock. It didn’t work, but the price was right and the case was pretty. I decided it would make a really great little jewelry cabinet, so I contacted the guy and arranged to come by on my way back from Toronto to pick it up. When I got there, right on time, he was like, “What? I thought you were coming tomorrow. I’m just going out for a ride on my motorcycle and the clock is in the basement.” He said this like it made absolutely logical sense. Then again, the weather WAS charming, and riding a motorcycle is like smoking crack for some people, so I said I’d come by the next day. After a series of confusing messages (at one point, he said, “I’m here” and I thought he meant outside my house, so I spent ten minutes waiting for him to come to the door, but he meant HIS house), I drove to his place to pick up the clock. It was sitting in his garage, and it was WAYYY bigger than I thought it was. I had pictured it as being less than a foot tall, but it was, in fact, over three feet tall, and much too large for a jewelry cabinet, unless you were a member of the Royal Family. Still, it was beautiful, so I put it in the car, and brought it home. It weighed a TON (I discovered later that it still had the original lead weights inside), and I struggled to get it up onto the kitchen counter, where it has stayed until last night. Mostly because I have NO IDEA where to put it. Ken said I should sell it for parts, but here’s the issue: it still had the original paper label inside it, and after doing some research, it turns out it’s a very rare “Chauncey Boardman” American clock from the early 1800s.

Me: I can’t gut it for parts, Ken. It’s 200 years old! There weren’t even PEOPLE in Canada back then.
Ken: Um…I’m going to say that’s incorrect.
Me: Well, fine. Maybe there were people, but they couldn’t tell time.
Ken: Well, obviously they could tell time, but there were no Canadian clock manufacturers during that period. There would have only been individual watchmakers. I saw this documentary last week about…

I have no idea what happened in the documentary because I tuned out, and started mentally going through rooms to see where I could put the clock. When I tuned back in, Ken was talking about ANOTHER documentary about pygmy goats, or Shakespeare’s skull or something, so I started physically walking around the house to try and figure out where a 3 foot high clock could possibly go. On Thursday night, I promised Ken on my honour as a woman that I would find a place for it, and get it off the kitchen counter. Last night, it was still on the counter…