Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

A story from the past

In our times, it is generally believed that Sir Isaac Newton is the discoverer of gravity. Actually, this is not the case. True, Mr. Newton had a hand in defining and labeling gravity the way we regard it today, but with all due respect, Isaac really didn't discover gravity. That happened a long time ago in the desert southwest of what we now know as the United States. The now arid landscape was a cooler and wetter land then and volcanos dotted the region. Tribes of humans also resided in a mostly peaceful patchwork across the area. It is one of these tribes that discovered gravity and learned to use the power for all sorts of things. The history of the tribe is also of great interest as is the ultimate extinction of these people - the Hoverers.

But today, I will tell you about the discovery of gravity and the strange way the Hoverers stumbled on the secret. It had been known for generations that to eat a fruit from the plant which makes one crazy was to sentence oneself to certain death. No one could really remember anyone who had actually eaten the fruit, but the legend persisted so forcefully that it was enough to deter the tribespeople from trying it. And so it was a quirk of fate one day that a lone berry found its way into a basket of sweet miracle fruit which looked strikingly similar. It is true that to eat an entire berry from the plant which makes one crazy would be fatal, but since this basket of fruit was prepared lovingly into a marinade for game meat, only a minute amount of the berry would end up being served to any one person. As the tribe feasted one evening on sweet miracle fruit marinated rabbit legs, it was the children who first demonstrated odd behavior.

The adults didn't know it, but the children started to see gravity. What they saw was fascinating to them even though they didn't understand it. An uncountable number of strings extended from the ground to the sky, the strings of gravity tugging at unseen objects high above. What was more is that the children saw gravity strings extending from every object, and with this view it seemed that everything was alive, the rock, the water, and people. The gravity strings of people only extended a few inches while the tallest trees' strings extended more than a meter. But it was the fire that riveted the children. They could see how fire was simply a strumming of the strings that created a ripple moving skyward. The fire rode this ripple upwards toward the sky until the ripple petered out a few feet up. This is why fire defies gravity although science would surely explain it differently today.

It was Heart of a Jaguar who first started talking about the fire and what it was doing. He could see the spark kind of twitching the strings and got as close as he could without burning his face. He started to snap his fingers and observe the strings and after several tries managed to strum the strings by whipping his small gravity strings very quickly and perpendicularly to the ground's strings. Problem was, he burst into flames before the horrified eyes of the tribespeople. It was the first ever sighting of spontaneous combustion and the event marked a more superstitious era for the tribe. It would be another generation before they discovered the power of the berry from the plant which makes one crazy, and then it would be another ten years before they discovered how to harness the power of gravity without incinerating themselves.

Monday, June 27, 2005


My flat face. It hurts to do that to my nose. Posted by Hello

I knew this would happen. Nothing to write about. No wait, that's not it...nothing to write about that I have a decent hope of making interesting. It's a good thing I'm going on vacation Thursday, a whole week of things to write about upon my return.

Let's see. Yesterday, took a long bus ride to pick up my paycheck at the restaurant. Serge came with me, since I had lured him with the promise of going to Old Navy and buying shorts for him afterward. I don't know why, but he has 27 bathing suits (which are never worn) but only one pair of (torn and stained) real shorts. It was hot, muggy and suffocating in the bus. The cocaphony of human body odors was like (insert your worst smell memory here). At the restaurant, Serge ate a bowl of mussels and I had eggs benedict (yolks well cooked). It made me feel special that some of the employees there didn't even know that I had quit even though it was weeks ago.

After that, we took another long bus ride to the mall where the Old Navy is located downtown. Serge got 4 pairs of shorts and a shirt. I got a pair of shorts too. We like Old Navy because Serge can feel fashionable and I can deal with paying 12 bucks for a pair of shorts (though used for a dollar would be better).

We briefly discussed going to pick up a window air conditioner, it's pretty much the same discussion we have every year. We didn't get one. (And though you might think it is I who is against it, you would be mistaken.)

When we got home, I cleaned out all the drawers and closets and reorganized the clothing. (I tried to think of something bitter to say about it, but the truth is that I like doing that - ok, how about this - we have 33 white t-shirts (17 with oily stains, and at least 3 that stink even after nuclear bleaching) between us and I couldn't bring myself to throw any of them out.) While I did all that counting, Serge puttered in the yard. The deck guys are going to come today and start our new fabulous deck of life, so Serge wanted to move a bunch of stuff around and off the current porch area.

I made pasta (ok, I opened the Stouffers package and put it in the pan) and garlic bread, and then we ate outside in the backyard. The people next door went on vacation and their teenage children had their friends over for a pool party. They played (really good) music at very high volume and screamed and splashed and carried on in a way that made me smile. Upstairs from us, Guy consoled his 4 year old daughter on the balcony as she cried about having to go back to her mom's house for the week. It made me sad. On one side of me, unbridled enthusiasm, and on the other, inconsolable sadness. Sara sat under the table scouting for crumbs that might have fallen through the table.

At 7:30, I was forbidden to further drink or eat, since I was having my blood taken this morning at 7:30am (for my once a decade checkup.) We rented "A Series of Unfortunate Events" and found it interesting to watch, but Serge summed it up best, "This is for kids."

Aren't you glad I'm going on vacation?

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Is there or isn't there?

Evening sky art. Posted by Hello

Is there such a thing as God? This was the subject of a PBS show I saw the other night. The guy from skeptic magazine was very compelling in his arguments. While the golden rule was discussed at length, there was some dispute as to whether it was inspired from the spiritual realm or by the necessity of building a functioning society. I wanted to join the discussion, but was trapped in my living room.

It got me to thinking and talking about the nitty gritty of it all. How, and if pertinent, why we are here.

Monotheistic believers will tell a tale of creation with a purpose in mind for us all. Non believers of a spiritual realm are hard pressed to find an answer as to how we got here. When I posed the question to Serge he said, "Well, that's what happens when rock and minerals and heat and light are mixed together." Poof like magic. Add a few billion years of evolutionary baking and that single cell bacteria has become us, rulers of the planet. But now how did that bacteria appear again? That my friends is an equal stretch of the imagination to there being some kind of creator, and hopefully in consequence, a purpose.

The bottom line is that we don't know, probably can't know, just search inside us for what feels right or believe the words of others who claim to know the truth. (The other day in the metro, I passed by some people filming a man who was talking to the camera. As I passed the little filming entourage, I caught a bit of what the man was saying to the camera, " It is a well established fact that Jesus ascended into heaven....." I summed up all my forces not to say, "Can you define "fact" for me?")

I've been thinking about another show I saw where doctors were using lasers to stimulate a portion of the brain that induces a "spiritual" experience. The subjects really enjoyed the experiments and felt connected to God, in their words.

My question is, why is that hard wired into us? In what way does that serve the evolutionary drive for survival? And to vary from the topic a bit, how does it sometimes lead to fanaticism?

If you think about it for a moment, those that are often considered marginal in society (natives, hippies, scientologists) have equally fantastic tales of the beginning. Like believing aliens started the human race. (why not?)

I also find it odd that skeptics debunk both God and aliens. So what you're saying is this little accident only happened here, and other beings of our complexity and intelligence don't exist anywhere else in the observable Universe. (A space so vast, that billions of galaxies (like the Milky Way) are contained in it.) It seems that that might make a case for God, in a strange way.

I often think of the life force, and how long after we humans are gone, life will continue in some form or another until the sun sets for the last time. (Another billion years or so.) This makes me feel joyous, that no matter how bad we tinker ( or rather, fuck) with things, life will adapt in some places and survive. Maybe there'll even be dinosaurs, act II.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Ego dancing

Mushrooms have big heads too. Posted by Hello

Ugh. I hate what I just *wrote. Negative, boring and so un-clever. I made the terrible mistake of reading Em's blog which linked to Yarn Harlot's post from yesterday, and chuckled and grinned at the self effacing nature of her writing and her bitter sarcasm. I want to do that.

I woke up yesterday at 5:30, a beautiful day dawning. Serge, who has had a cold, was coughing incessantly while somehow remaining asleep. A dry unproductive cough, raspy. I went to the computer to face the challenge of writing. Because I'm psychot, er, somewhat rigid about getting things done, I usually try to attack that first thing in the morning. Then it's done and I can do other things without thinking, "What am I going to write about on the blog?" over and over and over and over again. (As I sit here, I can't even remember what I wrote about yesterday, it must have been some kind of boring, that or the shame blocker has kicked in and erased all memory cells of writing it.) I do know that I received one comment, and that my current blog psychosis finds this low number unacceptable. What I do remember about yesterday morning is going and figuring out how to install the site meter that Em mentioned. Another tool to stroke my enormous and fragile ego. I read about how to get people hooked on your site, mostly by visiting theirs and leaving comments and of course actually writing compelling posts. I thought, "Ooh, I'll leave a few comments, they'll check me out, and then I can use the site meter to see how many visits I got, how many minions I've amassed, aahh." How pathetic.

So after writing the post that I can't recall, I read lots of blogs and commented on the few that I deemed worthy of my words. (Pop, won't you, my giant hot air balloon head.) I know Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein at 19, but if I read one more teenage love angst tale, I'm gonna vomit. Meanwhile, the other task of the day loomed, planning next week's lessons and writing student evaluations for the end of the course. At about 11:00am, I wrenched myself from the computer (a device which has replaced TV since I started blogging) and worked on the kitchen table with all my books and papers spread out everywhere. Serge finally got out of bed, came in and compl, I mean remarked on the mess. (I'm not going to get into it here. Just do this. Imagine Serge. Now imagine surly Serge, sick and ill-slept, in pre-coffee temperament.)

After having finished at about 1pm, I went back to the computer. I checked my blog and my friends' again to see if any new activity had taken place. I checked my site meter and realized that it had only counted me so far as visiting. Two whole hours, and no hits. Crestfallen, I went to the next thing on my list. The next thing didn't appeal to me, and I played Literati (Scrabble) on Yahoo instead. Somehow, four hours passed. The game guy had reared his ugly head, after having been squashed down for weeks with my hectic schedule, and um, blogging.

After dinner (honey bbq chicken) Serge and I sat outside drinking wine, talking about the new deck, and the question of God again. It's another blog. The temperature was perfect and we stayed out til dark at 10pm. I came inside and brushed my teeth, and stopped by the computer one last time to check, but I sensed a deep revulsion for myself, and stopped just short of the mouse. "No, I will wait until morning," and that's how I got a grip on myself and went to bed.

*This is in no way an invitation to read the following, it is simply to support my first sentence above. The alarmingly dull and ill written prose speaks for itself.

Yesterday was a big holiday here. So big, that it is the one holiday that must be paid to every person who works in Quebec. Every worker in the province receives an extra day's pay regardless of how much or how many hours worked in a week. The holiday is St Jean Baptiste. It's a funny name for a holiday. Saint John the Baptist. Especially when you consider the ubiquitous activity of plastering oneself on this day. Oh yeah, and honking and screaming out your car window, and hoisting the Quebec flag with you wherever you go. And the drinking, I mentioned that right? There were hundreds of concerts all across the city, in every neighborhood, where people were invited down to drink and dance and ramp up nationalist feelings. It's as if the spirit of Senor Frogs has invaded the city. (And you know how I feel about that.)

What's more is that no one really knows why Saint John the Baptist became the patron saint of Quebec. Some guy in 1834 started a society of french canadians and called it St Jean Baptiste association. (Church influence was wielded expertly in the era, clearly.) Eventually, this day became a day of celebration with Mass as the main attraction. Fast forward to today, and you find a Quebec with the lowest percentage of people in Canada who believe in God. Mass is still given at the churches, but you'll find most people outside with a beer in one hand and a flag in another. It's like an ugly mix of mardi gras, and post 9/11 American nationalist fervor.

Friday, June 24, 2005


When I think of Lucy, I think of hair brained schemes and wheedling. You know who I'm talking about right? Ball, married to Desi (both dead). If you're under 30, when reruns became scarce, you're likely to have missed this American gem, dare I say, genius. Some of my earliest childhood images involve my parents watching Lucy, me in a crib nearby. I'm sure I've seen every episode several times and if I were on a desert island with a viewing device, I would take the boxed set of I Love Lucy, wouldn't you? I don't actually own a set of the tapes, but wouldn't mind starting to collect them now.

Lucy moments abound in our household. Hair brained schemes are my specialty, and wheedling Serge's. One of my get rich schemes when we first moved here was the Outhouse Calendar. I spent the summer of 2000 cruising around to outdoor events in search of rows of outhouses to photograph. I was photographing the contents of the outhouse, not the exterior. It was to be part of a series of the Vile Truth calendar series, with the following year slated to have been Scabs. I sought out the most disgusting and full outhouses after having gotten the idea from my father. We were driving in Utah and stopped at a scenic lookout. He used the outhouse, and when he came out he said, "hey Rick, check out that outhouse" and when I did, I snapped a picture of the grossest pile of shit cresting above seat-line. My head swirled off to Lucydom and spun a tale of the riches to be had by selling these kinds of images. I was finally satisfied to have found twelve images, one for each month and set it up on the computer. I had 5 made at Kinkos, with a run of 1000 possible from the local printer if I could sell some. I set up a website and sent off letters to radio personalities, friends, and family etc. I sold one. To my father. Looking back, I have to say it was fun, lurking about the outhouses, trying not to be noticed as I went into each one. But hair brained scheme nonetheless.

Yesterday, I thought of Lucy when I came home and Serge said, "So can we ask the balcony guys (we had the 2nd and 3rd floor balcony wood replaced - it was getting really rotted) to build our deck?" And I asked, knowing he had some grandiose plan for the fabulous deck of life "the big one that you drew?" He didn't answer that and went on, "We'll enjoy it so much, and we can have people over for a BBQ," and I said, "Did you talk to them about it? How much is it?" He said, "Oh it doesn't matter because I already signed the contract."

Now here ladies and gentlemen, was a Lucy moment. I was not in the Lucy role, however, and blew my top. He whined and wheedled and wore me down. Then I laughed at how absurd it was, contract signed right? So we will have a new deck next week, and all I can think is "that costs a month's salary". I guess I'll just put in an extra show at the nightclub.

I'm waiting for the next hair brained scheme to attack. Could it involve the blog somehow? Serge keeps saying lately that we have to find something that generates money without us doing anything. And I keep saying, yeah, it's called a savings account. But I'm keeping my eye out anyway.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Is Thursday dog blogging day?

Sara the dog Posted by Hello

All this talk of dogs and I realize I haven't even offered a picture of our very own beloved. She's getting up in years and her crankiness is increasing. She likes to growl at every person that walks by on the sidewalk. For those of you that don't know, Montreal is a rather big city and passers-by are numerous. This is very cute but at the same time annoying. Like a baby spitting up.

This morning madame Sara was lying in the sun. Where was she lying? On the onions. I had noticed a "mushing" effect being wrought upon the onions and I figured it was somone's obese cat. No. It was Sara. We are still scratching our heads over how she is able to enter the garden. We don't believe she could jump the fence, but that seems the only possibility. We have yet to catch her doing it. We just find her in there, unable to get out. Oh yeah, and lying on the vegetables.

But sure, she's our baby and we will be incredibly sad upon her death. I avoid thinking about it, which is a sure sign of future trauma. Serge claims to look forward to it, free of the responibility, but I suspect he'll be the first to suggest a new puppy. While we were camping, we left Sara at Camp Lise. This would be Serge's mom's house. Retired, she spoils her own terrier and any and all visitors. When Lise returned Sara to us, she brought along the two sacks of Sara's hair that she had brushed off of her and swept up. I'm not sure why she brought them, as we are keenly aware of her shedding havoc. There is dog hair everywhere, in the medicine cabinet, on the ceiling, and in the tub of ice cream. I think it multiplies once freed of her body.

A year or so ago I was walking Sara in the park early in the morning. It was a Saturday. I was smoking and admiring the sky when I noticed Sara about a hundred yards away writhing on her back. " This can't be good," I thought and started walking toward her and demanding "What are you doing?!" She continued to writhe until I was just about upon her and then she gamely sprung away revealing a large, silver and quite dead fish, flies returning to the shiny body. Repulsed, I yelled,"Why did you do that, Why do you do that, bad dog!" She kept darting around and harumphing with a halting breathy sound. I guarded the dead fish area and waited for her to do her business. Once finished, we returned to the house, and I along the way talking low, "Why did you have to do that, now I have to wash you, I don't understand, you already eat shit, and now you have to do this?" She strode alongside me, being a dog.

After arriving home, I decided to let Serge wake up before the noisy task of washing Sara. Since Sara has a crazy running frenzy after a shower, the clickity click of her nails on the floor would have awoken Serge in a way that would have caused marital discord. So I sat at the computer. I was writing an email when Serge got up and got his coffee. I could hear the familiar noises as he added milk and stirred. The next think I knew, I heard "good morning" and I responded "good morning" and then there were kissy noises. I turned my head to see that Serge had been talking to the dog and now had his arms around her while kissing all around her neck. "Blah, Echh Sara what is that!!!? Ach, disgusting!" I couldn't speak because I was transfixed with paralyzing laughter, the kind where no sound comes out, and tears streaming down my face. It took minutes before I could explain, as he washed his face and hands and rinsed out his mouth.

When I feel low, I think of that story and it always bubbles laughter to my lips. And even when she dies, I'll still have that.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


I'd rather be here. Posted by Hello

Because I'm in a particularly sour mood, and to dispel the notion that I am some kind of zen dude, I give you 10 things I hate:

1. Having to get up in the middle of every night to pee.

2. Arriving late.

3. Talking to Serge when he has drunk too much.

4. Inconsiderate behavior. (Like pushing and shoving when it's not necessary)

5. Hangovers.

6. People who can't get over their bad selves.

7. Cold sores. (A lovely thing that debuted at 35)

8. Football. Ooga-booga.

9. When that angry guy comes out of me and insults people indiscriminately.

10. That I am still a smoker, dammit.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


There are no tides here, so a summer house was built upon this, one of the 1000 islands. Posted by Hello

Facing the blank page, I wait. I wait for some kind of topic to drift into my thoughts, and then I start writing. If I can only manage one paragraph, I erase it and start the process over. If nothing comes, I look in my little journal that I've taken to toting around with me and look in it for possible topics. I feel like this is cheating. I prefer to let the stories write themselves. It's like the way I write songs too, I don't really feel like I'm writing them, just trying to construct what is already playing through my head. I found a delightful blog that describes "the place". Whether you call it the place or the muse, or even the will of God as Ella Fitzgerald said, (she didn't read music nor train vocally) it is quite arbitrary to say the least. One of my preferred authors is still Anne Lamott. I just finished her latest book (score, I was the first person to check it out at the new, enormous National Library that opened here) and I think it is her finest effort yet. She is pretty much the only person I can stomach Jesus lectures from. And though she has become more and more spiritual in her themes, she has also become incredibly eloquent. One of the great lines in this particular book was "laughter is carbonated holiness". It made me close the book, open and read the sentence again, close the book and think about that whole mysterious connection that is made with laughter. Like the muse or the place, laughter depends on many factors, not the least of which is a direct connection to something deep in you, something that connects mind, body and spirit in one spark.

So I sit here trying to find that connection, that place from which creative energy erupts, from where laughter and nostalgia lurk, and what you are reading now is what is coming today. You like honest posts? Today, you are getting verbatim what is passing through the/my instrument. (I laugh at my pompous use of the word instrument) Today I've been laughing at myself alot, how typically I am behaving as I approach my 40th birthday. Asking the big questions, sensing my impending mortality, slowing down, smelling the roses. How cliche. But it's real, and scoffing about it isn't healthy, so I laugh at the absurdity of who we think we are, what we think we know, how we think we should live out our lives. Everyone, (and I am/have been as guilty of this as anyone) seems to have a handle on what they perceive as right and wrong, good and bad, what they like and dislike. I'm learning to undo that. I try to have no "favorite this" or "favorite" that and especially I'm trying to eliminate the" I don't like this" or "I don't like that". If I have experience with something, I try to say to myself, well last time was positive or negative, but past results are not indicative of future gains or losses. I think you need to experience things many times before really having enough information to have a sound opinion. Maybe it takes more than a lifetime.

And so how can we know anything? Every experience is new, or potentially new. This is where some of that free will stuff comes in. I know I can choose to enhance every experience by bringing all of myself to the table. That every moment is pregnant with potential if I can only unlock the magic in it. I fail so much, and it's discouraging. But now and then, I get there, and meet the muse, who lives somewhere in the nooks and crannies of this nearly 40 year old body.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Tomatoes and donuts

Hanging with each other. Posted by Hello

It was so cool to go camping. Both in the slangy and temperature sense. We arrived during a downpour Friday evening, and the sun finally shone at 5 Sunday afternoon. Hence swimming was out, but we found plenty of other things to do, including a three hour tour (insert gilligan's island themesong here) of the 1000 islands region. All along the way, little tidbits of information spilled out of speaker boxes, the recording running through in English, and then a second time in French. Did you know that this is the birthplace of thousand island dressing? (Oh my god honey! Did you hear that? This is the place where someone got the idea of putting mayonaise, ketchup and relish together!) There was a millionaire's row sporting the getaways of the rich and famous. There was even a veritable castle. Serge loved analyzing the architecture of everything, and I watched the sky interplaying with the water and landscape.

Since we arrived during rain, we had the chance to save face and went to the local town and purchased things that we forgot to bring before actually setting up camp. Things like water. We actually brought no water and no container in which to put water. Paper towels, napkins, kleenex, all overlooked. We picked these things up and went back to the campground once the rain had stopped. We clucked about the beauty and serentity of the place as we set up camp. I can't lie though, it was chilly, wet, and muddy. I made hot dogs and served them with pasta salad. I tossed a bit of my hotdog into the forest, and Serge said "Still!?"

You see Serge has been worried about me. It all started after I experienced some kind of event involving the sky (mysterious, I know) which led me to start putting out food in a "spirit plate". It took him several days before he discovered the plate in question, and when he did, I heard him yelp, "Believing in things that don't exist," shaking his head in utter disbelief. I chuckled and shrugged him off, "Oh it's just something I'm trying."

For the record, I am very bad at doing the spirit plate. I often forget to do it, and really only manage to consistently do breakfast. I never want to give up some of whatever deliciousness I've prepared myself, but then I think that that's part of it - practicing sacrifice. Also, I take a moment to express gratitude, and really try to feel it before I eat.

Serge especially doesn't like it if I put a bite of my steak on the spirit plate.

So it had been a few months and I hadn't realized that my behavior was worrisome to him until we were out camping, lounging around the campfire, soaking in the sounds of nature around us.

The second night, he came back to the topic.

"So tell me again why you put the food out, I mean for who?" Serge asked again, full of concern.

"Oh, you know, to say thank you for another day. And to who? To say thank you to all the powers, coincidences, mistakes and magic that led up to this day, my place in it, and my ability to be aware in it." I tried to explain.

"Thank you! See, I can say "thank you". You can give me the food, and I'll say thank you for you. Really, you're wasting." he pragmatized.

"But I think the point is to show your gratitude with a kind of gesture. Giving up one bite never hurt anyone. How about you - are you grateful for some of the things we are experiencing this weekend camping?" I asked, trying to convince myself even.

"Where are the tomatoes?" he changed the subject.

"Oh they're in the car, here's the keys, and hey, why don't you bring up the donuts while you're at it? (the campsite was up a small hill from the car)

"Tomatoes and donuts, got it." He fled.

When he got back from the car, he announced that he would be making sergelettes. This, for the uninitiated, would be an egg based meal with whatever handy items available thrown in. Thus, the tomato question. The sergelettes were divine, as most anything is while camping. And then he started up again.

"So what spirit again are you feeding?"

"I don't know. Call it the universe if you wish. I mean look at what we've lived here already in 2 days - all the wildlife we've seen, the beautiful scenery, the cruise through the islands, cozy nights in the tent." I said.

"And the geese, and the ducks and the birds singing in the morning," he joined me in reciting all the good things, " and the color of the water, and the chipmunks."

"Yeah, and the sky has been spectacular, and we have loved the campfire sessions. I don't know, I feel like we should thank them or it, or him or her for that." I said finally.

"Wow, yeah. I think we owe them a pizza," he said.

And just then, my heart softened and turned to maudlin. It was like the smallest sliver of light penetrated way down into the depths of him and for that , if for nothing else, the spirit plate has been worth it.

We spent the last day going on hikes and having a picnic. It seemed that there was beauty everywhere from the smallest patch of earth, to the whole picture of sky and terrain and water.

Going out and really hanging out in the wilderness rights you somehow, like free medicine that stuff is.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Gone Camping

Packing for camping is brutal, because if you're forced to leave the camping area and go to some civilized area to buy something, it makes you a kind of, well, camping pussy. The last time I went camping with Em and her kids, Em graciously pestered the other campers for a can opener so we could make Sloppy Joes. This is acceptable. This is not a camping pussy. No, I , once, when deprived of coffee, (after scary night animal encounters) snuck off with the car to buy instant and a hot cup of coffee at a gas station, and then, once I got a taste of that fresh convenience store brewed delight, I stopped at McDonalds for two sausage mcmuffins with egg. (After all, once you give yourself permission, quantity is not an issue.) When I got back to the campsite, Serge was still sleeping.

Having recognized my pussiness, I hooked up with a twelve step program for camping pussies and I am working on step one:

During the sacred act of camping, one will not be seduced by the lure of easy procural of necessities.

So, you can see that full and complete packing is essential to moving onto step two, being the McDonald's sneaker offer that I am.

The camping list I wrote ran away and can't be found anywhere. You know, I've got the writing of the list down okay, but the finding of said list is always a problem. (Why don't I let that happen with toilet paper?) Was it on a napkin? In one of my student folders? My wallet? Argghh! No, it's in none of those places because I had the bright idea to put it somewhere that I knew would be with me all the time. (The back page of my appointment book.) This detail was remembered upon arriving home after the camping shopping trip. And I forgot the can opener, again.

Things we look forward to doing at 1000 Islands park in Ontario: Eating, swimming, and then eating some more, walking, playing cards, eating, walking, marshmallows, looking at the stars, contemplating, sleeping.

Things we will not be placing in the same category: Scary night animal encounters, mosquitoes, talking to other campers, hiking to the outhouse, having to pee in the middle of the night. Trying not to splatter the tent.

What this all means for you is that I will not be updating the blog until Monday, when I will be full of tales of natures's charisma. Until then, I invite you to check out this, it's hours of sheer delight, I promise.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The F word

Did you know that the top epithet slung on schoolgrounds across North America is fag? Did you know that it is common among schoolage children to say "That is so gay!" when they want to say "That's so stupid"? It's true. Some schools are trying to teach the offensiveness of the word but are receiving flack from (you know who) for mixing up "morality" with "prejudice". I'm steamed. Has nothing changed in 25 years when fag was also the highest insult on campus? And just yesterday, as I was walking home from the metro two 8 - 10 year olds playing were calling across the street to a lonely younger girl "Lesbienne, Lesbienne tu es une Lesbienne" in that sing songy kid way. Forgive me for saying so, but there is no morality in defending the taunting of others with offensive language.

All of my male Japanese students have used "fag" during my lessons. I know they pick it up in school, and I always say the same thing. That's not a nice word, and you shouldn't be using it because it can hurt other people. Then I move on. What is there to get here? Hey, kids are cruel, I know that, but the fact that there are adults out there defending the rights of their children to use the word is simply incomprehensible to me. Are we all so blind that we don't understand that picking on others actually reflects our own insecurities? Isn't that Psych 101? I suppose it all goes back to that base desire to feel superior to others, the great but largely overlooked evil of our society.

Some people will say that homosexuality is a choice. And though it makes me yawn just to broach the topic, it's been so hashed to death, and always ends up something like this:

BEGALA: I do. I believe God makes us gay or straight.
I never sat down with a legal sheet and said, "Do I fall in love with Diana or her brother Ron, who's a real cutie-pie," but I'm sorry, God made me heterosexual.

LABARBERA: That's your belief.

BEGALA: It wasn't a persuasion. Did someone try to recruit you to be straight, Peter?

LABARBERA: That's a canard.

BEGALA: Right.

LABARBERA: There are many, many people who've gone into homosexuality and got out of it. It's a behavior...

BEGALA: Do you believe God makes us the way we are?

LABARBERA: I don't believe that God makes anybody gay, of course not. But there are people who go into homosexuality and get out of it. It's a changeable behavior, unlike race. I've never met an ex—black, I've never met an ex-Hispanic, Paul. [But I've met many ex-gays.]

(AUDIENCE APPLAUSE) (This from a Crossfire episode)

And all I can say is the most convincing argument I've come up with (and it only works with hetero men) is this. Imagine you have a really hot naked chick 8X10, and another 8x10 of a hot naked muscular guy. Now, which one makes your dick hard?

Choice? Gimme a fucking break. (forgive my language, won't you)

I also write with my right hand, but I don't remember choosing that. And finally I don't recall choosing to fall in love with the weather. These are the things that we should be embracing, the core elements of who we are. And if one of your core identities is needing to be disgusted by the behavior of others who aren't hurting you, then I respect that, that is what you need to do. But I'm also going to pity you a bit, sorry, but that seems like an ugly focus for all the beautiful possibilities in life.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Living in the real world

What a difference a day makes. It began raining yesterday morning, and continued to late afternoon. Over an inch and a half, and more expected today. The high yesterday was 80 reached at midnight while the low was 61 reached at noon. Topsy- turvy June is, like a nervous bride.

How can I be sweaty sometimes at 70 degrees, and at others shivering. If it's a very humid 70 and no wind, but lots of sun, it feels hot. The humidex, which measures how warm it feels (higher humidity makes it feel warmer), can be above 80 while the "actual" temperature is 70. And then there is the wind chill effect, where the wind makes it feel colder than the "actual" temperature. But wait, have you considered this a bit?

Ok, it's 70 humid degrees, so we have this heavy air pushing down on your skin, the air screaming "70 degrees" at you, and you feel warmer. Okay. But then, if it's windy, we have lots more of the "70 degrees" rushing past you - and this makes you colder. Huh?

And then there are the two temperatures. Do you remember this from school? The dry bulb temperature, and the wet bulb temperature. Yes there are two kinds of thermometers, though no one but a weather geek would have (or maybe even know about) the wet bulb thermometer. Sometimes the wet bulb temp can differ by up to 10 degrees. This is why it can snow at 40 degrees and rain at 28 degrees.

So which reality do we live in? The dry bulb or the wet bulb? We live in both realities, though you can see a bit of the mysteriousness of it with this simple look at the matter of temperature. How hot is it? How cold is it? There is more than one correct answer. Or rather, there is no definitive answer. Mix in perception, and you've got dozens of answers. (In our house, I'm often cold while Serge feels hot.)

We can study the science, and the Weather Channel guys think they've got their brains wrapped around it, but you've got to admit, it's a little magical.

Even in the "real" world, "reality" is difficult to pin down, like trying to remember that dream you were having.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Less heat, please

Boiling afternoon air. Posted by Hello

Okay, a last whine about the heat. At least for a spell. The heat wave is expected to break tomorrow, so we've got a final day of this steamy tropical airmass. Everyone I talk to has a story about the heat. Most of the city's residents live without air conditioning since it's rarely desired but for a few weeks per year. What that means is that more than half the population hasn't slept well in a week. Everyone, including myself, is on edge, tender and prone to fits of irrational behavior. To whit, I came upon yesterday a young man who was having a heated dispute with a bus driver about the validity of the young man's transfer. (You must use a transfer issued from a point of your trip's origin, therefore, you cannot use a transfer from the metro station that you exit from) The problem, heat aside, was that the bus driver didn't speak English perfectly, and the young man spoke no French and could not understand the rules written on the transfer itself. I entered the bus as the two were going at it:

"No, you can not use the transfer for a bus that deserves the metro." the driver explains.

"But I got the transfer from the metro! It's a transfer!" the young man, incredulous.

"Look at the back," says the driver, " It's write you don't take bus that deserves the metro."

"What! this is bullshit, I take the metro and get a transfer and get out to take the bus, where else do I get the transfer?" he shrieks, inflamed.

"You don't understand French is the problem," the driver bluntly but hotly delivers.

"Fuuuuuuuuuck You!" the young man shouts in finality and storms to the back of the bus to take the seat.

At this point, I wondered what would happen and I watched the bus driver who seemed just charged up enough to get up and expel the young man, but the heat had her way and convinced him it wasn't worth the sweat. Then, in an "I don't know what came over me moment" I got up and went back to where the man was sitting and looked at him. I thought I would just explain it for him and maybe he would go apologize or something. But he wasn't inhabiting the same world as I and looked up and said "Get the fuck away from me, man." I envisioned myself putting my hands around his neck and screaming "Pull your head out!" but instead went back to the seat I like (on the left side, near the front).

Adding to the heat is the problem of stink. As in body odor. Because the deoderant is overpowered by about 3pm. The evening rush hour is a tunnel ride of hot sweaty stench, and the little kids hold their noses. (Okay, I think, I don't need to visit India) Then, unfathomably, while taking the last train to home last evening, someone farted in the crowded car. A really searing, ripe one. While no one did just this, I imagined us all clawing at the windows and doors to get out. And bright flashes of anger charged through me at the insensitivity of whoever laid upon us this forced inhalation of the contents of their rectum! I wanted to shout, "Okay, who did that!" and then what, I don't know. But that's how anger is, blind to the future.

But there are little gifts too, like the picture above taken near sunset. I found myself envying the little town situated under that cooling shower. We only got a few sprinkles, but they were cool drops of pleasure on the skin. And I've discovered the usefulness of a cloth hankerchief, great for dabbing my sweaty forehead and temples. And finally, I'm grateful that I don't live in Florida.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Broken China

You know that expression, "Like a bull in a china shop" ? As I understand it, this describes someone who is so gangly and uncoordinated, that he or she often spills and breaks things, and trips or falls on a frequent basis. A few times I have heard it used to describe someone who simply makes brusque movements. Okay, this expression has been applied to me, I admit it, and I have been and continue to work on it. (The fastest solution is to simply stay in bed, alas, I can't reconcile the rest of my life with that.) Truth be told, sometimes I feel like that surly bull raging at all that finery, and at the pointlessness and folly of easily breakable dishes, but I digress. I wonder if the bull can be applied to the socially inept too. What I mean is that when I have conversations with people, there are questions that pop into my head and somehow circumvent what filters a normal person's brain possesses, and come straight out of my mouth. If, say, the person's face shouts "I'm dumbfounded!", I try to save myself, "Uh, you don't have to answer that if you're uncomfortable." Lots of times, people don't answer. But sometimes, the most interesting conversations imaginable can take place.

Martin, a 40 year old man with the use of only one and a half limbs (right arm and rudimentary movement in the left arm) was one of four students in an intermediate English class I taught last year for a government agency. Martin is in a wheel chair and as we entered the classroom, we all made special attention to where Martin would sit, and arranged the chairs at the table thusly. Then I gave my typical first class speech, and how we would all introduce ourselves, that we would talk about where we come from, why we are here, what our family situations are and what we do for a living. I always start in order to make them comfortable. They find out why I moved here (they ask immediately after I tell them that I'm from Southern California) and I always say, "Okay, I'll tell you. I don't tell everyone this right away, but I get a good vibe from you guys," (sometimes we'll discuss the word "vibe" as well at this point) and then I tell them the whole story of Serge and me and they feel like they've been let in on a secret. Also, this (usually) prevents them from making gay jokes during the course. Anyway, the other students told their stories and then Martin told us he was single, worked two days a week and had never been married. He described his job and detailed his hobbies. At the end I said, "But I think what everyone is curious about is why you're in a wheelchair." One of the students gasped. "Uh oh," I thought, but before I could say a thing, Martin started his story. At 18 years old, he was racing cars on a country road and his car flipped and he broke his neck. It was many years before he was in a functional state. His was a tale of terrible tragedy, arduous recovery, and finally of acceptance and glory of being alive. It moved us all.

Then there was Phan, a computer programmer for Croesus. His English was excellent and his French impeccable, but his native language was Cambodian. When I asked how he ended up in Montreal, he said "It's a long story." Not picking up on this vague clue that maybe he didn't want to talk about it, I asked the other students in the class "Do you already all know Phan's story?" They all shook their heads, no. So, like the proverbial bull, I said "We've got time, and we want to hear it." He spoke for almost two hours. We hung on his every word as he told us about Pol Pot's rise to power, and of the torture and murder of his family members. He talked about how he and his sister had been slaves in the rice fields for 5 years as children and about his harrowing escape to Thailand at the age of 12. We peppered him with questions throughout. What stunned me the most about him was his incredible humility and gratitude. How could he come through such an experience and not be even a little bit mad at the world. We were all inspired for weeks after, so grateful for our lives of little suffering. I still think about him and his story frequently.

At a dinner party of 10, the conversation is sparse and the room small. When the conversation lulls, most people talk about movies or music, but personal stories are always better, so I try to get something going. I'll say something like, "Let's all talk about our first sexual experience," or first kiss, or even if you've ever taken it up the ass. (I'm shocked, yes shocked at how many women say that heterosexual men enjoy doing this to them.) Sometimes, it doesn't work (everyone will simply ignore the question entirely, or politely laugh at the audacity) but more often it becomes the highlight of the evening, as we tell our stupid adolescent stories of discovery. Anyway, it's infinitely more interesting than the latest Spielberg film and the new Janet Jackson CD.

Sometimes the broken china makes a beautiful mosaic

Sunday, June 12, 2005

10 things I love about Serge

10. If I need to perform a complicated task around the house, like loading the dishwasher or doing anything involving a hammer, he will quickly come over and disapprove of my way of doing it and then take over the project.

9. He resents having to do things, like loading the dishwasher, since I can never "learn" to do it his way. This amuses me. I giggle as I write it is so true.

8. He moans and groans when affection is given, but secretly he likes it.

7. He can fall asleep anytime, anywhere. I want to learn how to do that.

6. He will cut you no slack. One of his favorite phrases is "Get over it". Hard to hear sometimes, but sound advice nonetheless.

5. He loves to fix things. And figure them out. Instruction sheets are never read by Serge.

4. When he assembles something badly, he valiantly defends his effort while admitting to not having read the instructions.

3. He has a neat Buddha belly which he hates, but I enjoy rubbing and patting it.

2. He is rigidly honest and has no desire to hurt others.

1. He teases me for my flaws, which is really his way of forgiving me them.

* Honorable mention would be Sergewiches, which are assembled according to the items available. Usually involves bacon. It's never the same twice.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Hot and sweaty in a bad way

The lady in the sky is mad at us. I'm not sure what we did, but she's steaming and mumbling and grumbling. Maybe she's sick. Has a fever. That would make anyone cranky. It's almost 90 degrees now and it's foggy. Yes, foggy. Like sitting in a steamroom outside. I've seen it get like this a couple times, usually after we've had time to wade slowly into the summer, toward the end of July. As I check the archives, last year on this date was rainy and in the 50's. I'm sure we were complaining about that too. The forest fires burning in the northern part of the province (due to lightning) are lending their smoke to the situation tinting the atmosphere orange and causing a smog alert. Also, with all the recent sprouting of vegetation, the air is full of pollens and flower parts, dandelion heads and the like. This gives you the ability to view the air as a liquid, and each little current, eddy and gust is visible to the naked eye. I love this. Happens about a week every year. Giant clumps of the airborn materials gather like snowdrifts at the bases of bushes and dead end alleys. They catch in your hair and tickle your ears as you walk down the street.

It is in this asthmatic's nightmare that I must work my final Friday night at the restaurant. Not only that, but after my annual cleaning at the dentist this morning (do they all go to the same torture class?) my mouth is all sore and tender. But no cavities at least. Serge went to the dentist Monday and is looking at a few thousand dollars of work, the least of which is his four cavities.

I just called for my section tonight. I have Himalaya. The reason for this name is that it is the farthest section from the kitchen. Sigh. I kind of wished I was having dental surgery instead. Ugh. Off I go, I'll finish this post up in the morning.

Well, it's morning now. Last night, let's see. I counted my glasses of water and consumed 22 during my shift. I did not pee. I had 12 tables going, full from about 5:45 to 11 when I was finally cut. I sold $2100 (I made a hair over 15% on tips). It was probably the most grueling thing I'll do the whole year. My entire uniform was soaked with sweat, and so must have everyone else's who was working. It was suffocating heat, the kind where you only wish to be "at rest", like the customers were. I tried not to hate them, but I failed much of the time. I got much nicer at the end of the night knowing it was almost over. At the beginning of the night, I might have had the following exchange with a customer, "...and We're in a hurry." "Oh, you're in a hurry, well I'm hot." with a big smile of course. I'm positive that I said at least 3 times, "Yes, but I only have two arms," again with the flashy charming smile of hatred. If they only knew. I think that my getting out now is wise, only one shift to go Sunday morning. Tomorrow.

Friday, June 10, 2005

The weedy garden of life

New flowers have appeared in the yard. Posted by Hello

I'm pretty sure it's a weed. But due to its location at the perimeter of the garden (you can see the romaine lettuce just behind) and the cutesy splash of color, it has been spared - for the moment. The neighbor was firing up the barbeque for lunch when I trotted out to take a close up picture of the weed. "Freak," I'm sure he thought. Every time I venture around the backyard, there are new growth and little surprises. Though I sadly mourn the patch of purple flowers mown last Sunday, there is now a little patch of yellow flowers nearby (weeds all, I'm sure) getting their turn for some attention. And so life goes, death, destruction and rebirth. Cranky mood, bad mood, good mood. Infancy, adolescence, adulthood. I could go on. Without transformation, creation cannot exist. And so I marvel at the weeds, how unfortunate they are to have been born in a yard tended regularly by a mower. But still lucky enough to grow up in soil free of poisons and rich with the fecal matter of Sara. And look how each weedy flower head is different, tilting at different angles trying to look like the perfect fried egg. Maybe they're wild dwarf daisies, anyone know?

One half of one of the romaine lettuces is missing. I suspect squirrels, and am only too happy to provide them with a little roughage. After all, it is the zenith of Sara's day to spot one in the yard causing the scene to become cartoonlike, the squirrel darting and spastic and performing feats apparently impervious to gravity. I hope they stick around. And anyway, I planted hot peppers and onions too, so they're probably safe. Not that I'm really gardening at all for the foodstuffs, though that would be a nice bonus. It's really the tending to something, watching it grow, feeling attached to it and then grieving and grateful at the end where the real rewards lie in gardening. A study of the life process, or even a participation in the life process - makes you feel all connected and stuff. (grin)

And now I'd like to take you to the deep end. We are the backyard. Us. People. We've got our well groomed parts, and our weedy growths. We have boundaries. We manage to tend to our various facets and control them much of the time, but some things are beyond our control. We have our well attended to parts, and our shat upon parts, and little patches in the corner we ignore. Other beings rely on us and visit from time to time. And when I study my backyard, I feel like I am studying us at the same time, the whole incredible, messy business of life, each beautiful part integral to the whole. And then, in little glimmers and flashes, I see the face of the Universe, reflecting its patterns upon patterns of perfection. Ok, we can go back to the shallow end now.

I probably need to get out of the city more.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Musing, philosophically

I have a secret. Strange as it may sound, I really like Jesus. I didn't want to know anything about him (not capitalized, please note) for the longest time because the people who loved him seemed to really have it out for me and my kind. I thought of Jesus kinda like I do now with George Bush, I'd just rather not go there. But then, in order to really refute a Bible thumper, you have to arm yourself with knowledge. And in order to have even an iota of objectiveness, you've got to check out what all the other religions are saying, and get to know their divine beings too - the whole gang, Buddha, Mohammed, Karma, the Holy Spirit, the Holy Trinity, Earth spirits, and Devils, Demons, the Universe and even the Atheist perspective. Then, what you've got to do is go inside and find the beauty and uniqueness of you, and then see which parts of these philosophical explanations of our existence here speak to you the most. Because the basic messages are all the same. Work hard, and do lots more helping of others and expressing joy and compassion than the hurting of others and expressing hate and anger. Let's see, over here you die, get judged and are sent to a wonderful place or a horrific hell and over there you come back again and again until you get it right while still others give you one shot, this is it and then you're dirt. I think the truth is tucked away in all kinds of hidden places, many of which we haven't discovered yet or don't have the mental capacity to conceive of yet. From the mysterious anomaly of light to the unfathomable ends of the theory of relativity, (To the light, it feels like it's everywhere at once, it lives in a place without time) we have much to learn. I suspect there are more surprises stashed in our DNA, and the unconscious regions of our brains, and in the jungles, ocean bottoms and outer space. Here's something: rotate a magnet around a coil of wires and poof, you've got electricity. Why? Well it works, that's why. How? Oh, well we're not exactly sure, we can't really fully explain electricity itself. And so it is with spiritual matters. I can't prove to you the existence or non-existence of God (whatever you interpret that to mean) but I'm pretty sure I've caught him/her winking at me here and there. So back to Jesus. This guy went out and figured himself out, suffered for visions in the desert (you know like the Native Americans do) and got in touch with some higher truths, or his higher truth. Then he tried to help others find this connection to spirit. He said the answer is inside us. (Hello people, the answer is not in a book, it's not through the filter of another person's brain, it is through the knowledge of self and your own unique experience here that you can find the answers.) What a great guy, and what a pity that people bastardize his message. I've been told (with pity in the speaker's eyes) that you can't just pick and choose the elements you like from religion, that faith requires you to pick a religion even if you don't like some parts of it. And I have to disagree, do you really think God gave you that brain so that you could turn it off and give the power of your intellect to others? Well I don't, I think it's our duty to figure it out for ourselves, in our unique way. I'm pretty sure Jesus did it this way, and suggested we do the same. What a great guy!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Bloody phones

I think my hate affair with phones began at RJ's the Rib Joint. This was the first job I was ever fired from. I wanted desperately to be a waiter, the place was fabulously busy, but had to start as a host and work my way up. My day of training included learning table numbers and stations and memorizing the greeting to be used when answering the telephone. It was very important, I was told, it was never to be forgotten, they said. Good afternoon and thank you for calling RJ's the Rib Joint, home of the amazing all you can eat Sunday Brunch Bash at only 10.95 per person, how can I help you? Most people who called tried to interject before you were done spitting it out, so it became clear that saying it as fast as possible was paramount. Sometimes people laughed. We weren't supposed to laugh about it.

At the Ritz Carlton, it was "How may I assist you?" Using refined language is their trademark, so okay becomes of course, and problems become opportunities. This is where I learned that some people can be hateful beasts on the phone, feeling free to berate the faceless person on the other end of the line. "I said Dubernay, not Dubernoy - you don't hear so well do you?"

Once I had a semblance of a permanent residence, the sales pitches began. I made more than one cry after blowing up at them. "What kind of a person are you? How can you spend your life this way, calling and taking advantage of people and disturbing them. Did I ask you to call? Do I know you? What a piece of human sewage you are!" Then tears. I feel bad about it now. Sort of.

As a manager at Spaghettini, I was required to carry a device that would render me reachable at all times. I enjoyed working for them and opted for cell phone instead of pager. Wouldn't you know it, but that darn thing rang at the most inopportune times. I'm in the bathroom and it rings. Shower? Rings again. Having a flying dream and being taken out of it by that thing, priceless. But this is where I learned the crux of it. It is to make yourself reachable.

Sure, I can hear everyone saying, "No, I don't even keep mine on, I only use it when I need it. Just in case. You know, something bad happens." Yeah, and then a few days later, you'll say, "I'll have my cell phone on so we can coordinate." Uh huh. Big convenience you say? Another hunk of metal to lug around with you, and another thing to worry about losing, recharging and paying. I don't know, call me old fashioned, but the pay phone is pretty darn convenient and costs very little.

I have always paced while talking on the phone. I do not pace at any other time. What can be surmised from this behavior? Before cordless came along, I bought the long 25' cords from Radio Shack so that I had ample pacing clearance. And cordless was marvelous, I could pace even longer paths. The whole missing component of body language and facial expression makes telephoning a dull substitute for the real thing. Even writing is better, getting to say everything you want to say in one breath and then, at your leisure, reading any replies. You have time to articulate better, and really say what you want to say. How many times have you gotten off the phone and said, "Shit, I forgot to ask them about..." - that doesn't happen with letters.
Now, I have the caller display and I just don't answer any unknown numbers. Some of my loved ones choose to prohibit the transmission of "who they are" and the display simply reads "private" when they call. I am a little flummoxed by this decision to hide one's identity, I mean aren't you going to identify yourself as soon as who you're calling picks up?


Clearly, your host is, oh what's the word, bitchy?, cranky? cantankerous? anuslike? Ok, I admit it, not in the most loving and peaceful place right now. Maybe it's the heat. It seems that we went from the 50's to the 80's overnight, and we've had hot and humid weather for days now. It was still 80 degrees when I went to bed last night and sleep came in sweaty, fitful bursts. People all over town seem rankled and hot-tempered. We want to complain about the heat, but to do so would appear hypocritical since whining about the cold finished just last week.

And so, I apologize and give you this picture below taken at dusk. My heart soared while watching the evening sky yesterday, the creamy pinks and oranges blending with the cotton candy cloud forms. Not much of a story there, but thought you'd like to know that my panties are not in a wad 100 percent of the time.

looking southeast, at dusk Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Senor Frog's

Inside the famed establishment Posted by Hello

Have you heard of this place? I hadn't until we took our honeymoon cruise last October. Apparently some kind of phenom over the last two decades or so, you can now visit a Senor Frog's at a Mexican tourist resort near you. Go ahead, take a peak at the company homepage. (Oooh! So hip, so cool. They use the word "thingy" just like me!) Gag. If you have not had the opportunity to visit a Senor Frog's, your soul may still be safe. As for me, mine feels tainted now. Let me detail for you my one and only experience there. It lasted maybe 90 minutes.

One of the stops on our cruise was Mazatlan. (Home of the original Senor Frog's) We spent the bulk of the day on the beach saying "no gracias" to the peddlers and eating fish tacos. We were walking on the beach and happened upon a couple of people we had hung out with on the ship. You can see them on the right in the picture. (The girl's name was Shelby, and the only thing I can remember about him is that he was hopelessly in love with her -she not him and had said so- and that he was highly skilled at guzzling beer in order to dull his pain.)

"Hey, you wanna come with us to Senor Frog's - we're gonna stop there on the way back to the ship."

"Senor Frog's? What's that?"

"Oh. My. God. You don't know what Senor Frog's is, oh well then you have to go, yur gonna have So. Much. Fun!"

I must have been numbed by the hypnotic effect of the waves lightly lapping the shore because alarm bells did not go off in my head. That or that we were on vacation, and I didn't really care what we were doing. So we dopily nodded and said, "Okay" and headed off to hail a taxi. The taxi headed down the beach to the famed Senor Frog's. Looked like a big El Torito to me, and when we walked in there was a brightly lit gift shop with lots of cute t-shirts with trendy slogans alluding to how drunk you got at the place. How American, I thought. Hard Rock anyone? Yawn. We went into the bar where they had very loud music and waiters swarming around carrying all sorts of things. Glowsticks, jello shots, chains, balloons and cameras to take your picture. Everything cost something if only a tip. The waiters also wore aprons that when they lifted them up, a large, erect stuffed-cloth penis was revealed. They enjoyed coming up behind female patrons and rubbing it on their backs. Beers were ordered and I marveled at how many people from our ship were there, whole families even, watching their teenage children eat jello shots and writhe unbecomingly on the dance stage. At some point balloons were placed on the heads of all the patrons in the bar, and a conga line was begun. In the picture you can see me smiling. However, inside I was screaming with all my might: Get me outta here!!! Also in the picture above, note the 2 beers in front of me. I declined the full beer and was told, "No, you will have another one!" (I managed to give it to someone when they weren't looking though, he-he) In the space of an hour, I saw young and old alike down a dozen drinks and fall down and vomit. The final kicker was when the DJ started playing a song with the lyrics "It's gettin hot in here, so take off all your clothes.." causing all the young girls to jump to the stage and display their stripping routines they had often practiced at home in the mirror. (I have vile photographic evidence) We finally managed to leave in time to reach the ship. The time? Four in the afternoon. That was a trip to hell I thought.

And the business model. Genius,don't you think? Capitalism at it's best. The clever "extreme entertainment" (their words not mine) angle works like a charm: Let's attract underage drinkers to come and blow money while trashing themselves. All in the name of good clean fun. What? Why are you looking at me like that?

Maybe I can't let my hair down, maybe I'm too uptight, maybe even I *am* getting old, but you will never see me in another Senor Frog's.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Sunday sampler

me and marie-andree Posted by Hello

After my shower and while dressing in the bedroom, sleeping Serge said "but it's so little!" and burst out laughing. He continued to giggle in his sleep. This made me smile.

While attempting to write a blog post, the electricity went out. I felt this was apt, given the lameness of what I was writing.

Sweating profusely, I listen to customers sitting in the shade, drinking a cold beverage complaining about the heat. They are wearing tank tops and shorts. You can see what I was wearing above.

I delight in getting a candid shot while one of the servers crams eggs into her mouth from an omelet "mistake". It would be cruel to post that shot here.

Yesterday was the Tour de l'isle, a huge bike event where thousands of people tour the whole city on bike. This caused the ride home to last one hour. I got a ride from Judith and her boyfriend, and we talked about lots of things. He likes hunting for mushrooms in the forest. I am jealous.

Arriving home, I smell the sweet smell of mown grass. I love this smell. Then I remember the patch of little purple flowers and feel sad.

On the way to enjoy a refreshment on a rooftop patio in the Village, Serge stopped to get money out of the ATM. I stayed outside and watched the people go by. An armless transvestite passed and had the most pleasant grin on his/her face while sashaying down the street. I think: there but for the grace of God. Then Serge startled me out of my haze. "What are you doing?" I said, "I'm marveling at the armless transvestite." He nearly shouted "Armless what?!" And I was embarassed, and soon after, so was he. Thankfully he/she didn't hear us.

We waited a half an hour for a bus, it didn't come though, so we took a taxi. We felt steamed at the Public Transportation system.

Eating a salad for dinner in the back yard (Serge's famous bacon and egg salad) the neighborhood kids playing with squirt guns *accidentally* squirt us. I am forced to snarl, "Hey, we're eating here." I feel old.

Finally while watching a report about brand marketing to young people, I pondered why I never got hooked by brands. (Gap, Coke, Benneton, Nintendo etc) Rather depressing report especially the way Benneton "commoditizes" the ideals it uses in its commercials. Using the fight against racism for example, only to sell more clothes. I think I owe my parents a big thank you for this, as I was not allowed to watch TV when I was a kid, and at school, we wore uniforms. It wasn't until I was 13 that I was exposed to public school where I found that brand name stuff was really important. I didn't get it then. I still don't.

A few hours after bed, I am awoken by thunder. I want to stay in bed, but I get up and look out the window anyway. The clock says 2:40.

Even the most ordinary days can leave you with powerful impressions. Go out and embrace your ordinary day.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Petit post

Even a blogger gets a day off now and then. The cumulonimbi are towering all around and Serge is bugging me to go outside and *do* something. I just finished my brunch shift and getting out of the house sounds good to me too. So......consider this my blog day off. I'll be back tomorrow, I promise. Until then.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Gina Limongelli

I used to want to be a dad. Sure, I knew it was unlikely given my sexual orientation, but the internal desire to nurture another human being coupled with the allure (vanity) of having a little"you" walking around stuck with me well into my 20's. At about 30, I saw how much work it was to raise a human being as my friends married and started families. There was some relief in that, knowing I was forgiven for not carrying on the family name (well, I forgave myself), having children just wasn't part of my path. Or was it? Skip ahead 10 years and I find myself teaching children of all ages. I marvel at them, each so different, their personalities so distinct, and yet all sharing that quality of "I can't wait until I grow up." I have pictures of most of them and remember little things that happened between me and each one. Some of them have very busy dads (or dads abroad) and they treat me as a kind of dad too. I talk to them all like they are adults. I think this is key. Since I give private English lessons to kids, the relationship is much more intimate than say, in a large classroom. Bonds are developed, connections are made, tears are shed at the final goodbye. Do I make a lasting impression? It's not something I pondered really until yesterday - do I remember any special adult who made a lasting impression on me. I didn't have to think long before I remembered Gina Limongelli. (I swear to God that was her real name.)

Gina Limongelli (a college student) was the playground attendant slash classroom cleaner at the small private school I attended. So small in fact, my 6th grade year was spent in a combined 4th-5th-6th grade class where I was one of two sixth graders. The other families picked up their kids from our class at the end of the school day, and I had to pass the next two and a half hours with stinky first and second graders whose parents worked late like mine. (I hated that, it was a prison, I passed the time by hiding and sucking on rocks, but that's another story.) So I was the oldest kid on the playground and wound up drawn to Miss Gina and learned a lot about her. Unless she was scolding (I had to be scolded often), she spoke to me like I was an adult. She told me one of the funniest stories I have ever heard and caused me to pee my pants laughing. Miss Gina had a stout, plump frame and liked to rest her feet by sitting on the swings. I sometimes sat in the next swing and we had conversations about movies and music and her boyfriend trouble. One day, she said "Ricky, you'll never believe what happened to me last Friday." "What? tell me tell me tell me".

-I finished up on Friday at 6 and I had to get to the Photomat kiosk to pick up the pictures that I was using in my presentation for my art class at 7. So you know the shoes I like to wear with the high platforms and the strings all tied around? Well, those are really difficult to drive with so I take them off in the car, you just can't work the pedals well with them on. Anyway, I picked up my pictures at the photomat and raced to school to get ready for the class and my presentation. When I went to get out of the car, I only had one shoe. I looked under the seats and had to conclude that I lost it somewhere. I started to panic. Then I remembered that I had had to open the door a little bit to get my pictures at the photomat booth. Oh, I hoped that it would be there. So I raced back to the photomat and the worker was just locking up the booth. There was no shoe on the ground. So I asked him "Excuse me but did you see a shoe around here" and he said "With a lot of strings, you mean?" And I said, "yeah, yeah do you have it?" And he informed me that he had taken it to the dumpster behind the Sav-on with the trash. So I walked behind the Sav-on to see a huge blue dumpster, not the regular kind, a really big one two feet taller than me. I saw a little ladder on one side of the dumpster and climbed up to look inside and there, in the far corner at the bottom was my shoe. But I couldn't reach it and went to get a hanger out of my car and then climbed back up to reach and hook one of the stringy parts. And then something terrible happened - I fell in!

By now I am giggling helplessly, the vision of her wallowing in the garbage.

-It wasn't too bad, mostly paper and fast food bags, and there wasn't very much trash either so I was maybe a foot off the floor. Then I realized that there was no ladder on the inside of the dumpster. Oh, no I thought. I could reach the top of the edge of the dumpster but I couldn't pull myself up. I threw my shoe out of the dumpster and started to pile the trash into a corner. It was about then that I heard a grinding engine sound, something familiar about that sound, a trashtruck sound! No, that couldn't happen. I got mustard on my shirt while piling trash and started to cry. I was already late for class, stuck in a dumpster and now, mustard. Cursing, I continued to try to get enough trash to reach the top, but everytime I stood on it, it sunk down again. Then the trashtruck sound was getting alarmingly close. "This cannot be happening to me" I thought. And then it was upon me. The trashtruck approached, and I started screaming. The two arms of the trashtruck cl-clunked into place. At that point I was hysterical, screaming and crying and throwing paper in the air as the dumpster slowly started to rise.

This is when I peed.

-I managed to throw a sizable box out and the rising stopped, and slowly the dumpster returned to the ground. I heard Spanish voices, and then a small face appeared at the exterior ladder edge point. "What you doing there?" I couldn't speak, only sobs came out. The little man disappeared. About 3 minutes later he came back and had a ladder with him that he put inside so that I could climb out. He asked again "What you doing there?" I went and grabbed my shoe from the ground and I shrieked "looking for my shoe!" He looked profoundly puzzled and I went back to my car. I got to class late but I had another blouse in the car, so it turned out ok. But can you believe that that really happened to me!

I expressed my doubts ("No way!") and she produced the receipt from the photomat from the previous Friday evening. She told me that one day, that would be a chapter in her book. I don't know what ever happened to Gina Limongelli, maybe one day she'll google her maiden name and stumble onto this post and have that great feeling when you realize you made an impression on someone. And it's something I will remember too as I go to my weekly lessons with the kids.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Life soup Posted by Hello

What you see there is a patch of our backyard where an amoeba shaped patch of little purple flowers (yes, I'm sure they have a name, but nomenclature is not my strong suit) appeared today. I thought it was such a lovely splash of color added to the scene. "Honey look at the purple flowers here." He glanced in my direction from the porch and said "Better enjoy them now because they're going to get mowed." So they were granted blog immortalization (and I hope they didn't hear Serge).

The yard is a bowl of life soup right now. The pine tree is squirting out baby pinecones and the dozens of grasses, plants and yes, weeds are growing out inches per day it seems. The tomato plants in the garden are flowering and the dandelions have already done their thing shooting up, flowering and releasing their cottony seed pods into the wind. I must admit that last week I murdered many of them. (This did not bring me pleasure, except when I discovered that their blood is milky.) Bright orange beaked (for the spring) starlings toddle around the yard plucking earthworms out of the grassy area; they appear to have some kind of worm radar. Ladybugs, bumblebees, and spiders are setting up shop and clouds of gnats hover in random locations. Robins, sparrows, jays and hummingbirds appear and disappear, my yard but one stop on the infinite buffet. I keep the bird book (thanks, em) next to the backdoor and have identified over 20 species in the last month. I find it fascinating the way beak color and plumage changes for the spring. Also, in the spring it's usually easier to discern the sex of the bird you are seeing by noting color patterns and wing/feather shape. Where a few months ago, a veritable glacier covered the terrain, life has taken back the land and is now exploding. We hit 80 degrees yesterday for the first time this year.

Later today, I will be at the restaurant sweating. I will go up and down the stairs hundreds of times (the kitchen is in the basement) and at the end of my shift, I will stink. (this unappealing effect will be mitigated by the wad of cash in my pocket) In addition, tonight I will give my notice. I have anguished for two days about it - my sense of duty conflicting with my true feelings which are simply "I don't want to work there every weekend of the summer." So that's what I'm going to say, that I'm sorry I accepted the job, I shouldn't have but I need to take care of my needs. Secretly, I hope they do that thing where they don't let you stay for two weeks, they just say fine, you're done. I know they won't though because I'm so respected around there. They will probably just be a little sad to see me go. (and beg me to stay, which I really don't want to go through) If all goes well, in two weeks Serge and I will be going to the 1000 islands national park camping.

In the fight over money and sanity, I choose sanity. Peace.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Go, went, sago

From the backyard, near sunset.
What do you see? Posted by Hello

Each year I challenge myself to read two books in French. This is a cumbersome exercise because it involves writing down and looking up words along the way. Spoken language is far less rich than the written word and consequently, I am unfamiliar with many of the words and expressions used. (Oh, and this is charming - in French, there is a whole 'nother way to conjugate verbs in the past tense that is ONLY used in writing. Sometimes the verbs look completely different. Imagine, for example, the word "go", which is "went" in the past tense, but when you write a story, it is "sago". Neat, huh?) I improve in baby steps. I usually remember a word after I've looked it up five times and become so filled with hatred for my inability to remember it that it finally finds its slot in my brain. But I improve nonetheless.

For 2005, I have already completed my goal. I had a clever scheme this year that I would ask my 14 year old Quebecois student what book he enjoyed reading (thinking surely I could read easily at his level), and when I did, he turned me onto a well known horror writer from Quebec, Patrick Senecal. Think Steven King. He happily lent me his paperback copy of Le Passager (The Passenger) so that I could talk to him about it at subsequent lessons. As it turns out, this writer appeals to a broad range of ages, and the language was difficult, but I managed to read it without having to look up many words.(Yay) Also, I was sucked in so completely by the plot and taken to such a pinnacle of suspense at the end (my heart racing, my mind spinning, my foot nervously tapping) and then Pow, he pulled the rug right out from under me. Right there, on the second to last page was a revelation that changed the entire story, that the character you had been with the whole time, hoping for his success, praying for him to get out of his predicament (you know, like James Caan in Misery) and then it turns out that the James Caan character is really the bad guy, in fact he's crazy and he just made Kathy Bates up. He smashed up his own legs. The plot is much different from Misery, but it had the same kind of theme, how you watch a poor innocent guy get haplessly sucked further and further into some kind of terrible nightmare. I felt used and dirty, like a big sucker but I had to laugh and say "You got me!"

But then again, maybe I am just a big sucker. Maybe I too easily suspend my disbelief. Last night, while watching an episode of "Sex and the City", a kind of powerful scene happened at the end, I sighed and said "Wow." (because I was moved and all) as the show went to commercial. Serge chuckled and looked arch and said (maybe a tiny bit condescendingly), "It's not real, that really didn't happen. It's fiction." And I said, "What's the point of getting involved in the story if you can't suspend your disbelief, it's much more fun to just pretend it's real - yeah I know it's not real, I just forget about that while I'm watching. And anyway, something like that probably happened to someone sometime, so it could be real too, you never know. I mean where'd the writer get the idea in the first place?" He said he couldn't forget that it wasn't real - he wasn't like that (one of his favorite phrases, always reminding me that he's not like me) and then laughed again and mocked me by making the "surprised" sound that I had made while watching a halloween episode of the Simpsons. (That had sent him over with dripping sarcasm. It's a cartoon, Rick. How can you get scared by a cartoon.) Written, cartooned, narrated or filmed, it's a story and I'm a sucker for any of them.

Often times, the stories bleed into my everyday reality and I will try to see the world through a character's eyes. After having read my uncle Tom's books, I see the sky in a whole new way. The old way, I marveled at the chemical reactions, like the sky was a huge testube in the atmosphere's laboratory, interesting but kind of sanitized. But now I think of the sky as a woman who might have something to say or teach. And so, you may be asking, why make something up when there's already a perfectly plausible explanation? The difference is that it's more fun to imagine that there is a lady in the sky with fingers of lightning and beautiful white cirrus cloud hair. The "reality" result is the same; clouds form, rain falls, weather systems develop and dissipate, but my perception of it, my weaving a story around it quite simply makes the events more interesting. This is not a new idea. Read "Life of Pi" or go rent "Big Fish" to get a similar theme.

And so, my friends, I leave you today with this. It's ok to imagine, pretend and invent. You are not crazy. You are enriching your experience on this Earth. Go ahead, live your fantasy.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Tales from the trenches

Waiters are pieces of shit.

What? Questioning the title are we? How, might you ask, can he say that when he is currently working as a waiter? I'll tell you why, because the unmannered customers make us that way. Coupled with the ungrateful restaurant owners and the surly chefs, waiters often have to submit to hours of denigration every day. Sure they (we) make a decent living, but it's a career that seems to bring out the worst in people. What, too harsh? I think not. I have a long and colorful history in the restaurant business, and there are limitless ways to avenge oneself with customers, owners and chefs. I would never dream of doing any of the things I am about to reveal, though I may have been guilty of such acts in the past.

The most delightful feeling is to punish a customer who has wronged you in some way. What ways? Well, snapping your fingers at a waiter will surely engender rampant hatred among the staff. Making a negative comment about the food as soon as the waiter serves it is another. Basically, any kind of complaining is frowned upon - complain with your pocketbook and don't come back, the waiter just wants to get through his/her shift. One of my unnamed friends had the finger rule wherein the customer's drink is swished with one, two or three of the server's (greasy, dirty, not recently washed) fingers depending on the severity of the rudeness displayed by the customer. And this my friends, is tame. I have personally witnessed an HIV positive server prick his finger and let blood drop into the customer's soup. In his defense, the customer was Pat Robertson, and the disease can't be transmitted that way, but still - even I was flabbergasted (yay, I finally got to work that word in - I've been trying for days).

Owners are often tight-fisted nazis who have a hard time turning a profit which lends them a desperate and at times bitter attitude. So waiters respond by stealing from them, thus keeping the whole disfunctional cycle going. Waiters will take money if at all possible, and if not, their houses are filled with restaurant glassware, silver, coffee, sugar and anything else that's unattended and not locked up. This happens less with *good* owners.

The best way to avenge a hateful chef is to complain bitterly about how you only made $180, when everyone else made more, just within earshot of said hateful chef. That and attach "see server" to every order you submit and encourage your customers to ask for special changes to menu items (chefs love this!).

Five more little tidbits. (I told you I like lists.)

1. If, coming from the kitchen, something falls off your plate, say one of the fried shrimp or a roll, the greatest likelyhood is that it will be brushed off and re-placed on the plate. Well, you're probably lucky if it gets brushed off.

2. Any plate that includes multiple items of the same character, such as french fries, calamari and the like, will likely be snacked on en route from the kitchen. Choosing a restaurant with an exposed kitchen cuts down on this.

3. If you do not tip well, you will be remembered. You will be subject to acts of vengence on subsequent visits.

4. Do not touch your waiter. You have been warned.

5. Getty cozy with the customer generates better tips. You are being played.

So there you have it, the first of perhaps, well, more instalments (how's that for commiting) on the dynamic world of food service. Possible upcoming post titles might include "How to steal a table in three easy steps" or even "Dirty hygenic secrets" wherein the true efficiency of toilet paper is indelicately revealed. Until tomorrow.