Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bonjour, paresse

Day five...of the 40-day challenge.

Posters in my lobby have been announcing today's fire drill for a couple of days now, but that doesn't make me any happier about it. It asks for our "participation" (and I'm guessing they don't mean flashing my middle finger while yelling my favourite obscenities off the balcony) but this is the equivalent of 3am for me. I will be asleep, in the best part of my sleep. And they plan on jarring me awake, forcing me into a pair of pants, and having me stumble down flights and flights of stairs with a squirming dog in my arms and knots in my hair and mascara smudges down my cheeks. Not cool. And I'm guessing if they tried this at actual 3am, there'd be some dissent. But there's just no respect for the night worker. God damn.

But then they didn't do it and I got all riled up for nothing.
I even wrote that whole above paragraph for nothing.
Yes, I am so ridiculous, thank you for noticing.

So after a good little sleep, I woke up to my lovely Rory's visit. She's my friend because she's awesome and pretends to like my stories and doesn't mind taking silly pictures with me. She's my best friend because she doesn't mind my addiction to crystal light and she goes along with my whims as if they make sense, even though we both know they make nothing of the sort.

She amusedly watched me do my groceries, and wisely didn't comment on my lazy selection of fruit from the pre-cut section. She retrieved her shoes from wherever Herbie attempted to hide them. And there was sushi, and girl-on-girl stories, and eventually, even a walk by the wacky apartment I wrote about yesterday.

Our favourite pasttime is to sit lazily\indulgently on my balcony, tops off, and drink daiquiris. Or margaritas. Sometimes martinis. This may have been our first alcohol-less visit, but it was okay. Rory is "supportive", which probably involves at least a little behind-the-back laughter, but what else are friends for? Instead of having a drink together, we drove to a gas station where I had my first gas pumping lesson, which is just as important as a driving lesson, actually, only nobody ever gives them. A zillion years ago, I pulled into a gas station with good intentions. I left 10 minutes later, probably red-faced, definitely humiliated, and with a still-empty tank. It didn't go well. I've never been back.

So today was good for a lot of reasons, not least of which is the fact that I've once again been cheat-less. I'm sticking to it, with a little help from my friends.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Zombie chickens couldn't drag me away...

Day four...

There is no such thing as a good day to bury your friend. There is no such thing as a fitting tribute.

Today was for the most part a luscious, lazy day. Aside from the driving lesson (the only thing worse than learning to parallel park? doing it in the pouring rain), the day treated me well. I got some sleep, even if it was fitful. I got zestfully clean in a loooooooooong shower. I got books in the mail. I had a happy-neighbour-knock on my door. Green apples gave a satisfying crunch. Herbie almost didn't pee on the carpet.

On our walks together at night, before I leave for work, Herbie and I pass by this one apartment that's lit up and curtainless, which makes for excellent spying. I mean observation. The decor is hideously fantastic - blood red walls, an oil painting of Elvis, devil pitch forks mounted on the wall, a framed photo of Jim Carrey as The Riddler, enough kitsch to fill 17 curio stores, and more neon green fake plastic trees than should reasonably fit into the space. Also on our walk tonight: the sound of bagpipes, sourceless, and a truck leaking fish-smelling fluid that Herbie was way, way into, and I was not.

Thank you to Stoneskin for gifting me with the Zombie Chicken Award, apparently for my belief in the Tao of the zombie chicken - excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. I haven't really had many chicken-related incidents lately, although my best friend was pulled over by the cops and accused of selling chickens out of the back of her truck. Not to worry though. She took a page from Jay, batted her eyelashes and said "No officer, I did not" and he said "Oh, okay then" and she drove away. How's that for inspiring?

Bizarre happening of the day: opening a plastic fruit cup of mandarin segments, the juice came magically spurting upwards, unprompted, unaided, defying the force of gravity and logic everywhere.

Thing I wondered about the most today: why I always seem to be wearing velvet ballet flats when it rains. You have not seen a more sodden shoe, I guarantee it.

Thing you don't necessarily care to know, but I'm telling you anyway: it's surprisingly freeing to pee in a public washroom with the stall door open.

What I craved today: nothing edible, nothing drinkable. Just to see his face again. I'd give it all up forever if I could, just once.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Procrastinating my way to success!

Day three...

Today was a freak crazy-beautiful day - the regularly scheduled crap weather will resume tomorrow - but today was lovely, July-hot with winning sunshine and a happy-go-lucky breeze. It's impossible to sleep when you know that kind of wonderfulness is going on outside your window (well, this his hypothetical since as a day sleeper, my bedroom window is blacked the fuck out) so I just didn't.

Herbie of course was delighted to run and play with me outside. He particularly loves pooping in front of the asian market around the corner from my house. Stooping and scooping is a little embarrassing in front of all the merry shoppers lugging 20kg bags of rice, but I get over myself pretty quickly when I remember that this is one shit not taken on my carpet.

It was patio-perfect weather, and when I walked by Pub Italia, two very cute boys invited me to have a seat. I was strong, flashed my most glamourous, woman-in-demand smile, and made my apologies. Hurdle overcome!

I've rediscovered the art of making dinner. Cooking is still one of my loves, but it's something I only do when guests are expected. I haven't cooked for my single self in over a year! It's shameful, I know, but I have a freezer full of Lean Cuisines (well, and vodka...and tequila) and a fridge brimming with yogurt and apples and water, and that's about it. Once in a while I'll have a fit of inspiration and have the fixings for turkey sandwiches or spinach salad, but that's as far as my cooking commitment will allow.

No more!
I'm feeding myself, taking the time to prepare something I enjoy, and eliminating some of those hunger pangs that lead to bad decisions. I did have a little yen for something sweet after supper, but it passed. I figure that my procrastination skills are so vast that I shouldn't have a problem waiting out my cravings. It's practically second nature anyway.

I am anticipating a second hurdle, though. I'm at work now, starting to feel a little noshy, but armed with fruit and yogurt to get me through. In the morning, I'll be tired from being up all night, and drained from the work, and I doubt I'll feel like taking my driving lesson.

Yes, I said driving lesson.
That was another challenge I gave myself for 2009: to become one of you demented drivers. It's been a good decade since I last drove. I gave it up for a good reason: I hate it. This has been an emotional, nerve-wracking experience for me, eased only slightly by my instructor declaring me "not dangerous." But I'm betting that come tomorrow morning, my white-knuckled hands leaving sweat marks on the steering wheel as I navigate stupid Bank street during stupid morning rush hour, I'll wish I had just a whiff of caffeine to steady my nerves. But I'll be brave, I promise. I mean, if I could not be felled by two cuties on a patio, a fucking Yaris doesn't stand a chance!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Knee-deep in blood and filth and piss and shit.

Day 2 of the 40 day challenge...

Yesterday? Nothing to it.
Of course, it would be rather pathetic if I was on the floor convulsing after just a few sugar-free hours. I actually eat pretty well most of the time. This is not about changing my behaviour, because I think bad habits are what make life worth living. This is about proving to myself that I can.

My colleague seems at least a little worried that I can't because last night, to play it safe, he was a "good citizen" and ate his sweet chili chips covertly, out of my line of sight. His consideration is legendary, but come on man, everyone knows I'm a dill pickle girl anyway. And anyhow, I've discovered the secret to craving control success: a nazi book (coming soon to a book review site near you!). I challenge anyone to read just a few paragraphs about being knee-deep in remorseless blood and filth and piss and shit and then think "Mmm, I could sure go for a McFlurry right now."

Random middle of the night sugar-free conversation: Was math discovered, or invented?

Weird thing that happened to me today: Walking down my street, a man pulled over in his car, rolled down his window, and made kissy noises at me. No reason was apparent.

Stuff I was grateful for today: new micro-suede curtains, my adorable man-magnet puppy, friends and colleagues who don't tiptoe around grief, my rockstar mother, chicken caesar medley, having enough money at the grocery store (unlike the girl ahead of me, who had to put stuff back).

Today's motto: "Folded deck chair" is the new missionary!

Good day? Yes it was. And busy too! It's amazing what you can cram into a day when you sacrifice sleep. However, I foresee a bit of a problem tonight at work when my second and third and fourth winds peter out and I'm left without a hint of caffeine to see me through the night. I think I might take up smoking.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Salvation is just a vending machine away.

Day one....

It's probably a bad sign that I've put off starting my 40-day challenge until I could get in one last bender, but it's no surprise to any of you that that's exactly what I did.

Yes, there were daiquiris.
Yes, there were margaritas.
Yes, there was toe sucking.

A good time was had by all. I was even drunk enough to want to give my dog a "haux-fawk" (goddamned drunken dyslexia).

And from now until June 4 (June 4!), not one bad thing shall pass my lips.
Well, you know, with maybe the one exception.
But it's rather low in calories, cannot really said to be delicious, and frankly, no one's mistaking me for a saint. I think 2 out 3 addictions is impressive enough.

Whining will probably commence in about two hours. I'll be at work, I will hit that 2am wall and think: my salvation is just a vending machine away. The Diet Pepsi, with its whisper of caffeine, will be calling my name. I'll wonder if there's $1.75 in my wallet, and know that I'm not above changing a $20.

But I'm feeling strong.
Okay, that's a lie.
What I'm mostly feeling is that I'd be really embarrassed to have failed on the first day.
And embarrassment (or the avoidance of it) is a pretty powerful thing.
The tequila blanco is weakening in my blood stream already.
At what point will I start fighting Herbie for his dog treats? And if worse came to worse, would you go for bacon-flavour hearts, or gravy-flavour strips?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

40 Days of Hell-th: A Diary

Day: T-1

When I was a kid, I performed amazing feats of will-power in the name of God; we called it Lent. Lent was the longest 40 days of the year for me because I took it very seriously. Even my grandmother cheated on Sundays, but me, I held fast. My best friend gave up olives, sort of, except the days she really couldn't resist. I went without junk: no ice cream cake on my sister's birthday, no maple syrup at the sugar bush, no popcorn at the movies, no candy binges for March break. Either 9 year olds possess more self-discipline than I remember, or Jesus held a lot of sway for me, but in any case I'm embarrassed that I can't seem to muster that kind of strength anymore. I'm hard pressed to go three days without a little nibble of something salty. I may not be a Christian anymore, but I'm a 20-ahem year old who (mistakenly?) believes herself to be mostly in control.

Welcome to the day before my 40 day challenge:

-no candy, no dessert, no chocolate, no unrefined sugar

-no crappy snack food no matter how profusely my uterus may be bleeding

-no fast food, no yucky\yummy takeout (goodbye, butter chicken)

and worst of all

-no diet pepsi (I feel shaky just writing that)

-no booze (ohmigodohmigodohmigodohmigodohmigod)

I'm already thinking I'm going to cave on the no drinking part. I never had to contend with that as a kid.

I'm already thinking this is the worst idea ever.

I'm already counting the hours before I can order a pizza again. And I never order pizza anyway. But now that I can't, I want to. Desperately. Just 960 hours to go!

So I'm thinking that after I go through the agony of withdrawal, I figure I'll have about 37 days left of awesome bitchiness that will be worth recording, so I'm also making the effort to post every day about me and my stupid ideas.

And just a teeny, tiny, barely-there addendum: I haven't had my first patio drink of the season yet, and frankly, that's a crime. So the reason I'm starting Sunday and not today is that I'm planning a blow-out, patio-hopping good time over the summery weekend we've been promised. There's nothing like having your stomach pumped to really strengthen a commitment!

Wish me luck, I think I'm gonna need it.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Bad Behaviour & Butter Chicken

So my colleague Matt thinks I'm odd, and I'm sure he means odd in that lovable, sitcommy way, but still. Odd.

And it's at least in part because of my allegedly "bizarre" approach to self-discipline.

He still laughs about the day I spent 3 hours wandering around the city, trying to find my way home, blisters oozing and shoulders burning in the hot, hot sun. I was dying of thirst but determined to right myself. I knew the city marginally well and I was certain it was nearly impossible to get as lost as I feared I was. I kept on, rather bravely, possibly stupidly, and finally I saw the street sign that would solve all my problems: Bank. Bank! You're never lost if you're on Bank. Just walk north, I told myself, and then promptly started walking south, believing in my heart that I was awesome, that I had worked it out, that I was headed home, that I was no longer lost. And I wasn't lost, not exactly. I just happened to be headed in the exact opposite direction of where I wanted to be. Eventually I recognized my mistake and fought back tears as I turned around and recovered the ground I believed I'd been gaining. It was cruel. I had cash and a bus pass in my pockets but I let the cabs and buses pass me by - if I had cheated and taken one home, it would be like rewarding my bad behaviour and I'd be likely to repeat the same mistakes. So I denied myself the easy way out, bandaged my swollen and bloodied feet, and have never gotten lost in this city again.

But I continue to negotiate with myself for all kinds of things. One of my favourite vices, as anyone who knows me remotely has heard me rave, is the butter chicken from the indian place just down the street from me. Often, when the day ahead seems particularly daunting, I'll do myself a little deal.

Inner monologue:

Hey Jay.
I bet you're thinking about that butter chicken.
Well, I wasn't, really, until you mentioned it just now.
But it sounds good, right?
Oh yeah.
Well, tell you what. If you do your laundry, and go to the post office, and write 3 pages without complaining, you can get some for supper.
Yes, really. But only if you're a good girl all day long.
Oh, I will be!

And then I am. All day long.
Now, my problem is not that I admitted to Matt that I talk to myself.
And it's not that I motivate myself with tasty indian cuisine.
It's that moment of disbelief - the Really? - that split second where I doubt that I'm actually going to follow through on a promise to myself. But it's that seedling of doubt that keeps me honest, that forces me to stay on the right path and actually get the work done that needs to be done.
Have I ever not earned the butter chicken?
You betcha.
And I sit at home pouting about it too.

Is that really so odd?
I mean, if I gave myself everything I wanted, I'd be a spoiled brat.
And fat.
Well, okay, fatter.

But it's not all about the discipline.
If I do something good, I let myself know how proud I am, usually with a note on the fridge, but sometimes also with a bunch of flowers or an extra shower (yes, okay, even I think that sounds strange, but showering is one of my favourite parts of the day, especially when I turn on the music and dance and splash about).
I tell myself I'm awesome all the time. I even have a song about it.
No, I won't sing it for you. It's private. Except for that one time I won an arm wrestling competition after 4 Mike's Hard Lemonades.

In general, though, I'm very well behaved. I hardly ever embarrass myself or have to send myself to sit in the car. So now matter how you slice it, I must be doing something right.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Inevitable Heartbreak Band

He's beautiful.
He's not my type.
I hardly know him.
I'm a little in love.

We met randomly, only to discover we're from the same neighbourhood.
On our first non-date, we met at a park at 2am and we swung, and we teetered, and we made out.
He rode his bike to meet me, total 5th grade flash back, except for all the hands-down-the-pants action.

He's incredibly humble given his success.
He touches me a lot.
I like his belt buckle, and his love of pho.
He looks good in my bed, and doesn't mind when my dog chews his toes.

He's going to break my heart.
I see it coming, that he must, and even why it's pretty much my own fault.
And I'm letting it happen anyway.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Postcard from Punta Cana

Punta Cana was Punta-Fabulous.
I almost didn't come back.

The mamajuana conspired to keep me on my ass: red wine, honey, and of course lots of domestic rum fermenting in a jug with twigs and herbs and other mysterious whatnots to make a beverage that people call Dominican Viagra for reasons that quickly become obvious.

Bars in pools may be God's greatest invention. And floating drink menus? Pina colada, margarita, daiquiri, banana mama, dominican peach, blue hawaiian, sex on the beach...all just a wink away. Uno mas, por favor. That's Spanish! See how quickly we can learn new languages when we're motivated?

Ladies' Night has a different meaning in the Dominican. Yes, ladies get in free. Yes, ladies drink for free. Yes, the cute boys who brought you drinks in pineapples all day long are now removing their clothes for you in the disco.

Snorkeling is cool. Swimming with hundreds of tropical fish is an experience to be savoured. Rubbing your forehead with a banana beforehand so that the fish will be attracted is possibly a small bit of rum-induced madness. But swimming with sharks? Oh sure, it will be a cool story. If you survive. And of course you're brave about it when you're drunkenly signing up for it the day before. But once in the water with a whole bunch of sharks who probably have it in for you (this is purely conjecture, but they did give me a look), it's a whole different story. Nervous is one of those words that fails spectacularly at describing some situations. At one point, I swam over 4 or 5 of them who were all hanging out together, and I thought to myself: if one of them suddenly throws a fit, and they all storm off in a rage, I'm lunch. But it was the sting rays that really freaked me out. And whoever thought it would be a good idea to pose for a picture with one? They tell you that Cassandra is a friendly sting ray, so long as you don't poke her here, here, or here. Or swish her by the tail. But nobody tells you that Cassandra is enormous, and slimy, and heavy, and creepy. And that she has some sort of blow hole that she angrily directs at your face, and then does this floppy thing that is very disturbing. Do I regret throwing the sting ray? Yes. But I still maintain that it wasn't really my fault.

Getting into your scenery-sensational hammock is heaven. Getting out of it 3 banana mamas later is less so. Kinda makes you wish you'd brought panties, but it's not really a vacation unless it's a vacation from underwear. Am I right?

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Places You Go, The People You Meet.

4 adults in a car, we argue about the things you'd expect, like whether a man can be feminist. Well, can he? Please enlighten us, because they refused to agree to disagree and I refused to tip the scales in any one direction.

We are on our way to Montreal to eat in a restaurant run by a man who calls himself the Veggie Nazi. We're all a little worried. We have heard the kind of shit that goes down at the Spirit Lounge: there is no menu. You eat whatever vegan crap he sets in front of you, every last crumb. That's his Golden Rule - no waste. Waste is sin. If you leave something on your plate, he either charges you extra, or he throws you out on your ass. This isn't rumour, these are actual possibilities. The stuff of sitcoms, yes, and it's funny when it happens on Seinfeld but will it be funny when it happens to us?

Once the miracle of parking in Montreal has been performed, my anxiety is such that I must immediately find a bathroom, and I refuse to let it be the one in the restaurant (I am afraid that he will dole out 4 paltry squares of toilet paper and tell me to be wise with their usage). I actually, bafflingly, find it preferable to use a gas station toilet. The one I frequent is equipped with that ubiquitous sharps container I keep meeting up with, and is lit solely by a black light above the mirror. It's great for not being able to see the Hepatitis that is probably swarming all over the place, and even better for making my zebra-print panties look cool.

The restaurant exceeds our expectations, especially the unfavourable ones. The decor involves copious amounts of foil, a collection of crucifixes, and a gold-sprayed collage on the wall that gives a second life to dominoes, GI Joes, and bits of broken license plates. The tables are cobbled together, and the layers of Salvation Army table cloths do little to hide staples in the plywood.

Soup, slivers of bread and tap water were presented to us with a flourish. This is prison food, according to my mother (though I was astonished later in life to learn that actually, felons eat quite well). I'm not going to lie: the soup was delicious. I ate it willingly, practically with gusto. The bread was...dense. And damp. This is food without preservatives, I told myself, until I caught a whiff and thought this is food that should have been thrown out 3 days ago. It smelled dank, the way dungeons smell, or a wet bathing suit that was balled up and thrown in the trunk of your car and slept on by a sweaty dog, or the forest floor's wet mushroomy, earthwormy rot, or, you know...mouldy bread. I elected not to finish mine, breaking the golden rule, but I was clever and hid my crust on the other side of the bowl. A fellow dining companion was not so lucky. Sure he talked the big talk before sitting down to dinner, boasting that he would purposely break the rule just to get a rise out of the owner, but when the Veggie Nazi spotted his uneaten portion and commanded Eat your bread in his smarmy french accent, he ate that bread like he suddenly believed that it would grant him superhuman strength and lifelong immunity to...well, the perils of eating putrid food.

We'd survived the appetizer, mostly, but were feeling shaky about the main course. It was described as a casserole consisting of mainly cereals and eggplant, and as delicious as it sounds, it looked even worse. But there was no getting away with leftovers, so we ate dutifully, grimacing, chewing apprehensively, fearing the worst with each tension-filled bite. Raw vegetables and fruit were served on the side, marinated in a salty oil-based dressing that was nice for broccoli and just dreadful on apples. I began sneaking pieces onto someone else's plate, not because he enjoyed the food but because I knew he would rather vomit on the sidewalk outside that engage in open conflict with the Veggie Nazi.

And then came dessert. By this time, I was smart. I ponied up on someone else's, and between the three of us, we managed to get it eaten. And with the dinner portion of the evening out of the way, thus came the show. Rozman, as the Veggie Nazi has chosen to rename himself, bestowed upon us one of the rants he is famous for, an incomprehensive diatribe against Coca Cola, women named Natalie Tremblay, and capitalism. I notice however, a few holes in his arguments:

1. It's great that he's got these lofty anti-capitalist ideals now, but where were they when he used the welfare funds provided to him by us working pigs to upstart his business?

2. While I suppose it's possible that he really is the only person to ever really understand anything, I find it just a smidge more possible that he's naive and immature and pretty fucking high and mighty.

3. When you tell a paying customer that You don't know what urine smells like and mean it as an insult...maybe you need to work on your customer service skills a little bit.

4. The traditional definition of 'asshole' is not someone who does not finish their dessert. Although suddenly he's got more in common with my grandma that I would have imagined possible.

5. When you use finger pointing and spittle to emphasize your point instead of, say, rationality, it may be time to reconsider the point.

Now, I do admire a man's passion and convictions, but this guy is ridiculous. He doesn't have beliefs, he just believes he's better, and that's probably a more dangerous concept than any of the things he rants about from his pedestal.

But that's not all Montreal had in store for us....

With our bellies full of asparagus puree, we headed over to Le National because les boys bought me tickets to see The Weakerthans in concert. Don't feel bad if you don't know The Weakerthans, just feel bad if you don't immediately go look them up. The show was awesome. The band was great, beyond great, and that's not just the rum and cokes talking.

Even the opening band was fantastic, because they provided so much fodder for ridicule, from the leader singer wearing Mom jeans and sipping a glass of red (wine is sooooo not rock & roll!), to the guitarist who played as if he was actually being stung by 13000 bees, and then would switch spots with the keyboardist who played as if he were a marionette with invisible strings being manipulated by a man with a severe cramp, to the bass player whose instrument was either under a different gravitational pull than every other atom on earth, or was under the influence of a giant bass-attracting magnet hidden cleverly across the room.

It was a great night. A grrrrrrreat night. We all agreed we'd even go back to the restaurant because it's not really about the food, it's about the experience.

But next time, we'll stop at McDonald's first.