Sunday, March 29, 2009

The puppy who had no name.

If names had to be accurate describers, then so far Crotch-Sniffer, Whiny Bugger, and Cutie Patootie would all be winning, but instead the new love of my life is still nameless, so I'm asking for your help. Vote with your comments - does he look more like a:

a) Rex

b) Toby

c) Bruce Lee

d) Panda

e) Macaroni

f) Herbie

g) Marvin

Monday, March 16, 2009

Helpful Household Hint:

When you break a glass, a good way to make sure you got every last little sliver is to just take off your shoes and socks and walk around. It's guaranteed that if even one rogue piece evaded the bristles of your broom, it will come out of hiding to lodge itself in your foot in less time than it takes to say “Shit, I missed a piece.” Glass and the soles of your feet are locked in some sort of epic, time-honoured magnetic love-hate relationship. They cannot resist each other. Plus, in these trying economic times, I think it's important that we do what we can to make sure no one ever has to bail-out the bandaid factories.

You're welcome.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bright Flashing Lights

It lures you in with the promise of an all-you-can-eat buffet – seafood and prime rib. I can't vouch for the vats containing mounds of homogenneous, mostly unrecognizable food, but the shrimp skewers are lovely, and the crab legs divine. Plus, the staff hardly even look at you sideways when you fill a soup bowl with garlic butter sauce for dipping. And if that wasn't enough, the guy at the dessert station practically begs you to take a third scoop of ice cream, makes you feel like it's hardly worth a trip to the buffet at all if you don't leave with at least your weight in pie.

Only a casino can afford such generosity, and it does so, calculatedly, for one of two reasons:

1- to entice you through its doors in the first place
2- to keep you within its doors once you're there

The casino makes every effort to deny the world outside of it. There are no windows. The machines sing their songs 24 hours a day. The bright lights make it so that there is no day and no night, just gambling time and more gambling time. A crappy band in matching sequined vests plays on a continuous loop so that fleshy middle-aged women who mistakenly think they're still sexy can slither around to Mustang Sally. There are no clocks, of course, no reference to the passing of time at all if they can help it, but eventually the hour makes itself known by the rumbly in your tumbly. Your belly growls, you are hungry, and those measly little bags of chips clipped to the drinks cart just aren't going to cut it. The casino fears that if you followed your urge to eat, say, to the nearest restaurant, that you might not come back. That you might waste your hard-earned dollars elsewhere. And that would be tragic.

So they erect a massive gorging hall on premises – a buffet, naturally, something for everyone, and always at the back of the building so that even if you attempt to leave without hemorrhaging cash, you'll have to bypass at least 13 000 one-armed bandits first, each of them calling out to you: Hey baby, why don't you drop a quarter in my slot. You know you like it. Give it to me, stud. And people do. They stay, they pull up a stool, and they part with their money. Only not their physical money – the days of dropping actual quarters into the machine are behind us. God forbid the handling of tangible coin would remind you that this is real money we're talking about. It's way less intimidating to put a plastic card into the slot, and to print out a paper voucher when you're done. Makes the whole thing feel like Monopoly! Like it's just a game, and not your savings account. And when your plastic card runs dry, there are easy reloading stations right on premises that tap into your bank account so there's really no need to leave, ever! Hell, you can even remortgage your house at the casino. This is solely for your convenience, I imagine.

The casino is a beautiful place. It's all ornamental and shit. It's fancy so you can feel good about yourself while you lose th money you should have been spending on pampers and formula. Even the bathrooms are classy: the countertops are marble, the stall doors are cherry wood, the mirrors are lit up by individual glowing bulbs as if they were vanities belonging to celebrities, even the toilet seats are velvet-lined. Okay, that last part's not true. But the bathrooms really are quite posh, except for the sharps containers affixed periodically to the wall. Sharps containers are usually found where a lot of needs are used, like hospital emergency rooms and gas station bathrooms known to be popular with junkies. It's funny that an establishment that goes to such lengths to convince us of its great esteem also admits to a seedier underbelly. Funny but realistic, I suppose. An addict is an addict, no matter what the dress code.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Irrational thoughts on vans, and the creeps who drive them.

He pulls up beside me in his white utility van, slowing enough so that the pace of his lumbering vehicle nearly matches my own, its physical presence cutting me off from the rest of the world. It's eerie, being stalked by this great white whale. If his intention is to thoroughly creep me out, he's doing a good job. He rolls down the window to ask directions, and once dispensed, he does depart. But I can't shake my apprehension, nor can I believe that it never crosses his mind that this scenario is inappropriate. He could have stopped at any number of gas stations, but instead he turns down an isolated little side street and pursues a woman walking alone in the dark in an area not particularly well-lit. Yet he never considers that this is exactly the thing her mother has warned her about; exactly the thing that half of all email urban myths are about; the very essence of Stranger Danger personified.

He has to know that a man driving a large van is most often described as a suspect, or else an “alleged perpetrator” in the crime blotter section of any major newspaper. Those vans are the kidnapper's vehicle of choice. Even the car salesman at the lot sheepishly hands over a glossy brochure that says

“Perfect for abducting to your heart's content! Park it in a secluded spot and you can dismember in the privacy of your own fully-automatic vehicle without ever worrying that someone will overhear. Driver-controlled power locks ensure that no victim will ever escape. Now available in child-molester white!”

So yes, I'm wary of men in vans who drive up beside me in the middle of the night when I'm all alone. The question is: how is it that it never occurs to these men that they're giving me the bad kind of goosebumps? Because a week later, it happened again.

Another man pulls up beside me in another van, same quiet street, same time of night. He asks for directions, and I give them, generally, even though my beating heart tells me to run in the opposite direction as fast as my little legs will carry me. Placated, he drives away, once again leaving me wondering how these men can be so thoughtless, and whether scaring solitary women half to death is a common hobby among van owners, or if the neighbourhood predators really are just doing their recon work on me.

I don't get very far on my path or in my thoughts though, because van guy is back. He wants me to get in the van.

Suddenly, I'm feeling worse. He doesn't take no for an answer. He persists, trailing me at an ominous 5km\hr. If I guide him to where he wants to be, he says, he'll drop me off at the train station. He seems genuinely mystified that I'm not hopping right into a strange man's car. I walk briskly and ignore his yells and whistles. I don't know how far he might have followed me had I not turned up a pedestrian-only path.

And this is how I have come to dread my nightly commute to work. Common sense has refused to teach these men that some behaviours are just not acceptable and I'm paying a price. I've been made to feel unsafe in my own neighbourhood, which is not actually a dangerous place. But when I'm alone at night, I'm not reciting soothing crime statistics in my head. I'm fighting tears and quickening my pace. I'm not rational when it comes to protecting myself from harm.

Luckily, my momma didn't raise no fool. I won't be willingly climbing into the back of one of those vans unless the driver is really, really cute, or he's offering me an awful lot of money.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Rainbow Brite

One day last fall, my ex and I were standing in line at the LCBO and I let him pull out his wallet to pay for all the booze in arms, but instead he pulled out a hempy velcro excuse for a wallet.

"Andrew," I gasped, "what is the story behind that thing?"

He shrugged. "No story. Why do you ask?"

"Because a grown man in his 30s who still carries a velcro wallet had better either have a very good excuse or a very deep shame."


So then Christmas rolled around and I bought him a manly wallet, a leather trifold that I wouldn't be embarrassed to have foot my bar tabs. I felt quite smug about my bettering of poor Andrew until I made it down to the family home for Christmas myself, and ended up unwrapping a new wallet of my own.

My sister's reasoning was that I was the only one in the family who didn't have a proper wallet, by which she meant, a ridiculously expensive one. Which is true. I had my cards and cash stuffed into an oversized coin purse with skulls and crossbones on it. And I know you're thinking that's about as lame as a hemp velcro wallet, but actually, it wasn't lame, it was me expressing my individuality and my unwillingness to submit to the arbitrary requirements of adulthood. Or something like that.

But my sister insisted that I too should belong to the "nice wallet club", which I interpreted as "The rest of the family and I have decided we won't be seen with you in public until you convert to carrying something more reasonable." So for the past few months I've been walking around with a wallet that's too good for me, tucked away inside a purse worth a fraction of its cost and I've felt a great deal of unrest. I knew the moment I unwrapped it that this gift would end up costing me a fortune. Not only would I have to sign up for at least a dozen more credit cards in order to actually fill up all the empty slots, I'd also have to invest in a hand bag that would be worthy of my wallet.

Luckily, I had a savings account that used to be called "Jamie's retirement fund" but which quickly got renamed "Jamie's purse fund." Boxing week sales were still on, so I enlisted the help of my family to find me a purse that would make them proud. It was immediately clear that my "taste", as I erroneously called it, was actually an alarming lack of (good) taste according to everyone else. The first purse I pointed at, a zebra print bag that I honestly loved, was vetoed unanimously and it was decided that I would no longer be part of the selection process as my schizophrenic shopping was just slowing them down.

I never did get a purse and I've continued to use the ones I already owned and loved. One is constantly complimented for its bold purpleness, and another was recently given the Big Purse Award by my colleague. But last weekend, I found a bag that seemed to fit the right criteria: it was absurdly expensive, shiny, and had enough metallic junk on it to let others know that I had just spent about 3 months rent on it. But there was problem: I assumed that since I liked it, it must be wrong. Especially since it was orange. But my mother reassured me that it was in fact a "nice purse" and that it would make the others mad with jealousy. So I dug about 6 credit cards out of my wallet and between them, I bought the damn thing.

And then my mother asked what I would wear it with, and I answered that I thought it would be cool paired with my purple coat.

She cringed, visibly.

My family seems to think I am colour-retarded. They each have a brown purse, and a black one. I have a red one, and a pink one, and a purple one, and now an orange one (clementine, actually), oh, and a tiny clutch that's a very rude shade of yellow. Neutral my ass.

My approach to colour is: if I've seen them together in a box of crayons, it's kosher. I'm not colour-challenged, I'm colour-ballsy. People just can't appreciate me. I mean, it's not like I said I'd wear the clementine with my fuschia coat (no, my coats tend not to be in neutrals either, but I don't wear my red purse with my red coat, or my purple purse with my purple coat. I've never been matchy-matchy.)

I bravely bought a cashmere sweater in the most awesome shade of acid green, and people's first impression is always "Hey, that colour looks great on you!" Of course, half an hour later they're usually like "Whoa, that sweater's still pretty green, eh?" which I take to mean that they are insane with envy. My hair and my toenails tend not to be colours found in nature, either. I gravitate toward anything that can be seen from space. I don't think I clash, exactly, but let's just say that in a sea of people playing it safe, I'm my own little rainbow.

A rainbow with a very cool purse.