Tuesday, December 25, 2007

No Postage Necessary If Mailed Within The House

It's that time of year again, for feasting and visiting and so forth. At one party, I commented that the sound of screaming children always puts me in mind of Christmas.
"Or water parks," someone else noted.
"Yeah, but those remind me of Christmas, too. My family was cruel and cheap."

My family's normal Christmas ritual is to go to my grandparents', about a 2 hour drive away, and have dinner with my mom's brothers and sisters and their families. For various reasons, my mom is hosting this year, which means there will be 8 people staying over tonight. To accomodate all these relatives, my parents have borrowed an RV. A 34' long, powder blue RV. As I arrived and saw it from a block away, I couldn't help but be put in mind of Randy Quade in his short robe and flapped hat waving his beer and yelling, "shitter was full!"

We've had the local radio station on for the last day. They promised 36 hours of Chritsmas music with no commercials. This promise quickly began to ring hollow as we realised that, although they will be playing Christmas music for 36 hours, they can't have more than about 4 hours of Christmas music on file.

My favourite moment of this year was when my step-dad gave my mom her card. It was one of those standard mushy Hallmark "to my loving wife" bla bla bla cards. That's why it was kind of funny when he pointed out that the envelope, which came with the card, included a marking in the corner indicating "Additional Postage Required."

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

No Equivalent

So lately I've been looking for a new job. There are lots of great things about the place I work right now, but there are some pretty glaring omissions from the list of Things I Need At My Job. I think for a lot of people, "it's the thought that counts" are just words. But for me, I really mean it. I would much rather a gift worth $5, or even nothing, if a lot of thought or hard work went into it. Similarly, I would much rather a small raise, unbidden, then getting a big raise after asking for it. This appears to be not understood at my current place of employment.

My friend T is also moving to a different job. For different reasons, really. In any case, neither of us has ever been employed at any one place for a long time. This greatly concerns my mother, who grew up in the Job For Life era. I have tried to explain to her that anything longer than about a year or two is not actually considered job-hopping anymore, at least in my experience.

T was talking about her longest ever job, about 2 and a half years. "It's funny," she said, "the way relationships differ from jobs: you are always serially employed."

"That," I responded, "is because there is no employment equivalent to masturbation."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Sunday was the Toronto Zombie Walk. I'm not sure exactly when the tradition started or where or even really why, but it was quite a sight to behold. My friend B and I have been trying to get out to take some photos for a while now so I figured what better chance than a giant public spectacle. He drove downtown Sunday afternoon and we set out for Trinity-Bellwoods park. We were a little worried because B had gotten into town a bit late. About a block from the park we were excited for our first zombie sighting! Then they turned around. It turns out regular Toronto street punks have a striking resemblance to zombies.

The organizers gathered everyone in the pit at the park. It was awesome. Some people were just lightly made up but some were dressed to the nines. Some of them were creepy and some of them were hilarious. There were theme zombies, too: Where's Waldo, Elvis, the Hippie Zombie or Hipbie as I like to say. People had zombie rights signs. There was enough fake blood to choke a horse. And plastic brains. And fake body parts. There was one guy with an axe in his chest who simply shuffled along slowly, stopping every few steps to chew thoughtfully on the fleshy end of a full sized human arm, severed above the elbow.

Some people even brought their children. At one point a guy lurched around the corner with a knife sticking out of his chest. Attached to the knife was a hand. Attached the hand was a child. The kid spent the whole day following his dad around attached by the knife in his chest. "How's that working out for you?" I asked. Not well, considering his dad continued to lurch, undaunted by the kitchen utensil interrupting his internal organs. I wonder how many sessions with a therapist the Zombie Walk will occupy when that kid is older.

In the end, I managed to shoot over 400 pictures. B shot a similarly obscene number. All-in-all it was very successful. I had a lot of fun. Everyone who came out was very friendly and a good sport. At one point, we were talking to some random strangers and B said he was enjoying it so much they should do two zombie walks a year. Maybe one in the spring. You know, around Easter.

"That wouldn't work," I asserted. "Everyone knows there's only one Easter zombie: Jesus."

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Lousy Helpful Stranger

I tend to be very good at losing things. Important things. Wallets, passports, important pieces of paper, keys, cell phones, you name it. Fortunately, these objects have a curious way of finding their way back to me. It's kind of uncanny.

Our office summer party was held on Toronto's Center Island, a short ferry ride away from downtown, but by virtue of that fact, definitely out of the city, in practice. The morning of the office party, I awoke to discover that my wallet had gone missing. By the process of elimination, I managed to deduce that it was either A) in the gutter somewhere between an Indian restaurant out Gerrard and Coxwell and my house or B) in the Alumni Theatre. I had seen some improv there the previous evening.

I finally reached someone at the theatre and they said they didn't know if my wallet was in the theatre. I should try to contact the improv troupe as they were in charge of the theatre for the duration of their run. Being actors, none of them would be up until about 4PM. I had vague plans to be on the 5:30 ferry with a bunch of my coworkers. I finally managed to talk to someone from the improv troupe just before leaving the office. They had found my wallet in the audience! I could come pick it up after the office party.

So I hauled ass over to the office party and had a good old time. Also, a cold, wet old time, as I was the first person to go in the dunk tank. I think I probably also spent the most time in the dunk tank out of anyone. In any case, eventually the party wound down and it was time to head back to the mainland and grab my wallet at the theatre and head to the after party. I went to grab my cell phone out of my pocket to send a text message before leaving. Bam. No cell phone. So here I am, freezing to death on Center Island, about to miss my ferry and completely bereft of wallet and cell phone. I chose to give up the search for the cell phone, as it was now quite dark, and take the ferry back with my coworkers.

I got the wallet back. I tried, unsuccessfully to call my phone from other phones.

The next morning I got an MSN message from my friend T. Someone had found my phone and given T his number! He was on the island. I called him from my house phone, took the ferry over and got my phone. It had fallen out of my pocket when I was drunk and climbing trees. Let that be a lesson to me. Yeah, right. I asked him how he'd managed to give my number to T. He said he just went to my phone book and looked for a girl's name. I laughed. Apparently people who don't know me still know me pretty well.

The way my lost objects always seem to find their ways home is quite handy, sometimes. Unfortunately, though, it can backfire.

I was at the movies with L on Friday night.
"I have to go pee," I told her.
"Me too. Hold this," she said, handing me her shopping bag, which I automatically took, being taken off guard. A split second later I realized what had happened.

The bathrooms at this particular movie theatre are up a flight of stairs. I raced up the stairs ahead of her and dropped the shopping bag on the top step. I turned around to watch the look of dismay on her face only to be confronted by a stranger with a helpful grin on his face, holding the bag I'd dropped. I glumly took it from him and said, "thanks." I'm not sure if I've ever seen L look so smug.

The joke's on her, though: I made sure I touched the bag with my hands before I washed them.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Muscle Memory

I grew up in the Niagara region but I live in Toronto now. It's a little less than 200km, I think from downtown Toronto to my parents' house. My parents live in a small town and on top of that it's not really in the town so much as on the outskirts of it.

The important part is that I didn't have a lot of local entertainment growing up. Pretty much any time I wanted to have fun, it required driving to Niagara Falls or St Catherine's or Welland. All three have movie theatres. Niagara Falls had Clifton Hill, which is the main tourist drag. It's got arcades and haunted houses and really good people watching. St Catherine's and Welland have malls. Any time I wanted to find anything that was even remotely exotic, I had to go to one of those malls. I spent a lot of time in malls as a teenager. There really isn't a lot to do in the Niagara region.

I also spent a lot of time driving around with no particular destination. There isn't a lot to do but there are a lot of roads. I used to really enjoy driving when it was mostly done bombing around those sparsely populated rural areas. I used to be able to find my way home from almost anywhere without a map.

The trip from Toronto to my parents' house is not that hard. It involves 1 highway and 2 roads after the highway. I used to be able to do door to door from my place downtown in about an hour and a half and that was without breaking the speed limit too much. With the volume of traffic these days, and construction, I haven't made the trip in under 2 hours in over a year. One time this summer it took almost 3 hours. Stupid construction.

Fortunately, this time, I had advanced warning about the traffic so I decided to take an alternate route. I exited the QEW at the 406, which goes through St Catherine's, to circumvent the clog. No map in the car, but no problem, right? I grew up doing this. Apparently my brain doesn't remember all that highschool wandering. I drove past the exit I needed to get me back to the QEW. I got off and turned around and missed the exit again.

Finally, exasperated, I got off the highway and drove to the big mall in St Catherine's. Evidently I spent enough time at that mall that I managed to make it home from there without even thinking. Good old muscle memory.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Green With Envy

I've always wanted to make my hair to be some kinda wild and crazy colour so when my girlfriend, L, asked if I wanted to dye my hair I jumped at the chance. She has a history of doing crazy things to her hair. She reminded me the other day of how one time she came into work last summer with red hair, wearing a green shirt and I called her Christmas all day.

I chose green. I thought that would stand out nicely. "Oh yeah," L observed, "because you really need to draw more attention to yourself."

First we bleached my hair. It was at that point I discovered that I had a small scratch on my scalp. Ow. Then, since I decided to do this while I was on call, the brick went off. So there I am, sitting at my computer trying to fix my exploding work with bleach in my hair, wondering whether I'll finish before my hair dissolves completely. In the end, I did.

Upon rinsing the bleach out, I discovered that I look a lot more like my brother, who bleaches his hair, than I had previously realised. Yikes. In went the green, fast. After that, we bleached L's hair and dyed hers purple. We had been playing Katamari Damacy while the dye set (and when I wasn't dealing with being on call) and the theme music, which is somewhat strange and comical, was playing in the background while we sat and talked after finishing up. "I feel like I'm in some kind of cartoon," L said. For some reason, people seem to say that a lot around me.

The next morning I got in the elevator at work with a bunch of bankers in suits. The best reaction I've gotten so far was from one of them. He continued a conversation with his coworker as he walked into the elevator and looked at me. He looked away, still talking and then stopped mid-word and looked at me again for a good second before returning to his conversation.

The winner for best off-the-cuff response is my coworker Ed who sits next to me who said "I think my hue is off" and adjusted an imaginary knob on the side of his head upon seeing me.

My parents were surprisingly unaffected by it. I found that people who see me day-to-day took the longest to adjust.

What also surprises me is how people in Toronto don't seem used to it. I'll admit it's a pretty bright and unnatural colour, but seriously, it's Toronto; don't they see this kind of thing all the time? Evidently not. I've gotten every kind of reaction from the guy in the elevator to people who are trying really hard not to stare as they walk by.

Tonight on the way home from work I think I got the most vocal reaction from a stranger yet. A girl called out of a store that I walked past, "Nice hair!"

"Thanks!" I called back without stopping.

Her friend, who'd had her back to the door when I walked by, jumped out and shouted, "Oh yeah! It's green! That's awesome. Eat your vegetables."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

You Say Goodbye, And I Say Hello

I work in a small office on a single floor of a big building. It's very open concept. In any given day I will see almost everyone in the office several times. In the lunchroom, by the elevator, on my random wanderings, on their random wanderings. We're a friendly bunch.

One thing that has always baffled me is this awkward habit that people seem to have of needing to formally greet and say good bye every time they run into someone. It doesn't bother me. I just find it weird. I mean, I'm going to see you again in an hour, probably. Maybe I'm just weird. I say "good morning" in the morning and "good bye" in the evening if I'm on my way out or I see someone else on their way out and other than that, I sort of let the conversation flow naturally.

I think that people feel the need to punctuate their conversations or something, to make it clear that the conversation has stopped. I don't know about you, but I'm always reasonably sure when a conversation is over, without having to say something like "have a good day."

And it's very nice of you to wish me a good day, but it always feels so awkward and forced.

Like the ending to this blog entry.

Have a good day.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

We're All Going To Die

I work on the twelfth floor of a building in downtown Toronto. It is the top floor. The view is quite nice. There are, however, a number of downsides.

Emergency situations, for example.

We've had two fire drills in the time I've been at the company. The first one was shortly after we'd moved in. When the fire drill happened, we had no idea what to do. It seemed like we weren't the only ones. Our whole floor piled out and into the emergency exit stairwell only to make it to the 10th floor and stop, blocked by everyone from the floors below us. We stood in the stairwell for about 10 minutes.

Finally, someone came over the loudspeaker. "Gfhfh ghflj farlfh gofhgla. Thank you." In a real emergency, we would have died in the stairwell. It took us half an hour to get out of the building.

Once we were outside, we had no idea where to go. Apparently every floor has a designated waiting area. The person who was supposed to know ours failed to attend the meeting where those were handed out. "Go somewhere! Go for lunch! Just get out of here, I don't know where we're supposed to stand," she chided.

In light of all this, we were all sent extremely detailed instructions before this years fire drill, by e-mail. I never read my e-mail. There's just too much of it. When the fire alarm went off, T and I decided it was a good time to go for coffee. So out we went and down the stairs and we made it all the way to the 5th floor before being blocked by the lower floors. Off we went for coffee. When we got back, our floor had been evacuated. We found them across the street and went to stand with them. Apparently the instructions we got included fierce warnings about food and drink in the emergency stairwells.

"Did you take that in the stairwell?!" I was asked with incredulity. "You're going to get in so much trouble!"

What are we, in grade 3, here? Everybody tie your hands the skipping rope, we're going for a walk. Yeesh. "No, I just went and got it," I explained.

In the end, we all survived the fire drill. I have, however, started searching craigslist for used parachutes to keep at my desk for future emergencies.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Unkindness of Strangers

I'm feeling pretty bitter about living in the city right now.

So a friend of mine needed a bike. We tried and tried to find her one and nothing seemed to be quite right. Bikes in the city of TO are way over priced, I think. Especially used ones. So anyway, I dug up some parts and grabbed my mom's old racing frame and went to work putting together the coolest bike ever. During all of that I realised that what I really want to do is put together a fleet of coolest bikes ever and use them to give bike tours of the city.

Since I had a big pile of bike junk already from the first bike, I was already well on my way. I bought a clunker off of craigslist and got another one for free off of craigslist and chained them and all the parts up out front.

I had a friend, H, come visit from out of town. I get around mostly on bike these days so I figured if she and I were going to hang out, she'd need a bike. Also on my bike-to-do list was teaching my friend, A (of breakfast buddy fame) to ride. Can you believe she's never ridden a bike before? Anyway, H and A are of similar size so I figured that the clunker bike was an ideal candidate for both tasks. I fixed it up. H said it was a really smooth ride, despite looking like a pile of rusty bars.

So yesterday morning, I got up and looked out the window at my pile of bike stuff, including the now-functional clunker. Or, rather, not including the clunker. Overnight, someone had stolen it. No teaching A to ride. Great.

After dim sum with the Usual Suspects (I know, dim sum on a Saturday, what the heck?) I met up with an old friend and wandered around the city a bit. I had a small pick-me-up when we ran across a group of buskers on xylophones at Bloor and Spadina. It was really neat. There 5 xylophones.

That temporary regrowth of faith in my fellow man was quite dispelled this morning, however, when I looked out my window to see some guy with a pair of pliers ripping apart one of my frames.

"Hey!" I yelled out the window, "that's my bike!"

"It's not a bike, it's a frame," the guy responded quite calmly. Your logic is infallible, I thought.

"Thanks," I snapped. "It's still mine."

He gestured to my pile of bike stuff and asked if it was all mine. I told him it was.

Without any apology or atonement whatsoever he said "okay" and walked away from the pile.

I think I'm going to get a pellet gun, like one might use for deterring rodents in the country. Not strong enough to really hurt them but enough to sting them and make sure they don't come back for a while.

That way, instead of semantic debates about the differences between the word "bike" and the word "frame" I can vent my frustration and get the point across all at once.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Something In The Air

Ah, Chinatown in the summer.

For those of you who don't know, I live right next to Chinatown in downtown Toronto. I lived in the area once for a few years, moved away for two, then came back. It's a really great place to live, mostly. It's very convenient. I can walk about 20 minutes and reach almost anything - the ROM, the club district, work, the harbour, Queen Street, Little Italy, Koreatown, Yorkville, the list goes on. And except when I'm trying to sleep, living on a major streetcar route is very handy. There's always that one streetcar with the deformed wheel that, instead of gliding silently up the tracks goes "cl-clack cl-clack" as the flat spot hits the track on ever rotation of the wheel.

On the weekend I took a little walk through Chinatown after visiting my garden. There is a Tim Horton's now in Chinatown. I grew up in a small town where Tim Horton's is something of an institution. It is a little unnerving to see something that you equate to small town Ontario with Chinese writing all over it.

After grabbing my iced cappuccino, I walked home. The intersection of Spadina and Dundas is a loud one, to say the least. For as long as I have lived in Toronto, there have been four noisemaking fixtures at that intersection.

First is the old man in front of the dollar store. He claps backscratchers together and sings "Harro. Prease camban yeen. Sank you," over and over all day long. I think I've only ever walked by there once during normal business hours and not seen him. I was pretty worried but the next day I went and he was back. Phew.

Then there's the old man who plays that two stringed Chinese instrument whose name I can never remember. I think it might be called the er hu. He's got the classic Chinese long whispy beard and mustache. I used to quite enjoy listening to his music. Over the years he's gotten less and less musical. It mostly just sounds like random notes now. Interestingly, though, his clothes have gotten nice and nicer. Maybe he discovered that people would give him more money if he sounded pathetic than if he sounded good.

Across Dundas street from the er hu player is Falun Gong. Recently they have taken a much more pleasant, although no less noisy tack. There used to be weird pictures of people being tortured by the government and stuff. Now they have pictures of peace marches and things. But still noisy. Always with the noise.

And finally there is the guy with no arms who plays the keyboard. Sometimes the blind flautist plays with him. Seriously. The no arms guy wails out the melody with his stumps and the keyboard's built in drum machine and chord library take care of the rest. His tunes are usually original (and loud) and quite catchy (and loud). Did I mention loud? Anyway, this weekend for the first time I can remember, I heard him play a cover — there is something quite touching about a man with no arms playing Oh Canada for spare change in Chinatown.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

You Wanna Fight?

People seem to want to pick fights with me. I don't know what it is. Just tonight at volleyball, one of the opposing players started kicking sand at me while I wasn't looking. Totally unprovoked. Well, maybe not totally.

Although sometimes it is completely inexplicable. Like last week. I was buying some bike parts from a guy I'd found on craigslist.

I dragged my friend E along because he is good with bikes. The place wasn't hard to find, although it was a little hard to get to — the street on which the house was located was under heavy construction and closed off halfway down.

I parked somewhat illegally and we walked up to the house. A guy about my age answered the door. He took us around back and we poked at the pile of bike junk with a flashlight. After we'd sorted out which parts I needed, E asked the guy, "how much for that frame?"

"I was kind of hoping to get rid of all of it," the guy said.

That is how I wound up buying 3 whole frames in various states of completeness, but one constant state of workingness: not.

So, back to the original point of the story. The bikes needed to be dismantled (ever further) to fit into my hot little (read: ridiculous) sports car. There we were, three guys standing next to my car, one with a flashlight in his mouth, taking apart bikes in the dark.

Then some guy in a suped up Honda Civic came down the street, talking on his cell phone while driving. As I mentioned, the street was under severe construction and closed halfway down. As he reached the barriers he clearly failed to notice the convenient alleyway off to the side. His solution was to back down the street which had cars parked on both sides. We're talking mere inches of clearance here. All the while still talking on his cell phone, of course.

I was fascinated and flabbergasted. I watched him intently, waiting for the sound of metal scraping metal. About 2 cars back past me he stopped, stuck his head out the window and asked, "You got a problem?"

"No," I said, "we're okay, thanks," figuring that he was offering us assistance. We probably looked like some guys trying to fix a flat tire or something, I thought.

"Cuz you were kind of staring at me," he snapped, before continuing back down the road.

Apparently I don't even have to open my mouth to get people to want to fight me. Who'd have guessed?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

What An Apple

Yesterday was my little brother's birthday. He just turned 22. He lives with his girlfriend and her son and their dog. It's weird when your little brother grows up into a normal person. Here is a little family anecdote in his honour. Happy birthday, bro.

I remember one time when my family was all out front of our house doing gardening or some other "character building" manual labour. I'm going to say my brother was about 4 or 5. I grew up sort of out in the middle of the boonies. The front lawn is very long. The road is over 100m away from the house.

So we're all out working in the front yard and this pickup truck comes to a screeching halt in front of the house. A woman comes tumbling out the passenger seat, screaming obscenities at the top of her lungs. The truck roars off, the woman yelling all the while.

We're all standing there watching, kind of flabbergasted. She starts walking down the road. The truck comes hurtling back and stops again right next to her. She screams some more and then gets in and then the truck pulls away.

We stand there again, utterly dumbfounded, staring out at the road for a little while.

Finally, my little brother breaks the silence: "Mom. She called him an apple."

Somehow, mom kept a mostly straight face and said, "That's okay, honey, I call your dad an apple all the time."

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Gotta Be The Hat

I like it when strangers talk to me. I tend to do things to cultivate whatever it is about me that allows complete strangers to strike up conversation with me as though they've known me for a long time.

One of my favourite ways of doing so is the Witty Banter Game. This works well on pretty girls, which is possibly why it is one of my favourites. Basically, I hold a private conversation with one of my friends, but I do so in a slightly over-projected voice. I make sure the subject matter is something generic enough that anyone can chime in. Pepper the conversation with a few jokes and voila, people suddenly want to talk to you. I have two friends who are particularly good foils for me in this game. They both have deep, projectable voices and are good straight-men.

Another thing that's good for making people talk to you is gardening. I recently got a little plot at the community centre. On the first day I had two complete strangers tell me their life stories. Since then lots of people have stopped to chat with me while I'm gardening. Everything from agricultural advice, to recounting random memories that have somehow been dredged up by my garden, to "pretty flowers!"

Yesterday I set up the sprinkler and sat in my lawn chair reading while my garden was watered. There is quite possibly nothing more entertaining than a sprinkler in a public place which is frequented by small children.

So my latest attention grabber is my new fedora. It's taken me a really long time to find a suitable hat. My head is huge and sort of round and just generally not a good place to perch a hat. This one works, though. It has been, by far, the best tool for attracting strangers' attention. Last, night about 1:30AM as I was walking down Front St, someone actually yelled out of her car, "nice hat!"

I wore it to the club last weekend. It was a total hit. Although I have to be honest, a lot of strangers want to put it on. I keep having these flashbacks grade 3 when they talked about lice and so forth. One girl who wanted to try on my hat evidently had the same flashback.

"It's okay, we don't have lice or any diseases," she promised.

"You know," I said, "that's not a very good pickup line."

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

No Discretion

My current abundance of oustanding parking tickets and my search for a laptop computer have yielded memories of when I used to work at the computer store.

The reason I have a lot of parking tickets right now is because Toronto's parking enforcement people are ruthless. I arrived in an area at about 7:00 AM and pay parking didn't start there til 8:00. The machine won't even dispense tickets until 8:00 AM, so I came back around 8:20 to put a ticket in my window. There was already a tag (that's what the city of Toronto calls parking tickets, I guess so as not to confuse them with the tickets you buy from the machines) on my windshield. It had the time 8:06 on it. Ruthless.

So, back to the computer store. One day a cop came in, in uniform, with a laptop in need of repair. I had noticed that a few weeks before the parking officers started wearing bullet proof vests. Up until that point, I hadn't ever noticed a bullet proof vest on a parking enforcement officer.

Apparently the cops don't feel any more kindly towards the parking people than I (or I suspect most of my fellow Torontonians) do.

"Hey, " I said, "do you know if there was a shooting incident with a parking ticket officer?"

"I didn't hear of anything, " responded the cop, "but I wouldn't doubt it. Those guys don't have any discretion: they'd ticket their own mothers."

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Mysterious Ways

I had dinner at my favourite Thai restaurant last night. It reminded me of the time that C, my girlfriend at the time, and I were making pad Thai and I said there had to be sweet peppers in it. She swore up and down that there just weren't supposed to be peppers in pad Thai. We asked a jury of our peers and the verdict came up that no, in fact, there simply weren't peppers in pad Thai.

We went out for Thai food a few weeks later and I order pad Thai, as usual. And lo and behold, in it where nice strips of sweet pepper. C decided that prior to that there never had been peppers in pad Thai, but the Universe had changed, in accordance with my insistence, and now there had always been peppers in pad Thai.

I was out for Thai food last night because I had two friends in from out of town, J and S.

I have known S since grade 3. She and I competed all the way through grade school and highschool and are as close as brother and sister now. She always won the popularity contests — she's way hotter than me — but I kicked her ass at calculus. S is now back living in our hometown and working at a really cool consulting company.

J has been one of my best friends steadily since about grade 10. His birthday is a week after mine, so we have managed to make sure that no matter where we both live, at the very least we have a joint birthday party every year. One year we celebrated by driving to Queens University and... creatively redecorating parts of the campus. J is now living in Ohio and doing his dream job — designing boats.

J actually drove a company truck up to Toronto this weekend to make a delivery somewhere just outside the city. It worked out nicely cuz he got to come visit and didn't have to pay for gas or put any miles on his car. S was already in town when J arrived and he managed to find us walking up Spadina. We ran out and jumped into the enormous company truck and road with him up to the parking garage. He'd expression some concern, prior to this point, that his truck might not make the clearance for the garage.

"How tall is the truck?" I asked.


"Well, how are we going to know if it'll fit in the garage?"

"Only one way to find out!' enthused J.

It turned out there was about 3 inches of clearance. We nearly clipped a number of cars and ran over a group of pedestrians trying to make the turn into the garage off the crowded, cramped street. In the end it was alright. We had a bit of a scare when the antenna scraped a few beams, but you get used to the noise of metal scraping across cement after a while.

I've been asking the Universe for a lot of non-pad Thai-related favours lately. This weekend I asked it help S run into a nice man so that she can move to Toronto and be happy. Evidently, the Universe felt this was a funny request. While the 3 of us were at the Eaton's Centre, instead of running into a nice man for S, we managed to run into a guy from our hometown, which is about 200km from here, who was in town for the day with his wife to see Phantom of the Opera. What are the odds?

As we were walking home from the Eaton's Centre, up a side street that I almost never walk on, who should walk by but my ex-girlfriend, C, and her boyfriend. She managed to not even say hi to us and only made eye contact with J, not S or me. I hadn't realized we weren't on speaking terms. Ouch.

I suppose I should stop asking the Universe for favours for a while. Fortunately, I've already fixed the pad Thai problem.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Eat The Brick

So I was posted to on-call duty this week at work. This means that I get to carry around the work phone and whenever something breaks at work, I get a call. Luckily, knock-on-wood, nothing really terrible has happened. There's still tonight — I get to give it up at noon tomorrow.

So to make sure the phone is a useful tool, the company bought a "smart phone." This, to me, feels like a bit of a misnomer. I have instead dubbed the work phone "the Brick," mainly because it is about the size of a regular housing brick and weighs as much. It feels utterly ridiculous to talk into. I feel sort of like I'm talking into a laptop, but not by the usual method of microphone and headset, rather, by holding the entire stinking notebook up against the side of my head.

The software for this thing is ridiculous. When I received the phone on Monday, a holiday in Canada, it was in this weird state, where, despite having an infinite number of non-phone functions, the only one that would actually work was the phone function.

"Try rebooting," suggested M.

I did. No such luck.

On Tuesday I showed the phone to T, my boss.

"Did you try rebooting?" asked T.


"Here. Lemme try." He started up google maps, the first internet application he could find. It told him it was going to have to reboot. Bam. Down it went. Then it went to a screen I don't remember seeing when I rebooted it. Came back up. Suddenly e-mail and web worked.

"You know there are multiple levels of rebooting to these things," chided T.

"Yeah, you know what else would reboot it? Putting it under a streetcar," I pouted back. "Smart phone my rear end."

Sunday, May 20, 2007


In a previous entry I have talked about my Friday lunch ritual. In case you don't care enough to go back and read it: some of my coworkers and I go to the same restaurant, very near where we work, every Friday. It is our Friday lunch ritual. It started with just 3 of us, but these days we usually wind up as 6 or more.

There has, in the last few weeks, been a bit of interplay between a particular waitress and I. It began when I called her my hero for bringing me waffles. Mandingo were they good waffles.
The week after that we were originally seated in her section and then were moved to another section. I said she was shunning us. Then two weeks ago I was sat in the back corner of our table. When she came to serve our food, I tried to get a rise out of her but she couldn't hear me over the din of the rest of the table. She accused me of shunning her.

So last week I made sure to sit near the outside of the table. "So you can hear my catcalls," I told her.

"Oh, great," she rolled her eyes in reply.

She told one of the other servers to watch out for me because I'm trouble. A short while later she presented me with a nametag which read "Trouble". It was not an official nametag, but it had the logo sticker and had been printed with the same labelmaker they use for their own nametags.

We have 3 university students at work for the summer. I invited them along to Friday lunch. The rest of the crew went on ahead while I waited for the students because one of them was having trouble saving her file. "Two years of engineering education," I asked, " and they didn't teach you how to save a file?"

By the time we got to the restaurant, the other crew had taken a table for two too few people. "No problem," I said, and dragged a table halfway across the restaurant to create a table for four. I sat down with the summer students. We were jokingly refered to as "the kiddie table." Or maybe not so jokingly.

Although my hero was not serving us this week, she made a special trip over to chat with me. I guess she's just a glutton for punishment. I chatted with other servers. The owner came over and accused us of not being loud enough. I said it was because M and I had been split up. He has officially forbidden us to sit at separate tables from now on.

Through all of this the three summer students, who are all a little shy, I think, were watching, somewhat astonished. "At what point do you start forming these relationships?" one asked.

"Well, for me, pretty much as soon as I walk through the door. You know, they just sort of... happen automatically."

"So, " another observed, quite astutely, "you harass them until they find it amusing?"

"Pretty much," I replied. "How's it working on you guys? Not that bad, I guess. I mean, you accepted my invitation to lunch."

"Ah, " the third cut in, "but the real test will be whether we accept next time."

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

You Don't Have To Be Crazy To Live Here, But It Helps

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health is very near where I live. It's also very near where I went to university. There are frequently mentally ill people hanging out around it. CAMH, that is, not the University. Well, I guess there, too.

All the U of T engineers get hard hats during F!rosh week. It is traditional to decorate them and wear them around to look... well, engineery. I, of course, attached light-up devil horns to mine.

One day as I was going to 7-11 during F!rosh week, wearing my behorned hard hat, someone out in front of CAMH actually got down on his knees and started worshiping me as the devil. I don't think he was joking.

The other night, E and I were walking around after a nice rainfall, chatting. We were walking pretty aimlessly, the goal being to hang out and talk, not to get anywhere in particular. At one point, E pointed to a sidewalk that went towards some of the CAMH buildings and said, "let's take this path, which leads to crazy people."

"Arguably," I interjected, "all paths lead to crazy people."

"Yes," retorted E, "crazy people are the new Rome."

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Hello Mudder...

As today was Mother's Day, to maintain my position as the Good Son, I took a trip to visit the 'rents. I made my stepdad keep it a secret that I was coming. I got up extra early so I could arrive in time to help make brunch. When I got to their place, they were out on the deck having their morning cigarette. All my mom could see was that someone was walking up the driveway with flowers. My stepdad refused to tell her what was going on and told her to go answer the door. Given her unshowered state, she was not impressed. Until she realized it was me.

My brother, T, and his girlfriend J and her son T showed up a little while later. "Now all my favourite people are here," exclaimed my mom. I looked at my brother. "Plus this guy," I said.

It is sometimes traditional for my family to have caesars in the morning on the weekend. For those of you who don't know, this is an alcoholic beverage made with Clamato, spices and vodka. Before the Ts and J had arrived, my stepdad told my mom they were nearly out of vodka. "Maybe T will have some," he suggested.

"T isn't going to have vodka," my mom responded.

"I dunno, he's pretty responsible these days," returned my stepdad.

"So," I deduced, "being responsible means always having vodka on hand? I wonder why my morals are warped."

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Nothing To Blame But Blame Itself

We got a new guy in today, too. The boss was parading him around the office to introduce him to everyone. I had met him earlier. I asked if he remembered my name. He hadn't. I reminded him. The boss then told him that he would remember my name because I am the office clown. I feigned feeling hurt for about 1 second and then realized that I was wearing my Heelys and the shirts that caused another coworker to give me the nickname Nephew because I remind her of her 12 year old nephew.

I have only myself to blame for this reputation.

I'd been hemming and hawing about buying a travel mug from Starbucks. I drink a lot of coffee and a friend of mine pointed out how much waste I'm generating by throwing those cups out all the time. My morning Starbucks had these really fun little travel mugs up by the register. They were all bright and colourful with shiny monkeys on. I really liked the blue one.

"You don't have those in any larger size, do you?" I asked.

Nope. The ones by the register were the only ones they had. I complained to my friend T that I really liked this mug but it only came in tiny, so I wasn't sure about it. She said I should probably get it anyway. Finally yesterday I broke down and got it. I love it. I took it into my afternoon Starbucks and with great pomp and ceremony put it down on the counter and asked them to fill it with the mild. That coffee tasted better than ever out of my new monkey mug.

I took the mug to show T last night. "So cute!" she exclaimed upon laying eyes on it for the first time.

After a brief pause she kind of crooked her eyebrow and said, "You do realize that this only comes in small because it's for children?"

Sunday, May 6, 2007

The Taste of Primer

I've been going pretty strong lately. Living at the speed of life, as it were. So this weekend I decided to take it slow. How's that workin' out for me?

Friday night I got off early for the first time in God-knows-when. I met up with E at the Eaton's Centre and then he and I wandered around a bit. He had dinner plans at 6 so we parted ways then. I got home and saw that E's roommate, S, was on MSN. I asked what she was up to. She said she was going to the Bloor Cinema later to watch the Found Footage Festival and no one would go with her. So much for Friday night in. The Found Footage Festival was, incidentally, hilarious.

You will recall from my last entry that I had to go rescue my patio furniture from Waterloo. I left it in Mississauga with my aunt and uncle. I drove my Camaro out to their place Saturday morning. I could swear that when I moved the patio furniture to Waterloo in the first place that I did so in my car. After several minutes and a lot of swearing I decided that I must not have moved the patio furniture in my car and asked my uncle if I could borrow his truck. I think he likes it when I do that cuz he gets to cruise around in my Camaro all day.

So the reason I had to move the patio furniture is that my friends T and J just bought a house. With a yard. So my patio furniture has a home for this summer. They've promised to take good care of it. We set up the patio furniture. I had to go buy allen keys to put it together. I really like their neighborhood hardware store. It does my heart good to know that they are well taken care of in that department now. We also put together and subsequently used their new BBQ. For some reason they refuse to put the side shelf on so there is a side burner but no side shelf. It's so asymmetrical. It sort of flops around the deck like a pigeon with a broken wing. It does make a mean burger, though, shelflessness not withstanding.

They are also painting about every last square inch of the house in the week before they move in. It turns out that, of all the people helping them paint, I am the tallest. It therefore fell to me to paint all the high and awkward spots. It ALSO turns out that, of all the people helping them paint, I am the biggest slob. Have you ever had one of those moments where time slows down and you can watch something really stupid happen to yourself in slow motion, from outside your body? I watched this huge glob of primer drip off my brush and into my mouth. It was fantastic. It tasted a little bit like bitter rubbing alcohol. H, T and J's toxocologist friend said I'd be fine.

After painting all afternoon and then driving the truck back to Mississauga, I had to return a movie. It turns out my friendly neighborhood video store has replaced their counter with a gelatto freezer. What? This does not bode well for our hero. I think they should change the name from "The Little Video Store" to "Diabetes Corner" or perhaps "Sit On Your Ass And Gorge".

This morning I woke up to go paint some more. I decided that the painting crew might like breakfast, so I whipped up French toast and fruit salad. This required going into the market as, with the exception of milk, I had NONE of the makings of French toast OR fruit salad. I threw it all together as quickly as I could and then put the hot French toast and cold fruit salad in my car. It took me 10 minutes longer than it should have to get there because this month's Direction Of The Month is South. For the whole month of May it will be damned-near impossible to drive South. It is exceedingly difficult to reach the highway or Lakeshore without going South from my house. Fortunately I found a street they forgot to block. Suckers.

I wound up having to park way down the street from the new house. T said I probably made them the envy of the whole block as I had to walk by everyone's house carrying breakfast. We painted, ate (not primer, this time) and then painted some more. Then I rushed home to meet up with my little brother and his girlfriend who were in town for a wedding last night. We sat in my apartment and caught up. It was nice.

Then the Usual Suspects called about dim sum, which has become something of a Sunday tradition. When I arrived not everyone was there. We had to request a table for 8 plus a baby. And before you ask, no, they weren't talking about me. R and I had their baby with them.

After dim sum we lost a few people and the rest of us hit Starbucks and sat around being all urban. Then we walked down to the gelatto store, which is a long way from Chinatown, but well worth the walk, especially on an awesome day like today. I suppose I could have just gone to my video store which is a lot closer, but they have some pretty exotic flavours at the place we went to. I had blackberry and ferrero rocher, which, when combined, taste exactly like a peanut butter and jam sandwich. Comfort gelatto.

After that, little more wandering and some light window shopping. By the time I arrived home and it was about 6:00. All-in-all, not bad for a lazy weekend.

Except I can't figure out why, after such a lazy weekend, I'm so exhausted.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

You Can't Get There From Here

When I moved out of Waterloo, I left behind some patio furniture and power tools because I had nowhere to put them in Toronto. My former roommate has finally moved out of the place we lived there so I had to make an emergency trip to rescue my stuff from being left behind. There's nothing more awkward than showing up to a houseful of strangers and opening with, "hi, I used to live here, and by the way, that chair you're sitting on is mine. Can I have it back, please?"

I was reminded of how horrible navigating Waterloo is. I used to call directions to my place Xeno's Directions because you have to take 4 or 5 right turns in a row after getting off the highway to get there. You just sort of spiral in, getting a little closer each pass — but you can never truly reach the house.

For anyone who has never had the joy of living in or having to navigate the streets of Waterloo and Kitchener, I'm fairly certain that the city planner simply took a picture of a plate of spaghetti and started naming the streets. Parallel has no meaning. King St and Weber St, which are two fairly major streets which run "parallel" to each other have 3 intersections and also start off as the same road. "Meet me at King and Weber," is possibly the most confusing instruction you could issue. And, because this is Ontario, saying, "the one with the Tim Hortons," fails to clarify the situation at all.

So Kitchener and Waterloo are adjoining cities. Maybe I'll get into what I think about them at some other time. The important thing for this post is that their grids (what grids there are to speak of) are at a slight angle to one another. On top of that, neither of them runs truly North-South. So you wind up with all the major streets taking a slight jog in the middle and the same street which is considered to run North-South in Waterloo is thought to be an East-West street in Kitchener. For example, you can run from the North end of Waterloo to the South end of Kitchener and be on King St N, then King St S for a short stretch, then a tiny bit of King St W and finally you will end on King St E. Which turns into the highway. Also, Weber St E. Honestly.

The other clever thing is that to get to Waterloo from Mississauga I got on Hwy 403 West, then 407 East and then 401 West, without ever actually backtracking. Look at a map. It's ludicrous.

This reminded me of when I was down in San Jose and we were driving back from SM's house in Berkeley. We were going down the highway, minding our own business, when I realised that the signs read "580 East / 80 West."

"Great," I noted, "we're going East and West at the same time."

I confirmed this on the map we had. "Does this highway do anything else neat?" I asked, putting on my best, serious navigator voice, "Ah, here we go: we can go East and West at the same time and also travel through time. The next exit is for July, 1972."

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Beer And Self-Loathing In San Jose

While I was down in San Jose, M, S and I drove around for several hours on Sunday morning looking for a post-bender breakfast. After what seemed an unreasonable amount of time, M realised that there was an IHOP nearby. For those of you who don't know, IHOP is the International House Of Pancakes. It's a big breakfast restaurant chain in the US. You frequently see them at highway rest stops and things.

It was remarkable that we'd been driving around looking for breakfast because whenever S is around anything more than about 15 minutes without food is met with some serious objection. We were coming up on, like, 1 hour since getting up at this point. Turned out that S was powerful hungover. He ordered a big old omelette and didn't eat a single bite. We were starting to wonder if maybe he'd died and just didn't know to lay down yet.

The thing I found funny about IHOP, as I sat there surrounded by mainly overweight people, was the back of their menu, entitled "IHOP For Me." It was all their healthy selections. We used S's camera phone to take this shot of it. As you can see, the "healthy" section includes a picture of 4 eggs, 3 strips of ham and 2 strips of bacon. Oh, good, that certainly sounds healthy to me.
I could also, if I was watching my weight, order 4 eggs and steak. Yikes. That's peoples' idea of watching their weight? No wonder we have a problem.

The other funny thing about the IHOP was our waiter. When S ordered the omlette I said, "you come to the International House of Pancackes and don't even order a pancake?"

The waiter came rushing to S's defence, "lots of people order other things than pancakes. And do you know, I've worked here for 15 years and maybe had only 2 or 3 pancackes."
"What?" I asked, incredulously.
"No," he said, "I don't even really like pancackes."
"You don't like pancakes and you've worked at IHOP for 15 years?" I shot back. "You must be Catholic."

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The List

Well, first of all, I apologize for not posting on Sunday. As you will see in short order, I had good reason.

This weekend was my friend M's last weekend in San Jose. S and I flew down to visit.

I was checking the google analytics on my blog while I was there and discovered that someone had searched google for the word "mormon" and come up with my blog. I was a little curious how far down google's ranking I was for that keyword so I did that same google search. After I got to about page 12 I started to wonder how they'd ever managed to find me. I got a little suspicious. I did a google search for something I knew had brought my blog up before. Nothing. I did a google search for "terriblenews". My flickr page and a few third-party links to my blog and photos came up, but no directly links to my blog, anywhere.

I e-mailed google asking what the heck was going on. No response. I had noticed that the geographical location of the "mormon" search hit was Salt Lake City. My suspicion is that someone at the Tabernacle goes around the web looking for defamatory stuff about the Church of Latter-day Saints. I guess they found my post about teasing missionaries in somewhat poor taste and asked google to remove it from their pageranking. Google complied without really investigating it. This is, of course, simply a guess. I have no proof of any of this.

Incidentally, upon searching google for my blog last night I found I was able to get reasonable hits again. No direct response from google, though, about my complaint.

And now, to the reason I didn't post on Sunday.

The idea was to leave SFO at 11:20PM PST and arrive in Washington DC - Dulles at 7:16AM EST and then leave there at 8:16AM EST and arrive in Buffalo at 9:30 and then head straight back to work from there. About halfway to the airport I discovered that I'd left my passport on M's desk. Since I was flying domestically, I didn't worry. I've been in far stickier situations of that ilk before. I promise I'll tell that story in the future.

I arrived at the San Fransico airport on Sunday night at about 9PM. I checked in and got my boarding pass. "That's odd, it says I leave at 2:00 AM. And that my flight from Dulles to Buffalo departs at 2:52PM," I thought to myself. So I proceeded to sit in the airport til 1AM. We landed at Dulles at 8:25 or so, so I'd JUST missed my original flight. I was told that the reason I'd been on the 2:52 flight was that the 12:50 flight to Buffalo was full, but I could get on the standby list.

So I immediately ran to customer service. I got on the standby list. Great, now all I had to do was wait 4 hours for if I was lucky and 6 if I wasn't. Let me tell you, there is a reason it's called Dulles. I ended up buying a book at Borders, Blink, and I got through about 2/3 of it sitting there. So they started announcing the standbys and, lo and behold, some luck, I get called! No sooner did I have my boarding pass in hand than the ticket girl picked up the microphone to announce the flight was delayed for maintenance.

So, I'd now canceled my confirmed seat on the 2:52 for a confirmed seat on a flight that may or may not leave before that one, or maybe even not at all. A surprising number of people from my San Fran flight were waiting for the Buffalo flight. At this point, one of them piped up that he discovered in San Fran that the reason that we didn't leave SFO on time is that United couldn't find us a pilot. Good lord, United Airways, they may be the friendly skies, but they are definitely not the well organized skies.

In the end, they managed to clear the plane by about 1:30 and we got into Buffalo about 3:00. Only 6 hours late. I don't think I smelled very good, either.

The important thing is: google, United Airways and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — you all just made The List.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


My mother made sure that manners were embedded in my soul before I left home. I never chewed with my mouth open or put my elbows on the table and I always knew which fork was the salad fork and which side my bread plate was on. That was, of course, before university. I've since forgotten all that. Except chewing with my mouth open. That's just gross.

The funny thing I've learned about manners is that they are, with a few exceptions like the chewing with your mouth closed thing, almost completely arbitrary.

But I digress. (I know: shocking, isn't it?)

The last time I threw a dinner party, my coworker N was the last remaining guest, other than my girlfriend at the time. N and I drank the better part of a bottle of scotch together at the end of the night. My manners dictated that I walk her to the door, which is down a flight of stairs, when she finally left. How I didn't break my neck doing so is unclear.

At work, N always seems to have some horrible task for me to do. She claims she's just the messenger; that these onerous, odious, tedious chores are issued from on high and she's just passing it along. I dunno if I buy that, and even if I did, I'm totally a "shoot the messenger" kind of guy. In a vain attempt to get her to stop, when she asks me to do something painful, I threaten to poison her at my next dinner party. Every time I get a new job, the number of doses of poison goes up:

N: Oh, by the way, you'll have to [insert annoying task that will take way longer than anyone expects] on Friday.
Me: Uh huh? I'm going to use a really painful, slow acting poison for the second dose.

Finally, about a week ago when we reached 4 doses, she looked at me and said, "it's funny how you're mad enough to kill me, but you'll still invite me to dinner."

"Well," I reasoned, "I don't want to be rude."

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Mormons Are Coming

I had a crush on a Mormon girl in highschool. That ended pretty much as soon as I found out that Mormons are not allowed to consume caffeine or alcohol.

I used to encounter their missionaries regularly when I lived in Waterloo. I was mostly bored all the time in those days so I'd let them stop me, I'd shake their hands and listen to their schtick for 5 or 10 minutes. Then I'd tell them I didn't really feel like being saved, but thanks. They'd tell me they'd pray for me. I would call back over my shoulder, with a smile, "don't bother!"

Last night on my way to the bar, I was walking through Chinatown. I became acutely aware of a presence on my left. This was odd, as I had theretofore been walking alone. I glanced. At first I thought it was an acquaintance I'd hadn't seen in a while trying to get my attention. So I looked more closely. It was not the person I'd originally thought. Instead, a stranger. He smiled and said, "hi." Being the friendly and outgoing guy that I am, I smiled too and said, "hi."

"Have you ever heard of missionaries?" he asked. I looked down at his clothing and saw the Elder nametag. Sure, why wouldn't there be a Mormon missionary trying to recruit me in the middle of Chinatown at 9:00 on a Friday night?

"No," I lied, "and I'm in kind of a rush." I picked up the pace and lost him quickly. No handshake or anything.

I guess I'm just not as sporting as I used to be. Or maybe just not as bored.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The News

I began, about a month ago, a new morning ritual. My friend, A, who has been mentioned in other entries, used to live with my friends M and T. She now lives in a condo which is literally 100 m from work.

A is incapable of getting up in the morning. Unless, that is, she knows there is someone who will show up at her condo and bodily drag her from bed. That's where I come in.

Every morning, I now get up a bit early, shower, get dressed and walk to A's condo. The weekday morning concierge knows me now. We have our small talk while I wait for A to come down and get me. That place is locked up tighter than Fort Knox. First either she or the concierge has to let me into the lobby. Then A uses this little infrared remote to activate the elevator which will only let her go to her own floor. Then there's another door which requires the remote. Then her own door, which requires her keys. It just seems like a bit of overkill.

I've been teaching her how to cook breakfast. She can fry an egg six ways from Sunday now. We've been experimenting with oatmeal and fruits and stuff. Today we even had corned beef sandwiches for breakfast. I bring really good coffee that I get from my little bulk store in Kensington. We chat. It's nice. I think we both go to work in better moods than if we'd had breakfast on our own.

This part will come as no shock to anyone who knows me or probably even anyone who has read my blog, but we wind up talking about me a lot. We also talk about A and our friends and family. It's pretty rare that current events come up, though.

I used to read the Globe and Mail while I ate my breakfast alone. I'd read about the latest technological developments, politics, international relations, what was going on outside my own neighborhood. Now I talk about what happened at work yesterday, who I have a crush on, or how badly we got creamed at dodgeball.

Well, I may not have any idea what's going on outside my own little world anymore, but I arrive at work well fed, well caffeinated and happy.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Dad Practice

Last night my mom held Easter dinner in Fort Erie, about a two hour drive from Toronto. My aunt A and uncle G and their two kids came down from Mississauga, which is right next to Toronto. My aunt looked at me and said, "it's funny that we have to come all the way to Fort Erie to see each other." Dinner was excellent. I love lamb. Although judging by the smells I've been producing today, it doesn't love me.

I get such a kick out of having kids around. I feel like it's good practice for whenever I actually become a dad. With the added bonus that I can hand them back to their real parents when I break them and say, "here, fix it."

At one point, my 10 year old cousin asked, in front of his 6 year old brother, "is the Easter bunny real?" Dad mode kicked in and I responded "Of course he's real. Duh." I think I made him feel stupid enough that he won't be asking that question again for a few years.

Eventually, it was time for the cousins to go to bed. I went into the basement and dragged out my favourite childhood book, Groundsel. I can actually remember auntie A reading it to me when I was young. It seemed appropriate that I should read it to her kids. So we all climbed into bed and I read to them. I did different voices for each character. Halfway through, I forgot how to do Jack Frost and he got a new voice on the fly. Fortunately, at 10 and 6, I don't think my cousins noticed.

Once the kids were in bed it was time for the Easter bunny to come. There's nothing quite so satisfying as trying to outsmart a 6 year old. I came up with some pretty good hiding spots. Luckily, I've been on my share of Easter egg hunts in this house and remembered where the Easter bunny left things when I was a kid.

After hiding the eggs, having a few more drinks, cleaning up some from dinner and having my mother further traumatize me by talking about sex, the adults got to bed around 1 AM. I was awoken shortly before 7 AM by the sound of a squealing 6 year old. I had a lot of fun watching the kids hunt for Easter eggs. My favourite was the one I put in a door hanging ornament. It took them 2 hours to find that one.

I think, all-in-all, it was a good practice run for future fatherhood.

I might need a bit more practice though. I have a tendancy to say things that are distinctly un-dad-like.

My cousin was drinking a virgin caesar this morning and asked, "Mom, do virgins not drink alcohol?"

"Bingo," I interjected, "that's why they're still virgins."

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

I Stand Corrected

I don't really remember why, but one day I was walking along Bloor St with my friend, E. We were right out in front of Sonic Boom, which is one of my favourite record stores ever. We were just walking along, talking, and for some reason I said "Well, I guess that's why they say 'money is the root of all evil.'"

Now the astute among you will notice that that quote is incorrect. Please, kindly hold your horses. I'm getting there.

So we're walking along, minding our own business and I make this sort of offhanded comment. All of a sudden a large, hairy, scraggly man comes whirling out of a doorway onto the sidewalk. Now E is pretty tall, and this guy, as I recall, is very nearly as tall, but much broader. He looks a bit like Hagrid from Harry Potter — wild hair and beard, long scruffy coat. So this enormous, feral, presumably homeless guy comes spinning out of the doorway, finger pointed indignantly in the air and yells, "No! The love of money is the rrrroot of all evil!" rolling his R, even. After correcting me he spins around just as quickly as he'd spun in front of us and stumps off angrily down Bloor St.

These days, I always carry a dictionary of quotes whenever I'm going anywhere there might be homeless people — I hate being caught unprepared.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Minor Celebrity

As has been mentioned before, I have kind of a large personality. I also have a comfortable manner, even (perhaps especially) around strangers. This combination has the interesting effect of making complete strangers remember me, even if sometimes they're not exactly sure why.

There's not much to do where I grew up. My highschool friends and I used to go to Niagara Falls a lot. One of the places we went was the Hard Rock Cafe — we used to wind up there about once every month or two. So, being my teenage self, I inevitably developed a pretty serious crush on S, a waitress there. So I'd chat her up every time we went and she got pretty friendly with me. I brought her back a pin from the Hard Rock in Montreal when we went there.

One time my friends and I even rollerbladed the 30 km (three hours!) from where we lived to the Hard Rock just to see if S was working. She was. I remember she put her hand on my back while we were talking, even though I was all sweaty from three hours of rollerblading. That made my 17-year-old day.

Eventually there was a time we went in and she wasn't there. We asked and it turned out she'd stopped working there. My heart was broken. Luckily, I healed fast back then.

Two or three years later I was eating with my dad at East Side Mario's when who should walk by but S. I looked up and smiled at her. She stopped and said, "oh my God! How are you? I haven't seen you in forever! You used to work at the Hard Rock, right?" Apparently she remembered me strongly enough that she thought we'd worked together.

There's a restaurant I go to now, almost every Friday, with M and J and some of the other work people. It's our Friday ritual. All the waiters and waitresses remember what I order. When I see one of them on the street outside of there, we say hi to each other. They've rearranged the restaurant for us when seating was tight. Last week I went again after not having been for a few weeks. I was with a different crew than the usual Friday ritual gang. On our way out the manager came up and put his hand on my shoulder and said to me, "I always love seeing you come in, I know there will be a lot of laughter at the table."

It's not always restaurants, either. Yesterday I walked into a clothing store. The sales guy welcomed us to the store and said to me, "I sold you a pair of jeans a while ago." I remembered his face, but I didn't remember buying jeans in that store. Then I realised it was a different outlet. I bought the jeans in question in October. He's actually a very helpful salesman. Which is dangerous for my credit card.

I feel like I should be shocked that he managed to dredge up the memory of me after meeting me once, 6 months ago. He's probably seen tens of thousands of customers since then. But I don't think it really surprises me anymore.

People never forget me, no matter how hard they try.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Light-Roasted, Full-Bodied, Bitter Enemies

I seem to have a knack for making enemies at coffee shops. Like the girl at Second Cup who seems to think my name is "Crazy".

I spend most of my coffee time at the Starbucks near where I work. I think the first enemy I made there was the French guy who is always trying to poison me. One day, my friend and coworker M was ordering and I asked the guy behind the counter to put a bit of poison in his coffee. Without missing a beat, he called out "short Komodo Dragon with poison" to the person pouring the coffees. He put it on the counter. I said, "are you sure you put enough poison in?" He said, "Oh, is very high quality poison. You only need a little." Ever since then he tells me there is poison in my coffee. Except on Fridays. I don't do poison on Fridays. Incidentally, he recently had a new baby. Congratulations! :*)

After that came the guy who I think is the manager there. I was in one day in September, I think, and I saw pumpkin cookies out. In my usual style, I went off about how it wasn't even October yet and they already had Hallowe'en cookies out. Honestly. It's like the time I was at the Bay in the Eaton's Centre and there was a woman putting up Christmas decorations in her Hallowe'en costume. She was dressed as the Devil. I wish I'd had a camera at that exact moment. Anyway, I tend to be rather loud and boistrous in public environments like that. Aparently this guy doesn't so much like people ruining the ambiance of his Starbucks like that.

So I'm ranting at my coworkers about how it's not even October yet. By the time I get to the counter, I've started my rebuttle, "dissirregardless... uh, yeah, I'll have a short mild, please" to which the guy from the previous paragraph responds "irregardless is not a word." Now, first of all, I said DISirregardless. And second of all, I have been led to believe that irregardless is now in the dictionary with a usage note to the effect that it's only a word because lots of dumb people use it to sound smart, which does mean that it's a word, irregardless (take THAT) of how much it wasn't a word 50 years ago or how stupid a word it may be. Not that I would ever use it seriously. The important thing is that this guy doesn't like me very much.

A few weeks ago I was in line and there were new cupcakes in the case; chocolate and vanilla. I asked the barrista which flavour I wanted. The girl behind me in line, who was a barrista on break said, "chocolate. You want chocolate." Well, the chocolate was a bit "meh". Not a terrible cupcake, but, y'know, not a great one either. This, of course, meant war. Next time I was in, the girl who recommended chocolate was running the till and I ordered a vanilla cupcake with extreme prejudice and wasted no time telling her how disappointed I was with the chocolate one.

Every time we see each other now we shoot each other dirty looks.

Except yesterday we slipped up and smiled at each other.

I guess I'm not as good at having bitter enemies as I thought.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


I'm coming down off of one of the most intense weeks of my life. I feel compelled to write about it. I promise on Wednesday there will be a nice, light, fluffy anecdote, but for now I'm going to be selfish instead of entertaining.

Just to make things difficult, I'm going to write about it backwards. It'll be like that movie, Memento — confusing and frustrating.

I just got home from having dim sum at Rol San with The Usual Suspects. They sat us at a HUGE table which could have sat 10, I think. There were people lined up out the door, staring at us with our more-than-half-empty table. Suckers. The waiter had trouble understanding that I wanted to leave the dirty serving dishes on the table so I could take pictures of them. We used the standard white-people-in-Chinatown method of communicating - everyone yelling at once. J'aime le Chinatown.

Before dim sum I rode down to the St Lawrence Market and got some nice pictures of the antique market. I thought it was funny that when I'd ask a seller's permission to take pictures the answer was always, "sure! What's it for, anyway?" Isn't that the kind of thing you'd want to ask before giving me permission? I think I'll get extra prints done and take them back to the sellers.

Last night was the Toronto Symphony Orchestra with S. The opener was a modern piece — the composer is still alive. I was a little worried: in my opinion, dead people write much better music. I was pleasantly surprised. So much so that I really want to try to track down a recording of the piece. It's called Over Thorns To Stars and the composer is Stephen Chatman.

Before that was Photo Adventure Day! T and I met at the Distillery. We had cappuccinos and fresh baked pastries. The pastries were so good that, more than once, I had to stop T in the middle of a sentence so I could finish my stomach orgasm before participating in the conversation again. The weather sucked so we advised A, who was going to meet up with us, not to come since she was already running late and we figured the whole thing was going to be pretty short lived. Mandingo, were we wrong. Photo Adventure Day turned out to be a fabulous success despite the weather. We spent hours at the Distillery.

The second venue for Photo Adventure Day was the St Lawrence Market. We also discovered that we were extremely hungry because it'd been hours since the aforementioned stomach-orgasming-pastries. We found us some crepes. The guy behind the counter was playing Happy Christmas (War Is Over) and we gave him a hard time, to which he responded by turning up the music. In the end it turned out he had pretty good taste and that song was just a lapse in judgement. He even danced and tried to get his boss to dance. The boss offered up one of the other employees as a stripper instead. By the time we'd finished eating, we were both exhuasted and all creatived out. Thus ended Photo Adventure Day, part 1. Please, go to my flickr page and let me know what you think.

Which brings us to Friday. I rushed out of work and hit Henry's and bought my D70, for Photo Adventure Day. I've been sort of hemming and hawing about adding a digital SLR to my collection for a while. I was worried that the old F60 would get jealous, but she took it quite well. I love them both so much. After camera buying, I had pizza with L, took some pictures of her and I with the new D70 and was in bed by, like, 10:30. It was about as pleasant as a Friday evening after work could get.

So, Friday at work. I wound up having to stay late to fix something and I was worried I wasn't going to make Henry's before it closed. Obviously, I did.

So now we draw to the end of our tale. Or the beginning, as it were.

You'll remember that I released some new software a week ago and it had been causing some stress and extra work. Well, the people using it were all done their work by 5:00. It was probably the most relieved I've ever been. Then poker started. I couldn't play because A) I was so spent from the week and B) I had that extra thing to do that I talked about above. It's not a Friday afternoon without a little poker, though, so I went into the lunchroom to watch everyone play for a while. I saw D, one of the guys who uses the new system, walking around. I said, "hey! There's D, with a beer in his hand and a smile on his face."

"I wouldn't say it's a smile," he shot back, "I was out after the first hand."

"Hey, man," I said, "all I can do is get you to the table on time. After that you're not my responsibility. I mean, I'm not a miracle worker."

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Lettuce Not Panic

No one who has met me for more than 5 seconds wold ever consider me a calming presence. If anything, I am the anti-calm. I discovered yesterday, however, that my constantly high energy level makes me less prone to panic. Exposing me to panic is a bit like throwing a glass of water into the ocean.

I recently had a big release at work. It's a fairly important system.

I was told, when I received the assignment, that 3 people had tried and either been fired or quit over this project. That sounded like a dare to me. But at least that may give you some idea about the kind of pressure that goes along with this project.

Since the release, some of us had been working very long hours. One person even wound up sleeping at the office to keep up with the work created by the changeover. Since the project is my baby, I had to work all day Saturday (St Patrick's Day). Those are just two examples. So, everyone was a little tense. I actually yelled at my manager, briefly, during a meeting the day before. But in spite of that, things had been chugging along smoothly right up until yesterday afternoon.

I had a dentist appointment just after lunch, so I hopped on my bike and rode hard to the dentist's office and made it just in time. It was my first visit to my new dentist and the hygienist wanted a blood pressure and heart rate reading. I explained that, on top of having ridden my bike very hard in very cold weather for the last 10 minutes, I was also under a lot of stress and hadn't slept very well in days. My initial blood pressure was something like 150 over 110, with a heart rate of 104. She decided that wasn't possible and let me calm down a bit more and took it again and got 126 over 68 but still a heart rate of 104. On the plus side, next time they do it I'll look really healthy.

Because it was my first appointment, it took almost 2 hours.

In that time, everything went from stressed to powderkeg. I was immediately dragged into a meeting where everyone was yelling, with the exception of the manager who I'd yelled at yesterday and me. It's a sad, sad day when I am the voice of reason.

Somehow, we got out of the meeting alive. I realized that I hadn't eaten anything since 7AM. I got my giant salad out of the fridge. I then set about calming everyone down. I wandered around the office and told everyone that everything was under control and that there was nothing to be afraid of, all the while munching on colossal forkfulls of lettuce.

Some would say the fact that I was there and willing to fix things is what calmed everyone. Others would swear that it was my willingness to tell people what was going that cooled things down. Still others would say that everyone sort of regained their own composure and my presence was just a coincidence. But I think it was the rhythmic, hypnotic chewing of lettuce.

I believe in the calming power of chewing.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Suck My Bowtie

Yesterday was St Patrick's day. It was also the day I got at up 6AM to go into work on a Saturday. I got out around 3 in the afternoon, somewhat miserable. My old friend J decided that, since it was St Patrick's Day and a Saturday, there was nothing for it other than to drive into Toronto from very far away.

As an aside, around Christmas I decided I would bring back the bowtie as a cool fashion accessory. You can't even imagine how hard it was to come by a bowtie. I went to Stollery's where the bowtie I wanted was in the window, but there wasn't one to be had in the entire store. My salesman was about 80 years old and rather rotund. I asked if there was any way he could get the one out of the window. Not a chance. So I left, no bowtie, and headed for Harry Rosen. Nothing. Holt Renfrew. Nada. In desperation I even tried H & M. It appears they may
also be trying to bring back the bowtie, but their selection was rather garish. Frightening, even.

So, I'd now tried everywhere for a green bowtie. I even had my girlfriend at the time call the Harry Rosen in the Eaton's Centre with no luck. So I head back to Stollery's to beg. Fortunately I got the spry, young salesman the second time. He was about 70 and skinny in that way that only old people can be skinny. He hopped through the window display and got me my lovely green bowtie with tiny black dots. Combined with my red sweater vest, it was a big hit at the Christmas party. Or, at least, it got a lot of attention.

So the bonus to the green bowtie is that I can also wear it on St Patrick's Day! Which I did.

J arrived around 9PM and we walked down to A's house to meet up with her and her friends. As we walked to A's, we drank our first St Paddy's Day beers. My logic was, any cop who would arrest someone for drinking in public on St Patrick's Day is a jerk.

A's friend drove us up to the bar. We got there around 10:30 and in the end there were about 9 of us. J and I whiskey and Guiness mostly. My bowtie got next to no attention outside the people I had come with. I found one girl who had a green bow in her hair. I said, "hey, we match!" and she was very impressed, but it turned out she was having trouble standing up. I took a picture of her hair bow and my bowtie and showed it to her on my digital camera. "How did you take that so fast?" she wondered. Oh yeah. She was in good shape.

I wasn't the only one who had my digital camera out. The whole group was trying to get all sorts of fun shots. In one where I thought two of us were trying to kiss A at once, it turned out that the other person had given up and I was the only one kissing her on the cheek. A had also gotten bored and started grabbing the other person's boob. There are almost an infinite number of photos of me kissing someone while they feel someone else up. There were some shots of L and I with our fists in our mouths. An action shot of me being punched in the mouth. One where I'm upside down, even. We left the bar shortly before 2 and cabbed it home.

As exhausted as I am today, I'm glad J came and I got to go out and have some fun on St Patrick's Day. I have learned my lesson about planning major work events on drinking holidays.

I think next year if they ask me to release on St Patrick's Day I will look them square in the eye and tell them to suck my bowtie.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


I went for a haircut yesterday. I was in pretty dire need. My stylist or hairdresser or whatever he wants to be called, D, didn't recognize me at first because of my hot new shades. When he asked what I wanted done with my hair, I said that I let it grow long so he could do whatever he wanted, play around, do something new. "Oh. But it has to go with the new sunglasses, " I added. He said he was going to do variation on a theme.

I asked him how his graphic novel was coming. He said he'd abandoned that project a while ago. I said that I could relate, being the captain of Team Short Attention Sp-that dog has a puffy tail! which, I explained, is my dodgeball team. Now how, in this day and age, a grown man can not know what dodgeball is, I'll never know. But I had to explain it to him. He sounded incredulous, "you try to hit the people?" I assured him it was a lot of fun.

We got talking about clothes. I said I'd been shopping recently and I always take a girl shopping with me. He said "you should always take a fag shopping with you, instead." I pointed out that that's not really my target audience and rule number one is Know The Enemy.

We made some more small talk. He asked why I wasn't wearing my Heelys today. I explained that I can't wear them during the wet season because even in the best of conditions there's a reasonably good chance I'm going to fall and break my neck. I told him that I'd worn them during my recent vacation in San Francisco: "Hmm.. this seems like a bad idea. Oh well. Wheeeeeeeee!" In case you live under a rock, San Fran is not known for its level surfaces.

He finished up my hair. I paid. I'm never sure what to tip him. Any advice on that subject would be greatly welcome.

But most importantly, I put on the shades and checked the mirror.

You know, I think I might actually look too cool to be hanging out with myself anymore.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Better Mouse Trap

So, yeah, my apartment is a little bit ghetto. In the past few months we've started to see cockroach and mouse problems. The landlady was great about the cockroaches and we had an exterminator in, maybe, 2 months ago now, and the roaches are pretty much gone. I think I've seen 1 since then and K, my roommate, has seen one or two also.

The mice, however, continue. I've had mice before. They're not the end of the world. One thing I discovered, though, is that your modern, cosmopolitan mouse is very picky when it comes to bait. I put down cheesewhiz or Kraft singles or even cracker barrel old cheddar: nothing. It's only when I put down my $10/lb asiago or parmesan that the traps work. Oh, also, the peanut butter thing? Total. Crock. I've never ever once in my entire life caught a mouse with peanut butter on a trap. I've also heard of using vanilla (I think that was K's suggestion) so I tried that. While the bottom shelf of the pantry did smell very nice for a day or two, it didn't catch any mice. I may just start putting vanilla down for my own pleasure.

In any case, I think we've caught 3 mice now by going the old fashioned trap-and-expensive-cheese route. So I get up this morning. Now, first thing yesterday I went to Bikram Yoga and sweated my nuts off. Then I walked all over the distillery for a few hours. Then I went swing dancing for several, several hours. And had a couple of beers while there. So, my muscles are all sore and I'm powerful dehydrated. Oh, and, due to daylight savings time, I have DEFinitely not slept enough. So I stagger into the kitchen in the dark and turn on the tap.

All of a sudden there's a flash of movement in the sink. Something about 2 inches long and 1 inch wide is darting all over the bottom of the kitchen sink. Now, of course, you've had all this preamble AND the title to predict what that object might be, but I just dragged myself out of bed and as much as my life seems like a fiction novel sometimes, I don't get to see the chapter titles. I think I nearly wet myself. After a few seconds of adrenalin rush, my brain kicked in and said "uh, stupid, it's a mouse" and I turned on the kitchen light and paused to think about the situation.

It's funny how everyone's got their weird little rules and moral systems and so forth. I have no qualms whatever about laying a trap down to break a mouse's little neck and no problem picking up that trap and taking the dead mouse out of it and throwing him in the garbage. I can scoop dead fish out of my fish tank and throw them in the garbage or flush them down the toilet (depending on size) without too much remorse, except the thought that I had spent a lot of money on that fish.

However, standing there in my kitchen in nothing but my cow boxers with a soaking wet baby mouse in front of me I sort of lost all that spine. So I did what any humane crazy person with their hair going in every direction would do: I picked up a clean spaghetti sauce jar and scooped the mouse up and put the lid on. I went and threw on some clothes and headed for the park, mouse in jar in hand. I can't even imagine how weird that might have looked. I took him to the park far away so that he'd have trouble making it back. There's a nice construction site at the park I did take him too, I'm sure he won't have too much trouble finding somewhere to live now that he's in "the wild".

On the plus side, I did get to wear my hot new sunglasses first thing this morning.