Monday, 22 August 2011

Good Things Grow...

Let's be serious for a moment. To insinuate that this is a blog post would be an insult to bloggers everywhere. You wouldn't want to offend 3/4 of the western world's population, would you?

Didn't think so. 

This is a quick summary of my weekend roadie to two very different places: a) Niagara Falls and b) Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Our primary reason for this little getaway was to enjoy a wine tour in the Niagara Region with our dear TBay-turned-Toronto friends, Tinks and Bone. It's been booked since the spring from Lincoln "Limo" and Cab Company.

The name of the company would imply that the tour involved a limo or, at minimum, a luxury 'Lincoln' cab.

"I'm not one for showy things, but sitting in a limo feels pretty awesome," said Bone in the car en route.

We all agreed. The limo was something we looked forward to very much.

At 2:30 pm, a gaudy white bus picked us up from a theatre parking lot.

As it turns out, "Lincoln" is a just township in the Niagara Region, and 'limo' is merely a type of car in their fleet.

The driver wore a light pink and green hawaiian shirt over his pot-bellied build and sported a thin blonde moustache. He was in his fifties. And he was pissed.

"Everyone be mean to this couple that we have to sit here and wait for," he instructed the passengers on the bus. We all stared back, like ignorant, un-blinking cattle. "They're making us late," he continued, in a low matter-of-fact tone. "I told him, I said we can't pick you up from the casino unless you book it I told him. Oh there he is..." He wheezed. "No one talk to these guys

We peer out the window to see a cab pull into the parking lot. A man in a white collared shirt wearing lots of gold chains gets out. He is accompanied by his girlfriend - a foul-mouthed Latino wearing short shorts and a hot pink bar shirt.

"Watch, I'm going to slam this guys head in the doors," the driver grumbles to us.

And we're off, to beautiful, lush, elegant wine country.

The blonde-moustached lunatic in the driver's seat takes every bend on two wheels. Tinks, Bone, Musician Boyfriend and I later joke that he planned to kill the whole bus all along.

"I'm going to drive this bus off a cliff," we impersonate him, using the same intonation as his previous threat with the head and the doors. "I'm just going to kill us all."

It was only half-funny.

We made sure to swallow every drop of wine & buy as many extra tastings as time allowed. And we also made sure to befriend the late-comers, Gold Chains and Short Shorts. Any enemy of the bus driver was a friend of ours.

"Red wine all tastes the same," I overhear Gold Chains complain to Short Shorts at the end of the tour.
"Oh I knowwww," she agrees. They roll their eyes at each other and conclude that rose is their favourite.

Fortunately the four of us had an incredible time, despite every effort of the tour company to ensure otherwise. We made friends with the winery staff, asked lots of genuine questions and savored every cab franc they had to offer. (Yes, I call it a cab franc now.) We made a pact to open a winery together in forty years.

As per my to-do list, I learned 3 no-fail wine murmurings to impress at my next reception or event. They are a secret. Maybe, if you're lucky, you'll hear them one day. Maybe not.

Regardless, here is a list of bittersweet, end-of-summer trip highlights:

MB practicing for my 5th retirement plan.
Tasting at Reif Estates.
Math Camp Haunting.
Ferris Wheel Ride in Niagara Falls. 
AKA Vegas for families. AKA too
many wax museums. AKA too many children.
(But the wheel was redeeming. And a testament to
our dependence on and faith in engineers and steel. And math.)
Butterfly at the Conservatory in Niagara
on-the-Lake. Where, after observing
that most butterflies actually sport the same pattern
under their wings, I came to the profound
realization that underneath, we are all the same. Like butterflies.
The full arc'ed double rainbow that concluded our trip.
Shortly after MB bought an Irish wool cap, we got caught in a rainstorm
 and a mischievous Irish store-owner
 offered to rent us his cottage on the Irish coast next summer.

...We'll see, universe. We'll see.
I'm in Policy School, remember?

Friday, 19 August 2011


I don't watch TV. For one thing, Musician Boyfriend hates TV (no no, you read this wrong. He does have a soul. He just hates TV.) I was reminded of this during our stay at The Talls' in Thunder Bay, when MB arrived 'home' one night to find TLC's "Toddlers in Tiaras" on in the background of our living room discussion. 

"Whatever happened to The Learning Channel???" He sputtered, sorely disappointed in the shallow state of humanity.
The room grew quiet.
"Maybe they changed it to Tender Loving Care?" I squeaked.

 MB barely slept that night.


So no, we do not watch TV. But thanks to the power of the Internet, I do watch 'shows'.

I follow The Office, for example. I did Arrested Development and Summer Height's High. I remain loyal to Grey's Anatomy (even if the dialogue is all starting to sound the same). And on one particularly single birthday, I stayed home and watched the entire first season of Mad Men.

"Oh, you feel like hating men?" asked Good Emma. "I have the perfect series for you," she suggested. "And consider Don Draper a bonus."

Last week, MB and I finished the new HBO/Scorcese hit, Boardwalk Empire. It's an amazing show. Set in 1920's Atlantic City, the show depicts the corrupt rule of America's major cities by (fairly interchangeable) mafiosos, mobsters and politicians. During prohibition (lead by uptight, church-going women, finally coming into women's suffrage of course.)

I crawled into bed one night (after watching a particularly hard-hitting episode) and eyed MB up with anxiety and suspicion. The problem with the omnipotent Scorcese and Buscemi pairing, you see, is that the show is too well done. It can be too real. And in a (fairly recent) world where men have everything and women have nothing, this can be trying to watch.

I was reminded of this same feeling during math camp lunch, sitting at a picnic table beneath the stone cold stares of four 10 foot tall sculptures,  Champlain, Wolfe, Simcoe and Brock. It is the "Canadiana" building. These are our founding fathers.

And they are creepy.

(And if you've been following since June, you know how much I love Dads.)

Again, the feeling returned during MB and I's latest wine-fueled talk on the future of life on earth (we don't watch TV, remember.) According to MB, history inevitably repeats itself. We see no real progress and we can never be different. (No no, MB does have a soul, he is just a skeptic.)

There was a part of me that couldn't fully agree with him. 
"I feel disconnected from history," I try to articulate. "Because (largely) it wasn't women making the decisions." 
And for once, he has no rebuttal.

I can't relate to the used 1960s secretaries in the ad biz, or the kept mistresses of 'Nucky' Thompson and his cronies. Women, I argue, are in a different place in history now (if only slightly).

But I can relate to something from television. 

Recently I embarked on the selfish (and wonderful) project of re-watching Sex and the City from start to finish, episode by episode. I'm on season 3 of women discussing the battle of the sexes and wielding post-80's shoulder-pad power over their male counterparts.

In SJP's August Vogue interview she mentions that her decision to end the show after season 6 was in part due to the fact that the show only belonged to a certain time.

I think she was alluding to the materialism and the smoking, vs the story of four independent, accomplished women on HBO. 

But on my lunch hour, as I eat my wheat-free, sugar-free, dairy-free lunch and look up at these four, giant, unavoidable stone men (who if crafted anatomically correct, by the way, sport packages the length of my arm)...I can't help but hope that she is wrong.

(As much as I appreciate Jon Hamm in a suit. & Steve Buscemi with his eyes closed, at a flattering 'duskish' time of night, saying something very charming, in a suit.)

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The Strife of Pi

A picture is worth 1000 words.
I learned something yesterday. Something I feel might help to explain the non(blog) status of my writing (for all those doubters out there.) In math, there are such things as a) quotients and b) non-quotients. 

Some things are quotients. Some things are non-quotients. Quotients are fractions. Non-quotients are not fractions - they are square roots. Therefore a quotient is not a non-quotient.

And while my non-blog is the furthest thing from square, I'm sure you're catching on to my point.

In this world there are quotients and non-quotients, blogs and non-blogs. This is a non-blog. Because it is not a blog.

It works in the world of math and logic, so I decree it works here as well. Fallacious you say? Sorry I'm busy writing. I can't talk about this now. And I have homework to do

Yes, I've started that math course I have to take, so whatever.
Today was day 2. I go back tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day. And on Fridays there is a test. (I feel that this alone should plainly settle the debate over the existence of (a) god. Along with the fact that men and women hit their sexual peak at 19 and 35 respectively of course. But maybe that's just me.)

Math Camp (it really is a math camp, now that I've experienced it. It's is my introduction to grad school. Most of my class is in it, which comes as no surprise. The majority of us are poli sci or related degree grads (with the odd lawyer or butcher or high-powered foreign candlestick maker thrown in). We deal with people and ideas. We read and write. We argue. We problem-solve (not to be confused with solving math problems.) We vote (even if it is just to spoil the ballot). When it comes to technical expertise, we are generally useless.

Why should we care about the slope of a perpendicular line vs. a parallel line? Do I really need to make room for y=mx+ b &  Ax + By + C = 0 in my already cramped up brain? How, I ask, am I expected to remember which bachelor from Gillian's season is on Bachelor Pad, when I now know that the slope of two perpendicular lines are negative reciprocals.

Maybe it won't even stop with shallow girls night points of discussion. Maybe I'll just start forgetting things like my birthday, my way home from school, the significance of the US raising their debt ceiling & why that process publicly exemplified the puerile attitude of the Republicans in Congress. (And the broken system which rewards said attitude.)

What's that you say? I need to find the x and y intercepts? Whoops, sorry Musician Boyfriend. I will never remember where I put my keys. Ever. Again.

At the end of the day, the feeling that a) not only are you back in high school but b) you are less intelligent than you were, even then, when you straightened your hair with a clothing iron and wore platform clogs, leaves much to be desired.

But, similar to Super My Ace, I refuse to let something like dividing by zero and finding the equation of the line (simple week 1 concepts, apparently) take time off the end of my life. So, (goddammit) I will look on the bright side. Here I go.

Reasons why I Should Embrace Math Camp

1. The chance to get to know (size up) my peers prior to September.
2. Being humbled by getting to know my peers, considering what (seriously) impressive tidbits I've learned of them already. 
3. You know...Mother Theresa was humble. So maybe I'm like the Mother Theresa of Math Camp. 
4. No longer feeling MB's daily resentment now that I have to get up early again. 
5. Standing to learn from my professor's wicked dry humour. (Better than coming out with nothing. And arguably better than coming out with an intimate understanding of mathematics.)
6. Feeling confident that if a person stops me in the middle of the street and demands to know the slope of a horizontal line, I won't face public humiliation.
7. Feeling confident that if I were put head to head with Rob Ford in an algebra competition, I would win. 
8. Re-awakening a sleeping part of my brain & thus helping to prevent the early onset of dementia. 
9. Reacquiring the right to complain (for the first time since quitting my job.)
10. Feeling that sense of satisfaction when you actually 'get' something. (Even if you had to look up the answer to figure it out.)
11. Oh Christ, I give up.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Late-Summer Night's Glean

365 days ago, Musician not-yet Boyfriend picked me up in his silver Volkswagen Beetle and took me over the border to Gran Marais. It was a Thursday. I was unemployed and available. He took the day off work (plus a million points).

"Some things never change," I said to MB this morning, as we reminisced in bed.

Like the fact that MB, though currently beetle-less, still has an absurd obsession with the (dare I say) novelty car of the year 2000. Yes, MB and female mid-level professionals ranging from 47-52 years of age everywhere.

On our recent roadie he caught one in his rear view mirror.
"Wait for it...wait for it..." he said, a gleeful twinkle in his eye.  And then as the spiky-haired driver came up to pass us on his left, he cursed. 

"Dammit!" He cried. "It was a lesbian!"

I shook my head. "Even had a flower in the vase," I clucked. "Should've known better."
"It's not a vase!" He protested.
"It is dear. It's a beautiful vase," I say.
And we drive in silence for a while.

(To be fair, MB kept a manly looking broken stick in his vase vs. a sunflower or daisy.)

But anyway, some things do change.

About an hour ago I dragged myself up off the couch, put on a suitable public outfit (one that hides the fact that I've stopped wearing proper underwear) and trudged (internally - externally I'd say I was clipping at a good pace) to the 'local' arts and office supplies store.

Five months ago I was at this same store buying paintbrushes, acrylic paint and a canvas. It was a spring evening. I felt like painting. Because why not? It's my joie-de-vivre (read - excuse for doing anything you like, talent or no talent.)

Tonight I bought mechanical pencils, graph paper, a "4 piece math set" (read - protractors) and a scientific calculator. My heart felt heavy as the cashier rang it in.

I bet he thinks I'm some kind of math nerd, I'm thinking. Should I explain? Should I attempt some kind of joke? No, that might make it worse (read - I couldn't think of a joke in time). Just act cool. It's a Friday night & you're out on the town, buying school supplies.

Today is my last day of 'holidays'. That math course I have to take, so whatever, starts Monday.


When a certain date stands out in your mind, like being romanced by a then 28-yr old man mature enough to

a) take a vacation day to spend time with a girl
b) plan a day trip to a quaint lakeside town with impeccable hole-in-the-wall restaurants
c) get his (hilarious) car cleaned before picking up said girl

it's easy to compare the 'now' and 'then.' I've been lucky enough to have had an incredible time since August 12, 2010. Despite the fact that Tall Megan, in my absence, has been driven to name this fellow after me. (It sits with her in her studio while she draws.)

As I unpack my graphing paper I'm skeptical of the next 12 months.

But fuck, I'll give it my best shot.

After all, 365 days ago I did the same with a 28-year old man driving a silver Volkswagen Beetle.

And look how that turned out.

MB & I, Day 359.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Music & the Masses

There are a number of ways I would not like to die. (And feel I've come very close.)
  • On a poorly constructed ride at a small town fair. Any fair really, but a small town fair would be the most humiliating & make the least splash in the papers the next day. See Between Two Journeys. 

  • A final destination-type plane crash. This possibility has haunted me since the new millennium (remember Devon Sawa?). And really, doesn't everyone feel like they're close to a fiery death every time the plane lands? When you feel the impact of the wheels hitting the concrete right before it goes whipping down the runway, brakes screeching, only to slow down at the last possible second? It's like a scene from an action movie, every time!

    Sometimes I hold out my arm to the chair in front of me to brace myself. MB caught me last time and smirked.

    "What." I say to him.
    "Nothing." He smirks.
    "What?" I repeat.
    "No one else felt the need to do that," he motions to the rest of the passengers.
    "That was my second near-death experience in a week," I mutter. (I am referring, of course, to the rickety death trap upside-down ride at the Lombardy Fair.)
  • Falling off the upper level of stadium seating at a pop concert. This nearly came to fruition when I wore platform shoes higher than the length of my calves to a Lady Gaga concert, completely throwing off my equilibrium.

    Last but not least,

  • Getting trampled by a hip, panicked crowd at an indie show.
This is not a blog post. This is how I nearly died on Monday, seeing Bon Iver in concert.

Bon Iver has been a favourite band of mine since being introduced by the music expert, Musician Boyfriend. Music, MB learned from a young age, can soothe the soul. It can heal break-up wounds and unite people on the dance floor. It can teleport you to the most inconceivable of places.

I'm kidding. MB learned that mostly, music can be used to pick up girls. (No read this wrong. He does have a soul. He just only used music to pick up girls.)

MB's low-lit bachelor apartment housed a vintage entertainment unit he found on kijiji for $50. It's one of those legendary finds that keep people combing through overpriced junk online despite never really finding anything. For the unit and I, it was love at first sight. Sometimes I look at it sitting quietly in my apartment and think, I can't believe you're mine. I can't believe I got you here, to Toronto. What did I ever do to deserve you? I am the luckiest girl in the world.

Anyway, inside the unit is a record player. And as I was about the leave his apartment on my first visit, he asks if I've ever heard any Bon Iver.

I hadn't. Can I go now? I have to work in the morning.

"Most people would play you Skinny Love," he says, sliding the record out of its case. "But you need to hear Stacks."

It takes about 10 seconds before I'm back sitting on the couch, purse on the floor now vs. over my shoulder. The sound is perfect, both in the way it fills the apartment and the way the vinyl crackles. He's smooth, I think. He's smooth. I know I'm probably the zillionth girl he's done this with...but I really...really like this song...and damn that is a nice entertainment unit.

I'm late to become a Bon Iver fan, I know this. But I test it out anyway and text Good Emma.

"Did you know that Bon Iver wrote an album about you?" I say. "Yeah," she replies. "But that was Forever Ago."

She's good, Good Emma.

It's true that music can teleport you to inconceivable places. A year later, MB & I are not in his low-lit bachelor pad listening to records. Nay - we find ourselves together in Toronto seeing Bon Iver live, performing songs from "For Emma, Forever Ago" and his new self-titled record.

'Seeing' is of course a loose term. We are standing on the floor to the left of the stage, at the back of a jam-packed crowd. They've oversold the concert (I think.) And unless you're tall, you can't see a damned thing.

Should have worn those Lady Gaga shoes. (Next time.)

Great concert.
I make the effort to crane my neck so I can catch a piece of Justin for every song. But mostly I stand, staring at the shoulder blades of the amazon in front of me, and I listen.

In addition to the shoulder blades, I observe there are a few types of concert goers:

  • The caterpillar. This is the group of 5-10 people who think it's a good idea to all go to the washroom together despite the fact that there is no walking room for shit. They weave through the floor like a multi-segmented insect. The caterpillar, as a collective, is an idiot. And territorial, apparently, as it doesn't make a new home for itself by the washrooms. It needs to go back, way back, to the hole from which it crawled. Thus, you are guaranteed to see them twice.
  • Drunk, worrisome jocks. These people usually stand by the bar and yell things during quiet, beautiful moments in the performance.
  • Camera-people. These are the video-obsessed patrons, typically in your line of view, who record the whole thing with their phone/camera. For a time I'd escaped the shoulder blades only to find myself with one of these 5 rows ahead. Their phone blocked Justin's face entirely. Not like I needed to see him sing.
  • The annoying couple. This pair has a loud conversation-turned argument right next to you. If you're unlucky, the female will have a high pitched voice. If you're unluckier still, so will the male. Or the other female. Or both males.
  • The chatty drunk. This girl/guy goes into a flurry of an explanation and apologies about something trivial like why they have to go the bathroom, and then they narrate their entire trip there and back. And then they re-tell the story to anyone passing to also use the washroom. (For a while I actually thought she actually must be an actor on one of those candid camera shows, and there was a nearby film crew waiting for me to snap. I held it together. Because the second I lost it, cameras would come out, chaos would ensue and the whole ordeal would probably take place during skinny love.)
  • The fallen tree. This is the drunk who falls like a tree, bruising all legs within a 5.5 foot radius.
The concert was amazing. His band is a group of musical prodigies who play every instrument and sing like goddamn angels. Light shows...I could always do without. But Justin's bipolar voice sounds even better live than it does on record. It has more layers than goddamn lasagna.

But in a crowd of this density, viscosity it has an all time low. I can't help but wonder, what would happen if something sent them into a panic? Like the antelope stampeding in The Lion King. But less graceful, less...animated. More piercings.

I eye up the 300 lb man in front of me. He'd take out a lot of people, I reckon. Like that rolling stone on Indiana Jones. But with the right angle and amount of pressure he'd fall like a drawstring bridge. And I didn't want to be there when it happened.

As the frenzied crowd ran over one another, stabbing hands with menswear-inspired heels and breaking backs with boat shoes, what would Justin do? Would he and his band flee? Or do bands feel obligated to 'go down with the ship' like ship captains, per se.

It's likely Justin would flee, but in my head he is playing us out to the one song off his new album I hate.

Insult to injury, I sigh.

Sure, I'm here writing this, so obviously everything was fine. The masses are not always treacherous, panicked and dumb. It's yet another testament to the power of music. But still.

This is a way I do not want to die (and feel I've come very close).

Monday, 8 August 2011

Loves Me Some NW Ontar-eye-O

"I wonder if they fixed the hole," muses Musician Boyfriend as we touch down at Thunder Bay International Airport. He is referring to the damage left by a windstorm that ravaged my hometown of Thunder Bay a couple of weeks ago. The windstorm that blew the roof off of the airport.


Since moving to TO I've discovered that Thunder Bay is surprisingly unknown to the GTA -  considering the number of times it's made CNN.
No - GTA'ers know little of the place from which I came. But I'll forgive you Toronto if you promise to start making more of an effort. You introduced me to Persian food. I'll pretty much forgive you for anything.

Thunder Bay, which sits on the shores of Lake Superior, houses about 120 000 people. It has the highest number of finnish people per capita outside of Finland, and the highest number of trucks per capita in Canada.

Before you judge it as a bizarro pseudo-scandinavian hick town, keep in mind that  every second family owns a camp (TBay name for cottage) in addition to their home. With a camp comes a sauna and a boat. With a boat comes a truck to haul it. See?

The (happy) Talls. 
MB & I stayed with the very hospitable Tall Megan and her boyfriend, Tall Adam. The Talls, if you will. The Talls have a beautiful, multi-roomed house in a quiet, accessible neighbourhood. MB and I went on a walk-about shortly after our arrival.

"Imagine what it will be like when we have this many rooms?" Asks MB, wide-eyed.

"We'll probably get along much better," I say.

MB agrees, wholeheartedly. We sigh, together. Always...together.

Hot Skinny Blonde & her long-time love,
Mohawk Boy. 
We timed this hometown trip to attend Hot Skinny Blonde's Mom's* (non)wedding, featuring a musical performance by the one and only, Musician Boyfriend. *Hot Skinny Blonde's Mom is notably a hot skinny blonde Mom.

It is classified as a (non)wedding because:

a) the couple got married last winter.  By Elvis. In Vegas.
b) I wouldn't pass out at 9 pm in a trailer at a wedding.
c) MB doesn't play weddings. Fact.

So without further ado, please enjoy the trip summary:

Trip highlights (600 points):

Porter Airlines. On top of the free
booze and food, they put MB's guitar
in the closet on-board. And
they serve gluten-free snacks.

 Boating the Kam River with Mr. & Mrs. MB
within hours of landing.
Train ride with MB's thrill-seeking nephew,
Camp with the girls. NB: evened out
sheath dress tan. Summer to do list #10 - check.
MB allowing me to exercise my
'joie de vivre' at the (non)wedding. Summer
to do list #14 - check.
The inspiring couple & (non)wedding hosts with the most, Hot
Skinny Blonde Mom and Silver Fox.
Lessons learned (minus 400 points):

1. Unexpected  musical performances at your rock star boyfriend's hometown show can go horribly awry when there is a last minute key change. And your boyfriend forgets the words. And he audibly groans when you try for that obscure note. And the floor doesn't kindly open up to swallow you.

2. Riding MB's coattails at shows is akin to him asking to write a chapter in my book.


Night falls on the (non) wedding. 
"Oh, c'mon, it'll be fun! I'm not a writer & it's not what I'm doing with my life but my friends will love it! It'll get great reviews!"

(But if/when I ever get over Lesson #1, I'll likely continue to do it.)

Ticket stub found in MB's wallet.
3. You can build paradise & throw an insurmountable party in it. See photo right.

4. Had I been killed on the rickety deathtrap in small town fair last weekend, I (my estate) would have had no recourse.  See photo left.

5. With the houseboat plan, the yacht plan, the Wakefield plan, the East Coast plan, and now the Hot Skinny Blonde Mom and Silver Fox log-home meets sexy loft meets swank hotel property plan, I am harbouring too many plans for retirement.

And I don't even have a goddamn job.

Trip total: 200 points

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Between Two Journeys

Am quite satisfied by the fact that this is not a blog post. It is a summary of my travels with MB this past (long) weekend & a precursor to my true hometown trip to Thunder Bay tomorrow.

I love Toronto. I'll repeat it again and again in this non-blog. I love everything about it but for the red-faced nincompoop sitting in the Mayor's seat. Admittedly, yes, the pace and density of the city can be wearing. But to me, now, the downsides merely serve as a foil to the
weekend escape.

On Friday, Musician Boyfriend and I rented a car and took our first southern/eastern Ontario road trip to visit my parents in Smiths Falls. I stood at the door, waiting for MB to drag our suitcase out of the bedroom. He stopped to drink me in.

"How long did it take you to think of that outfit?" He says, referring to my faded floral maxi dress, sunglasses and straw hat.
"It's my getting out of town outfit," I say. 
MB snorts and we continue out the door. Walking to the subway station, a presumed lesbian checks me out.
appreciates my getting out of town outfit," I mutter.

I proceed to look adorably carefree as we stop off at Fresh (to pick up my vegetarian road dinner) and Noah's Health Food (to pick up some raw Kombucha drink as a treat MB later likens to bathroom cleaner), suitcases and beach bags in tow. The outfit, turns out, has it flaws. The hat becomes a stressful 'don't lose me' accessory. The maxi dress drags on the boiling, dirty cement as we trek from the (wrong) subway station to the rental dealership in 40 degree weather.

I smugly inform MB that I've packed less 
shoes on the trip than he has.

His eyes bug out as he takes note of my flimsy UO sandals. "You mean you only brought those? Are you sure that's a good idea??" He asks.
"HA, positive," I retort. Then the flimsy UO sandal slips of the back of my foot. I roll my eyes and bend down to fix it, as if it's an untimely, one-off annoyance. Each sandal proceeds to alternate slipping off the back of my foot  in two minute walking intervals for the next four days.

But whatever, details. Here is a trip summary.

(plus 400 points): 

Much needed lovemaking to
nature via canoe and swim. At
a provincial park, no less.
    Mom and Dad's rural hospitality.
    Mom & Dad's rural hospitality continued.

Coffee on the deck every morning.

    Spontaneous adventure to the
    effortlessly wonderful Wakefield, QC., where I now plan to
    (one day) spend my summers and (eventually)

Ways we could have been murdered (minus 200 points):
Road rage on the 401 at 5pm on a long
weekend Friday.
Stop off the highway to take in the rolling
fields at dusk. "Hey there city slickers..."
NB: There were cornfields & a scarecrow.

Carney at the cliche small town fair gifting us an unsolicited extra ride on
this rickety death trap while the
two intoxicated pre-teens in front of us scream out the
lyrics to "Ballin'" by Young Jeezy ft. Little Wayne. (Never again.)

Note: This ride was supposed to be a ferris wheel and MB was supposed
to re-enact the "will you go out with me" scene from the Notebook.
Reality is a a bitch, sometimes. 
Our "European style" motel room (read - lots of
exposed wooden beams for cobwebs)
Wakefield, QC

    Reminders that we live in TO (minus ten points):
    • Square footage of my parent's back deck being more than our entire apartment. 
    • Getting drunk off the happiness that results from making an easily rectifiable mistake while driving in cities of pop. 200 000 or less. 
    • Feeling warm and fuzzy when the colourful man sitting outside of the Macs tells you to shove a jackrabbit up your arse.

    Trip total: 190 points

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

In Defense of Spending Money On Rentals

The other day I had my good friend Emma over for tea. Good Emma has been one of my best friends since the ninth grade, when we found ourselves too self-conscious to take Gr. 9 music (and subsequently bear the social suicide of forced membership into Grade 9 band) and opted for Grade 10 drama instead. Because drama nerds are far cooler than band geeks.

Good Emma sat on the couch, holding her cup of steaming tea, and looked around the apartment.

"You've done well," she says, approvingly. "You've done a lot with this place."
"Thanks," I say. Then I pause. "Remember when I lived in the hole?" I ask, quietly.
"Yeah..." She says. And then she repeats, more slowly this time, "yeah..."

Contrary to accusations as of late, this is not a blog. Therefore, this is not a blog post. This is an essay in defense of spending money on your rented living space.

My move to Toronto came on a bit of a whim last summer. Okay, a total whim, reinforced by my parents announcing a move to rural Ottawa that fall. Perhaps filling a subconscious need to one-up them at every going away party thrown in their honour I announced my move to the bigger, scarier, trendier city of Toronto (filled with a handful of good friends to safegaurd at minimum a handful of happiness.) 

Short on funds and time I took an apartment sight unseen. Well, sort of.

a) I did a skype tour with a blonde woman wearing bright red lipstick. Polly, we'll call her, was an artist who lived in the home with her family and two tenants - the 'german and italian doctors.' (My adventures with Polly and this band of characters are an entirely different non-blog post.) 

b) My friend (and vintage fashion blogger) Caitlin sent her wonderful boyfriend Jon to scope it out.

"I just need to know if it's mouldy," I tell him via e-mail. "I loved it from the skype tour and the location can't be beat. But if there is any reason why I couldn't possibly live there, tell me. But I'm 90% taking it." (Read - given that I have no job or other such purpose tying me to this decision, successfully renting an apartment is the only thing that can legitimize this move.)

He wrote back to describe the apartment as a 'poorly furnished cellar.' He recommended I hold out for something better.

But no mould?

I'll take it.

(I was wrong about the mould.)

In the early days of the aptly described 'poorly furnished cellar' (it's amazing what lighting and camera angles can do, even on Skype) I sat with my two high school best friends and asked their advice. They nodded along encouragingly to everything suggested. One of them threw a blanket over the massive grey elephant sitting in the corner. George was his name, I think.

"It's got potential. I think you can work with it," says Good Emma.
"How about a westernized 1920s Turkish?" says Vintage Caitlin.
"Yeah...Think art deco," Good Emma agrees.
"And try to give your landlady back her art, will you?" ...This came from both.

My Attempt at '1920s Turkish'

The idea was to work with the low rusty drop ceilings (via drapey, luxurious fabric - read, 'Turkish')
and antique (read - old and decrepit) furniture, not against. I never did work up the nerve to give the landlady back her paintings of swirly vaginas.

I did what I could with textiles and knick-knacks. Some furniture re-arranging. But with the limitations set out by my landlords (who opposed nails in the wall for hanging pictures), not to mention the (literally) rotting bones of the room with which I had to work, my hands were pretty much tied.

Let's put the experience this way:

I had two identical bamboo plants. One in the hole and one on my desk in my cubicle. Neither got any natural light. The one in my cubicle thrived. The one in my apartment shriveled and died.

Or this way:
My parents dropped me back off in Toronto after my Thanksgiving weekend visit. It was the first my mother was to see of the place. She wept the whole five hour drive home.

Some highlights:

1) I woke up regularly with rashes.
2) Lacking the luxury of a bathroom sink (a surprise upon arrival) I spat out toothpaste and washed cutlery in the same place.
3) After noting a black, tar-like substance stuck at random to my naked body for the fourth time, I realized that the shower was covered in black mould. (Before your judge me as blind and clueless, consider that the shower tiles were black, too.)

I found myself complaining to anyone and everyone who would listen. I couldn't stop myself. And I didn't have reason to, considering each new day presented a new disaster.

"My bathmat gets more wet throughout the day instead of dry...I think there's a leak under the floor.."

"My landlord isn't replacing the rotting wood from that leak..."

"They're re-doing the floors upstairs and my apartment is filled with dust. And...[soft wail]...a rat got in..."

It seemed that if I got it out of my system in public, where I ultimately had to appear cheerful regardless of my vent (read - could not succumb to a nervous breakdown), I could crawl back into the hole feeling empowered to spend just one more night.

The squeaky wheel does get the grease, however (if not from your landlords.) Merely 3 weeks into my new job and a (fabulous) co-worker offered me up her (fabulous) condo (nay - loft) to live in while she was on vacation for a month. That's how bad it was. Practical strangers offering me up their homes.

In the end it was none of these things that broke me, actually. It was an entirely different unpleasant ordeal. On top of my toxic hole, literally on top, was a 9 year-old learning the recorder. A 9 year old I was occasionally asked to babysit, in fact.

........deep sigh.

Finally, in February, MB arrived (thank f*ing Jesus) and we moved into our new apartment. It was a fixer-upper, but it came with the blessing to do whatever we wanted with the space.

"It's a fixer-upper," I'd say to friends with a smile. The permanent, giddy smile that comes only after one has crawled out of a deadly cave and into the healthy sunshine. "We've got a lot to do!" I'd jump and kick and prance.

"What?" They'd ask, understandably confused. "Don't rented apartments come move-in ready?"

Not this one. (Consider Super My Ace.) But did I care? No. I had moved out of an artist's cellar and into a place to call my own. Moreover, it had windows and fresh air and it was clean and it was dry. And with the 1960's thick concrete walls, it was, above all, quiet. 

And so began the home reno, serving no other purpose than to make me feel comfortable and happy in an environment that is a personal expression of (MB and) myself.
We re-painted from top to bottom.

We ordered custom blinds for our oddly-sized windows.
We purchased a PAX wardrobe from IKEA that cannot leave the room without being disassembled and thus has become a permanent fixture. Or so says MB.

We overhauled the heinous kitchen.
All of this time, money and energy spent, and we won't see a penny of it back. Unless of course, the new tenants buy the blinds (otherwise those babies are coming with us.)

This past weekend we spent another small fortune on a few small projects. When the cashier rang up the total on paint and supplies I was stricken by that nervous, nauseous feeling that only comes when your gut is telling you you are buying something superfluous you can't afford. (A feeling the US is all too familiar with.)

And then I remembered the hole. The hole. The hole. The dark, mouldy, hole, filled with the sounds of a screaming, musically-challenged child.

And I'm quite happy to cut my losses in 3-5 years. 

(When MB drags me out of here kicking and screaming.)

Thursday, 21 July 2011


As I write this, the GTA is experiencing record breaking temperatures. Yes. My first time (anxiously) away from the idyllic 27-31C Thunder Bay summer and Toronto must leap to NEW highs (take that Vancouver). At 12:08 PM it is 34 degrees C with a feels like of 46. 

Yup, I nod, as my heart rate slows to that of an ailing slug. Seems about right.

A city that never settles, I sigh.

In this heat I have lost my appetite. Great for Hollywood, perhaps, but if you're like me and eating every 2-3 hours is part of the joy of being alive, you will sympathize. What kind of food does one eat in this heat? What is even appetizing? Nothing cooked, that's for certain. And please do remember that I am equally as allergic to ice cream as I am to the prospect of getting fat.

But today I discovered the recipe (heh heh heh) for survival. Yes, I am now embracing the raw food diet.

I was brought up in a household spoiled by a stay-at-home mother. They were luxurious, those days. (And I of course had not a clue.) But as a result, I moved out of my house at aged twenty-one as a completely useless human being.

I was officially housebroken by my roommates (thank you) but, when it came down to meals, I still sustained myself on veggie dogs and oatmeal. Crackers and cheese and canned soup. Toast. And so on.

Once my roommate caught me puzzling over mould growth in my jar of tomato sauce.

"How bizarre!" I say. "I just bought this 2 weeks ago!"
"Well have you been using it? Is it open?" She asks.
"Um, yeah." (Add 'boiled pasta' to the list.)
"Ohmigod! It's supposed to be kept in the fridge!"



Aside from the odd humilitation, though, the life suited me. Until the day I came home with a grocery-sized list of allergies & had to learn to cook my own meals and shop almost entirely at a health food store.

Flash forward seven months to when I meet musician boyfriend as a new, self-sustaining, shockingly healthy-eating woman.

"Ever tried quinoa?" I casually ask over a glass of wine. "It's incredibly easy."

From microwaved veggie dogs to a vainglorious food snob in just half a year. (Fortunately for me, MB is equally as snobby, and likely one of the only straight boys on the planet who could ever put up with my diet.)

Unfortunately for my mother, a maritimer who raised us on meat, potatoes and a side of string beans, my 'home' visits have become a new, cooler version of hell.

"What should I buy for groceries?" She asks with a sigh. We're on the standard pre-visit phone call. "What do you even eat?
"I told you Mom. I can eat lots of stuff. Just no cow's milk or wheat or cane sugar. Or peanuts or peppers or potatoes or tomatoes. Or food colouring. But we're all allergic to that poison."

I show up to be welcomed by a pot of white rice and a selection of vegetables. My mother eyes me suspiciously as I chew and swallow. For someone who can only eat lettuce, she is thinking, you'd expect she'd be a bit skinnier.

The move to Toronto has done wonders for my diet. The variety of restaurants alone has made eating out fun again. And of course, I got to experience my first raw food cafes and eat my first real desserts in...a coon's age. So it was only a matter of time before MB and I were trying our first batch of raw popcorn (made out of cauliflower, if you're interested), ordering a spiral slicer (to make noodles out of zucchini for christ sakes!) and I was at Chapter's buying The Art of Raw Food.

I called my mother to tell her about our new food habit just last week. MB and I, you see, are visiting on August long weekend.

"Okay," she replies calmly. Too calmly. "Okay. I can just give you my credit card and you two can go to the grocery store and buy whatever you want and make your own meals."

I can't believe it. I really can't believe it. After 26 long years, she has finally relinquished her kitchen. When I thought I'd be prying the ladle out of her cold dead hands one day, there it is. So simple. Mine.

A few days later she sends me this.

This woman is 51

Gillian McKeith is a TV health guru advocating a holistic approach to nutrition and health, promoting exercise, a vegetarian diet of organic fruits and vegetables. She recommends detox diets, colonic irrigation and supplements, also states that yeast is harmful, that the color of food is nutritionally significant, and the utility of lingual and faecal examination.

This woman is 50

Nigella Lawson is a TV cook in Great Britain, who eats nothing but meat, butter and desserts.

I rest my case...

Of course, MB and I are not going to become strict raw foodies. We are about balance. (Read - we are far too lazy and lack the dedication. And I can't risk being an even shittier guest at parties.) MB balances out his cauliflower-turned-popcorn with a beer or three, for example.  

And so, on a day when turning on an oven or even heating up a frying pan is suicide, I made my first raw pea soup for lunch. Needless to say, it was incredible. (Have included the recipe at the bottom, but please do not mistake this non-blog for a food blog.) Look. There are pictures.

And for the first time since approximately July 5th, I look forward to dinner.

I rest my case.

Raw Pea Soup Recipe

1 pint (1/2 L) water
3/4 cup almonds

1 3/4 cup peas

1 avocado
1 small handful fresh mint
Salt and Pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg

First make the almond milk.
(What? Make almond milk?!) Yes. All you must do is blend the almonds with the water. It's easier if you soak them for 12 hours first, but if you don't have time it's not necessary. This simple task produces a gorgeous, frothy, sweet, heavenly drink.

Then mix with peas, avocado and half the mint and blend. Add salt, pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg to taste. Garnish with mint and serve.

Yup, it's that f*ing easy.