Friday, December 30, 2005

Encore le paradis

Hey, it looks like they fixed this bloody keyboard somewhat. A whole sentence and no problems. I don't think I'll be trying any punctuation other than periods though.

We seem to have settled into a routine here. Get up leisurely and chit chat with the other guests at the hotel over the free breakfast. Then we go out for a long walk along the boardwalk, watching the waves and the people. Maybe buy a trinket or article of clothing. Eat tacos standing up. (I always look for where the Mexicans are eating, and then we go there) Make our way down to the beach where we hob nob with those we met on the drunken night before. Add beer. Add more beer. Go back to hotel and have a siesta. Get up in time for the sunset and go down to admire it. Then we make our way over to one of the martini bars for pre dinner libations. Once suitably oiled, we find a place to eat. We eat well. Then we go bar hopping until we can't go on - usually about 1ish in the morning.

I love this routine, though my liver is perhaps not with me on this.

We've met lots of fun people along the way and are having a ball. We've got 5 more days here before we head up to Los Angeles to visit family and friends. I hope everyone is well and I'll catch up on your blogs when I get back I promise.

Now, I've got some things to do (see above) Ciao!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


So I'm just going to tyype this without fixing all the things this stpid keyboard does. Some of the letters are eeven mismarked on the kkeyboard, and I don't understand why itt doubles some of the letterss. The backspace key alwwys erases two and , well, siggh.......

Ok,, so it took a feew ddays, but noow it sseems like true vacation mode. Laying on the beach all day amongst our peoplee (ggay beach( listening to the gossipp and the seex stories. And some poeople should be told that sspeedos are not helpful forr their image. *I'm such a bittch \i know..

goingg out for drinks and dinner, and then trying to go clubbinng, but not being up for it yet since nothing gets started til after midnightt. I think toniight will be the night for staying out late.

we still haave another week here and all is well.

byy the way, \\i got so annoyed with the hagling that we went to Walmart thus breakingg one of my cardinaal rules, but at least the price is the price there.

And mexxico isn""t as chheap as it used to be>

do you love this keybboard as much as i do?

i"ll cfheck in in a couple daays> hope eeverryone is well>

ta ta!

Monday, December 26, 2005

Checking in

I can't use the Spanish keyboard! Quick rundown thus far.

Travel time 17 hours UGH

Festive pinata celebrations everywhere on the streets upon arrival

Packed beach Christmas day, huge waves

Great food and martinis

I hate all the bargaining for everything

Tequila helps

Hope everyone had a great christmas.

*This took 25 minutes because I can't use this keyboard!

Friday, December 23, 2005


Well everyone, this is it. The last day before globe trotting. We thought we had planned well enough to avoid any Christmas dinners (you know by leaving on the 24th) but at the last minute, the mother in-law decided to "bring dinner" when she came last evening to pick up the dog. (She'll be entertaining our Sara for the next two weeks) Well, she also brought the family, and gifts and food and wine. This was all fine except that they arrived before spouse returned from work, and that brother in-law was already three sheets to the wind. I gave spouse a call on his cell:

"They're HERE. Where the #$% are you?"

"I'm on the bus, they're early."

"Your brother is drunk and I didn't even get to finish cleaning."

"I'm sorry, I'll be there in five minutes."

The evening progressed and brother in-law grew more and more belligerent and insulting.

(Insert huge family drama, screaming, crying, the finger being thrust into faces with huge "fuck you's", the final proclomation from Spouse for everyone to GET OUT, then the terrible guilt he felt for throwing his family out.)

Ah, just the thing we were looking to avoid. Christmas just really lets some people SHINE.

Puerto Vallarta here we come!

I won't be posting every day over the holidays but I will check in from an internet cafe from time to time (I'm guessing a couple updates a week, but no promises.)

Thanks to all the blogger friends made this year. You've made me feel part of a great big writing club, where we all encourage each other to keep it up. I wish you and yours a wonderful holiday (drama-free if possible) filled with good eats, good friends, and good times.


Thursday, December 22, 2005

HNT and stuff

It's my last day of work before the winter break. I'm so giddy I could spit. I've also been so busy I don't know which way is up. But it's all coming together, I've purchased pesos and US $, and I went out and bought a huge new suitcase for the trip. Tomorrow will be relegated to packing.

I didn't have time to work on an HNT shot this week (and anyway, how could I beat last week's) so I asked my good friend if I could use a shot I took of her almost twelve years ago when she was pregnant with her first child. The lump you see is a beautiful young lady of 11 now.

Frankly, it's one of the nicest people pics I've ever taken. I was also blessed to be able to participate in the birth of the child, an experience I am so grateful for.


Happy HNT and the first day of winter!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A tale for the holidays

"Daddy, do you think the reindeer hold it when they are flying? Or is it like birds and it just comes out whenever?"

"That's a good question. You'd have to ask Santa about that."

"Have you ever seen a reindeer's?" ( At the age of seven, all things scat interested me. I had noted the differences in the excrement of birds, dogs, fish, rabbits and myself. Also, I refused to believe that "horseshit" really was. Looked like muffins to me. It wouldn't be until age 9 that I would actually see it "coming out"* and then there was no question about it.)

"Well, I've seen deer excrement and it's similar to a rabbit's pellets, only bigger."

"Ohhhhhh." I said, envisioning the larger version of rabbit turd in my head.



"If they hold it when they are flying, that means they must do it while they're stopped and Santa's delivering the presents down the chimney, right?"

"Well, I suppose so, yes."

"Oh boy, I'm going to check outside the house first thing Christmas morning!"

"Don't you want to open your presents first?"

I remember thinking about this hard. What a choice! I wanted to do both things first thing, but couldn't figure out what I wanted to do first-first.

"I want to check outside first." I finally said, knowing the presents would still be there, but maybe someone would STEAL any reindeer shit outside.

On Christmas morning, I went outside and checked for anything that might have fallen off the roof the night before. And I found something! Three little balls, just like rabbit poo only bigger. My heart beat faster and I picked up the three balls of reindeer dung and ran back into the house. My parents were there by the tree grinning wildly in their pajamas. The plate of cookies and the glass of milk that I had left out for Santa had been consumed. Dozens of presents filled the space under the tree.

"Mommy, Daddy look!" I ran up to them with my hands open displaying three precious reindeer nuggets. "It's reindeer bathroom from Santa's reindeer." (Bathroom was a code-word for shit in our house.)

"Here let me see." Mom said, taking one of the balls from my palm.

"Delicious!" she exlcaimed while popping it into her mouth and rapidly chewing it up. "Didn't you know that Santa's reindeer poop chocolate?"

My first reaction was horror, Mom just destroyed one of only three morsels that I had found. But then I wanted to taste it too. So I bit a little piece of one to make sure she was telling the truth. Indeed, it was chocolate.

"Wait, Daddy, you didn't say anything about that. How come?"

"Well, son, you didn't ask and anyway, I thought you knew. You only asked me if I knew where they did it. I've never met anyone who actually found some, but everyone knows they're chocolate. You're a lucky little boy."

My curiosity thus satisfied and my Christmas knowledge now expanded, I tore into the presents. I kept the remaining chocolate in my toybox for safekeeping.

The following year I learned at school that the Santa story wasn't real and that anything happening around Christmas with Santa was a lie. I confronted my parents who confirmed this.

"But what about the cookies and the milk?"

"Well, we ate them and drank it after you went to bed."

"And the chocolate? The chocolate that I found?" I somehow felt that I was a "special" kid because I was in possession of Santa's magical chocolate reindeer poo.

Sigh, "We put that out for you to find."

And then I mourned. And I resisted the knowledge and wished it away. I know that feeling well now. It was the first instance of the feeling of lost innocence.

*Other terms considered here include: emerging, cresting, issuing forth, crowning, seeing daylight, being extruded, finding Nemo, exiting, and squishing through. What? Don't give me that look. This is how I keep in touch with my inner child.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

On striking

Just days before Christmas, and I see that New York's transit workers have gone on strike. I have mixed feelings about strikes (I live in a place where unions have incredible power and strikes are common) because I understand the notion of standing up for what you believe, but at the same time, if you don't like your working conditions - go find another job. I myeslf have never belonged to a union, though I once voted not to unionize. When unemployment is low, there is no reason why people can't get out and find a job or an employer that will treat them better. There is this idea that if you work for an employer for a long time that you deserve that avenue of making money to be secured and constantly increasing. But for most people, this is not the reality. For most people, you're only as good as your last success, and every week the employee must prove that they are (still) beneficial to the organization. When unions get involved, it's like the employer has to be good enough for the employees.

Two years ago there was a transit strike here. It was all because the custodial workers in the metro stations walked off the job, and then the drivers and mechanics walked off in "sympathy". So the whole transit system shut down essentially because 130 workers on the cleaning staff weren't happy with $20 an hour, they wanted $25 after all that's what their counterparts in Toronto get. (Shh, let's not mention that the cost of living in Toronto is much, much higher than Montreal) The impact was terrible for me, as I use the transit system to get me to all my various lessons. In the first week of the strike I lost $300 due to classes I wasn't able to get to. So as you can imagine, I was quite bitter about losing income because of some whiny workers who feel they are entitled to a 25% raise.

I can't wait to read New York bloggers and their experiences this week. I predict wild ranting. Should be juicy.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Quickly 'came lame

'Tis the week before Christmas
And all through the town
The people are stressing
And dressing a frown.

The work parties done
The credit card maxxed
It'll be six more days
'Til all is relaxed.

(And those who have waited
To purchase their gifts
Will find choked parking lots
And nothing that fits.)

The time keeps on ticking
And if you're not done
Accept my condolences
You'll be having no fun.

So in an effort
To spare you such pain
Take my advice
It's quite simple and plain.

Sit at the computer
Credit card in hand
Buy from a company
With a well known brand,

Once you have finished
Have a stiff drink
Pat yourself on the back
And give yourself a wink.

Then spend 5 days
Marveling at the lights
Smiling at your brethren
And taking in the sights.

This is how I wish you
A beautiful week
Full of little moments
To brighten your cheeks.

(What started out cute
Quickly 'came lame
And now I must go
Riddled with shame)

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Doing the lord's work

Ding dong.

The dog goes crazy barking and wagging her tail in anticipation of fresh new smells entering the house. It's Saturday morning, who could this be? Serge is still in his robe, but I'm dressed, so I go to the door to answer it. There I find an older couple all bundled up in the cold clutching printed material in their gloved hands.

"Good morning, sir. We are passing through the neighborhood to talk about some things." Warm expressions of psychosis compassion fixed on me.

I have now remembered that you should NEVER answer the door on Saturday morning, and have spotted the title of the magazines in their grip - The Watchtower. I try to interject, but he has his schtick well practiced and doesn't stop talking but pulls out something that looks like a Bible, and then shows me and reads to me a passage that he would like to discuss. Something about "bounty" - I'm not very well versed in French Biblical wording. (nor am I so good at puns.)

Finally, I was able to speak, and I said simply, "I don't want to talk about that with you."

They wished me good day and went on.

The dog was bummed when I closed the door. I thought about how they were convinced that they were out doing the lord's work. Freezing their little butts off to pester people on the last weekend before Christmas. Spreading irritation and inconvenience wherever they go, I wonder if they get the irony of their manner of "spreading the word".

Religion is like a virus that renders you mentally ill. It relieves you of your duty of "thinking for yourself", (this is what they mean by "faith" - don't think about it too much or it won't ring true, so just have faith) and robs you of the chance to experience all the possiblities in life.

That is not to say that there are not good lessons or messages in any religion, it's just that they are lessons, not mandates for living. (In my opinion.)

Here is a little game pointed out by em which can show you any flaws in your "god logic". I did very well biting only one bullet, but receiving no direct hits. If you don't get that sentence, go try the little quiz here.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Chatty Saturday

Good Saturday morning to you. As is my habit, a little casual update on the week. This cold week. It was hideously cold all week with temps below 0 degrees F. I took this shot on my way to work Wednesday morning when it was -4F. This is much colder than normal for this time of year and with my sickly disposition, it sucked. The sunrise was pretty anyway.

I've been fighting some bug all week which helped me lower my inhibition enough to post an HNT shot on Thursday which ended up generating the most traffic and comments ever for the blog. I guess sex really does sell.
Here I am in the same location as the sunrise pic . We had a huge snowstorm yesterday which brought the city to a virtual standstill. I don't think I've seen such a big dump in such a short time (during one hour yesterday morning, 7 inches fell, we ended up with 16 inches total) and the snow removal teams just couldn't keep up.

It is at these times that I am happy to be carless. Everyone was out cursing as they tried to unbury their vehicles. So many cars were stuck in snowbanks, it was comical. As for me, I just trudged through the snow all the way to work. Even the buses couldn't keep their schedules. It was really quite beautiful.This should keep us refrigerated for a while now and ensure a white Christmas around here.

A week from now, we'll be on a plane heading to Puerto Vallarta and leaving the cold behind. There are too many things to get done before then and I'm sure I'll be whining about it later this week. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Pity the fool

Here's something I've been working on for a long time. And it is especially difficult to achieve during the holiday crunch time, which is why this is a good time to bring it up. When someone pisses me off due to their words or actions, I try to feel pity for them instead of hatred.


Well because frankly, it feels better to pity than to hate.

Imagine seeing a dog hit by a car, now imagine that the driver is George Bush. Both provoke strong emotions.

I don't know about you, but the pity response feels less, um...dirty?

Plus, every time I've lost my temper in life and gone off on someone, I later feel shame at my lack of emotional control. And the result of these outbursts is always less than optimal.

When I started this self-work, I set out to rid myself of anger. Anger feels lousy, I don't care how you defend it. It's shitty I tell you, shitty.

But. Then someone jumps in front of me in line, or pushes me in the metro, or sprays me with dirty slush as they careen around the corner in their monster SUV (MOTHER F$%KER, I'M TALKING TO YOU) and the natural rise of anger colors my face and tarnishes my heart. It's normal to feel angry in those situations I suppose, but I'm pretty sure I could change that. (Farting is normal and natural, but we learn to control that.)

This is where pity comes in. Because if the person doing the rude, aggressive, selfish thing is feeling rude or aggressive, why that's not an enviable state to be in. I know I'm not feeling good inside when I'm bitchy and mean to people.

So, pity that person.

And if you work on this for a while as I have, you'll actually start to laugh when others sport such poor behaviour. It's like when you laugh at the guy who gets hit in the nuts with a ball. You feel pity and you laugh. After all, holding on to anger and resentment is only hurting oneself.

It's not easy. No, even now, after many years I am only successful half the time.

But I've also decreased my anger by half.

Trust me it's worth the work. (And I'm as much saying it to myself as I am to you, did I mention the SUV guy and the slush spray?)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

An HNT to raise your spirits

So this week's HNT should be more in line with regulations. (I used bus advertising last week if you'll remember.) I actually took this shot last week, but then didn't have the required ball girth to post it. Today I'm feeling sick, I've been around a lot of sick people lately and I guess it's finally my turn. You know how when you're sick you don't CARE about anything (except the bed maybe), well that's why I don't mind posting an HNT shot which pretty much represents "as far as I'll go" with it on this blog. (You know some of my family reads this thing.) Anyway, all the naughty bits are hidden........

(The picture of me that generated such comment volume has been removed due to "you snooze, you lose" policy. Ahem.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

In which I reveal my freakishness

So, to prove to you that I'm truly a freak, I'm going to make a confession: I like bruised fruit.

"Sure, Torn, that's a bit odd, but certainly far from freakland," you may be thinking.

Well let me tell you why I like bruised fruit. In the market, I watch as people endlessly handle the fruits and vegetables in order to find "the best" one.

I don't know why people do this, we all know that color is often manipulated by the distributor, so it is not the conclusive indicator of flavor/freshness as in times past. And anyway, unless there's a worm hanging out of it, the whole batch tends to be similar.

But how I see it is that hundreds of people handle, inspect and then reject the bruised fruit in favor of the more visually appealing. (I think people must feel they are ENTITLED to the finest specimen for the money, but the whole entitlement thing is another post.)

How does this make the fruit feel? I mean its whole purpose is either to provide nutrition or make a new tree and all the bruised ones get is rejection, rejection, rejection.

Rejection feels shitty and I swear the bruised fruit tastes better because it appreciates the chance to fulfill its purpose.

Yes, I believe the fruit is grateful, and therefore tastes better.

See? I told you I'm a freak.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

5 simple pleasures

As recycled from Epicurist and St Dickeybird:

1. Watching reruns of I Love Lucy. Over 50 years old and still funny and surprisingly current thematically. I just opened an early Xmas gift (I won't be here on Xmas day anyway) which was the first 3 complete seasons. I have only watched one disc (out of 17) and spouse is already tiring of it.

2. Observing thunderstorms, preferably outside. As anyone can tell you, I am kind of "out of it" during a thunderstorm, and go into a kind of trance where I can't focus on anything else. I want to SEE the lightning strikes, so I am constantly craning my neck and scanning the sky. It is a deep passion, however irrational.

3. When I can walk down to the Dairy Queen in summer and get the Banana Creme Pie Blizzard. The walk there with the anticipation, then the deliciousness, and after, the sated walk home. I think I did that 5 times this past summer.

4. When I happen upon an item I regularly buy that is on special 2 for 1. Such a thrill! For example last week, my frozen orange - tangerine juice I like was 2 for 1. (I practiced restraint though and only bought a dozen.) Does this make me an old fuddy duddy?

5. Hanging around the house with spouse. Each of us doing our own thing yet sharing the musical environment.

Monday, December 12, 2005

As promised!

Well it's over. And I am now officially a Canadian citizen. Aside from being a lesson in the inefficiency of beaurocracy, (I'd say my presence was necessary for about 37 minutes of the 4 hour experience) it was unbelievably easy. They allow 30 minutes to answer 20 multiple choice questions of which you are only required to answer 12 correctly (60% for the mathematically challenged). I finished in 4 minutes. Really, even if I hadn't studied, I could have aced it. Here was one of the questions:

Of the following rights, which one is accorded only to canadian citizens:

A. the right to drive a car

B. the right to vote

C. the right to own property

D. the right to have children

They were all similarly worded so that there was only one obvious answer. And to think I actually studied for it!

The ceremony was cool though, there were 52 of us from 32 different countries. I loved the judge's speech about our responsibilities: to help your fellow man, to stand up and fight against discrimination and injustice, and to protect the environment.

I wonder what the judge's speech is like at the US ceremony. Maybe he demonstrates how to stick out your tongue and make dumbo ears while saying 'Nah, nah , nah, nah, naaaaaaaaah, nah" to the rest of the world.

Ah, it feels good to be here.

The beauty of brevity

See, you're already done with this post.

(I'll make a rare second appearance later to let you know how it went.)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Table 11 and the scampi lady

My first hotel job was at a Hyatt Regency where I was hired as a busboy and worked my way up to waiter. I worked in the fine dining restaurant which overlooked the Long Beach Harbor and the Pacific. It was a stunning view and since the hotel was located next to the performing arts center, on theatre nights, we got a good early rush of diners (some with walkers and oxygen tanks). It was during one of these theatre rushes that the most unfortunate thing happened to one of my customers.

Just before we opened, the manager called line-up to review all the specials with the staff and to do a uniform and grooming check. (We had an uptight manager who was known to send people home for dirty fingernails.) Having finished the line-up, we were dispatched to our stations to await the opening of the doors and the mad geriatric rush. (I think it was opera that night at the theatre.)

Within about 15 minutes, all the tables in my section were full, and I knew I had to get them all fed and out the door in time for the show. It was a mad rush, but we didn't mind, these nights tended to be profitable. About halfway through the madness, I was waiting in the kitchen for one of my orders to come up. Just as the chef was putting the finished plates in the window, I noticed a little tickle in my nose, and as I wiped the rim of the plates to place them on the oval tray, I sniffed and snorted a bit to make the tickle go away. Then I picked up the tray with the four plates and started to head out of the kitchen. My nose still tickled a bit like there was one skinny booger attached inside the nose with the free end quivering with the flow of air. Each time I breathed, I felt the little tickle and so I errantly tried sniffing and snorting some more to dislodge the thing, or at least get it to stop tickling me. Truth be told, I wasn't even thinking about it, it was like an itch you scratch but aren't even cognizant that you're doing it.

I arrived at table 11 and set down the tray jack and placed the tray upon it. I picked up the two plates destined for the female customers and it was then that the source of tickling dislodged and I watched with horror as it flew directly into the plate of scampi that I was holding in my right hand. (It was amoeba-like with a nosehair stuck in it) It seemed like time stood still for me as I held that plate, wondering what to do. I thought about how I could make up an excuse and whisk it back to the kitchen. I thought about the appreciation the chefs would have for my predicament (they would have thrown things at me) and I thought about how to explain it to the customer.

"Waiter, is there something wrong?"

Unfortunately, time hadn't stopped still for them, and they didn't understand why I wasn't putting the plates down already. Clearly they could see I was holding the scampi, the very thing they had ordered, and I just couldn't think on the spot fast enough to explain why I needed to take it back to the kitchen. So, I went ahead and put the plate down in front of the customer. The scampi, with it's garlic and butter and herbs was the perfect camouflage for such an addition to the recipe.

I felt really bad about it, but there was still the matter of getting the food out to my other tables and off I went to get through it.

"Enjoy your dinner folks!"

When I returned to check on them, they had finished their meals. The scampi lady was soaking up the last remaining liquid on her plate with bread, every last solid morsel already consumed.

This was twenty years ago, and to this day, I still feel guilty.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Saturday roundup

The snow has returned. Which means all the trees are flocked. Very Christmas-y. But snow also means cold, and it has been cold this week, the kind of cold that makes your nose run uncontrollably.

When I first moved here, I was not accustomed to such temperatures. (It never gets below freezing where I grew up in Southern California.) The first time I had to walk to the metro in 20 below weather, the snot ran from my nose and froze on my upper lip. What's more is that I froze all the little delicate membranes in my nose from breathing through the nose. This caused a lot of pain for the ensuing week.

After much mocking by spouse, I learned that you breathe through your mouth when such temperatures are present. Who knew?

And I think I'm the only one here who wears long underwear all winter. Natives laugh at me when I tell them. I get the feeling that it's namby-pamby to wear such garments. But when it comes to comfort, I don't really care what message I'm sending.

This weekend is the final study weekend before the test Monday for citizenship. I've got all of it pretty much down, but I will review it a few more times and practice answering with Serge.

So there's no earth-shattering news this week in my world. Trying to get all the loose ends tied up before we depart for Mexico on the 24th. Only 2 weeks. It is this that keeps my chin up.

Good weekend everybody!

Friday, December 09, 2005

At least it's not a cold whine

The workers arrived yesterday to erect scaffolding in front of our building. It's finally happening. We've spent months chasing masonry contractors around for estimates and in October, we hammered out a deal with one of them. Then we heard nothing. When it turned brutally cold this week, I thought "Construction time is over, they'll probably come in the spring."


No, we're going to remove that-which-keeps-your-homes-protected-from-the-elements and then we're going to leave it that way for weeks before we get around to putting it back up.

See, here's the deal, the stone facade must be dissassembled, and then later, reassembled. Oh and did I mention that we could have a brand new car for the price of essentially breaking down a wall and re-erecting it with the same materials. In fact, it costs extra to use the same materials. (?!)

Thankfully, we will be gone during the holidays but I fear for our tenants. Tenants? Oh yeah, we own the bank owns the triplex we live in and the two apartments above us are rented. It's a great deal except when you have to alter your retirement planning to tear down a wall and rebuild it.

I'm not telling you how much we're paying, but I will say that one of our estimates was (gasp) forty-eight thousand dollars. Oh how I laughed when we received that one. The kind of laugh that leads one to the kitchen to play with the big knives.

And just because, here's a picture of our next door neighbor's house. Although you can't see it, the Christmas dog moves and carols are emanating from hidden speakers. I feel the urge to ridicule but that's not very charitable, is it?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

HNT etc.

Well folks it's Thursday. That means HNT. And just my luck that I was stuck waiting for the bus in BITTERLY COLD windy weather when another bus pulled up with the following advertising on the rear. It's half-nekkid advertising.

Now, clearly this is a rip-off of the Hooters chain in the states. I've seen this kind of thing before, there was a pool bar close to my French school that was called Boobeez.

Anyway, I found it odd to have tits and booze advertised on a city bus.

I feel a cold whine coming on......

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

For example

A big problem I have with fashion: Complete counterintuitive clothing.

Every era and group seems to have it. I go to a club where people might be expected to dance, and half the people are wearing the same GIANT construction boots. A real construction worker, (who would have a logical need for such boots) would never wear his "work shoes" for a night out. But this has become a staple of late night (insert favorite gay euphemism here) haunts. There was a time when I lusted and craved those boots, and went so far as to try them on, but as soon as I did, I thought it was like having ridiculous bulky weights on the feet. (Plus, there was this voice screaming in my head, "You pathetic sheep you, you're not going to buy such impractical things now are you?") I have hiking boots, but hiking boots don't cut it now, do they boys?

Remember when Sperry Topsiders were all the rage? Boat shoes. Shoes specifically manufactured for the vagaries of standing upright on a ship. Yet, there we were lining up for them because they were "in". I wanna be in, can I can I. ( What, too sarcastic?)

Obviously you'll agree that the male portion of the younger generation is fixated on wearing pants that are so long and so low that tripping is caused and walking must be altered in order to keep the pants from falling off. Still, it charms me in a way.

You know who got it right? It's the arabs. (Am I allowed to say that?) They all get to wear the same white gown. No tight-fitting belts or ties, just a lovely billowy thing that let's you move about freely and comfortably. Why can't that be the fashion? Something practical, something that can let me focus on the more important parts of you, like your mind, or if you're wearing any underwear under there.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Kinda all over the place

God, it was gorgeous yesterday. The sky was filled with cotton candy-like cumulus, with strands of precipitation descending from them like hair. The sun played hide and seek behind the clouds and since the angle is so low now, the rays poked through here and there as depicted in so many spiritual paintings. Where's the pictures you must be clucking. And a fine use of your clucking mechanism it is. Unfortunately, I left the camera sitting on my desk at home. That always seems to happen when there's really good stuff to take pictures of.

And I watched Groundhog day again. Only one more viewing left. But yesterday I started pondering what an illusion life is. I mean, no matter what you think you are, no matter how you define or label your characteristics, the vessel that is "you" has the capacity to be very different than how you imagine yourself to be. We humans can get used to anything. I myself have gotten used to many things that at a previous time would have been anathema to my very being. As have you, I'm sure.

And every time a change occurs, we rankle and squawk a bit, but it doesn't last long until we get acclimated and then the next change occurs. Like shifting gears in a car, some of us grumble louder than others. But why? Why do we cling to this or that notion of ourselves? Why do we resist change? Why is it so important to define ourselves?

Too many questions I know. And it always leads me to my problem with fashion. Huh? Non-sequitur? No, not really, because I think the whole fashion business is about defining yourself which causes my stomach to self nauseate. Like why is my drawer filled with black socks and ankle socks when a few years ago it was white? So lame. If you dress in style you're a sheep, and if you don't you are either a rebel or indifferent. Messages all. I hate that. We can't clothe ourselves without sending a message. And yet it's an illusion that we all buy into. Talk about mass hysteria.

This is what happens when you try to crunch out a post before dawn in 15 minutes. Scattered and ill-written. How many times did I use the word "stuff" and "things"? No, don't answer that. I don't want to know.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The truth revealed

Why not stretch this idea into two posts? Hey, that's what I said!

(If you haven't read yesterday's post, do it now so you can play too.)

#1. Is true. Of course I don't remember it. One moment I was building a fort with my friend and the next I woke up in a hospital in a green paper dress totally confused. The whole day had passed. Apparently after I fell, I went home and after a short conversation with my mom wherein she used my name, I said something like "Who's that?" Then the hospital. Diagnosis, concussion. Symptom, amnesia.

#2 Is also true. The blood stains on the white carpet were vexing.

#3. Again, true. This occured by accident when I was trying to show my friend Rebekah how many Othello pieces I could fit into my mouth. Ah, teenagedom.

#4 Must be the lie right? Right. The only body part I'm missing is my foreskin. (Sadly)

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Spot the lie

Here is an activity we sometimes do in class. I didn't even think about it as potential blog filler until I saw Patricia do it. Review the following four statements, and determine which one of them is untrue. (In class, we ask lots of questions to see if we can spot the lie, you'll just have to guess.) I usually choose a theme too. This one is "Doctors and Hospital visits"

1. I once fell off a roof and had amnesia for a day.

2. During an earthquake, I woke up and cut my foot on the water glass that had fallen off the bedside table and broken. (This is something they warn you about too.)

3. I once swallowed an Othello piece and the doctor's advice was to examine my stools to be sure it came out. It did, two days later.

4. I've had one part of my body removed - my tonsils.

Obviously some of you long time friends have an advantage. I'll post the answer in the comments in a couple days.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Saturday morning blah blah

Only three more weeks until vacation. This is all that's keeping me going right now. In addition to the work schedule, I've got to finish the exams and evaluations, figure out Christmas and cards (no decorating this year, cards half done, gifts half bought) and get ready for the trip. Then I got my notice this week that I am to appear for my citizenship test and oath taking on December 12. According to the literature, I can miss no questions. They give you a little book to study, and insist that you find out who your local city, provincial and federal representatives are. (I still don't know mine yet) The test has questions such as:

What were the three main industries that helped the settlers thrive in the Atlantic region?
(fishing farming and shipbuilding)

What date did Nunavut become a territory?
(some day in 1999, I forget which)

Completely useless information if you ask me. I think some more useful information to know would be how to file a tax return, or how to make poutine.

Then, if when I pass the test, I immediately attend the oath taking ceremony and receive my citizenship card. This is when I have to pledge allegiance to the Queen of Canada, who is really the same person as the Queen of England. I am able to keep my US citizenship, and it would only be jeopardized if there were a change of policy or a war or something.

So now I've got studying to do as well.

What else? Got a busy weekend of chores ahead. It's cold again and windy. Brrrr. Vacation is coming.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Always look before you sit

I went out yesterday morning with mucho baggage. I had the portable DVD, the sack with the popcorn and basket, and my backpack with several books, folders etc. When I got on the bus, I saw that all the seats were taken and squeezed past a couple people with my stuff when an older man caught my eye. As soon as we locked in to each other, he rose as though offering his seat. I sat down and said "Merci". The bus stopped and he got off. Oh, so that was it, he was getting off anyway. And what' s that smell. It was stinky urine smell. I scanned those near me looking for the sort of person who may have woken up in a puddle their own pee. Seeing mostly working people, I thought maybe it was the guy whose seat I took, and the lingering of his odor.

But what's this? Is that moisture I feel? I rub my butt back and forth a little in my chair to see if I'm just imagining things. Squish, Squish.

Fuck. You're Kidding right.

Alright, calm down, it could be water or coffee or something. Whatever it was, it had soaked through my pants and underwear. What would the point be in standing up? I decided to stew in it until we got to the metro.

Unfortunately, I had taken the *last* possible bus to get me to work on time. When I got off I felt like a cat with tape on his feet. Gross, gross, gross. I descended into the metro and realized that the stinky urine smell did not follow me. Well at least there's that.

I rode the metro unable to concentrate on anything except that I was possibly soaking in another man's urine!

I finally arrived at work. I ducked into the bathroom, tore down my pants and saw the most beautiful sight I could imagine for that moment. Brown. I bent over to sniff. Yes! Coffee! It's just coffee! I am saved! Oh, how I love the world. And then laughing at myself as I cleaned it up as best I could before class. Took about two hours to dry.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

HNT plus Groundhog Day

Does this count for HNT? I went through the archives to find a photo with lots of skin, but the skin was either x-rated or the photo was taken in summer. Hence, this shot. In my favorite place with my favorite creatures. And no, I do not have a mini head growing out of mine.


The in-class film this term is "Groundhog Day". I chose it because I have many different levels of students and even if the beginners don't understand much of the language, the fact that the story is about living the same day over and over makes it easy to follow.

I've watched it five times in the last two days. In a strange kind of self inflicted irony, I felt confined by the repetetiveness of both my day and Bill Murray's.

On the surface, it looks like standard American Romantic Comedy fare, but it really has some deeper thematic currents running through it.

It wasn't until my third yawn-filled viewing that I sat up and said to myself - "Wait, it's a metaphor for every day of your life!"

Now you might be saying, "Boy, that tornwordo is pretty slow." And you may be right. But in my defence, I'm not usually priming my brain for philosophical ideas when renting a film from the romantic comedy section.

Every day can seem the same. Same routine, same people, same job. Get up, go to work, come home. Some of us find comfort in knowing the day ahead will be a repeat of some recently lived day. Others will find this bitter and hellish, feeling trapped by their repetetive lives.

The only real difference in these two views is attitude.

But wait, it goes even deeper. There's something closer to the "secret of life" being alluded to here.

Because no matter the routine, no matter the milieu, it is only in our choices that we can make a difference and grow, learn and find fulfillment.

How would you live today if you thought tomorrow would never come?

I bet it would be different than what you usually do.

I bet it would be closer to the thing you should be doing.

Let's think about it, shall we? (I still have four more viewings to mull this over. Gack.)

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Outside the UN Conference on Climate Change

I walked out of the house yesterday morning to a spectacular sunrise. The temperature had risen forty degrees over night and melted all the snow. It was a great day to get out and enjoy some balmy weather (despite the rain showers).

As you may or may not know, the UN conference on climate change is taking place here in Montreal this week. Several of my classes are held in a building adjacent to the convention center. When I arrived yesterday, I noticed lots more police and security guard presence. After my lunchtime class, I took a stroll outside to where there was lots of activity by "earth activists".
They had some works of art, banners and costumed protesters. I walked around and looked at all of it. My favorite banner was this one.

They were also erecting a full block long "quilt" composed of panels lamenting our treatment of the earth. Here is a pic of one part of it. I especially liked the "drowning earth" panel.

One of the people kept chanting " Are we really going to let the rich and powerful destroy the planet which belongs to all of us?" And I can't get it out of my head. Sigh.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Song memory #3

I had one particularly charged romance in my life that ended spectacularly badly. It was a short affair spanning the summer of 1986. We went from hello to I love you in a couple of weeks and from there it took a couple months to disintegrate. We had a special song that summer, that summer of love.

It took me a long time to get over my heartbreak. In fact, I may not have ever truly healed had it not been for his death. (I found out from a local watering hole bartender who delivered the news to a dumbstruck me.)

The day after I found out (this was in the late 90's), Serge and I were riding in the car with our friends on our way to Palm Springs for a debauchery junket. I was relating the story of this affair and my sadness of having learned this news.

Ted, who was playing DJ for the drive in the passenger seat, shuffled through his discs while listening. Then he popped in a B-52s CD and selected a song. "Summer of Love" was the song he played. Our song. A non hit except marginally on the dance charts, he put on a 12 year old song, the same song that represented that long ago affair. The hair stood up on my neck and my scalp tingled as I said, "Ted, why did you put that song on?"

"I don't know, just wanted to hear it."

Then I revealed that that was our song that summer so long ago and how uncanny that he would play it.

"Maybe he's just saying hello from the other side" said Ted.


Monday, November 28, 2005

Mini rant plus winter pics

Well the US has lost round 4 of their insistence on taxing wood imports from Canada. Despite what you might be hearing from the talking heads on Fox news, the matter is really quite simple. The US placed a tax on wood imports because they perceived the tax credits given to lumber industries by Canada as unfair. (in spite of similar supports offered by the US to US lumber companies) Canada cried foul and the matter went to the organization charged with resolving disputes involving the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The US has been ruled against 4 times, yet the tax imposition continues.

Yes, the US invites you to sign an agreement with them and then they refuse to respect the agreement.

The result? American consumers continue to pay more for wood. American lumber conpanies continue to deplete a fast vanishing US resource because the US government (in imposing the duties on imported wood) creates a profitable environment for them. (read: gets rid of competition)

Meanwhile, Canadian lumber companies are floundering.

The US has done a classic bait and switch.

When I first came to Canada, I was shocked (SHOCKED) to find avocados for 25 cents apiece. In case you didn't know, avocados don't grow in Canada. California is the US's largest avocado producer, yet I was paying more than two dollars each for them there.

Why? Because avocado imports were not allowed into California.

For a country that places such emphasis on free enterprise and competition, it sure rings wrong in these situations.

Hypocrites. (But we're good people, I don't understand why everyone in the world hates us....)

Now that I've got that off my chest, here are a few pics from the cold weekend we had. Enjoy.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

A new life part 3

If you want a real intellectual challenge, try learning a second language. In case you haven't considered it, let me point out that it took you many years to become proficient in your first language. I don't know why I expected it to come more easily given this obvious fact.

Sitting in French immersion felt like wearing a dunce cap every day. For months, I understood little of what the teacher said. I tried to nod when I thought it was appropriate.

My teacher was Madame Mila. She was a large Russian woman who seemed eternally torn between severity and jolliness. She would never hide her frustration with students' errors and would stomp her foot and shout "STOP!" when you misspoke. (Stop is a French word by the way.) She had healthy testosterone levels as evidenced by her mannish stance and ersatz hairs speckling her face.

I loved this woman. Since I was nearly twice the age of the other students, I found her to be a fascinating caricature. I laughed helplessly when she yelled, "STOP!" while the other students quivered and sunk lower in their seats.

Having paid for this class with my own money, I couldn't be intimidated - something that so beautifully comes with age. I found her extrememly entertaining. Plus, she explained the grammar principles very well. (We still correspond to this day.)

Still, progress came slowly and in fact, it seemed the younger students were better suited to learning the language than I was.

I despised the cassette player and the listening exercises. I envisioned smashing it with a hammer every time she dragged it out. There were many days leaving school when I thought, "It's impossible. I'll never be able to get it." But I persevered. After all, there were NO REFUNDS.

Six months, five days a week, six hours a day....

Once I had completed level 6, I decided to continue private classes with Mila twice a week for the next few months. I was finally starting to get it. I could communicate my ideas and though I was nowhere near error free, I was starting to see that my goal was indeed attainable. There are many problems for an English speaker learning French. The gender assignment for every noun is probably the most difficult. It's also very important because adjectives change depending on what gender noun they are describing. (Did your eyes just glaze over?) Also, the verb conjugations are so perplexing that every native French speaker has a book next to their computer called the Bescherelle which is a book composed solely of verb conjugation grids. Yes, even the native speakers need to check their conjugations from time to time. By comparison, verb conjugation in English is simpler than George Bush.

There's one other hideous (some say "Beautiful", "Poetic" or "Musical") facet of spoken French. And that is that orally, they link all the words together so that you never know where one word ends and the next begins when you're listening. It takes a long time to hear the language enough to develop the ability to "deconstruct" it. I'm sure I muttered more than once, "Bastards and their fucking musicality."

During this scholastic experience from Oct 2000 to summer 2001, Serge worked from home though business was very slow. I grew more and more anxious waiting for my immigration process to conclude. In Jan 2001, I received the approval from the Québec government and in March I had to have a medical review. As I understood it, this was the last step except for the waiting. Soon I would be a legal resident. As the slow drain on the bank account continued, it was time to sell the house in California. The final cord to cut.

(Scroll down for parts 1 and 2, Nov 20th and 23rd.)

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Weekend Update

Winter has invaded. We've had January temps and snow this week which has changed the landscape considerably. The snow is lovely. The cold, not so much. They are now predicting rain all week, so we'll probably lose all the snow before we get some more. I don't mind, a little break from the frigidity is find by me.

I haven't taken many pictures because the camera is much more unweildy when you're all bundled up and saddled with gloves. I'll try to do better with that this week.

The next couple of weeks are going to be hectic. Even though I was expressing gratitude for my employment regime earlier in the week, I am now faced with preparing all the final exams and writing evaluations for all the students. I think the evaluation is really important and I take my time and try to give the students detailed personalized feedback. But this takes time. And I hate things that take my time. Sigh. I wish I had the Samantha nose twitch and could jump ahead two weeks. Childish, I know.

Not to mention the Christmas cards. I've got 5 out of 40 done. I don't go crazy with the gift giving at Christmas, but I do like personal holiday wishes. I hope to finish those this week.

My mother left on a 17 day fishing trip out of San Diego yesterday. Her goal is to land a 300 pound tuna. This is her favorite annual fishing trip out to Hurricane Bank. (Somewhere way out there between Cabo San Lucas and Hawaii.) Yesterday, I called her on her cellphone at 5:30 in the morning while they were at the dock preparing to leave. I could see her on the webcam at the dock. She waved to me. Clever technology.

"How was your Thanksgiving, mom?"

" Oh, I spent it on the boat, here at the dock getting things ready. We had some turkey before bed."

"That sounds nice mom."

"And I slept! I went to bed at 9:30 and the next time I opened my eyes was 3:45. I haven't slept that long in months!"

"Uh, mom? What time do you usually get up?"

"Oh I wake up around 2:30-2:45. I get a lot done in the morning."

The conversation continued. I thought about how we all eventually turn into our parents. I thought about how I get up earlier now than ever before in my life. Best not to think about it.

Alright I've got work to do. Enjoy the day.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Sneaky ketchup packet sucking (say that 3 times fast)

When little K opened up the front door, he was holding a bowl full of Ketchup packets from various fast food outlets. He quickly explained that his mother had gone to pick up his sister at the orthodontist's but they would be back soon. K is one of the Japanese boys I tutor each week and as I removed my shoes and winter garments, we made our way to his bedroom where we do the lesson. He placed the bowl of ketchup packets on his desk and said,

"I like these ones better than the McDonald's ones." He held an A&W ketchup packet, bright orange with black writing, and showed it to me.

"Do you like it better because of the package or because of the taste?" I asked

"The TASTE, why do I care about the package."

"Good point," chuckling, and then I added, "Say, are you stealing those every time you eat out?"

"No, we just save the ones we don't use."

So I got out his folder and started preparing the story we were about to read and I asked him about his weekend while I futzed with the papers. It was difficult to understand his mumbled answer so I looked up to see him sucking on one of the ketchup packets.

"What are you doing?"


"Why are you sucking on the ketchup?"

"Uh, because it's a snack." said as though it was perfectly obvious and normal.

"Ketchup is a snack?" and I started to laugh.

"Yeah." and then he tore open a second packet to suck on.

I was very amused and said, "K, do you know anyone else who snacks on ketchup packets? I mean in your whole life, have you ever known anyone who did that?"

"Well, no." pause "Except my sister."

The kid was snacking on a bowl of ketchup packets and perfectly oblivious to the oddity of this. Just then his mother arrived home with his sister. She came in to the room to greet us and the moment she spied the bowl of ketchup packets she said something that sounded cross in Japanese and whisked the bowl out of the room. She gave me the "what are you going to do with kids" look.

Of course the whole time it was happening, I was thinking "blog fodder, alert alert". So who is really the odd one here?

Thursday, November 24, 2005

"Sometimes Tornwordo, being a sick f%*#k is the only thing a guy has to hold on to."

Happy Thanksgiving

(See how the "Thanksgiving" is clickable? That's because I want you to click there, however, please be advised that the title's meaning will then become painfully clear.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A new life part 2

part 1

We signed the lease and received the keys to our new apartment on stink street. We had nothing, no furniture, appliances, bedding, dishes, all we had were the clothes we had packed and two hard drives. Because it was Thursday, the stores were open late (one of my first rude awakenings was the opening hours of the stores. Only on Thursday and Friday evening do the stores stay open past five. However, this is changing now) and we went to St Denis st to the Futon shop to purchase our bedding, sheets and pillows. Serge got his old tv from his mom's house and we bought a bottle of champagne. We spent the first night in the apartment feeling splendid, the huge chore of finding a residence behind us. We also learned that we only got one channel with the TV antenna.

Now, if you want to have a real test of a relationship, especially a gay male relationship, what I suggest is this. Shop together for 3 days purchasing things with which you will furnish your home. You are starting from scratch, and one of you is charged with respecting budgets while the other is all about colour, quality and style. The car has to be returned in three days, so there is a deadline you must meet. I don't rightly know how we got through this without killing each other, maybe it was the nightly beer consuming. (The beer is strong here. American beer tastes watery to me now.)

(Segues are not my strong suit, but there should be one here.)

In order to live in Quebec when you immigrate to Canada, you must also be approved by Quebec's own immigration department, an extra hurdle to surpass. I received a letter asking me to appear for an interview in Quebec's immigration office in New York at the beginning of October. Both Serge and I were asked to attend, in order to verify our relationship. Woo hoo! A trip to New York. The interview was on Monday so of course we bought tickets to arrive on Friday, and called our friend Tom who has a place in Greenwich Village. Tom, the consumate party boy, had every drug imaginable in his little "goody bag". That was the last weekend that I ever did a number of drugs. What a way to prepare for the all important interview.

During the interview, we answered many questions and then the agent said that we were approved, but since the quota had already been exhausted for that year, mine wouldn't be sent until the beginning of January. I went back to Montreal jubilant again, approved! And went back to my French classes which I had started at the beginning of October. More on that in the next chapter.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Early morning blather

I used to be a go getter. Very ambitious and competetive. I found that if I put my mind and body to it, I could usually succeed in getting what I wanted - better position, better hours, more perks. But as I rose like the proverbial cream, each time I arrived at the place I wanted to be, I questioned why I wanted it in the first place. Money being the dominant motivating factor for many years, I took on jobs requiring more of that which I am most loathe to give, my time. With each new career plateau, the patina of the job title or the company car wore off within weeks of racking up 60+ hours leaving me wondering, what is it I want again out of life?

My parents have stuck it out with the same employer the huge majority of their adult lives and I admire them for that, that huge sacrifice of resigning oneself to the inevitably repetetive nature of our jobs. As for me, I never get too attached to the employer, I often have several sources of income which I juggle. There will be no retirement benefits waiting for me, but I'm preparing for that in other ways.

Nowadays, life is sweet. I essentially have 12 weeks off per year since I teach and there's ample Christmas break time as well as two solid months in the summer. I am in the classroom 24 hours per week. This has of course presented other budgetary challenges, but as most people who know me know, I'm a good saver. (Plus real estate has been kind to us.) Today I am so grateful how my life has led me to today. I am thankful to have more time than money. I feel lucky to be living in a tolerant society with food, shelter and transportation easily acquirable. I know it's only Tuesday, but thanksgiving should be free to come out when and where it happens.

Or maybe this really should have been titled "Some Pompous Narcissistic Crap" You tell me.

Monday, November 21, 2005

On ignorance

I saw an interview a couple of years back with Sean Connery who proudly proclaimed that what bugged him the most about people was stupidity. This he could not abide, this he could not stay quiet about.

Um, aren't we all born starting at zero? And aren't we all raised in different environments, nay worlds? How can you hold everyone up to the same "intelligence" standard as yourself if the person didn't run the same course? (And maybe didn't start with the same model of equipment.)

I can remember many times in my life being mocked for my lack of knowledge in a certain arena. Now, I think this just reflects poorly on the "mocker", though at the time I wasn't smart enough to avoid feeling shitty about myself.

There was the time I was mocked for not knowing fashion when I switched from private (uniform wearing) school to public school in the 7th grade. There was the time I was mocked for talking in a bathhouse (during my first visit). There has been mocking for a lack of band and musician knowledge, mocking for my "taste" in things, mocking, mocking and mocking. (I like that word, can you tell?)

When people criticize or feel ill will toward others due to "stupidity", this is judgemental behaviour that helps no one. Be charitable and help someone learn something new, or laugh derisively at the person to make them feel like shit? Which one do you choose? If it's the latter, why the hell are you so stupid?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

A new life part 1

Sept 6th 2000. We got off the plane and gathered our belongings and our dog who had ridden from LA in the cargo hold. After clearing customs, (I entered Canada as a "tourist") we went to pick up a rental SUV as our plan was to find an aparment and furnish it as quickly as possible. Until then, we'd be sleeping on Serge's mom's floor, a 45 minute drive outside the city. There was one problem with this plan - there was a severe housing shortage in Montreal and every call we made delivered the same response - "Already rented". For three solid days (of miserable anxious hellishness) we drove up and down every single residential street in the city looking for "for rent" signs. We saw none. When the free weekly paper came out on Thursday, we called all seven listings and left messages. We were becoming distraught and ever widening our search area. Every lead we found led to dead end. Then we got a call back from one of the listings. In our desperation, our messages left for the listings came out like this, " We need a place to live, we're a gay couple and we have a dog. We are ready to sign a lease today, Please call back at ...."

The man who called us back said he had received 78 calls for the (tiny 2 bedroom) apartment that day. He said he loved the direct nature of our message. (I think he heard the desperation, and knew we wouldn't bitch about anything - plus the owner was gay) He invited us over that afternoon for a look see.

It was perfect but very small. There was a big back yard for the dog. The price listed in the paper was $750. We offered to sign the lease within a few minutes. When he drew it up, he marked the rent as $450/month and said the paper had misprinted the price.

This was my first experience of what I call the Canadian or Quebecois spirit. Instead of greedily grabbing, integrity seems to count more. My American molded mind thought, wait, he knows we would pay 750, but still only charges 450, that's bad business. Or he's an idiot. Best not to talk about it, since we are benefitting.

At any rate, this was indeed good fortune. A place to live!

It wouldn't be long though that we would discover that the large building up the street was a yeast factory.

A yeast factory, in case you didn't know, creates one of the most sickening odors imaginable. On certain days, one had to cover one's mouth upon stepping outside to avoid triggering one's gag reflex.

Good fortune indeed.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Let it snow

We've got snow this morning, lightly falling, hushing the sounds of the city. Like a giant natural muffler, even the birds seem to be shushed. The dirt and grime of the city that we are so accustomed to has been replaced with pristine white. It's a pleasant illusion.

Too bad it's supposed to rain tomorrow and wash it all away.

Today, I'm off to rent a car for the weekend. We do this a few times a year to shop for big stuff and visit those outside the public transportation limits. We'll be stocking up for winter like so many squirrels. Then we are celebrating Spouse's birthday at his mom's house tonight.

Yesterday, I was invited to play poker at Psycho's place and I punked out at the last minute because I was so hagged out and tired. In fact I was asleep at 8:30 last night and didn't wake up until 6:30 this morning. I'm not really a flaky person, but I just couldn't keep it up last night if you know what I mean. I hope you won lots Psycho!

What else?... Oh yeah, I thought I'd continue the story of the road to Montreal and talk about that first year in Montreal. Because it really wasn't like I stepped off the plane and we lived happily ever after, no, shit happened. And I'm gonna tell you about it, starting tomorrow.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Let me ask you this

Are you more likely to compare yourself to those who "have" more than you or to those who "have" less?

Even though one comparison has the effect of making one feel dissatisfied, I would wager that we choose this comparison far more than the other.

When you compare your situation to those who "have" less, naturally one feels grateful, blessed, lucky, and content. (And as a bonus, a little thing called compassion starts growing inside.)

So clearly, there is a superior choice here.

Why, as human beings, do we choose the comparison that provokes ill-feelings?


Thursday, November 17, 2005

It's not Thanksgiving yet, plus HNT

In my head, I had planned a Thanksgiving post to put up today, but now upon further investigation, I realize I'm a week early. (I'm not blonde, it's just a non-event north of the border)

Today is Spouse's birthday (for you francophones, "spouse" is non-gender in English and can represent either "husband" or "wife") and I wish we could give him a splendid party, alas, today is the magazine deadline at his work, so he will probably need to work late. I'll have a special supper for him tonight. Happy Birthday bébé!

So I guess it's also HNT. What better excuse to expose my sicker side. Thus, I give you, my impression of George Bush.

And because I've little else in mind, and due to the nice compliments from the first batch, here are three more pics from Sunday's walk in the park that didn't make the first cut.

This was another tree bearing fruit. This and the red berry picture from Sunday were both marked as "Crabapples" of which they had many, many varieties.

Here I am in the Chinese garden area.

It really was a fabulous day.

And finally, another one of the gnarled tree.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Bad teacher

I had a lesson with one of the kids I teach the other day, we'll call him Johnny, who I had a regretful thing happen with. What happened was this. We were conversing about hiccup remedies seeing as how I had them, and he talked about drinking the water upside down. I told him about my father's remedy to "push" like you were having a hard time pooping while holding your breath as long as you could, and usually that would stop the hiccups. Then I noticed that the vein was popping out on his forehead and his face was turning red.

"Hey, be careful you're face is turning red."

"I'm pushing." he says

"Well you have to watch it because you can faint like that. I remember showing my father how I could turn my face purple and then waking up on the floor with a big bump on my head from falling down."

"You fainted? How long were you fainted?"

"Oh, about 30 seconds I guess." and I had a niggle of a concern.

Why was he asking me that. Oh wait, the fainting. Right, he's fourteen years old and I've just talked about how to make yourself faint.

The words I had spoken were like a snake that had slithered out and wrapped around his brain. I looked up to see his face turning purple.

"Johnny, stop that. That's not good for you, and we're having a lesson."

He stopped but I caught him doing it again later during the lesson.

When I left, he was alone in the house. I knew exactly what he was going to be doing in his bedroom. And yes I do feel guilty about it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Torn's second meme

1) My mother once: found some underground dirty comic books I had and destroyed them. One of them in particular would have been worth hundreds of dollars today.

2) Never in my life: have I considered suicide.

3) When I was five: Mrs. Jensen was my Kindergarten teacher. She took us on a field trip to her beach house in Laguna, and we rode her private funicular down the cliff.

4) High School was/is: a time when I thought I knew everything but really didn't.

5) I will never forget: seeing the UFO at Lake Mead

6) I once met: Ellen Burstyn backstage in New York. She is the only celeb who ever made me nervous with awe. I was only 17 though.

7) There's this person I know who: doesn't like him/herself and punishes others for it.

8) Once, at a bar: I found an eight ball of coke. That was a bloody weekend.

9) By noon I'm usually: already finished with lunch and in the classroom teaching.

10) Last night I: ate filet mignon with fettucini alfredo and enjoyed it with a crisp yet buttery white wine. Watched 54. Lame movie.

11) If I only had: more time and money, I could do more of the things I like doing.

12) Next time I go to church/temple: good question

13) Terri Schiavo: was evidence of the mental illness of the fundamentalists.

14) I like: bargains, laughter, greasy food, scrabble, weed, and wondering about life.

15) When I turn my head left, I see: a white wall.

16) When I turn my head right, I see: the living room, with the dog parked on one of the couches.

17) You know I'm lying when: Sorry, I don't lie much anymore, it's just so much easier to be honest.

18) In grade school: I sucked on the gravel that covered the playground. I loved the taste of the dirt on the rocks.

19) If I was a character written by Shakespeare: definitely Oberon

20) By this time next year I: hope to have quit smoking

21) A better name for me would be: Cloudwatcher

22) I have a hard time understanding: Calculus, Shakespeare, and racism.

23) If I ever go back to school I'll: take only classes that interest me.

24) You know I like you if: I laugh a lot.

25) If I won an award, the first person I'd thank would be: Depends on what the award was for.

26) I hope that: winter is warmer than normal this year.

27) Take my advice: gratitude and cheerfulness feel better than resentment and hostility.

28) My ideal breakfast is: Eggs San Pietro at the Rose Cafe in Venice California.

29) A song I love, but do not have is: pennies from heaven.

30) If you visit my hometown, I suggest: (assuming hometown means where my home currently is) coming in the summer.

31) Tulips, character flaws, microchips & track stars: lovely, interesting, dull, and sleek.

32) Why won't anyone: shut up about their faith?

33) If you spend the night at my house: do not wear black. Your garments will be coated with beige dog hair.

34) I'd stop my wedding: what a gay question.

35) The world could do without: pedophiles and bloodthirst

36) I'd rather lick the belly of a roach than: eat it.

37) My favorite is: laughing until tears stream down the face.

38) Paper clips are more useful than: staples.

40) And by the way: this took me far longer than I anticipated so I will spare you any possible horror of being tagged.

41) The last time I was drunk: On the cruise ship, we danced til 3am.

42) My grandmother always: surprises and inspires me to this day.

Monday, November 14, 2005

A walk in the park

What a spectacular day yesterday, it jumped back up into the 50's and we took advantage of the respite from the chill by going out and surveying the state of things in the botanical gardens. Now that the season is over, there's no entry fee, and since it's just a short distance form our place, we spent a few hours strolling. Mostly everything looked dead and ready for winter. But here and there, there were still splashes of color.

And now I get why red berries are a holiday symbol too.

There was a special gnarled looking tree we goofed around with. There were people there feeding the birds who would land on the outstretched hand containing birdseed.

Anyway, not much else to report, just wanted to post up some pictures of the day yesterday and wish everyone a good week.

I'll be back tomorrow with more fun stuff.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

I do not look like him

Last month when we went on the cruise, three people came up to me that week and just "had to" tell me that I looked like Pierce Brosnan. I answer what I always answer to that, "Yes, I've been told that before." Usually, the person then tries to clarify, "It's a compliment!"

I'm sorry, but when you compare me to someone who is just shy of a decade older than I am, it's hard not to think, "Really, I look that old?"

Some say also that it's the way I carry myself, with a sense of confidence and knowing, while also being exceedingly polite. This is very attractive to females. It's true, women have been throwing themselves at me for as long as I can remember. I suppose males have been too, I've just got more of a blind spot there.

I got it again last week in one of my classes and everyone in class agreed and said, "Yes, that's it, I've been trying to figure out who you remind me of." Then of course a bunch of James Bond talk.

Maybe there's the slightest resemblance here. I dunno. I must be getting old.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Saturday look back

Ahh, Saturday. The pressure is off, and focused relaxation is on. Though it's been a week pretty much like the last few in terms of job duties and activities, there have still been some notable events. This was the week that all the trees lost their leaves. Where one week ago, splashes of color still graced the landscape, now there are brown sticks quivering in the air, here and there a crow's nest exposed. Remember that picture I posted last Friday? Here is that same tree less than a week after I took the first one.

Then on Thursday, we finally got the first blast of snow here. Well that I've seen anyway, who knows what happens when I'm sleeping. Not cold enough for it to stick yet anyway. But when I saw it, I leapt up and ran outside to take a picture. It was more impressive in person. But I got some on my nose and eyelashes.

This got me in the holiday mood and I went directly to buy my Christmas cards. A bit early I know, but what the hell. I had little to choose from since they were still hauling out the Christmas merchandise at Zeller's (that would be Target in the US).

Mostly what's been happening is that fall has changed to winter in one short week. We had two big squall lines move through this week with lighning, thunder and heavy rain and LOTS of wind. Then snow. And all the shops are decorating for Christmas. The Santa Claus parade is downtown today.

And only 5 weeks left on my contracts, then Puerto Vallarta!

Friday, November 11, 2005

The road to Montreal part 7

part 6

So there we were in Southern California in 2000 working from home and having settled into a life that seemed stable and secure. We had a house, a dog, and a business. We were thinking much less about being discovered.

That year we planned another vacation to Montreal, a two week getaway that would include the Jazz festival. We convinced some friends to come with us for the first week. This was the first time since Serge had been barred in 1995 that we decided to try to fly him in and out of Montreal. (instead of crossing the border by vehicle) We bought a one way ticket to Montreal and then a round-trip Montreal-LA so that he would have proof that he was "going back" to Canada. (Of course, we had no intention of using the return ticket, we treated it as a special tax on our situation) By now, Serge knew how to "properly" answer questions at the border. Five years had elapsed since he had been barred from reentry so we felt pretty confident about our chances.

Think you know what's going to happen? This isn't a movie you know, life is always more messy and complicated than that.

We went to Montreal July 1st. We showed our friends the town. As it turned out, these friends didn't like the city. Too foreign for them I guess. Once they left, Serge and I had another week to enjoy ourselves.

Now, throughout this seven year saga, Serge had always made a point to keep his Quebec Driver's license current, a key element for "proving" his Quebec residence status when crossing the border. Because it had expired, Serge went to the motor vehicle office to renew it. However, Serge had waited too long since the expiration and Quebec regulations required him to take a Driving Class in order to renew his card.

"But I don't understand, I do have a valid license." Serge says to the agent.

"From where?"

"From California."

"May I see it?"

"Sure." Serge takes out the license and puts it on the counter.

"Well then there's no problem. You are only permitted to have one North American Driver's license at a time."

"What? Wait. I don't understand."

"We'll send this one back to California and let them know you've moved back to Quebec. Now you can go stand in line for your photo."

And that was how he lost his only valid form of US I.D. that he posessed. What this meant was that driving in America would be a risk. In LA, driving is not a luxury, it's a requirement. (Remember, the laws had changed and it would now be impossible for him to get another California Driver's license.)

Suddenly, that cozy settled-in feeling was ripped out from under us. Poof, just like that.
By the time we got on the plane back to LA (with no trouble) I had come up with a new plan. Let's pack it up and move to Montreal.

A few months before, we had been invited to a seminar at the Canadian Consulate on "how to immigrate to Canada". I have no idea why we received this invitation or who knew this would interest us. At the seminar we learned that Canada sometimes gave "special consideration" for couples in our situation. In my mind, this became the back up plan if we were ever facing separation again.

I retained the services of a Vancouver lawyer to walk us through the process. He was very encouraging about my chances for acceptance.

In the ensuing six weeks, we sold all of our possessions save two bags of clothes and the dog (we rented out our house, the plan was to sell it if I were accepted to Canada). We said goodbye to California and arrived in Montreal on September sixth to start life over again from scratch. We found an apartment, furnished it with IKEA and I enrolled in French School.

The following August, I would receive my "permanent residency".

Last year, we married at City Hall in Montreal.

Currently I'm waiting for my citizenship application to be approved.

And that's why when someone asks me "Why did you move from LA to Montreal?" I usually say, "It's a long story." Now I can just refer them to the blog.

This concludes The Road to Montreal. I hope you enjoyed it. (And thanks to Psycho, for posing the question in the first place.)

Thursday, November 10, 2005

HNT and sleepwalking

It seems like it's always the same shot, oh well Happy HNT from me and Sara.

I've been sleepwalking again. I don't know what triggers it, or why I do it. Serge caught me the other night futzing with the front door and sent me back to bed. I have no memory of it. And then Sunday, I "woke up" sitting in the smoking room with a lit cigarette in my hand with my robe on. This is worrisome. I don't really know what can be done about it though.

'Nother short post today, stay tuned for the final installment of the road to Montreal tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

More Bible stories anyone?

So Anne Rice has refound Jesus. Upon revisiting her relationship with the Catholic faith, she now wants to "write only" for Him. (I swear, you can read it here.)

I smell a little Dan Brown envy, don't you?

What is up with these celebs who feel they need to push their "discoveries" on us. Hey how about this for a reality show - We lock up Madonna, Tom Cruise and Mel Gibson in a room. The first one's deity to save them is the winner.

Back to Anne. We loved your books hon, but don't you think you're going to turn off your fans who reveled in your tales of debauched vampires? If you want to "write only for Jesus" I suggest you use one of those cute diaries with the little lock on it. Really, we've got a pretty sizable army of men dishing out His story every Sunday already.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Pipe gunkage

Last night, we had a simple dinner. And oh so good. It was a baguette with a box of swiss style cheese fondue. We cubed up the baguette and dipped each one in the gooey cheese and washed it down with some wine. (well, it could have been imitation wine, the bottle did have a screw top)

That's it, so simple, so delicious.

There's a small problem when you have cheese for dinner. Cheese likes to gunk up the works, so to speak. In fact, I've just returned from a 15 minute episode atop the throne. After much huffing and puffing I was still unable to sell the property.

What that means is that later today out in public I'm going to have to unload this ball of wax. Then I'll be faced with the clean up using a smaller and thinner version of kleenex. Come to think of it, I'll just toss a roll of "quilted comfort" in my backpack today.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Song memory #2

Breaking out in song while in one's cups is perhaps a distinctly British custom because in my life I've only experienced it once in America.

It was in the late 90's in San Francisco. The remake of "Killing Me Softly" was at the top of the pop charts. I was visiting with an out of town friend, who had never seen S.F. After doing requisite sightseeing during the day, we caroused at night.

The last night we were there, it was nearing closing time at the bar we were in. (Don't ask me the name, I never remember such things. After all a bar's a bar.)

The DJ played one last song. It was "Killing Me Softly". The crowd erupted and leapt to their feet. We spontaneously joined together swaying along with strangers singing "our lives" with our words at the top of our lungs. Nothing else existed for those three minutes. The magical concoction of the hour, the libations and the song took us all to a place of eternal brotherhood. A perfect moment.

The hair still stands up on my neck when I hear that song.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The road to Montreal part 6

part 5 4 3 2 1

We drove across the country in six days. It had been a big gamble planning for the crossing and had it not worked, I can't say for certain that I would be living here in Montreal today. As it was, those first hours on the road after the McDonald's rendez-vous were of an exuberance difficult to describe. The laws designed to keep us apart made everthing so much more "prickly with life", like every moment from there on out was stolen. Within a few hours though, as night came on, we found ourselves passing No Vacancy signs everywhere and here and there cars that had spun off the road. Freezing rain storm! We had to get off the road quickly. That was how we ended up spending New Year's Eve in a Pennsylvania Truck Stop room and toasting 1995 at midnight, the rumble of bigrigs a constant hum just outside.

Because my car was not equipped with winter tires, we headed due south before heading west. The next five nights were spent in Knoxville Tenn., some-small-ass-town in Arkansas, Dallas, Carlsbad NM, and Blythe CA. The best part of the road trip was the stop at Carlsbad Caverns. Other than that though, it was driving drudgery 10-12 hours per day.

We arrived at Em's house dirty and exhausted and camped there for the next month on the floor of the den. I collected my game show winnings and started looking for a job and apartment. I found two waiter jobs rather quickly and we rented a cute apartment in Long Beach. Serge also began working and changing jobs whenever suspicion was aroused about his status. (Usually, a letter from the Social Security Administration.) 9 months later, with a little parental help, we purchased an old house and began renovating it. Serge did most of the renovating between jobs while I moved into management (again). We added Sara to the family, rescuing her from the shelter. We would call this place home for the next 5 years replete with the trials and tribulations you would expect for a couple of people in our situation*.

The problem with living like that is always the future. Because at any moment your lives could be ripped apart and so it was difficult to think about "next year" because we never knew what that would look like. During those years, we made two other visits to Montreal. Both times we employed a similar strategy for Serge to come "home". Both times were nail-biters.

By the beginning of 2000, we had gone into business for ourselves, creating web-sites from home under the name We were less afraid of being "found out" as all the income for the business went on my tax returns. We were getting used to life there. Little did we know all of that was about to change.

(Final part 7 coming soon)

*Trials and tribulations. While I am trying to stick with events that seem relevant to my journey here, that doesn't mean that years pass inside a vacuum. If you care to read them, here are a few notable asides to the story.

- asked a single friend Natalie, to marry Serge in exchange for free rent in our home for a period of two years. She declined and later felt bad about it when she was still single two years later.

- illegal immigrants are a huge source of controversy in the news in California, we were reminded of it constantly. Laws began becoming more strict in an effort to make it more difficult for immigrants to stay. Driver's licenses were more difficult to obtain (though Serge had his from before the law change).

- a visit to an immigration lawyer was depressing, there appeared to be no possibility of him staying legally, and Canada is excluded even from the lottery.

- a friend of my dad's met a Russian lady on-line, flew to Russia and met her, then married her, and brought her and her 9 year old son back to the states. It all happened in a matter of a few months and she was here working, her son in public school. This was the seed that turned me against my country. Life liberty and the pursuit of happiness? For some, apparently.

- Lots of great things happened too like our wonderful network of friends, the White Party in Palm Springs, the weddings, the new babies, all the goodness of life. The beach and climate, Halloweens on Santa Monica Blvd., the skiing in sweatshirts, the proximity of family. I could go on, but you get the idea.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Lazy blogger

It's the weekend, time to relax and enjoy the fruits of a hard week's work. For me that means doing a little shopping, cleaning, blogging and game playing. Maybe a movie, dinner who knows? We like to play it by ear. Last night we went to visit a friend's new apartment on the 25th floor with an incredible view of the city. He has a pet bird who took to me quickly (as most animals seem to) and spent a good 30 minutes grooming me about the face and hands. Here Coco is atop my head.
What else? Hmm. Going to work on the blogroll on the left there. Move some out and add some others. I'll work on the next segment of the road to Montreal for tomorrow. Take the dog out for a walk. Snack often.

It's fun to post Saturdays. It's the lowest traffic day for the blog, so I can just blather some drivel and move on.

Good weekend!