Detective Duos I’d Love to Watch

On Tuesday night, I was bored and there was nothing good on TV, so I decided to watch a rerun of a show whose title had intrigued me for a long time: “Houdini and Doyle.” From what I understood, it was about a detective duo at the turn of the century, and I love detective shows. One of my all time favourites is the updated version of Sherlock Holmes called Elementary, starring the irascible Johnny Lee Miller, and Lucy Liu as Watson. I also adore Benedict Cumberbatch in the BBC version of Sherlock, which I’ve rewatched several times on Netflix, so I thought I’d give Houdini and Doyle a whirl. All I knew is that Harry Houdini was a Hungarian-American magician, and that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was the Scottish author of the Sherlock Holmes series, among other things. I love magic and I love Scottish fiction writers (albeit a very small group) and I had high hopes for its ability to keep me happily occupied for the next hour while Atlas slept. Unfortunately, the TV show was—and I’m being polite here—absolute sh*t. Here are my main complaints:

  • The plot was ridiculous. This episode took place in a town where everyone except the local doctor and a little girl suddenly died. People were just lying on the streets in their period costumes, or keeled over their dinners of mutton and ale. Even the dogs were dead. And so were the mice—I know this because Houdini pointed out a nest of dead mice under a porch in a very obvious way in order to prove—well, I’m not actually sure what he was trying to prove. Houdini and Doyle eventually decided that everyone died due to a large cloud of carbon dioxide which had escaped from a nearby mine and which had asphyxiated the entire town. And as convoluted as that all sounds, it wasn’t even the ridiculous part. The most illogical part of the whole thing was their explanation regarding the survival of the doctor and the little girl. I was hoping beyond hope that since the show revolved around a famous magician that there might actually be a supernatural or magic-y rationale, like they were both alien mutants with cosmic lung capacity, or immune to the biological weapon that the government was experimenting with or something cool, but no. The doctor was in bed having a nap, and the little girl was sick and was also in bed. Therefore, they were BELOW the gas cloud and escaped its nefarious and deadly clutches. At which point, I yelled at the TV, “WHAT ABOUT THE DEAD MICE UNDER THE PORCH?! ? WHAT ABOUT THE DOGS? ARE YOU SERIOUSLY TELLING ME THAT ALL THE DEAD DOGS WERE TALLER THAN THAT KID’S BED?!” Yep, it made no sense whatsoever.
  • It made even less sense later, when having “solved” the first mystery, Houdini and Doyle then prevented the assassination of the President of the United States at a hotel because they had found a note with the words “King Edward” on it, and after thinking it was about killing the King, they realized it was the name of a hotel and got there just in time. All in one episode of 45 minutes (not counting all the commercials).
  • There were no magic tricks AT ALL. Considering the show stars one of the most famous American magicians of all time, there was a surprising LACK of magic-type stuff. Not even a f*cking card trick. They should have had Houdini in a locked closet, tied up with padlocked chains, racing against time to escape and thwart the assassination. Instead, he just knocked the gun out of the guy’s hand. Boring.
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was Scottish, yet he spoke with an English accent. Yes, they sound different. The English always sound like they’re trying to schmooze you, and the Scottish always sound like they’re mad at you, thusly:
    English: Darling, can you please be quiet?
    Scottish: HAUD YER WEESHT, CHEEKY WEE BISSOM!!
    But Doyle was always like “Good Heavens! What the devil happened here, my good man?” instead of “Whit? Awae wi’ ye, numptie!” Yes, I know that the actual Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was well-educated and spoke the “Queen’s English”, but it would have added something to the show if he’d used spicy phrases and unintelligible dialect. The plot didn’t make any sense, so why should the dialogue?
  • Houdini sounded Canadian and the whole show had a distinctly Canadian feel ie: it was kind of amateur-ish, like Murdoch Mysteries, where a Canadian detective in the 1890s “uses radical forensic techniques of the time, including fingerprints and trace evidence, to solve gruesome murders” (imdb) along with his partner, female coroner Dr. Julie Ogden . An episode was once filmed in the town next to mine—we were at Wine Bayou bottling wine, and when my mom found out, she ran out on us mid-cork just for a glimpse of Yannick Bisson, who plays Murdoch. I’ve never seen her move so fast. Anyway, I wasn’t sure WHY I felt like it was so Canadian, then I googled it, and it turns out that the show “has Canadian producers and comes from the same production company as Murdoch Mysteries.” Mystery solved.
  • Last, throughout the show, Houdini kept insisting that you always know when you’re dreaming because “You can’t read in your dreams.” This is patently untrue. Just last night, I was reading Facebook posts in my dreams and some of them were just as annoying as they are when I’m awake—I don’t give “amens” to anything, and NO, I will not copy and paste your anti-mask rant regardless of my state of consciousness. But the kitten videos were a-DOR-able.

Anyway, in keeping with the current trend of unrealistic detective duos, like Murdoch and his Victorian female coroner partner, or Houdini and Doyle, I came up with a couple of my own.

1) “What The Dickens!”: This show stars Charles Dickens and David Copperfield, played respectively by Gerard Butler and Shia LeBoeuf. Because why the hell not? In the show, Dickens has time-travelled to the future and meets American magician David Copperfield. Together, they investigate the disappearance of many large buildings and monuments, and battle their arch-nemesis Uriah Heep, played by Betty White, who is as immortal as any supervillain. After they’ve solved every mystery (turns out it was Copperfield all along), Dickens returns to his own time and writes a very long novel called “David Copperfield” where he makes a LOT of stuff up, (he got paid by the word, after all) but leaves out the detective/magic part because he doesn’t want his heirs to get sued by Copperfield in the future for revealing his magical techniques.

2) “Fitzgerald and Wife”: In keeping with the fine tradition of married couple detectives, this show stars F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda. Every week, they are presented with a new mystery which they fail to solve because they are too drunk.

3) “Robbie and Doug”: This is a Canadian show starring famous author Robertson Davies, who almost won a Nobel prize, and Doug Henning, a Canadian magician who ran for Parliament as a candidate for the Natural Law Party, which believes that all the problems in the world can be solved by learning the art of “yogic flying”. In the show, Davies just grumbles a lot about everything because he’s 90 years old and Scottish, and Henning solves all the crimes by flying around and meditating. The show is cancelled when viewers discovered that Henning isn’t REALLY flying—it’s only special effects. Yogic flying is actually just bouncing in a lotus position, and everyone knows you can’t solve crimes by bouncing.

As a side note, I know that neither F. Scott or Zelda were magicians, but I liked the concept too much to leave it out on THAT technicality. Also Ken just read this, and got really huffy:

Ken: I can’t believe you criticized Murdoch Mysteries.
Me: I didn’t criticize it.
Ken: You called it poorly made and amateurish.
Me: That was a generalization. ALL Canadian shows are poorly made and amateurish.
Ken: The BBC is just as bad.
Me: What are you talking about? The BBC is awesome!
Ken: Next time you’re watching Masterpiece Theatre, pay close attention to the terrible production values!
Me: OK, Ken.

Ken and I would make a great detective duo:

Me: Ken. The puppy just threw up.
Ken: It’s 4 o’clock in the morning…what does it look like?
Me: Pretty solid. Doesn’t look like food. Kind of stringy.
Ken: Stringy…string…rope. Ah ha! He swallowed that little chew rope he was playing with earlier.
Me: I don’t see it around here anywhere. Good deduction.
Atlas: Better out than in.

In other news, I was recently interviewed by Jenna Neece, writer and editor. If you’d like to learn more about The Mystery of Mydangblog, you can read it here

Forklift Fantasies, Atlas is Invincible

I really thought that a golden opportunity had knocked on my door the other day. I was sitting at my work computer reviewing some secret agency documents when my text alert sounded. I get very few text messages—in fact, the only person who texts me regularly is the comedian Jim Gaffigan. Somehow, I got on a list to receive texts from him, and while I’m sure he’s a very nice man, I wish I wasn’t on his list, because he texts me at least twice a day. I’ve written in the past that I have a very sensitive startle response, so every time the notification goes off, I just about jump out of my chair, only to discover that it’s yet ANOTHER clip of Jim doing stand-up or Jim forcing one of his many children to eat liverwurst. Random? You bet. I suppose I could text him back with “New phone, who dis?” but I don’t think he reads any of the replies, at least not any that I’ve already sent. Plus, I don’t want to hurt his feelings because what if I’m the only person who hasn’t dropped him by now, and then he’s like “Not you too, Mydangblog! I thought we really had something special! Oh, WHAT’S THE POINT?” and then he never does stand-up again and it’s all my fault? You know who’s a GOOD celebrity to have on text? Jeff Goldblum. He texted me once and I’ve never heard from him again, but he’s in my contact list so I can show people and be a little braggy without having to suffer through clips of him in The Fly or whatnot.

Anyway, my text notification went off, so I sighed and braced myself for Jim but it wasn’t him. It was potentially a dream come true. You may remember that I have waxed poetic on a number of occasions about driving a forklift. And why WOULDN’T I want to drive one? A forklift is like a golf cart with arms, and you should all know by now that the only reason I have EVER golfed is so I can drive the golf cart, and a forklift is just one step better. It’s like being a human transformer. If you’ve ever seen that Alien movie where Sigourney Weaver wears the forklift suit, you’ll know what I’m talking about. The only thing more badass than a forklift suit is in the final installment of The Matrix where Captain Mifune wears the human machine gun suit. They call it an Armoured Personnel Unit, but if it was me, I’d just be yelling “Get me my damned human machine gun suit—Player One’s got a dock to defend!!”

And what did this magical text message say? It said, “Urgent Requirements! Forklift Operators needed! Long hours and long term possible. Text TPI!” and there was a number to text back. Also, UNLIKE Jim, there was also the sentence “Text STOP to opt out”, but in this case, I would NEVER want to opt out. I was momentarily thrilled and was about to text back, “Yes! A resounding yes!” when I read it again. Long hours? Long term possible? That didn’t sound like much fun to me. I mean, 45 minutes would be good—that would give me a chance to tool around the neighbourhood, go to the park and rearrange some picnic tables, you know, the normal sh*t you do with a forklift (in this scenario, I’m obviously wearing a cape and a Spanish Inquisitor hat because no one expects the Spanish Inquisition, particularly on a forklift). But anything longer than that might become more like a job than a pleasure, and I already have a job. So I texted back, “Ooh, I’ve always wanted to drive a forklift. But I don’t think I could do it for hours, more just like around the block or whatnot. Thanks though!” That was the end of it, and I was a little sad, thinking I would never hear from them again, but about ten minutes later, my text notification went off again. I didn’t look right away, assuming it was Jim talking about manatees AGAIN, but no—it was from the forklift people. The text read, “Thank you!” So now I don’t know if that means they’re considering me and one day this week a forklift might pull into my driveway, but I have my cap and hat ready to go.

In other news, my new puppy is fearless and also has a huge ego:

Atlas: Ma! I will defend this abode from all intruders!
Me: Dude, I think you mean “commode”. You’re barking at the toilet.

Atlas: Watch me harness the power of electricity!
Me: Stop chewing on that electrical cord!

Atlas: Whee, I can fly!
Me: Do NOT try to leap into my arms from the top of the stairs.

Atlas: I have a gourmet palate!
Me: Well, that rug IS an antique.

Atlas: I’m a savage predator!
Me: The garden hose certainly agrees with you.

Atlas: I’m a hat!
Me: You aren’t allowed to sleep on my head!

Atlas: I’m Aquaman, Ma!
Me: Get away from the pond—you’re scaring the fish.

Atlas: I’m a very good boy.
Me: Yes, you are. Especially when you’re asleep.

Take Your Vitamins

I love vitamins. I know that sounds weird, but you probably need to know that most of the vitamins I take are gummy vitamins, and it’s like starting your day with candy. Candy that’s GOOD FOR YOU. And yes, I’m a “past-middle-aged” woman (unless I’m going to live to be one hundred and ten) and I’m too old to care if you mock me because they’re delicious. Every morning, I come downstairs and start my day with fruit-flavoured multi-vitamins, orange vitamin C, citrus-y Vitamin D and strawberry-vanilla Biotin. I take two of each, not because I have to but because I WANT to. It’s the first time in my life that I’ve ever cared about vitamins—even The Flintstones couldn’t tempt me to chew the grape sawdust that passed for a treat when I was a kid. Of course, I was an extremely picky child—you know how some parents puree vegetables into spaghetti sauce to disguise the taste? I wouldn’t even eat spaghetti sauce. Or pasta. In fact, the bulk of my diet was peanut butter on white bread and plain hamburgers. As an adult, I have a wide palate, and I’ll try, and eat, almost anything. I still draw the line at beets and peas, but everything else is fair game. Yet, like a child, I still need to have my vitamins disguised with copious amounts of sugar and gelatin. The only thing better than gummy vitamins would be if there was some kind of vitamin powder you could put into white wine, then I’d be the healthiest lush on the planet.

But despite my passion for vitamin candy, there IS one thing I hate about vitamins, and that’s shopping for them.

1) It doesn’t matter what time I go, or what store I go to, the vitamin aisle is always crowded by at least half a dozen people, all perusing the selection like they’ve never seen vitamins in their lives and are astounded that they exist. I’ve seen people take less time at art galleries or puppy parties than they do in the vitamin aisle. (Slight tangent—wouldn’t the world be a much better place if we could go to puppy parties once a week? How many puppies would we need? I’m thinking 6 minimum). Anyway, there I am, trying to find my vitamins, surrounded by people who are like f*cking ENTHRALLED by Magnesium. Even now, with Covid and stores limiting the number of people in them at any given time, the vitamin aisle is still the most popular hangout in the place. The other day I went grocery shopping at a store with a twenty-person limit, and TWO OF THEM were in the vitamin aisle, blocking my way to delicious health. Seriously, go look at margarine. That’s where the really big decisions need to be made if my recent experience watching people scrutinize margarine tubs is any indication.

2) There are way more brands and types of vitamins than are necessary. The vitamin aisle at my drug store is over 50 feet long and four shelves high. You’d think it would be alphabetical but it’s not, at least in no way I can discern. Some places group them by brand, some places by purpose, some by colour, some by flavour…

Vitamin Shelf Stocker: Where should I put the Vitamin C?
Vitamin Overlord: Next to the Echinacea.
Vitamin Shelf Stocker: Why? I thought it should go next to the Calcium…
Vitamin Overlord: Echinacea and Vitamin C are both immune system boosters. Put them on the bottom shelf where no one can find them. Screw your immune system, Brad!
Vitamin Shelf Stocker: Who’s Brad?
Vitamin Overlord (mutters): No one important.

See, and this is why the vitamin aisle is always crowded, because no one can find anything thanks to Brad.

In other news, I received an email from Amazon the other day about something I might be interested in based on my “current activity”. It was a recommendation for The Dome. I wrote back and said, “Thanks. I AM very interested in this because I WROTE IT. Lol.” They wrote back with a very snarky and passive-aggressive response that I shouldn’t have emailed them back because there was no one there to respond to me. The email was signed “Brad”.

Spoiler Alert

One of the bonuses of not being able to go anywhere for the last few months has been the ability to binge-watch TV shows without feeling guilty. Did I do a Tiger King marathon, becoming increasingly more disturbed and fascinated over the course of one delightful evening? You’re damn right, and I did the same thing with the Criminal UK/Spain/Germany series, Sex Education, Better Call Saul, Queer Eye, Picard, every Rupaul’s Drag Race episode available to humankind on a variety of platforms, and a myriad of other shows. And I did it all on WEEKNIGHTS as well as weekends. No remorse whatsoever. One thing I struggle with though, like many people, is that there are SO MANY shows out there to choose from that I quite often end up scrolling through lists relentlessly looking for something that catches my eye. Because more often than not, the titles make it very difficult to judge what a show is about. Tiger King was simple—it’s actually called “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness”. All three of those things are very enticing as far as I’m concerned. Same goes for The Haunting Of Hill House. There’s a house on a hill and it’s haunted—watch to find out what happens next! Then there’s The Witcher which is about a dude who’s a witcher—fairly self-explanatory if not a little derivative. And if you’re like “Hey! It was very original, dammit!”, let me summarize the premise for you thusly: a nearly immortal lone wolf-type who is very attractive to the ladies and has a relationship with a magical woman travels across a fantastical land with a group of dwarves. He and the dwarves skirt around a mountain containing their old mine looking for a dragon who is killing villagers nearby. Sound vaguely familiar? Of course, there are differences too—there’s a bloody and violent race called the Nilfgaardians who are kind of mutated elves—oh wait, that’s just like Orcs…anyway, it WAS a great show, and sorry for the spoilers, but if you’ve read Lord of the Rings, you already have a pretty good sense of the plot.

Speaking of spoilers, Ken and I were watching TV a while ago, and a commercial came on for a 6-episode mini-series about a female doctor who kills people with a hypodermic needle. The show was called “Mary Kills People”.

Me: Way to give away the ending.
Ken: Well, the whole commercial showed her killing people. It’s not like the title was the REAL spoiler here.
Me: Couldn’t they leave just a little bit to the imagination and call it “Mary May or May Not Have Killed People”?
Ken: At least we don’t have to watch it now.
Me: It’s such a dumb title. Can you imagine if the first Star Wars movie was called, “Luke Blows Up the Death Star”? What would be the point of seeing it? Why would anyone read Pride and Prejudice if it was called “Elizabeth Marries Darcy”? I like the trailer for Cardinal better.

Cardinal is another series I want to watch, but I have no idea what it’s about , except that there are two detectives investigating a murder in a cold town somewhere. The trailer doesn’t show much, except the one detective says to the other, “I’m happy to be working this case with you,” and then a block of ice containing what looks like a body is pulled out of a frozen lake. See, THIS is how it’s done, because at the end, I was like “What?! I need to watch this show and find out what happens. And who the hell is Cardinal? Is it a guy? Is it a bird? I need to know.”

It’s a certain fact that people HATE spoilers. Have you ever just seen a fantastic movie and you want to share it with a friend, so you only tell them the beginning? And then they say, “So what happens at the end?” and you have to first confirm beyond a shadow of a doubt that they will NEVER see it themselves, because you don’t want to be the one who spoils it for them? Have you ever accidentally given away the end of a book, and had people look at you like you bought the last remaining rolls of toilet paper in the store?

Of course, there are people who deliberately give away the endings of movies just to be a dick, and they’re hated almost as much as racists. And they probably get punched in the face more frequently, even though the racists deserve it more. Seriously, I think the only way Donald Trump’s supporters would ever turn against him is if he finished every press conference and Nuremberg-style rally with “And by the way, the head in the box was Brad Pitt’s wife. Such a great movie.” So the people who decided to call the series Mary Kills People are not very astute, in my books. Unless…maybe the series isn’t really about a female doctor who kills people. Maybe it’s just a ploy to get people who’ve exhausted all other options to watch it, and then those people will be like, “OMG, it was SO good! I can’t tell you what happens, but it’s not what you expect…Oh god, I wish I could tell you! Are you sure you’re never going to watch it?!” And maybe the body in the lake in Cardinal was put there by a female doctor named Mary. Don’t tell me. Don’t spoil it.

In other news, my puppy’s a ho.

Oh, he’s as sweet as pie most of the time, but he has two teddy bears. One is name Blue-beary, the other is named Thurston, and he is regularly having relations with both of them. Indiscriminately. It’s simultaneously hilarious and horrifying. We play a PG version of a certain game that we like to call Marry, Make Merry, or Murder. He decided he wanted to marry me (he demonstrated this by licking my face, rolling over on his back and waving his paws at me), make merry with Blue-beary, which he did with incredible gusto for such a tiny thing, and murder poor Thurston by attempting to rip his furry face off. And then he made merry with Thurston right after, and murdered Blue-beary. But he still wants to marry me, which I suppose will wear off when I tell him that not only am I his Ma, we’re not even the same species. Spoiler alert.

And They Call It Puppy Love

Last week, I was getting dinner ready and feeling very lonely. Meal prep was the one absolutely certain time that Titus would hang out with me, lying by my feet and waiting for me to “drop” a few pieces of whatever I was chopping on the floor. He was very patient about it, and would instinctively move his head out of the way whenever I needed to open the cupboard with the bowls, and we would practice our Harry Potter spell commands while I was working. So on an impulse, I posted in the local Facebook group: “Looking for a dog to borrow while I’m getting dinner ready. Must like bacon and cheese.” It got a few laughs, but then I got a message from a kind friend who knew someone nearby with a litter of puppies. She sent this picture:

Guess which one I immediately wanted? It was obvious that he was a talker, and even more obvious that he was yelling, “Ma! Come get me!” (He admitted later that he was actually belting out that first vocal in Sabotage by the Beastie Boys because the other puppies were “being boring”, which made me love him even more. We arranged to go out the next night to the family’s farm to meet the puppies and choose from the available ones. When we arrived, one little guy came running right to me, and it was him! He hadn’t been taken yet so I decided on the spot that he would belong to us, and also that his name would be Alistair so that he could be my puppy butler. Fortunately for everyone, that name, and the concept of a puppy butler, were both immediately vetoed. We had a week to decide on another name though, because all the puppies were being rehomed after their first vet check and shots this past Thursday. So the hunt for a name began. I was determined that his name should be something like Titus, so we tried out several different options:

Me: I like Fergus.
Kate: No.
Ken: What about Rufus?
Me: Then we’d call him Roofie for short. I don’t want to be out in the yard yelling Roofie, Roofie!  What about Lazarus?
Ken/Kate: Ew, not for a dog.
Me: I like Sirius, but then people would call him Siri and expect him to provide weather reports and whatnot. Like “Siri, play the Beastie Boys.”
Ken: You want words that end in ‘us’? Fungus, mucous, an—
Me: Stop. What about Atlas? He’s going to be pretty big and strong, and also, he’ll help us find a new direction. It’s literal AND figurative.
All: That’s a great name.

So it stuck. It was a very long week, waiting until Friday to pick him up. In the meantime, on Wednesday night, Ken and I were watching TV when the emergency alert on our phones went off, scaring the sh*t out of us. Apparently, there was a tornado bearing down on our town and we were instructed by the Weather Network to take shelter immediately, which meant that Ken immediately went out on the front porch to “watch the sky”. We have a tornado safety plan, despite the fact that tornadoes are few and far between in our area, because I’m the Queen of Worst Case Scenarios, so why WOULDN’T I have a tornado plan? But in the five minutes between the alert and it subsequently being cancelled, my thoughts weren’t about OUR safety:

Me: OMG, do you think the puppies are OK? Should I call the farm?! Do you think they have a tornado plan?!
Ken: It’s fine. The storm is to the west of us.
Me I DON’T KNOW WHERE THAT IS, KEN.

Ken is nothing if not helpful, so on Thursday after work, he called me out to the courtyard where he’s building the new gazebo, which will never be finished, because he’s now decided to put a belvedere on top of the roof. “Look up there,” he pointed, and on top of the belvedere he had placed a small gyre with an arrow. “I fixed it in place so the arrow points North,” he said. “Now you’ll always know which way you’re facing.” And because it was such a sweet gesture, I DIDN’T tell him it only works if I’m IN the backyard when there’s a tornado approaching.

At any rate, Friday finally came and we headed out to pick up Atlas. A lot of the puppies had already been taken home by their new families and there were only a few left. As soon as we got out of the car, one of them came bounding over to me—it was Atlas. It was as though he already knew us and couldn’t wait to go home.

 

And now he’s home. I don’t know if you’ve ever had an 8-week-old puppy—we haven’t had one in years—and I’d forgotten how high maintenance they are for such tiny creatures. He had a great first night, only waking up a couple of times to be taken outside, but I was so worried about him falling off the bed that I could barely sleep. And yes, he’s sleeping on the bed with us, and I don’t want to hear about it. He’s very good-natured, but he gets bored very easily. Luckily, we have a LOT of toys that he mostly likes to chew on because he’s going through that phase where he wants everything in his mouth. Here are some of the games we’ve invented for his and our amusement:

Teddy Attack: This involves one of us bonking him lightly with a large stuffed bear while the other one squeals “Ooh, ooh!!” He enjoys this immensely and the game usually ends with him trying to eat the bear’s face.

Finger-licking Good: This is a game HE invented. It involves him trying to eat my fingers. Apparently, they’re “delicious”.

Pinball Wizard: Ken takes a rubber ball and bounces it off walls and cupboards in the kitchen while Atlas chases it and attempts to pounce on it without falling over sideways. My job is to rescue the ball if it gets stuck under the cupboard, and to upright Atlas if he can’t get up.

The best thing though is that after about ten minutes of vigorous play, he falls asleep for at least half an hour, which is what he’s doing right now by my feet as I write this. It’s a month today since Titus passed away and while Atlas will never replace him, he’s already found his own place in our hearts.

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.)

Smile, You’re On Candid Camera

Personally, I’m getting a little tired of always being on camera. I don’t mind meeting with my immediate team because they already know I’m wacky, but I think other people are quickly realizing that I’m more quirky than they thought. Last week, I was in a virtual meeting with our CEO and some other directors, and the CEO told us that she used to do psychological testing to determine intelligence and that the first question she would ask was “Does the sun set in the east or the west?” And if you know anything about me at all, you know that I’m directionally challenged and hold tight to my belief that North is up, South is down, and that East and West are randomly ‘out there somewhere’:

Me: How do I get to Home Depot from here?
Ken: Go west on the 401.
Me: I’m a grown ass woman, Ken, not a compass!
Ken: It’ll say right on the sign “401 West”. There will also be an ARROW.
Me: Will “the arrow” be pointing left or right?
Ken: Sigh. Do you want me to take you?
Me: Obviously, Ken.

In fact, the only direction I have ever been able to follow accurately is ‘twist cap and pour’. Anyway, we were at this meeting, and when she asked if the sun set in the east or the west, I was completely befuddled because I COULD NOT REMEMBER and did I ever really know the answer to that in the first place? I mean, I’m a wealth of trivia and regularly run numerous categories on Jeopardy except for Geography, but I thought to myself, “If this is an indication of how intelligent I am, I should know this!” so I started thinking really hard, and using my hands to track the course of the sun across the sky and doing vigorous mental calculations while the meeting continued on, and I had almost figured it out when I realized that one of my colleagues was trying not to laugh, and I don’t know if it was at ME or maybe she didn’t know the answer either. And then later that day in another meeting, I was listening intently as one should when suddenly, a fruit fly started dive-bombing my face and I did what any normal person would do—I started clapping my hands together in the air, trying to kill it but it was very quick and agile so it took several attempts and it wasn’t until it had been handily dispatched that again, I realized the same woman was silently laughing. And I will never know if it was at me or not, because when you’re in a Zoom meeting, EVERYONE seems to be looking right at you because they’re looking at their cameras, and now I think the best indicator of intelligence is whether or not you have your camera on during large meetings.

Also, my camera doesn’t add ten pounds, it adds ten YEARS and whenever I look at myself on the screen, I seem older, sadder, and much paler than I do in real life (at least I hope I don’t look that old, sad, or pale), so you can understand why I’d rather not be on screen.

(Ken just interrupted me to tell me that he caught a mouse in the live mouse trap he had put in the cupboard under the sink. We have a very old house, and every once in a while, one gets into the cupboard. I’ve named him Franklin. Ken’s taking him over to the park where he can frolic with the other field mice.)

Anyway, having to do all interactions, social or otherwise, on camera is getting a bit ridiculous. I’ve been having terrible shoulder pain, so my doctor (who called me on the phone), told me to get some physiotherapy. I called the clinic and they were only doing “virtual appointments”, which meant that I met with a physiotherapist using a type of Zoom.

Physio: Can you point to where the pain is?
Me: Here, here, and here.
Physio: Can you get a little closer to the camera? Like put your shoulder right up to it?
Me: Sure. Is this better?
Physio: A little down to the right. OK. Now, can you swing your arm like this? Hang on, let me just move further back so you can see what I’m doing.

And so it went. She was very nice and emailed me a PDF of exercises I could do, which haven’t helped at all because what I really need is acupuncture or a good massage, neither of which can be accomplished VIA ZOOM. The one thing that IS helping slightly is the new hot tub which is working quite well. The set-up was much more complicated than it needed to be though, mostly because the instructions were like the worst set of instructions I’ve ever seen, and most of them were just links to videos where you could watch a very young girl wearing a very fancy dress perform different aspects of the set-up. Here is a page from the manual that shows you all the parts in the box but doesn’t identify them by name, just by part number. And they are all the same scale, which makes it even more fun to figure out what they are:

This is my favourite page, where it explains what all the functions are the control pad are for:

Notice that they are so small that it’s almost impossible to read without a magnifying glass. In fact, the only thing you CAN read on this page is the warning, in all caps, that the use of alcohol or drugs can greatly increase the risk of fatal hyperthermia, prompting Ken to exclaim triumphantly, “Now I don’t need to build that tiki bar you wanted!” and I was like, “Just put a damn roof on the gazebo and we’ll call it a day, OK?!”

But we finally got it up and running, and it was fantastic:

Me: I love this. It’s so nice to just sit here in the warm, bubbling water and watch the sun set in the…
Ken: West.
Me: Right.

(Ken just got back from the park. He said Franklin scurried off into the high grass without so much as a backwards glance. Live long and prosper, my little rodent friend.)

Stressed By Nature

Well, the weather is FINALLY starting to be more acceptable for Canada in May, which of course means that you only wear a sweater in the morning until about 1 pm, then you can take it off for two hours and then put it back on at 3 o’clock. The nice thing about my home office is that it’s drenched in sunshine all morning, which I hate to complain about, but it’s hard to see the computer screen for the glare. Still, as we say in Canada whenever we can, about literally all weather, “It’s better than snow”. Also, from my vantage point, I can watch the woodland creatures like a stalker-y Snow White, but I have to say that nature is stressing me out.

Last week, I decided to be kind to the squirrels and bought a big bag of shelled peanuts. I put them out and the little fellas were having a great time until the Blue Jays showed up. (For those of you picturing a group of strapping young men tossing a baseball around my yard, believe me, I was just as disappointed as you.) They kept swooping in and stealing the nuts, even though there’s a BIRDFEEDER 20 feet away. It was infuriating, and between meetings, and sometimes during them, I was shaking my fist and swearing like a baseball player. So Ken suggested that I move the peanuts to a spot under the trees next to my window:

Ken: It’s a great spot. You can watch the squirrels eating their nuts while you’re working and the branches hang low enough that the jays can’t swoop in and upset you.
Me: Well, it IS upsetting. They’re like those people who were hoarding toilet paper. And now those same people are hoarding tofu. TOFU!!

(Slight tangent: It’s true. The other day I was at the grocery store and I wanted some tofu. There’s been a rumour going around that meat is getting a bit low due to problems in the processing plants but it looked fine to me. I’m not a vegan—I mean, you’d know if I was because I would be telling you about it every week—but I actually really like tofu, so I went to the vegetarian cooler where there’s usually a plenitude of soy products, and all the tofu was gone. Well, not ALL the tofu—they still had the soft stuff, which is disgusting, and something called “Dessert Tofu” and I was like, “I’m not a monster, so no.” I guess the last laugh is on all the people who cleaned out the cooler because a) you can’t keep 40 bricks of tofu in your laundry room cupboard in case you need to wipe your ass 4 months from now, b) it doesn’t taste like meat, even if if says it does, because that’s a lie, and c) if you’re a man and you eat a lot of tofu, which contains estrogen, you will grow boobs. It’s a scientific fact which I just googled.)

Anyway, I put the aluminum pie plate filled with peanuts under the tree by my window, and everything was fine for a bit. The first squirrel came along, zigzagging the way they do, like they’re pretending they don’t have a clue that there’s a cornucopia of nutty delight just waiting for them. Then he found the nuts, picked one up, and gave it a sniff. ‘Aw,’ I thought, ‘That’s so cute.’ But then the squirrel took the peanut, hopped a couple of steps away, and BURIED IT. My pleasure turned to perplexity. The squirrel zigzagged back to the pie plate, took another peanut and buried that one. And another one. And another one, until half the plate was gone. Just then, I got a Zoom notification and had to go to a meeting:

Colleague 1: Good morning, Suzanne! How are you?
Me: I…there’s this squirrel stealing all my nuts out of the pie plate under my window.
Colleague 2: A squirrel is stealing all ze nuts?
Me: Yes, and burying them in the grass!
Colleague 3: Maybe it’s putting them away for winter.
Me: But winter is over 3 months away! (*This is Canada, remember?*)
Colleague 1: Maybe you should put the nuts somewhere you can’t see them.
Colleague 3: I agree. You don’t need this stress.
Me: It’s not fair. He’s hoarding them and now the other squirrels can’t have any.
Colleague 2: Ah, oui—just like ze toilet paper.
Me: And the tofu!

(I had to take a quick break from writing this post because Ken interrupted me:

Ken: I’m going down to the basement to fix the sum pump.
Me: The sump pump?
Ken: Sum pump?
Me: I think it’s sump.
Ken: Sump. Yeah, I think you’re right. That’s what I thought too but it sounded weird.
Me: Weirder than sum?
Ken: What does sump stand for anyway?
Me: Um…Subterranean…underwater…mechanical………pump?
Ken: Does it?
Me: Absolutely. I just googled it. It’s a scientific fact.

Back to writing.)

Then on Thursday, Ken and I were in the back yard when we heard this beautiful birdsong. We looked around just as a goldfinch flew past us and landed on our patio door screen.

“Quick!” I said, “Get a picture!” Ken got right close and took a picture of it, and it didn’t show any sign of flying away, so I crept closer until I was able to reach out a finger and pet it on the head. It still didn’t move—it just kept singing away. So I took another step and stroked its feathers. It was still for a minute then it launched off the screen and tried to land on my arm, at which point I think it realized I wasn’t a Disney Princess but was, in fact, a human woman, freaked itself out, and tried to escape by flying into my hair, which freaked me out, and we both kind of screamed, and I ran into the house and the goldfinch flew into a tree. But it was a nice moment. For a moment.

As a final note, I just want to say thank you to everyone for all your words of comfort and support last week. And I need to tell you that I will never ever again write about our new young neighbours in any critical way because when I stumbled to the end of their driveway sobbing a week ago last Wednesday and told them our dog had just died and that Ken needed some help moving him, they immediately and without question (although I’m sure they had MANY), dropped what they were doing (literally–it was a hose and they were washing their truck again but that’s not a criticism; in fact, it’s nice that they take such good care of all their vehicles, right?) and ran across the street to help us (yes, we maintained social distancing). And a couple of nights ago, I looked out my kitchen window and could see them in their breezeway. “Look,” I said to Ken. “The new neighbours are dancing!” and with that, we saw him pick her up in the air and twirl her around and she laughed, and it was one of the sweetest things I’ve seen in a long time. So it turns out that we’re the weird neighbours after all, which should come as no surprise to anyone.

If You Build It…

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from Via Rail, Canada’s national passenger railway, that the train that was supposed to take us out to the Maritimes IN AUGUST was cancelled. I was shocked—we’d planned the whole trip around the train voyage, and I’d already booked hotels, a ferry to Newfoundland, and a couple of bed and breakfasts. The vacation planning, of course, had all taken place before the great lockdown. And aren’t events around the world just doing their damn best to tell us that the end of days is nigh? There’s a plague of locusts in Africa, Murder Hornets have landed on the shores of North America, the world is infected with a terrible pestilence, and now it’s snowing in f*cking May here. If I see a horse galloping down my street, I’m immediately going to live in a cave.

Anyway, I was super disappointed that our trip had been cancelled, even though they refunded all the money and points I’d used to pay for it. “Peut être ze next year,” the Via rep said in a thick, French accent, which certainly didn’t leave me feeling very optimistic. But then I had a thought.

Me: If we have to do a stay-cation, that’s OK. We can always get a hot tub.
Ken: What?
Me: Hot tub.
Ken: Hot tub?
Me: I feel like this conversation is circular. Like this hot tub. Look…

So I showed Ken the Canadian Tire website, where they had fairly inexpensive inflatable hot tubs on sale. Now, if you’re not Canadian, you’re probably wondering why a tire store sells hot tubs. But Canadian Tire sells tires in the same way that Walmart sells walls or Winners sells lottery tickets, which is to say that the majority of things they sell are not tires. “OK,” Ken said. “Where will we put it?”

“On the back patio,” I answered. So I ordered it, and Ken went to get it. Canadian Tire was only doing curbside pickup, which meant that he had to pull up to the door, show them his order number and receipt, then go and park while someone brought it out. When he pulled into the driveway and unloaded the big box, I was super-excited, but then he said something to me that filled me with dread.

“I’ve decided to build a gazebo for it,” he announced. At that moment, thunder may have rumbled ominously in the distance, the birds may have stopped singing, and the hydro might have flickered.

“How—how long will that take?” I whispered.

“I’ll have to order the wood first,” he said cheerily.

“Just a square gazebo, right? Or rectangular? Something easy to put up?” I held my breath, hoping for the best.

“No! Octagonal!” he cried, leaping into the air and clicking his heels together.

“Aw, f*ck,” I said to no one in particular. A squirrel laughed darkly, as if to say, “You will never sit in the soothing waters of the hot tub. NEVER!!” (It wasn’t THIS baby squirrel who’s currently living in my yard, but he’s too cute not to show you.)

So THE NEXT WEEKEND, Ken and I went to get the wood from Home Depot. Once again, we had to show our receipt and order number for curbside pick-up, then park and wait. After half an hour, an elderly woman came to our window. “Would you mind pulling up by the contractor’s entrance?” she asked apologetically. “Only, there’s so much wood that I can’t push it out here myself.”

“So much wood,” I whispered, as Ken loaded it all onto our trailer.

The weather all week was gorgeous, but no sign of activity on the back patio, and no lovely warm waters to soothe my weary soul. Then on Friday afternoon after work, Ken announced that he was going to lay out the frame see how it looked. Immediately, it started to hail. I feared the worst, but Ken was determined, so he put on a parka, and began framing the base. It looks pretty good so far. And at this rate, barring a shower of frogs falling from the sky, I’ll be soaking my cares away by the time we were supposed to be on a train heading to Nova Scotia.

Just for the record, I want it known that I have no doubts about Ken’s abilities; it’s just his timelines. For years, our front door only had an overhang; here’s the porch that he put on, all by himself (with a little help from me, Kate, and my dad). It took him two summers but it’s gorgeous.

 

 

A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood

One of the benefits of my current work situation, mentally and physically, is that I’ve set up my home office (which is separate from my writing office) in an alcove in our living room. It’s surrounded on three sides by very tall windows, which gives me a wonderful view of the shenanigans in my yard. There are blue jays, cardinals, and goldfinches among numerous other avian species, but they’re the most noticeable due to their bright colours. Then there are the rabbits, which worry me, because there’s this one really aggressive bunny who likes to chase the others to the point of exhaustion, often causing me to rap on the window and yell, “Give it a rest, ya hoppy f*cker!” I usually remember to mute my microphone when I do that. The other day, I muted my mike to tell Ken something, then I forgot to turn it back on, and I got really upset for a minute when I was trying to contribute to a conversation but people kept talking over me and interrupting to the point that I was like, “What the HELL??!!” I finally realized I was muted and hope that no one could actually see me moving my lips and getting more and more agitated, like an angry mime. There are also squirrels, which scamper around delightfully, and I have a favourite that I’ve named Moo, because he’s black and white like a Holstein cow. I promised Evil Squirrel’s Nest a while ago that I would try to get a picture of him, and I finally did. It’s blurry but you can tell he has white patches:

Anyway, there’s the activity in the yard, and then we move out onto the street, where I’ve grown accustomed to the comings and goings of several dog walkers, and can pretty well figure out what time it is based on which canine is passing my gate. If it’s German Shepherd o’clock, that means lunchtime, and at That Terrier, it’s time to call it quits for the day. The most interesting part of my view, however, has got to be the neighbourhood—more specifically the new neighbours, they of the mysteriously disappearing giant plastic wolf, which I have come to suspect may be residing in the middle of a pentagram in their basement.

Now, I’ve met them, and they’re very young and seem very nice, but appearances can be deceiving. For example, their yard is 30 feet by 50 feet, yet they have a riding lawn mower and have mowed their lawn TWICE in the last week. It takes approximately 7 minutes for this to happen, yet happen it has, not once but twice. In Ontario. In April. Are they trying to make the rest of us, with our province-wide pledge to wait until the Victoria Day weekend to do any yard work, look bad? Or is it part of some strange ritual to appease the wolf? (And this is no dig at you, Tom–I just read your post and I know how much you’ve mowed your lawn in the last week, but it’s a hell of a lot warmer where you are. Our grass is NOT growing!)

Second, there are two of them, yet they have THREE vehicles, and despite the fact that they have a garage, all three are parked outside, two in their own driveway, and one in the church laneway next door. What is it about people who use their garages as an extra room in their house instead of for their cars? This is something I will never understand. I’ve been in so many garages that are literally full of tools, furniture, garbage cans, and assorted junk, while the car is in the driveway covered in ice. If I had a garage, there’s no question that it would be my car’s house, because I HATE scraping off the windshield every morning. (Detour up ahead: Speaking of things I don’t understand, here’s another one—while we should all have little houses for our cars, why do some people have little houses for their DOGS? What exactly is the point of having a dog and keeping it in a tiny house OUTSIDE OF YOUR HOUSE? How are you supposed to have a conversation with him when he’s IN THE BACKYARD ALL THE TIME?!

Me: I just ran that whole category on Jeopardy!
Titus: Yeah, I was here. You don’t always have to answer in the form of a question, you know.
Me: I’m not a MONSTER, thank you.
Titus: Hush! Final Jeopardy category is…Classic Cinema!
Both: OOOH!

See what you’re missing out on when your dog lives outside? Now back to the main road).

But the most recent development is the most disturbing. More disturbing than the wolf?, I hear you ask. No, but disturbing all the same. On Wednesday, I saw the young woman in their breezeway, and she was holding a cat. An orange tabby, in fact. Now, that in itself might not be unusual, but it was the WAY she was holding the cat that concerned me:

Me: The neighbours have a cat.
Ken: Oh.
Me: She was in the breezeway, holding it the way you hold a rifle, and she was pointing it at things.
Ken: Maybe it’s a laser cat.
Me: Exactly what I was thinking! Then she put it in their picture window and now it’s just sitting there staring at our yard.
Ken: The squirrels better be careful. Pew Pew!

(If you are unfamiliar with laser cats, click here to see the original documentary.)

So in honour of the neighbour’s laser cat, I wrote a song:

Laser cats! Scourge of the universe!
Laser cats! They don’t like squirrels!
Laser cats! They’re unpredictable!
Laser cats! Sometimes they purr!

This song is meant to be sung loudly and in a very staccato manner, which I have begun to do quite regularly. And because I can’t get a picture of the neighbour’s laser cat without arousing suspicion, I found this picture of my aunt’s cat Rupert (who is NOT a scourge—in fact he’s one of the sweetest cats I know), and I added lasers using my Windows Paint program, because I don’t know how to use Photoshop. The resemblance to the neighbour’s cat is, however, remarkable. Pew Pew!

(By the way, thanks to the support of all my family and friends, virtual or otherwise, my flash fiction story “Resurrection” is Publication of the Month at Spillwords. You guys are the best!)