Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Cake Clash

The history of this season’s clash is rich with betrayal and bravery. The testimony of history states the tale of the cake, over the years, is littered with deceit, greed, gluttony and blazing glory.

The conflicts centre around Susan’s delicious whipped cream log cake and the brazen attempts of tyrants to secure larger-than-fair portions.

The log cake in question served as the splendid backdrop to a sumptuous turkey dinner Susan had prepared this Christmas. By the time the meal ended, only a single, precious chunk of log cake remained in the fridge, tucked safely under foil.

Tristan and I had sworn to defend our remaining chunk of Susan’s log cake. Our vow included resisting requests, polite, implied or crude, from friends and all relatives, immediate or extended. The remaining chunk of Susan's log cake would be protected and kept for our palates alone.

Unfortunately, nephew Tyler arrived at our home determined to indulge in the same remaining chunk of Susan's log cake. Though none of the world’s great historians could have predicted its intensity, the clash was inevitable. As reasonable readers, you are sure to derive from this photograph, taken mere moments after his arrival at our home this week, that Tyler’s demeanor typically bears more resemblance to a clown than a warrior. Do not be fooled.

We, sensing threat - and he, sensing cake - grimly assumed our stations. Quickly, with the smell of whipped cream lingering in the air, the line had been drawn.

The battle began in the kitchen as Tyler, fork in hand, charged. For several minutes, the scuffle was punctuated by grunts, groans, giggles and sweat. Tristan and I solidly, almost easily, stood our ground, but in the midst of the battle, Susan, who had inexplicably sworn allegiance to extended kin over we greed-laden members of her nuclear family, escaped with the remaining chunk of log cake. As Tyler’s unsuspecting girlfriend stood in awe, it seems Susan, the lovely but flighty turncoat, had decided nephew Tyler was somehow entitled to the remaining chunk of log cake. Though he hails from her side of the family, Susan's unexpected actions have left me aghast.

Let there be no doubt, Tristan and I fought fiercely, restraining the attacker’s fork hand and grinding our knuckles into his unprotected sternum; still, we are prepared to admit our efforts only caused Tyler to battle more valiantly.

Finally, hunched desperately over the bathroom sink, swarmed and enduring considerable discomfort, he managed, between girly giggles, to stuff forkfuls of the remaining log cake into his mouth.

Though history will report he emerged victorious this round, he knows as well as we, victory will be short-lived and, just as surely as the power of the mighty inspires the admiration of the proletariats, there will be another log cake.

Once again, we stand ready.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Weird Friggin' Weather

Instead of trying to sprain my way up the driveway, I chose the less direct route, cutting across the lawn, causing loud crunches in the ice-covered snow as I stepped. The concrete stoop was a disaster waiting to happen; shimmering ominously in the faint glow of the street light.

The freezing rain had been falling most of the day and night. I had wisely opted to take the train in to work. I knew the walk back home last night would be hairy! I got off the train and took a picture of the coaches speeding past me, the ice-plastered electrified lines overhead, buzzing and flashing bright green in the dark night.

There was no approaching sheet-ice sidewalks or cutting across mirror-like glistening parking lots. I walked home in the middle of the street, following the path where tires had crushed ice into far less treacherous slush. Tree branches looked like spider webs.

Like a reckless mountaineer departing base camp as his support team sleeps, I prepared for the climb to the front door, scoffing at safety cords, spiked boots and hand chisels. Gingerly, making no sudden moves or weight shifts, I placed one foot on the first step and then the other. I did the same for each step, always pausing to see whether my footing was solid enough to attempt another step upward. I finally, carefully, dug the keys out of my pocket and stepped inside at 1:20 this morning.

Before climbing into bed, I promptly left two notes, one on the kitchen counter and a post-it on the front door, warning Susan the front steps were dangerous. She left early this morning and when I got up hours later, I saw that she had spread salt before attempting the descent.

Clever girl.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Insert Foot Here

Your honor, I hereby respectfully enter a plea of "not guilty".

We were watching the Sens-Canucks hockey game last night when a "night shot" of the festively-decorated Parliament buildings appeared on the television screen. Right now, the buildings in Ottawa are decked out in red and green. They caught our eye!

Susan suggested that during the holidays, we go see the buildings; I enthusiastically agreed. Then she mentioned we could take a picture of her and our two dogs on Parliament Hill. I tried to imagine the picture. To me, including Susan, Moose, Spike and the festively-lit Parliament buildings in the same picture seemed a difficult proposition, so I wondered aloud, “Do we have a lens that could fit you, the dogs and the Parliament buildings all at the same time?”

Susan parted the unsuspecting lips of my innocence and inserted a stick of dynamite.

Her face was filled with mock dismay as she demanded to know whether I was saying she was too fat to fit in the picture. Tristan quickly jumped on the bandwagon and ever since I made the remark, I have been steadily sinking into a self-regenerating pit of verbal quicksand.

My situation has become wholly implacable and no matter how I try to explain my statement, I fail to improve things. The truth is - Susan doesn’t want me to improve my situation and she won’t let me improve my situation! She was going on about it last night and is still going on about it today!

Thankfully, as far as I can tell, she’s mostly kidding.

Never in a million years would I say or imply such a loutish thing about my delightfully bratty, blonde, blue-eyed bombshell!

There was absolutely no intent on my part to suggest such a thing, nor was there any intent on my part to profit, humorously, from what, in retrospect, was a lovely set-up. I simply wondered whether we had a wide angle lens that could fit the wide Parliament buildings, while still allowing us to discern Susan and the two dogs. Any picture that includes the entire Parliamentary complex would mean Susan and the two dogs are too small to see.

Not being an expert in photography and concepts such as depth of field, focal length or perspective, any picture where we can recognize Susan and the two dogs, would mean we’re only seeing a small part of the Parliament buildings. To do the decorations justice, the entire building should be included in the picture, which brings me back to my original, reckless question.

While I seek to do justice by the Parliamentary decorations, I now also find myself flimsily seeking justice for myself. Susan would probably argue she’s taking care of it.

I urged her not to go on twisting my words into something I did not intend to say, or suggest and when I threatened to blog about the incident, she merely smirked and offered the title, "Insert foot here"!

As far as my mouth is concerned, I think it's time for another adjustment in shutter speed.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hey, Teacher, Leave Them Kids Alone

It’s reprehensible, distasteful, ridiculous and wrong. The latest billow to be added to Quebec’s ominously dark language cloud aims to target schoolyards. Once upon a time, recess and lunch were that part of the school day when excited and energetic little children were free to play and interact with others. Soon, if the Commission scolaire de Montreal has its way, it will be a time when children will have to be on the lookout for schoolyard monitors who will reprimand them for speaking languages other than French.

It’s shameful. It’s no way to encourage an open and free society and, frankly, it’s no way to protect and preserve a language.

The Commission scolaire de Montreal wants to make French the mandatory language in schoolyards. Children, playing on their own free time, will no longer be free to speak the language they choose.

How can you tell an English, Italian or Portugese child playing with friends, they’re not allowed to speak their own language?

Adults in Quebec have already lost several freedoms, but how can you justify taking freedoms away from children? How can you justify allowing petty politics to infiltrate schoolyards?

Separatists may argue it’s a matter of inevitable extrapolation.

When francophones in PEI battled tooth and nail in 2000 to get their own French school in Summerside, where were the Quebecers so deeply devoted to the protection and preservation of French? When, in July, francophones in the Yukon were battling for a French high school and the right to manage their own educational institutions, where were the Quebecers so deeply devoted to the protection and preservation of French?

They had their heads in the sand.

They had their heads in the sand when the United Nations ruled in 1993 that Quebec’s French-only outside sign law violated the declaration of human rights. They had their heads in the sand when, in its 1994 report on human rights issues, the US State Department declared non-French people in Quebec continue to be discriminated against.

In 1998, Premier Lucien Bouchard stated Quebec’s language laws must be applied in a way that doesn’t give the province a bad reputation; it’s a little late for that.

French parents themselves have gone to court for the right to send their children to English schools.

Quebec has taken away the freedom of choice for parents deciding schools for their children. Quebec has taken away freedom of expression for companies who want to advertise. Now it’s stooping to taking away the right to freedom of expression from children in schoolyards!

The language issue in Quebec casts a dark cloud over a magnificent province. Why must the protection and preservation of French be negative and based on paternalistic, self righteousness? If you can figure out a way to encourage people to have children, surely you can think of incentives that encourage people to speak French and educate their children in French. Instead of depriving people of freedoms, why not enhance their freedoms by offering incentives, encouraging them to freely choose French. You can lower tuition fees and offer tax savings to people who send children to French school. Help employers offer incentives to employees educated and trained in French.

There is strength in numbers and if Quebec politicians made it their business to spread and support French across the country, think what that would do for the future of the French language in Canada. In 1996, Franco-Manitobans fought to have bilingual signs posted in St-Boniface. In 1996, the Bloc Quebecois fought to have more French on signs in Ottawa. Rather than let French wither away elsewhere in Canada, Quebec should take steps to promote and encourage its protection and preservation. That’s the most effective way to preserve and protect the French language and culture in Quebec; the protection and preservation should come from inside and outside the province.

Separatists behave as though there’s nothing outside Quebec, when, in fact, there is a whole world beyond provincial borders. Many adamant separatists have been enlightened and educated outside provincial borders.

It’s time to pull your heads from the sand. Quebec is not the only province that belongs to Quebecers. All of Canada, with all of its resources, beauty and opportunity, belongs to Quebecers. Separatists, like it or not, this is your country; you are entitled to all it has to offer. Stake your claim and stake it in the language of your choice.

Schools are supposed to be about positivity, learning, expansion, progression, openness; not repression, suppresssion, regression, coercion and conformity. The rest of the world admires Canada and every year, thousands of people become Canadian citizens. Life in Canada is about glorious freedom; tens of thousands of Canadians died in its name and in its defence. Quebec’s language legislation is giving the rest of the world the wrong idea of what life in Canada is about and now, it’s giving its own children the wrong idea of what life in Canada is about.

Making French the mandatory language in schoolyards is just another brick in the wall; the wall that keeps many anglophones from coming here to explore opportunities and the wall that keeps many unilingual francophones from leaving here to explore opportunities.

You can bet the offended separatist schoolyard monitors who proposed this CSDM rule are drooling, their young targets already in sight.

Hey, teacher, leave them kids alone!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Steve Hill Rocks

What an artist!

Steve loosens up
Steve Hill is from Trois-Rivieres. He's been playing guitar since he was sixteen. He was in the television station this week to promote his sixth album, entitled "Whiplash Love" and to promote his upcoming show at l'Astral. He performed a track from the album, live, for our show and I must say I was extremely impressed! Every note he sang was bang-on, his voice sounded terrific, his words heartfelt and every pluck of the guitar, precise.

During our interview, he gave a lot of credit for his growth as a musician and artist to Pagliaro. Steve has played with Buddy Guy, BB King, Jimmy Vaughn and toured with several other artists. Steve was an easygoing pro, the very best guest a host could hope for. He was always smiling and happy to sign an autograph or pose for pictures.

Sound test with Steve as one of technical guys, Alain, a big fan, looks on
There had been a mix-up. I had told his people in exchanged e-mails, we could accomodate an amp and voice, but when he got to the station, he explained that he'd  been told our crew could not work with an amp. As a result, he didn't bring an electric guitar and, instead, brought a steel-bodied acoustic guitar, made in 1931. His performance of "I'll Walk" was the last segment of the show. I did the show-close, but still had some time to use up, so I turned to him and asked if he'd play a bit more; instantly, he did.

As far as I'm concerned, he has a standing invitation!

I had mentioned to viewers, at least twice, that we had a copy of Steve Hill's CD to give away and then, like a moron, I completely forgot to do the giveaway on-air! Duh! I still feel terrible about that.

Watch our interview and Steve's performance. If you're into rock, blues, guitar or great performances, be sure to check-out Steve Hill!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Morning Stampede

It was the kind of chilly morning that keeps an unsuspecting gazelle's ears twitching alertly as it stands in unfamiliar pastures. In spite of the chill, the sun was bright and warm and the air, fresh.

A single ox grazed stupidly beside me, grunting occasionally. It was 7:15 this morning. The Wal Mart opened at 8.

My son had warned me the release of MW3 would bring unprecedented crowds and likely break all previous sales records. I dared doubt.

By 7:45, I was surrounded.

Customers wait for store to open
The oxen jostled and pawed restlessly. Their big, beefy, bovine butts stank of fresh bursts of methane. I hadn’t been in the store since its expansion. It was now the premiere watering hole of the vast savannah, attracting greedy, oblivious oxen from continents away! Susan had been inside since the renovations and had emphatically warned me to avoid the place! With its new grocery empire, ignorant, inconsiderate oxen now stood crammed in aisles, amid fresh plops of dung, like gigantic, dumb sardines, severely amplifying the danger to polite humans, of being inadvertently trampled or stupefied.

These were unfamiliar pastures, indeed!

Two oxen were exchanging snorts, discussing which route would provide the quickest way to the electronics department. By the time the corral door had been unlocked, I had been firmly planted at the front of the herd for forty-five minutes. Idiot.

Though slightly uncertain about the trajectory ahead, I had lulled myself into a false sense of security. That false sense exploded into smithereens as the doors slid open. Instinctively, I cowered.


I had been sent by my son before to pick-up new video games on their release dates, but for a mostly civilized man, this was entirely new territory! At once and with impressive resolve, the oxen surged forward, trotting at first, between the trees and rocks and then, mere instants later, breaking into full gallops! In the midst of the thundering hooves and clouds of dust blinding my vision and choking my windpipe, my first impulse was to curl into a ball behind a tree stump. Instead, for my offspring, I switched into full gazelle mode, bounding, springing, dancing and prancing, fleet of foot, between the massive frames. I was fifth in line, with huge oxen, muzzles sweating, panting loudly in front and behind me.

I deliberatly nudged the ox in front of me; he had arrived five minutes before the door opened and managed to get in line ahead of me. Oh, to be an ox, free to toss all shreds of deceny to the wind! A clerk opened a second cash and I dashed over to her counter. Now, I was first in line! When in Rome, baby! I paid for the game and stepped aside, catching my breath, astounded by the sheer spectacle.

The person behind me requested the special edition. The clerk came out from behind the counter and began going through unopened cardboad boxes while lines of oxen waited. There were three cashes going, each one with line-ups of fifteen to twenty people as more oxen steadily trudged into the department. It was bedlam! I could imagine Darwin observing from a nearby rock, excitedly scratching out the rudimentary principles of natural selection.

Home now, I continue to do inventory of my limbs. The new video game has been placed on Tristan’s desk, waiting for him to get home from school. How ironic. In video games, Tristan's character may struggle to survive, win and complete missions. It's child's play; in the real world, there’s no respawn. It’s you and the oxen, poised on the ruthless pastures of bargain-dom, playing for keeps.

The nightmares of today's mission will be mine to bear.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Toad the Wet Sprocket

Last night, I introduced William Shatner's show at Place des Arts. I was there as the representative for the television station, title sponsor of the event.

Earlier in the day, I had been told by the actor's publicity guy that the introduction the night before in Toronto had not gone well and, moments later, Shatner himself claimed it took him a while to get the audience back. As a result of the Toronto incident, they decided I would no longer be preparing a sixty second introduction; instead, they decided to script me. It turns out the script they sent me was thirty seconds long, so I decided to add an unauthorized line, along with a second mention of the station name.

I believe the sentence I added was most appropriate. After mentioning that I was delighted to be there representing the title sponsor, I told the audience beyond the glaring lights, "I'm also delighted to be here to introduce a man who is so interested and inspired by his life, that he interests and inspires us."

Uh-huh, now that's writing.

I had the opportunity to interview the 80 year old actor late yesterday afternoon at his hotel in Old Montreal. I had been assigned to put together a 2 minute 30 second report on the interview. We had an animated and interesting conversation that lasted about a half hour. When I first arrived at the hotel and as I was climbing the stairs with Todd the publicity guy, I asked if I could get a signed picture for my sister-in-law who, according to Susan, is a big Shatner fan. Todd, or should I say, Toad, responded curtly, "no". 

I took an instant sour pill, responding with the same curt tone to the remainder of his questions.

William Shatner is an actor, author, musician, writer, director, interviewer and so much more. He is passionate, interested and inspired by life, as I so eloquently and brilliantly and insightfully and perceptively pointed-out in my on-stage introduction! I was never a "Trekkie" but had, in recent weeks, begun to watch "Shatner's Raw Nerve" and enjoyed watching episodes of  "!%&$ My Dad Says".

David Sedell, my camera guy at the shoot is a huge Shatner fan, and rated meeting him as highly as the time he met George Harrison! We wondered whether the actor would be willing to pose for a picture with the two of us. David's idea was to have the three of us stand in front of the rolling camera and take a freeze frame from the video. Shatner agreed.
I'm glad we didn't ask Toad.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"Whale Tail" or Warning

It ticks me off. I feel like such a sap, obeying traffic rules, making all my stops. I royally hate feeling like a sap!

The vast majority of people barely stop at all, or blatantly roll right through stop signs! Several times, as a pedestrian, I end up yelling at cars that roll through stop signs as I’m walking across the road!

At least if the cops were enforcing the rules, I’d feel like obeying them, pays-off. Seeing cops parked at intersections waiting to catch the idiots who ignore stop signs would be instant reward; positive reinforcement and motivation to keep being a “goody two shoes”.

For the last several months, there’s been construction on the highway near my home. The signs warn ominously of “doubled fines in construction zones”. The speed limit through the construction zone is posted at 70 kilometres an hour. I go 80. I feel like a grinding-the-gears granny as people routinely fly past me! I curse them for ignoring the speed limit and I curse myself for sappily obeying it. It’s not a pleasant drive.

Why bother obeying the rules, I grumble, if no one is going to enforce them? Sure, I don’t want to hit a worker, or smash into a dump truck as it unexpectedly pulls into or out of a construction area. Most times I drive through there, I see no one working. I drive through there at midnight, or on weekends. I haven’t seen one patrol car monitoring traffic there and I’m constantly grappling with the temptation to go faster.

Last night, after midnight, coming home from work, I once again slowed down to 80 when I hit the construction zone. Sap mobile in the house. The car behind me slowed down as well. We puttered along for a couple of kilometres and then the car behind me pulled out and passed me. It was a Surete du Quebec cruiser!

As the police car continued past, I cheered myself for being a sap and would like to believe that if I’d sped up, I would have received a slobberingly juicy ticket, complete with doubled fines! I’m hoping last night’s incident will deter me from the temptation to speed through the construction zone which, the signs say, will be in place until August 2012.

I know myself. I'm a sad excuse for self-control and by the weekend, I will have dismissed last night’s encounter as a “whale tail”, a fluke!

Drat. I see a long, curse-crammed year of driving ahead.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Snapback is Back

A few weeks ago, Tristan mentioned “snapback hats” and then tried to explain what they were. I listened intently but, typically, failed to grasp the concept. I choose to blame his explanation as much as my inability to clearly visualize the object of his description.

Today, wandering through a busy mall, snapbacks came up again. This time, he pointed to one as it sauntered past on top of someone’s head. “Those are snapbacks?”, I exclaimed, incredulous, “I’ve got a closet full!”

When I was in CEGEP, my father took me to buy a pair of Puma running shoes. They were blue suede with the red puma design sweeping along the side. A couple of years ago, out of the blue, Pumas were all the rage! Susan got a pair. Tristan got a pair and I, well, I still had the pair I got decades ago.

Heh heh; I believe "shrewd" is the word you're lookin for.

It’s like I always say, “Hang on to your gross, out-of-fashion stuff because sooner or later, it’s coming back around!” I actually don’t say that and am always amazed when I see my forgotten junk appear as part of everyone else’s fashion statement. It happened with my plaid shirts, my lumber jackets and now, snapback hats.

I eagerly await the day my blue cotton Miami Vice blazer bursts back onto store racks! Susan calls it my "real estate agent jacket" and wretches and heaves whenever I put it on, but in a decade or two, I'll show her! The day will come and, believe me, I will savor the last laugh.

I carefully laid a selection of my snapbacks on the ping pong table. I propped up the ones that had been flattened and straightened out the fronts that had been wrinkled.

Beauties, huh? Are you seeing the history in this assortment? I know, but it’s not that simple.

I discovered there are certain criteria that must be met; the hot, hip snapback hats of today should have a team logo on the front, possess a certain vintage flavor and a beak that is straight, not curled and bent. Being a long-time beak bender and curler, that, unfortunately, ruled-out a lot of my dustier gems. After looking through them and patiently listening to my explanations about why this or that hat was a collectible and sentimentally attached to me, Tristan selected one for possible wear.

Boom! How exciting; my fashion slop has reached the top! My snapback beak is at the peak! My forgotten hat is just all that!

So, you see, it’s like I always say, “Patience isn’t a virtue, it’s a fashion gift”. I couldn’t be prouder.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Curse the Clock

Caroline Ouellette is a three-time Olympic gold medallist and five-time world champion! As accomplishments go, those alone are difficult to comprehend! That she's currently playing hockey in an arena that bears her name is a testament to the enormity of her contribution to Canadian sport! Caroline was in our studio yesterday, along with 2010 hockey Olympian and her newly-drafted teammate, Catherine Ward. They were there to talk about the Montreal Stars of the Canadian Women's Hockey League.

I may have met Catherine before, when she was a member of the McGill Martlets hockey team. Doing live segments for the morning show a few years ago, McGill womens' hockey coach Peter Smith was always willing to organize an early morning visit and scrimmage for our show. Catherine thinks she may have been part of one of those "crack of dawn" sessions!
Sitting with Caroline (left) and Catherine in-studio,  moments before taping begins.

The interview was very interesting. I didn't get to the question during the interview because I, as usual, ran out of time, but both players admitted one day having a womens' professional hockey league that pays players would be a dream come true. They're certainly doing what they can now to make that reality possible in the future. Even more important is their roles as inspirations. The more girls who get involved in sports and who remain active throughout their lives as a result of that involvement, the better! Caroline graduated from Quebec's  police academy a few years ago and is exploring coaching, while Catherine, after doing her undergraduate degree at McGill, completed her MBA at Boston University last year. Through all their projects, they never stop playing and never stop winning!

On the same show, I interviewed singer and former Canadian Idol winner Eva Avila, who was in-studio as spokesperson for the fourth annual Pedigree Adoption Drive. Eva's been going across the country, trying to get Canadians to consider shelter dogs for adoption, as well as donate to shelters and volunteer at them.

Eva is getting ready to begin recording a new French album and we learned, off-air, she's a "foodie" and her boyfriend is executive chef at Gordon Ramsay's Montreal restaurant, the former Laurier BBQ! She was energetic, well-spoken and very nice; I wish her all the success in the world! I'm still curious as to how she got the nickname "Eva le dragon", but as usual, I ran out of time!

I curse the clock.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Why I'm Waddling

At 8:31 this morning, I climbed onto my bicycle in the backyard. At 9:31, I got off my bicycle in the sand at Oka Beach.

I walked a bit, sat a bit and thought a bit. I worked at Parc Paul Sauvé beach for five summers as a lifeguard. In that time, I grew a lot physically, socially and politically. I met great people and collected interesting and sometimes intense, experiences. We worked, trained and partied together. Two summers in a row, we swam across Lac des Deux Montagnes. I remember being pretty wobbly when I got out of the water on the other side!

With the sun shining brightly and a fall chill in the air, it's a fine day for a bike ride. It's been a nice and welcome long weekend. Susan made a huge and delicious Thanksgiving turkey dinner last night. I
know I have much to be thankful for; not only that Susan and Tristan are part of my life, but that they're healthy; that we're all healthy!

As I pedalled into the park limits, I noticed this sign. Evidently, the creation of the powerful salamander lobby has paid off!

I had recently pedalled to the park limits a number of times, but it had been a while since I'd pedalled the extra kilometres into the park and to the shore. There are new sections of the bike path that cut right through the dense forest. In many places, the path is blanketed by a dense coat of fallen pine needles.

There were geese on the water and others constantly flying in for the convention.

The only sound I could hear, during lulls in the honking, was falling leaves lightly tapping the sand around me.

It took me an hour to ride back home, which is surprising considering the awful yearning I had developed for padded bike shorts! I own a couple of pairs, I just hadn't considered wearing them. They were sorely missed.

My next assignment of the day involves a trip to the store. Tristan wanted me to buy a new driving video game that's coming out today. I refused and then, thinking it was a pretty safe bet, I agreed to pay for the game if he convinced Susan to finish a race on the game demo. She adamantly refuses to play video games except, as it turns out, when there's the opportunity to stiff me, humiliate me, crush me, have me eat crow, or take me to the cleaners; then, by all means, hand her the controller, there are exceptions to be made!

I'm still thankful, as off I waddle.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Loss of Jobs

My son sent me a text last night that read, “So sad about Steve Jobs. Terrible :( ”. 

That my 16 year old son knew who the man was, heard about his death as he sat in his driver’s ed class and texted me those heavy-hearted words, more than anything else, poignantly drove home the importance of his contributions to our lives.

Steve Jobs certainly impacted the life of my son; with his iPods, iMac and iPhone4, Tristan is a veritable technophile.

I tend to resist and, at times, resent propaganda and glitzy purveyors of glitzier products. I revel in being unconnected.

While I never ran out to buy an Apple product, the one gadget I feel most personally connected to, is my iPod. It contains 5,548 of my hand-picked songs and still has 103 gigabytes of memory left to fill! It lifts my train commutes from ordinary to wonderful. All at once, it's kept me out of trouble (An Apple A Day -September 12, 2010) and turned me into a self-confessed podaholic (Somebody Stop Me - August 25, 2010) !

Many a day, I grab my iPod, put on my headphones, flop onto the counch or sit on the deck outside and fly away.

The death of Steve Jobs came across the wire last night as I prepared the late-night newscast. It was sad news.

Later, watching people discuss his contributions, his visionary approach to technology and his marketing genius, I now more fully appreciate the extent to which his inventions have blanketed our globe.

He made technology loveable.

He was, as one commentator put it, our generation’s Leonardo.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Son Waketh the Father

One of these cheap plastic figurines must be Buzz Aldrin.There are three of them standing on this tacky gold plastic pedestal, positioned around a starched American flag. The detachable figurines are fairly large, like a box of crackers. I pulled it off the stand and turned it around to see if the name of the astronaut was written on the back. It wasn’t. As I started to turn it upside down, thinking the name of the astronaut might be indicated on the soles of his moon boots, the figurine suddenly spoke to me, repeating the word, “Dad. Dad.”

I opened my eyes to find Tristan standing over me, dressed and ready for school. I had forgotten to adjust the setting on my alarm clock! As is customary, it took me a few moments to clear my groggy and groaning head. The clock read 6:42 this morning. I got dressed, got in the car and drove him to his destination on-time.

Neither of us are morning people. Susan is a morning person. Wheeeee! “The earlier, the better,” she likes to chirp.

Tristan is a night owl, like me. Mornings are just a mistake.

I’m doing the late newscast right now, which means I’m off the air at 11:30 at night. Depending on how many hellishly stupid detours inconsiderate roadworkers throw at me each night, I can usually make it home around 12:30. Falling to sleep after the shift and the drive, can take a while; there’s much unwinding to be done.

In order to get Tristan to school on-time, I’m supposed to wake-up at 6:30 am.


Every single morning, all through high school, I’ve been the one to get him out of bed! He didn’t set alarms, it was my job; the father waketh the son. I’d call out his name every few minutes, each time more sternly, until finally, utterly exasperated, I’d be forced to fling his mattress into the air!

Once woken, inevitably and unfailingly, he’d trudge around the house snarling like a ravenous jungle cat listening to the familiar sounds of the zookeeper preparing food. It’s usually wiser not to interact with the ornery beast, but there are limits to the rudeness I will tolerate.

Now in his graduating year, for the first time, he’s using an alarm clock! I can’t decide whether I’ve been demoted, or promoted. Of course, if it gives me a few extra minutes of sleep, I’m good with it. These days, it’s especially important that I set my alarm correctly on Tuesday mornings because Tristan is up late Monday night, watching one of our favorite shows, “Hawaii Five-O”.

Last Tuesday, he slept through his alarm and I was there to get him up on-time. Today he was there to get me up on-time. Alas, he’s nobly taken up the shield of responsibility. Yawn; the circle is complete.

Was that Buzz in my hand? Only Freud knows for sure.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Knickers in Knots

Go ahead, ask me if I’ve ever had a dressing room before last night?

Uh, no.

I was asked to be Master of Ceremonies for a gala concert to raise funds for the bursary and financial aid programs at my former college. The event took place at Montreal’s brand new Maison symphonique. The concert hall is so new that you’re breathing in sawdust as you wait in the wings between acts!

During "mic" check yesterday afternoon, I made the mistake of referring to the venue as “Place des Arts” and was immediately corrected by the sound guy at the back of the hall. Make a note, they are two separate entities.

Knickers in knots!

The event featured performances by current and former music students. I had the pleasure of meeting some talented people, including mezzo soprano, Annamaria Popescu, who I hope to have on our own interview show soon.

With Jamie Gelfand on piano, I sang “The Way We Were”, although as we yakked it up on-stage, I’m pretty sure he gave me a hard time over my song choice!

I knew him as Jamie, the wild-haired, frisbee-wielding free spirit bounding across the school lawn! Still every bit the immensely talented pianist, he’s now known, rather primly, as Mr. James Gelfand. After casually referring to him as “Jamie” during his on-stage introduction, he returned the favor and hollered back at me, with some sting, “Richie”, as I exited stage right.

Knickers in knots!

The best part was having Tristan and Susan there. I could see them fidgeting a little during less entertaining numbers, but it was nice to see their familiar faces each time I scanned the crowd from backstage. They also provided candid and much-appreciated reviews afterwards.

I left with a card of thanks from the director-general of Marianopolis, who we had the pleasure of chatting with after the show.

Although we had been speaking beforehand and had gone over last-minute changes, moments before showtime, the school's director of development and alumni affairs, found me waiting in the wings backstage and explained to me, wide-eyed, gasping for air and brow glistening, that he'd spent the last twenty minutes looking for me. Sorry about that, Barth.

Knickers in knots!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

SASE, Meet Dodo

Tristan completed an assignment for English class last week. As instructed by his teacher, he wrote a 500 word letter to himself and put it in a SASE. Apparently, the teacher plans to send these "self-addressed stamped envelopes" back to the students, for a reason as yet unspecified, at the end of the year.

He wrote the letter and then asked Susan where on the envelope to put the stamp. He then wondered where on the envelope he should write the address. When he was done, he brought it to Susan for a last check. He had not written his name on the envelope! She told him he had to write the name of the person to whom the letter was addressed.

The SASE has been turned-in to the teacher and will, I suppose, eventually make its way back to our house next spring.

It's 2011 and the winds of progress that howl, roar and rip at us, have made letter-writing a novelty! Tristan's generation very rarely writes letters. Skype, twitter, e-mail, facetime, texting; they've learned to communicate, instantly and effectively, in a million different ways! Time is no object, nor is distance. In elementary school, we learned how to address envelopes and write letters. Now in elementary school, students are not allowed to text in class!

Technology is leaving things like "snail mail" and cursive writing behind. The dodo bird will tell you the clock’s ticking.

Susan scolded me over the weekend for failing to read all the text messages that had been sent to my prehistoric flip phone! I explained that unless I see a big blue screen with the words "New Message" on it, I assume I have no new text messages. Even if there is no big blue screen, she suggested I make a point of scanning the bar at the top of the flip phone's screen to see whether there is an envelope icon. This envelope icon, she explained sweetly through gritted teeth, means I have messages.

I'm conflicted.

I don't want to be Luddite Lou. Still, part of me resents society's relentless obsession with gadgets and the craving to have the latest device to show-off to your friends. Without a doubt, there are practical applications and I applaud those who use technology's leading edge to entrepreneurial advantage. Do I need to see someone a continent away when I talk to them? Do I need a keyboard phone? Do I need to have a phone at all?

Maybe the real problem is that I'm just cheap and resent having to spend money on all this junk!

I know I could survive back in the dark age when I did my own parallel parking and found phone booths! There was peace and space and time to think. The world around me seems consumed by incessant chirps, bowed heads and tapping thumbs; and I'd much rather park my car than have it park me, thanks!

Is resistance futile? By failing to embrace new gadgets, am I dooming myself to a life of limits and lack of vision?

Will Tristan ever write me a letter? Do pigs fly?

Friday, September 16, 2011

One Eye on the Dark Sky

I made sure I was in front of the television set to see whether Batman and Robin would make it out of that terrible scrape they’d landed in during the previous episode! There I would be, faithfully and eagerly, sometimes with bath towel hanging cape-like from my shoulders, in front of the television, cheering on the dynamic duo.

When I glanced out the newsroom window yesterday and saw the Batmobile parked on Ste-Catherine Street, I had no choice but to rush down and re-live the excitement!

I still have my Corgi Batmobile!

The Batmobile and the Delorean from “Back to the Future” were parked downtown to help promote this weekend’s Comic Con. One of the organizers of the event, Alex La Prova, had been on our show a few days earlier, talking about all the special guests and activities. Alex, in the red T-shirt,  had confessed to me before our interview started, that he never thought it would get as big as it has.

Years ago, while working at a Montreal radio station, I interviewed David Prowse, the man who wore the Darth Vader costume in the “Star Wars” movies. The former bodybuilder didn’t perform Vader’s voice, but he was the man in the costume. I asked him in that 1993 interview, whether George Lucas was very involved in Darth Vader’s appearance and presence on-screen. David replied, “Not at all. Not at all; that was all me. I had no instruction from George whatsoever. I was just basically given carte blanche to do as I pleased. The one thing I decided right from the outset, was, I really wanted to make Darth Vader as menacing and, um, well, really as menacing as possible. And I thought the best thing I can do is the way I move and the way I walk and I really wanted everybody to be subservient to me and I virtually wanted everybody to have to run to catch-up with me as I walked or strode through the scenes. I wanted everbody to be trotting behind me and this is really what established Darth Vader right from the word go.”  David’s at the Comic Con and yesterday, I got a picture with him.

I can't help it, the fun of Batman and Spiderman lives inside me! True, even then, those building-climbing scenes left a lot to be desired but, I still keep one eye on the dark sky, just in case Commissioner Gordon flashes the bat signal.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Addictive Apple

We’ve been to New Yortk City several times and, on occasion, have eagerly persuaded relatives to come with us. We really enjoy going and every visit, every walk, every block, is an adventure!

I was at home getting ready to go into work for my radio news shift in Montreal when Susan called to say a plane had hit one of the World Trade Centre towers. She didn’t have access to a television at her workplace and neither of us realized it was a passenger jet that had deliberately flown into the struture. It was only when I got to work that I turned on a television and saw the images.

They were shocking, disturbing and grotesque then and today, ten years later, they remain exactly so.

I didn't go to New York City to cover the story, but I covered it from afar on my radio newscasts, reports and interviews. I don't carry too many news stories around with me, but this is one of them.

The scope of the violence and suffering are incomprehensible.

In terms of the things I notice on streets and how I evaluate people around me, their behaviors and the possible consequences of details I observe, it certainly changed me.

Like Montreal, there is no other place on earth quite like New York City; its vibrancy is intoxicating and the overpowering roar of life, addictive.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Flo-Rida Adventures Part 5

Until it crashed into his face, I had never even heard of a stinkbug! Tristan was vigorously wiping his face with hand sanitizer after the bug hit and, indeed, the smell was rather pungent! Apparently, the bug emits odor through holes in its abdomen. One of the many adventures connected with our visit last month to Florida.

This is the final installment of our 2011 Flo-Rida Adventures series!

There’s no doubt about it, it’s a long drive! We divide it into two days and usually, spend one night on the road in a hotel. Unfortunately, we sometimes get dumpy rooms under respectable hotel chain names. On the way home, we ended up in a room at the Comfort Inn that was musty, damp and dingy with sudden, loud noises from the room next door.

One of the reasons we drive is so we can bring our two dogs, Moose and Spike. This close-up of Spike’s nose was shot on my camera by Susan, for the purposes of  –  I have no idea why she took this picture!

Every single morning, Susan is up early to give Moose her insulin shot. As a result, sunrises from our balcony in Cocoa Beach were a welcome distraction from the fatigue. It’s pre-dawn.

A new day means brand new coupon possibilities and a chance to share the 90+ heat with man’s best friend; wait, no, my mistake, this is Susan’s best friend!

One of the high points while driving was hearing Tristan sing the entire Flobots song, “Handlebars”. It’s pretty darn impressive, not to mention a great song!

I can’t deny I employed conflict avoidance strategies during the drive. Susan found the air conditioning in the car too cold, so, wrapped in a fleece blanket, she’d say, “I don’t know how you can sit in front of the air conditioning vent! Aren’t your knees cold?” Sitting behind the wheel in shorts, my wisest response was, consistently, a tight-lipped, “Hmmmm.” You have to stay on your toes so you can recognize those provocative comments meant to lead nowhere good!

Not being fans of the taste, Tristan and I found out the hard way that all Dominoes' pizza crusts across the United States are now stuffed with garlic! He did get to snack at Ron John’s, as his mother prepared to eat a pizza slice!

BTW, I do have authorization from the individual on the left to use this picture. For more Cocoa Beach adventures, see my August 22, 2010 blog, titled "Crazy for Cocoa Beach"! You can hardly wait for next year, huh?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Le Grand-brulé

It’s been a while; easily several years that I have been suggesting we hike up Mont Tremblant to see the bird show at the summit. For the bilingual “Birds of Prey” show organized by Falcon Environmental Services, this is the last weekend of the season.

Tanya Drapeau of FES was recently a guest on the interview show I host and her appearance prompted me to again suggest to Susan that we hike up Tremblant, Labor Day weekend. I had done television reports from the picturesque summit with Tanya years ago, but, Susan and I had never hiked up to see the actual show.

Today was the day!

The two of us arrived at the base of the mountain and decided the quickest way to hike to the summit would be straight up! The show was scheduled to begin at 12:30 pm. We had about an hour and a half to make the demanding 968 metre climb.

Two minutes in, Susan turned around and playfully offered, “If I’m going too fast, be sure to tell me.” She called it “a little verbal jab”. Wouldn’t it be funny, I grumbled to myself, if I got the opportunity during this hike to say those very words back to her.

Twenty minutes later; bingo!

Never one to shy away from fanning a potential domestic fire, I turned around and, at great risk to life and limb, offered, “If  I’m going too fast, tell me,” and, I added, “That’s just a playful little jab.” She took it very well and the bruise she inflicted will heal with time.

I’m telling you, the summit never came! I was drenched but keeping pace and, at times, setting a slow but steady one. I’d stop to take pictures as an excuse to rest!

Last weekend, I walked to the video store about a mile and a half from our home, in the wind and rain attributed to Tropical Storm Irene and I didn’t get as wet as I got today, climbing Tremblant! Along with the front and back of my shirt, the entire rim of my HH baseball cap was completely soaked!

I was wearing our backpack and I made certain to explain its terribly cumbersome weight was contributing to the steady flow of sweat dripping from the tip of my nose!

It contained two water bottles, four fruit cups, two spoons, my sweater, my rain slicker, Susan’s slicker, my wallet, her wallet, a bag of raisins, a bag of jellybeans, a pen or two, an elastic band and lots of lint! All in all, we’re talking substantial weight; am I right?

We traded the lead until, frustratingly, she got her second wind! We’d still stop to rest, but she definitely had more energy as we finally closed the distance to the summit. We must have made the summit shortly after noon. I quickly bought liquids and guzzled them!

Sitting on the bench at the bird show, soaked with sweat, I began to feel a chill in the breeze. The biologists brought out a turkey vulture, kestrel and a bald eagle. The birds fly right over your head and move from perch to perch, so you can snap pictures.

This is the little barn owl who, despite his little puffball apprearance, the biologists explained, is a voracious hunter.

Then, there was a Great Horned Owl.

The show, though a little shorter than we had expected, was terrific! We left the show and snapped some pictures from the summit.

We weren’t too sure which path to take down, but we ended-up on a trail called Le Grand-brulé, which, unbeknownst to us, translates to “the godforsaken, never-ending trail”. Had we been aware of the translation, rest assured, we would have coughed up $7 each, to take the gondola down!

It was tight, steep, slippery, dark, bright, wet, dry, mucky. The trail surface went from thick slop to jagged rocks, then from loose boulders to sheer faces, and from packed gravel to tangled roots. In Tremblant's official guide, Le Grand-brulé is listed, kindly, as a "difficult" trail of 6.5 km in length, one way.

Hiking with Susan today, was like hiking with a little kid! On the way up, she claimed I was too slow, then too fast! Susan was thirsty, her ankle hurt, her back hurt and, being a goal-oriented, fiery little beast, she preferred leading the way up the hill! Publicly, she will insist she is not competitive. I don’t understand it! On the way down, ignoring treacherous terrain, she would insist on scampering ahead and claiming the lead for hers, and hers alone! She was in another gear! If I was in front, the instant there was enough space, she would dash past, giggling! The truth is she may be psychotically competitive; not to mention impatient, impulsive and impetuous. Honestly, it doesn’t get any better than that! I love it!

Susan likes to see she’s making progress and Le Grand-brulé doesn’t allow you to ever see the village below. So, you ceaselessly slip, slide, twist, bend, skip, jump and hop, without ever feeling like you’re nearing the end. Providing plenty of close calls and wipeouts, “the godforsaken, never-ending trail” just went on and on, and on and on!

Susan did not appreciate that “endless hiking feeling” in the least, nor the sense of futility it bred. She kept letting me know it and by the time we saw the village, I was as relieved as she was!

We stopped to look in a few stores and every time we stopped, my limbs, joints, muscles and brain cells seemed to be stiffening-up. As we came out of the village general store with still more liquids in-hand, I said, “Wow, every time we start walking again, I walk even slower than I did before." Immediately and sweetly, she responded, “Really? I didn’t think that was possible.”

I must say, today was a nutty workout! I can’t decide which was a greater source of exhaustion, hiking up and down Tremblant, or hiking with Susan!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Inside-Out Privileges

In this household, I do most of the laundry. I find it an easy chore, although, granted, I’m not doing laundry for thirty people!

No biggie; separating whites, darks, colors, multi-colors.

Laundry allows me to do a bunch of other things around the house while, occasionally, checking to see whether it’s time to move the wash to the dryer, or remove dried clothing for folding. I often start laundry loads, then blog, or take out my guitar and sing, until I hear the dryer buzz!.

Laundry is not without its challenges and hazards! It’s incredible; I often buy those bags of white sport socks for myself, Susan and Tristan. There may be twenty pairs in a package and yet, within a couple of weeks, we’re down to six intact pairs, each! Where the heck are these socks running off to?

In an effort to reduce losses, I now resemble a bomb disposal expert as I slowly scoop ticking socks from the washer and transfer them to the dryer. Carefully, I hold them at arm’s length, to better allow me to spot the defectors, lone white socks, frantically jumping for freedom.

Truthfully, handling socks like nuclear waste hasn’t helped my average. You’ll be happy to know, no sock is wasted. Unmatched socks can look forward to being stuffed inside the waffle balls we use for floor hockey!

Certainly, there are worse fates. They could end up on my feet!

At some point, I was probably folding a pile of clothes and grumbling about all the inside-out shirts, sweaters, sweatshirts and socks! Susan says it was sometime after we were married that I warned her she would eventually be losing inside-out privileges.

Shortly afterward, it happened, and I no longer turned her shirts, blouses and other clothing outside-out. I decided from that moment on, I would fold clothing "as is"; if it’s inside-out when I pull it from the dryer, that’s how it would be folded.

You understand. It just slowed me down too much and severely compromised my efficiency!

A couple of years ago, I told Tristan that, at sixteen, he would lose inside-out privileges.

I would find myself turning inside-out jeans, sweatpants, shorts, sweatshirts, hoodies and thirty million t-shirts, outside-out! Alone and trying to maintain my high-speed folding mode, I found it time-consuming and downright exasperating!

Last night, as he pulled on a T-shirt that he had just turned outside-out, he asked whether he had, indeed, lost inside-out privileges. It’s been a few weeks since his sixteenth birthday and I, feeling terribly guilty, admitted the privilege had gone the way of a stray sock.

My first impulse is still to turn his inside-out clothing outside-out!

It’s tough and I’m torn. I want to be a good father, but it’s ridiculous! Plus, I’m pretty sure being a good dad does not entail painstakingly pulling fifty million articles of clothing from inside-out to outside-out!

Besides, I’m still doing all their inside-out socks - and that’s enough to keep my sanity teetering precariously.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Flo-Rida Adventures Part 4

Large, dumb people; here, they prevail; there, they reign. As a species, wal-mart oxen south of the border are huskier and far bolder! While walking into any number of big box stores in Florida, you risk sobering flashbacks to frightening video images of Pamplona.

Unabashed, at the top of each store aisle, they openly snort and paw the ground and each oxe, as it inconsiderately stands and grazes directly in your path, knows with supreme bovine certainty, it is alone in the world. It has no inkling, clue or care that its behavior might affect other animals around the watering hole.

Know this; had Archimedes floated in a pool with wal-mart oxen, he would have formulated his theories of fluid displacement and buoyancy far more quickly! Of course, instead of shouting, “Eureka!”, he would have likely shouted, “You reek, ugh!”

Below our border and here, wal-mart oxen are obstinate, obnoxious and oblivious and you can say that right to their dripping snouts because they have no idea what those words mean.

The huskier American oxen are successfully enticed with dazzling product selection. Witness the jaw-dropping assortment of Oreo cookies my son photographed in a Cocoa Beach grocery store, seconds before a drooling, smelly herd thundered down the aisle in our direction!

At great risk to life and limb, we did manage to snatch a package of creamsicle Oreos to sample on the drive home!

Here, wal-mart oxen graze greedily on the Plain of Bargain (see November 21, 2010 blog, entitled “Poop on Publi-Sac”). There, you’d be wiser to find another plain altogether and, whatever you do, don’t fall in front of one!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Flo-Rida Adventures Part 3

I love the ocean. I love the ocean except when it goes all tsunami! I love watching the infinite surge of nature’s tide against the shore. I like walking along the beach at night.

Susan's not so big on beaches at night, but I certainly enjoyed having her clutch my arm last Wednesday night as we made our way past oncoming strollers and twitchy crabs that quickly criss-crossed our path. Tristan snapped this picture of a crab with his iPhone 4.

We decided to walk to Ron John’s over-stuffed, over-advertised and stupidly self-promoting beach store at night, to pick up some chimes a friend had asked us to find for her. Wicked adventurers, we be!

We bought a flashlight and, once darkness had fallen, headed out.

Most of the crabs dash and dart, while a few of the more strategically minded, just sit motionless as we walk past.

Tristan figured out when it was time to head up across the sand to the parking lot and, as we left the beach, a couple of guys who were standing around, said, "Hey, how are you doing?"

I replied, “Fine” and then, remembering the courteous principle of reciprocity, I added, “What about you?”

As we kept walking past, he said, “Good, as long as the rescuers make it to the soup bowl.” Once we had gone a few steps more,  I, quite puzzled, repeated what he had said under my breath. Then, speaking louder, I asked Tristan and Susan, “What did you guys hear, because I heard, ‘Good, as long as the rescuers make it to the soup bowl’?”

Thankfully, Susan eventually figured out “Super Bowl” and then, I figured out “Redskins” and the rest is history. Man, my ears are hearing strange things these days! Maybe it was the heat.

During a daylight walk along the beach, I snapped a few photos of this bird, which, at the risk of  underscoring my ornithological ignorance, I’m going to refer to as a heron.

From our balcony and from the waves, we would watch pelicans dive bomb the water. Since we were on the top floor, pelican squadrons would regularly skim over the hotel roof! Ace photogtapher Susan caught this squadron on approach.

Then, they came in for the rooftop skim, rather odd looking creatures, huh?

Susan also managed to take some shots of the poolside lizards.

The only other wildlife we spotted during our stay, prompted a retreat from the ocean almost as hasty as the lightning and thunder incident that royally freaked us out that first afternoon!

Tristan stood up in the water at one point and said, with remarkable calm,“There’s a stingray swimming toward us.” By the time the last syllable had left his mouth, I had flown up on to his shoulders, twisted his torso around to face the shore and was heartlessly digging my spurs into his ribs, screaming, “Faster, son! Faster!”

Yep, adventurers, we be!

Some of our previous trips to Florida have left us with jellyfish stings but, this time around, the only jellyfish we saw were baking on the sand one afternoon as the tide went out.

Before entering the ocean, we would always assess AFS content. We rarely ventured very deep into the waves unless Alternative Food Sources were in there with us! High AFS and we are good to go! High AFS, of course, means nasty creatures of the deep will have to choose between several possible meals, lowering the probabilities of our being selected. We think of it as basic Darwinism.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Flo-Rida Adventures Part 2

If it pumps, they will pump it. If it bounces, they will bounce it. If it sprays, they must spray it. No matter what ill-fated product presents itself in their path, Tristan and Susan seem to be in complete agreement that commercial items have been placed on store shelves specifically for their sensory stimulation and amusement.

Thankfully, I don’t shop with the two of them very often. When I do find myself wandering through store aisles with this pair of compulsive product probers, I quickly become painfully aware they are one in the same. Florida only confirmed what I already knew.

It sprays, so she sprayed and sniffed.

It bounces, so he squatted and bounced.

Inevitably, as they handle and sample products, they drop items on the floor, creating clanging, squeaking, whining and crashing disturbances! No matter how many times I sternly tell them products have not been placed there for their enjoyment, their questionable upbringings jovially override my expressed concerns.

It’s ridiculous! When I go in a store, I touch nothing; they touch everything! I can only cringe. In the “As Seen On TV” store in Orlando, she had to try on the hi-def glasses and then she tried on this haute mode hat.
What a cutie!

Still, where matters of shopping are concerned, you are best not to trifle with Susan.

We found out from our hotel reception desk, the lightning bolt that sent father and son into each others' arms the day before, actually struck the adjacent hotel, knocking out wi-fi to that hotel and ours. To think, disabled wi-fi might have kept Susan from printing her on-line Hollister coupons! I can tell you, this was a crisis, narrowly averted. Luckily, the wi-fi was restored in time for Susan to spread her unstoppable campaign of shock-and-awe shopping!

The first time Susan strolled up to the counter at the Hollister store in Melbourne, the clerks stupidly ignored sounds of the Ennio Morricone theme music from “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”. The clerks probably chalked it up to coincidence, but the truth is, they had no idea who they were dealing with.

Susan laid her purchases out on the countertop and presented the coupon she had printed at home for shopping on-line. It entitled her to “20% Off” the clothing items she was buying.

At the end of the transaction, the clerks handed her another card and suggested she go back on-line to redeem it. She went back to the hotel, went on-line, printed her next coupon and went back to the store the next day! Once more, she plopped her products on the counter, mostly clothing for Tristan, and pulled out a “$25 Off” coupon. I was there; the clerks literally “ooooed” and “aahhhed” and showed each other this latest coupon. It seems none of them had ever seen such a thing before! They presented her with yet another card and told her to go on-line to redeem it. I had also been given a coupon because I had bought Susan a few items for her birthday. She went back to the hotel, two coupon cards in-hand, printed her next coupon and went back to the store the next day! She plopped her products on the counter, again, mostly clothing for Tristan and pulled out a “25% Off” coupon.

Here she waits in the store for Tristan to try on an item.

She was buying T-shirts, hoodies, jeans, underwear and other items that were already on special and getting the coupon discounts on top of the sale prices. She was getting a pair of jeans that might go for $69 in Canada and $49 in the US, for a mere $19. The savings on T-shirts were even more drastic!

Clearly, Susan keeps her conquests in perspective. Stepping from the strangely dark store into the bright mall after a particularly lucrative round of coupon dropping, she chuckled, “I’m going to frame this bill.” As she finished speaking, a nervous tumbleweed bounced past.

I’ll bet the clerks are still wandering through the dark store, awed and shocked by the irrefutable power of Shopper Susan. Alas, I continue to faithfully attempt to document her shopping savvy (kindly refer to blog dated March 27, 2011).

I know that, for generations, the question, “Which came first, the chicken, or the egg?”, has begged an answer. The more immediate and timely question is, perhaps, “Which came first, the coupon, or the purchase?”

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Flo-Rida Adventures Part 1

Our trip to Florida was great! True, cognitive dissonance would suggest that after a drive of that magnitude, we could have spent a week in rain-soaked cardboard boxes on the streets of downtown Tallahasse and we’d still say the vacation was great. I’m not going to lie, it’s a drive of the most huge order!

We left bright and early Saturday morning! I’m lying. Scratch “bright”; we left very early Saturday morning.

We stopped for the night in North Carolina. The last few years that we drove to Florida, we discovered satellite radio in our rented car. This year, there was no satellite radio, so Tristan provided our in-flight music. As a result, I am up on all the latest tunes. Go ahead, quiz me!

He did wield a rather massive hammer, repeatedly threatening to lay the Skrillex bomb on his mother, if she failed to comply with his wishes! 

Once, when MC T-Dot took a break, the self-dubbed DJ Snoozby herself, stepped up and kicked it, laying down some smooth tracks from her own iPod, as we travelled south across South Carolina. She hit us with Hot Chocolate, Linkin Park, Semisonic, Jack Johnson, Killers, Justin Bieber, Sola Rosa and, as we started across Lake Marion, famous for its populations of landlocked striped bass, she spilled out some Jessie J.

As I contemplated the early morning South Carolina fog and strange river names, DJ Snoozby lit-up our rhythm centres...and outdid herself!

Yesterday, as MC T-Dot watched a movie, she assumed in-flight music duties again, as we travelled north through South Carolina, on our way home.

Drivers notice way more than passengers! I must say, several lonely crosses and stacks of flowers on every major roadway are grim reminders that death lurks amid the speeding vehicles.

After driving through what felt like all fifty states, we arrived at our beachfront hotel in Cocoa Beach Sunday afternoon and sweatily moved into our top floor room. The temperature was above 90 Farenheit every day. In fact, it was so hot, that throughout our stay, the mercury in Florida thermometers was constantly being treated for altitude sickness!

That, right there, is my own sparkling gem.

We foolish kids were actually in the ocean that first afternoon, casually watching a storm creep ever closer. It was at the back of our hotel as we frolicked in the waves. Tra la la! We watched the dark clouds slip closer, along with the lightning forks and rolling thunder. Tra la la! At one point, we jumped over a wave and as we wiped the sting of salt water from our eyes, mighty Thor tossed down one, big, friggin' forked bolt that flashed directly over our heads and then, a millisecond later, there was  a series of thunderclaps so intensely loud, we thought they'd spilled from our swimsuit pockets! We were in each others' arms, father and son, saucer-eyed and craving life; then, a millisecond later, we made for shore as though chased by Poseidon himself, threatening to fry our various body parts with a high-voltage cattle prod!

Now kids, please remember, let's not stay in the water as a lightning storm approaches. That would be dumb and dangerous and nobody wants to be referred to, thusly.

Speaking as a former lifeguard, I'm not sure which one of us is "dumb" and which one "dangerous"; at any rate, we sprang for the ocean view and by the first night, it had paid for itself! After spending time in the pool and ocean Sunday, we watched the remainder of the storm from the balcony, admiring spectacular lightning flashes over the ocean and listening to sometimes-deafening thunder pound the air.

Real-life Skrillex, Susan might say!

At night, we’d leave a thick room curtain open and every morning, the rising sun would shine in through one of our room windows.

A fine beginning to a fine vacation! Ahead in “Flo Rida Adventures - Part Two”, shocking evidence, untold confessions and the juicy photos to prove it! Plus, Susan causes store clerks to cower...stay tuned!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Shorter Fuse, My Butt

As pleasant as my days are, meeting Susan for lunch is often the most pleasant part of my day. Today, we met for lunch downtown and decided to walk through the bright sunshine to Dagwoods to eat a couple of submarine sandwiches. There was a line-up when we got there and it progressed well until the man directly in front of us ordered ten sandwiches.

Yank the hand brake.

Part way through the extensive slicing, one of the employees looked at Susan and offered, "It won't be long." I muttered to Susan, "It's already been too long." She agreed. I think fast food outlets should, especially during the lunch rush, delay inordinately time-consuming orders until there's a lull. Again, Susan agreed, but insisted the delay was not the fault of the employees.

To cut and lay out the proper bread, to slice and lay out the multiple varieties of meats, to garnish each sandwich with the proper toppings, to package all the subs, cookies and chip bags took close to fifteen minutes! By that point, the woman behind me in the line-up had grumbled twice in French about the delay. Susan grumbled about the delay.

Finally, we were asked for our orders. We gave them.

Then, there was a problem with the cash! The cashier came over to the employee who was slicing meat and told him that she had apparently overcharged the guy with the big order. The meat slicer promptly went over to the cash and began assertively pressing buttons and discussing with the customer, until the problem was solved.

He came back and, again, after all that waiting, asked about our orders.

I snapped. I demanded he change the plastic gloves he was wearing and suggested that after poking away at the cash register, the dirtied gloves were no longer fit to handle food and, more precisely, my food! I told him that was the whole point of the gloves, to make sure the handling of food is done as cleanly as possible. We glared at each other and he changed the gloves.

He began slicing and assembling our sandwiches.

After making us wait close to twenty minutes now, the cashier suddenly seemed to be in a huge hurry, impatiently waiting for Susan to pay for her completed order. My sub was not yet completed and I was about to choose my toppings. I looked at the cashier and said, "The orders are together, give me a minute, I'm almost done." I chose my toppings and got to the cash, where I explained that I didn't appreciate having to spend such a huge chunk of my limited lunch time waiting to be served!

We sat down to eat, at which point Susan suggested I had gone too far. I pointed out I am normally quite reasonable and the wait we'd endured was anything but reasonable. I also admitted that I'm fed-up of restaurant employees who wear plastic gloves while wiping counters with rags, opening stove doors, opening refrigerators, food bags, filling condiment containers and poking at cash registers.

If you're going to do all those things while wearing plastic gloves, you might as well take them off, just so you know I know wearing them is no more sanitary than not wearing them at all. Let's just end the charade!

I argued the employees should know when to change the gloves and stop insulting the intelligence of customers. Susan then suggested the employees may be suffering from diminished intelligence, or drastic indifference.

She ended today's lunch by declaring my fuse shorter than ever. Her consternation may be warranted but, in my defense, your honor, how is a reasonable human expected to respond to the growing lack of consideration to which we are subjected?

I maintain the whole wonderfully perfect concept of reasonableness allows for unreasonable responses by reasonable people to unreasonable situations.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Twins Were A Treat

The Edwards Twins are performing in Montreal this weekend.
They appeared in character for a performance in our studio.

Anthony and Eddie put a lot of energy and work into their act.
It was fun and those guys can sing!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Maze Rat - Season One

Quite mysteriously, the Paul McCartney show had not been an issue the night before!

I finished the 11pm newscast and effortlessly made my way through the streets around and behind the concert venue and then, smoothly drove up on to the highway.

Wednesday night, when I pulled out of the garage at the very same time, there were people everywhere! The former Beatle had obviously decided to make the last of his two shows in Montreal, a longer one, or perhaps a snapped cane had detained him. Freshly-released concert-goers were casually crossing streets, filling sidewalks and carelessly weaving through traffic. St-Antoine Street, directly behind the venue, had, conveniently, been closed by police.

Along with the cab in front of me, I eventually made an illegal turn south onto Peel Street, hoping to escape the torment of bumper-to-bumper traffic!

I turned west onto Notre-Dame Street and endured horribly bumpy roads and red lights, thinking with unshakeable certainty, t’is far better to be moving, than not.

I was pretty sure at that point I'd make it all the way to the 20 along this route, but, most conveniently, Notre-Dame was closed at St-Remi. An accomplished problem-solver, I decisively turned north on to St-Remi and accelerated. A split second later, I stopped the car and stared at the large truck, stuck halfway through the one-lane tunnel. It was, quite conveniently, not going anywhere! Its hazard signals blinked mockingly as people milled about, gesturing.

I must reluctantly admit that, by now, I was barely sane anymore.

I didn't want to enter the tunnel because cars behind me would pen me in, preventing me from ever backing out. Crazily, I contemplated the southbound side of the tunnel. It beckoned me with oncoming headlights and, after allowing a car to pass, I made a mad dash for daylight, zooming northward through the tunnel in the southbound lane.The panel truck behind me, followed. We made it to St-Jacques where, once I began heading west, I found myself  in the hospital construction zone. I made it through there fairly quickly and began travelling west along St-Jacques, enduring horribly bumpy roads and red lights, thinking with unshakeable certainty, t’is far better to be moving, than not.

I could only conclude I had inadvertently steered my car on to the set of “Maze Rat”, the new game show!

I pointed the car into the access lane emptying onto westbound 20 and sighed with relief. On the highway now, as I zoomed through the curve, I suddenly realized traffic in front of me was completely stopped! There was nobody behind me, so I slowed and stopped, leaving a large gap between myself and the stopped car in front. I turned on the "hazards" to warn idiots like myself, who might come speeding up behind me, failing to realize traffic was at a standstill.

I had left work at about 11:40pm and painstakingly crawled through that stretch until 12:35, as the far left lane gradually crammed into the middle lane and then, as the middle lane gradually crammed itself into the far right lane. In no particular order, I cursed, crabbed, gritted and whimpered. There was no one in the closed lanes, no sign of a construction worker or a useful construction tool. I finally made it on to northbound 13 and assumed nothing.

I should have known it would be one of those nights by virtue of how my drive had begun.The cameraman who was working the late shift left early, having cleverly factored-in the concert, construction and finishing fireworks. As I wound my way through the underground garage after my shift, I arrived at exit level to find a shiny white vehicle blocking my path.

Instantly, having developed rather acute olfactory prowess, I caught the unmistakable scent of manure and methane gas. The car was packed with wal-mart oxen! Noticing me behind them, they inched their vehicle toward the barrier, not knowing what to do next. They tried to put the ticket in the slot, but the task was far too delicate for the large-hoofed oxen at the wheel! They sat there. Grunting restlessly, they appeared to be discussing their next move. I knew I wouldn’t approve. They did nothing. I waited, pretending to be courteous. Pretending to be politically correct, I shall choose now, not to mention nationalities.

Eventually, the attendant came out and explained to the oxen they had to pay the ticket before driving to the exit. He told them to circle back in order to pay at the machine. They sat there. He gestured again, telling them to loop around and go pay the ticket. They sat there, tails flicking flies off their big butts. He gestured in my direction and again, made the "loop around" gesture. They sat there. After several tedious minutes, a hoof tentatively emerged from the window, clutching dollar bills. The attendant refused to go pay the ticket for them, waving his hands from side to side. They sat there. I sat there. The hoof didn’t budge, hanging dumbly in the air until the attendant gave in. As he walked in front of my car on his way to a machine, I shouted through lowered windows, “Can’t you let me go around them?” He replied, “I will pay the ticket.”

Smoke shot from my ears and I leaned on the horn.

A male oxen clumsily opened the back door of the car and looked at me with big bovine eyeballs. I heard a thud and, at first, thought one of the horns on his head had hit the door frame, but I realized he had banged the car door againt the concrete podium supporting the ticket machine. I bet the door was dented; tee hee! As I looked back at him, I impatiently screwed my index finger back and forth against my temple, congratulating him on having reached the pinnacle of oxenhood. He gestured with two hands and closed the door.

Last night, for sanity’s sake, I decided to take the train. No bumpy roads, detours and red lights for me. I boarded, thinking with unshakeable certainty, t’is far better to be moving, than not.

Alas, it turns out the last train from Montreal carries freak freight, with oblivious oxen scattered about, eagerly pulling off their shoes and propping their smelly hooves up on seats. The guy who’d staggered into the train with a much steadier friend, regaled us with wretches, heaves and the sound of plopping vomit. The friend had brought a clear, plastic bag big enough to hold a yard full of leaves.

I got off the train vowing that, tonight, I’d give the car another chance.