Thursday, 22 July 2010

garbage thoughts

I worry about my garbage. Mir laughs and laughs when I tell her I want to get home to deal with it. It might be a question of control. Garbage disposal is one of the few parts of my life where I feel in charge. A friend told me about a crack addict friend of his who got help, put his life together bit by bit and is now doing okay, and always makes his bed. It was part of his therapy, early on -- one of the few things he could control -- and he still makes a Marine corps super tight hospital corners bounce a quarter bed first thing every single day. I guess that's where I am, tying to control my garbage because I can't control my health or kids or career or emotional life.
Except that I am not in control of my garbage either. Many weeks I dash downstairs to take it out just as the garbage guy is pulling away from the curb. I empty my plastic bin into the back of the truck while he frowns and goes, Tsk tsk. I apologize and vow to do better next week. Only I don't. I am nowhere near as successful as the crack addict. I figure it's like I worry about making my bed all day, and finally get around to it halfway through the evening news.

Recently I decided to give the problem away. I asked Ed to be in charge of the garbage. Okay, he said. Just like that. I breathed a sigh of relief.
No garbage was picked up the first Friday. Or the second Friday. Or the third.
Darn it, Ed, you're even worse than I am, I said.
Yeah, sorry, Dad.
The bin was overflowing, and smelling vile.
What are you going to do? I asked.
He shrugged. He may be in charge of the garbage, but he didn't care.

When I woke this morning, the garbage was gone. Vanished like dew. Like the last cookie on the plate. Like innocence. What happened? I asked Ed.
I took it to a dumpster last night, he said. I didn't want to wait until Friday.
My mouth opened, and closed. Ed went back to his cereal.
Don't wait for the truck -- just throw it out. Wow. Can I learn from my son? Would his approach to garbage work for life in general? These are deep waters.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

so much for tolerance

Excuse me for a second while I change my mind. Remember how I was being all non-judgmental about snacks, last time out? I have recently suffered a shock to my tolerance, and I am now prepared to talk about the worst snack ever. I can not understand how these things came to be. Can not imagine a product development meeting where some guy in an artistic shirt said: Hey, I have an idea!

I am not talking about cheesies -- they are simply silly. Not even the new KFC sandwiches -- that stuff is so hilariously bad for you it's almost endearing. No, I am talking about a snack combination -- product and flavour -- that lowers the bar so far that these ... things can hardly be called a snack.

I have always considered sunflower seeds to be a poor choice, delivery-wise. Like pistachios, they take time to eat, but pistachios are bigger and much better tasting, so they represent a realistic return on investment. Sunflower seeds are finicky and tiny, and only marginally tasty, so that the ultimate mouthful of flavour payoff never really arrives.

So much for product. Flavour-wise, I have favorites, acceptables, and losers. And my biggest loser -- by far -- is dill pickle. Dill pickles on their own are excellent, in a way that barbecue sauce (say) is not. Who grabs a quick hit off the Memories of Texas bottle? But barbecue flavouring enhances a potato chip enormously, while dill flavouring simply kills it, as it kills tortilla chips, rice cakes, popcorn, and anything else it touches. Dill pickle -- worst flavour ever. Don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. I'm just saying.

So imagine my shock and horror when I returned from Knowlton (an excellent time there, by the way -- I'll post pix when I get them. Knowlton is a charming cottage town near Sherbrooke, with an active literary and artistic community) -- returned, I say, to find a package of sunflower seeds open on the kitchen table, and a disagreeable odour lingering nearby. Could it be? I thought, wrinkling my nose, reaching for the bag with trembling hands. Sure enough, the label read -- well, you know what it read.

I do not mind coming home from a week away to unwashed dishes, piles of garbage, unmade beds, and a general air of sleaze and grease and unfulfilled promises (Sure I'll tidy up, Dad. You can count on me!). In a way I'd be worried if the place looked neat and tidy. But ... dill pickle flavoured sunflower seeds? My mind is boggling, narrowing, squeezing my sense of tolerance to nothing. The picture up there makes me shudder. I want to find the responsible parties and shake them, as a terrier shakes a rat. Can there be a snack jihad?

Saturday, 10 July 2010

in a snacking state of mind

The perfect conversational topic? Let me suggest snacks. Yes, I know that much of the world goes to bed hungry, and that packaged foods make for a lousy diet. But, in the context of casual conversation, rich poor city country ethnic variety ... well, snacks are a winner. People don't dismisss the topic. I have never heard anyone say, I don't snack. And yet I have never heard anyone say that they like everything either. Sweet or savory, hot or cold, before bed or before exercise -- there are lots of places for the conversation to go. People will have preferences, and they will not be shy about expressing them. There is nothing, a woman said to me once, absolutely nothing like the first handful of salted peanuts from a freshly opened can. I would have proposed marriage on the spot except that I was already married to her.

Another thing I like about snack talk is that it is never earnest, the way talk on love or politics, art or real estate, or diet generally can be serious. (This little entry is about as serious as it gets.) Nor is snack conversation mean, as in, My God did you see what that woman had in her hand? At 2:00 in the afternoon? What was she thinking? No one talks about snackin' crimes. I do not, speaking personally, need chocolate in my life, but I know many people who do, and I respect them for it. Snacking begets tolerance. If only there were a way to extend this attitude -- the snacking state of mind -- to world affairs in general, what a heaven on earth this might be.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

teen eats

Notes from the teenage boy world. Ed is seventeen now, and wanting a little more responsibility around the place. I said he could pay his cell phone bill. He laughed and said, No, seriously, what could he do? I suggested the dishes, the toilet, the kitchen floor ... but these didn't seem to be the kind of responsibility he wanted either.
How about I go shopping? he said.
So I gave him some money and he went away (sounds like I'm talking about a blackmailer or a creepy boyfriend), returning an hour later with friends and boxes of groceries. They'd spent much more than I gave them, and bought enough food for an army of teenage boys.
Boy food. I stood in the doorway watching them put away cold cereal, sliced cheese and meat, buns and bread and bagels, hamburgers and sausages, potato chips, pizza, more cold cereal, Coke, ice cream bars, still more cold cereal -- and two apples.
Ed saw me smiling. You said to buy fruit, he said.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

kicked out

The other day Ed told me he wanted some privacy at my place. A little get together, he said. A summer thing for him and some friends. I was going to be in the city for the day and early evening, so I told him he could have all the privacy he wanted, and that I'd see him eight-ish.
I hope that's late enough, he said. Could you text me before you leave, so I'll have an hour of lead time.
I did this, and got a text back immediately.
Driving slow and safe, and arrived in Cobourg about an hour and a half later. I parked around the corner from my place and asked if I could come home yet.
NO, he texted back. WE'RE STILL AT IT.
I asked what they were doing.
I told him okay, parked, and went to Kelly's. One good thing about small towns is that there is no shortage of friendly local bars. Everyone at Kelly's was interested in my situation.
Kicked out by the kid, eh? said a lady with a neck tattoo. You'll find peanut butter on the ceiling when you get home.
I will?
Oh yeah. He's having a party, depend on it. Peanut butter everywhere.
Her tattoo was a snake. It wriggled when she swallowed.
YOU DONE YET? I texted Ed.
NO! 5 MINS! he texted back.
I finished my beer nervously, thinking of him armed with a jar of Kraft crunchy. I texted that I was on my way. AND WHAT IS PEANUT BUTTER SIT'N? I added.
WHAT? he texted back.
I heard the noise from the street outside. Giggles, screams. I pushed open my door and went upstairs, calling out in a loud voice. I did NOT want to interrupt anything.
There was a gaggle of girls on the upstairs landing, all variations on a theme of blonde, bouncy, long-nailed and flip flopped. They pointed down the hall.
What is it? I asked.
Check out what we did to Ed, said the blondest and giggliest.
Now do you see why I wanted privacy? he said.
Well well well, I said.
My boy was sporting the shortest haircut I had ever seen that was still a haircut and not a head shave. It made him look -- my heart turned over -- old. (Old for 17 that is.) Three of his friends had had it done too. I congratulated them all, and told them it was a fine way to start the summer. Shortly afterwards they all left in a group, still giggling. A super cute picture.

The only peanut butter in the place is in the jar. But for the last couple days I have been coming across tufts of hair. Not on the ceiling, maybe, but everywhere else.