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.