Friday, 6 December 2013

1st world problems - but not 1st class - problem

On my way out of Vancouver now, and the late airplane lights are winking at me.  I can't wait to get back to Toronto where it is the kind of cold I am used to.  Not cold like Tuktoyaktuk of course, or Montreal or Winnipeg, but not like Vancouver where cold is windy and wet and sort of warm except to natives who dress with, uh, lots of care.

They may be too warm but I walk all day in a fall coat and no gloves and then feel positively frost-bitten.  Back in Toronto in this weather I would have worn a toque and gloves and a sweater under my coat and felt fine. I didn't pack well enough for Vancouver because of its reputation for warmth and wet.  (I didn't know about its tendency towards earthquakes until I got there.  I don't know how you'd pack for them.  Bring your megaphone to scream better?  A pocket fire extinguisher?  Small pick axe to dig your way out of rubble?)

Oh no.  Oh no. The man sitting next to me on the plane (and its like that Yo Mama joke -- when he sits right beside me this guy is right beside me.  I can't actually tell where I stop and he starts) has pulled out a tube of Pringles potato chips.  This is going to be a long flight. 

I wonder what the1st-class equivalent to Pringle Guy would be?  I am flying super economy, where you share the seat with your neighbour in alternate minutes.  (No complaints -- as a children's writer I'm happy not to go in a cage with the other pets.)  In the larger seats at the front of the plane your thighs are your own, so you won't have sour cream and onion dust flaking over you for hours, but there must be something that'll wreck your trip.  The sleep mask that leaks light?  The guy across the aisle who goes ka-ching every time one of his stocks splits?  The attendant who wont leave you alone?  The scotch and coke drinker?   

You know, I feel kind of mean, complaining like this when I am flying thousands of kms in routine safety using somebody else's money.  This is indeed a 1st world problem.  The air, though a bit fragrant, is warm.  I wonder if I'll be able to get a few minutes of sleep before it's Pringle Guy's turn.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

good luck in an earthquake

Most cities have cliches associated with them.  Toronto has a big ego and a big chip on its shoulder, a bunch of bad sports teams and a hilariously awful mayor.  Vancouver, where I am hanging my hat this week, has a few things that Toronto lacks -- mountains, ocean, mild temperatures (I have never heard so much griping over +5 in late November.  Get over it, people!) rain mixed with more rain, and earthquakes. 

Yup, earthquakes.  The sign beside the elevator call button in my hotel is a graphic representation of what to do in the event of an earthquake.  There it is over there.

I am old enough to remember the STOP, DROP, AND ROLL drills -- government plans designed to help us Scarborough Ontario elementary schoolers survive an atomic blast.   Would stopping, dropping and rolling have saved us?  We never had a nuclear explosion to deal with so I don't know for sure.  Maybe we would have stopped dropped and rolled ourselves to safety while the fireball somehow passed us by and vaporized everyone else.   Maybe not.

I want to know what to do in the event of an earthquake so I studied the sign carefully.  Seems that my instinct -- to run around screaming -- is wrong.  In an earthquake -- at least as far as I can judge from the graphic  -- you are supposed to find yourself a table and cling to one of its legs.   Does this sound silly?  Well, yes.  Maybe not as silly as stopping and dropping and rolling to avoid an atomic blast, but pretty silly.

The only table in my suite is a teeny thing I put my book and wine glass on.  I could practically wear it like a hat.  If I feel a rumble from the fault line while I am working or reading, will I lie on the floor and pull this table over me?  Probably not.  I may find myself stopping, dropping and rolling out of instinct.  But I am more likely to run around screaming.  Maybe I will take my wine glass with me.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

don't panic -- it's not winter yet

Summer is over and work --  well it never stops does it.  But it's a little more comfy weather-wise while I am working. 

News?  I have no roommates.  My flat seems strangely empty and quiet and tidy now that Ed and his girl have moved to Montreal where they will go to school.   I was much impressed by their neighborhood -- fun part of the city, pedestrian mall in the next block, lots of charming stores and bars and restaurants.  I strolled around and said, aloud, I could live here.  My ex who was walking with me (we had driven with Ed and his clothes and drum kit) leaned over to whisper, Winter is coming.

Very Game of Thrones-y. Oh yeah, I said.  Montreal is a great place in the summer, maybe not so great under yards of snow. 

Ed is not the only departure.  Thea is gone too.  She and her guy have gone to the states, maybe for a long time. They will do fine.  They are both hardy adventurers as long as there are no bugs.   And -- more news -- they have taken my car. Yup, for the first time in a quarter century I have no vehicle to repair and fill up with gas and pay insurance on.  I am okay with this.  In fact I am delighted -- for now.  I try not to look too smug as I scoot past standing traffic on my bike.  Of course time is passing.  In a couple of months I will feel the cold more without a car.  Moving around will involve more planning and more warm clothes.  After all, winter is coming here too.

Monday, 5 August 2013

injury guilt

I can not exercise.  Not do not wish to exercise.  That is normal, my usual state.  No, I can not exercise.  Even if I wanted to, I could not.  What happened, I fell down some stairs a couple of weeks ago, rather like the guy in the picture, suffered some bent bones, a teeny concussion, and of course caused my loved ones grief and worry.  Now my brain is back to a muted normal (my kids say I have traded up, mentally) and I can sit at a computer and tap away.  But I can not bend over.  Can not pull or push myself up.  Can not run ten miles - or one mile - or a block. 

And so I live a sedentary life, hobbling from my desk to the coffee pot to the dining-room table, and will continue to do so for a few weeks while my ribs and shoulder heal up.

It is as though I have found an extra couple hours in my day.   Time that I used to spend thinking about exercise (not doing any, you understand -- just thinking about it) is now wide open.  A gift from the God of I don't know, what do you want to do?  Last year, last month I would spend an hour thinking, I should go to the YMCA and then pour myself a cup of coffee and read a manuscript instead.  And feel bad.  Today there is no instead.  I can not go not go the YMCA. 

So -- and this is my final thought for today on the subject, something for my therapist if I ever find one -- why do I still feel guilty about not exercising?

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

fine-toothed nothing

Talking about common grooming tools today.  Yesterday my son biked across town to a family event and arrived totally soaked.  He dried off, checked himself in the hall mirror, and said, Hmm.  His hair was messy.  By coincidence (I was going to say strange coincidences but they are all strange, aren't they.  No one talks about a totally natural coincidence) I had just noticed that the back pocket of my dress pants contained a comb (exactly like the one in the picture up there).  I don't usually carry a comb - or wear dress pants, for that matter - but this was a fancy affair.  Anyway, without thinking I handed my son the article in question in order to help him fix his hair and he responded thus:

You know, Dad, I don't think I have ever used one of these.

Now, I am no follicular fashionisto.  I shave irregularly and badly, and get a haircut every few months.  My daily grooming ritual involves running my fingers through my hair and going downstairs for coffee. My father (Weekly Haircut Dan, they call him) makes pointed comments about rats' nests which I hardly even hear after all these years.  And my son, in his own way, is a very styling guy.  He frequents a super cool barber shop in Kensington Market (I would give it a shout out but they might not appreciate a plug from me, and besides I cannot remember the name).  His current look, modelled after the Lucky Luke character in the 70s French comics, is a very trendy one indeed.

But his words gave me pause.  Never to have used a comb. Such a common piece of male paraphernalia, responsible for so many iconic images:  the comb over, the pompadour combthrough,  the straight parting.  Could the guy in this picture look this way without a comb?  I do not think so.

Really?  I said to my son. Not even as a kid?  Didn't I comb your hair once or twice when you were going to some do or other?  

And even as he was shaking his head I was shaking mine too.  That picture - Dad bent over, running his pocket comb through sonny boy's cowlick -  is from my childhood, not my son's. 

Interesting, was all I said.

We stared into the mirror together.  He fixed his hair with his fingers. I put the comb back in my pocket til next time. If there ever is one.

Friday, 29 March 2013

 I heard from thousands of -- would you believe hundreds of? -- all right, dozens of blog regulars that I have been neglecting my duties ....  Well, actually, I heard from my mom.  So here I am, eyes downcast, shuffling my feet and saying sorry.  The word comes easily to me.  It's natural, part of my heritage. Canadians are born with apologies in their mouths.  I was walking up 5th Avenue in Manhattan last summer, and almost bumped into what looked like a fast-striding New Yorker.  No fault involved, but both of us said Sorry at the same time, and then smiled. 
Toronto, I said.
Halifax, until a few years ago, she said.
And we were continued on our two different ways.
Is saying sorry polite behaviour?  It sounds polite.  But I don't if it counts in your favour if it's something you do automatically, and don't mean.  Because, you know, I am kind of lying here.  I am not really sorry for not blogging more.  I have been busy.  My in-basket is still teetering. 

I have been to Saanich and Victoria and Vancouver and far-flung bits of Ontario to talk about the "7" series I am involved in.  (Do you know about this?  7 authors, 7 books of boy adventure, heroes and stories intertwined.  There's a website and cheesy video at ...  )  Anyway, after my presentations there'd be hundreds of kids (fine fine -- dozens) wanting to talk and get bits and pieces of their bodies signed.  And then I would go back to my hotel room and write my story about two kids who fall magically into  a comic book and edit my book about zombies.  And then go to bed and get up and do it again. 

I haven't had time for blogging. 

Oooh, funny story though.  I was in Victoria hanging out with a friend of a friend who owns a clothing and sporting goods store.  I'm meeting this guy for the first time and he's a super guy, warm and generous and successful, and he's trying to get me to buy stuff in one of his stores so he can give me a great deal -- and I am not helping.  I am such a bad shopper.  I mean, my coat cost me 3.00 at a second-hand store.  I had to tell Todd that 150.00 jeans for 40.00 was a great deal, thank you thank you, but not really my style.  I did end up buying a pair of runners at a ridiculously good price because I do try to stay fit, and when I jog my regular twenty kilometres my feet will thank me.  Did I say twenty -- would you believe ten?  Five?  One?  Would you believe down to the end of the block to buy licorice? 

Sorry for all the exaggerations.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

racism, ageism, dudeism

Hey hey!  I lost this address and haven't been able to get to the blog for a couple weeks.  Just now, browsing around my computer looking for music, I found the missing address.  And I'm back.

Back from Florida, among other things.  Down there visiting my folks who are brown holy crap I did not know my own mom at first glance.  Generational views on tanning.  I dunno - Mom didn't look unhealthy so much as a different race.

Funny place, Florida - at least the part around Lauderdale which is the only part I know.  Nothing too horrible about it but there's nothing really great either.   Beaches, restaurants, highways, shops, buildings - everything scores a pretty good.  Can't help noticing that all the crappy jobs are held by non-whites, and that almost everyone on the beach is not non-white.

I guess that's kind of horrible.

Couple cliche moments on the road.  First, there's a lot of old people driving around.  I know I am not young but we are talking ooooooooold.  Like the guy in the picture.  One guy looked not just older than his Ford but older than the Ford motor company.  Was he travelling quickly?  No he was not.

Scariest was pulling out of my folks' parking lot on the way to the airport.  There was a big car tortoising towards us, and my taxi driver figured to beat it, but just as he pulled out, the tortoise put his foot down, and suddenly here was this grille  practically in my lap.

Dude! I shouted, as we skipped out of the way with centimeters to spare. And then I blushed all over at the idea that my last word on earth might have been, dude.

Monday, 28 January 2013

of mode and mackinaws

So I just got in from Saskatoon and my arms are -- well, they're cold, and so is the rest of me.  Sask is a pretty frosty province this time of year.  Nippy noodles, as Georgia Nicolson would say.

Doesn't seem to bother the natives, who go on biking and hiking and chatting even though it is minus a billion with the windchill.  Walking to the parking lot from the education building I thought my limbs would drop off.  My driver actually threw her head back and said, That's fresh, eh?  Much better than inside.  I thought I was going to bake in that conference hall.  I shared a glance with car mate and fellow author Glen Huser  (Stitches, Skinnybones and the Wrinkle Queen -- great books)  who as a Vancouverite is even wimpier than I.

This is not fresh,  he said.  Fresh is a jump in the pool on a hot day.  This is freezing.

When I got back I was still cold so I headed for my closet to don (I love blogging, since I can use words I would never allow myself in fiction writing, like don and doff) my mackinaw, but I could not find it.  I hunted high and low and side to side and I found a lot of things but not the sweater jacket.  I asked Ed if he had seen it.  
The red and black one?  I took that, he said.  I've had it for months.
Can I have it back?
No, he said.
There was a pause and then I asked, Why?  And this is what he told me.
You don't deserve it, he said.
Well, Dad, see, that jacket is really cool, and you're ... 
Go on, I said
What I mean is, you don't know how cool it is.  It's the perfect weight and size.  Everyone's wearing stuff exactly like that one right now, and I just know I look better in it than you.  It would be wasted on you.
He was so earnest I had to work not to laugh.
So what you are saying is that the lame old guy never has a chance.  The one time he finds something that is actually cool, he can't wear it?  
Yes, said Ed.  That's it exactly.  He went up to his room and came back with my mackinaw, which is like the one pictured only somehow cooler--  at least it looked cool on Ed.   But darn it I was still cold.  Doff that!  I called.  Doff that right now!  But he didn't.

I stole a hoodie from him. I don't know if it's lame or not, and I don't really care. The part of youth that worries about what everyone is wearing is not wasted on the young.  They can have it.