Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Bowlerama Date

On Sunday afternoon, Ken and I watched The Big Lebowski. Of course, this necessitated an outing to our local Bowlerama...

... to bowl AT OUR OWN RISK!!

I wondered why that warning was necessary, until the other lanes started filling up with rowdy, inexperienced young bowlers. They slugged down beers between turns, and it wasn't long before bowling bowls were flying every which way. As they got drunker, their delivery of each ball became more and more elaborate, more than once ending with the bowler on the floor. I'm surprised that the owners' insurance company didn't make helmets mandatory.

When we first checked in, the guy behind the counter gave me the nastiest pair of old, falling-apart bowling shoes ever. I must have wrinkled my nose as I picked one of them up between my index finger and thumb to inspect the awfulness. He took them back and gave me this spiffy pair:

Part of the challenge of bowling is finding a ball that's got a good combination of weight and finger-hole placement for one's hand. I found one that worked for me alright. Ken had more trouble. He started out with one that was way too heavy for him, so his bowling arm got tired quickly.

This gave me just enough of an advantage to win 2 of our 3 games. Although not by much.

Then we went here...

... for summa dis!

Mmmm. Nothin' like an 8,000 calorie dinner to cap off a bowling date. We should do this more often.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Robin was two years younger than me, 14 to my 16, but compared to her I didn't know a thing.

The year was 1988. She was a ragamuffin of a girl, draped in tie-dye and fringe, hiding under layers of pseudo-hippie-gypsy thrift store finds. She smoked. She drank. She did whatever drugs she could get her hands on. Her thin, straight hair fell into her eyes every few seconds. Her pale hand, patched with eczema, shook as she pushed the hair back behind her ear.

I didn't know myself yet, beyond being that quiet girl with the A+ average. I was attracted by Robin's darkness, her daring, her bad behaviour. I let her take the lead.

She brought me to dim, overstuffed vintage clothing stores in Kensington Market. I watched half in horror, half in awe as she hungrily shoved handfuls of scarves, bangles, beaded necklaces, and whatever was in easy reach, up her wide coat-sleeves.

She led me to the sidewalks of Yonge St. to sit on the concrete, near a steet vendor she had befriended, watching the world go by. The only people I had ever seen sitting on the sidewalk were homeless beggars and bums. I felt very far from my middle-class living room, with the powder-blue wall to wall carpeting, as the cold from the sidewalk seeped through the seat of my jeans.

I was never bold or foolish enough to take up cigarettes myself, but I inhaled Robin's second-hand smoke as though it were medicine that could heal the under-confidence of my over-protected self.

I did shoplift. I still remember everything I stole. A patterned cotton scarf that I used to tie my hair back for years after. A tube of "magic" green lipstick that turned pink once applied. A black beret that's still in my bureau drawer. And the last thing: a silver bracelet that I slid into my shirt sleeve in Eaton's department store. A plainclothes security officer followed me around the store for ten minutes after, as I lurked among the handbags and hosiery, trying to shake him off. Finally I bought a cheap scrunchie, to legitimize my presence, and that seemed to satisfy him. I got away with it that time, but after that I decided that it wasn't worth the risk. I was only stealing for the thrill anyway, to prove that I could. I hadn't taken anything that I couldn't just as easily have bought.

I was playing with these forces. I could chose them or not. I didn't realize how lucky I was, how different from Robin. Over the course of the year I heard rumours through a mutual friend: that her father had touched her inappropriately. That she cut herself. She got suspended from school for a while. She had a severe asthma attack but wouldn't give up smoking.

When the year ended, Robin was among a group of us who went to music camp together. I played violin. She played viola. The camp was used by younger children the rest of the summer. There was a playground. We sat under the slide on a rainy evening, just before dusk, and I watched the tip of Robin's cigarette glow hot orange in the gathering blue. When she had smoked it down to the filter, we knelt in the damp sandbox and sculpted life-sized mermaids. I can still feel the cold sand, grainy under my palms, as I smoothed the contours of my mer-lady's breasts and hips. That moment, from all of my teen years, marks the time when I was happiest to be a girl, celebrating femininity, with no context other than the earth, the cool air, mist, and wide, evening sky.

The last time I saw Robin was ten years ago from today, and also ten years after that summer. She appeared in the health food store where I was working, a scruffy boy on her arm. She had shed her hippie layers for a miniskirt and go-go boots. Her hair was highlighted and done up in fetching waves. But I recognized the shake in her hands, and in her voice, the cigarette cough, the nervousness underlying her jokes. Her eyes darted around, refusing to meet mine for more than a second or two at a time. And then she was gone, probably with some unpaid merchandise stuck up her sleeve.

She's another one I wonder about a lot. God bless, Robin. I hope you found your way to happiness.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Bad Kitties

On Saturday night, I stayed out late, shaking my booty at a wild party and drinking myself silly.

No, wait. Sorry. I just lied compulsively there. Sometimes I like to pretend that I live that kind of life.

In fact what I did on Saturday evening was have dinner with my mother and then spend two hours working on setting up her new computer.

I don't recall it taking this long to get my own computer set up, even though it's almost exactly the same as my mom's. For some reason, my mom's setup process is stretching longer and longer, with glitches at every possible opportunity. First the internet connection wouldn't cooperate. After an hour on the phone with tech support I had it working, and then as soon as the technician got off the phone it started cutting out again. I also can't seem to get her .mac e-mail address to work, even though that should be easy as pie.

Throughout the process, things are slowed further by the presence of Stinker and The Dude, my mom's insane cats. All they want to do is get in the way and chew on wires and cables. The Dude was so intent on chomping through the phone cord that I had to put the help desk on hold while I booted him out of the room. No amount of taps on his nose would deter him from his chewing. Once he was locked out, he spent a long time trying to burrow under the door before finally ambling off to pull the weather-stripping off the bottom of my mom's front door.

A while later, Stinker asked to come in. I had been sitting for 15 minutes watching software updates download to the hard drive, so I was bored enough to consider letting him in. I thought he might be better-behaved than his brother. I thought he might want to sit and have his ears scritchy-scratched, or just snuggle on my lap. My hopes were ill-founded. He made a beeline for the tangle of cables under the desk and started eating the power cord. I pulled him away, and as soon as I let him go he went right back to it, as though that particular wire had an irresistible magnetic attraction for him. So Stinker got booted out too.

My mom said that these dopey cat-brothers don't respond to the disciplinary measures that have worked on all her past cats. Yelling at them just doesn't register. You can push their faces away from the "no" object as many times as you like, and they'll just come straight back. Even a whack on the nose or the rump doesn't faze them. They just shake it off. (Of course they never get swatted hard enough to cause pain. It's supposed to piss them off, nothing more. But these cats are too easygoing. It's impossible to piss them off.) My mom tries to have a water mister handy to spritz them when they're bad, but she can't always have it in her hand, and there are some places (like near electrical equipment) that a mister isn't practical.

I advised my mom to get a taser. She's thinking about it.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Transit Strike

Last week, Torontonians were relieved when a public transit strike was averted. We all said "Whew, that was close!", and then forgot about it and went on with our lives.

Toronto's functionality is dependent on the transit system, a.k.a. the TTC. Over 1 million people rely on it daily. When the TTC shuts down, the city slows to a crawl. People who don't have other means of transportation are stranded. Those who have cars but don't normally use them bring thousands of extra vehicles onto the roads, creating massive traffic jams. Those who have options either walk, bike, rollerblade, or carpool. But everything takes longer and everyone is inconvenienced.

Unfortunately, the union voted against the tentative agreement that had been reached last week, and the system shut down at midnight on Friday, with minimal warning. I found out by way of Aurora's blog . The city is looking at implementing legislation that will force the TTC employees back to work. Most likely it will be passed in time for Monday morning's rush hour. If not, we could be in for a crazy few days.

I can personally get around where I need to on foot, for the most part. If need be, Ken can give me a lift. But things would get hairy at work. I'm not sure which of my staff would be able to make the journey, or how late they'd be arriving. Certainly everyone would be extra-stressed until it's all sorted out.

In any case, this is probably pointless worry because the government has promised to have the trains and buses up and running by Monday morning.

To distract myself from my ruminations, I went for a walk in my neighbourhood.

Some of the plants are fully in bloom by now...

... and some are still in the process of unfurling.

I saw a Rolls Royce parked in the circular drive of our local hotel:

And I visited my favourite park for the first time since the spring thaw. I would like to introduce you to one of the willows of Willowdale, where I live. I intend to spend a lot of quality time in the park this summer, relaxing under the trees.

How are you unwinding this weekend?

Added at 3:15 pm: Legislation was passed by the government, ordering the transit system employees back to work. Looks like everything should be back to normal by tomorrow morning. Sweet!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Four Things

I was tagged by San. .

Four jobs I've had:

1) Retail sales in a health food store.
2) I interned as a junior editor at Harlequin Romance in Canada. While I was there they had a major editorial meeting to debate whether or not they would allow the word "penis" to be published in one of their books.
3) Wholesale sales rep for a herbal remedies company. I trundled my little sample case all over Southern Ontario (note to non-Canadians - this is a huge territory!) without the benefit of a car. One of the items I sold was caterpillar fungus tea.
4) Teaching Microsoft Systems Administrator courses to adults at a full-time private day school.

Four places I've lived:

1) My parents' house. I never really appreciated the beautiful view from my window (trees, sky, the neighbours' nicely groomed backyards) until I moved to...
2) An unbearably dark one-room basement apartment, shared with my ex, one gerbil, two cats, 21 mice, and 1,031 giant cockroaches. In contrast, I very much appreciated...
3) The well-lit, pest-free basement apartment with the separate bedroom and big kitchen. Although the view from my bedroom window was a brick wall. Then I stepped it up to...
4) A corner apartment, second floor. Blond, parquet floors. Flooded with light from sunrise to sunset. There was a store downstairs called "Happy Convenience". What more could one want?

Four people I want to bitch-slap right into the middle of next week:

1) Litterbugs.
2) Careless drivers.
3) Obnoxiously loud teenagers in my subway car when I'm trying to read.
4) People who don't want to take "No" for an answer. I hate wasting my time telling them "No" a dozen times until they finally accept it.

Four people who e-mail me regularly:

1) My 92-year-old grandmother, bless her heart.
2) My relatives who live on the West coast. I have a 6-year-old cousin there who's cute as pie. I love getting updates from her mom.
3) My mom. Ok, well, she's not a "regular", but I'm so proud of her for learning to use e-mail that I had to give her an honourable mention.
4)'s promotional department. They live in hope.

Four TV shows I watch:

1) The Simpsons
2) America's Next Top Model
3) A Haunting
4) Supernanny

Four places I've visited:

1) Barbados
2) The South of France: Nice and St. Jean Cap Ferrat
3) South Africa
4) England (whirlwind tour)

Four favourite foods:

1) Chocolate chip cookies
2) Gnocchi
3) Nabeyaki Udon
4) Tandoori Chicken

Four places I'd like to be right now:

1) Riding a unicorn over the rainbow.
2) Swimming with dolphins and mermaids in a tropical harbour.
3) Napping in a hammock in a treehouse high up in the canopy of the rainforest.
4) Sitting at the top of a mountain, wrapped in a blanket, just before sunrise, overlooking the desert.

Four things I'm looking forward to this year:

1) Spring!
2) Summer!
3) Fall!
4) Completing Blog365!

Four people I'm tagging:

1) Ron
2) Whatigotsofar
3) R.E.H.
4) Stewie

Friday, April 25, 2008

Missing Persons

Every year, around my birthday, my mom hosts an informal party for the family. Every year, the lights are turned down; my mom emerges from the kitchen, carefully bearing a hand-baked cake, aflame with a ridiculous number of candles; and my family sings the birthday song to me. My heart swells and my eyes get swimmy.

In past years, I've gazed upon the familiar faces, grateful to have them all around the table together, singing to me, one more time. I thought: It can't last forever. Sooner or later, a year will come when one face is missing. And that will be a sad year.

I always expected one of my mother's parents to be the first missing person. They're both near 90 years old now. They can't live forever.

I was wrong. This is going to be that sad year, and the missing person is going to be my step-dad. He's back in Toronto now, living in a rented house with his new lady-friend, but he may as well be on Mars.

It was tough not having him at the Passover Ceders. Not only did I miss his familiar presence, but it became clear that he had an important role to play in our family dynamic, and no one has stepped in to fill the breach.

Superficially, he was kind of a dork. He was always being shushed for talking when we were supposed to be reciting prayers. My grandmother was forever saying "Not yet!" as he gobbled down a ceremonial food before the proper blessings were said. And he invariably spilled something that left a nasty stain on the tablecloth.

I never before appreciated the silver lining to his incredibly casual attitude. Pretty much everyone else on my mom's side of the family is sensitive, fussy, and easily offended. Everyone takes everything personally. Everyone cares way too much. Especially around each other, where it all gets multiplied to the nth degree.

My step-dad was always there, leaning back in his chair, a mild grin on his face, observing the nonsense and making light of it. He'd have another swig of wine and say "Come on now" to whoever it was who was getting overly wound up at that moment. He'd make a joke about the situation. It wasn't a knee-slappingly funny joke, but it soothed the tension in the air. Minus his presence last weekend, the tension level cranked up higher and higher until I thought the air itself might snap.

It doesn't help that one of my mom's sisters and her husband have been aggressively forward about continuing to socialize with my step-dad. They didn't sit down with my mom to discuss the situation, or show any concern for her feelings whatsoever. My mom feels betrayed. I would too, in her shoes.

So, overall, it's a bad, bad scene. So bad that last Saturday I was tempted to get up in the middle of dinner and walk out the door. Could I fill my step-father's shoes? I'm tempted to try, but I don't know if my family would accept it from me the way they did from him. It could just end up making things worse. That's a big gamble to take, when it could split the family further.

However, knowing me, if the atmosphere from Saturday night becomes the new normal for family gatherings, I won't be able to stand it for long. I'll either speak up, or walk out, or both. So, I guess only time will tell.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I scream You scream

Yep, it's spring alright.

Condotropolis is abloom.

The weather outside is within a few degress of room temperature, and has been all week. I'm not compelled to bundle up or dress down to go out. The distinction between indoors and outdoors has disappeared. It's almost as though walls and doors have ceased to exist. Everything opens up to everything else.

San has been kind enough to award me a "Big E for Excellent". Thank you so much, San! If you haven't yet been to see San's blog, I urge you to do so. She's got a quirky sense of humour, unexpected turns of creativity, and a positive tone that always gives me the warm'n'fuzzies.

It wasn't so long ago that I gave away some Big E's. However, there are a couple more bloggers who I feel should have a Big E to their name. These are:

Claire at Country Mouse Tails and
Nilsa at SoMi || Learning::Exposing::Sharing

Come on down, ladies, and get your Big E's!

For the first time in 12 years, I have chocolate ice cream in my freezer. (Backstory here.) For twelve years, I pretended not to see the ice cream section of the grocery store. I turned a blind eye to my favourite Baskin Robbins flavours: Jamocha Almond Fudge and Chocolate Mousse Royale. Sometimes I substituted the soy stuff, which wasn't bad, but it's nothing like the real thing. Sorry, Toffuti Cuties - you served me well in my time of need, but now I'm done with you!

I went through the freezer and picked the smallest tub with the shortest list of ingredients. When in doubt, keep it simple.

At home, standing at my kitchen counter, armed with a soup spoon, I dared my first taste. And almost swooned to the floor. Be still my beating heart! Ice cream, you are mine!

I just had a few mouthfuls, as a test, to no ill effect. I feel confident enough to try a full scoop next time. Maybe on a waffle cone. Man, this is going to be a great summer!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Got Matzoh Need Prunes

This is matzoh. It will constipate you if you eat enough of it.

Matzoh (this is just one of many acceptable spellings of the word) is a flat wheat cracker that observant Jews eat during Passover. During the eight days of Passover, all leavened or fermented grain products, which includes any type of bread made with yeast or sourdough starter, are forbidden. The rules vary a bit depending on the traditions of the family, but basically it boils down to this: all the observant Jews I know, including members of my own family, do not eat any grain products except matzoh for the entire eight days of Passover.

Everyone gets constipated after a few days of this regimen. The stuff turns to cement in your guts. Hence my title, which is stolen from the site . You can get a novelty T-shirt with that slogan, or chose among many others.

I stole these images straight from the jewtee site.

Cute, isn't he? How about this one:

It's a horseradish root. Yeah. Um. Moving on...

A sheet of matzoh is around 6 inches by 6 inches. It tastes like a completely plain cracker. However, there are many delicious recipes in which matzoh is only one ingredient among many. One of my personal favourites is dumplings made with ground up matzoh meal, also known as matzoh balls. My mom puts ground almonds in hers. These are traditionally served in chicken soup.

During Passover, not only is it forbidden to eat leavened bread products, but it is not permitted to have them in one's home. The forbidden foods are termed "chametz". The "ch" is pronounced in that Germanic, clearing-phlegm-from-the-back-of-one's-throat type of way. All chametz is ritually removed from the home prior to Passover. Then the house, especially the kitchen, is scrubbed from top to bottom to remove any traces of chametz that might be lurking around.

Because all the ordinary kitchenware in the home has been in contact with chametz, it's not good enough for Passover, if you're truly observant. It's not enough that you maintain two sets of dishes, glasses, and cutlery to keep Kosher the rest of the year (i.e. observe the Jewish dietary laws forbidding the mixing of meat and dairy). You have to also have two other sets of dishes and cutlery just for Passover.

You're supposed to cover the bottom of your sink with a barrier, to prevent your Passover dishes from coming into contact with any chametz which might be clinging to the sides of the drain. The item in question is called a "blech", again with the percussive "ch". Wouldn't you feel more secure with a blech in your sink?

If you think I might be making any of this up, just check out this comprehensive listing of all the Passover rules pertaining to chametz. Seriously. Humour me. Click the link. You don't need to read it all. Just scroll down and marvel at how long it is and how incredibly complicated. Do you suppose Madonna does all this stuff, now that she's converted?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Flyer

At the end of every summer, the Canadian National Exhibition (a.k.a. The CNE or The Ex) runs for around 5 weeks at the CNE fairgrounds down by Lake Ontario. It's a huge production, including roller coasters, games booths, performers, parades, and around a dozen warehouse-sized buildings filled with food, crafts, flea markets, livestock, etc. I couldn't tell you the size of the fairgrounds, but it takes around 15 minutes to walk from one end to the other, assuming you don't get side-tracked, which is next to impossible.

The Ex was cleaned up during the early '90's, and is now much like a giant, open-air mall. It's still fun, but I honestly preferred it when it was seedier, dirtier, more like a traditional carnival.

My mom, cautious lady that she is, would not take me to the Ex. Her younger, more adventurous sister stepped into the breach. Auntie N is 10 years younger than my mom, 18 years older than me. When we started going to the Ex together every year, she was still in her 20's, and full of beans.

The first thing we'd do once we were inside the gates is get ice cream sandwiches made with hot waffles. That was Auntie N's numero uno priority. Then we could wander around the grounds and make our plans for the day. Greasy games barkers with jailhouse tats and mullets hollered at us to come throw darts at balloons to win a prize every time, or to throw a basketball into a barrel and win a giant stuffed unicorn.

We always rode some of the rides. I found out later, from someone who worked as a carny one summer in the prairies, how these rides are assembled. The trucks pull up to the fair ground shortly before the fair is scheduled to start. The carnies all pile out of their vans, tired from a long day on the road, maybe a little drunk, and get to work. The guy in charge doesn't let anyone go to sleep that night until the rides have all been completed. By 3:00 or 4:00 am, if the ride is finished and there are still a few parts, a few "spare" bolts, lying around that obviously should have been installed somewhere in the structure, most likely the workers will just shrug, throw them back in the box, and head to bed.

Maybe (I hope) the standards have improved since the 1980's, but that's apparently how it was back then. And truly, the rides looked like they had been put together with Tinker Toy. We rode them anyway.

We rode The Flyer, a wooden roller coaster that was at least 30 years old by then. These days, roller coasters all have harnesses that lock down over the riders to keep them firmly in their seats. The Flyer had one metal bar that locked down around six inches above our thighs. You were expected to grab that and hold on real tight. I never let go, because I was convinced I would fly out of the car if I did. The whole structure shook and rumbled as we zoomed around. The Flyer was torn down in the early 90's when the Ex got a makeover. I understand that it did not come close to meeting modern safety standards, but I miss it.

We went on other rides too. One memorable time, Auntie N decided that she simply must have a Bratwurst on a Bun With Onions just before climbing on a ride called The Screamer or The Octopus or something like that. As we swooped through the air, she started feeling queasy. "I don't feel so good!" she moaned in my ear. Just then we caught sight of a news crew filming the ride for the evening news. Auntie N was convinced that she was going to hurl onto the news crew and be humiliated on national television. Fortunately she lasted out the ride without any tossing of cookies. More than 20 years later, Bratwurst on a Bun With Onions is a running joke between us. All I have to do is hold my stomach and moan "Oooooh, Bratwurst!" and she'll laugh.

Those were the days...

Monday, April 21, 2008

Second Ceder

It's late on Sunday night...
('scuse me! It's the hour, not the company)
... and I've just returned from the second Ceder, which was at my mother's house.

Here you can see the table set with all the extra-special ceder foods, and candles which will be blessed and lit by my grandmother at sunset.

This is the "Ceder Plate", a special plate which exists solely to showcase the five symbolic foods of the evening. The egg and celery (because it's green) represent spring and new life. The chicken wing is a modern take on the traditional lamb shank bone, representing the Paschal lamb. The gnarly root is horseradish, representing the bitterness of being enslaved back in the day. The oatmeal-y stuff in the middle is Charoset, a sweet mixture of grated apple, chopped nuts, cinnamon, and other yummy stuff which varies by recipe (for example my aunt adds banana) which represents the mortar that was used by Jewish slaves when they were building stuff for the pharoah in Egypt. Mmmm, delicious mortar...

We pass around the greens, which can be celery or parsley, depending on your preference, and we dip them in salt water, representing the tears of our ancestors. Mmmm, delicious tears of our miserable ancestors...

I tell you, there was no better moment in the evening than when the blessing had been said over the greens, and nine people in an otherwise silent room all crunched into their celery sticks in unison.

I mentioned in my pre-passover prep post that we run into issues because we have too many different versions of the Haggadah, or Ceder handbook. Here's just a few of the books we were working from tonight:

Happily, the second Ceder went much, much better than the first. Intra-familial snarkiness was kept to a minimum, and generally we were all able to relax and enjoy ourselves.

The best part of the whole day, however, was the three hours from 3:30 pm to 6:30 pm when I worked side-by-side with my mom, preparing the food and setting the table. We chopped and we chatted, catching up on life, and of course debriefing on the fiasco of the previous evening. It was good bonding time. I hadn't had one-on-one quality time with my mom since January. It was good to hang out with her.

Now I'm home, stuffed full of food, exhausted, and my fingers are pruned from washing endless dishes, but I'm satisfied. I know I'll sleep well tonight.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Dining in the Trenches

It's 11:51 PM as I write this. Way past my normal bedtime, and my eyelids are drooping, but I have to "blog it out" so I can sleep with a clear mind.

Tonight was, without a doubt, the most stressful Ceder/family dinner in recent memory. Eight people were present, and five of those eight walked into the evening with an emotional fuse already lit and fizzing. People were snapping at each other. There was yelling from the kitchen. Person A brought wine, and Person B barked that it wasn't sweet enough. C brought a cake, and D shrieked that it was the wrong kind of cake: it should have been a little square one, not a big round one, and in the end the cake was not served because of this fiasco. Don't ask me to explain why it was that much of a problem; I don't get it either.

It seemed like we couldn't go ten minutes without a conflict and raised voices. Whoever wasn't involved in the yelling either participated non-verbally (via pained looks, frowns, and sighs), or kept their head down and tried not to make eye contact with anyone. I opted for the second strategy.

The rituals of the Ceder were not given weight for their own sake, but as grounds for further arguments. It was not, I will venture to say, a spiritually uplifting evening.


And now I shall offer some positives from the day:
Gorgeous weather!
Lunch with my multi-talented and effervescent little sister!
Cute T-shirts purchased at the schmatte store: 3 for $5 !
Ken declared that he has "turned the corner" in his recovery from bronchitis!
I get to sleep in tomorrow!
Or shall I say today. It's 12:08 AM now. Definitely time for bed.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


I can has enrmus spektakles? NOM delishus spektakles!

LOLcat wif rite paw up = protekshun
LOLcat wif left paw up = lots of moneys
LOLcat wif bof paws up = Gives me EVRYFING!!!

We paws for LOLcommershul brek:

uZap Tummy Butt Thighs!
ZAP away your fat with Twin Power Osimotion!
Double the Effectiveness, Double the Efficiency!

Now back to more LOLs:


R u shur des all made wif 100% pure froot juss?
teh gren 1 looks lik no froot i kno.

Squeezed Cold Pork Ear
Curry Squid Claw


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Flowers in Reverse

My Ken, my poor little Sweet Baboo, has bronchitis. Booooooooooooo bronchitis! I banish you from my home!

It's traditional to bring flowers to comfort the sick. However, at our place we do everything backwards. The sick guy brings flowers to me. Yesterday, I came home to this:

and, on the bedside table:

Slightly overshadowed by the three giant vases of flowers, but visible in the first photo, are additional treats:

Enormous gourmet cookies!

A couple more beauty shots:

I love how the snapdragons tower almost to the ceiling with their fierce, yellow bursts.

Apparently I deserve all this because I am so wonderful and have taken such good care of Ken since he fell ill. Wow. I don't even know what to say! Except that if you'd seen my face, my ear-to-ear grin as I explored the garden of gifts, that would have said it all.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Brusha Brusha

I love the feeling of clean teeth. I brush my teeth at least 4 times a day, on weekdays. Why all the brushing? Because I'm stubborn about some things. When I make a declaration, I stick to it. After one particularly unpleasant trip to the dentist, I decided that I would do everything I could to never need another filling.

I don't hold a personal grudge against my dentist. He's a swell guy, and all. It's all the needles and drilling that get to me. It's difficult to say which I hate more: the injection (I have a phobia of needles), or the drilling itself.

I put that question to the test at one point. For a short time I worked for a health food company that had wildly generous insurance coverage. I was able to get all my mercury amalgam fillings replaced with white porcelain, under this plan. I had read a fair bit about how bad it is to keep mercury, a known toxin, in one's MOUTH (who's idea was that, anyway?), because the mercury gradually leaches out into one's body etc. Plus porcelain fillings are invisible, so I'd look like I had never had a cavity.

For reasons I can no longer precisely recall, I decided to get the work done without any anaesthetic. I was into meditation at the time. I was all: Hey, I'll just "breathe through it".

The lower jaw wasn't so bad. The jaw joint (temperomandibular, if you will) absorbed some of the vibrations of the drill. But the upper molars? YEEEEEAAAAAAIIIII! Not pleasant at all.

I visualized myself releasing the pain through my fingertips, zapping it out like a wizard shooting lightening bolts. I wiggled my fingers madly. The dentist glanced at my hands and laughed. "Are you typing HELP ME?"

"NNNNNNYYYYYYYYHHHHHHHH" I said. Which meant "Look, you're a nice guy, and I know you mean well, but this is no laughing matter! Stop making fun of my lightening bolts!"

Next time I'll take the needle.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Psychic

If you go waaaaaaay back to the posts from my blog's infancy, you'll find this one, in which I do my best to describe some sensitivities I have that fall into the category our society labels as "supernatural". I don't like the associations that come along with the words supernatural, psychic, premonition, etc. but those are the words I have to work with, so I use them.

I don't trust the theatrics associated with many professional psychics. I'd say at least half of them are either full-on fakes, or that they aren't able to be consistent, so they fake it enough that eventually they can't tell the difference between their intuition and their imagination.

Four years ago, I was struggling to understand the invisible forces that continually impacted my life. I had already figured out that most so-called experts in the field couldn't help me. But I was desperate to learn how to protect myself. So when I kept hearing about this one guy, let's call him Hans, who was THE BEST PSYCHIC EVER! according to everyone who'd ever been to see him, I figured I'd give him a chance.

I called and made an appointment. Here was a shock: his fee for a one-hour session was $200. This had better be worth it.

His home "office" was totally creepy, like a funeral home. Dark wood, paintings on black velvet, religious icons. He ushered me in to his consultation room.

Hans's deal was that he supposedly channeled a higher entity who gave him access to privileged information. I neither believed nor disbelieved in this phenomenon. I went in with an open mind.

Hans settled himself into a large, leather recliner, asked me if I was ready, and then closed his eyes. He began to twitch and grunt. After a few moments, his entire body spasmed. Then he settled down again, and began to talk with a different accent than before. He kept his eyes shut throughout the session.

I was immediately suspicious, because throughout his dramatic, physical show of embodying "the entity", I felt nothing. If something that powerful had really happened less than ten feet from me, I would expect to feel it. I have taken Reiki lessons from two different teachers, and I had trouble being in the same room with each of them because their energy fields were so powerful. With the Reiki masters, I felt dizzy and overwhelmed. With Hans? Zilch, nada, zip.

He proceeded to answer my prepared questions with the most mundane possible advice, things anyone could have told me. Thinking of starting a psychology practice? I should take a business course at the University of Toronto Continuing Studies Department. Like I really needed a psychic to tell me that!

He also answered some other questions, ones that were more "out there", with answers that anyone would want to hear, for their $200. I had been a Buddhist monk in a previous life. I had been a master, and my mother had been my student. Sure. Who wouldn't want to hear that? It's always nice to have one's ego stroked. But I didn't buy it.

Finally my hour was up. Hans went through his spasm routine again, and then showed me out.

It was a lovely, warm afternoon. Hans's home was just a few blocks away from Toronto's Beaches, at the shore of Lake Ontario. To clear my head, I walked south until I got to the water, and then made my way along the boardwalk. The longer I walked, the angrier I got.

He was a fraud, of that much I was sure. He had just charged me $200 for a personal improvised theatre skit that was neither original nor entertaining. When I thought back to the dozens of recommendations I had received, I realized that they had all come from women. Hans was extraordinarily attractive, and suave. I strongly suspected that this was a big contributor to his success.

At least I learned one thing from that session, and in hindsight, maybe it was worth the $200 after all: I don't need to hire psychics. I'm my own psychic. I know myself best, my instincts are trustworthy, and my predictions of the future have been at least as accurate as anyone else I could pay to do the job for me. I don't need an appointment, a velvet tablecloth, or a crystal ball. I just need to pay attention.

I believe that unusual events in our lives occur to move us forward in some way, through personal growth and learning. I have since spoken again to other women who consulted with Hans, and they felt that he helped them a great deal. If that was the role he was meant to play in their lives, then I'm glad that they benefitted. He doesn't need to be a channeler to give good business advice, or encouragement to people who need it. And if that's the way his clients prefer to receive their guidance, who am I to judge them?

But it's not for me. When I got home that day, I took the tape of my session and slam-dunked it down the trash chute. That felt great. And I haven't consulted any psychic but myself since that day.

Monday, April 14, 2008


I'm going to be packing all my old journals away into a storage box. Before I make them so difficult to access that I may not bother to read them again until the next time I move to a new home, I thought I'd give them some blog space.

First diary, 1983, age 10:

I thought it would be fun to share some examples of my writing from back then, but reading it now, it mostly makes me cringe. It's clear that I wasn't a happy kid. Add to that a lot of anxieties that made me uptight, prissy, and judgmental, and the result isn't terribly charming.

Looking for something interesting... Ah, here we go. A glimpse of my life at 13:

Tues. Nov. 12, 1985, 10:00 pm

JM is such a bastard! I'd like to see him get hit by a truck. In music class I sat down in the middle row. J walked up, stuck his nauseating butt in my face and as soon as I turned away he sat down on my lap. I thought I would vomit. He is a vile toad.

I didn't swear back then. I thought that made me a better person. But honestly, "vile toad"? That's so lame. I think I would've felt better if I'd used a few strong cusses instead.

The Pierrot diary from 1989, age 17. It's full of weepy stuff about my stormy relationship with a boy.

The journals of the next few years repeat the same themes. Ups and downs depending upon the varying affections of boys. Feeling trapped at my parents house. Wanting to be more popular. Predictable teenage stuff.

Thu Jan 11, 1996

(I had recently moved in with my ex.)

I weigh one thousand thousand pounds and I can't feel a thing. I'm dizzy. It's so quiet + dark + cold + I can't move. I'm not quite frozen but the snow lies heavy on me. If I thrash around my body doesn't move from the outside - my bones just thrash around in their aquarium of wet fat. I can barely open my eyes. I'm waiting for someone to come + help me, but who ever ventures so far out into the arctic tundra on such a cold night? Who could possibly be looking for me? I wish I could move on my own, but I sat here too long + fell asleep + while I was asleep I grew fatter + fatter until it was too late. Being awake is only frustrating to me + I hate myself.

Yeah. I had problems. But at least by then my writing was getting better.

1998, The Fairy:

It's not that I never had fun. There were good times with friends, adventures, parties, etc. But in these journals, I always returned to a resting place of melancholy.

Jan 29/99

I spend my life procrastinating as we all do. I put off truth, I put off emotion, I avoid the pain of really seeing. The truth hurts. All truth hurts. Even beauty is pain because of its transience. Every time I open my eyes, I weep.

Sometimes I want to dump every last volume onto a blazing bonfire.

2001: Curious George. The Listless Panda has notes in it from some creative projects across several years.

My all-time favourite journal ever, from 2004: Evil Bats!
I bought this at a crafts show. Now I wish that I'd bought the matching Evil Bats! handbag, even though it was pricey.

I am now desperately searching for something positive, anything at all remotely happy, to insert here. Let's see... depressed... bored... tired... afraid... angry... For Pete's sake! OK, to be fair, these writings are not a true representation of my life. I used my journals as a way to blow of negative steam and work through confusing problems. When I was happy I had no urge to write. I just wanted to hang out and enjoy the happiness.

Ah, here's something...


Dream: I am in shallow water under a tree covered in white blossoms. The sun is coming up and the colours of the sunrise (gold and pink) are reflected in the water, which is not merely a pond but covers the ground as far as I can see in all directions. As the sun rises the white blossoms furl open, which is beautiful. Other people have joined me to watch. Suddenly a huge swell in the waters, like a tsunami, approaches, lifts us all, and carries us out to the open sea. Just when I am almost to the point of no return, the water carries me back to safety.

Classiest journal so far, from 2005: Cranes

I'm not writing much in my journal these days. Blogging does a good job of scratching the creative itch. And also, I'm relatively content. There's not much steam to blow off. I'm as happy as I've ever been, and I'm grateful for that.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Ken is sick. Yesterday he lay on the sofa under a blanket all day, chain-sucking Ricola cough drops and reminding me every ten minutes that his throat hurt.

I got worried that I was getting sick too. The fatigue! The heaviness of limb! Woe betide!

As it turns out, that wasn't the fault of any virus, but of my own over-enthusiastic exercising. I heft hand weights every other morning, in the interests of fending off Middle-Aged-Floppy-Upper-Arm-Syndrome. Yesterday I was still feeling upset by thoughts of all the crap that went down in my workplace this past week. So I decided to get the anger out of my system by doing a Super-Workout. I turned up the radio, did twice my usual number of sets (well, that's just two instead of one, because I'm really not that much of a workout fiend), and then at the end I danced it out like a madwoman.

It seems I may have overdone it a little.

Anyway, after a decent night's sleep, I'm feeling much improved. I'll probably be suffering more tomorrow, with the Two-Days-Later sore muscles phenomenon. But hey, I'll deal with it. Far better to have a days' worth of mild pain than a sandpaper throat and aching sinuses for a week. And I'm not feeling as bitter as I was. Success!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Our car is getting old

When we arrived at the Distillery District parking lot, it seemed that ours was the oldest car in the lot. I guess time went by and we didn't notice how shabby our ride had become, until we compared it to all the nice Volkswagons and BMW's of the Distillery crowd.

Ron, you thought your truck was old? I'll show you old.

Perhaps San would like to add this to her list of Dilapidated Doors.

But in all seriousness, Ken took these photos, and I think he did a rather nice job of it.

This truck is slightly better off, in that it still has it's jaunty red coat of paint.

However, it's parked in a rather precarious position. Directly above it, at the top of a tall building, is a giant cheese grater. What appear to be shreds of cheese weighing up to one ton each are poised to topple down onto this truck and crush it, if the wind picks up. The fire escape, which runs from the red truck up to the cheese grater, shows you the true scale of the threatening cheese.

We had not brought our hard hats with us, so we beat a hasty retreat.

Friday, April 11, 2008


Every time I see graffiti, I think of Karl.

A professional artist once told me that you're not a real artist unless you must do your art every day to mentally survive. That's a controversial statement, but now that I've started writing every day, I think I know what he meant.

Karl drew and painted to survive.

We met in high school, ninth grade, paired up to dissect a pickled frog. He was a happy-go-lucky fellow. His pin-straight, white-blond hair grew down his back. Once, after we became good friends, he let me brush and braid it into pigtails. I thought it was a shame he wasn't a girl, with such pretty hair.

Karl's life was difficult. He lived with his mom, a step-dad he didn't get along with, and a little half-brother. His real dad had died before he was born. They didn't have much money. When Karl's glasses broke in grade 10, it was months before he could afford a new pair. He walked around half-blind for ages, but he looked on the bright side and didn't complain.

Karl's mom got sick with cancer. It got worse and better and then worse again as we progressed through high school and into college and university. Karl had taken an interest in graffiti, and enrolled in a post-secondary art program. He started hanging out with other graffiti punks. They'd skateboard all over Toronto, backpacks stuffed with cans of spray-paint. For a while I couldn't go anywhere without seeing one of his tags.

The worse things got with Karl's mom, the more he escaped into his artwork. He sketched himself to sleep at night. He drew people on the subway, in parks, on restaurant patios. His work was brilliant. I looked through his sketchbooks every chance he gave me, to see the characters he'd captured. He had an eye for details - an interesting nose, or a pouting lower lip. He exaggerated everything just enough to bring out the magic.

Karl's mom died the year we all (still friends from the same grade in high school) turned 25. He had been arrested for trespassing and defacing public property, spray-painting graffiti on a concrete bridge, and went to court shortly before his mother passed away. He never told her about his arrest.

Karl's art reached new heights of gorgeousness. His sense of irony was intense. He invariably made me laugh until my stomach hurt just by verbally observing his surroundings. But I rarely saw him laugh.

The family's money troubles continued. Karl fought with his step-father. Then I separated from my ex, and mostly lost touch.

Later I heard that Karl's step-dad had died. Can you imagine? Losing three parents before the age of 30. His younger brother was still a minor, so now Karl became his legal guardian, responsible for his care and upbringing.

I wish I had more to tell, but that's where the story ends for me. My gifted, troubled friend drifted off into the sunset, and I don't know where he ended up. I hope that he's doing alright.

What I have to remember him by is a small wooden board, around 7 inches by 4 inches. He drew a little grafitti-style greeting on it for me, umpteen years ago. It says "All A-Board for a Happy Birthday!" Thanks, Karl.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Giving in to Misanthropy

You'd think eventually I would stop being surprised by the dishonesty in my workplace. That I'd learn to expect gossip, sneakiness, politics, and lies. And to a certain extent, I do. But various individuals continue to amaze me by plunging to new lows.

You'd think that after developing a good working relationship with someone, which involved a great deal of time spent together; after sharing frustrations and laughs; after demontrating that I have that person's best interests in mind and treating them with humanity and respect; you'd think that they would behave with relative decency in return. You might even think that if they accidentally uncovered some confidential information that they might behave like a professional (and a good human being), and keep it to themselves.

Or is that laughably naive?

There are too many people in this office who love to gossip. They're positively gleeful as they scurry from ear to ear, basking in the attention they receive, and glorying in juicy scandals. Clearly this takes precedence over every other consideration.

I've learned to keep my lips zipped. I rarely confide in anyone at work. I lock my computer monitor when I get up from my desk, and I make liberal use of my paper shredder. I keep confidential discussions of any type behind closed doors. But apparently a certain someone was standing by my door on a certain afternoon, and when they overheard some interesting snippets coming through, they didn't move away, but strained to hear more. They then ran the information all around the office.

Am I now reduced to whispering in my own office? This person has reason to be near my door quite a lot each day, and now that they've had a taste of what's possible, I'm sure they'll be hanging around with ears wide open. The walls here are paper thin, so closing the door is more of a cosmetic gesture than a reliable barrier.

I doubt that I'll ever shake my desire to see the best in people. I'll probably always give the people in my life the benefit of the doubt - innocent until proven guilty. It'd be a lot easier to be paranoid and suspicious of everyone until they proved themelves to be trustworthy. I can't bring myself to give up on humanity.

But today... Today I'm bitter and broiling mad!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Pre-Passover Prep: The Ceder

Passover is less than 2 weeks away. You can bet that I'll have some stories to tell after three Ceders with my family. But first things first. I'm about to attempt a Passover Primer for those of you unfamiliar with the holiday.

For the sake of clarity: I do not practice the Jewish religion, but I am of Jewish background and culture. My only Jewish education is what I've picked up from being around my family, who range in devotion from moderate to orthodox. I'm not an expert on the subject, by any means. I know just enough not to look like a total doofus in front of my observant relatives.

So the story goes, around 5 or 6 thousand years ago, the Jews were slaves of the Pharoah in Egypt. Of course they wanted to escape and find somewhere they could live as a free people. With the help of God's intervention, they got their wish. We commemorate and give thanks for this every year at a ritualized dinner called a Ceder.

If you want to know all the details of the story of Passover, crash a Ceder. The whole evening is a re-telling of the Passover story. In an orthodox home, you'd sit down around the table at sunset, tell the story in exhausting detail, and if you were lucky you would finally be ready to eat dinner around midnight. The kids would be asleep in their chairs. This is how it was for my mom when she grew up in her grandparents' house.

Neither of my close family units does a full Ceder as I've just described. We skip through the story, stopping only at major plot points and interesting rituals, and generally get to our dinner within an hour of sitting down.

There is one challenge with our abridged version.

The Ceder story is scripted, with stage directions for rituals and consumption of symbolic foods, in books, each of which is called a "Haggadah". These books are written in both English and Hebrew, usually in two columns or on facing pages. Because Hebrew is the primary language, and Hebrew is read and written from right to left, the pages of the books are numbered in what would appear to be reverse order. Additionally, no one household has a full, matching set of Haggadahs. Each one is paginated differently, and the English translations are idiosyncratic. So every time we try to skip ahead, with ten people around the table, it goes like this:

"OK, we've done the four questions. Now we're going to skip ahead to the plagues."

*sound of pages flipping in ten different books*

"Is that before or after the second washing of the hands?"

"After. But before Dayenu."

"Where it says about the wise son?"

"No, look here, just find the picture of the locusts."

*more flipping*

"No no! Pass it to me - you're turning the pages the wrong way again."

Then people start trading books, pointing over each others' shoulders, and arguing about what we're supposed to read next. It takes so long to get everyone back on track that we may as well tell the whole story.

We do eventually get through it all, only to reconvene and do it all over again the following night. Why do we insist on doing it twice? That's a whole other story...

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Distillery District

In 1831, the Gooderham and Worts Distillery was established in Toronto.

Throughout the 1800's, the company expanded. Quoting the history section of the Distillery District's website, "its numerous facilities included flour mills, a wharf, the distillery, storehouses, an ice house, a cooper shop and a dairy."

Gooderham and Worts continued manufacturing booze all the way through to 1990. When the company finally shut its doors, the premises were taken over by the movie industry as the second-largest English movie location outside of Hollywood. You've probably seen several movies set within these buidlings.

In 2001, the site was converted into a "pedestrian-only village entirely dedicated to arts, culture and entertainment." And expensive retail outlets. And swanky condos. Multi-story glass towers loom over the 19th-century warehouses.

Yuppies happily sip coffee on the cobbled patio outside the Brick Street Bakery. You can see another condo tower in the background.

Ken and I were there on Saturday, poking around in the fancy-shmancy boutiques. Our main motivation was the presence of Soma, a gourmet chocolate shop that makes all their own chocolate onsite. The magic happens behind a clear, plexi-glass wall so that we can all press our noses to the window and salivate while we watch the chocolatiers dip truffles in imported cocoa. They offer a dairy-free, dark chocolate gelato that's to die for, which is what we desired, but it was still too early in the season. Instead, they were still vending Mayan hot chocolate spiced with a hint of hot pepper.

Next time we're there, I'll get some shots inside Soma. Their chocolate-making apparatus is reminiscent of Willy Wonka's factory. You can bet we'll be back soon, to get our gelato!