Monday, August 29, 2011

How My Brain Resists Marketing

I'm downtown passing through a fancy department store, and I see a display advertising this new perfume called Womanity.  I don't know much about it, but the bottle is super-cool.

Seriously.  I love this design. 

Where does my brain go with this image of enigmatic beauty and strength?  It fixates on the name "Womanity" and goes here (original LOL created by me to illustrate my thought process):

I apologize to all the people who put a gajillion dollars into marketing this perfume.  That is how my brain works.  If you see me walking alone in the mall, snickering to myself for no apparent reason, that is why.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


I don't have a bad back, it's just misbehaving.  Since I've been Tweeting about it all day I may as well tell the whole story.

Almost two weeks ago I was relaxing on the sofa, leaning back against a pillow, watching TV.  Suddenly, for no apparent reason, my entire lower back went into spasm.  Every muscle spontaneously curled up into an angry, inflamed fist.  I sat there for a minute, dumbstruck by pain, thinking this is probably just some weird tic that will shortly pass.  NOPE!  No such luck.

For a couple of days I was in obvious pain.  I winced and sucked air through my teeth every time I had to get up out of a chair.  Someone on my staff felt so sorry for me that she loaned me a heating pad to keep me comfortable at my desk.  (Although I never did use it, because I couldn't think of a way of sticking the damn thing to my back where it was so sorely needed.)

I took it easy, slept with a pillow under my knees, and in a few days I was feeling much better.  As soon as I felt halfway normal I went back to my morning yoga routine and BAM! Back to square one.  Absolute agony.  The second time, I waited a full week before going back to the yoga.  I was sure I was all fixed up.  And BAM!  I triggered it again.

That was yesterday morning.  All day long, I was in constant pain and felt incredibly frustrated.  There is no over-the-counter pill that I can take for pain and inflammation; every NSAID on the list shreds my stomach.  My other remedies (homeopathic tablets, topical cream "for lumbago", my bed) were at home.  At least I had a massage appointment already scheduled for that evening.  Except that my RMT, skilled as she is, could not cure my pain.  Not even close.

It was a disheartening 24 hours.  Every little twitch, even while lying in bed, triggered the spasms.  Fortunately I sleep like the dead, so I didn't wake myself much by moving around.  This morning, the pain was the same as it was last night.  I had forgotten how draining chronic pain is on the body and soul.  I was starting to feel a little crazy.

After a day of being out and about, I'm feeling a lot better.  My back, like a cranky baby, wants to be walked all the time.  It doesn't like to be put down.  It seizes up when it's not mobile.  And obviously I can't do my morning workout for a long time, just to be sure I don't re-trigger the spasm.  I'm thinking I'll wait at least one month.  It's going to drive me crazy to skip my stretches, but I can't risk doing this to myself again.

I've been doing yoga just about every morning for the past 15 years.  I don't feel ready to face my day until I've done my stretches.  My favourite one is the most dangerous in my current condition.  That's the plough.  It's always such a relief to bust that one out and drain all the tension from my back and shoulders.

The plough is the pose that just about killed me yesterday morning.  I knew as soon as I threw my feet over my head that I had made a terrible mistake, with immediate and severe consequences, but by then it was too late.  By the time I got myself flat on the mat, my back was freaking.

So the question remains, WTF is wrong with my back?! My cranky, whiny, demanding back.  Is it not good enough that I've done yoga every day since I was 23?  And that I lift hand weights every other day for good measure?  WAS THAT NOT UP TO YOUR STANDARD, BACK?  WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!  I HAVE NOTHING MORE TO GIVE!!!

So.  Yup.  I think I'll live.  I'm not sure what I'm going to do in the mornings without my body-mind quality time.  Maybe a little Tai Chi?  I'll let you know.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Thank You Asian Immigrants

The time has come to pay tribute to the Asian immigrants of Toronto.  To them I owe a debt of gratitude.  They have improved my life substantially in two very important ways.

1.  Smallness
I reached my full adult height and weight by the age of 16.  That was (and is) 5'4" and 115 lbs.  Back in 1988 I was considered scrawny. 

I recall being both disappointed and insulted when I went to the Eaton's young ladies' department to find a prom dress.  A section of the store had been set aside to showcase the beautiful, floor-length gowns in a rainbow of lace, satin, and sequins.  I tried on dress after dress in the smallest sizes on the rack.  They were all too big.  I could look down each cavernous bodice, shout "HELLOOOO!" and hear my own voice echo back to me a moment later.

The helpful saleswoman advised me to go to the children's department.  I was 18 years old.

That's just the way the clothing industry worked back then.  In most adult stores, the smallest size was too big on me.  Throughout my 20's and even into my early 30's, I dressed mainly in clothes that didn't fit, or stuff I picked up at second-hand stores in the kids' section.  It started out as a necessity and turned into a bad habit.  Little did I know that as time passed and the Asian population of Toronto grew, stores had begun to stock smaller sizes to cater to their new, tinier clientele.

Now my two favourite stores stock one size smaller than my size.  I am only XS, not the ridiculously mini XXS.  Compared to some of the girls in my neighbourhood, who totter around in frilly mini-skirts and kitten heels on their wee bird-legs, I feel substantial and robust.  I also enjoy being able to buy sophisticated and stylish business-wear with ease.  Thank you, Asian ladies, for swinging the size statistics in my favour!

2. Rice
Now that I am living wheat-and-dairy-free I eat almost excusively at Korean, Japanese, or Chinese restaurants.  European food relies too heavily on bread, pasta, and cheese.  If I go to a White People restaurant, I am more or less stuck with potatoes as my only starch option, which isn't all bad because it gives me an excuse to eat french fries. 

I still miss wheat.  I haven't yet managed to convince my brain to remove it from the category of "food" and transfer it into the category of "toxins".  I still look at wheaty treats and feel a strong impulse to eat them.  I also feel sad every time I forget and then remember again that something I used to look forward to is now something that I can no longer have. 

Hey, we're going to for Indian tonight!  I can't wait to have some hot, fresh naan... wait... DANG!  Say, there's that roti shop that I haven't been to in a while.  I'd love a nice fresh, roti in a soft, chewy wrapper of... wait... MAAAAN!  Passing a platter piled high with chocolate chip cookies at the buffet... reaching for one... wait... remembers... BOOOO!  Well at least I can have fish and chips at this place, except... the fish is breaded... BREADed... GRRRR!  And on it goes.

Thank you Asian immigrants, for providing me with many restaurants in which I can not only eat, but have multiple ordering options!  Without needing to request substitutions! 

Smile at an Asian immigrant today, on my behalf.  Thank you.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Post Number 519

This post is assigned a number not because I feel that 519 is a meaningful landmark. I didn't even notice #500 come and go. The title is a tribute to the Abstract Expressionist artists whose works are currently on as a special display at the Art Gallery of Ontario.  A lot of their works were given numbers instead of titles, I guess for maximum abstraction.

I met my mother and her friend there. The friend is an AGO tour guide, and although I wasn't expecting it she gave me my own personal tour of the exhibit.  It was interesting, although socially awkward because I never know what to say about art.  She'd do her spiel about the history of this guy and how he was inspired by that guy and how ultimately it was all about Freud and digging down into the subconscious, and then I'd just kind of nod and try to look pensive.  The best I could do was "Wow, that's really trippy."

It's not as though I didn't get anything from the paintings.  It's just that what I was getting was happening in the non-verbal spaces of my brain.

I especially liked the Mark Rothko room.  His paintings are very simple, primarily horizontal blocks of colour on a contrasting background.  They're the type of work of which you could say "I could do that" or "My ten-year-old kid could do that".  And maybe you'd be right, but I still got something from them.  It was an atmospheric sense, the feeling that each one was representative of one particular type of specific emotional space one might exist in in a dream, one that cannot ever be fully grokked by anyone else no matter how much you try to define that feeling in words upon awakening, because it was too all-encompassing and powerful and it defies explanation or translation.  I guess that means he successfully used his work to dig down into the subconscious.

My mother and her friend were all about taking time with each painting.  They told me to get up as close to the canvas as possible (without setting off the proximity alarms), try to let it fill my entire visual field, and then wait for my subconscious to take off into the piece.  Frankly that didn't work for me at all.  I found that as soon as I clapped eyes on a painting from across the room, I had a visceral first reaction to it that set the stage for everything else I subsequently experienced about it.  Getting right up close to the canvas and staring at it just made me feel awkward and like I was trying too hard.  For want of something to do, my brain would start analyzing what was in front of me, which only served to dilute my initial gut reaction.

I liked being there in the gallery.  Some paintings were more pleasing than others.  The overall experience was kind of fun, like being on drugs without the drugs.  The only one I really couldn't get into was a completely square, completely black canvas; I'm pretty sure it was by Robert Motherwell.  You're supposed to be able to stare at it and after a while you can perceive that it is actually made up of "shades of black" and some kind of shapes appear, black on a blacker background or something like that.

I stared at that painting until my eyes stung, but all I could see was a uniformly black square.  Everyone else around me was all "Oh yes, I see it!"   It was like being the only person who can't see the sailboat in a Magic Eye picture.  Either my eyes aren't magic enough, or it's the Emperor's New Painting.  However, I don't feel that I have the authority to call b.s. on this canvas because I do have terrible night vision, so it's entirely plausible that my eyes just aren't up to the job of appreciating it.

I didn't stay long.  Not only did I feel no need to stand and gaze upon the paintings for any length of time, the gallery was freezing cold and grew more and more crowded the longer we stayed.  I thanked my mother's friend for the tour.  After a lengthy conversation between my mother and her friend about how the friend's fridge was breaking and where could she rent a bar fridge to tide her over until the new fridge was delivered on Wednesday?  and would the rental place deliver?  and what would it cost do you think?  the friend took her leave of us.  My mother said her goodbyes too.

I bought an apple juice and a nut/seed/dried-fruit bar and went outside to sit in a little downtown parkette.  I watched small birds hop through the grass and kept an eye on a guy at the opposite end of the park who was practicing his juggling.  I like the AGO, but it doesn't take long in there for me to want to get back outside into the warm sun and normal life.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Note To Self

We've all heard about nurturing one's Inner Child.  Lately I have been more concerned with taming the Inner Animal.  I am currently seeing through a perceptive lens that accentuates all the things that humans have in common with animals: instinctive fear, instinctive social bonding, the urge to violence, selfishness.

I am experiencing these things in myself as much as in other people.

You may have seen in my Twitter feed that I crossed paths with a madman last week.  It was Friday morning.  I was on the bus.  At a major intersection, a man who looked not at all right got on.  He was pale in a yellowish way. He had a 3-inch open cut on one hand that wasn't bleeding, but hadn't yet scabbed over.  His hair was crazy-person hair. He was carrying a small paper cup of coffee.

He went to sit down, and spilled some of his coffee into his lap.  He jumped up and roared "F***!" as loud as humanly possible. He wasn't far from me.  I froze. He kept yelling various things. I kept my eyes forward, watching him from my peripheral vision, like a rabbit who's just noticed the approach of a fox.

Within two minutes the madman had decided, of his own free will, to leave the bus. He was intent on going back to the coffee shop to yell "F***!" at the unsuspecting counter staff.  I felt sorry for them. 

My fight/flight reflex had kicked in and didn't begin to wane until I got off at my stop.  On top of the stress of worrying about Ken, my animal brain was overloaded with fear impulses.  I felt skittish all day and had trouble falling asleep that night.

On Monday morning I was listening to my iPod when I arrived at the bus station.  I wasn't thinking about Friday.  But, my animal brain remembered.  I started feeling afraid as soon as I got on the bus.  I had to stop and think before I remembered why.  I told myself: you've been taking this bus for over a year, and you know this guy is not a regular.  Animal brain didn't care.  Animal brain does not like to negotiate.  I felt physically afraid until we'd passed the stop at which the madman had gotten on.

Fortunately my "PTSD" only lasted for one day.  Still, I've been dealing a lot lately with emotions felt as reactions in my body rather than as verbalized thoughts.  Animal brain tries to take over.  I have resorted to talking to myself very purposefully and assertively in order to maintain control.  Sometimes I even talk to myself out loud.  If that's what it takes, then I'll do it.

I am at least partially trained as a psychotherapist.  I use all my best tricks on myself.  Active listening, role play, bait and switch, etc.  Actually I am a great therapist for myself.  Give me 15 minutes or so without any interruptions and I can sort out just about anything, or at least make myself feel significantly better.

That is what is going on in Sparkland.  I am talking to myself in order to be not-crazy.  Paradox? 

What do you think, Spark?

I think life is full of paradoxes, and that's what makes it interesting. 

Well put Spark.  I knew I could count on you.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


There is a little something I neglected to tell you about, because I figured I'd already put enough on your plate and you might be getting full.  However, since I myself am feeling so much better now I will explain what's been going on with Ken.

He was with me last Monday at the doctor's office, when I got my Big Diagnosis.  He wanted to investigate an unpleasant fluttering/fast heartbeat he'd been having on and off for a month.  "Actually," he told the doc, "it's happening right now."

Doc whipped out his stethoscope, and had a listen.  Oh yes, he could hear it.  It's atrial fibrillation, he said.  Not to worry, there are easy fixes for that, like medication or sometimes they put a catheter into your heart and just burn off those misfiring cells.

Now I wasn't too worried because my own grandfather has been living with atrial fibrillation for almost a century now and he just had another birthday so how bad could it be?  I looked over at Ken.  His face was flushed and perspiration had beaded on his forehead and upper lip, although the room was cool.  I think basically what he heard the doctor say was "blah blah HEART CONDITION blah de blah SURGERY OPERATION BURN YOUR HEART WITH AN ELECTRICAL PROBE blah etc."  So right at that very moment, despite Doc's good intentions, Ken wasn't feeling at all reassured.

He scooted straight downstairs to the lab where they ran an ECG strip.  Doc made time to look at it right away.  He took one look, laughed in a relieved way, and said Oh, you're fine, don't worry about it; it'll probably resolve on it's own.  Then he sent us on our way.

Ken wasn't convinced, and since the whole problem was/is triggered by stress and he was seriously stressing, it suddenly got a whole lot worse.  All week he was bedevilled by a racing heart rate and a very disconcerting rhythm irregularity whenever he exerted himself at all.  I watched my husband go grey around the mouth, break out in a sweat, and complain of chest pain on a daily basis.  At first I thought it would pass, and avoided worrying, but by the end of the week when things weren't letting up I started getting scared too.

I looked up the symptoms for atrial fibrillation and the symptoms of a heart attack to make sure that I would be able to tell the difference between the two.  Ha ha ha joke's on me!  Guess what!  The symptoms are almost EXACTLY THE SAME!   So then there were two of us pretty much convinced that Ken might drop dead of a heart attack at any moment.

I started checking to make sure he was still breathing when he was asleep.  Then I started planning what I would have to do when I became a widow, like figure out how our home computer is actually set up with all the external hard drives and the backup and whatnot, so that I could maintain it myself, and I didn't see how I could do it.  That and other things, like I've always counted on him to make the homemade guacamole for our Mexican dinners.  I started feeling depressed.

Anyway, fortunately things took a turn for the better, and today we were out trampoosing* around what we call The Etobicoke Park by the lake for the better part of an hour, and he didn't turn grey or get overexerted, which made me feel much better.  (*For a full definition of trampoosing please refer my Twitter feed.)  He's still planning to follow up with further medical attention, but is worrying less, I think.  I am no longer planning my future as a widow.  I think that we're both going to be OK.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My Mayan Destiny

It's pretty much a fantastic all-around day.  I woke up with 100% energy; the weather is perfect; and everything at work is copacetic.  There's nothing quite like the feeling of being totally healthy after weeks of dragging my butt.  It's like I was walking around with lead shoes on for a month and I finally managed to kick them off.  Hallelujah! I'm FREE!

Last week half my staff were at each others' throats and generally driving me crazy. I held some meetings in which I pointed my finger in peoples' faces and said things very firmly, and everyone appears to be getting along now.  I walked into the main work area late yesterday afternoon and a couple of them were singing together, then grabbing each others' shoulders and almost falling over with laughter.  The others were enjoying the show.  I like to see that type of thing on a regular basis.  It's good for team spirit.

One of my co-workers recently received a gift from a client who had travelled to South America.  She brought it to my office to show me.  It was an unglazed clay sculpture around 6" high of a dude who looked like an ancient Mayan or something.  He was sitting cross-legged and had a big vase or pot in his lap, round at the bottom, with a narrow neck.  My co-worker explained to me that the Mayan had a gift for me hidden inside the pot, and indicated that I should lift it up.  I don't know what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn't a giant dong.  Yup, that Mayan guy was really happy to see us.  I was in a very serious work mood, until I saw that big dong staring up at me.  I stared back at it for a beat, and then burst out laughing.  The Mayan (modestly covered by the pot) is now sitting on her desk.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


This is it, ladies and gentlemen!  The moment we've all been waiting for.  Spark's diagnosis.  The medical mystery is finito, or so it seems for now.

I brought this article to my g.p.  I had gone over it with a highlighter to indicate which symptoms, in my humble lay-person's opinion, apply to me.  According to my interpretation, I fit the criteria of a mild case of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (the condition previously known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome).

Post-exertion neuroimmune exhaustion: check.  Neurocognitive impairments noticeable when I'm in a setback: check (mostly my short-term memory fizzles and I have to make significantly more effort to recall words and construct grammatically correct sentences).  Non-inflammatory pain: check.  Prolonged sleep: check.  Muscle weakness: check.  Sensititivities to food and medications: check.  Low grade fever and intolerance of extreme temperatures: check.  Fortunately I don't experience all of these all of the time.  Most of them only affect me if I've overdone it again and am in an exhausted state.  Only the food sensitivities are with me all the time.

My g.p. scanned the article, nodded, and said "Yep, that sounds right."  Then he typed it into his computer, turned back to me and immediately started talking about treatment.  Of course, currently there is no treatment for ME.  Some of the symptoms can be medicated but the essential condition itself, no.  It's still in the process of being accepted as a bona fide illness.  Even the name ME for this condition is relatively new.  The article I linked to was published mere weeks ago, in the July edition of the Journal of Internal Medicine. 

The only thing my doctor could think of to offer me was anti-depressants, as they have been used off-label to treat chronic fatigue.  I declined.  He may as well have said to me "Hey, how'd you like to have a bunch of unpredictable and horrible side effects?"  Because that's what most medications do for me: make things worse.

I explained that I only wanted the diagnosis on file just in case.  In case I get called for jury duty and need a doctor's note to excuse me.  In case, God forbid, my situation gets worse after my good boss retires, and I have to deal with a mean boss who wants to give me a hard time about my hours: I'll need to be able to point to a documented medical condition in order to be accomodated in my workplace.  It also does feel better just to be able to tell people that I have something concrete.  I'm tired of talking about my "mystery" or "chronic-fatigue-esque" condition.  It sounds lame even to me.

It was a bit of an anticlimax.  I thought that at least my doctor would want to refer me to a specialist for confirmation.  But that was it.  He typed the diagnosis into his computer.  That was pretty much all he could do for me.

The best part has been telling a few select people.  It is so good to have a proper name for it.  Myalgic encephalomyelitis.  It still takes me a few tries to spell it right.  It does flow off the tongue in a satisfying way.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Hyper Alert

A friend of mine who has dealt with chronic health challenges since her teens told me she saw a study that showed a higher incidence of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in people with chronic illness.  I totally get it, at least the obsessive part.

Have you ever seen one of those service dogs on TV, the ones that watch their humans for signs of seizures or narcolepsy attacks?  The dogs can sense an attack coming on, and they can alert their owner to lie down in a safe place or seek help.  Those dogs never stop watching their human.  They are never far away, and 98% of the time they are staring at their person with an unwavering intensity, concentrating like crazy, looking for those subtle signs.  It would appear completely neurotic if it weren't their job to be an alert dog.

These days I watch myself with almost that degree of intensity.  Anytime I'm not focused on a particular task at hand, I'm checking in with myself.  How am I feeling?  Am I cold? Hot? Sweaty? Thirsty? Hungry? Do I need to put on a sweater/eat a snack/drink some water? How tired am I?  Are my limbs feeling at all weighted or weak?  How much effort am I having to expend walking this mildly uphill stretch of my commute to work?  Am I having any aches and pains? How tender is that sore spot on my back today? Am I feeling grumpy or irritable? How is my breathing today?  Any chest tightness/coughing?  Etc.

I have learned to be my own alert dog.  No one else is going to do it.  I've learned the hard way that if I overpush myself I'll end up in a setback.  Low fever and fatigue for 4-5 days.  I spent last weekend (it was a long weekend in Canada) pretty much stuck indoors, recuperating from fatigue leftover from Val's birthday party the weekend before.  I was fine that Monday, but I had taken myself right to the edge of tolerance, so when Tuesday and Wednesday turned out to be tough days (physically and psychologically) it pushed me over the edge. I'm pretty sure I was working with a fever on Thursday, although I didn't measure it when I got home.  I didn't want to know.

If I stay out until I actually feel noticeably tired, I've already gone too far.  I have to stick to schedules and bedtimes.  I have to watch for tiny signs of stress or fatigue and respond to them.  This is not how I want to live.  I would like to be one of those people who throws caution to the wind and has at least moderate adventures.  I would like to be able to stay out late and watch fireworks displays down by the lake.  I would like to travel across time zones.  I would like to push hard through a physically challenging day and collapse at the end of it, deliciously exhausted, knowing that I'll sleep like a log and wake up feeling fresh the next day.  I'll sleep like a log alright, but I just don't bounce back so easily.

Because I don't look sick, I worry that people are going to think that I'm babying myself unnecessarily.  I don't want to come off looking like a neurotic hypochondriac.  When people ask me how I am, I always weigh how much truth to tell.  If I say "fine", other things I come out with later aren't going to make a lot of sense.  But if I'm always complaining, well, no one wants to hear that.  The message I have to get across to people is "I'm fine/functional today, but that is always conditional on my strict adherence to my body's rules, and therefore I cannot ever come out with you to a late-night event, and no matter how gently I schedule myself in the end all my plans are tentative, pending another possible setback."

I worry that my family will think that I'm lazy or ungrateful because I don't invite them over for dinner to repay their invitations.  Frankly I'm scared to set up that much of a commitment of my energy.  Some weeks I barely have the resources to get through work without showing any weakness.  I need keep my weekends fairly clear so that I can rest as much as I need to.  I'll go out for meals at restaurants, or visit others, because those things aren't very draining, but planning to have people here - that feels like too much of a commitment.

Sometimes I'll have several good weeks consecutively, when I start to feel almost normal, but I've learned the hard way not to get cocky.  Feeling normal is not the same as being normal.

I even worry that all y'all are going to get tired of hearing my health woes.  This isn't a journal, it's a blog, and the truth is that no one wants to read about someone else's obsessive worrying time after time.  I can only write so much about the subject here before I wear out even my loyal readers.  I'd better switch it up with some more entertaining fare on a regular basis.  That proves to be a challenge sometimes.

Friday, August 5, 2011

When I was 6

When I was six I started first grade in a French Immersion program.  My teacher was a young, pretty Parisian called Mademoiselle R.  I am told that my step-dad was unaccountably interested in attending parent-teacher meetings that particular year.

Mlle. R. decided that my class would put on a theatrical production: a musical adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood, a.k.a. "Le Petit Chaperon Rouge".  I had my eye on the leading role, but there was one other girl who also wanted to be a star. 

I recall scheming, even at that young age, to tip the situation in my favour. When Mlle. asked who wanted to audition first, the other girl's hand shot up.  I didn't raise mine.  I knew that if she went first the teacher would give her feedback, and I could listen in and apply that feedback to my own audition.  It worked out exactly according to my devious plan, and I got the part.

The soundtrack for the play was to be a children's album by Nana Mouskouri.  The songs that I can remember were called "Le Tournesol" (The Sunflower)  and, randomly, "J'ai un Haricot Dans L'oreille" (I Have a Bean In My Ear).  Would you believe that YouTube has totally failed to provide me with any sample of these songs?  That is indeed a pity.

The wolf was played by a little boy called Drew.  His parents went to the trouble of creating a helmet-style wolf's-head mask out of paper mache, but he couldn't see out of the eyeholes.  For the sake of health and safety considerations, the wolf carried his head around under his arm for the entire play.  Even at the tender age of six I thought it looked stupid.

There was one scene in the play during which Little Red is wandering through the forest, admiring the natural beauty of her surroundings.  She comes across some flowers, and smells each one in turn.  Three of the flowers smell great.  She appreciates them.  The fourth one, the orange flower, smells bad.  She turns to the audience a delivers the comedic line "Que ca pu!" (What a stink!).  Here the audience was supposed to laugh, but I don't remember if they did.  It occurs to me only now that many of the parents in the audience probably didn't speak French, so they wouldn't have known what the hell was going on.

Of course no one wanted to play the part of the orange flower.  When Mlle. was trying to fairly determine who would get stuck with that part, one of the girls, fed up with all the fussing, said "Fine, I'll do it."  She was a sensible girl without a big ego, even as a child.  We became best friends in the fourth grade when we were seated next to each other, and I'm still in touch with her.  The stinky flower is now married to a doctor, has three children, and is still counted among my best friends, although I only see her around twice a year because she lives so far away.

And so I had my 15 minutes of fame as Little Red Riding Hood.  At least, that was it until I played Mary Poppins at camp when I was 11 (complete with all the singing solos).  But that is another story for another time.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Sweet Monday

Monday was a statutory holiday in Canada.  On Monday morning, my step-dad called to see if Ken and I would like to give him a lift to the airport.  Our favourite all-day-all-night breakfast-and-souvlaki joint is out there, so we hopped in the car and went to pick him up.  Fortunately we only got two exits down the highway before he realized that he forgot his cellphone on his kitchen counter.  There was bound to be something.  He's a true absent-minded professor.  Fortunately Ken drives fast.  He pulled a wicked U-turn and we went back for the phone, and still made it to the airport in time.

Another good reason to go to the airport is because it has a monorail.  That gives us an excuse to sing the Simpsons' monorail song.  "What about us brain-dead slobs?  You'll be given cushy jobs!  Monoraaaaaaaaaail, monoraaaaaaail, monoraaaaaail!"

After dropping off my step-dad we sat in the diner with our breakfast platters, watching air traffic through the big picture windows.  The closest runway was being used for both take-offs and landings, so after we ate we drove a couple of blocks down Airport Rd. and parked in front of the TD Bank.  There is a grassy boulevard between the parking lots of the local businesses and the road.  In front of the bank, the coffee-and-donut shop, and the Wendy's (with it's giant BACONATOR COMBO sign out front), families making a day of it had set up blankets and folding, aluminum-frame chairs in the path of the runway.  Every few minutes another airplane on final approach roared overhead, across Airport Rd., and then touched down seconds later on the other side of the airport's chain-link and barbed-wire fence.

We spread out a flannel blanket in the shade of a small tree.  I took my shoes off.  The sky was a sapphire vault.  The clouds overhead were wispy.  At the horizon off to one side, they were piled in high, folded peaks, like whipped cream.  I lay on my back and saw a white dragon above me, its back arched, breathing fire, drifting in the blue.

Under the next scrappy little tree, a young family was spread out on a blanket.  The mother cradled her toddler in her lap, rocking him gently, smoothing his fair, silky baby-hair over his forehead.

A young man somewhere around the age of 20 paced around with a big still camera, pointing its long lens at the sky, snapping pictures of the planes as they tore past.

We stuck around until the wind changed and the airport switched to a different runway.  It wasn't a long stay, but it was enough, and a much better Monday than most.