57 Skidoo

Candlelight is the best light

So it was my birthday on Friday. I’m old enough that I don’t get particularly excited about my birthday anymore (that’s a lie–I can’t wait to open my presents and this year, Ken got me really beautiful earrings and took me on a wine tour). But I’ve reached the age where a little retrospection is required–in fact, it happens without any effort at all. So in honour of my birthday, here are some of the things I’ve discovered now that I’m 57:

57: You now have a favourite mirror because “the lighting is good”. In fact, there are three mirrors in my bathroom at home and two at work, but I only look in one of each of them because the wrong lighting makes me look like…I’m 57.

57: You worry about your teeth. You ask the dentist, “So are my teeth doing ok?” and he looks at you like you’re weird, but you have this feeling deep down that maybe they’re planning a mutiny and you have three different toothbrushes that you use based on how your teeth feel on any given day.

57: You reply, when people ask what you’d like for your birthday, “I would like for things not to hurt so much.” It would be great to be able to sleep through the night without getting up to take an Advil.

57: Your parents take you out for dinner and you drink a LOT more than them, but it’s ok.

57: You NEVER mean ‘ducking’ and autocorrect finally give up and stops trying to convince you that you meant ‘ducking’.

57: You have 27 pairs of reading glasses at a variety of different strengths and you can’t find ANY of them at any given time, and every time you ask, “Have you seen my reading glasses?”, you’re met with raucous laughter.

57: You get unreasonable angry that the barn being built on your way home STILL isn’t finished and you exclaim “When are they going to finish that f*cking barn?!” (That is a very specific example but it happened tonight so I included it.)

57: You now have a good ear and a bad ear.

57: You can stay up as late as you want. But you can’t.

57: You can sleep in as late as you want. But you can’t.

57: You’re pissed because you still don’t get the seniors’ discount.

57: You give thanks for every day that you have because, best case scenario, you have about 25 years left, 30 tops, and you’re terrified of dying and you keep calculating how much time you might have left so it’s good to make the best of it all.

57: You’re neurotic but happy. Life is generally good, the lighting is generally good, the wine is always good, and you have a wonderful family.

In other news, I finally got a couple of hard copies of the Arabic version of my second novel The Dome, and who would have thought that I’d be an internationally published author at 57. Cool.

I Become A Real Estate Mogul

Last week, my parents dropped by and my dad had a cool coupon for me. No, it wasn’t for “buy one get one free wine”, which would have been really sweet—it was for a free square foot of land in Scotland. And with housing prices these days, I’ll take that square foot and flip it one day for at least a bottle of scotch. I logged onto the company website, entered the coupon code and it immediately brought up a lush green landscape on the island of Islay. It was zoomed out quite a bit and close to the middle, there was a tiny box with some coordinates in it. The tiny box was in the only part of the entire satellite view that was dead, brown, and dry. “No!” I yelled. “Not again!” But yes, sure enough, when I zoomed in, MY plot of land was right in the middle of a barren wasteland.

The Wasteland

And this happened to us five years ago as well when we visited Scotland…(time for a flashback):

As you may remember, I am now a Lady, having been presented with the title to 10 square feet of land in a nature reserve in Scotland after complaining that everyone else in the family was nobility except me. Kate thought it sounded kind of sketchy, but it’s actually true (well, the landownership part if not the “peer of the realm” part), and on the second last day of our trip, Ken, Kate, and I decided to drive up to the Duror area to visit our property. We didn’t know what to expect. We had directions from someone named Stewart, and we were told we were too late to book an actual tour, but we were welcome to come and visit our property. When we got there (down a single-track road, because that’s how you know you’re in the United Kingdom), we came out into a parking area with a seemingly deserted small, log-style cabin. But there were other cars around, so we knocked on the door. A woman called for us to come in, and then next thing you know, we’d logged into the wifi, downloaded their GPS app, and were handed personalized maps of the reserve. It was a lot more high-tech than I imagined it would be. We followed the GPS compass through a dead forest—“dead” because we were told that it had originally been a corporate logging area, and that the North American spruce trees had been planted too close together, causing them to crowd each other out so that none of them could grow properly. The 5 year plan was to take all of them down and plant native Scottish species, but at the time, it was dark and forbidding:

Kate: Those are like trees that had some terrible disease and died. Who would want to own THAT? It’s like a tree graveyard.
Me: Can you imagine the poor sucker who paid good money to own 10 square feet in THERE?
Kate and Me: I know, right?! HAHA.
Ken: Um, the GPS says to turn left in 10 metres.
Me: But that would be straight into the dead forest…

Sure enough, both Kate’s and my land were in the part of the reserve that was going to be “rejuvenated” over the next 5 years. But we were pretty happy to discover that our property was on the far edge of the dead forest, where there was a little sunshine and some moss growing:

Kate: I have a mushroom on my land!
Me: You’re so lucky–I wish I had a mushroom! But I have all this lovely moss. Ooh, there’s a bird in my dead tree!

In truth, the whole place was beautiful, despite the dead trees. There are fields, and rivers, and all kinds of lovely forest creatures. And because it’s been parcelled out, it can never be developed or destroyed, so it was well worth the 85 bucks we each paid for it. Kate and I each buried toonies (Canadian two dollar coins) in our land so that future civilizations would know that Canadians were capable of crossing the great water. And hopefully now, if the whole thing has been rejuvenated, I’m going back and building tiny castles to oversee my vast Scottish estates. Just because I can.

I own all that moss.

Advanced Marketing 101

Well folks, it’s that time again. No, not time for wine—that’s ALL the time. But I’ve been amassing some hilarious advertisements so get ready for Advanced Marketing Tips With Facebook Marketplace!

Tip Number One: Intrigue Your Potential Buyers

Up first is this great deal on the Invisible Man. Now, I didn’t know that the Invisible Man’s real name was Wilfred Shacket—I thought Jack Griffin was the Invisible Man, who debuted first in H.G. Wells’ novel and was played in the film of the same name by the inimitable Claude Rains. But I guess when you’re an evil scientist, you can call yourself anything you damn well want. My big question, though, is how exactly was he captured? I can only assume that he was caught unawares, this coat was thrown over him, and then he was restrained by coat hanger until the $100 ransom was paid. I have a feeling that there’s not much interest in Invisible Men these days, judging from the reduction in price after only 6 hours. Then again, I’m willing to bet he’s a little obnoxious, being see-through and all, and maybe the people who are holding him captive are just a tiny bit fed up, but I have to admit, I’m intrigued.

Tip Number Two: Appeal To The Sophisticates In The Crowd

Continuing on with the literary theme, we move from Wells to Shakespeare—Hamlet to be precise. Apparently, these chairs are a couple of depressive Danes covered in floral chintz. After having to put up with their “antic chair disposition” for so long, their owner is as desperate to be rid of them as Claudius was to “upholster” Hamlet. As for the description, all I have to say is “Seems, madam? Nay, it is. I know not seems.”

Tip Number Three: Sharks, Sharks, Sharks

For the low, low price of only $40, you can purchase this lovely Ascent Chair, which I assume will launch you into the air in case of a shark attack. (I don’t know why I said ‘shark attack’ but then again, I don’t know why more people don’t use spellcheck, and besides, everyone loves sharks. Or at least I do).

Me: How does it work?
Seller: You push this little button hidden under the arm here.
Me: And?
Seller: And you ascend. Obviously.
Me: And the sharks?
Seller: Take a bucket of chum up with you and keep throwing pieces into the water from the lofty heights until they’re satiated.
Me: Awesome. Sold!

Tip Number Four: Obfuscate And Confuse Your Audience

And then of course, there’s Jan. I stumbled across Jan one day when I saw an ad for a “Raining Boiler”. I was intrigued (see Tip Number One)—was this some kind of medieval torture device or a new-fangled way to have a shower? Then I got lost down a rabbithole of Jan’s mostly illiterate ads, including another one for a different rain barrel that was possibly named after one of her children, Rian Bellar. Poor Rian—according to the ad, “just the place that water comes broken” which I took to mean that he suffers from erectile dysfunction. At any rate, Jan has numerous incomprehensible postings including this one for a Red Nice Patty, which makes me think that Jan is originally from Boston (this is no slur on Bostonians, but seriously, say Red Nice Patty to yourself—do you hear it?)

But Jan, despite your attempts to convince potential purchasers with your positive description of this household item, I have to be honest with you: this is NOT a nice red potty. In fact, it’s the most disgusting potty I’ve ever seen and even the rock bottom price of $5 won’t sell me. Jan seems to be the queen of irony, as proven by this ad of hers:

These “flowers” are about as lucky as that potty is nice.

Tip Number 5: Give The People What They Want

Speaking of nice, here’s a lovely offer from a completely normal young man who only wants to help.

Kiss my boots AND do my chores AND pay me for the pleasure?! Isn’t that sweet? Maybe I should introduce him to Jan—I bet she’d appreciate someone who could post comprehensible ads for her.

Raise A Glass

So I had my first official day of retirement last week. And it was lucky it happened when it did, because things were rapidly devolving as I got closer and closer to the date. The week before, I’d been talking to one of the bigger bosses when Atlas, having decided that he was bored in the absence of Ken, launched himself onto my lap. Which would have been ok except that one of his big, slappy paws grabbed the neckline of my sweater, pulling it and my bra down far enough that it was quite the show. Fortunately, my male colleague was looking at his other monitor, giving me time to shove Atlas away and rectify the wardrobe malfunction. And then the next day, I had to rush downstairs to meet with my direct supervisor who had called me early for a meeting. I hadn’t quite been fully dressed when she messaged to see if I was available, so I threw on a top and ran to the computer. After the meeting, I went into the kitchen:

Ken (laughing): Why are you wearing a fancy blouse, plaid flannel pajama shorts, and your slippers?
Me: Impromptu meeting.
Ken: No bra?
Me (shimmies): Obviously not.

As you can see, all the signals were there. So, you ask, was your first day of retirement as gloriously awesome as everyone says it should be? In short, NO.

The Beginning

Ken had an early morning balloon launch, so he left me to have a luxurious sleep in. But at around 7:30, I was lying there, all cuddly and warm, when I heard a sudden noise. Atlas was in the back room where he stays when Ken has to leave early, and I knew it wasn’t him. So I did what any normal person would do—I grabbed the baseball bat that I keep by the bed and snuck out of the bedroom to peer down the hallway. Nothing. I kept going, realizing that if anyone actually WAS in the house, Atlas would be going apesh*t, and when I got to the back room, sure enough, he was curled up on his chair looking sleepy. “Come on, buddy,” I encouraged him, and he followed me back upstairs where we settled back into bed. Less than 5 minutes later, his head suddenly popped up and he started to growl under his breath.

Me: What is it?
Atlas: Is noise.
Me: What kind of noise?!

And with that, he started barking and took off downstairs, leaving me alone in bed. At this point, I was more fed up than panicked, and I grabbed the bat again on the premise that, if there WAS someone in the house, I was going to beat them senseless for ruining a perfectly good first morning of retirement. When I got downstairs, Atlas was staring out the window at a squirrel. “You know I’m retired, right?!” I asked him, but he was too intent on the squirrel to care.

The Middle

I took a load of antiques to my booth, then spent some time wiping my company phone, deleting any files that didn’t need to be moved into a shared drive, and signed out of my work computer for the last time. It seemed a little anti-climactic, so I decided to make a ceremony out of it by wheeling my office chair out of the house and putting it at the side of the road. Then I realized that I was kind of boxed in, and spent the next twenty minutes rearranging furniture to maneuver the chair through the living room. By the time I’d finished the whole exercise, I was exhausted and just sat in the chair next to a hydro pole drinking Prosecco and yelling, “I’m retired!” at the neighbours.

The End

Ken was out AGAIN ballooning, so I made dinner for myself and opened a bottle of wine. I turned around to grab a stopper when the bottle hit the counter, fell out of my hand and onto the floor, sending shards of glass and white wine everywhere and freaking me completely out because I HATE broken glass. I was right in the middle of cleaning it up when Ken messaged me to see what I was doing:

(Transcript

Me: I just dropped an entire bottle of wine on the floor and it broke everywhere. Glass is everywhere (crying face emoji). I am very unhappy and also afraid of glass.
Ken: Come to pub for wings.
Me: I am cleaning up glass. Next time (smile emoji). When things aren’t so glassy.)

I finally got everything clean and dry, much to Atlas’s relief, since I’d locked him out of the kitchen.

Atlas: I come in and help clean.
Me: Not a chance. I’ve taken glass out of your mouth before, you dummy.
Atlas: But wine.
Me: But wine, indeed.

Later, we were in the kitchen when Ken yelped.

Ken: What the hell! I just stepped on a piece of glass!
Me: I did the best I could! I was all by myself, Mr. BALLOONMAN! I AM retired, you know! When is this going to get FUN??!!
Ken: Are you missing work?
Me (sighs): Yeah.

Epilogue

It’s been three days. I guess I’ll get used to it. Cheers.

Elf On A What?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1) I hate countdowns.

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

2) I abhor a vacuum.

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

3) There are no Fluevogs in space.

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

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

My Week 255: Exercising Restraint, Fun At Home

I know that a lot of workplaces have group obsessions: some are fixated on a certain TV show, like Game of Thrones or Survivor (mostly because a lot of offices FUNCTION like Game of Thrones or Survivor, where they’re constantly trying to either stab each other in the back for control over Westeros or vote each other off the island), some have football/basketball/bowling pools where they discuss results ad nauseum, and some are relentless in their discussions about certain kinds of special diets and recipe swapping. I was never very much interested in any of these types of group activities—I might be in the hockey pool but my only contribution to any discussion about hockey is “That guy has a cool name. Why didn’t I pick him?!”— and I find myself in the same boat yet again. My colleagues are lovely people, a highly professional and somewhat esoteric group, who don’t watch a lot of TV, don’t follow sports, and aren’t really the “recipe-swapping” type. But they DO have a group obsession, and unfortunately for me, it’s EXERCISE. These people exercise ALL THE TIME. They talk about exercise, they have fitness plans, they are the most physically fit people I have ever met. It puts me to shame. I have to tell you right up front that I don’t exercise. EVER. My idea of exercising is pausing Netflix, walking downstairs to the refrigerator, and pouring another glass of wine. The closest I ever came to having an actual fitness plan was once, a few years ago, I bought a recumbent cycle, which is a kind of exercise cycle where you can sit in a comfortable reclining position while your feet do all the work. So it’s like walking fast, but the rest of your body gets to take a break. Awesome. And the best part is that you can drink while you do it. It was the most relaxing fitness plan ever—I would pour a glass of wine, sit in my Lazyboy/exercise machine and peddle away until I had burned off enough calories to offset the wine. After a while, the machine broke (I may or may not have spilled some Chardonnay on the control panel), and I moved on to a more satisfactory level of exercise, which is to say, none at all.

10 reps each side and don’t spill any!

But now I feel the peer pressure of working with people who LOVE to exercise. They all have these electronic wristband things that tell them how many steps they’ve taken in one day. How many f*cking STEPS, you heard me. Last month, after walking the perimeter of the conference centre where we were working in order to discuss plans for the day, one of my colleagues cheerfully announced that we had just put in 3, 000 steps. I was like, whuh? And she explained that her goal was to reach 10,000 steps each day so now she only had 7,000 to go. I wanted to ask if there was like a medal or some chocolate as a prize, because I would be all over that, but from what I gathered, it’s simply an intrinsically motivated goal, which is to say, THERE IS NO PRIZE AT ALL.

Then the other day we were sitting at lunch, and everyone was sharing their plans for later. One person was going to Zumba class (I thought Zumba was the name of the elephant in A Jungle Book, but apparently it’s some kind of weird Latin fusion/cardio/dance thing). Another person was going to Aquafit, which is exercise that takes place in the water. I call this “having a vigorous bath”, but apparently Aquafit is also a cardio thing for people who need low impact exercise, having blown out their knee last year doing extreme yoga. EXTREME YOGA? WTF? I can’t even sit cross-legged anymore, never mind “extreme” cross-legged sitting. Someone else was taking tennis lessons and was gearing up for a sweaty evening on the court. The last person was “going for a run” because she needed to get back into shape for a marathon next month. (Who in their right mind “goes for a run”? The only time I run is if something is chasing me). Then they all started reminiscing about other types of classes they had taken in the past, sharing war stories about step class, and crazy instructors who went too fast or were too demanding, and so on. Then there was a lull in the conversation, and they all looked at me expectantly. What was I going to say—“I tried kickboxing once but the gloves were too heavy”? So I smiled nervously, stopped eating my cheesecake and said, “Does anyone have a good recipe for quinoa?”

Fun At Home 1

Me: (*goes into Ken’s bathroom): Ergh! Why are all the toilet paper rolls white?! How am I supposed to make my toilet look like it’s smoking a cigar?
Ken: What?!
Me: Nothing. (*leaves bathroom)

10 minutes later

Me: Come and look at my toilet. I saw how to do this on Facebook.
Ken: Haha! Hey, the paper towel rolls are brown. We could use one of those and it would look like the toilet was smoking a cigarillo.
Me: See, this is why I married you.

Anybody got a light?

Fun At Home 2

Ken: Aw, the screen on this door is ripping.
Me: Good job I bought some spline the other day.
Ken: Yes, I used that spline on the kitchen door.
Me: It’s good spline.
Ken: Very good spline.
Me: Do you think we just like saying ‘spline’ A LOT?
Ken: Yep.
Both: Spline, spline, spline, spline, spline!!!
Me: What a great word. Do you think it’s out of our system now?
Ken: I should spline so.

 

My Week 244: The Need To Exorcise

Sometimes it seems like I’m just a weird magnet. And by that, I don’t mean you can stick me on your fridge where I will proceed to talk only to your dog and demand wine; I mean that I seem to have the uncanny knack of attracting all the weird things.

On Thursday, I was sitting on the train, minding my own damn business as one does, when a well-dressed young girl around 20 years old sat down next to me. She reeked of perfume to the point that I was almost gagging. Now, I’m not ALLERGIC to perfume—in fact, I rather like it, but being enveloped in a napalm-ish cloud of it was death to my sinuses. Unfortunately, the train was packed and there was nowhere else to go. Out of the corner of my watering eye, I saw her put down her seat tray and place her cell phone on it. Then she pulled a red velvet pouch out of her purse. I was initially impressed, like, ‘Hmm—what a great idea for making sure your headphones don’t get all tangled up with the other sh*t in your purse’ and I was mentally doing a walkthrough of my belongings at home and wondering if it would be too pretentious to keep earbuds in a Tiffany’s or Pandora pouch because I didn’t have a plain one on hand, and I spend INORDINATE amounts of time unravelling my earbud cord and getting my fingers all caught up in it and whatnot. Then the girl patted her forehead and her chest with the pouch, and I moved away slightly because maybe the heavy perfume was covering up the fact that she was REALLY SWEATY, and I’m never sure whether things like that are airborne and her sweat could somehow get on me, and I have enough trouble being locked in a hurtling tube with 100 other people and all their germs in the first place.

But she put the pouch down on her lap, and pulled out a long string of something, and I was thinking, “Those are the strangest earbuds I’ve ever seen” when I realized it was a string of beads. She gathered them up in her hand, closed her eyes, and started fingering each bead in turn. She was praying. And then I had a terrible, sudden thought that maybe she knew something I didn’t know about the train, and I was like, “OMG are we going to crash??!!  Is her weird bead-worship the only thing standing between me and a fiery derailment?!”

This went on for over almost half an hour, her in silent contemplation of the divine and me in silent worst case scenario mode. I had located the emergency hammer and definitively concluded that if we DID crash, I was jumping over her perfume-y ass to get out of the train, when she opened her eyes and put down the rosary. She started swirling her hands around her head like she was fake-washing her face, and I moved even further away in case she wanted to wash mine too–I was having a particularly good mascara day, so hard pass. When she was done with the air-grooming, she patted herself with the bag again, and I realized that she was, in fact, crossing herself with it. Then she put her hands in her lap and stared straight ahead for the next half-hour until we arrived in Toronto and I didn’t know whether to thank her for saving us all with her “Severus Snape at the Quidditch Match” level of concentration, or tell her to ease off on the Ysatis.

This event was simply the cherry on top of all the weirdness that I’ve been experiencing lately. Last week, I came downstairs in the morning, and there was a lovely, tiny origami frog/butterfly type of thing right smack in the middle of the kitchen counter.

“Aw,” I thought. “I didn’t know that Ken knew how to do origami. How sweet!” So when he came down, I thanked him, and he said, “I didn’t do that—I thought YOU made it.” And after the Mysterious Case of the Mouthguard on the Landing, which was NEVER solved, by the way, you can only imagine how I reacted to this, which was to insist that we search the house for an intruder with fine motor skills and bad teeth.

But wait—it gets worse. The other night, my mom was away so I invited my dad for dinner. I was running a little late so I called Ken and suggested that he go and get some Swiss Chalet take-out. I was close to home, so I said, “You can either take Dad with you or leave him at the house—I won’t be long.” So about 15 minutes later, I pulled into the driveway. From my car, I could see someone in the kitchen—it looked like he was pouring a glass of wine. But by the time I got through the door, he was gone. “Dad! I’m home!” I started yelling, but there was no answer. Maybe he was in the bathroom. I wandered around downstairs, Titus dogging my steps, but there was no sign of him anywhere. So I did what any normal person would do—I went out on the porch and I called Ken:

Me: Um, is my dad with you?
Ken: Yep, he’s right here!
Dad: Hi!!
Me:
Ken: What’s wrong?
Me: There’s someone in the house! I saw a man in the kitchen–it looked like he was pouring a glass of wine and now he’s gone. I’m staying out here until you get back.
Ken: It’s just your imagination. Your mind EXPECTED to see your dad standing at the counter pouring a glass of wine because that’s what he ALWAYS does.
Dad: Hey!
Me: It WASN’T my imagination!
Ken: Go back in and look around. If Titus isn’t worried, I doubt there’s anyone in there.
Titus (from inside): I’m a terrible guard dog! Don’t rely on me!

Anyway, I went inside and got my pepper spray and a glass of wine (like father like daughter), then sat in my office with my back to the wall so I could see anyone sneaking up on me, waiting for them to get home. And now I’m wondering if that girl on the train was really praying, or maybe she was trying to perform an exorcism.

The other weird thing that happened last week isn’t so much unsettling as it just made me go “Huh?” I pulled into the train station parking lot and there was a truck bed camper up on blocks next to the dumpster.

A Clockwork Camper?

It hadn’t been there the day before, and I didn’t pay too much attention until suddenly, the door swung open and a guy stepped out. He stretched and looked up at the sky. And that’s when I realized that he was dressed EXACTLY like the main character from A Clockwork Orange, from his bowler hat to his white outfit to his cane. He started kind of skipping across the parking lot, swinging his cane (I’m guessing in time to the song ‘Singing in the Rain’), then he disappeared. I wonder if he knows origami?

Exactly how he was dressed.

My Week 235: Home Alone

For the past few days, Ken was at a conference in one of our western provinces, and I had to come home early to take care of Titus, which meant being in the house by myself, something I despise. Even in Toronto, I have a roommate because I hate being alone at night (also, the rent is outrageous and I couldn’t afford to live there without her). When I first moved to Toronto, my condo was paid for by my company because I was on temporary contract, so I didn’t have a roommate, and it was awful. I came home from work every night and literally searched the entire condo, which didn’t take long because it was only 600 square feet. Still, I would call Ken while I looked in the closets, under the bed, and behind the giant column in the corner where only a very thin robber could squeeze. I don’t know what I thought would happen if I actually DID find someone—put Ken on speakerphone and have him sternly order the intruder out? Say “You’ll be sorry when my husband gets here–in two hours”?

It’s even harder at home because we have a very large, late 1800s Victorian house with a full walk-up attic, and searching it would take a really long time. There are 6 doors leading to the outside on the main floor alone, and a balcony door upstairs, although I doubt a burglar would bother climbing up to the porch roof when there are SO MANY DAMNED ACCESS POINTS ALREADY. Before I go to bed, I make sure ALL of them are locked, and that all the outside lights are on. And then I’m locked IN the house, which creaks and makes weird sounds. Oh, it’s not haunted though—I used to live in a house that was haunted and this one definitely isn’t, which is one good thing at least, and if you’re interested in the haunted house, you can read all about it in My Week 69: Ghost Stories.

I was talking to one of my aunts last night, and she hates being alone in the house too.

Aunt: Is everything locked up?
Me: Yes. I double-checked. And I can lock myself in the bedroom now—there’s a hook on the inside of the door.
Aunt: What kind of weaponry are we talking about?
Me: A baseball bat in the bedroom, another one by the toilet in the ensuite, and a hammer on the window ledge.
Aunt:
Me: Too much? I know it sounds crazy.
Aunt: Oh no—I was just wondering why you didn’t mention the pepperspray.
Me: Damn! I left it in Toronto.
Aunt: I keep mine in my bedside table.
Me: Ooh, good thinking.

It’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one in the family who is well-armed.

But wait, I hear you say—you’re not BY YOURSELF; you have Titus. Well, let me relieve you of any delusion you may have had that Titus can be counted on in a crisis. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know that he has no problem with intruders in the house—our doorstep has been crossed by bats, birds, squirrels, raccoons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses and he has batted nary an eyelash. In fact, the last time a squirrel got in the house, I was convinced it was a burglar, and as I was creeping towards our family room with a giant knife in my hand, trembling with fear, he lay on the living room couch and barely lifted his head when I shrieked in horror at the sight of the tree rat climbing my wall. In fact, the only time he DOES lift his head is when we’re lying in bed all locked in and cozy, and suddenly he pretends to hear a noise and jumps off the bed:

Me: What?! Why are your ears up?
Titus: I thought I heard something.
Me: Like what?
Titus: Oh, uh, like a…hey, open the door and I’ll go see.
Me: Don’t lie. I’m not letting you out of here.
Titus: But I’m bored!
Me: It’s 3 o’clock in the morning!! How are you ‘BORED’?! Go the f*ck to sleep like a normal dog.
Titus: OK, ok, I’ll stay in here. Can you at least put Netflix on?
Me: Fine, but no cooking shows—I don’t want you drooling on the bed.
Titus: Is there any wine left?
Me: What do you think?
Titus: Lush.

Who’s the lush?

As you can see, he’s not much use in the watchdog department. For all his formidable size—100 pounds of extra-tall black Lab—and intimidating bark, he’s pretty much a big suck. But I’m sure if there WAS someone in the house, he’d be all over them. Especially if they had wine.

Here’s a quick, funny story for you:

Once, when I was teaching, my class was studying Lysistrata by Aristophanes. The students were seniors and it was an academic class, so the kids decided they wanted to act it out. Authentically. If you know anything about early Greek theatre, all the parts were played by men, and they differentiated between the sexes using masks, and because this was a comedy, the ‘men’ were also identified with exaggerated fake phalluses and the ‘women’ with exaggerated fake boobs. So on the day of the performance, the students all dressed up, with the girls taking the male roles and vice versa, just for fun. So there they were, all wearing togas made out of bedsheets, Hallowe’en masks on their faces, the girls swinging long balloons and pool noodles strapped around their waists and the boys strutting with balloons and basketballs tied to their chests. Just as the largest boy in the class said his line in excellent falsetto, “Indeed, I believe I could—I practice the kick-dancing!” and demonstrated thusly, the classroom door opened and my new principal walked in. She stopped and stared:

Principal:
Me: We’re doing a play.
Principal:
Me: It’s Greek…
Principal: I needed to talk to you about something but it can wait.

She left, and as soon as the door shut, the whole class erupted in laughter. I didn’t know what would happen next, but when I saw her again, her only comment was, “It looked like they were having a good time.” I mention all of this now, because I was reminded of it last week when I yelled the word “Herpes!!” across the aisle to a colleague just as one of the big bosses was walking by. She also stopped and stared, and I explained that it was something I was reading. I showed her and she laughed, kind of like “Ah. Ha ha ha” and walked away. Sigh. At least I didn’t say ‘penis’ again.

My Week 228: Dishing It Out

It’s been a hectic couple of weeks and I know I have a lot of catching up to do, mainly because I got tagged for a couple of things by some blogger pals. I try hard to keep track but I only post once a week, so sometimes I have to go a ways back to remember what I’m supposed to be doing, and I only respond to these things if a) the questions are interesting or b) I can just make sh*t up. I don’t have an “award-free blog” which I recently learned is a thing, and frankly it befuddles me. It’s like celebrating Christmas but telling people “don’t buy me any damn presents” or being the Jehovah’s Witness of blogging (and in a strange twist of fate, they actually just came to my door right now to battle for my immortal soul, as they do fairly regularly. I won, as I also regularly do, but they took a moment to remind me that Jehovah loves me anyway, which is an award in and of itself, am I right?). Anyway, I guess some people have their own agenda or whatnot, and blog awards interfere with that, but me, I’m always looking for a topic that I can turn into something mydangblogggy, and just have a good time with it. Now, I’m not fishing for any more nominations—I’ve been tagged in a few awards already and it’s just the nicest thing imaginable to me that someone cared enough about my writing to do that, especially since I know that I’ll never get a Pulitzer or even a White Pine Award (that’s an Ontario thing) but goddammit, I’ve been nommed for the “Made My Dish Award” and I’m super-pumped. This award was totally invented by my friend Cecelia at Fixin’ Leaks and Leeks because I made dinner using one of her recipes, and it was delicious (I used gluten-free pasta but don’t tell her because I don’t want to give this award back). So now I have to answer a couple of questions, and they’re very good ones:

Unwrapped? Hard pass.

1) When you leave a restaurant, do you look for a bowl or mints or candies?

I might look for them, but I would NEVER touch them. Have you never seen those exposés where they take a blacklight and shine it on the candy bowl? There’s enough feces on those fruit drops to give you a nice healthy dose of dysentery. It’s a sad fact that a lot of people don’t wash their hands after they use the bathroom on the grounds that “I never actually touched anything” but YOU DID, BOB. And then Bob touches the candies with his poopy hands and it becomes a dish of norovirus-covered nougat. I have a strict policy to never deliberately ingest anything that is offered to me in an unwrapped state (see below for details). I also sanitize the handles of shopping carts, as well as the headrest and tray of my airplane seat. I recently watched a documentary about airline cleanliness, and it was a shock that not only are airplanes hotbeds of bacteria, but that the headrest is the dirtiest part of the plane. Who knew?

2) What is a candy that should be invented/sold?

If there was a candy that tasted like a good New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, I would be happy, although I know you can get ice wine chocolate, so maybe it’s already been invented. I used to really like salted chocolate but right now, that’s giving me terrible flashbacks.

And as you know, if you answer any or all of these three questions in the comments, you can also claim a “Made My Dish Award”, the dish in question being a blog.

Also, I was tagged by my pal and fellow Canuck (with an abiding love of Denmark), Cyranny of Cyranny’s Cove for the Solidarity Blogger award, so thank you for that. There’s only one thing I have to do for this, and that is to talk about what solidarity in blogging means to me. So I’ll get serious for a moment and say that if it wasn’t for this wonderful blogging community, I would never visit other countries, try great recipes, learn about art and graffiti, read incredible poetry, listen to great music, laugh (especially at the adventures of Alistair and Alexis), cry, commiserate, rejoice, grieve, think deeply about important topics, and mostly try to bring a little levity to YOUR world.

Synergy:

Ken and I have been married so long that sometimes we don’t have actual conversations. We just KNOW.

Me: That.
Ken: Yes.
Me: I know, right?
Ken: Uh huh.

The other night, we were driving home, and we passed a sh*tload of pylons:

Me: What?
Ken: Couldn’t get a building permit.
Me: Parking lot then.
Ken: Mmm.
Me: That fire.
Ken: Yeah.

The one thing we DON’T have synergy with, though, is music. Especially when we’re driving and Ken has control of the radio.

Me: What IS that? Is that a documentary? Like, on the radio? NO.
Ken: She’s an author. It’s interesting.
Me: She’s crying because she got divorced and her mom won’t forgive her. Her mom needs to be more supportive and you need to find something else to listen to…OK, I’m not 60—try again…this sounds like elevator music…Disco is DEAD, Ken…not COUNTRY!…put on Virgin Radio…you just switched the channel from one commercial to another…go back—that was Nirvana…yes, I know you hate that Calvin Harris song, but I like it—don’t be so judge-y.

We usually just end up compromising on the Comedy Channel:

Ken: Is that?
Me: Yeah. I love him.
Ken: That one joke.
Me: I know, right?

And just this morning:

Ken: The doorbell rang?
Me: Yup.
Ken: Jehovah loves you.
Me: Obvs.

Synergy.