Top Recs

The following: A list of things people have recommended to me, ordered according to our relationship to each other, arranged by order of importance and/or frequency of occurrence of said recommendation.

Friends:

  • Archer
  • Downton Abbey
  • Lost
  • Fifty Shades of Grey (book and movies)
  • Afternoon naps
  • Bouldering

Acquaintances:

  • Game of Thrones
  • Jimmy Fallon
  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
  • Hitchhiking
  • The one on the left.
  • All lady fight club
  • To prove it by choosing which limb.
  • Mint tea
  • Chewing gum

Co-Workers:

  • Downton Abbey
  • March Madness
  • That cute place down the street.
  • To give up the coordinates for the rest of him we swear we only want closure.
  • Vaping

Upper Management:

  • To value “experience.”
  • To treat co-workers “like family.”
  • To give 110%
  • Offal on demand.
  • Game of Thrones
  • Dystopia
  • THE BOX

Family:

  • To call more.
  • A career change.
  • A nose job.
  • The key so we can finally know what he hid in that room we found behind the fake bookshelf in his workshop.
  • To please god stop reminding us.
  • Downton Abbey

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Books, Family, Food, Friends, Hobbies, Jobs, Movies, People, Relationships, Sports, Television

Deborah

I saw a zebra once while driving. That is to say, I’ve seen a zebra once, while being driven.

I was not driving. I was in the car while it was driven and I, therefore, being driven.

To the Tyrone Mill, just outside (or inside, depending on where you’re coming from) Bowmanville, Ontario. That’s where I saw the zebra.

Pronounced: zee-bruh or zeh-bruh (therefore rhymes with Deborah, like in the song by T.Rex [as featured in the movie, Baby Driver]).

You know the song?

 

Oh Debora, always look like a zebra

Your sunken face is like a galleon

Clawed with mysteries of the Spanish Main, oh Debora.

 

Oh, Debora!

The zebra was gazing in a paddock close to the mill. It was a quick glance, but undeniable. There it was, a real, live zebra somewhere in and/or around Bowmanville, Ontario.

I would swear to it, and I would pass every test, every lie detector, withstand any interrogator (military or otherwise) who pressed me on it. And I would be right. And I would be wrong.

Because I was right; I am wrong. Mostly so. Either way.

Zee-bruh. Zeh-bruh.

According to the clerk at the Mill – who is friends, it turns out, with the daughter of the people who own the properly with the field in which I saw the zebra – I did and did not see a zebra. The zebra. Because the zebra is a horse, the horse (the mostly white horse), cloaked in a zebra-striped horse blanket.

The zebra…it was a horse, of course (dressed as a zebra).

Now, surely. You can understand my mistake, which is not so much a mistake, I think, so much as a calculated misunderstanding (done by me on someone else’s behalf…who dresses up a horse as a zebra, and a mostly white horse at that, without expecting people to see a zebra where there is no zebra but a horse dressed like a zebra?).

A horse, of course, of course, and not a zebra but the guise of one.

Zeh-bruh. Zee-bruh.

Tomayto. Tomahto.

And Deborah.

Oh, Deborah!

 

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Communications, Interruptions, Movies, Places

Reliable Witless

One of my aunts once tried to sneak up on a peacock at the zoo, in a vain attempt to pluck one of its magnificent tail feathers, a souvenir to remember the day by. We were in the picnic area eating our packed lunch (day-old pork-chops and corn brunt on the cob); the peacocks wandered among us, free-range. Squatting on her haunches creep-creeping along, a wicked smile on her face (or perhaps a wide grimace) she extended her hand, fingers grazing a fringe of iridescent feathers of blue, green and gold. I watched. I could not not watch…

…then I realized that the memory actually occurred to me during a dream, in which I was walking through Chinatown looking for cutlery and came upon a store display with peacocks feathers for sale for a buck a piece. The memory of the zoo was part of the dream and upon waking and right now as I’m typing, I cannot say whether the memory in the dream was a real-world memory, or a dream of one. I don’t remember. I can’t distinguish.

I could ask my aunt, but if she lied I wouldn’t know the difference anyway. I don’t know if she’d have any reason to lie, especially about something as seemingly harmless as this (of course, for this to be true, we’d have to set aside the peacock’s POV because I don’t imagine it would consent to such mistreatment), but confirm or deny the matter nevertheless remains, crucially, beyond me.

A memory in a dream, or a dream of a memory. It happened, one way or another.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Birds, Childhood, Dreams, Family, Food, Places

[CC]

My sister thinks it’s strange that I watch TV with the volume turned low and with the closed captioning on. She thinks it’s funny (not “Ha, ha” funny more, “That’s…hiLARious). I’ve never really thought all that much about it, but it occurs to me that I’ve been watching TV like this for some time now. A few years at least.

Reasons why are plenty, come to think of it:

1) We have the technology, better than it’s ever been (for the moment).

2) I live in a small place and having the TV turned up loud dominates the whole house. Really, it just takes over everything.

3) I have trouble hearing/understanding fast dialogue (i.e. Gilmore Girls), unfamiliar accents (i.e. Harry Potter movies) or languages (i.e. German as well as High Valyrian).

4) Descriptions as well as dialogue: [ominous whooshing] [boisterous chatter] [SCREAMS] [muttering] [whistle shrieks] [romantic music] [LOUD PROTEST] [softly]

5) Comparing the dialogue with the captioning, following along and seeing where they diverge or witnessing how faithful they are to one another is strangely fascinating. Closed captioning can be wildly uneven (i.e. done by people, a service, bots, in-house or outsourced; done for real-time broadcasts, live shows or streaming services) – at times it can be quite daunting to follow, let alone rely upon for transcription, interpretation, translation.

6) There are also styles of closed captions, pop-on/block (words appear in rows/complete sentences with add-on rows as you go), and roll-up/scrolling (words appearing left to right, one line at a time) being the two main ones. Depending on the method and quality, words on screen can move along with the action or ahead of it or lag woefully behind (if they appear at all).

7) Weird questions of censorship: “swear words” (however so defined by those involved, yet their intent is obvious from the proverbial get-go) left out in some places and some shows, but not others. Whose responsible for that? Why do they care? Why would they? Fucking prudes. 

All those reasons, and also, because of them, this: a vast and growing dissatisfaction with the way some shows, movies and broadcasts are, for lack of a better word, paraphrased by the closed captioning, and often badly. So badly done, actually, that it’s just wrong. Hacked-up. I can tell the difference, but then I am an abled person whose hearing is not impaired.

All those absent words, all that incomplete action, all those pieces of the story missing, gone and/or rendered completely nonsensical. Where’s the context? What’s the rhyme or reason? Where’s the nuance?

Why set out to do something if only so that you can do it wrong? Don’t be cheap. Don’t make it cheap.

Word-for-word, it matters.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Communications, Entertainment, Family, Language, Movies, Pop Culture, Television, Words

The Coyotes Have It

The City

In the place where I live there are raccoons in the streets, skunks in the driveways and possums in just about any alleyway you dare to imagine. Pigeons abound during the daylight hours, coo-coo-cooing as they bob their pigeon heads and flap their pigeon wings. There are falcons and hawks in the crooks and crannies of the skyscrapers, who swoop down from nowhere to pick off a pigeon here and there.

Coyotes creep the margins, stealing food and eating the scraps given to them by imprudent humans. They have are often believed to be the killer of pets (small dogs, the occasional cat), and then hunted down for the transgression. This is done to keep the public calm – to keep people from freaking the fuck out about something probably overblown and which in any case they have very little control over.

The coyotes are not interlopers.

No. They are not.

 

The Not-City

In the place where I used to live there are also raccoons and skunks, possums and pigeons and hawks, but not as numerous and not nearly as brazen. Country creatures to the city ones, although of the suburbs (a close and yet infinitely distant second). Furtive creatures, mostly keeping out of the way, mostly keeping to themselves.

Mostly.

There are also coyotes. These are ghosts, seen in passing along the periphery of one’s vision. Pets go missing thanks to the coyotes, or so the story goes. Nothing new there.

But the coyotes here are not the solitary rogues of the city. These coyotes amass, forming family groups; forming packs. They amass and they scream. So much screaming sounding in the night from the patchwork of green spaces and tumble-down woodlots scattered about the suburbs. Bloodcurdling screams that go on and on into the night, laying territory over property, calling each other home again.

 

The Non-City

Once I found a coyote den, long abandoned, in the woods. Nearby was a scattering of bones and among those, one pristine coyote skull. Here it is, I thought. Proof.

At last.

 

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Birds, City Life, Dogs, Family, Nature, Pets, Places

Ride Along

1. The pony was shaggy, overworked thing, all knobby knees and sagging skin. And even though it was still nursing its tiny foal, they saddled it up and give me the reins. The baby followed us, tying to keep pace with its mother so it could nurse, while the guide, a terse man with thin lips, pulled us along atop his own stead, a horse and not a pony. It was wide-eyed and better fed then its companions – that’s about all I can say about the horse. The pony tried to stop to fed the foal. I didn’t mind, but the man sure did.

 

2. The elephant ride happened a few years before the pony, at a circus that came to town once a year. At the end of the show, once the lions had been wrangled back into the their cages and the clowns, mercifully, exited the stage, parents lined up with their children, and for a small fee, bought them a seat on the elephant’s back. The “saddle,” such as it was, was more like a playpen, capable of carrying about a dozen evenly-sized kids at a time. We were then taken around the perimeter of big top. We went around and around and around, then stopped and disembarked.

I cannot say the elephant enjoyed giving rides for a living. It also did tricks – balancing on its front legs, sitting only on its hind legs, trunk curled high in the air waving a baton (the secret of tricks: the more antithetical to the nature of the beast the more impressive the trick). Elephants must earn their keep at the circus. As for me, I remember staring intently at its cracked grey skin, at the coarse black hair growing there, sticking out in all directions, something you don’t ever see in cartoons or storybooks depicting elephants. Something I did not know was even possible before that day, but which I’m sure I could have easily looked up in a book.

 

3. A friend decided to surprise me with a camel ride at the zoo, buying the ticket while I roamed elsewhere, unawares. There was no line and few people out that day. It was nearing the end of summer, the beginning of their off-season. The camel seemed annoyed at having to work on such a light day, but it dutifully carried me along a well-marked path, its keeper guiding it using a halter attached to its head. It was a Bactrian – two humps, not one. My friend took our picture: it is of me giving her the finger as I ride the camel. This was all after the elephant, years and years. I didn’t say anything during the ride, not to the camel and certainly not to its keeper. Our relationship was strictly transactional.

***

Bactrian camels live up to 50 years in the wild, and between 20-40 years in captivity. So it is likely the camel at the zoo is still alive. Elephants live up to 20 years in captivity, and anywhere between 60-70 years in the wild. There are no more elephants in zoos in Canada and elephants have been banned from circuses (or rather, circuses have been banned from using elephants). I doubt the elephant I rode is dead, and I hope it went somewhere that was more in line with the dignity of elephants. The pony is surely dead.

That any one of these creatures allows us to ride on their backs seems preposterous, perhaps because it is.

It just is.

***

While on vacation one year we stopped at an unnamed tourist trap offering ostrich rides. Living, breathing ostriches, $20 bucks (American) a ride. Speaking of the preposterous, and not forgetting too the sheer lunacy to be found out there, literally anywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Birds, Childhood, Places, THE PAST

Bowlerama

There’s a bowling alley in a strip mall near my house.

Or at least there was.

The strip mall is no longer. It has been devoured by a colossal hole, which will serve as the foundation for a new building. By its scale and scope (not to mention depth), the size of the work crew and the recently mounted cranes now there, I’m guessing an office building or (more likely) a condo.

Lots of condos in this city.

I haven’t done much bowling in my life. A few get-togethers with friends, a birthday party or two. A school trip once – a reward for good behaviour and nice (but not spectacular) grades. Five pins and ten; big balls and small.

I never went to the strip mall, let alone the bowling alley in the strip mall. The street was always seemed too busy to cross, and the strip mall didn’t have a convenience store or coffee place or restaurant. Nothing to entice someone out, say, for a mid-day stroll.

But I always liked the idea of having a bowling alley near me and that it was in the strip mall (a rather odd though innocuous thing to have in the neighbourhood, and therefore not without its own charm), and, admiring it from afar, I thought I might go someday. The hole reminded me of all that and confronted me with the fact that it’s too late for any of it.

Come to think of it, I actually never really ever enjoyed bowling, good grades or no. The lighting, the sound of constant thudding. Those shoes… Not that I begrudge anyone those things. Besides, not liking something is not the same as hating it. Nice enough, but not spectacular. Good to think on.

Then again. My friend lived in a condo that had a bowling alley as one of its amenities. The two are not mutually exclusive. Maybe it’s not too late after all.

This is probably the most time I’ve ever spent talking about bowling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Change, City Life, Entertainment, Friends, Hobbies, Places

Good Fishy Fish (in a can)

In a recent post I’ve realized that I came down rather hard on sardines. Actually, sardines are quite delicious. They are not just fish in a can.

 

So listen, I never do this, but you’ll need:

  1. A largish or smallish onion (red or yellow or white). It should remind you of a fist cupped doggedly in the hand of a steady and determined foe. Shallots will work too, in a pinch, but they should be gob-sized. Gobs of shallots, then, would be wise.
  2. Your tolerance level of red Thai chilli peppers. I recommend a smattering. A smattering is good. Yes.
  3. One can of sardines in tomato sauce. Note the brand for later. There are lots, so many out there to choose from, so please do also keep that in mind. Too many really. A ridiculous amount.
  4. Leftover rice, a good lunch portion of it (i.e. enough to fit comfortably in the a child’s sun hat or mid-size catcher’s mitt).
  5. Like, some oil (read: cooking). Anything else is between you and your god. Between you and infinity.
  6. Salt and pepper (but not really, you can skip this if you want).

Then:

STEP 1: Prime stovetop to medium heat. Spill a bit of oil into to a shallow pot or pan. If necessary, deploy gumption. Sauté the onions until translucent. Add red Thai chillies, sliced dramatically. Enhance with salt and pepper (or not).

STEP 2: Empty can of sardines in tomato sauce into pan. Reduce heat. Simmer till onion and sardine and sauce enter into an exquisite union wherein the parts do and do not make up the whole. A dance, really, and a rather intricate one at that, something at the level of a tango or Polonaise. You’ll know it when you see it, probably. You’ll feel it before you know it. Trust.

STEP 3: Drape over rice and make sure to tuck it in at the corners before it’s too late. Remember to use leftover rice so that there is that feeling of extra accomplishment.

 

There. That’s it. You’re done! Now try it and see. Hope you like it.

Don’t like it? That’s fine because it wasn’t like I was really asking, was it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Ceremony, Food

And Now (And in No Particular Order) A List of Good Words*

  • Splendid
  • Redolent
  • Peccadillo
  • Ornery
  • Flotsam
  • Crux
  • Dire
  • Rot
  • Nasty
  • Jazz
  • Pluck
  • Gumption
  • Crotch
  • Sultry
  • Cracked
  • Unrepentant
  • Pit
  • Moist
  • Bum
  • Despondent
  • Junk
  • Thingy
  • Bold
  • Sallow
  • Exuberant
  • Rancid
  • Dick
  • Grotesque

 

                                                    – Etc.

 

 

________________________________________________

*Please use at will and with or without restraint.^

^Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Language, Words

Car Trouble

1. Ontario is a province of periodic ice storms. Big ones, nasty ones, ones that come in big and powerful and loud and whose consequences linger for days on end.

Accidents are not meant to happen, but they happen anyway. From the outside looking in, watching the accident as it happens, it can sometimes seem less of an accident and more a twist of fate.

There was a terrible ice storm that hit Toronto years ago – not the one where the mayor called in the army, but one a few ice storms after that. Stephen and I had decided to drive back into the city after visiting my parents about hour or so away. The storm was gentle at first, just but a touch – a whisper really – of inclement weather that seemed innocent enough, weak enough, fleeting enough.

But then. Well.

But then it was too late.

Slowly, imperceptibly and then all at fucking once, the highway became slick with snow and ice; the highway was a waterslide, a slough of cold, wet malice. We inched along, pumping the brakes as we skidded here & there, to & fro, as side became front became side became back & front again, as we lost track of the lanes, as we lost all sense of direction and any semblance of hope.

All around us, cars, vans and trucks crashing into each other, skidding at wicked angles down wrong lanes, striking the median with their bumpers and hoods, plunging into ditches.

And yet somehow we made it. Whole, without one scratch, through the melee traffic. Not one scratch, despite the calamity, the sheer inevitably of it for everyone else, anyone else at all but us.

 

2. The bird darted out of the woods and smacked into the grill of the car so hard and so suddenly that it took a full moment to register what had happened, even as the windshield was showered by a burst of blue, white and black feathers. There was also some blood, but not as much as you might think. Just flecks. Nothing outwardly incriminating.

My field director was driving and all he could say at first was, “Huh.”

Pulling the car over to the side of the road allowed us to fully realize what had happened. It’s almost worse than I can tell: the bird had melded with the grill of the car. It was as if one had become the other. They had become inseparable, the car and, of all things, a Blue Jay. Rare enough to see one of those these days.

It could have hit any car, but it hit ours. It could have hit any car, so it hit ours.

Feathers of blue, white and black against chrome. Any car, really, there were so many out on the road that day. Or maybe even none at all. If only.

What kind of a luck is that? What events or factors or circumstances, like the planets above, had to align for that poor bird to so inelegantly thwack against a random/not so random car.

So many things.

Too many things to count, that are, finally, worth counting.

 

3. We had never had a flat tire before that flat tire, and never had one since (so far). It was summer and the drive was fine – smooth, uneventful – and then we started kind of thumping, tottering, hobbling Not exactly a pleasant sensation. Not one I’d recommend offhand.

We parked precariously on the side of a ditch. A cop stopped to ask us what we were up to (“Nothing going on here, is there folks?”), then piled back into his cruiser and drove away when it was clear the situation wasn’t any more nefarious than the changing of a flat tire. He honked, waved goodbye (“You got this.).

Neither of us had ever changed a tire before. It took us a long, long time but we managed to switch out the tire for its spare. Elated yet defeated (the plan had been to visit Stephen’s sister but we had spent too long changing the tire and it was too late), we got back on the road and turned off the next exit, homebound.

Days later my aunt told me she and my other aunt, their spouses and my cousins had passed us on the highway while we were stranded, in the ditch, attempting to change that tire.

“You looked like you needed help,” laughed her husband. They didn’t feel like stopping, it turns out, because then they would have had to take the exit and backtrack. No one wanted that. Who would want that?

Strange how a moment can bring you together or rip you apart. Funny how coincidence works itself out.

Years later, he lost all the money he and my aunt had, and they, in turn, lost their cars and their house and were forced to sell most of their things, including all their precious koi from the, frankly, undersized pond that held them.

They separated. A year later, he died.

Huh. Didn’t see that one coming, not by a long shot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Birds, Death, Family, Nature, Relationships, THE PAST, Transportation

The Dogs Fault

Dogs come and dogs go.

Lou, our beloved, slightly deranged 14-year-old dachshund, will leave us soon. His health is poor; his quality of life declining with each passing day.

But this story is about mostly Toby, my aunt’s 4-year-old maltase mix. That’s 28 in dog years, for those of you contemplating the math. 28 to Lou’s 98. Quite the disparity; quite the gap to mind.

Louis and Toby lived together, as brothers, for three glorious days (or maybe the relationship was closer to great old uncle and weird little nephew). My aunt gave Toby to us because she was recovering from an illness and believed she couldn’t handle the all the work a dog entails. Dogs are, admittedly, a lot of work.

We picked Toby up from her house with Lou in tow to make sure they’d get along.

No fights. Lou remained largely indifferent to Toby, much to Toby’s disappointment.

That night, the texts and emails began.

Hello Cindy! How is Toby? Can you send me pictures? I am sure he will be happy with you because you are young and can take him to the park and for walks and things.  

Hello Cindy! Did he cry in the car on the way to your house? I hope he ate all his food.  

Hello Cindy! Did Toby sleep well last night?  

Hello! You took the dogs out walking together! Did Toby have a good time? 

Hello! Did Toby eat his food this morning? How much did he eat?

Hi! Is Toby still OK? How are his eyes?

Hello Cindy!

Hello!

Hello Cindy!

Hi!

Hello, Hello, Hello!

On and on it went. I was inundated. I have never been quite so inundated before, in my life, ever.

Finally, a phone call on the third day: “Auntie, do you want Toby back?”

She came the following afternoon, a stressful trip as I had inadvertently gave her my old house number instead of my new one and she had to stop at more than a few gas stations and ask to use their phones because she doesn’t have cell phone and didn’t have any change in her pocket but then she couldn’t reach me because my cell was acting up and didn’t receive any of her phone calls until, finally and all at once, it did.

But that is another story.

And although Toby seemed to have settled rather nicely into his new life at our place, he was as overjoyed to see my aunt as she was to have him back in her life. Lou, as ever, remained totally unaffected.

End of story.

Except.

A month later my mom told me that Toby had taken ill. Addison’s disease. He needed emergency surgery and will be on various medications for the rest of his life in order to manage this otherwise debilitating condition.

“Your poor auntie,” said my mom. “But lucky you. You see?” It was, to her, all a matter of simple fact and she let it die right then and right there.

Not so for me.

You see? See what? What did that mean, you see?

That you shouldn’t give something away unless you are sure you don’t want it back? That fate, it seems, can intervene and undermine even the best of intentions? That Mom Knows Best?

Whatever happened, it’s not the dog’s fault. The dogs are blameless. As far as I know, Toby is doing well (better, at least, then poor Lou), but the medications are expensive and my aunt is not sure how much longer she will be able to afford them.

Still, it’s not his fault. After everything, he is totally without blame, completely without fault and actually there was never a need to exonerate him, ever, was there?

He didn’t do anything.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Change, Death, Dogs, Family, Pets, Relationships, Time