Category Archives: Hobbies

Bumper Crop

As it turns out, the one tomato plant I bought on a whim because it cost a dollar (even though it was wilted, mostly dead or dying and seemed to be more brown than green) was the plant of the garden this year, producing, shall we say, a rather bumper crop of produce:

IMG_9072

As for the rest, a confession: despite earlier enthusiasm, I eventually left the garden to fallow…though before it can do that I suppose it needs “to rot.”

It is. Rotting, I mean.

Nothing untoward or gross – just a slow decay indicative, really, of my failure to provide care or manage it.

To care, I mean.

The other tomato plants died in the ungodly heat and for lack of rain, and water (two very different things, as it turns out). Likewise, the jalapeños and other assorted peppers (bell, ghost, habanero) perished. The squash and the mystery plants, though mysteries no more, were ravaged by vermin (raccoons, skunks, squirrels and rabbits, we had them all this year).

It was more than enough to demoralize, to quit. To not to care, not anymore.

I can only blame myself. And the gods.

I realize. I was too ambitious. Next year will be another year, at least, to try.

But that, I also suppose, goes without saying.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Animals, Change, Death, Food, Hobbies, Plants, THE FUTURE

Out Comes the Mystery, Etc.

The mystery plants are a mystery no longer. Unlabelled plants with board, squash-like leaves, purchased from the nearby grocery: 2 @ $1.99 (plus tax). They continue to be very green, have more proven their strength & vitality (and then some), and they are, indeed, edible.

They are Opo Squash.

Opo: a squash of the calabash type; lengthy, smooth, cool skin of chartreuse, with a mild, unassuming taste.

More:

The Opo plants, despite being mysteries no longer, continue to amaze, growing so rapidly and so large that they may end up taking over the garden.

Actually. It’s a little scary how much of precious plot I must cede, will end up ceding (have already ceded) because of my decision to buy and plant mystery plants in my garden.

They have tendrils, the Opo plants do, that snake along the ground between and through my other plants – the bell peppers, tomatoes and jalapeños – stealing away space, choking them slowly, remorselessly. As plants do.

The Opo plant leaves: they smell. Like a cat peed on them. Many cats.

IMG_8636

The weeds do not touch the Opo. Will not grow near the Opo.

Now:

The Opo have flowered, but with all they have so far done (and are doing), they have yet to fruit. What then?

What then?

“You like Opo, don’t you?” Stephen asked.

And I think: it doesn’t matter, though there was a brief time, I’m sure, when it did.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Change, Hobbies, Plants, THE FUTURE

Little Fallen Kingdoms

1. The Flower Man Cometh

Summers in the city mean patio dinners in the evenings; the sultry air, the cool breezes, the relaxed conversations – the city, for once, forgetting to take itself so seriously. A good time to catch up; reconnect with old friends, meet new ones.

Eat & drink. Be merry. Etc.

Then there are those who don’t (or can’t?) get into the swing of things. Those who fail to keep the hard-earned peace. Those who seem determined to spoil it, everything, for everyone.

Know who I mean?

His stories were boring, which would have been fine if not for his demeanour: the way he demanded attention, adoration, even, for this startling mediocrity. The way he was convinced (and tried to convince) that he deserved it. The way he interrupted if not speaking, or spoken to.

You know who I mean.

We all saw the Flower Man from across the empty street, one from a fleet of flower peddlers who roam the city’s summer’s night, flitting from patio to patio, selling puckered roses. Pressuring people to buy them or, lo, forsake love – reject it completely as a concept, never mind a possibility, forever. A hard bargain.

No one really ever wants a flower from the Flower Man.

But it was he who called him to our table, waving empathetically like a drunken sailor come off from the docks: a desperate fool. A fucking cliché.

Only $5 a rose? He bought one for his girlfriend, pulling out the sweaty bill from his front pants pocket which such flourish I wondered if he even noticed (or cared) that the flower was already wilted, already halfway dead.

Probably not.

Rose installed in his girlfriend’s waiting hand, he turned to us expectantly. The Flower Man turned to us, expectantly.

Follow the leader.

The people around us looked away, some cringing, knowing that they would surely be next. The Flower Man can be most persistent, and unforgiving. Who counts as a couple and who does not? The Flower Man decides, apparently. He alone knows love’s bounds. The roses have no say in it whatsoever, poor things.

“Pretty flower for a pretty lady?” The Flower Man asked my partner.

“We’re not together,” I said, gesturing to myself and Stephen.

“We’re not together.” Three small words that did just the trick, banishing the Flower Man from our table.

Now.

Do you believe it magic? Because those words spread like wildfire – engulfing the patio, cleansing the night.

“We’re not together.”

Every table with a purported couple, each having one speak for the other:

“We’re not together.”

No more roses sold that day. Not at our patio, at least. Whatever became of them it at least wasn’t that.

 

2. Punchline Botanical

Flowers are a joke, aren’t they?

You buy a bouquet of flowers. You put them in a vase. You watch them die. They die sl-o-o-owly.

I bought some the other day on a whim (as a joke for Stephen) and we giddily put them in a used pickle egg jar, installed them in the corner of the living room, and forgot about them.

What else is there?

IMG_8403

Except. Now, I catch myself, looking at the flowers and thinking…nothing in particular. I realize this is because I have nothing to add. Nothing whatsoever. They are dying, and doing it slowly, but that seems so far away from the present moment – and they are more than pretty; they are lovely in their resilience, their pomp and glamour – that what does it even matter that that’s the truth?

It’s not a lie, or a denial, the fact of the flowers. Their presence is irrefutable.

What sorcery is this?

 

(2.5 How Does Your Garden Grow?)

(I planted a garden this year, out back behind the house. I figured just a plant or two. I was convinced I would grow bored and abandon them before summer’s end. They’re plants, after all. Easily replaced by more of the same. Or not. Who cares?

And yet. I spend hours at a time out there. In the garden. Tending to the plants (so many plants), fulfilling their needs. Basically, making sure they are OK – and more than that, thriving – and no matter what havoc the sun is wreaking on my skin; no matter how my already tender back hurts. No matter the rain or the shine.

They have a power over me I can’t yet explain, or account for. Something that brings me out there with purpose, if not a real sense of time going.

And it does not matter that they, the plants, do not care one whit about me, and never will.

Don’t they?)

 

3. Flower. Power.

Dr. Ellie Sattler saved the day (T Rex notwithstanding). She did what needed doing, and she did it well.

It does not seem all that obvious at first, does it? Salvation from a paleobotanist (more plants, dead plants and long dead plants at that), especially when there are dinosaurs around, some of them bloodthirsty. A few, perhaps, out for revenge.

But that’s what happens when you underestimate power & presence. When you misjudge, devalue, miscalculate.

“Dinosaurs eat man. Woman inherits the earth.”

Stop. Smell the roses.

(But mind the puckered ones).

 

1 Comment

Filed under City Life, Hobbies, Interruptions, Places, Plants, Pop Culture

Plant Life of Varied Assorted Types

So far, in my garden, I have planted a tomato plant, a jalapeño plant, a butternut squash plant and two mystery plants I got from the store: they were not labelled, and I didn’t ask what they were because it didn’t seem to be anybody’s job to tell me.

The store isn’t one where you’d expect plants (to be there for sale), a varied assortment of which were plopped down by an unused register. The register seemed not to be being used so that a small collection of mystery plants (a varied assortment of which) could be plopped down by it.

Red price tags glared from the plants: $1.99 they flashed.

The mystery plants varied, from ones with board, squash-like leaves to ones with pointed bits and ends to ones that were little more than scraggily vines. Some looked edible, others did not, a few…who knew? Probably.

It wasn’t like it was anybody’s job to tell anyone else, including me. That’s how it is with plant life of varied assorted types sold in a store not specifically geared to selling plants.

What more can you possibly ask for?

I bought the plants with the board, squash-like leaves: 2 @ $1.99 (plus tax). They are very green, very strong, likely edible.

Feels like a bargain. Feels like the price of admission, willingly paid. How often does that happen?

The cashier placed the plants in a see-through plastic bag and gently handed them to me.

That, too, was not unexpected.

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under City Life, Food, Hobbies, Jobs, Plants

SERIOUS BUSINESS

Yesterday (March 15th, 2018) was the first day of the Friends of Toronto Public Library Clearance Book Sale over at the Toronto Reference Library. All items, library discards and (here’s the important thing, the key) donated books, most of which are in good, gently used condition: $.10-$.50.

Cents to the dollar.

***CASH ONLY***

Best deal in town. Can’t be beat!

See the impetus? Sense the urgency?

The Plan:

  • Wake up early.
  • Dress.
  • Eat pre-breakfast (boiled eggs prepared from the night before).
  • Make sure phone fully charged (again, ensure this is done the night before).
  • Grab extra bags (for books).
  • Bring cash, bring pockets full with change (Correct change matters; correct change = ADVANTAGE).
  • Take out dog.
  • Leave home.
  • Arrive early: no later than 9:00AM, a half hour before the book sale (in recent years, word has gotten out and people, lots of them, come for the sale even before the doors to the library open at 9:00AM…these are serious people).

I am a serious person…when it comes to books and massive book sales (when it comes to this massive book sale). This is a serious book sale.

Things. Did. Not. Go. As. Planned.

Woke up on time, but hit snooze and spent way too much time in the bathroom, forgot to boil eggs, grabbed breakfast bars only after the absurd amount of time it took to remember we had them in the first place and the panic that ensued thinking I’d have to go into this, one of the biggest book sales of the year, hangry, took out the dog, bolted from home only to find transit delayed, trains so slow, so slow and lumbering, arrived at library just before 9:30AM and found myself forming part of a very long line that went through the building, out the door, and around the block.

IMG_7714

Evidently, I am not the only serious person serious about this most serious sale.

Serpentine line, like at amusement parks, or celebrity wakes. Too many people, so many bodies blocking the doors it was a fire hazard. There was some confusion as people shuffled, and were shuffled, to and fro:

“Whomever believes the are at the end of the line, put your hand up,” said the burly library security guard. Many hands, scattered here and there, scattered all around, came up. Shot up into the air.

Libraries have burly security guards? This one does. Seriously.

The line was broken up; people waiting after a certain point (this was, roughly, underneath the stairwell inside the main foyer) were asked to line up outside, against the building and down the block. They politely obliged, so wiling they were to get into this sale that waiting in line was an accepted exchange, a hardship readily borne.

So serious.

People from all walks of life were there, but I could see clusters that mirrored each other: kids off from March break (serious ones, of course, who waited patiently for their turn at the books), retirees, university students (more than a few reading textbooks as the lined lurched forward at irregular intervals), obvious hoarders. Many brought backpacks and tote bags and suitcases, the kind with the wheels on the bottom and an extendable handle, for ease.

(Kind of wish I had thought of that, extra baggage in this case would have served as an extra advantage. For serious.)

I spent my time in the line chatting amiably with a woman named Fran,* who told her work she had an important “appointment” that morning which could not be rescheduled. Not a lie. Good on you Fran!

Fran has some very interesting theories regarding a library thief at her local branch (“Not the hoity toity library in the neighbourhood, the working-class library”): someone’s ripping recipes out of the new magazines that come on Fridays and Saturdays and Fran is on it. Together, we came up with some more interesting theories about who this person could be, and how to catch them.

Fran and I separated once we were finally ushered into the sale, way back towards the back of the big, reliable building by a volunteer who, one hour into the sale, at 10:30AM, was already losing her voice wrangling so many book-hungry people, poor woman.

“Bye, Fran! Good luck!”

Mayhem inside, but of a managed sort. Totally doable, and worth it for the books. Rows and rows and tables full of them, ten cent paperbacks, fifty cent hardcovers, although a lot of what was on offer seemed already picked over.

IMG_7715

Some people grabbed boxes which had been emptied of books for the sale and filled them with the books from the sale. Some people went from table to table, methodically running their hands over spines and covers, picking up titles that intrigued them. Others grabbed at the books, regardless of title, condition or type, and threw them into bags and boxes.

Takes all kinds.

I spent two hours at the book sale, jostling about, snatching books were I could. For all that trouble, I good a good haul: 14 books for just over $4.50.

You can’t beat that, and hard to dismiss it.

The sale goes on until tomorrow (March 17th, 2018, 9:00AM-4:00PM). So many people, so many books: the volunteers, mostly older people wanting to do good by the books, are heroes.

One, overheard on my way out: “Once we started posting about on Facebook and places, the sale has become so popular. It’s like we can’t keep up. We just keep refilling the tables and they just keep buying.”

12:30PM. There was still a line that went through the building, out the door, and around the block. More people outside waiting to get at the books inside.

IMG_7720

The best laid plans indeed.

 

 

 

 

________________________________________________

* Not real name. I got you, Fran!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Books, Hobbies, Ritual, Thrift

The Places You’ve Been (Before & After)

Sharon Temple is located in East Gwillimbury, not too far from King City, Ontario. I went there with Nate and Ally[1] recently on a mutual day off.

IMG_7620

There was a school group before us. They left as we came in and staff were a bit surprised by our adult presence there on a weekday.

(This economy.)

According to their literature, Sharon Temple was “a community formed during the War of 1812, inspired by the Rebellion of 1837, and instrumental in the fight for true democracy in Canada.” Several members, indeed, took part in William Lyon Mackenzie’s 1837 uprising, which led to key political reforms for “responsible government” in what was then Upper Canada. Read more about Sharon Temple here. Suffice it to say, their stairway is an architectural feat, the Temple itself a marvel.

IMG_7626

Admission: $5 Adults. Children (under 16) free.

We hit an antique market in Barrie shortly after visiting Sharon Temple. It was two-and-a-half floors of a very large building just brimming with stuff – all kinds of matter, seemingly all manner of Thing, although it seemed rather generous to call or deem some of it “antique.” Antique markets are strange places: they seem rather like high-end thrift stores, or immaculate refuse heaps. We had been told by our mutual friend that this particular place was great for quality (or at least hard-to-find) books.

The books up for sale were overpriced for my taste, but Nate and Al poured over them and found some hidden treasures pertaining to their specific interests.

These include (in no particular order): Ontario history; archeology in Western, Eastern and Southern Ontario; provincial archives/sketches; big books full of old maps; and descriptions of early slip-decorated pottery in Canada.

This list is by no means extensive. I have very interesting friends.

I found (in no particular order):

 

  1. An array of foam skulls, purportedly from the set of the 12 Monkeys TV show (which I don’t watch).[2]
  2. A stain glass poodle.
  3. Many wood duck decoys of varying craftsmanship, price and (in some cases) degrees of decay.
  4. A “vintage” mushroom lamp that cost several times more than my hydro bill.
  5. An ENTIRE EDWARDIAN SITTING ROOM (removed piece by piece, bit by bit, wood panel by wood panel and by wall by wall from an estate somewhere in England, with the fourth wall removed/left missing like a stage play or sitcom…a steal, really, at only $38,000).
  6. Metal coin banks in the shape of various animals.
  7. A statue of a Bull fighting a Bear (both male) affixed to a pure marble stand.
  8. Circus Butts.
  9. Old, used buckets of KFC – let me clarify: for sale.

 

I rejoined Nate and Ally. I left them once more to their books and wandered a bit before rejoining them again. I rejoined them again after walking back to the Edwardian Sitting Room, standing inside a place that was and was not there, before stopping at the array of foam 12 Monkeys skulls and picking one up as if it were, alas, poor Yorick.

IMG_7647

And lo. And behold: flipping idly through Al’s very large pile of “To Buy” books, I came across an account of the Children of Peace, the people who built the Sharon Temple and their founder, one David Willson. There were pictures, some admittedly at weird angles, of the Temple’s magnificent structure and accounts of Willson as an outspoken, even outlandish leader.

Further reading revealed a former school teacher turned minister, disowned by the Quakers for “some peculiarities of belief or conduct,”[3] (including, apparently, his love of music, including, for example, his own particular brand of mysticism), Willson is described thusly in one account:

“David Willson seems about 65 years of age and is a middle-sized, square-built man, wearing his hair over this face and forehead, and squints considerably…He was dressed in a short brown cloth jacket, white linen trousers, with a straw hat, all perhaps home-made. Originally from the State of New York, he had resided thirty years in this county. The number of his followers is unknown, but all offering themselves in sincerity are accepted, as he dislikes sectarianism, and has no written creed. He seems to act on Quaker principles, assisting the flock in money and advice.”[4]

(Willson strikes me, after everything, as a man not just of his time but of the unforeseen circumstances, rather than the inevitabilities, surrounding it – a compelling figure for all that he was, and remains, a rather uncanny person.)

Still, it was the pictures that I found particularly striking: we had just been there an hour ago. The pictures seemed proof of something; they somehow added another layer to the veracity of the day, conspiring with us, egging us on.

Something like that.

***

In the end, I didn’t buy anything at the antique market, but it’s the thrill of the hunt, yes?

IMG_7658

Because there’s something about it, isn’t there? Reading about a place you’ve been to before, feeling out how one experience compares (enhances? diminishes? challenges? complements?) to the other, afterward. Learning about someone you didn’t know existed a day before, or even that morning, their life leaving some kind of impression on yours.

And then there was the experience of having been in a sitting room that wasn’t, of having encountered a memento from a show I have never watched in, of all places, Barrie, Ontario.

Wasn’t that something?

Maybe I shouldn’t have passed by those foam 12 Monkeys skulls. Maybe I should have more seriously considered the Room.

But since I can’t place the value in either of those Things, since their purpose eludes me, I think it was the right decision not buy anything after all.

That day, at least, it was best.

 

 

________________________________________________

[1] Not real names.

[2] I have seen the movie (years ago) if that counts for anything.

[3] Hughes, James L. (James Laughlin). (1920). Sketches of the Sharon Temple and of its Founder David Willson. York Pioneer and Historical Society: Toronto, 1. Available: https://archive.org/details/sketchesofsharon00hugh_0.

[4] Patrick Shirreff, quoted in Hughes, 11.

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Friends, Hobbies, People, Places, THE FUTURE, THE PAST, Travel

For The Birds

 
A family of robins moved into my yard. Two adults, two fat fledglings, one just a little fatter than the other.

The fledglings eat constantly, and it is a wonder how many worms the adults manage to find to feed them day after day after day.

I was thrilled at first. These delightful visitors, my guests, evidence of life happening!

And then the lawn furniture. The patio, the spot under the tree where I like to read.

Bombarded. Destroyed with the collective birdshit of two adults, two fledglings, one just a little fatter than the other.

That fat little bastard, who eats all the worms then perches over my spot, more than seems necessary.

Do you see me, little bird? Can you see me watching you? I know what you are doing. I see you.

Fat Bastard Bird

So it occurs to me that the robins have perhaps worn out their welcome. They have turned theory into practice and ruined it with consequence.

And of course, they haven’t done anything.

They are birds.

That is what I tell myself now, because I can.

Shit happens.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Leave a comment

Filed under Animals, Birds, Emotion, Hobbies

Duck Calling

 

Duck Ducklings

The questions were unexpected and extraordinary.

“Are you raising ducklings?”

“How are you going to keep a duck in the city??”

“Will that be good for the ducks, especially with the dog being there???”

No mention of the fact that the duckling – at turns named Donald and Daisy and Howard and Daffy; at turns referred to as “it” or “they” – has two heads, or upon closer inspection (but not that close, isn’t the wooden stand a dead giveaway?) are clearly not alive.

All of the sudden, a two-headed duckling living in the city, being raised in my apartment and with my dog around, was as plain as the beaks on their faces. The real issue, the one more vital than the simple, evident fact of their existence, was my terrible and selfish decision to take the duckling home with me.

It was touching, in a way, and also remarkable; this concern for something so small and innocent. People do have a way of getting past the obvious.

I cleared the air (Everyone! These are fake real ducklings. Please stop asking how I am going to raise a duck in the city!), and laughed and laughed.

Soon after, I put the duckling under glass to keep the dust off of them.

And now I sometimes catch myself looking at it, terrified they cannot breathe.
 

Ducks Under Glass
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Leave a comment

Filed under Animals, Hobbies, Pets

No Buts But Butts About It (Except Of Course Butte)

 
… in the meantime, I often find myself having to find ways to amuse myself.

So, OK.

A silent “t” added to every “but” I say aloud! 

It is great fun and economical to boot (“But, he’s getting it done” v. “Butt, he’s getting it done!”), although of course saying that it is cost-free is another thing almost entirely.

There are hazards to a-skew-ing the language. Meaning and definition conflating, oral and auditory flung into wicked identity crisis. Brain farts. Diarrhea of the mouth. Tongues tied, hands wrung, etc.

“But” –> Butt

Butt= Good.

It falls apart at Butte, Montana.

Darn.

Darn.

That e doesn’t not make “but” butt but “Butte”.

So that when I say “Butte” I’ve got to know what I’m saying.

But good!

Butt nothing.
 

Leave a comment

Filed under Hobbies, Words

Apocalypse Later

 
So the apocalypse didn’t happen?

It seems, then, that I’ve now got a bit more time to continue on with my hobby: drafting my epitaph.

Going to be a really hard go at it, beating this.

Keep on Truckin’

It keeps me busy.  And it’s F-R-E-E!

Here, so far, are the contenders:
 

  1. “Enough Already.”
  2. “This is Absolutely Not Me at My Best.”
  3. “LOLZ!”
  4. “Excuse Me. For Living.”
  5. “Poopsicle = Poo Popsicle.”
  6. “Probably.”
  7. NO ROBERT FROST
  8. “I’m NOT a Feminist. But…”
  9. “Wait. Wait, wait, wait!”
  10. “Grateful to Have Lived in the Golden Age of Injectable Soft-Tissue Fillers.”
  11. “It’s Not You. It’s Me.”
  12. “Tiger Balm Cures (almost) Everything.”
  13. “I’m Hungry.”
  14. “Chemistry was the worst!! Have a nice summer!”
  15. “Kony 2012.”
  16. “And I Never Got to Ride That Pony.”
  17. “Wish You Were Here.”
  18. “iDied”

 
The final draft, though!

That.

That will be the tricky bit.
 

3 Comments

Filed under Hobbies, Words