Tag Archives: Stephen


I finally came home from some nerve-wracking grocery shopping and had carefully removed my mask and gloves and was about to strip away my “compromised” clothing and hop in the shower when Stephen, standing behind the glass door separating the foyer from the living room, informed me that he had just watched the black squirrel (the one that lives in our yard and periodically tries to kill me) get into a fight with a grey squirrel of unknown origin.

“Who won?” I asked, instantly curious. “Our squirrel or the other squirrel?”

“Our squirrel,” said Stephen.

“Good,” I replied.

Because even though I dislike our squirrel (and also, it’s periodically, I’m more than sure, tried to kill me), it’s still, at the end of the day, our squirrel. And doesn’t it therefore seem that some solidarity, some sense of loyalty is order?

It’s not personal at all. Trust me.










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Filed under Animals, Change, City Life, Interruptions, Nature, Politics

Good White Shirt

Someone stole Stephen’s white dress shirt from the communal laundry room.

We liked to call that shirt his good white shirt. Now the shirt is gone, gone, gone.

Nothing else was taken, even though there were other, what we also call “good” shirts in that particular load of laundry. Blue ones, a purple one. One in cascading shapes like fish and birds.

I sometimes wonder about that shirt. The good white shirt.

Why just that shirt?

 That shirt and nothing else?

In my more generous moments, I like to think that whomever took that shirt really needed it. For a job interview or custody hearing; a night out (someplace nice or at least, nicer) or a funeral (paired with a black jacket, or navy blue one depending on the shade).

In my not so generous moments, I like to remember how the sleeves of that shirt are just a little longer than you’d think, how the cut of it is specific and on most non-Stephen-shaped bodies would hang loosely and weird, like a strand of wilted fronds over an undersized fence or a full dead skin draped over a stranger’s lap.

Most times, I don’t think of that shirt at all. But then again…. it’s not like we are made of shirts (good shirts).

Why just that shirt?

That shirt and nothing else?

It’s a pickle, it is. Not the shirt, but the situation.

But you know what I mean.






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Filed under Family, Fashion, Interruptions, People, Work


I constantly ask myself: “Is this at least $10 worth of fun?”

That seems to be the limit. Any more than that and it just doesn’t seem quite worth it.


1. Let’s Go To The Motherfu*kin’ Movies

My best friend got $50 from her parents for her birthday, which was a lot of money, especially for a fifth grader. It was the most money I’d ever seen a kid our age have. It was more money than I’d ever had.

“Shouldn’t’ you save some?” I kept asking.

“Why? We’re already here,” she kept saying back. Here was a movie theatre attached to the mall where we’d already spent a good portion of that $50 on junk food and other things I can’t even remember what.

We saw an animated film that was a bit young for us, but which was the only thing playing at the time. It had odd musical numbers that ultimately proved memorable only because they were slightly less worse than the film itself.

Movie tickets back then were under $10.

The next week and we were broke again, and would remain that way for weeks to come. For weeks on end.

It was almost worth it.

Anyway, it was the best we could do. It was everything that we, between us, could have done.


2. Wholesale $50

My dad found $50 on the ground next to the wholesaler’s where we went to every two weeks to pick up vegetables for our small grocery.

“Don’t tell mom.” That was the first thing he said. “Let’s go for pho!” was the second.

We ordered pho dac biet, the special. It came with everything. Usually, we’d get fast food or something else, something cheaper, but a wholesale $50 is a wholesale $50.

“Here, you can have what’s left,” said my dad. He gave me the change from the bill. But the difference between what he gave me and the cost of the meal did not add up and I told him so, thinking perhaps we’d been shortchanged by the server.

“I took $5 for lottery tickets,” he said.

Was it a confession? To this day, I’m still not sure.


3. Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls

Stephen and I once found a crisp $50 bill at the foot of a frozen waterfall during a hike in the snow. It shone red against the white of the forest floor; a beacon on a cold winter’s day. A sign, if there ever was one.

$50? Think of the possibilities. An easy $50, free and clear!

But. We were living a new life in a new city and were still in the process of settling in. Extra money therefore meant extra responsibility, or at least the sinking feeling that we should act extra responsibly with it.

We used the $50 to buy groceries. Also, toilet paper. The good kind.

No lie. It was everything.

Double ply, double happiness.

Fun notwithstanding.




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Filed under Childhood, Family, Food, People, THE PAST, Thrift

Show It To Me

There are a few shows I watch when Stephen isn’t around, and not out of shame or guilt.

There are some things you enjoy simply because they are yours to enjoy.

There isn’t much more to add to it than that.

For once, you don’t have to be accountable.


1. Haunted Ghost Show

I know that sounds redundant, but I am VERY picky when it comes to my haunted ghost shows. First, there must be a haunting. Second, there must be a ghost (demons are boring; they are rule bound in ways ghosts are not). Jump scares, good ones, and no ghost hunters, psychics, etc., please: they are also rule-bound but in conflicting, non-sensical and ultimately self-serving ways. I’m embarrassed for them.

Also, a story line where, for once, the husband finally clues in and believes the wife about the haunting and then she just leaves him, finally realizing that his validation is as fucking useless as he is (there are still ghosts, ghosts regardless, aren’t there?), and that she’ll have a better, ghost-free life without him. That…would also be nice.


2. Nature Shows

Especially those involving fish and undersea invertebrates but, yeah, I’m someone who loves their nature shows. They’re soothing. I don’t even need Attenborough’s smoothed-over affectations, just some cuttlefish and something about starfish migrations and maybe a hypnotic sequence involving jellyfish.

Also, footage of monkeys stealing from shrines. Something about that – the pointlessness of justification, the inevitability of the act and the primacy of it – just seems about as close to perfect as perfect can be.


3. The Same 4 Episodes of Bob’s Burgers in a row.

These are:

S07 E13 – The Grand Mama-Pest Hotel
S07 E14 – Aquaticism
S07 E15 – Ain’t Miss Debatin’
S07 E16 – Eggs for Days

All of those. In that order. Every time.


4. Fargo (1996)

I watch this movie a lot; it’s one of my go-tos when I want something I know is going to be good, but do not want to spend 45 minutes on Netflix deciding on something only to resort to Twitter or YouTube to occupy myself for the rest of the night.

Why is this movie that kind of good?

Heck do ya mean?

Also good second and third choices: The Drop (2014 and because it’s still on Netflix) and Wayne’s World (1992, though 98% of that is because of Tia Carrere as Cassandra).


5. Arthur

Yes. The aardvark, not…the drunk guy? (I’ve never seen the movie Arthur).

Listen, there is a narrative purity and sophistication to kids’ shows that I often find lacking in “darker,” more “serious” adult fare. Arthur is very good at setting up and following through on a premise without pointless exposition or unnecessary moralizing (Peppa Pig is another such kids’ show, but for reasons that are more existential…like the time Peppa doubts herself because she can’t whistle and abruptly hangs up on her friend who can).

Also, Arthur has been on for 21 seasons (so far), meaning I’m never going to run out of episodes.

Joan Rivers played Francine Frensky’s Bubbe on the show, there’s a Neil Gaiman episode (he appears in a falafel), and a cat named Nemo. And Francine can play the drums.

Favourite character? Of course I’ve got one, and can’t you guess it’s not Arthur?



Sometimes embracing nothing is better than grasping at something, anything.

Isn’t it not?

I wish Netflix would stop recommending WolfCop (2014) to me.






Filed under Animals, Downtime, Entertainment, Ghosts, Movies, Pets, Pop Culture, Television

Shamone (Part 1)

Michael Jackson was dead, though we did not yet know it.

Summer 2009. A road trip through southern Alberta had taken us across the badlands, past the mushroom-capped hoodoos in Drumheller, in rough tandem alongside the undulating trail of the Milk River, and on to Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park.

Our direction now, vaguely north. Back to the Calgary, toward where this whole thing began, then home again.

It had been a long time since anyone had spoken. After days spent wandering the park, after days, in fact, of traipsing through the various nooks and crannies of the province, we were dirty and tired and severely dehydrated.

I remember Terry’s bloodshot eyes as he drove on, the only one of us who knew how to drive stick and, therefore, the only one of us to do all of the driving (he resents it still). I remember Mae’s feet sticking idly out the open window, her shoes long abandoned somewhere inside the car, and I remember Stephen slouched over in the front passenger seat, snoring gently despite the hour, the rumbling of the Toyota a kind of lullaby in the afternoon haze.

Terry fiddled with the radio as he drove; mentioned something about how it was the only thing keeping him (and, therefore, us) alive at the moment.

And I remember, in strange succession, on radio stations whose frequencies seemed more like obscure mathematical formulations than simple identifiers (101.1 CIXF, 93.3 CJBZ, 90.0 CBRA), came all the classics: Bad (1987), Beat It (1983), Billie Jean (1982).

Thriller (1982).

And (my favourite), Smooth Criminal (1987).

Annie are you okay? So, Annie are you okay? Are you okay Annie?

Then came a few lesser known works, interludes between the real, genuine hits: Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin (1983), In the Closet (1992), You Rock My World (2001). Underrated, perhaps, in their day (or maybe just unremarkable).

Yet, they remained undeniable.

“Why is he following us today?” Mae said this, feet still out the window, toes lightly kissed by the sun. She asked this more than once, as the kilometers ticked by:

“Why now?”

“Why here?”

“Why MJ?”

There was an unease in her voice that spoke to our mixed feelings towards Michael Jackson – the one and only King of Pop, the man who revolutionized music and dance and fashion as we knew it – whose status as a cultural icon remained undisputed, yet marred by garish speculation of his (apparent) eccentricities (his health, his features, his monkey) and unproven (and hence all the more lurid) talk of his dark predilections.

A tarnished idol; a fallen star.

(But an idol, a star, nonetheless.)

The fame, the scandal, the infamy: he made for a formidable apparition. That he had become our unsolicited chaperone, just as we found ourselves at a loss at what to do and where to go, made this impression of him (made him?) all the more uncanny.


…to be continued.


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Filed under Celebrity, Change, Death, People, Places, Pop Culture, THE PAST, Travel

Teeth (Part 2)

Have you ever had a friend with whom you could say the worst things – not about other people or even yourself, but about life, about life itself? Terry is that friend for me.

Terry slapped a hand against his cheek, the one that had been so egregiously affronted by the broken tooth. He nearly flung himself from his chair. He swore some more.

A lot, actually: “Fuck, fuck, fuck! I have nothing now! Nothing! My teeth were all I had!”

“Your teeth – ?” I began.

Terry elabourated: “When I’m an old man and I have nothing else and I’m fetid and I’m dying and my kids have abandoned me and I’ve lost all my money and all my hair, I figured at least I’d have my teeth! Now what the fucking hell do I have? Nothing, nothing. Ass.”

I looked at Mae. “You probably won’t even make it to old age, Terry,” I said. “You can die tomorrow and with your teeth busted, it’d come out the same. That’s better than it sounds, isn’t it?”

“I could have been an old man with great teeth! That would have been…More than, better then -” he lost his train of thought. “Ow!”

Stephen sipped his drink.

Vain people are everywhere: places where you look and places you’d never think to look. I don’t know if that’s anyone’s fault. And maybe they are not so much vain people, but people that are vain about something. Who knows?

But ever know anyone vain about their teeth? Who, for example, brushed them vigorously in the morning and at night, who, for instance, flossed so religiously it was sacrilegious, it was obscene, and who, as a matter of pure fact, guarded them as carefully as a mother hen, as a tigress does their precious offspring?

Terry was very proud of his teeth; Terry was that proud of his teeth. And I’ll admit, up until then, they had been perfect: bright, gleaming, evenly spaced, with a good tooth-to-gum ratio. They reminded me of white picket fences, of flawless, snow-capped peaks, of Freud. The impression they left was one better than that of mere possibility, or potential: it was of defiance itself.

Defiance dentata.

Understand. For Terry, losing one tooth (even a partial loss) was as bad – worse even – than losing them all.


Terry and I once watched Teeth (2007), a movie about a girl whose vagina dentata is first her only defence then her best weapon against her attackers; men close to her and also strangers; men who molest, assault, rape.

“The teeth,” Terry had said about it. “At least she has her teeth.”

And here we were now: a bubble tea restaurant where Terry could not say the same for himself.

Oh well. “Terry,” I said. “You might as well suck it up.”

Terry spat out each word: “Suck. It. Up?” So much for being amiable.

“Fine. Lose all your teeth, why the fuck not? Knock the rest of them out for all that they’re worth now, crumple up into the gutter ass-up and die.” I’m never sure if I’m more or less articulate when I’m mad, or approaching it.

Terry’s mouth twitched. “I can’t afford to go to the dentist. What if this ends up hurting all the time?”

Ah. “What doesn’t?”

I am now reminded of the time when I was in the fourth grade and I begged my mom to take me to the dentist because my teeth felt loose. I’d grab a tooth and wriggle and it honestly felt like my teeth, all of them, were not properly attached to the rest of me. I was terrified of losing them (again, see Freud…or maybe, actually Jung?). More: I was convinced I would lose them merely because it was a possibility. The dentist thought I was insane. My mom, who has a hard time believing allergies (read: other people’s) are real, concurred. Did she ever. A lot, actually. It hurt.

“What doesn’t?”

And Terry, finally, let it go. Insomuch as someone like Terry could “let it go” at a time like that.

In any case, he stopped complaining as much (that is, as much as he could have).

“I guess I really can die tomorrow.”

It’s never so bad that it can’t get worse. Hope for the worst so that anything less than that has to be better. Sometimes that’s even more than you can ask for.

(Most times, you’re not even in a position to ask.)

Terry knows that, and so do I.











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Filed under Friends, Interruptions, People, Places, Relationships, Ritual, THE PAST

The Meatloaf

In my dream, I made Stephen a meatloaf.

“I am going to make Stephen a meatloaf!”

That was the thought that echoed inside my head inside the dream that I was having, and if I was struck – inside the dream, inside my head – by the banality of the situation, I didn’t mind it.

I was going to make Stephen a meatloaf!

I was in a kitchen. It was my kitchen, but it wasn’t my kitchen – far too many familiar Things slightly askew and all manner of angles and proportions totally off or absent. Yet, it was a near perfect square of a space – four walls, but only three that I could see. I never turned around, but I remember feeling the fourth wall at my back even as I looked in from above, in the dream, to see myself facing walls 1, 2 and 3.

Everything was yellow and blue, I think. The floor was blue, I’m sure of it. The oven was yellow, dated: a 1970s-ish nightmare with an opaque, greased-over-from-a-million-uses cube of a window protruding from its exact centre.

Yellow or yellowed?

Yellow or yellowed?

I watched myself toss, throw, hurl and dump all manner of ingredients into the silver mixing bowl that I bought in Chinatown and that I keep in a cupboard by the sink. Into the bowl went globs of indiscernible brown-bridge goo, torrents of indistinct liquid, clouds of indistinguishable powder.

Meatloaf into meatloaf tray –> meatloaf tray into oven –> oven turned on high-highest.

The meatloaf started to raise, immediately (I did not know they rose. That was a dream surprise for me). It soon over took the tray and threatened to very quickly overwhelm the inside of the greasy-1970s-yellow-cube-oven.

But I waited.

I waited and I waited and I waited for it to get big, big, B-I-G enough!

A stephen meatloaf had to be big, big, big B-I-G, or it couldn’t be Stephen Meatloaf!

When it was done, it too was an almost perfect cube. I pried it out of the oven with two thick black plastic spatulas.  I plopped the Thing on the table by the sliding door that, I knew, wasn’t just there before.  And then, looking down at the meatloaf, I was wreaked with a kind horrific epiphany.

Even though I knew exactly what I was doing, it came out completely wrong.

The meatloaf was too messy; stuff was mixed and blended everywhere. There was no separating them; no hope of returning to basic elements.

No going back to the time before the meatloaf. Before I made Stephen a meatloaf.

The puzzle had been pulped.


I remember gasping myself awake. Then being awake and staring at an empty ceiling in the near dark of the early morning, listening to the blood rush in my ears.

Stephen was sleeping soundly beside me, totally unaffected.

I reached over and poked and squeezed him.  He was all there, intact and snoring lightly. He was turned towards the wall with his back to me. Rather loaf-like, if I had to admit it.

Eventually, I tried to fall back asleep again, with the hope that I would not finish the possibly unfinished dream.

Still, I wonder…if I had gone just a bit further, in the dream, what could have been.

Possibly, it would have been delicious?

“Interesting” is not the word.

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Filed under Food, Mind and Body, Relationships

Impressions At the Old Ballgame

Expelled from the dark bellows of the TTC into the brilliant light of day, a contingent of breathless retirees gracing me with an unbidden, heartfelt and completely off-key rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” as I blast pass them at the turnstile and go, up, up and out!

Out from deep within the bowels Union Station and onto the surface world, amongst tendrils of fans at the exit’s edge, merging with them even though I, as novice, will spend our time together dancing as gracefully as I can on that line between spectator/participant (but probably not as well as I think), bleeding with them into amassing throngs of blue tinged beige slowed intermittently by traffic and the churning volume of human bodies as we/they head, at a march, to the stadium: men, women and children, old and young, white and miscellaneous, most with caps donned and all with spirits high.

A beautiful day for a ballgame.

But lovely!

Lady in the foreground: you are damn distracting.


Big City Life. Until now I thought I had that part of my life, you know, down. I can hail a cab and ride the subway. I know the best places to eat plenty for the cheap. I know the difference between “vintage” and “retro” (in Toronto, this is apparently crucial knowledge) and have perfected patiently-bemused-face for the benefit of disoriented tourists seeking directions to the CN Tower.

“[But] you live in Toronto for how long now and you’ve never been to a baseball game?? How about a Raptor’s game?”

No and no.  As it is, I’m hardly ever even in the downtown.  The questions are coming at me from Nigel, a wonderfully gregarious if not altogether charming young man who plays a duel role as my sister Dolly’s longtime, legitimate boyfriend.[1] He’s the kind of person you like, really, but are unsure of why, exactly, that is. Something in the air of him, possibly, but that has little to do with how he carries himself.

Stephen and I have joined Dolly and Nigel and a few mutual friends to celebrate our friend, Enes’, birthday. I forget how old he is. Throughout the day, Dolly, who is just as at home in the gaping maw of the ROGERS CENTRE as she is telling stump-necked, lipless men where to get the fucking hell off, will be my guide for the day’s events. She probably knew this, coming in, but something in her face around about the third inning  – a shadow just under her cheeks, a slight dilation of the pupil – suggests that she underestimated just how much I would pester her with my incessant questions, random comments and furrowed brow.


“What are they doing now?”

I know next to nothing about baseball, let along Major League Baseball and all its associated figures and stats and rituals and traditions, and it shows, and though Nigel is aware of both of these apparent deficiencies in my character, he remains baffled by inexperience and absence. I try to explain:

“Why would I and pay, like, $60 just to go to a game? That’s, like, a lot.”

“For the feel of it!  The atmosphere! The vibe!”

“The good touch?”


I say no more.


What I can do with $60 (READ: what it gets me)

  • 60 burritos.
  • “Nice” groceries.
  • A small abundance of dog food for Lou.
  • $40 away from $100.
  • Scattered TTC fare for a 30-day month (if I stay home every second day or so and remember, remember to get a transfer).
  • 120 half-priced burritos.


The ROGERS CENTRE, née: the Skydome, is spectacle unto itself.  To the uninitiated, it is an intimidating place and rather unsettling in its vast intimacy. On a good weather day like today, the dome has been retracted, which in the act of taking away actually serves to emphasize the absolute bigness absolutely of everything.

So many humans being...

Oh, the humanity!

Physically, there isn’t a place to swing a dead cat without hitting several someones and elbowroom is at a premium.

Psychically, it strikes as an act of pure derangement to try to get to know even a fraction of the people here beyond one’s own particular subgroup of friends and/or acquaintances. It’s just too much.  Too much, too much, too much….

Practically, and for what I am guessing are a variety of intersecting reasons, we were all there for the same Thing, or at least our interests coalesce around this one Thing.

The Beautiful Game.

Not including luxury suite seats, the ROGERS CENTRE can hold up to a maximum of 46, 105 people for one baseball game. For concerts, the upper limit is a cool 55, 000.  On this day, entire sections were admittedly empty (mostly the “nose-bleed seats” as Dolly calls them), but even then we’re talking about a few thousand from what must have been a few tens of thousands.


We arrive just in time to for the singing of national anthems, American then Canadian.  Our $60 seats get us close, only a few rows from the field itself. I can see the expressions on the player’s faces and make out individual smudges and grass stains. This, I surmise, must be what Nigel counts as integral to “vibe”, although we probably could have just as easily basked in such “vibe” a few, more affordable rows back.

Next time, maybe?

Like up there, maybe.

Today it’s the Toronto Blue Jays v. the New York Yankees and the Yankees, lacking the Home Game Advantage, are up first at bat.  There is a gargantuan Jumbo Screen affixed just under the rim of the dome on the side of the dome that faces home base. It lists scores, lineups, players’ names and stats and entertains the crowd with games and graphics.

It helps.

Craning my neck away from the screen and towards the crowd, it hits me that I am seeing more people in a single glance than I will ever meet in an entire lifetime, and this again leaves me with the curious and regrettable feeling of having so much unfinished yet impossible work to do.  The thrum of the crowd washes over me and I find myself caught in its rhythmic sounds and motions. A nice feeling.






Along with the innocuous “I LIKE BACON!” the more common elongation either as heckle or encouragement (depending on the tone, artfully applied), of players’ last names – i.e. “SWISHEEEEEEEER” (heckle) v. “SWISHEEEEEEEER” (encouragement)  – and the less instructive “DO SOMETHING!” The Game, Dolly assures me, has really officially started.


It is not long into the game that I see it, directly ahead, above and to the right of me, where the dome turns in on itself.

Humans undulating, in turns, en masse.

How do Waves get started? How do they catch on? It’s like a flock of starlings dancing above the horizon on a midsummer’s waning afternoon: who knows?

Dolly’s answer: “You have to know when it’s starting.”



Fourth inning, or possibility the fifth? The teams are either tied or the Yankees are up by 1.

Hungry now. But my hunger is at total odds with my flat out refusal to buy anything here given the exorbitant prices.

The sun is shining on our backs, burning the top flesh of my right ear. I notice that people all around me seem to be eating something, and there are vendors carrying trays of food and drink atop their heads not unlike the women in the backgrounds of adventure movies where the non-threatening male leads sweat in a way that can only be interpreted as both sexy and acceptable.

OK sexy.

Just...a little...closer.

Baby, baby. Come to Mamma.

I try to distract myself from my hunger by wondering how the handful of uniformed police officers I see placed strategically around the field could possibly contend with the hordes before them, or even come to the aid of an individual in distress somewhere out there, should something go awry, but then deterrence may be the highest level this particular game within a game aspires to. A sign of the times.  Sad.

I try to focus on the game. No luck! So hungry with innings and innings to go and our planned Chinatown after game meal so, so far away…

Eventually, I break down and get a soft pretzel, cost $4.50.

Only in the moment.

Worth it?

My conviction is that the embarrassment of riches of salty snacks, etc. at the ROGERS CENTRE is a rather unembarrassed device to sell more $10.00+ beers and $4.00+ bottles of slightly chilled water; the tradition of having these classic and well-loved goodies at the old ballgame aligning perfectly with the tremendous profit margins they inspire.

Water costs more than a pretzel, but less than a bag of almost $6.00 peanuts.


Nigel buys Dolly some popcorn ($6.50/bag). I greedily scoop generous handfuls into my mouth, even though I made her switch pretzels with me (hers was “toastier-looking”) and knew that she, too, was doing the math.


C: “They’re playing Montell Jordan. Whatever happened to that guy?”

D: “I dunno. Either died or found Jesus.”


C: “They keep playing the same songs.”

D: “Each player has his own song.”


C: “Do they get to pick their own songs?”

D: “I think so.”

The songs they played throughout the game – it’s soundtrack, if you will – ranged from the blatantly obvious (Take Me Out to the Ballgame) to the slightly cryptic (What Makes You Beautiful), and included (but were not limited to) the following:

  • Hypnotize (Notorious B.I.G.)
  • Gangnam Style (Psy)
  • This is How We Do It (Montell Jordan)
  • Young Folks (Peter Bjorn and John)
  • My Girl (The Temptations)
  • I Want You Back (Jackson Five)
  • A country song with lyrics about setting a car on fire (?)
  • We Will Rock You (Queen)
  • Bulletproof (La Roux)
  • Seven Nation Army (White Stripes)
  • Pumped Up Kicks (Foster the People)
  • Misirlou (Dick Dale)
  • Rockafeller Skank (Fatboy Slim)
  • Born to be Wild (Steppenwolf)

Actually, only parts of these songs are played – choruses (this is how we do it/this-is-how-we-do-it) and hooks (hey, sexy laaaaaaaadieeee!), mostly – just long enough to rile up the crowd during a lull in the action or in anticipation of some action. There is a lot of shifting around in baseball and the games played by the spectators between plays played by the players are obvious testament to this fact. Answer the quiz on the Jumbo Screen! Do a Dance! Attract the T-Shirt Lady! Win a prize.[3]

Sit down again.

I have difficulty matching player and song and eventually give up trying.

If I could pick out my own song to suit me, it would be Return to Innocence (Enigma), and I would have it played in its entirety before I do anything. Just something to smooth-over the crowd. Give the people a nice, easy treat to bring them back to down before the next guy ramps it up all over again with catchy lyrics or driving baselines.


Cloudy now, the sun, as it turned out hours later, now gone completely for the day. I had intended to take a jacket to the game but neglected to put it in my little backpack, which just fit under the ROGERS CENTRE’s crammed plastic seating.  The seats themselves are Blue Jays Blue. They are not made for generous butts and their arrangement suggests that legroom was little more than an afterthought. Stephen’s shins touch the back of the seat in front of him and glancing at them makes me long for a PEZ dispenser for the summit of his knee.

Tweety Bird of course.

The stadium’s lights have come on. There’s a definite chill in the air.

Only memories of searing ear flesh keep me warm.


Final inning! Yankees at the bat!

A Mister Ichiro Suzuki is getting ready for the pitch. He does this Thing where he holds the bat at arm’s length at a 90 degree angle, erect and proud, gripping it firmly and confidently in his fist at the base, looking very much like he’s lining up the perfect shot. I briefly envision his marksmanship upon a grassy knoll – how effective it would be, how precise – but immediately dismiss the thought with all the mental energy I can muster in my depraved, post-pretzel state.


Locked and loaded.

Suzuki’s bat, I’ve learned, is no ordinary, run-of-the-mill MLB bat. He keeps in a special case along with its seven brothers, all handcrafted and calibrated to his specific needs.  The Blue Jays are now up by 1. Dolly is on her feet, cheering wildly, as is everyone else around us, and as I move to join them I become distracted by the racist catcalls of one man behind us, drunk off his motherloving ass – “GO BACK TO JAPAN!” – my thoughts eclipsed by a moment of blind outrage and incredulity. But it passes and I turn back to the game thinking “why are you really all that surprised?”[4] only to realize that Suzuki has somehow already made it to first and a Mister Alex Rodriguez is back up at bat.

The wind up/The pitch/A crack of the bat and…POP!

Fly ball, dead at centre.

Game over?


I cannot impress upon you the abruptness of it all. One minute, BATTER UP! The next, BATTER OUT! a beat and then another en masse moment wherein people by the thousands launch from their butted seats to their feet in a mad dash through rows and up aisles to get the hell out of there before the crowding at the doors gets really, truly crazy.

As we roll away with the tide of the crowd, riding a force not quite our own, the reassuring voice of the day’s announcer wishes us a good day and a “we hope to see you again.” The Voice, I realize, must have been there with us all along, all day long.

I wonder why I hadn’t noticed it before even as I search for Stephen among the faces of the people behind me.

Seymour Butts!

In which I got buttstraced.


[1] Totally.

[2] Dolly, in response to my puzzled look: “Like the pitcher’s nails are too long and he’s throwing the ball all wrong.”

[3] Prizes on this day included: baseball caps, headphones, plane tickets, T-shirts and gift certificates to Boston Pizza.

[4] Why indeed, considering.


Filed under Entertainment, Friends, Places, Sports

An Open Letter To Cindy Phan

A few months ago, I posted this.  Today you have it, as well as what I wrote back yesterday.


April 17 1997

Dear Cindy,

Unless you’re totally absent-minded, you’ll remember that it’s me, Cindy!  And this is that letter that I wrote to you (or me, whatever), 15 years ago in english class in grade nine.

So how’s life?  I can tell you right now it’s not so great.  But there are a few things that I can stand about it.

First things first:  Lucky had her 7th birthday yesterday (April 16).  I hope that you’ve breed her because I’d like to have one of her puppies.  It’s hard to write about her knowing that she probably won’t be with me in 15 years.  God!  Let’s put that ugly thought aside.

I wonder what your favourite T.V shows are right now?  I know that I I’ve to watch The X-Files, Friends, Melrose Place, Caroline in the City, The Simpsons, Xena: Warrior Princess, and course, The Adventures of Sinbad!!!  Even though you and I both know that we don’t watch that show for its content.  We watch it for Zen Gesner!!  Gee, I wonder if he’s still hot?  Gross!!  He’ll be 43 when you open this!

You know what?  Time really sucks!

I wonder how life turned out for you.  I hope it worked out how I planned.

First, I’ll get a full scholarship.  I know that it sounds impossible, but I’d do anything to get away from home.  Then I’ll move into a dorm with my best friend, Kim.  I hope we’re still friends in the future.

During school (collage or university I haven’t decided yet), Kim and I will date all the hot guys we can handle.  Until I finally stick with one as my boyfriend.

After I graduate, Kim and I will find an apartment to live in as roomates for a little while longer.  Hopefully it’ll be in Toronto, Vancouver, or New York.  I’ll get my first job.

From there, I’ll just take life as it comes to me.

I just hope things turned out something like that.  But if they didn’t, at least you tried you best anyway.  But you make me sick!!

Anyway, I gotta go now.  The periods is almost over and my hand is stating to get all numb.

Sincerely, with love ( and surprisingly without a punch-line),

Cindy Phan

Even though I am so not in love with love, this is nice.

From Cindy to Cindy.


April 17 2012

Dear Cindy,

I remember that English class.  It was taught by someone fresh out of teacher’s college who believed she had been “called” to teaching.  Her words and big deal.  Lots of people get called to Things.  Cults, jury duty.  We had an uncle once that was “called” as a spirit medium, but at least he wasn’t hurting anybody with pointless busy work.  He wasn’t wasting anyone’s precious time, forcing them to eventually make the most of it.

And he channeled Victor Hugo.  Twice that I know of.

Ah, life.  It continues, unabated.  We count that as a plus.  Trust me.

Time to give you some bad news that you-don’t-already-do-in-fact-know.  Lucky died the day you had a midterm, hours before the midterm.  You wrote the midterm anyway and failed, magnificently.  Honestly, you thought “Narcanthropus” was a hominid.  It is not.  She never had puppies.

But, hey!  Pets can be cloned now!  There’s a show about on TLC.  Isn’t that wild?

You have a new dog, Louis, who is by coincidence turning 7.  So not so new.  It took a few years after Lucky died before you got another dog, but the strangeness of not having a dog ate at you till you gave in.  You do not have the money to clone Lou and he cannot have puppies.

Take the hint!

You were the only one in the free world who watched Caroline in the City with any regularity, with any sense or semblance of loyalty.  A true fan.  And now I have to live with it.

Did you also list Friends??  You little asshole.  You are ruining me.

Sex.  You’ve had it.  And it is so, so much better than Caroline in the City.   As for Zen Gesner, his show got cancelled due to crippling mediocrity but the man lives on.  In our heart(s).

But leave the rope. And the sword. But bring the sword back when I'm through with the man. Please?

A man. A rope. A sword. All I need.

Also: 40 is the new 30 now, at least for those who can afford the upkeep.  Let’s just hope Zenny’s done well for himself.

Despite what I’m reading in retrospect as perhaps an unhealthy obsession with television – or worse and better a shyness about finding the right Things to say, even to yourself (you’re over that now) – you made it to university, on a partial scholarship (negligible, really).  Turns out, you really like Anthropology and Political Science so that’s all you studied for years and years.  But academia wasn’t for you, at least not after a while, so now you’re kind of…sitting on them.

For now.

You and Kim are still best friends – a high achievement in your life and I mean it.  She unfortunately moved out West shortly after you wrote this letter.  You still keep in touch and have had rare visits back and forth.

I guess all the plans with Future Kim had a lot to due with the fact that you didn’t really connect with the other people you hung out with in high school.  You now know, more so than you kind of only knew then, that your aloofness was for Good Reason.

You’ll be pleased to know:  many of those people actually got exactly what they wanted out of life and now they have to live with it, even if they never quite figure out that’s exactly what’s happening to them.  I sometimes think it’s also exactly what they deserve, but I am not always so cruel.

We’re not sorry.

You still take life as it comes to you, you’ll be happy to know.  What else?  You find it distasteful when carrots are bigger than zucchinis because that unduly gives zucchinis carrot envy.  Tacos are still one of your top favourite foods and when you discovered that fish tacos were real (you were 23, shame) you almost died of innuendo.  Farts have never been more hilarious.

You’re in a relationship with a boy named Stephen and you both live with Lou in glorious Toronto.  Stephen gives you a spoon to stir the coffee he makes you in the morning because you complained about it on the Internet, which is, like, HUGE now.

You. Cannot. Even. Believe.

So.  Any of this making you “sick”?  If any of it does, just too fucking bad for you.  You’re in the ninth grade and haven’t figured out that 7 plus 15 equals more than “probably won’t”.  You have a lot to go before you’re me, Past Cindy.

But then again I have had the advantage of being you.

Call it even, I guess.

Anyway, to end.  15 years ago, you wrote this letter to me, and 15 years ago the Titanic sank 100 years ago.  Once in 3D.  The math’s all there. (This has nothing really to do with anything, except that we are still very amused by how things line up sometimes.  Like the other day at Honest Ed’s when all of our purchases, with tax, came to exactly $13.00.  We got $7.00 whole dollars back from a $20.00 bill!  Fucking.  Amazing.).

I love you too.

Cindy Phan

P.S.  If Mom ever: 1) learns to properly use the Internet and 2) Finds this blog, she will kill you like you’ve never been killed before by her and she’s killed you A LOT over the years.  All that broken English?  Smoke and mirrors, girl.  Smoke and mirrors.

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English is not my first language.  Growing up, there were words that I misheard, mispronounced and, at times, misunderstood.  There were those who found my clumsy handling of words hilarious and I remembered that for later, mostly so I could bring it up in moments like now.

Feel good about yourself? 

Even today, despite both practice and time, there are a few words that remain tricky:

How do words word, anyway?We didn’t normally keep bread in the house, so this is what occasionally still comes to my mind:

I am nothing if not an ardent patriot.

Rather than this:

It's the slices that make the loaf.

Whenever I hear this:


Years later, I learned from Stephen that one of his favourite childhood pastimes was to take a slice of whitebread (“It only works with whitebread!”) so that he could pinch off pieces of it to roll around between his thumb and forefinger.  He would then EAT the bread-ball and repeat the process until the slice of bread was gone.

Rolling up whitebread into bite-sized balls of whitebread.

He would clamour for it, as did a few of my friends when I asked all of my friends about this bizarre culinary phenomenon.

Being the experimental type when the stakes are low enough, I decided to try this whitebreadroll for myself.

I was utterly underwhelmed.

Rolls rolly rolled.

WHY is this delicious??

Then again, I’m the kind of girl who enjoys dried squid with chili sauce.

So maybe it’s all just a matter of taste.  You know, circumstances.

Get kraken.

Squid pro go!

So…maybe I was right all along, after all.

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Filed under Food