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.