We’ll Always Have Paris

For a long time, I’ve been obsessed with vintage paintings of Paris. You may have seen the type I’m referring to, the impressionistic ones that look really drippy and weird from up close, but from far away begin to resemble a street full of shops and cafes, with people strolling along, and the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe in the background. I adore them—they’re not expensive and whenever I’m feeling down, I look at one and imagine myself wandering down a rainy Paris rue, and it makes me feel better. The problem is, Ken hates them:

Me: Ooh, look! A Paris painting!
Ken: You already have 10 of the damn things. No more!
Me: But this one would be perfect for my bathroom…

So now, if I see one, I have to promise I’m only buying it to resell it. Which I’ve done a couple of times, but apparently there aren’t many other people as obsessed with Paris paintings as I am, because they tend to sit in my antiques booth for a while. But last weekend, I was in the midst of rearranging furniture in the hope of turning the alcove in our bedroom into a “reading nook”, when it suddenly occurred to me that a Paris painting was exactly what the nook needed, and I knew exactly where to find one. In fact, a painting of the perfect size had been languishing in my booth for several months and I was planning on going there last Sunday afternoon to put some fresh stock in. “This is perfect,” I thought to myself. “I’ll bring it home with me.”

When I arrived, the owner greeted me enthusiastically at the door. “Guess what!” he exclaimed jovially. “You just sold those two Paris paintings, you know, the ones that have been here for months. Literally half an hour ago—you just missed it!”

“No!” I gasped. He looked confused, both of us being in the “selling of things” business, so I had to explain my lack of excitement.

“Never mind,” he said. “I’m sure you’ll find another one.”

The very next day, I did. And it broke my heart.

I was at Goodwill, a charity shop, after work on Monday to drop off some odds and ends from the alcove mentioned above. I was helping the girl unload my car, when suddenly a man sauntered past us through the parking lot. He was CARRYING A PARIS PAINTING. And it was a beautiful one, in an antique frame. I could see the Arc de Triomphe from where I stood, stunned and speechless, box of knick knacks in hand. I cannot accurately convey the sense of horror I felt as I watched him get in his car and drive away, knowing that if I’d been there half an hour earlier AGAIN, the painting would have been mine.

And because I’m a grown-ass woman, I didn’t cry, although I badly wanted to. No, I did what any normal person would do—I called Ken:

Me: The universe hates me! I just missed out on a gorgeous Paris painting by like half an hour!
Ken: Hahahahaha!
Me: Why are you laughing?!

I tell you all of this not to elicit sympathy—in fact, you’re probably thinking Ken was right to laugh, and I really don’t need another painting of a city I’ve never been to—but that’s not the point. The point is, in fact, that the universe is taunting me, and I don’t know why.

Here are some thoughts:

1. The universe hates me.
2. The universe hates Paris.
3. The universe agrees with Ken that I have enough paintings of Paris.
4. The universe doesn’t care about me at all, and things are just random.

But then, as I was writing this on Saturday morning, I happened to glance up and realized that in an obscure corner of my office, there was a small Paris painting hanging there, and wouldn’t it be better placed in the new reading nook than tucked away in a spot where Ken can’t see it? See, I’m nothing if not thoughtful, and maybe the universe loves me after all.

Quilt Update: My wonderful neighbour finished the quilt I had begged her to help me with and it’s gorgeous–Ken and I presented it to Kate, for whom it was always intended, and she loves it. All my neighbour wanted in exchange for her labour and skill was a donation to the local foodbank so I made a big one in her name. And I also bought her a gift card to the liquor store as a personal thank you, because I can imagine after all that sewing, she needs a drink. I sure did.

My Week 135: Leo Causes a Rift in the Universe, the Maple Leafs Save the Galaxy, and Other Musings

Things that make me go Hmm….

Last week was a long week, what with me getting up at 5:00 am and battling traffic to get into the GTA every day, working until 5, and then battling traffic to get back home again. I thought to myself, “If I had to do this every day for the rest of my career, I would gouge out my own eyes. And go on disability because of the blindness.” That might sound dramatic, (like when I said the other day that I didn’t want to go to lunch in the rain because “I don’t dry well”), because if worse came to worst, I could just quit, but that’s how much I absolutely f*cking hate driving on the 401, which gets more and more absurd every year, with traffic slowing down randomly and creeping along simply because of “volume”, which is radio-traffic-report lingo for TOO MANY GOD-DAMN CARS ON THE ROAD. And believe me, I would take public transit, if there was any available to my off-site work location. I would ride a BURRO ON A DIRT ROAD to my work location if that was possible (and if it got me there by 7:30, but burros are notoriously tardy, so…)

At any rate, I had a LOT of time in the car to ponder the state of the increasingly bizarre world. And it IS bizarre. And becoming more so every day. Why is that, you ask? Well, let me tell you exactly why, based on a theory developed by me and my work partner L one day early last year (I can’t remember who exactly said which bit, but this was an approximation of the conversation we had one gloomy day after Donald Trump was gaining traction in the polls:

Me: The world is going crazy. It’s like living in “backwards land”.
L: I blame Leo.
Me: Leonardo DiCaprio? Why?
L: When he finally won the Oscar for Best Actor, it ripped a hole in the universe.
Me: You mean like, an anomaly that destroyed the fabric of time and space?
L: Yup. It opened a portal into another dimension.
Me: Which will allow Trump to win, because that’s what has happened in a parallel universe?
L: Exactly.
Me: But “The Revenant” WAS pretty good.
L: Not THAT good.

And while we both have maybe watched a little too much Dr. Who, the theory makes sense. After Leo got his Oscar, celebrities started dying, Brexit happened, and Trump became the President-elect. And that’s just a drop in the bizarro bucket. I googled “the strangest things that happened in 2016” and got like over a thousand hits. When I did the same for 2015, I got 5 hits, and then “Weird and Wonderful Things that Happened at the Zoo”.

So yeah, 2016 was an anomaly, and although, right now, 2017 is like “Hold my beer”, because it’s just as f-ed up frankly, I think we’ll be seeing a course correction soon. Right now, the Toronto Maple Leafs are in the play-offs. The last time this happened was 2004, the year that the Mayans predicted the world would end. And it didn’t, because the Leafs made the play-offs and closed another time/space rift that occurred in 2003 after Roman Polanski won an Oscar for best director, subsequently allowing George W. Bush to win a second term (and apparently Meryl Streep gave Polanski a standing ovation—this is true because I checked with Snopes.com. And now I think Meryl Streep also has something to do with all of this, like she’s an interstellar, cross-universe traveller whose only job is to stir sh*t up like she did in 2003, and again at the 2017 Academy Awards where she slammed Donald Trump and started a war with North Korea. OK, that hasn’t happened YET, but who knows if it’s all part of her insidious plan?). Long story short, I am convinced that world events are simply the machinations of the dastardly Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences trying to mess with the space/time continuum. Luckily, we have the plucky heroes of Canada’s favourite hockey franchise, there to win the hearts and souls of the galaxy. They might never attain the Stanley Cup, but what’s that in the face of saving the universe?

Other Weird Things:

The Carlton Cinema audiences don’t understand drama:

The Carlton Cinema is very close to where I live in the city, but I have to stop going there, because the audiences are f*cking me up and making me think I don’t understand movies. A couple of years ago, my brother and I went to see a film there, purportedly a drama, but the audience kept laughing so hysterically that I got all stressed out. I asked my brother, who has a PhD, what was so funny, and he said, “I don’t know.” Then a while ago, within the same two week period, I saw both “Split” (M. Night Shyamalan’s film about a man with Dissociative Identity Disorder who kidnaps three girls), and “Get Out” (a psychological thriller by Jordan Peele). In both cases, the audience members at the Carlton laughed their asses off at every single scene, and I was soooo confused. Until last night, when I re-watched “Split” with Ken, K, and her girlfriend, and NO ONE LAUGHED, stupid Carlton Audience. You need to grow up.

When Doors Don’t Open:

Yesterday, Ken and I went out for Round Two of stool shopping (when I was finished writing this post, I asked Ken to read it and tell me if I needed to add anything, at which point he said, “A ‘stool’ joke. You really missed an opportunity for humour there.” OK, honey). At the third store, we approached the doors and they didn’t open. I stood there, completely befuddled and disoriented, until Ken said, “You need to pull the handle. Welcome back to the 1900s.” It was like the time the battery on my car fob died and I had no idea how to get into the car, until Ken reminded me that the key would still open the lock on the door. His timing was impeccable, because I was seriously considering just smashing the window in so that I wouldn’t be late to work.

As a side note, we didn’t find any stools AGAIN, which prompted me to say very loudly and angrily, “F*ck stool shopping. I have some fabric and a staple gun. Let’s just fix the ones we have.” Which we did, and I didn’t even need the fabric because once Ken repaired the broken seats, I got out-voted by everyone who thought the leather still looked really good. Even though I was like, “What do you want, this old leather, or this REALLY beautiful fabric?” and then I was accused of “being manipulative” and “trying to sway popular opinion with my adjectives.”

My Bluetooth Speaks Better Italian than Me:

The other day I needed to call a co-worker to tell her I was running late because of highway “volume”. I tried using her first name twice, but the Bluetooth Lady in my rental car just kept saying, “Do you mean ‘Margaret’? Do you mean ‘Marion”? (those are my aunts), and I was like NO!!! So I said my co-worker’s full name, but because her last name is Italian and the Bluetooth Lady was already struggling, I said it phonetically. And then the Bluetooth Lady said, “Do you mean _____?” and pronounced her last name with a perfect Italian accent, like she was schooling me or whatnot. And I was like “if you can figure this out, why did you have so much damn trouble with a perfectly easy to understand FIRST NAME and then claim you couldn’t understand my commands?!” She would fit right into the Carlton Cinema crowd.

Insects as Art and Neil Hedley:

This morning, Ken and I were watching the news (on CBC, because I no longer watch CTV since I got into a Twitter feud with a dude named Neil Hedley, who’s an announcer with some radio station called Zoom-a Radio, which I have never even heard of nor listened to, like most people, I imagine. The fact that CTV chooses someone like him with zero political knowledge and the thinnest skin possible makes me dismiss them as a serious news source. My Twitter feud with him started when Trump tried his initial Muslim ban. The news anchor asked Neil why he thought that Trump had only targeted 6 countries, to which Neil replied, “Maybe he knows something we don’t know. He’s the one who gets intelligence briefings.” So I tweeted to him that perhaps he had fanned the flames of racism by implying that the six countries were guilty of something more than NOT having oil or Trump Towers, and he just went off on me like the baby he apparently is. And he never did clarify what he meant, although he claimed I “missed his point”. Of course, the very next week, he made fun of Eastern Canadians by mocking them with a stereotyped accent but I left it alone on the grounds that he really is too stupid to bother with. People like that will never be self-reflective, only defensive. Kind of like what’s happening all around the world right now.) Anyway, Ken and I were watching CBC, and there was a story about a woman who has a new exhibit in an art gallery. Her “art” is pinning insects to the walls of said gallery in different patterns. Real insects. Dead insects. That she buys on Ebay. The art gallery owner was ecstatic and claimed that her exhibition was “perfect for Canada’s 150th birthday”. I said to Ken, “If I went to a graveyard and dug up a bunch of corpses, and laid them out in a Fibonacci sequence on the floor of the Art Gallery of Ontario, I could be famous too.” The Canadian Mint also put out a special $3 coin to celebrate our 150th. Not a coin worth $1.50, which might make SOME kind of sense, but no, three bucks. Except it costs $19.95 to buy one.  But if you think insects and nonsensical monetary denominations are yet another indicator of a world gone mad, just remember that the Toronto Maple Leafs are the REAL Guardians of the Galaxy, and one day they will save us all. Go Leafs Go.

My Week 70: PaintNite, Reality TV

Wednesday: I go to PaintNite

Last Wednesday, I went with a group of people from work to something called “PaintNite”. If you’ve never been to one of these, you HAVE to do it. You get sent a link to a painting, and then you go to a bar and everyone has to recreate the same painting. While drinking. It’s the most fun I’ve had in a while. Our painting was called “Caribbean Cove” or something like that—it was a painting of a tranquil tropical sea with a beach in the foreground, seen through the opening of a cave. Initially, I wasn’t going to go, even though I’d already paid—in fact, I thought it was the night before, and I was lying on my couch happily wrapped in a blanket, watching an episode of Brooklyn 99 that I’d PVR’d, drinking wine and eating chicken wings. I felt bad about missing it, but I’d been really sick, like ‘coughing up a lung’ sick, and I didn’t want to go ANYWHERE. As a side note, I hope that the walls to my condo are actually soundproof because I was barking like a seal all night long for a week, and spending a long time in the morning trying to clear my lungs in the bathroom. If you were my neighbour, you might have thought an eighty year-old, emphysemic man had moved in next door. And that’s pretty much how I felt. So when I woke up on Wednesday morning and saw an email from PaintNite telling me that it was only “hours away”, I realized that I hadn’t missed it at all. But I still didn’t want to go. At the end of the day at work, though, I was talking to one of my colleagues—the same one that I went to the Toronto Circus with in Week 53, and he said that he wanted to go too, and that he was willing to meet me at my condo and go on the subway with me, etc. And that relieved my underlying fears: First, that I would have to traverse the streets of downtown alone. This might sound paranoid, but I should mention at this point that, right before Christmas, there was a string of random stabbings in my neighbourhood, including a man who lived in my building, who was stabbed to death two blocks away. He was very nice—we would say hello to each other in the elevator, and he would hold the door for me, so it was pretty upsetting. It was described by the police as “a random crime of opportunity”, although I’m not sure what kind of “opportunity” you get from killing someone—perhaps fulfilling your dream of living the rest of your life in maximum security? At any rate, I was happy to have someone to walk with. I mean, I HAVE pepper spray, but I’m terrified that if I ever had to use it, I’d point in the wrong way and shoot myself in the face with it. I’m a total klutz, for the record—in fact, just this past week, I slammed my bathroom door into my own face hard enough to take the wind out of myself, and give myself a huge bruise. When I called Ken and tried to recreate the moment so I could understand how the f*ck I had managed to do it, I almost did it again. Second, (and I realize that it’s taken a while to get to “Second”, sorry about that) was that I would show up to PaintNite and feel awkward and weird because the rest of the people there were mostly math types, and they can be very intimidating, what with their knowledge of numbers, and pi, and sh*t like that.

So we arrived at the place, and headed for an area of long tables covered with plastic dropcloths, set up with easels. As we put our coats down, a young woman ran over. “No!!” she exclaimed. “I’m not done setting up yet! You can’t sit here!” She was obviously a little high strung, so I reacted like I would to a toddler throwing a tantrum, and said, very slowly and calmly, “It’s OK, dear. We’ll go over there and wait until you’re done.” Then I turned around and laughed. (This is exactly what I did to K on the single occasion that she threw a sh*tfit at the age of 2. She never did it again, innately understanding that I would just find her amusing rather than upsetting.) The PaintNite was at a bar/restaurant called “Poutineville”, whose claim to fame was the numerous types of poutine on the menu. If you don’t know what poutine is, it’s a Canadian delicacy consisting of French fries topped with cheese and smothered with gravy. I suppose ‘delicacy’ isn’t quite the word, but that’s Canada for you. Our delicacies are more ironic than ‘delicate’—they consist of hearty things like back bacon, beer, big-ass doughnuts called “beaver tails”, and maple syrup, which is made from TREES. I ordered the pulled pork poutine, expecting a heap of savoury pulled pork IN BETWEEN the fries, cheese, and gravy, but what I got was sadly disappointing—the fries were overcooked and the pork was neither pulled nor savoury, and was just tossed on top of the gravy in big chunks. For a restaurant that’s named AFTER poutine, it was crappy poutine. In fact, I’ve had better poutine from Kentucky Fried Chicken. (By the way, Ken and I just had dinner at a local fish restaurant—they were out of perch, chicken wings, AND white wine, but they had fries and gravy on the menu. I asked the waitress if they could toss some cheese on top. “Oh, like poutine,” she answered. “Sure thing.” It tasted better than Poutineville and was a third of the cost.) My disappointment didn’t last long though, because then it was FINALLY time to come to the back tables and get ready to paint. Our instructor, Rachel, was calmer now, much like toddlers get after you leave them alone for a while, and we took our places in front of our canvases. Then we had to take an oath, mostly consisting of not drinking from the paint water or dipping our brushes in our drinks. This sounds quite ridiculous, but trust me—after an hour of drinking and painting, it became clear just how easy it would be to actually do either of those. Rachel was a pretty good instructor, although she had to scream over the rest of the bar crowd, who were drinking but NOT participating. She WAS a little off-putting at the end, when she announced that, because our group had paid with a Groupon, she wasn’t getting as much money, so she held up a clear, plastic pitcher and yelled, “This is the tip jug! Don’t leave without giving me a tip!” She claimed she was a ‘starving artist’, but she looked pretty well-fed to me. My painting ultimately came out a little different from the tranquil beach scene we were SUPPOSED to painting. I know people assumed I was expressing my inner artist, or maybe I was just having a bad day, but the fact is that, when I was painting my lovely blue sky, I accidentally got a little black on the brush, and suddenly my blue sky was threatening rain. I decided to go with it, and added dangerously high breakers, dark clouds, and a stormy beach.


My colleagues, on the other hand, had these gorgeous, turquoise seascapes, some adding sailboats and seashells. I felt a bit “the odd man out” so to speak, and worried that my unplanned non-conformity might raise some eyebrows, especially since we were all told to bring our paintings to work the next day for a “fun” competition. I must have hit a chord with other storm-loving people though, because after all the ballots were cast, my artistic endeavour placed in the top three and was given a place on the wall. That makes me sound so braggy, but honestly, I don’t win many competitions, and certainly not for my artwork. Best of all, our CEO came by to congratulate me and the other two “winners”. I hope he doesn’t think my painting represents any deep-seated anxiety. Because I sure don’t want him to know about THAT.

Saturday: Reality TV

Ken and I were watching TV last night, and a commercial came on for Oka cheese, which is a particular kind of cheese that you get in Quebec. The couple in the commercial were trying to smuggle some Oka through customs, and while I don’t really understand the point of them doing that, I was up in arms immediately.

Me: God, Ken—that’s so unrealistic. Look at that couple. She’s young, thin, and blonde, and he looks like he’s about 60. His hair is thinning, he’s pudgy—there’s no way they’re a real life couple. And he’s so cheap that he’s trying to smuggle cheese under his jacket, so he’s obviously NOT her sugar daddy.
Ken: It could happen.
Me: Not as often as it does on TV. Commercials are so clearly written by men. How many times have we seen a young pretty woman with an old pudgy guy and we’re supposed to believe she’s more than happy to deal with his “sudden onset vomiting”, which, by the way, isn’t even a THING. You ALWAYS know when you’re going to vomit. This is just male fantasizing.
Ken: About the women or the vomiting?
Me: Both. TV is so unrealistic.
Ken: Gosh, you think?

Now, I don’t want to come off as critical of older, pudgy, balding men because that’s not the point. Just once though, I’d like to see a commercial where a hot, young guy is married to an older, dumpy, gray-haired woman. But as Ken and I agreed (well, I think we agreed, but it’s hard to tell when Ken’s being sarcastic or not), TV has no connection to reality. Then again, if the American election campaign is any indication, REALITY has no connection to reality. Who other than Donald Trump could threaten on public television to randomly shoot someone on the street and NOT get arrested? What’s next? Hilary Clinton threatening to ‘cut’ Anderson Cooper? Bernie Sanders making crank calls and having pizzas delivered to Megyn Kelly’s house? Anyway, when I was 5, I was on a reality TV show called “Romper Room.” It was one of the most popular shows on Ontario television, and it consisted of a different group of children each week just playing and doing activities under the supervision of a kindly, teacher-type lady. At the end of each show, Miss____ (there were several women who played the role—mine was Miss Grace) would hold up a magic mirror, and say, “I can see Johnny, and Sarah, and Ian, and….” Kids across the province would sit fixated, desperately hoping to hear their name. I don’t know why my parents decided to put me on the show, but two incidents cemented for me the fact that TV was not grounded in reality. First, I kept jumping up and down, prompting the director to tell me to stop. “You’re TOO excited,” he said. But I was excited. A SUPER f*cking excited 5 year-old, and I had to stifle my enthusiasm because it was TV. Second, they taped all five episodes for the week on one Saturday, and I kept getting into sh*t for contradicting Miss Grace when she would start the next segment with “What day is it today, boys and girls?” Everyone was supposed to say ‘Tuesday’ or whatever, but I yelled “Saturday!!” every time. Once again, the director had to talk to me about how we were only “pretending” and to just play along. Yep, that’s me—a non-conformist pain-in-the-ass from an early age.