Monday, March 31, 2008

Anxiousness, happiness

We went back to that store yesterday and bought the table. It won't be ready until the end of June though. The bad part of this is that once we receive it, we're going to want to change all the other furniture too. I keep saying to spouse, this year it's Europe, next year we can think about furniture. (Sometimes I feel like I'm channeling ricky ricardo and spouse lucy) I have been rather a broken record lately about spending. Oh we keep spending, it's just my lamentations have grown more frequent and border on wailing. Seriously, when spouse discovered the unpaid bill for the car registration (Notice: it is illegal for you to drive the car and you expose yourself to a ticket of 3-600 dollars) yesterday, I felt like someone kicked me in the stomach. I wailed. Then the squabbling ensued. See, he pays that bill, so why should I have the strong reaction? This was the source of his frustration. He thinks my reaction is based on the (incorrect) assumption that I think he is unable to handle his bills. I get frustrated with his total lack of stress about money. "We always get through," he says. So I stress for the both of us, he gets irritated at that, and I get irritated that he doesn't get more sensitive to (my) spending issues. Really kind of retarded. Last night I promised that I would try to stop worrying so much. (Those who know me know that's like asking me to become brown-eyed. ) The whole key is sticking to thinking about today, what's right here in front of us. The future holds so many potential disasters if you think about it, so it's really best not to.

There was a happy moment for us Saturday when we went to the store closing of Zellers. Zellers is basically the Target of Canada. Everything in the store was 30% off the lowest marked price. The place was a madhouse with cashier lines snaking way back into the aisles of the merchandise. I got my jeans, three pair, the ones I always buy, my size!, for 10 bucks each. Spouse picked up another set of sheets for the bed for six bucks. (We thought it was going to be 12 bucks and when it rang up at $6 I about peed my pants with excitement.) Oh and they had my reese's eggs, so I picked some of those up too. That's happiness in a wrapper right there.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sugar shack!

We went to MIL's house yesterday so that we could visit a sugar shack together. As you can see, there's still plenty of snow at her house. The weather was beautiful and sunny, though it never got out of the 20's (fahrenheit)

He we are in the parking area of the sugar shack. We were early, the parking lot was full when we were done.

Once inside, the menu is displayed at the entrance. All sugar shacks have a similar menu. There are no choices and everything is served family style at picnic tables.

Here are spouse and MIL waiting for the first course, which is always....

Pea soup! It is also served with bread and country pate, and bread and butter pickles.

Then the main course arrives. It kind of looks like breakfast, doesn't it. It pretty much is, and then you pour maple syrup all over everything. It's a salt and sugar fest, let me tell you.

Even though we were beyond stuffed, we had to try the sugar pie and fried crepes.

We still had to do the "tire" which is making a kind of maple sucker in the snow. We were so full though that we decided to take a walk in the woods first.

And I was so excited to see a Robin. The first one I've seen this year. That means spring really is around the corner.

Back at the barn behind the shack, the tire was being served. While waiting for the syrup to firm up on the ice, you can read about the magical quirk of nature that allows maple syrup to be made. (er, you can read if you read french.)

Once the syrup is firm, but not too firm, you roll it up on a popsicle stick and eat it like a sucker.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

My gayest look

In case you are out of the loop this week, there's a little protest going on on these internets to respond to Jay Leno's constant mockery of gay people on his show. It started years ago with this guy's story. The recent snippet of Jay's show that has instigated the "my gayest look" protest is there too. You can also see the people who have sent in their pictures to show support.

Gay jokes can be funny, but make sure the gays are laughing with you and not feeling frustrated and mocked. Would Jay ask someone to give their "blackest" look? No. There is comedy and there is bad taste. So for you Mr. Leno, here is my gayest look.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Brief snippets

* I did another voiceover job yesterday. It was for a pilot of a travel show centered on ecotourism. I hope they sell it because then I'd get to do more work. I'm not in the union but they still gave me a hundred bucks an hour! I wonder what the unionized voiceover people make.

* It's still cold here. It snowed yesterday and it will snow today. (Not a lot, but still.)

* This week in class, we are doing an in-class reading about new spy businesses that offer technologically advanced bugs and cameras and sundry other items seen on CSI. In the article, they mention a semen detector. This is to check up on your cheating spouse who may have a drip or two on their undergarments. I've been having the most hilarious time making the students (adults, all) have the correct pronunciation of the word "semen". It's not siMEN, it's SEAmen, "Now say it with me."

* The first time I ever heard the word "semen" was from my 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Shandy. She explained nocturnal emissions to us (in case we had one and got frightened) and I remember hoping that it would never happen to me. Do 6th grade teachers nowadays talk about this stuff?

* Gas prices here have followed the following pattern for the last year: Tues/Wed the price is set (all gas stations have essentially the same price at the same time) and each day it goes down a penny or two. Then on Tues/Wed they bump the price back up. It's usually 10-12%. To put that into perspective, one day the gas is $3.79 and the next it is $4.25 a gallon.

* I want to order this tomato tree. It zooms high as a man in just three months.
* Then again, about the time the tomatoes are ready, the markets will be giving them away. (As will the neighbors.)

Thursday, March 27, 2008


Here's another pic I found in the box of photos. It's a polaroid, taken at the Gay Pride festival in Long Beach California 11 years ago. That is not my hat. I don't remember why we had them on for the picture. It looks awkward holding cups of beer, I wonder why we didn't put them down for the photo. I remember that day though, that picture, how giggly and self conscious we were at the booth where they were giving out free polaroid souvenirs for signing some kind of petition. I remember thinking, "It's never going to happen, but the sentiment is nice." So prophetic that picture turned out to be though, because 7 years later it would be reality for us. Sadly, California, progressive as it is, has not made much forward movement on that front since.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Outrageous and unjust

I was rather pleased to see the suit against Starbucks upheld. In case you haven't read, they have been ordered to pay back 100 million bucks for tips that were illegally distributed to supervisory staff in California. Starbucks is appealing this "outrageous and unjust" decision. All they really had to do before they implemented their tip pooling system was consult a lawyer in the business who would have told them about California's law forbidding managers from collecting service workers' tips. There are ways to avoid the kind of legal hassles that Starbuck's faces, but apparently, they didn't do their homework. I understand why the law is in place. It's to protect the workers. See, if it's up to the supervisor to divvy up the gratuities, and the supervisor gets a cut of it, well, the temptation for fudging numbers would be extreme. I worked at a place where tips were pooled once. I thought it was a great idea until it turned out the manager calculated all the divisions and left us envelopes with our share the next day. There was never any explanation for the calculations. It turned out that the manager's cocaine habit came directly from our tips, skimmed off the top of each evening's take.

Starbuck's needs to pay its supervisors enough so that they don't need to be subsidized by the tips for the grunt workers, er, barristas. This kind of stuff happens all the time in small outfits and ma and pa restaurant businesses. But when you've got 2400 cafes in one state (one per 12000 residents) you should probably ensure that your labor practices don't contravene the law.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Shopping games

Spouse saw a table at the home show that he liked. He's been eying dining room tables for, oh I'd say ever since we've been together. No, we have never had THE dining room table, you know, the one that you buy and think, "That's the last table we'll ever need to buy." Every time spouse spots a table he loves, it's thousands of dollars. I've learned over the years to take none of them too seriously. We DO already have a table, where we can sit and eat if we wanted. (Usually we eat sitting on the floor at the coffee table.) Sure the table is purple, but that's what tablecloths are for.

Shopping and I have never really gotten along and it's too bad because I hear lots of people do this as an "recreational activity", whereas I've always thought of it as a chore. The game of saving money is not well played in shopping centers. So when Serge took an interest in the table at the show, I continued to walk acting like I hadn't seen his eyes light up. "Hey come'eer," he shouted and so I came over, yawning, to do my usual, "Yeah it's okay, but look at the price!" The price on the table was surely a come-on at $399. So I said, "Yeah it's okay, but look $399 just for the piece of glass top." He went right over to the sales rep and proved me wrong, that was the price for the whole table, so I said, "Great, we can get it then." You would have thought I'd said we'd won a tidy sum of money the way spouse reacted. "We can?????" he said with wide eyes. "Sure," I said as though it was nothing unusual. I guess after 15 years of saying no, he was rather surprised.

So he dragged me out yesterday morning to the shop selling the table. (Spouse knows how shopping makes me poo so I was charmed before we left when he checked, "Did you go poo?") There it was, 399, just like we saw at the show. But gosh it looked a lot bigger now. 60 inches in diameter. I suggested we map it out in the house to make sure it's not too cumbersome in the room. We have a long skinny living/dining room, so it can't be too wide. Rectangle works best, but everything is so rectangly, the room, the couch, the coffee table, the dining table. Blocky is needing some curves. Spouse asked if the glass top could be smaller and was told no. So we didn't buy it. We came home and looked at the room, and it could work but it's just a bit big. I'm letting spouse marinate with the idea for now.

If I did labels, today they would be: rectangly, poo, dining table

Monday, March 24, 2008

Weekend Update

It was a lovely Easter day. Spouse painted the other half of the bedroom and then we took a stroll through the national home show. We wouldn't have gone except that I had a two for one entry coupon. I don't really understand this principle of paying to go in to be hounded by people hawking wares. Shouldn't I be paid for that? You could tell where all the big profits were by the quantity of vendors. Central vacuum cleaning systems must be all profit because there were at least a dozen different booths for that. Oh and exterior spas. They had some of those at 25 grand, wait for it, plus tax and installation. Spouse bought a set of sheets. I stole a pen.

Today's the day I go buy all the Reese's peanut butter eggs for half price.

The last day of a long weekend is so bittersweet. Sweet because it's another day off, bitter because it's the last one. It's been the same with the weather this weekend. The sun beckons us outside and then the icy wind slaps us in the face. I suppose spouse will put a second coat of beige (to offset the dark brown) in the bedroom and I will try to finish the ribbing on the socks I'm knitting. (I use the present continuous "am knitting" very loosely. The socks were started at Christmas.) There was one accomplishment for me, I finished the book I was reading, "A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson. This was a lovely read about a man's underprepared and humorous attempt to walk the Appalachian Trail. I love his bitter take on progress in America, where if it's bigger and uglier, it's better. Perhaps today I'll pick up the next book in my pile, "Eat, Pray Love." And certainly I'll be doing my best not to think about tomorrow when it's back to the grind.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Springtime in Montreal

The calendar makes little sense up here. Spring is announced, but it never jives with the landscape. Starting in March, the city switches to the heinous "street sweeping" scam, whereby they ostensibly clean the street with a large machine with a rotating brush. Twice a week. I've never seen the machines do anything but redistribute the gunk in the gutter into the middle of the street, but if you forget to move your car, that'll be sixty bucks please. Exceptionally this year, it has been postponed since we're still snow covered and well below freezing. I grew up in a place that didn't have street sweepers and yet the streets remained relatively clean. For decades. No special days, no bogus machine, no tickets for citizens with time tracking troubles. At least here they do it during the day. When I lived in Long Beach, our street's parking restriction began at 4am, so if you forgot about what day street sweeping was before you went to bed, you were screwed. I used to fantasize about running for city office on the platform of eliminating street sweeping. Who wouldn't vote for that candidate?

Friday, March 21, 2008

This n that

Good Friday morning to you. (clever, eh?) Four days off, I can't believe it. I toyed with the idea of taking a bloggy break too during this weekend since spouse keeps telling me that the blog is boring lately. I say what I always say to anyone complaining of boredom, "Bored is a state of mind." I remember being vilified as a kid for uttering those words, the adults saying all I had to do was choose something to do to avoid boredom. I remember feeling glum because everything I could think of to do seemed boring, so there must be something wrong with ME. I wonder if kids nowadays have this "I'm bored" problem. With video games and the internet, it seems like kids would rarely be bored, but since it is a state of mind, they probably are at times. Anyway, I learned to stop saying the words and kept the "I'm bored" tape playing silently to myself. Now I'm almost never bored, as there's always something interesting to do or explore.

I was going through the box of old photos I have, all the ones taken before digital arrived, to look for the photo for the Hawaii story. They're all a big jumble in the box, out of order, and I had to go through them one by one to find the one I was looking for. There were so many reminders of how much older we look now. And there were many many pictures like this one, for years I couldn't have my picture taken with a straight face. They make me laugh.

Have a lovely day peeps.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Modern prefix

Oh boy, last work day of the week. Serge and I both have four days off starting tomorrow and nothing planned. It's supposed to be cold all weekend so we'll probably do a lot of puttering. Maybe some painting and spring cleaning too. Yesterday during my morning break I took a stroll through the job fair down at the convention center. I'm not really looking for anything, except maybe something temporary for the summer. Ugh. It was all retail or sales. Two things I'm pretty much never going to do. I don't really want to do anything that requires me to urge people to part with their money. The Best Buy booth cracked me up with their slogan: "Where work is having fun!" I would have been intrigued by that 20 years ago, but today I'm just cynical. Let's get real, work is something everybody does because they have to. Sure there are exceptions, but the generalization holds true.

McDonald's was there. Shudder. And there were people at the booth listening to the HR rep gushing about the team spirit of the company. They get a free employee meal at every shift! As I was leaving, I was thinking about how McDonald's is so ordinary yet ubiquitous. How the "Mc" prefix is now being used to mean "ordinary yet ubiquitous" as with the term McMansion in the US. Then I saw a pigeon and thought, "McBird." Then I started thinking about what else this could apply to. McCheese would be American cheese I suppose. The Toyota Echo strikes me as McCar, and these days the girls with the blonde streaks are wearing a McHairdo. What are McShoes? Anything from Payless? Crocs? Two parents and two children would be a McFamily, and if the children are spoiled, they'd be McKids. I'm sure y'all can think up some more, so have at it in the comments.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Learning something new every day

Did you know that in some countries the lavatories on the trains are not equipped with tanks for the sanitary disposal of waste? I did not know this. I learned this via a news item brought into class. It was about a woman in India who was riding a train, sat down on the toilet and passed out while giving birth prematurely to a baby girl. In India, the toilets on the train open right onto the tracks, which is where the baby landed. It took two hours before the woman was found in the loo, and before people understood what had happened. Happy ending though, the baby survived.

Students wondered who cut the cord and we surmised that the placenta must have come out with the baby. And of course some are rather horrified at the "hole in the floor" train toilet. My Romanian student however, was nonplussed, "All the trains are like that in my country," she lamented. Can I get an ewww?

This has given me the chance to tell the story of when I was a kid and some unidentified liquid matter hit the windshield on a sunny day. "What was that?" I asked my mother who was driving. She gave me some deadpan response "that there must be a plane dumping the toilet tank." I was incredulous at first until my mother said, "What else do you expect them to do with it?" For at least a year afterwards I tried to "catch" a plane in the act of dumping the toilet tank. Finally, she came clean with me, but sheesh I was a gullible boy.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

At least she smells nice

Sara did a dastardly thing after I gave her a bath Sunday. She did her usual tearing all over the house snorting and wiping her face on the floor, the couch, her bed, the carpet. I took a video of it. Watch if you like, it's not necessary for the story, such as it is.

I was just putting down the camera and heading over to the pantry to get her reward cookie for being so good in the bath when I heard a very bad sound. I whipped around to see her squatting on our new(ish) carpet in the living room and peeing! I shouted, which is stupid of me since she doesn't really hear. At the same time, I went directly to her and swatted her behind while she was still peeing, a big puddle accumulating on top of the tightly crowded carpet fibers. I ran to get towels but by the time I got back with them it had soaked in. Serge heard the commotion and came running back in from the office, assessed the situation and said, "Awww, she got too excited." Which is probably true. All those prickly sensations of fur drying her skin must have made her forget where she was. I don't think it was vindictive, I've seen her pee out of vindictiveness before (marched right up to where I was sitting, looked me in the eye and squatted right in front of me) and this didn't seem like that. Even so, she lost her cookie privileges for the rest of the day. And now her shedding is even worse, as it always is right after a bath.

Dan sent me some information on a treatment for shedding dogs, in the form of a pill. It looks like it's just a bunch of vitamins, but the testimonials, if true, make me want to get some. Has anyone ever heard of or used Zanimo products? I'm a little skeptical of, well, everything really, and since they want me to feed her four tablets a day, I need to be fairly sure it will help before I embark on that. She sheds seven to eight months a year and it's always worse now as we head into spring.

Spring, Ha! I took this shot yesterday since it was bright and sunny. It looks like they turned this fountain on too early in a downtown courtyard.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Seven hours is the minimum

I remember back in high school, can't remember which year, when our drama teacher (do they still have those in high school or have budgets axed such non-essential programs?) set up a visit from a freelance cameraman crew. It was all very exciting to meet some people working in the industry that we had our eyes on. But something the main guy said struck me. "We never get more than four or five hours of sleep. If you want to do this job, you've got to be available for long hours."

I knew then that I wanted nothing to do with being a cameraman.

Then as now, I am just no good at all if I don't get a good 7-8 hours of sleep. I've come across scores of individuals since then who claim to only need 4-5 hours of sleep per night. My reaction is either one of jealousy or suspicion. If I only get four or five hours, the subsequent day is mostly suffering, though I can suck it up and fake my way through it. I've always wished I could get by on fewer hours, but I've learned that for me, it's just not true.

Then last night on 60 Minutes, they did a whole segment on sleep deprivation. Every creature on the planet sleeps. From the smallest insect to the largest mammal, we all need to shut down for part of the day. If it's unnecessary, it would be evolution's biggest mistake since we are all vulnerable to predators while sleeping. It seems to be very necessary as they showed the effects of sleep deprivation on a variety of animals. Take the rats for example. They kept rats awake for five days and then they just started dropping dead. Sleep deprived fruit flies stopped mating. Clearly sleep is important, though the purpose still eludes researchers.

The whole time I was watching, I was cheering as though at a sporting event. I guess it's because I feel vindicated. I guess I felt ashamed of my need for substantial sleep, but now I can see that I shouldn't be and further, that those who claim to need far less sleep are, simply put, bullshitting me. If I have to get up at five, I will go to bed at nine. Nine is really early and I've been ridiculed more than once about leaving some social event early to make sure I get my sleep. It used to bother me, but never again!

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Here's a super easy side dish recipe. It's called tartiflette. Dice two medium sized potatoes and one small onion and four slices of bacon. Saute the potatoes in a bit of olive oil until they start to brown and then add the onions and bacon and continue sauteing until the potatoes are golden. I add a pinch or two of salt and pepper as well.

Once you're done, you will put the sauteed mixture into a casserole dish and add Sir Laurier d'Arthabaska cheese. (This is a soft ripened cheese with washed rind.) The original recipe calls for Robluchon which is very expensive. Try a local cheese provider's cheese if you're unable to find these.

I prepared a marinated bavette de boeuf to go with. The bavette (bib in French) is known as skirt steak in English. I adore Diane's gourmet western smokehouse sauce for marinating.

The tartiflette goes in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 300 just to let the cheese soften up but not too high a temperature or the cheese might separate. I prepared the steak while the tartiflette turned gooey in the oven.

Voila, a delicious dinner for Saturday night. Maybe a bit lacking in the veggie department, but a side salad helped assuage our guilt over this vein-clogging concoction.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Oh look it's snowing again. Roofs are collapsing up here. All the schools were evacuated yesterday to clear snow off because some school roofs had more than 4 feet on top. On Thursday three people died in a roof collapse and yesterday a couple barely escaped with their lives as they sat down to eat and heard the ceiling crack, ran outside, and watched the roof plunge into the kitchen. Our roof is flat so it fills up to the lip and then the rest is blown off. Still it's a solid foot and a half up there. I've decided not to worry about it.

Here is a snow eater. The square yellow shaft on the side shoots the snow into a truck riding alongside the snow eater. It makes me shudder to think about getting chewed up by that thing.

It's a lazy puttery weekend. Maybe we'll head down to the Saint Patrick's day parade tomorrow. Supposed to be sunny and 32 degrees F. Practically tropical. Today's big goal is to bathe the dog, as it's been three months and she is starting to must. She hates bathing but tolerates it. Nothing else scintillating here, feel free to move on.

Friday, March 14, 2008


* I got a big kick out of one of my students this week in my beginner's class. She got up to leave the room and I said, "Where are you going?" Her answer still makes me giggle, "I need to make pie pie."

* It's so funny how such a small thing can generate so many varying points of view. This week we've been discussing the story of a kid who was suspended for coming to school with a mohawk haircut. He was six years old. His mother changed schools because the boy wanted to keep his haircut. In class, it seems to depend on the person's preconceived opinion of a mohawk. If they have attached a dangerous or violent meaning to it, they find it hugely inappropriate for a six year old, but if the person has attached a cute or individual taste meaning to it, they find the suspension of the student ridiculous. Many in between opinions too. We end up talking about conformity and whether or not and to what extent we should be teaching that to our kids.. I've been very surprised at the amount of conversation it has inspired. Makes my job a breeze when that happens.

* I tried the Chunky brand "Chicken and Sausage Gumbo" and LOVED it. I decided to try another one yesterday - "Chicken a la King" and I was barely able to gag it down. It was like pus with chunks in it.

* I took over 50 pictures for 12 of 12 and then I had a hard time choosing 12. What's interesting about that exercise is that you're forced to look for the interesting as you go through your ordinary day. I passed by a plaque that I have probably passed by 1000 times and never even looked at it. Finally I did and I learned that the crabapple is Montreal's official tree. Felt all edified, I did.

* I've been paying attention to salt lately. Sometimes I wake up all filled with water and I figured it was the salt. I've been shocked at how much there is of it in everything. 12% of the recommended daily intake just from the morning bagel. I got a coupon for two McDonald's breakfast sanwiches for the price of one and if there's one Mickey Dees weakness I have, it's the Sausage McMuffin with egg. (I adored when I stayed in Hong Kong that the McDonald's there serves them all day.) So I had two the other morning and was horrified to see on the wrapper (since I'm reading them now) that I had consumed the full day's allotment of salt. There were still two meals to go. Sure enough, I was all bloated and sluggish the next day.

* The girl gave me back the coupon to use again instead of putting it in the drawer. Ever since, it's been causing me to exhibit conflicting desires. The bloating is still dominating the deliciousness. But my spendthrifty ways are sure to come into play.

* Hey, the blog's been scat-free for a week. Oh. Oops.

* There's a contest in the paper here to fly four friends or family members to Montreal for dinner. It's a two week contest and you have to find the little symbol in the newspaper each day and send in the form. So I've been doing it and since you have to state the people you'd invite, I've been mixing it up each time, a different mix of either family or friends or both. I've got several forms here yet to be filled out so I thought I would maybe do a blogger entry or two as well. I mean y'all are my friends too. Trouble is, I need real names and cities of residence. So if you're interested (like it's a zillion to one that we'd win, but still) email me your name and city (I don't need your address, just city) because you know, Midwestern Funky Town is not going to be good enough. tornwordo atsign yahoo dot com

* I took this for the 12 of 12 thing, but it didn't make the cut. Still I thought the sun on the horizon illuminating the trees was beautiful.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

12 of 12

Wednesday mornings start off like this waiting at the busstop across from the mazda dealership. Last week it was light when I left in the morning. Thanks to daylight savings time, it is now dark.

My first class of the day is around here, though I took this photo the afternoon before. This is the convention center building, and when the sun is at just the right angle poking through the skyscrapers, you get this lovely pattern on the park snow.

After class, I hopped on the metro and went to the library to pick up some more cd's . It always saddens me to see the pigeons get stuck in the metro stations.

I taught another class and then went home for a late lunch. It snowed really hard for about 15 minutes. This is out the kitchen window.

Then I had to head out to the burbs and passed by Molson Park where I find the trees stunning.

On my way out, the sun came out and the sun, god I so appreciate the sun at this time of year. I understand how the sun became an idol of worship. It's worthy enough.

In the burbs, they don't so much as remove the snow as simply move it. The only place to wait for the bus here is in the street. As Serge would say, "It's ridiculiculiculus."

Last class, erasing the board to leave. (I want to shout at myself, "Stand up straight!" )

The skies had cleared and I headed back home over the Des Prairies River. I've seen it frozen over a couple times this year, but often there is a stripe of water in the middle as now. I'm not sure if it's natural or some kind of ice breaking device is involved.

Arriving back on the island of Montreal. Don't know the church, but love the setting sun reflecting off of it.

I caught a train passing just after I parked at home.

It was two hours past her usual dinner time. This only happens on Wednesdays. There she was waiting for me at the window. I fed her of course immediately upon entering.

To see other participants of 12 of 12, go here.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

This n that

I hadn't expected such encouraging comments yesterday. Thanks y'all, I feel like Sally Field. (For what film did she win her second oscar and gush, "you really really like me"?) There's not much going on this week, but work. Oh and snow. It's snowing again this morning. I have no reaction, just a numb resignation in my gut. I started a new private class yesterday and it went swimmingly. Of course, I had to tell the whole story of how I got here since that's the first question when someone finds out I'm from Southern California. I can do it in about 10 minutes now. Yesterday, once I was done, she said, "You've had a very adventurous life." I'd like to think so, but looking back it seems so much like it was the universe that made it that way, not me. I can't really take any credit. Plus I pointed out that she had also lived in different language speaking cities and had moved for love, twice. We agreed that adventure always feels better 10 years hence. Living it is never as glamorous as it sounds.

I clipped the dog's nails finally. Serge got enraged with me because I made her bleed. This only happens rarely and then I get the styptic pencil. She seems to hate that more than the actual clipping. She knows she gets a cookie when she's done, so she grins and bears it. Spouse hates to be in the room when I do it, but he can't help but look and comment. (Much like when I drive.) He will have nothing to do with clipping the dog's nails so I have to do it. Anyway, Sara didn't even flinch when I struck blood, so I know it didn't hurt too much. The styptic pencil didn't work too well though and she left a festive trail of blood droplets all over the freshly mopped floor. Since the maid had just come, I had to mop again. (I guess I didn't have to, but spouse was already glowering at me just for having made her bleed.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A wee wad in the panties

What is a blog? I'll admit I didn't really know when I started, I just thought it was a kind of journal, albeit public. In the last few years, there has been an explosion of "personal web space" including blogs, and like any media, there's plenty of mediocrity sprinkled with genius. When I hear "journalists" lamenting the mediocrity of blogs, I think about the high school plays and musicals I did, mediocre at best, and yet there were all our families and friends cheering us on. Would you turn to your friend who invited you to their daughter's recital and say, "No thanks, I'm only interested in REAL talent"? (Arggh, where does the question mark go? Should there be a period inside the quotes?) No, of course you wouldn't, unless perhaps you were that charmer Simon Cowell. Blogging has largely been commandeered by the celebrities, many of them attracting instant readership by virtue of their name. Mediocre? (I'm looking at you, Rosie.) Sometimes. Genius? (Hi Yarn Harlot, blogger cum celebrity) A little of that too. But at least we can get the view from another point of awareness than our own, be it dull, exotic, exciting or banal. Through blogging I've found a social outlet that doesn't involve drunkenness in bars and has fewer restrictions on the means of participation. I've found a lot of good eggs out there. I'd love to find more, but for now I feel like I've got enough bloggians to keep track of.

So it really surprises me when someone comes around and dumps a load of shit on the blog, since how can I take it but personally. I deleted it since there's no torn bashing allowed here. It was a particularly vitriolic comment, anonymous of course, that lambasted my writing ability (boring drivel), personality (narcissistic to the point of pathology) and particularly my insensitivity at writing the story of Hawaii '93. I'll grant the boring drivel, but not forgive the unnecessary jibe of pointing it out, and narcissistic? You bet, not only is it a hallmark of my generation but it's pretty much a prerequisite for blogging. (I grew up in the "you have to love yourself first before you're able to love others" era, and since narcissism is defined as self-love....) As for my stories, I figure if they happened to me, I'll talk about them. I'll change names to respect privacy, and unless you've told me specifically not to post your picture, I'll do that too. I think the more stories we share as human beings, real honest stories, the more we can see how we all have much more in common than differences. And yet it's the differences that make life, as well as blogs, interesting. Here's what I want to know - what is it that inspires a person to dump on a stranger like that. I mean I hate fox news, but I don't shoot off a letter every time I take issue with their "reporting", I just don't watch it. Don't like narcissistic drivel? Don't read it. Commenting to tell me why you're delisting my "vomitus blog" is, and let's emphasize the not, not necessary.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Pretty and evil

Hard to see it, but there's an arrow pointing out our home. I went out yesterday morning to snap a couple pics of the aftermath of Saturday's blizzard.

Here's the alley leading up to our garage which you can see at the far end. The snow dump was too voluminous to deal with the alleys. I pity the people whose cars are parked off the alley, they won't be getting out for days.

I shoveled the front and the patio, so Serge took charge of freeing the automobile. I felt bad for him so after this shot I got the other shovel and helped. We are not going to use the car today though for fear we'll lose our spot.

Our ninth major storm of the year. 8 out of 10 days in 2008 it has snowed. The citizens are weary of this.

Sunday, March 09, 2008


They were right, it was the biggest storm of the year. We've got 18 inches of new snow and now we're a small storm away from breaking the all time snowfall record. I'm fairly certain we'll surpass it, because ever since I've been here, we've had a good snowstorm at the beginning of April. It's funny, I read the bloggers from Toronto whining about the snow but they've only had two thirds as much as we've had. Ha!

Yesterday I booked three excursions for our cruise coming up in 86 days. Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius, Florence and Taormina. Of all the places in Europe I've been, Italy was the trickiest. Easy to get ripped off there. (I suppose this is true of anyplace.) Anyway, the good thing about booking the excursions with the ship is that they won't leave without you if you're delayed. Not true if you book a tour independently.

Today's a lazy day save for shoveling. Also we've got to clean up for the housekeeper. I think we spend more time now cleaning for her than we did before she started cleaning for us. Irony in action folks. It's a disaster here though because Sara has started shedding. Big tufts of hair billowing from her every time you touch her. They've collected along every wall and table leg. I suppose I'll be vacuuming today, too.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

This n that

We're due for another foot of snow, possibly two, today. This is in addition to the unwhined about 9 inches that fell on Wednesday. They're saying today's could be the biggest storm of the season. Oh joy of joys. I did all the shopping yesterday so today could be spent hunkered down. Here's how our house looked yesterday so you can mentally add two feet and fill in the pathway that I will have to shovel.It's been a rough week slogging through everything. Especially the news. The race to be the democratic presidential candidate cannot be escaped. And dragging all issues "gay" into the process should be a hopeful thing, but I just keep seeing the wingnuts getting airtime, and frothing about what an abomination I am for even existing. I'm reminded how the gay marriage issue was used to secure Bush's second term in office. Just yesterday, in Canada, the lifetime ban on gay men donating blood was upheld, contrary to the science, because, and they don't say this directly, people don't want to have gay blood transfusions. It all makes me shake my head and more than a little frightened.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Hawaii '93 part 3

It is Honolulu at the beginning of summer. The heat is constant. All day long, billows of mist waft down from the highlands, the rainy side of the island claiming a bit more than its usual territory. The mist does little more than humidify the air which makes it heavy and viscous. Shade is the only acceptable outdoor location. Days are spent lounging at the beach in the shade adjusting the resting place every now and then to avoid the sun's march across the sky. The town is full of bargain hunters like us, taking advantage of low-season rates.

The bars were pretty dead overall, though there was ONE place to go on the night we were there. We decided to all check it out out en masse. That's how we ended up going to a straight club where I was forbidden to enter because I was wearing a tank top. (Next to Waikiki Beach, in Honolulu, Hawaii. I thought that bore repeating.) Men were not allowed to enter "sleeveless" whereas women seemed to be able to enter naked. The bouncer refused to see my logic with "if women are allowed to enter sleeveless, so should men be" so I went down the block and bought a garish tourist tshirt for $5 and gained entry. This was my first brush with wild drunken straight vacationers at a club. It was horrid. Packed with wide eyed young men commenting on the bodies of women writhing around them. I was embarrassed for the women whose garments were shed in congruence with rising blood alcohol levels. An alarmingly attractive girl approached me, took my hands and placed them on her breasts and said, "Wanna dance?" I was saved by my workmate who said something about her being a dog and me being the wrong tree. I couldn't wait to get out of there so I bid my friends farewell and told the gay guys to meet me over at the other place later if they wanted. Oh right, it was called "Hulas". In the end, the way the universe plays such things, the gay guys never came to rejoin me.

I went in and it was totally dead. A few old men at the bar staring at a tv, and a few smokers out back on the patio. I noticed Jeff, at least I thought it was, at the service bar and went to sit down outside and smoke. Even though only ten days had passed, so much had happened on vacation that I didn't even have a clear memory of what he looked like. That he was short, I remember, and then he appeared, just like that as I was trying to visualize him. He smiled broadly and said, "You came back. I didn't think you would." I ordered a beer and then he brought a coworker over to say, "This is the one I was telling you about." He tried way too hard to be macho, a common ailment of the short, but I found it charming the way he almost pulled it off. It was established early on that this was my last night in Honolulu and we played a little game of what if. What if we went to my place and ate a late candlelight supper and talked until dawn? What if you're married and have three kids? What if you're rich but not telling me? What if you were THE ONE and we only had tonight to find out? On and on like that and it was quite simply, thrilling. He worked the sparse tables as I sipped beer and waited for him to finish. It was delicious, the banter and the silent spaces to ponder the banter, each of us knowing somewhat how this evening was going to end. Can you fall for someone in an evening? I don't know, I don't think I did, but it was really not logical to contemplate a Hawaii-California relationship. A vacation romp, that's all it was to be in my head.

When he got off (work, ahem), we went to his place, a very small closet dressed up like a bachelor apartment, drank wine, ate pizza with candlelight, and slowly, trying to savor everything, devoured each other. It's got to be one of the top five nights in my life. We slept little and when we did, it was all spooned up on the single bed. In the morning he made breakfast and we exchanged phone numbers and addresses. Turned out he was from San Diego and planned to return there. He hadn't mentioned this before because "he didn't know me yet." Can you know someone in an evening? I don't know, I don't think he did but he carried on anyway starting up the what if game again. What if we bought a house with a white picket fence and got a dog? What if we opened our own bar and made it fabulous? What if we only have to wait six weeks to see each other? I kept it light but was troubled by how exciting the prospect was making my heart race. That afternoon, we left to come home. The gang was pissed off at me for having disappeared the night before and the gay guy who had a crush on me was sharpening his bitch claws, indignant that I would sleep with such a "lowlife" who worked in a bar. "He does that every night, you know."

For two weeks I didn't contact him. Phone calls were expensive and what?, it was all about sex anyway, let's just see what happens, maybe that San Diego thing was just pie in the sky. Then I received a very nice card and letter and a picture inside so "I wouldn't forget him." Trying to look all manly again. It was cute, here I'll show you the one souvenir I have, and so I called him and we had a long talk about his upcoming plan to go to San Diego. He was returning to college and we'd be two hours drive apart. He wouldn't have a car. No job, no car? Where will you live? Oh yes, at mommy's. And then it sounded rather dreary and complicated so I started to feel a bit lackluster about having a real relationship. Sure I wanted to see him, and I knew we would, but then what? I took a wait and see attitude. Two weeks later I went to Hong Kong unexpectedly for a six-week work assignment. I made no contact with him while I was there. Unfortunately for him, I met Serge the second day in Hong Kong and as you know, we've been forever since.

When I returned from Hong Kong, he called me and chewed me out on the phone for being incommunicado. He was here in Southern California, and he wanted to know when could we get together. Feeling rather cornered, I told him what had happened, that I had met a guy in Hong Kong, that he was moving here to be with me, that it just happened out of the blue and that's why I hadn't contacted him. "I changed my whole life for you! To come back to California, I wouldn't have done it if I hadn't met you!" He cried angry tears, but I remained aloof and just, "Sorry, I didn't plan it this way, you're a great guy and you'll find someone, and you never know, if this thing with Serge doesn't work out..." He seemed really heart-broken and I felt bad for him but I was too in love, fresh off the whirlwind weeks of romance with Serge and after all, he and I had only had one night together. Can you fall in love with someone in one night? I don't know, but I think he may have.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Hawaii '93 part 2

part 1

I see in my journal of this trip written, "Would have been fun if Milan had been here." That saddens me right there, that I was wistful about having sex with an inanimate human object. On another page it says, "horny and no place to JO." I can't recall thinking those things even as I sit here digging, the memories are lying deep under the stack of time, each day since then having added a new layer like rings beneath bark. The more rings you have, the more impenetrable the layers become. I bring these things up as they seem relevant to how the story culminates. But not just yet darlings, you've got to muck through the mundane before you get to the prize, or perhaps you've got to eat through the sweet peachy flesh before you reach the pit. Which analogy is better will be up to you to decide.

On the big island, my favorite place, with its wild newness and baby face, we saw living volcano and the earth breathing fiery mist into the air. We trekked through the rainforest on the rainy side of the island. We drove through one of the most beautiful places on earth, the name of which I can't recall, I think it started with a "w", (the journal only says "the town at the summit") at the crest between the rainy and dry side of the island. I just remember feeling like I was driving through a painting, indeed I'd only seen views like this on canvas. We also went to a nude beach. I had never been to one before. Gay guy pretending to be straight's girlfriend joined up with us for the final week of the trip and I remember her cloying to him like a wet sweater. She was as skinny as olive oyl and looked like a grasshopper attached to him. We took a footpath toward the legendary nudist spot, all of us giggling along the way, none of us sure how we would behave once we got there. We arrived to the cliff overlooking the beach. Like albino seals, the naked humans dotted the beach below. We nervously climbed down the path aware of the eyes scanning us from the beach and all the while feeling safe as a group, clothed in usual bathing garments. It was gay guy pretending to be straight and his girlfriend who got naked first. They made a big show of it, getting into the water and THEN removing their garments and tossing them up onto the beach. Of course none of us saw any of the goods except olive oyl's sand-dollars occasionally between the waves.Then they called out to coax us into getting naked. I complied good-naturedly but stayed on the beach and turned over mooning everyone. Nobody else took their clothes off. It was unnerving to be the only one naked and showing, but I had thought that everyone would follow. Nope. I even turned over and sat indian-style while talking to them. Still no following. Then gay guy pretending to be straight exited the water, both hands covering his crotch, only to retrieve the bathing garments and put them back on under water. As I look back on that now, they were the weird ones, not me. We stayed a couple hours and headed back to the hotel. The next day was back to Honolulu for the end of our trip. I wondered about the cute waiter in the bar. Would Jeff be there? Would two days be enough to squeeze in getting laid? Would this vacation finish like no other? The answer as you'll soon see, is yes, yes and yes.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Hawaii '93

This is perhaps a continuation of this story, or if you wish, a prequel to this one.

We had booked the barn in the sky to get to Hawaii. Four workmates and myself had dreamt up this trip using our employee benefits to stay at Ritz Carlton properties in Hawaii. A new charter company had started up with one plane and daily service to Honolulu. $99 each way. Such a deal, even then in 1993. The stewardesses wore jeans and t-shirts and pulled down a screen to show the movie with an ancient schoolroom projector. They gave out free popcorn in baskets that were passed down the rows like the offering plate in church. The flying contraption rattled and shuddered for six hours half way across the Pacific. We had lodging lined up for two weeks and I think we each paid only incidentals as we had gotten many nights comped. We were upgraded to club level for half the trip which included foods and libations. The only downside was that we all shared rooms, so privacy was limited. The gang consisted of a straight girl, a gay guy in a relationship with a woman, two gay guys and myself. One of the gay guys grew up on the island and we all visited his parents house where he turned into a spoiled little brat right before our eyes. I have not been in contact with any of these people for many years, but I do wonder what ever happened to them. Google isn't giving anything up.

Our first and last stop on our tour of the islands was Honolulu, a couple days at the beginning and the end of the two week vacation. Honolulu had a couple of gay bars and the gay boys went to these places at night while straight girl and gay guy pretending to be straight went out to the straight clubs. At the gay bar, I was quite flirty with one of the waiters. He was quite flirty back. The trouble with this was that one of the gay workmates had a crush on me. I knew it but couldn't do anything about it except make it clear I wasn't interested. He held that candle firmly in his grips and made disparaging remarks about the waiter each time he passed by and winked or made a comment. "Pretty cocky for a short guy," he said and, "He needs something better than a five dollar haircut." I responded to these barbs with, "Ooh, I love short guys," and "Wait, where do you get a haircut for $5, I want one." It didn't matter really, we were all going to go back to our room (note singular) and head out to Maui the next day. As I left, I told the cute flirty waiter that I'd be back in ten days and I'd stop in to say hi. Poor guy, life was going to give him a whammy through the vehicle of me. You'll see, just hide and watch.

Part 2

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

It's only money

So you take your car in. You hate taking the car in because it's always twice the cost you had anticipated. You always get the feeling that if you had the know-how or a friend in the business, you'd have saved half the price. When I went in and explained the issue, I really tried not to have my "sucker" face on. (You know, like I'd do this piddly little repair myself if I had the time.) I always feel like when I'm at the mechanic that "please rip me off" is written on my forehead. They called us a couple hours after I dropped the car off. Seems the pipes are all corroded that hold the power steering fluid and according to them, this also affects the pump and so they have to change the whole system. I was hoping to get out of there for a couple hundred bucks, but just guess how much to replace a little old pump and a couple of pipes. No really, guess. Have it in mind, do you? Eeh eye gee aitch tee hundred, that's how much it cost. Over a week's salary, poof! I told Serge that with the set of winter tires and this repair, it will have cost more than a transit pass for the entire year. We've had the car for 8 months. Arggh. I really have gotten used to the ease of popping over to the market to shop with the car, but I don't know if we'll keep it (in shape) too long if repairs of this magnitude become de rigeur.

It's only money. This is the one line that really helps me deal with times like this. I learned it from my friend Dee who over the years helped me to hone my frugality. I was always surprised when some big cost would affect her and she would just say, "It's only money." It surprised me because I'd seen her get upset over 25 cents on more than one occasion, but when a big five hundred dollar thing happened, she was able to just shrug it off. So I do that too now. It helps reduce the angst. Plus I'd much rather have a bad car diagnosis than a bad health diagnosis. Money is just fictitious anyway, I'm just a little shorter on fiction, badum dum tsh.

When I walked back over to the garage to pick up the car, I was morose but ready to shell out. I wondered whether the figure quoted on the phone included tax. Probably not. Ugh. I wondered how I could maybe flirt my way into a discount. I thought about how they would handle it if I just got in the car and left without settling the bill. (It crosses the mind, but not into the realm of real possibility.) I approached the counter and a man told me to hang on, they were changing shifts. Then an old guy appeared, a customer, shouting in English about something. He was really fired up and was saying, "I asked him for my keys and he says they're in the car. Then I go to my car and it's locked. So I come back and he tells me he can't help me because the keys are in the car. But you locked the doors! What is this some kind of joke? Is there a hidden camera somewhere?" First I started to chuckle but then it dawned on me that these knuckleheads had worked on the car! Not too comforting. Then a little bang rang out behind us at the entry doors. A small child, maybe 2 or 3, started wailing such intense shrieking that I was waiting for the florescent tubes to burst. Seems the poor little guy bumped his head on the door. The high pitched crying was quite distracting but then someone appeared to wait on me and uttered, "It's the end of the world," as he rolled his eyes and nodded in the direction of the poor kid and his mother gently stroking his head. Shrieking children always bring a smile to my face (pity too, I swear) and I was standing there smiling as the man brought up my bill and then a tatooed dykish clerk sauntered by and cracked, "Can somebody get the kid some candy?" I burst out laughing, perhaps a little too loudly. Then the nice man printed out my receipt and I saw that the phone price was the total price including tax. I actually felt relieved. (Still, I suspect this relief was crafted from their evil capitalistic plan.) Then I got in the car and it was like a new car! I guess the power steering really was bad because now the steering is so responsive I think I could steer it with my dick. No lie! (Would "limp dick" have been funnier there? I can't decide.) Anyway, at least I can see the difference from the repair, it mildly assuages the fact that I could have gone to Cuba for a week with all expenses paid for that price.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Dull update

Here's the back patio. We gave up long ago trying to keep the whole patio clear as there is no place to put the snow. Sara just has a small aisle to do her business in. Sometimes she tries to climb up the mountain of snow and do her business up there, but only if the snow has a hardened layer on top. I'm sure there are quite a few surprises in that mountain that will be revealed when it melts this spring.

What else? There's really little else to report. Everyone paid their rent yesterday and that makes me feel calm and secure. I'm taking the car in this morning to see about the power steering problem. (They told me if it needed parts they wouldn't be able to do it until Monday, so I decided to just bring it in today.) I also finished all the tax preparation and sent in the returns yesterday. I found a few more deductions like the Ipod. Now that I use it in class for the listening exercises, I can deduct the cost. I always stress about the validity of deductions but then I remember how little we make and think, "They're never going to audit such small potatoes as us." At least they never have yet.

Sunday, March 02, 2008


Are the word verifications getting more and more difficult to decipher? I just laughed when I got this one the other day. I tried but was unsuccessful.

Westjet had a one-day sale on Thursday with $12 flights to and from Toronto. So I tried to see if there were REALLY any $12 seats available. And there were. I logged in two travelers round trip which, if truth in advertising actually existed, would come to $48. In reality, the total as you can see was $243.68. I didn't book it. That's about what the train would cost but without the hassle of airports.

Guess who played "asslike".

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Skippable post if ever there was one

I just love waking up at 4:30 on a Saturday morning. Normally I'd rollover and go back to sleep, but I was thirsty and had to pee and by the time I finished that, I had already run through all the chores necessary today, and then I was awake. Make five quizzes, collect rents, take car in for the power steering problem, amass texts from the news for students, prep a new course starting this week, shop for groceries, do laundry, shovel snow, clip the dog's toenails, water plants and make dinner. It feels like too much to do and this causes a stressful feeling, a tightness in the chest that makes sleep impossible. It also seems to cause the most boring paragraphs imaginable to be written.

This is our first real car problem. We've been adding power steering fluid every week for the past month as there seems to be a leak even though I can't find any evidence of it after the car has been parked for awhile. This is why I hate power anything on a car. They fail more often and cost more to fix.

We've got another little snowstorm this morning. Supposed to pan out at 3-6 inches. We're flirting with all time record snowfall so now I'm gunning for more snow, because you know, I'd love the bragging rights: "I lived through the snowiest winter ever in Montreal." Of course there's a couple million of us who will have this right, so it's not all that special. But still.