Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Bleeding Blue.

Mats Sundin, hockey player extraordinaire and incomparable captain of the Maple Leafs, has very little in common with me. He's 6'5, and I'm not. He's a gold-medal Olympian, and I'm not. He's Swedish, and I'm not. But the one thing we both share is a love for our adopted city, Toronto.

I know why I love Toronto. I love the sidewalk art, and the smell of the harbour, and the excellent people-gazing on street cars, and the fact that someone actually eats the stuff that's been floating around in tepid wiener water for perhaps days on end.

Why Mats loves Toronto is a little more mysterious. The truth is, Toronto is not always as generous or as grateful to Mats as he deserves. He's carried the team on his shoulders this season. He's not just the best player on the team, he IS the team, if a team could be as humble and unassuming as Sundin has remained throughout his stellar career.

Recently there has been a lot of talk about a trade - and this after Mats has given 13 years to the team, captained for a decade, and scored more than 400 goals while wearing the number 13. With a no-trade clause to his contract, Mats has said repeatedly that he wants to finish his career in the city he has come to think of as his home. He has the skill and prestige to lead another team to a Stanley Cup if he allowed such a trade, but he chooses instead to stay on a team that is slowly being rebuilt, still experiencing growing pains, and unlikely to become very winning any time soon. He's not in it for the trophies, or the glory, or the attention. Clearly, he's in it for the love of the game.

This sentiment of his is so rare that people don't know what to make of it. He's been mistakenly (and stupidly) labelled 'selfish' because people have forgotten what 'loyalty' looks like.

This, my friends, is being true to your team.

Sure, it might make good business sense to make the trade, but hockey is not a business, or not just a business at any rate. Yes, people try to make absurd amounts of money off it, but at the end of the day, hockey is a game. Hockey is about fire and passion. You have to love it. You have to want it. You can manage it all you want, but at the end of the day, if you rip the heart out of the team, you don't have much of a team.

No, Toronto doesn't deserve Sundin, but we sure are lucky to have him.

A friend of mine, a fan of the game, a fan of the Leafs, and above all a fan of Mats Sundin, said to me that if Mats were to leave, it would break her heart into 13 pieces.

I cannot begin to equal her zeal, but I do know a good thing when I see it, and I see it in Mats.
I just wish the rest of Toronto could see it too.

Monday, February 25, 2008

As long as old men sit and talk about the weather.

I love old men.

I don't love them in the little-blue-pill sense of the word (I prefer my Viagra to be used recreationally, in a cocktail of vodka and redbull, instead of taken furtively, with a swallow of tap water and a prayer to the baby Jesus, if Jesus is indeed in charge of boners).

I just find them rather cute.

My grandpa takes cute to the next level.

It's so sweet how he has "indoor slippers" and "driving slippers", and how he walks around looking constantly sheepish, and how his suspenders curve around his pot belly, and how he likes to tell us "stories", which are actually off-colour jokes, sometimes so off-colour that my grandmother blushes and hits him.

And I love how he has one solid memory per person. It's like he's purging his memory bank, culling nearly 80 years worth of material, and distilling it to just one essential fact about everyone he knows. He always recalls how my mother once dumped a pot of caramel over her head. That's what he chooses to remember about her, out of all of her accomplishments, of all the things she's done, the obstacles she's overcome, her most passionate pursuits....and he just chuckles about the way she licked herself clean. About me he likes to tell how he and I would two-step together in his foyer when I was a very little girl. Actually, I still like to tap my toes in there, because it has a resonating echo that just can't be beat.

Thinking about the danciest foyer I've ever clicked my heels in reminds me of other family gatherings, where the grownups would sit around the table, playing cards and gambling for coin. My grandfather would dip into his earnings to give us each a penny to get a gumball out of the machine downstairs. He also had a peanut machine, but that one didn't require money, you just pulled the lever and out came a handful of lovely saltiness.

I'm pretty sure that damn peanut machine made me fat.

It also made me better at math. I would sort my peanuts obsessively before eating them. The ones that came out unscathed, one side still clinging mightily to the other, I would cherish and sweep aside, saving them for last. The ones that were sadly unmatched I would count, and then divide into groups and munch quickly, indiscriminately. Notice how OCD was hardly ever diagnosed back in the 80s.

I believed that peanut butter was invented some time around 1985.
I believed that tiny babies were housed inside traffic lights and controlled the green, amber, and red.
I believed that jelly bracelets went well with everything.
I believed that my budgie and my great-grandmother were keeping each other company in heaven, even though Polly was buried in our garden and Granny was not.

Maybe things were just easier to believe in back then. The 80s are not normally known for their naivete, and I hope I am not either, but everyone comes from a simpler time, a time when your thermos is reliably filled with zoodles and your underwear has the days of the week printed on them, and someone else does the towelling when you step out of the bath.

But I hope that those days are not irretrievably behind me. I think that they are not, just as long as I still dance for the heck of it.
As long as my mother still craves her caramel.
As long as old men sit and talk about the weather.
As long as old women sit and talk about old men.

Monday, February 18, 2008

What's Love Got To Do With It?

The government of Ontario decided that us overworked fools deserved an additional stat holiday, by which I mean that we, the voters, have been throwing hissy fits about this for a decade now and somebody finally (foolishly) made it an election promise, and kinda sorta followed through on it, eventually.

So here we are. Family Day, it says on our calendars. Hangover Monday might be a more accurate description. Or:

  • Small Reward For Freezing Your Nuts Off Day
  • Staying in Bed and Eating Oreos for Lunch Without Worrying About Trans-Fats or Crummies Day
  • Gutless Pandering to the Electorate Day
  • "Fuck you, Walmart, you have to close 9 times a year now, bitch!" Day.

Of course, if we were actually obligated to spend time with our families on this day, we'd have to call it Dysfunctional Family Day. I mean, not all of us are singing-around-the-campfire, playing-catch-with-dad, wholesome-conversation-over-spaghetti, go-out-in-public-together-without-consuming-hard-liquor kind of people. There certainly hasn't been any rousing boys vs girls pond hockey followed by cookies still warm from the oven and hot chocolate and matching sweaters knit my grandma for me.

Not that I'm complaining.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Poncho! Poncho! Poncho!

Ah, the intoxicating scent of hand sanitizer.
Is there anything else quite like it?
The sign on my doctor's office asks me politely (but in bold) to douse my hands in the stuff before entering the building.
I'm either flattered that she's looking out for my health, or insulted that she thinks I'm dirty.
Either way, I am now permitted to enter the building, but am waylaid in the foyer. Another, bolder sign ordering rather than asking me to remove my shoes, or, if I will not stoop quite so low (or believe that the probability of another patient stealing my Uggs is high), to at least encase my outdoor shoes in paper booties, supplied at no extra cost by my bleeding-heart doctor.

Finally I am fit to tread upon the hallowed carpets leading to the surly receptionist. She deigns to pass me the almighty clipboard where I will jot down the same information I jotted down last time, which she apparently threw out before the ink even dried because she sits in the ergonomic chair behind the desk and I am but the mere peon who perches uncomfortably with the unwashed masses in the plastic moulded chairs scattered unimaginately in the designated waiting area.

My doctor's taste in receptionists is questionable, but I adore how solicitous she is of me. She realizes that I am busy, that life is hectic, so she takes care of me by allowing me an extended, 70-minute rest among similarly harried people. Goodness knows I would never take the day off work and treat myself to kicking back in a pair of paper booties and indulging in a Reader's Digest from last century on my own. It was nice to have some random Tuesday me-time. Well, me and a dozen other people. People with coughs and upsetting medicinal smells who make odd honking noises and use the bathroom more times in 70 minutes than normal people should. When I'm done perusing the fascinating tale of courage in the face of adversity that every single Digest from the past 54 years contains by default (no worries, they always survive), I am delighted to entertain myself with a rousing round of "Guess the Disease".

The man across from me with the boulbous nose, mismatched argyle socks and a wheeze that would put an asthmatic donkey to shame probably has something intestinal, I'm guessing. The sweaty woman with the blotchy complexion and the runs in her nylons probably has a nasty rash hidden somewhere under all that rayon. As for the dude with the tube sock pinned around his neck, his moaning and eye-rolling make the game all too easy, but before I can render a diagnosis, a miracle happens and my name is mispronounced, but done loudly enough that I recognize the gurgling as vaguely resembling the noise my mother called me when I came ripping out of her belly.

Don't cry for me - the fun didn't stop there. In fact, once I shed my clothes and donned not the dreaded paper gown but something entirely new and even more horrendous - the paper poncho.

It had a head hole, and that was it.
Not even a belt to cinch in the waist.
Imagine the fun every time I walked over a heating vent! It would fly straight up over my face, like an inverted umbrella in the wind, except all my dangly bits were, well, dangling.
At least the poncho matched the booties.

But wait! There's more.
If you're feeling interactive, you can go to your kitchen right now, and fashion a poncho for yourself out of paper towels. But first run the paper towels under the tap.
How's it going for you? Are you comfortable in your moist paper poncho from hell? Warm? Feeling confident enough to stroll down the hallway filled with non-ponchoed people or flirt with the uber-handsome doctor (who is also wearing clothes that aren't see through or quickly disintegrating)?
Hint: ultrasound gel is much like tap water, in that it also compromises the integrity of a paper garment.
Hint: there is no way to accessorize a paper poncho.
Hint: I still look cuter than asthmatic donkey guy. Ponchoes really don't flatter the man boobs.

I never thought I'd see the day that had me missing the good old paper gown, but it turns out that arm holes are essential for not looking like a moron. But a poncho? Come on! I'm worried that next time I go, they'll have nothing but a paper sash, or a paper fig leaf, or just a paper hat.

Try not to picture that.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Operation Love Letter

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If you've lately been over to The Quickie Book Review, then you know that the book most recently on my nightstand has been Four Letter Word, a work of original love letters by some of my (and probably your) favourite authors.

You might be thinking that a book of love letters is a suitable read for February, the month of looooooooove, and you'd be right, but you'd also be wrong. It's not filled with candy-heart cliches, the i's are not dotted with little red hearts, it's certainly not vomit-inducing "romance." Some of it inspires murder. Some of it inspires regret. Some of it inspires longing. Some of it just inspires. It's lovely.

The book was conceived of presumably because the art of the love letter is slowly dying. Curse you, email and texting, for taking away the whimsy and the pleasure of the good old-fashioned, pen-to-paper love letter. It got me thinking:

1. 41 authors contributed love letters to this anthology, and none of them are me. I may not be an expert on love, but I think I've had my moments.

2. On the other hand, I might be too, erm, lascivious, for love letters of the old-fashioned variety. The standard fare should not contain the words "throbbing", "juicy", or "from behind", as mine invariably do.

I've felt compelled to resurrect my love-lettering, the results of which I will be posting over at the Novel-less Novelist for the month of February. There is something quite gratifying about writing a love letter. They can be selfless or selfish, prim or evocative. They can reignite old flames or lay ashes to rest. It depends on who is writing, and also, on who is being written to.

Sending a love letter is exhilarating, and sometimes makes you want to barf.

Receiving a love letter is surprising, and sometimes makes you want to rip your clothes off.

Who can resist?

Not I. Restraint has never been my forte.

So, I'm asking you this, dear readers. To not just be the reader today. To also be the writer.

Send me your love letters.

Ask for my post office box, and you shall receive. I want them all -

the scented notepaper, your best calligraphy, the stationary you horde all year, your sweetest words and best cupid doodles and heart-shaped stamps -

send them to me. Make an old goat happy.

They don't even have to be to me (of course, there's no time like the present for showering me with love or unburdening yourself of your secret desires). You could send fictional love letters, or copies of old letters that you've received, or theoretical letters that you might mean but you'd sure as hell never send (except to me, because I'm special), or an anonymous note with the Dear part left blank, or rhyming cornball couplets that make you queasy just to write them.

But do send them, won't you?