Thursday, March 29, 2012

Antsy Me

My hands kept jumping off the keyboard every time the fire alarm sounded! It’s a loud electronic buzz that kept blaring from the intercom speakers at seemingly random intervals. Late last night, without the din of a bustling newsroom, the alarm seemed even louder and less expected. It would sound once and then disappear for fifteen minutes, only to sound again, out of the blue.

Last night was a weird night.

Sometimes the alarm would continue buzzing every ten seconds or so and then stop. Our technical department chalked it up to “testing”.

Then came the printer problems. I could not get the printer to print-out a normal looking page. All the words would be crammed to the left side of the page in a very narrow column. I’d turn the computer off and try again, only to get one normal printing. The second item I’d print, went back to the left side of the page, narrow and illegible.

I re-booted the computer about four times. Each time, the first printing was fine and subsequent ones, messed up. I turned it off and then printed the entire newscast. Anchors don't dare head into the studio without a paper copy of the newscast in case the teleprompter goes wonky.

The two problems were making me antsy. I still had to change into my suit and tie and slap on twenty pounds of high-definition make-up (see blog of January 17, 2012).

On the air, as we came out of commercial and began the national news segment, the silent alarm began blinking in the studio. In all the time I’ve been back at the station, I’d never seen the alarm blink. It’s a bright, white strobe that immediately caught my eye. As it continued blinking, I kept reading our national and international news stories. My mind was wandering as I read, wondering whether there was a real emergency unfolding elsewhere in the building.

As soon as we reached the second commercial break, I picked up the phone and called the technical employee, asking whether there was an emergency I should know about. He knew nothing about the blinking alarm and didn’t even know where the light was located in the studio. It had been blinking for at least five minutes, but the second he showed up at the studio door to check it out, the blinking stopped.

I slipped the new Susie Arioli CD into the sound system and steered the car for the exit. I’m interviewing Susie today. Her new album, “All The Way”, was released on Tuesday. She's performing a couple of songs from the album on our show, which airs this weekend.

Music is a fine cure for antsy.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Susan Van Pelt

Once upon a time, we were movie fools! If one week there were five new movies out, we would see a movie every night! There was no stopping us.

Movies tell stories. They take you places, light up your imagination and fire up your emotions. At one radio station where I worked, I got a card that allowed me to see movies at one of the big theatre chains, free of charge! Front of the line, please.

Pretty soon, there was a baby stopping us. For several years after Tristan was born, we stopped seeing movies altogether. I’d occasionally and defiantly rent movies, fall asleep and remember nothing about the movie plot or actors. Years later, I’d see movies I’d rented in those first months of fatherhood and it was like I’d never seen them at all!

When Tristan was a little older, we might weasel our way into seeing one or two films a year, strictly family fare. We brought him to see “Stuart Little” and the first time one of the nasty cats appeared on-screen, he let it be known he wanted out of that theatre! My wife and nephew stayed in the theatre to watch the rest of the movie, while I wandered the lobby with Tristan. We visited a few lobbies in our time. Noisy football games where they set-off fireworks for touchdowns and Japanese restaurants with flaming tables were all fine reasons to frequent lobbies.

In an effort to see a movie on a big screen, we’d try to bribe Tristan; actually, I’d try to bribe Tristan. “Psst, son, if you agree to go see the digitally restored ‘Jungle Book”, I’ll buy you a new car.”

He’s older now, but can’t be bothered to see a movie. He’s too cool as a rule. He may sometimes plop down on a couch to watch part of a movie we’ve rented. When that happens, we hold our breath for fear of upsetting the balance of nature and, above all else, we try never to look directly at his person.

I’m way off-track now. This is not about Tristan, this is about Susan! Actually, I guess it’s about me being deprived of the big screen movie experience. Susan is by far the worst offender. She’s a carrot-dangler. Over and over, she would emphatically claim to want to see a certain new movie. Finally, the movie would be released and her tune would change, “I’m too tired. I’m too lazy.” I’d hop and down, pound my chest, grumble, burst into tears, all to no avail. I’d inevitably have to wait for it to come out on video.

This form of torment has been going on for decades! I, like Charlie Brown aching to kick the football Lucy’s holding, still fall for her clearly stated intentions to see new movies. For a solid two weeks, she has been stating she wants to see “The Hunger Games” as soon as it comes out. Do not try to stand in her way!

I’d test her conviction by telling her she was going to change her mind. Somehow she always manages to convince me this time it’s different. All week, she insisted she was eager and intent on seeing the movie as soon as it hit theatres! I was sure I was seeing “The Hunger Games” as soon as it hit theatres this weekend. I told people I was seeing the movie this weekend; that’s how sure I was that we were going to see the film. Big crowds do not slow us down; they never have.

On Friday night when I called home from work, I asked, “Are you going to go on-line and order tickets in advance?” Just as I started my kicking motion, she yanked the football from my path.“I dunno,” came the shocking reply, "It’s going to be too busy and too crowded.” Bewildered, I pulled the phone away from my head and stared at the receiver.

Gullible, much?

I did not see “The Hunger Games” this weekend, even though I was one thousand per cent sure I would be seeing it. Instead, we rented “Tintin” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo”, two movies she once told me she wanted to see as soon as they opened in theatres.

I kid you not.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Disconcerting Darling

Special? That doesn’t begin to describe her!

I often get the feeling she knows too much about sports. I was doing dishes on the day of the NHL trade deadline and Susan was calling me with the details of the Senators' Lee-for-Gilroy trade!

I often get the feeling she knows too much about electronics (see January 1, 2012 "Year of the Intervention" blog). The other day I heard Tristan ask her the difference between 3G and 4G. She went on to talk about “hertz” and television response times!

I often get the feeling she knows too much about fashion. She’s given me fair warning that narrow neckties are coming back into style.

It’s very disconcerting; I can’t keep up!

The only thing I know too much about is make-up.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Torn Over Towel-Gloves

I was too slow to snap a picture of the blindfolded hair stylist! On one of the many demonstration stages at the beauty show today, a blindfolded stylist was cutting a model’s hair. He yanked the blindfold off as I finally got a clear shot of his performance. I was trying to take the picture with Susan's iPhone. It's easy to use, but I was just spazzy. How do you cut someone’s hair while wearing a blindfold and, perhaps more importantly, why do you cut someone’s hair while wearing a blindfold?

Why do they do any of the things they do at the beauty show? Spectacle, I suppose.

One beauty company had models doing modern dance.

It’s a huge trade show, with hundreds of big-name beauty companies displaying thousands of products!

There are demonstrations of hair styling, cutting, washing, anti-aging, anti-acne, space-age hair dryers, manicures, nail setting, electrolysis machines and make-up application. There are bins filled with every product under the sun!

Every year I dutifully accompany Susan to this event (See "Beware the Beauty Show" blog dated March 17, 2011), I leave thinking, “What a zoo!” The thought applies to this year, too. I try and, honestly, that’s part of the fun, but when bipedal creatures are layered with so much zing, bling and ch-ching, it’s far too difficult for me to determine their planets of origin.

Susan bought several products; from lotions and cremes, to nail polishes and shampoos. As we were leaving the show, she rather factually pointed-out that the exact same product she bought for $15 a week ago at a store, she had dropped into her complimentary tote bag for $7 today.

She couldn't make up her mind about the towel gloves! These are terrycloth gloves that, according to the video, you wear to squeeze-dry your wet hair. Though Susan carefully explained it to me, I'm still not certain whether the towel gloves help induce, or help prevent, frizz. The second time she walked past them, she winced with uncertainty. I think she's still torn.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Rink Rats and Polar Bears

On Monday, I did a live report from an outdoor rink downtown, where several guys were playing a game of shinny. The report was for the supper hour newscast and talked about climate-related research suggesting Canada’s outdoor hockey season could disappear by the middle of the century.The findings by scientists at McGill and Concordia universities, have just been published.

It’s difficult to imagine winter without outdoor rinks! I’ve played countless hours of hockey on outdoor rinks, with countless wonderful friends. Where winter activities are concerned, my philosophy has always been, why get in a car and drive for an hour or more to a ski hill where I spend a small fortune to wait in line, get a few moments of exercise and then wait in line again? I'd much rather spend hours getting constant exercise at the rink down the street for the low price of - free!

I was late coming to the sport of hockey and was talked into trying to skate by a friend who, during a visit to our home, happened to have an extra pair of skates in his car. I was in my early twenties and found myself on my hands and knees, doing an unwelcome in-depth analysis of crack propagation on sub-zero surfaces. I couldn’t stand up! He loaned me the skates and eventually, I managed to remain upright, while using my hockey stick as a third limb. I became addicted and steadily improved.

I was at the outdoor rink every chance I got! On January 16th, 1985, I played for three hours in -21 degree cold and froze my toe. I went to the emergency room, where doctors placed my foot in a bowl full of cold water. My toe was black and for close to two years, it remained various shades of sickly green, with gnarled pieces of skin falling off it.

Could I stay away? No.

I would play for hours, early in the morning and very late at night. On January 2nd, 1999, I played for one and a half hours in -16 degree cold with a baseball cap on my head! There may have been a wind chill that night. We were a bunch of guys zooming around the ice, playing hockey, when an elderly gentleman with no hockey stick stepped onto the ice, skated around for a moment and then came over to me to tell me I had better check my ear. I remember almost curtly brushing him off and then stopping moments later, to pull off my gauntlets and touch my ear. I couldn’t feel it. I sat in an emergency room for four hours and never saw a doctor. For about two weeks after that, my ear was flopped away from my head, limply hanging perpendicular to the side of my skull.

After Monday’s report, I noticed the temperature was going well above-zero for the rest of this week. Yesterday, I woke-up, grabbed my skates, gauntlets, a stick, puck and tuque and headed to an outdoor rink, where I skated around for about an hour and a half. It’s an outdoor rink that uses a zamboni and, on a day when the temperature was -10 and the sky mainly sunny, I paused a few times to ponder the threat of global warming to rink rats and polar bears.

Outdoor hockey rinks keep a lot of kids out of trouble and many self-confessed rink rats have gone on to become professional hockey superstars. Though the findings remain unpublished, I’m afraid I, on the other hand, have gone on to stand as wholly unscientific proof that as time spent on cold rinks increases, intelligence moves dramatically in the other direction.