31 July, 2004

Excursions

An interesting, at times awkward day today.
This morning we went to the K-W bookstore in downtown Kitchener. This bookstore, billed as the largest in Southwestern Ontario, used to be an oft-visited treasure chest for me. It has a positively enormous selection of magazines: you can be reasonably certain that if it's not on the rack, it's not published.
We were in search of magazines for fat women. There used to be one called B.B.W...it doesn't seem to exist any more. Nor is there anything else for this growing (ahem) market. Disappointing, but not overly suprising.
What did surprise me was their book collection, equally disappointing. We have a number of authors we cruise for every time we are in a bookstore (which works out to at least once a month); few of them were even represented. We did snag a Bathroom Reader (we're huge fans) and I found a book by Dan Simmons called SUMMER OF NIGHT that I foolishly sold off about ten years ago, never to see again until today. So that trip wasn't a total disappointment.
Then off to see Eva' s grandfather in Woodstock General. He's been there two now, following a heart attack. His heart seems to be recovering, but his blood pressure is very low and so is his red blood cell count. We last saw him about two months ago, and he looked very unhealthy then. It's strange to say this of someone lying, exhausted, in a hospital bed, but he looked considerably better today.
Hospitals are so depressing. They really should put murals or something on the walls...have a selection of music at the patient's disposal...anything to brighten the place up. And he was telling us today that he can't get a moment's peace, what with all the tests being run, visitors (both his and his wardmate's) tromping in and out, and so on. You wonder how the man's supposed to recover if they won't let him SLEEP!
At any rate, he's not out of the woods yet but he does seem to be moving in the right direction.
After that sobering experience, we drove on to London, a city I spent nine years living in and remember very fondly.
Of course we had to go through the scuzzy parts of town...what must be all of them!...parts I don't remember being near so decrepit twenty years ago. And of course the mall we went through, at one time a real showplace, is practically deserted today. It seems like downtown malls never succeed. Before too long, they're full of GoodLife Fitness Centres, college branches, offices...and vacant, gaping storefronts.
Eva got her nursing degree in London, so she's reasonably familiar with parts of it; I spent most of my near-decade there west of Richmond Street, so I'm familiar with other parts. She and I crossed paths at least once, at an outdoor Glass Tiger concert in (I think) 1986. Anyway, I kept wanting to apologize to my wife for bringing her through these terrible areas. She, who lived in Vancouver's downtown Eastside for five years. Hah.
We had dinner at the Harmony Grand Buffet, a place we'd been to once before with my mother and John. The food was much better that last time. Or at least we think it was. There were bright spots: their pizza was suprisingly delicious and some of their Chinese food, particularly the chow mein, was terrific. But the roast beef was tougher than a big old bull dyke, and the prime rib we'd been promised was nowhere in evidence. Still, the place has such a huge selection that you're sure to find at least a few things you like.
Back home, with a quick stop in at Blockbuster to ascertain that nope, there's nothing worth renting right now. And wow, it's after nine on a Saturday night. I can think of nothing better for us old marrieds to do than to go to bed, read for a time, and then drift off to sleep, knowing we can actually sleep in tomorrow morning. Heck, maybe even until seven a.m!

28 July, 2004

In all shapes and sizes...

I like fat women.

Yes, I've alluded to this in passing, but in truth I feel so strongly about it that I need to say it baldly, right there so you can't misinterpret me. Just in case, I'll say it again:

I like fat women.

Nearly everyone I have dated through my life would fall into the obese or morbidly obese category. There have been three people dear to me who have astounded doctors with their level of physical health despite their obesity. Ask a really fat person about the last time their blood pressure was taken. Chances are the doctor left bruises and obtained a normal reading.

And yet...

What's your first reaction upon seeing somebody that weighs, say, 300 pounds? Pity? Anger? Disgust? All of the above? And while you're thinking about that, does your attitude towards that tub of guts change if said tub of guts is a male?
It's funny, you know...I have no studies to support my belief, but I'm willing to bet only women would find a 300 pound man intrinsically disgusting--and maybe not even a majority of women. But I'd be willing to FURTHER bet that 90% of both sexes find a 300 pound women gross in more than a literal sense.

Think what that woman feels like.

Especially if she is, like many, many overweight people, eating "right", exercising "right", doing everything "right", and watching the pounds stubbornly refuse to melt off. Yeah, just imagine what that feels like.

I bet there's a few of you out there looking at that last paragraph and questioning it, poo-pooing it...'well, obviously, she must be doing something wrong if she's not losing weight.' That attitude is maddeningly pervasive. Okay, we've got our diets, let's line them up from Atkins to the Zone and everything in between...surely one of them's got to be "right", eh? And since everyone our hypothetical tubbo meets just swears by a pet diet, and they're every last one of them different, well, then she should just try all of them in succession until the weight magically disappears, never to return? Is that how it works?

Well, guess what. Diets don't work. That's been proven in countless studies, too many to begin to cite here, and yet there's still this multi-billion dollar industry out there pushing the next cure-all, capitalizing ruthlessly on people's (largely women's) shoddy view of themselves.

My gut feeling, pardon the pun, is that people should be loved for who they are. For me, a 300 pound woman just has twice the body to love, nothing more and nothing less. But chances are she doesn't feel that way. I've met countless fat women--I'm drawn to them, somehow--and the first one to fool me, to successfully fake total self confidence, was the one I married. Oh, Eva had a good deal of self-esteem, much more than your average obese woman, but she'd managed to create a very convincing 'holograph' that amplified and projected her sense of self-worth. It was a bit of a shock meeting the woman behind the curtain. I think she'd say it was a bit of a shock for her, meeting a man who wanted to look behind the curtain. In any event, I've done my best to tear down the curtains, open her blinds, and then open the window and let some fresh air in on Eva's perception of herself.

And it occurs to me that this is what I was put on earth to do: to go around uncovering angels.

There are an awful lot of angels out there who happen to be overweight. An awful lot. And the living hell of it is, they think they're nothing but husks. Large, empty husks.

We've heard stories of virgins approaching 30 years old, who've never so much as had a date. The first thing they'd think to look for when asked out by a man would undoubtedly be a bucket of pig's blood. (For those of you who have not read or seen Carrie, just let that reference slide, okay?)

I think this is a sad state of affairs.

I think it's time something was done about it.

And so, Eva and I are in the preliminary stages of starting up a support group for overweight people. NOT a diet group. NOT an exercise group. If our clients should choose to exercise and/or lose weight, good for them. But this group--very tentatively called P.A.L. (Plump And Loveable)--won't focus on weight loss. It will treat fat people as fat people ought to be treated. Like people, in other words. There's a hell of a lot more going through the mind of your average overweight person than the next fad diet. Or at least there should be.

Stay tuned as this develops.

25 July, 2004

The Monkey on My Back

Look for a long time at what pleases you,
and longer still at what pains you...
---COLETTE
 
I don't know who Colette is or was, whether it's a first name or a last. I ran across this epigram just now on a disembodied page sitting next to our bathroom sink. Live with us for any length of time and you will not find the preceding sentence overly odd...we have books everywhere, and some of the older ones occasionally molt.
In any event, I was 'bathruminating' on something that pains me mightily when my eyes were drawn to Colette's words of wisdom. It occurred to me that this thing should be dragged into the light of day (or at least the weak glow of my monitor) and examined.
 
Christ, it's heavy. Not that I've noticed the weight before, or not often--We Do Not Speak Of It. But I've carried this burden pretty much my whole life. Not only that, every chance I got I added to it. Proudly, even. By now, though, it's a monkey on my back, a big one, maybe actually a silverback gorilla. It can bite. It does bite. Like today.
 
This silverback has a name, and its name is IGNORANCE.
 
Does it strike you, dear reader, as odd that I am 32 years old and have just today used a whippersnipper for the first time? Yeah. Me too. But it's true. Of course, within seconds I had snapped off  part of the cutting spool. I stood there in the middle of the driveway, feeling a not-entirely-phantom pain as that not-entirely-phantom gorilla bit me on the ass.
This morning, I successfully mounted a hook on the back of our bathroom door for my towel. This is a simple job--it would only take your average guy without a gorilla on his shoulder about a minute. It took me ten, and when I finished it, I heard two things in my head: wild cheering, almost immediately drowned out by the sardonic clapping of the gorilla. Good for you, it said. You screwed two screws into the bathroom door and only dropped one twice. Not bad for an idiot. But just wait...later on today you're gonna use a whippersnipper. And then I'm gonna hoot and holler and jump up and down and bite you on the ass and laugh and laugh and LAUGH...

I was setting up my keyboard stand later on and I managed to strip a screw to the point of no return. I could blame this on Mr. Silverback, but he has an accomplice in matters like this, a little macaque named Slanty. Slanty lives deep in my brain and makes me think I'm holding things--like screwdrivers, say--perfectly level when in fact I'm merrily screwing myself crooked. (You'll also see Slanty at work when I'm carrying plates of food. On the list of possible professions for me, "waiter" ranks somewhere below "ballerina".)

On those infrequent occasions when I was forced to acknowledge the gorilla as a child, I'd like as not burst into tears and run away, not caring that it just made him stronger. Now, as an adult, I'm no longer allowed to cry simply because once again, I've fucked things up...but inside there's a little kid screaming.

I have no excuse. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. I put this monkey on my back at least 25 years ago and I've been feeding it ever since. When Things Were Getting Done around the house, I'd make myself scarce. If that wasn't an option, I'd gladly be the guy reading the instructions. I could hold the whoozit steady with the best of them. If pressed, I could even hold two whoozits AT THE SAME TIME. On rare occasions, I'd be asked to willywag the whoozit into the bangzapper. That would usually end badly. Luckily, or so I thought at the time, I had a stepfather who could willywag whoozits into bangzappers with both eyes tied behind his back, whistling the theme from Love Story.  And while John was blessed with nearly endless reserves of patience in most things, it didn't extend to teaching willywagging to a kid who most assuredly had no interest in learning.

But now I've got this here house, see, and the sky is raining bangzappers.

I found out really early in my relationship with Eva that she has a deep and abiding love for monkeys. Even the silverback on my shoulders doesn't faze her, often, for which I am profoundly grateful. Better even than that, she has both skill and an ability to teach. Knowing that helps soothe the gorilla bites just a bit. I can't deny, though, that it's days like today when, just for an instant, I wonder if she'll throw me on the discard pile...and whether I actually belong there or not. 

23 July, 2004

Home, sweet...is this really home?

It's been a month since we moved in here, and I'm still not used to it.

Moving from a one-bedroom apartment to a three-bedroom, three-level house has its advantages. There's finally room for everything. Excepting, of course, our kitchen paraphernalia: you'd need a whole 'nother house to store all of that properly. Okay, I'm exaggerating, a bit...our cupboards are nearly overflowing, but there's still ten or so boxes marked "Kitchen".

This place is fully furnished save the two extra bedrooms. Realistically, our library has room for one or perhaps two more bookshelves--both of which we could fill easily--and that's it. The rec room downstairs is positively stuffed with furniture. I look at it all and wonder how the hell it came out of our old place. It's like seventeen clowns in the back of a VW bug, you know?

What I'm finding is that I just can't get used to the expanded space. Before we moved in here, we visualized a downstairs "living room" in which we would spend a good chunk of time. A month later, the TV works down there, but the VCR and DVD have yet to be connected, let alone turned on, and there doesn't seem to be any urge to get this done. The rec room has become a place to drag laundry through on the way to and from the laundry room.

Oh, we spend some time "down cellar". Like last evening, during the worst thunderstorm I've seen in a couple of years...I looked out the front window and up at the sky and noticed swirls of grey rotating away up there. Not a funnel cloud, but something that looked like it wanted to be a funnel cloud when it grew up. Ken promptly descended below ground level.

But primarily, we live our life on the main floor. That's something I would never have predicted.

This is arguably the squeakiest house I have ever lived in. You can stand in the basement and listen to people moving around in the living room...a very disturbing thing to hear when you're alone in the house, believe me. If you come up to investigate, you'll find a cat pacing. And not even the big cat.

I was a little apprehensive to learn that our home is abutted on both sides by houses rented to university students. Eva has reassured me that anyone choosing to live this far off campus is probably serious about their education, and my 'Animal House' musings are most likely nonsense. I believe her...mostly. I spent a semester living half a block down the street, and it was pretty quiet then. But I saw things during my time as a university student that firmly convinced me many students arrive in Waterloo direct from the other side of the galaxy, having heard that Earth girls are easy and the party never ends.Luckily, the dividing wall between our house and the other half of the semi is solid concrete, attic to basement. Armageddon could commence over there and we'd never know it.

I figure another month and I'll feel fully at home here...

 

 

 

19 July, 2004

Cheap rugs

So Martha Stewart was convicted.
I'm not a Martha apologist, not even close, but I have to wonder about this whole business. Forgive me if I am missing something, because this is just the sort of celebrity circus I tend to deliberately overlook, but...
Didn't somebody give her a hush-hush tip that her stocks were about to tank? And so she sold them off, right? And then lied about it.
Okay, well, let's take the actual selling of the stocks first. I ask you, WHAT THE HELL WAS SHE SUPPOSED TO DO? If the president of Acme Inc. gives me a call and says, hey, Ken, keep this on the down low, but as of Monday morning you might as well wipe your ass with Acme shares, am I supposed to actually hang on to the damned things and lose my pants?
And then she lied about it. Well, duh.  Isn't that what you're supposed to do when you're in trouble? Lie? Of course it is. After all, us normal non-billionaire people do it all the time...sixteen times a day, on average, according to one study. And we teach our children to lie, too.
Maybe it's a matter of who she lied to. You're not supposed to fib to the authorities, are you?
Well, why not? It's not like the authorities never lie to us. At best, you can trust three out of every ten things George W. Bush says. The percentage is even lower for our esteemed (?) Premier, Dalton McGuinty. The authorities make a living out of lying, and it's a pretty good living, too. But they expect the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth from us mere peons? So help me, God!
James Halperin wrote a novel entitled The Truth Machine that ought to be required reading  for everyone. It's the story of a supergenius who creates a 100% effective lie-detector, and said device's subsequent effects on society, nearly all of which are profoundly positive. Imagine knowing for certain if someone is guilty of a crime, merely by asking him. Imagine Big Business forced to run in total transparency. Imagine foreign policy being subject to a Truth Machine.
I try not to lie. I'm not always successful--I've told some whoppers in my time. I usually lie for one simple reason: because the truth would get me in trouble. And never mind that the lie, when discovered, always yields considerably more trouble than the truth would have in the first place. I tend to conveniently forget that little nugget.
I used to lie in order to tell people what they wanted to hear, in an effort to avoid an argument. I don't do that near as often any more, because it's quite literally not me. It's better, I have found, to be yourself.
As far as Martha goes, I bet she'll be out in time to prepare her world-famous egg nog (about nine-tenths of which is pure, unadulterated booze), but you know what? I doubt her sentence means she'll never lie again.
 
 

17 July, 2004

Is there any sense left in the world?

Yesterday, we went to the McCormack branch of the Waterloo Public Library. It's about three blocks away from home. I wasn't expecting  illogic, not in a library. I tend to think of libraries as glowing oases of sanity in a lost world. But alack! Nonsense intrudes even here.
Now, I wasn't expecting much at a branch of the Waterloo library, when the main library itself is so pitiful, but even so I was unpleasantly surprised. Nearly half the selection is for kids; the adult non-fiction encompasses two, count 'em, two racks. I can see the sign now: CLOSED UNTIL BOOKS ARE RETURNED.
Undaunted, I sauntered up to the catalogue terminal. Behold! Not only do I have the Waterloo catalogue at my disposal, but also that of the Kitchener Public Library, a much better collection.
I'm currently reading The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, and finding it tough sledding. A little online research has turned up the existence of a reference companion to this novel, something I think would help me get a lot more out of the work. So that's my first search: "The Key to The Name of the Rose". WPL's never heard of it. No shock there: WPL's not heard of many things, some of them bestsellers. So: KPL. Bingo! It's even in right now: the computer cheerily asks me to CHECK SHELVES.
I can't do that, but I *can* ask a librarian to obtain this book for me.
"Sorry, I can't."
"Why not?"
"Well, it's in the Kitchener system. You're in a Waterloo library."
"But...are you telling me those terminals over there have an option to access the Kitchener catalogue--right there on the title screen!--just so we can see all the books that we can't get?"
She shrugged. I've seen that shrug before. It says 'you're in a different universe here, Ken, and our logic is not your own.'
Eva's got six or eight books to check out. It looks like she's stripped most of the reference section. Well she's doing that, she asks the librarian if she can change her address. "Sure", she's told, they just need something with the current address on it.
Our new cards have yet to arrive in the mail.
"Sorry", she says.
We exit, books in hand, and I turn to Eva and ask her if what I just saw happen was what indeed just happened. Yup: the librarian evidently had proof enough of Eva's identity to allow my wife safe passage through the exit door with an armload of WPL property, but not enough proof of her identity to take her word that she had recently moved. Oh, yeah, that makes sense.
Amazingly, Eva told me the same thing had happened at her bank, when she tried to tell them her address had changed. They demanded proof. But her card was enough to let her take money out of her account.
Someone please explain to me the logic behind this, and remember, I don't speak Qxtfu.
More instances of mass drugging (or at least I hope that's what it is; the alternative would be stupidity too great to be borne):
--the Liberals got in again up here, despite eleven years of colossal mismangement, corruption, fraud, deceit, and bumbling. That settles it: I give up. It's obvious that the Liberal Party of Canada is the only entity fit to govern Canada. Should they ever murder someone, it will undoubtedly be because he 'needed killing'. Probably some Western redneck with anti-Canadian ideas.
--last night, Eva had to stop dead to avoid a car travelling northbound in the southbound lane of a major arterial road.
--the CRTC in its infinite wisdom has decided to allow al-Jazeera into Canada, a service requested by, umm, nobody, while HBO, ESPN, Fox News, and a slew of other  channels, requested by, umm, anybody with a grey-market satellite dish, remain persona Americana non grata. I'm sure this move will go a long way towards repairing our festering relationship with the United States.
--yesterday, I watched somebody systematically tear apart my milk counter, looking for the one bag of Neilson 1% milk that had a different date from all the others. Hmm, let's indulge in a wee process called THOUGHT here, okay? This counter holds 64 bags of 1% milk. On any given Friday I sell three times that. Ergo the milk isn't expired. You can safely take it home and drink it. Please do so. Right now.
 
Sorry, Mental Sarcastic Bastard popped up there for a second. It's getting harder and harder to shut that guy up. Actually, with all the RIDICULOUS SHIT going on in the world, I'm starting to wonder if I should maybe hand MSB a microphone instead.
 
 
 

14 July, 2004

The Adoption Option, Part II

I'm up writing now because I got tired of trying to sleep in an oven. Whew.
So we're adopting. The original plan called for us to move to Listowel, Ontario--about 35 minutes northwest of Waterloo. Why Listowel? Well, the house prices are about 40% cheaper than they are here in the city. I would commute with Eva until the kids came along, and then I would find a part-time job in town and be a househusband the rest of the time.
Except it turns out that adopting in Perth County is a six to ten year process. Here in Waterloo, we could have our children nine months from now, and will almost certainly have them in two years.
Thanks to an extremely generous gift from my father and stepmother, we were able to find a house here in town that meets all our needs. Living in Waterloo changes everything.
1) I can keep my job. In fact, I have to.
2) In turn, this means that adopting infants is out, as we can not afford to have one of us stay home.
(I have nothing against parents who choose to use daycare, but it is most emphatically not our choice, for two reasons: one, it would take almost 80% of my net salary, rendering my job next to useless; two, we'd prefer to raise our kids ourselves.)
3) Both of us work school hours, or something close to them, so that means we're looking at two kids at or very near school age.

Why two kids? That's more at Eva's insistence than my own, although I've come to accept and agree with her take on it. I'm an only child. Only childhood is what I know, what I am most comfortable with. Eva believes on some level that I missed out. In my more sober moments, when I'm not besieged by images of our kids beating the snot out of each other, I know she's right.
Narrowing it down further, we want to adopt siblings. This puts us in fairly rare company, apparantly. But consider: we're asking two kids to put aside their pasts and make our home their home. Imagine being shown around your new house, scared out of your mind: "here's your room...here's your new Mommy and Daddy's room...and see that boy there? That's your new brother." I figure the transition would be much easier with someone there who is familiar.
There are relatively few physical disabilities we're not willing to embrace. But we are simply unwilling and unable to cope with the rigors of raising kids who are mentally challenged.
The biggest attraction of parenthood, for me, is instilling a love of learning and then watching our children learn. Quite simply, a diminished capacity for learning would diminish our joy of parenting.
Look, I know I'm being an elitist snob. I'm sorry for it. I work with mentally challenged kids--we have a job skills training program--and I've learned that I am actually pretty good with them. But I couldn't do it full time. I regard you parents who do as something akin to saints.
So two siblings who are at or near school age and not mentally challenged. I suspect that last detail is the one that's going to trip us up a bit, as it seems that most of the kids moving through the system have problems in that area, be they Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or something more immediate.
We shall see.

12 July, 2004

On the outside, looking in

My -- oh, this is just great, to stop dead exactly one word into this entry! -- what the hell do you call the husband of your step-sister? Step brother-in-law? Yecch. My brother-in-law and a dear friend both wrote me in the aftermath of the other day's kvetchfest to say basically the same thing: why the hell should I care what others think?
Simple answer is, I don't. Except when I do.
Yeah, that was clear, eh? Like fine, transparent mud.
----------------------------------

I used to be Popular.
Quit that sniggering, damn it. I'm telling the truth. From Grade 1 through Grade 3, I was the most popular kid in the class. In those years, nearly every recess was devoted to kissing tag. I don't think there's a girl in my grade 3 class I missed.
Oh, weren't those the days?
Then I moved. And got glasses. At the same time.
Either one I could have overcome. If I hadn't moved away, my contemporaries would have seen me for what I was, Kenny-with-glasses. If I'd never acquired the glasses, I would have simply made new friends. But no...
INSTA-NERD!
Oh, I'd been beaten up before. Actually, through my first three years of public schooling, I used to get gold stars if I went a day WITHOUT fighting. But those were *other* kids, not in my class, some of them three years ahead of me. You never forget the first time you get kicked in the nuts...that feeling that says 'howdy, how's about we shit our pants while we puke our guts out?'
But within that first week of grade 4, it became evident I had something London boys didn't like: a face. They wanted to change it, redecorate it, open new holes in it, just generally renovate to their heart's content. And when they were done with it, they'd just throw the body it was attached to into the nearest garbage can.
And my days of kissing tag? So very over.

We moved an average of once a year from then until grade 10. Who knows why...I sure don't. My parents seemed to get bored really easily with any given house. My mother would always announce each new move with the words "fresh start". I rapidly got to detest those words. "Fresh start" meant that within a week there'd be a fresh cotillion of bullies to start pounding the shit out of me.
Oh, I made *some* friends. Well, one, actually. His name was Tim Gauld; I've written of him here before. I remember practically everything about him except how it was we got to be friends in the first place. (That's pretty common: although I can accept people's friendship in theory, I often think they like me because they are mildly crazy.)
High school brought its own set of stresses, like high school always does. In grade 9, I got exactly five signatures in my yearbook, all of them from teachers. It wasn't until grade ten, at Westminster Secondary, that I started to finally come into my own. I will always revere that high school as the place that allowed me to do that. No cliques there. You were just left to be as you were.
I was really settling down by grade 11, so of course we had to up and move again. Can't let Ken get too comfortable, can we? I carried a torch for Westminster through the first five months of my OAC year, and dismissed my Ingersoll high school as a dump. It's strange, now, looking back: I haven't been in touch with anyone from Westminster in almost six years, but Ingersoll District C.I. netted me my two best friends, a woman I dated for two years and was briefly engaged to, and a plethora of other people I counted as friends.
By the time I got to university, I had finally discovered that I didn't have to fit in to somebody else's group...I could make my own. Said group never numbered more than a few. I took to heart something my grade 13 classics teacher, Reverend McCombe, once passed around the class: "One good friend and you're lucky. Two and you're blessed. Three is impossible."
--------------------------------------
To make a long story short, I spent most of my life on the outside looking in, never noticing I had the tools and materials needed to build my own little place. Even after that place was built, I sometimes looked around and only noticed the shitter in the corner.

I have a saying I try very hard to live by: "there are two kinds of things in the world, those you can control and those you can't. Those you can control, you can control, so why worry about them? Those you can't control, you can't control, so why worry about them?
Occasionally I forget myself when the things in question are nasty opinions held by other people. That's all. I must try to remember, too, that I can't be responsible for how clearly my messages are received, only for how clearly I send them.

11 July, 2004

The Adoption Option, Part I

Every once in a while, either Eva or myself runs into somebody who has yet to learn that we are planning to adopt kids. Their reaction upon being informed speaks volumes.
Nine times out of ten, the first thing out of their mouth is something like "you'll get pregnant..."
And, damn us, we always play along.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, as soon as the adoption is finalized, you'll get pregnant!"
"I don't see how that's possible."
"Well, my cousin's best friend's sister's boyfriend's mother, see, she went to adopt kids because, like, she'd had trouble, you know? And behold, she gave birth to the entire population of West Bumfuck, Iowa. You watch, it'll work for you too.
"What'll work?" We're really being dense at this point.
"Oh, c'mon, you're just doing this so you can have kids of your own." The person shrugs, as if she'd just announced that two and two are four.
Around and around the mulberry bush we go. Half a dozen times, the acquaintance has actually said "how much you wanna bet?"
"One million dollars. Hand it over. You ever heard of this neat invention called 'birth control'?"
"But...but...but...why would you do that?!"

WHY WE WOULD DO THAT

It was always our plan to have one child and adopt another. Have the one for the same reasons that everybody has kids; adopt the other because there are millions of kids out there in need of a loving home.
And we always knew that the first part of our plan was going to be a bitch. For various medical reasons, Eva has known since her late teens that her chances of successfully carrying a child to term were just this side of nil. My blood is incompatible with Eva's, so her chances of successfully carrying MY baby to term are zero to at least seven decimal places.
But we tried. And after every failure, we got to listen to the dunderheads out there blabbering about their uncle's friend's hairdresser who had, like, seventeen miscarriages, you know, and then went on to give birth to the entire population of East Bumfuck, Michigan.
Then came that blessed day when Eva was declared pregnant. Happiness surged through the house. Everything proceeded along tickety-boo for a while. At the three month mark, she went in for an ultrasound so she could see the baby's heartbeat. That's when she found out our baby was dead, and had been for two weeks.
Short of actual stillbirth, I just can't imagine anything worse. I don't know how it is that she got through the ensuing day, let alone six months.

You can maybe begin to understand how an event like that can change your attitude just the slightest bit? Good for you. Because that didn't stop the dunderheads, spewing bullshit about getting back up on the horse. The parallel that kept running through my mind: a bunch of people trying to set me up on blind dates at my wife's funeral. Fuck off, okay?

Okay?

So, on to plan B, right?
No, not really.
We had always planned to adopt, remember?
Eva asked me on occasion if I was really okay with this, if I secretly wanted children "of my own". Dutifully, I thought it through.
Assuming for the moment that there was some way to actually plant that little bugger in there and have it come out on schedule--something that would now require more money than I make in a year, most likely--was I really that vain about my genes? Was it crucial to me that I look at my kid and see my fucked-up teeth?
Not only was that utterly unimportant to me, I couldn't understand why it was so damned important to everyone else. I always thought you had kids so you could share the joys and sorrows of life with them, watch them grow and learn, and send them out to make their mark on their world. I never once believed that pushing them out of your crotch was required.

I bristle every time I hear that phrase "your own kids." First off, people, you don't own kids. Slavery was outlawed several generations ago, for good reason. Second, the language is invariably used to denigrate adopted children: "natural" children...does that mean adopted kids are unnatural? "Biological" parents...does that not sound like any adopted kid is a robot? "Your own" children...that means adopted kids really belong somewhere else, right?
Eva's made to feel like a traitor to her gender for not having any desire whatsoever to get pregnant. What's really bizarre is that some of this vitriol comes from self-proclaimed feminists. I'm made to feel like I'm somehow not fulfilling my own biological imperative. I couldn't disagree more strongly. Our children will carry my name, if that satisfies anybody; they'll grow up with a basic grounding and the freedom to chart their own course, and that satisfies *me*.

I'm sure East and West Bumfuck are beautiful places, but I'll stay here, thanks, at home with the kids.




08 July, 2004

Tales from aisle 10

I work at Price Chopper. It's a low-end grocery store akin to No Frills or Food Basics, the difference being that (at least at our location) it's clean. You won't find cockroaches trundling across our produce.
Now, our store is located in an upper-middle class area. We don't see any difference in volume on "welfare Wednesday". I've heard horror stories about customers in Toronto-area Price Choppers who throw vegetables around the store, who try to haggle with everyone for everything, and who have actually been caught on camera dropping, say, a cherry on the floor and then repeatedly trying to trip over it so they can sue.
I saw enough of that kind of behaviour at 7-Eleven to last me several lifetimes, thank you very much. Luckily, we don't get that kind of customer in our store very often.
I have, however, accrued some stories over my three plus years as a Dairy/Frozen Foods manager. Looking back, you laugh. Or cry. Or snarl.

Two things you ought to know about me, first, before I launch into these tales: One, my customer service skills have been nationally recognized. Two: Nearly every day, somebody does or says something that makes me want to (a) give their head a brisk shake or (b) cordially invite them to engage in repeated acts of self-intercourse. With tools.

On my very first day, a woman returned a 2-liter carton of milk, saying that it was leaking. I clapped a mental hand over the mental mouth of my own personal mental sarcastic bastard--hereinafter referred to as MSB--who was trying to mutter something like "how did you not notice this leaking carton of milk somewhere between the counter and the cash, or the cash and your car, or the car and your house, or..." and helpfully scooted back to my milk counter for a replacement. Upon its presentation, the women asked me "Is this one leaking too?"
MSB: Yeah, lady, I carved a big hole in the bottom of this one just for you. Go away.

At least twice a week, somebody asks me where the carts are. I helpfully point out the line of carts outside the store, which, by the way, is usually something like a hundred feet long, while MSB is wondering if this idiot actually *drove* here with eyesight that bad.

Yesterday: "Do you sell bread?"
Now, I had to actually clap *duct tape* over MSB's potty mouth for this gentleman. It was an effort, let me tell you. "Yes, sir, the bread is next to the bakery in the back-left-hand corner of the store." MSB: "Mmmmphs mrmmd? Mmm phryy..."*rrrrrrippp!--he's gone now, what was that? "What's bread? I'm sorry, I've never heard of that product. Try the hardware store down the street."

Then there's the people--and they are legion--who rant and rave about our store's policy on grocery bags. Five cents is what we charge per bag, and you'd think it was fifty dollars, the way people carry on.
Now look. This is MSB talking, but listen to me anyway. You can go to a Loblaws (or a Sobeys if you're really desperate) and pay an extra thirty or forty dollars for the exact same groceries. Or you can pay fifty cents for ten bags and shut the hell up. Your pick.

Likewise: "This is ten cents cheaper at Basics!" "I'm sorry, ma'am, we simply can't be cheaper than everyone on every item all the time." (So go spend fifty cents in gas--not to mention half an hour of your time--to save a dime at Basics, okay?)

And let me tell you something that MSB and I are in total agreement on. If I *ever* actually catch somebody putting fresh pork behind the mushroom soup, or ice cream on the bread rack, or any such thing, I will personally drop them in our cardboard baler and flatten their ass. You never actually see it happen, but every morning, there it is: a bag of milk in with the frozen vegetables, or thawed vegetables in a milk crate. Aside from the asininity (is that a word? It is now) and the astonishing level of laziness, what really gets me is the logic chain. "Okay, I'm shopping, I'm shopping, hmmm, I don't really want these frozen popsicles, I'd rather have this lettuce!" CLUNK! There, fuckwad, you've ruined the popsicles *and* a bunch of lettuce. And I'm sure you're *just* the sort of dinkus who complains loudly whenever prices go up to cover the absolutely ridiculous amount of product that gets thrown out because of people just like you.
What I *really* want to do is go home with these pustules and randomly scatter the contents of their freezers throughout their houses...under the bed, under the couch cushions, oh, wherever I felt like it. Then maybe they'd get the point.
Okay, summoning up every ounce of self-restraint I have, folks, if you're ever in a grocery store and you decide that you don't really want something--particularly a perishable something--please, please, PLEASE bring it to any employee you happen to pass--including a cashier--and s/he'll thank you gratefully and sincerely, and then put it away. Okay? Please.

We used to have a regular we dubbed "Discount Dan". His trick was to rip coupons off reduced merchandise and affix them to whatever he felt like paying less for each day. You can actually be arrested and charged with fraud for doing that. After several weeks of it, I decided to fall back on 7-Eleven training. I shadowed Dan. Closely. Like two paces behind him. Through six aisles.
Haven't seen him since.

There's a woman I see every week, though, and while MSB had a field day with her at one time, I've come to respect her and feel quite sorry for her, too.
She spends--I shit you not--three or four *hours* every week buying her groceries. Every week. Each individual item must be absolutely perfect. She can detect cracks in eggs that you can't see with an electron microscope. Her eyes detect individual dust *molecules*. And by now I'm positive she can recite prices for every item in the store, because she's forever trying to find price discrepancies. I can't begin to tell you how annoying it used to be, to have her constantly interrupting whatever I was doing to ask if I had any milk with a shelf life longer than six weeks, or if I could please find some Omega-3 eggs that *weren't* cracked, or if I could please dance on the pin of her head.
I'm very ashamed to admit it took me a couple of months to understand that this woman--who really is very courteous and friendly--has a mental illness. Obsessive-compulsive disorder. (She's since confirmed it, to me and as far as I know, me alone.) I make an effort now to talk to her whenever I see her--partly as penance for all the bullshit that MSB used to spew silently. And you know what? Although it still takes her an hour to get through my department, she hardly ever asks me anything any more.

So ends this dispatch from the dairy aisle. Thank you for shopping at Price Chopper, the smart choice. Come again soon.


06 July, 2004

Under the reading lamp...

Neither Eva nor myself are what you'd call "bandwagon jumpers". We tend to walk one of two paths: either we like a group until it gets popular (Barenaked Ladies), or we shun the trend du jour for a few years, let it age a little, before embracing it.
Take television: "The Simpsons" was into its sixth season before I deigned to watch it. (Granted, part of the reason was my naive predjudice against cartoons...pshaw, I'm not a kid! Cartoons are for kids! Right? Right?) Of course, I quickly became a fan--not a fanatic, but a fan.
I've yet to see a single episode of any of the myriad of CSI spinoffs. Just no interest in them. And I once watched about twenty seconds of the first Survivor before I realized what it was and turned the channel lest I get reality-cooties.
Harry Potter is another example. The books were a phenomenon before Eva brought the first one home. Again, I reacted at first with disdain: "Kid's book! Kid's book!" After having my wife inform me repeatedly--like after every chapter--that this book was pretty good, I suddenly recalled that I had read and enjoyed some pretty damned good "kid's books" over the years: the Wrinkle in Time series. the Oz books, Gordon Korman, even some Judy Blume. Yikes. Resigned, I read Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone after she'd finished with it.
I'm now reasonably close to a fanatic on all things Potter.
-----------------------------------------------------------
So that brings us to what's on the reading list right now. The only book I've got going is Dude, Where's My Country?" by Michael Moore. Eva decided to pick up Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, after it had been on the best seller list for, um, eleventy dozen weeks. I'll read the latter later (looters with litres of lighter fluid are littering letters everywhere....hmmm, where was I? Oh, yeah.) I just finished the former.

This book, from what I understand, forms the baseline for Moore's controversial, award-winning film, Fahrenheit 911. If you're willing to go into it with an open mind (and from the reviews on Amazon.com, it seems few are), you'll find it an interesting and thought-provoking read. I can't say I agree with all of his assertions, but even on those, Moore is persuasive enough to make me wonder if my thinking might be wrong.

The first chapter of "Dude, Where's My Country" is a tour de force. Thirty-one pages and ninety seven footnotes. This is the kind of chapter that does a complete home makeover on your brain. By the time you're finished it, you'll have been confronted with questions like

--was 9/11 the work of hijackers with a few flight lessons under their belts, or trained Saudi soldiers? (Moore asserts that to guide a plane into a five-storey Pentagon at 500 mph demands skills no rinky-dink flight school in Florida will or can teach.)

--why were bin Laden's relatives and Saudi royalty whisked out of the country, by air, in the days immediately following 9/11, while all other air traffic was still grounded?

--Why did Bush sit peacefully listening to children read stories for more than five minutes after being informed the United States was under attack?


That's just the start of a wild roller-coaster ride that examines the Republican string of lies, offers a dramatic solution to the instablity (Want to stop terrorism? Stop being terrorists!) and at every turn paints the sitting president as, if not the walking talking Antichrist, than at least his close cousin.

It's no secret that Canada resonates with Moore, although there's very little mention of us in his book. He bemoans the Patriot Act being used to detain John Clarke, who is the head of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP). There's no mention of John Clarke's sordid past--the man could reasonably be called a terrorist himself.
Moore does offer some tips to "liberals" in order to make their beliefs sounds more palatable to conservatives, and offers a quick primer on talking to "right-wingnuts", stressing to always remember Republicans are self centered and care only about themselves and their own money. That chapter forced me to consider my own Conservative leanings and conclude that no, I'm nowhere near that shallow. As I've written elsewhere in this blog, I don't mind paying taxes, even high taxes, so long as I see value for money.
I do hope that the White House gets a Brazilian this November...I'd like to see all traces of Bush removed. So I believed before reading "Dude, Where's My Country"...now I just have about thirty more reasons to believe.

04 July, 2004

Wow, it's hot...

...and the temperature's only in the mid-twenties. Humidex value at 33. Those who know me well will know exactly what I think of this weather. It should be stuck, quite literally, where the sun don't shine.
Of course there's a severe thunderstorm warning out for us, and of course it's going to amount to no more than a couple of drips.
I always get so excited whenever Environment Canada consults their weather fairies and issues a severe thunderstorm watch or warning. I do have to be careful how I inform my wife about these things. I won't call her a "weather-wuss", but she doesn't have the enthusiasm for earthshaking storms that has always been a trademark of mine. And then there's the fact that she's perpetually confused as to which designation is worse, a watch or a warning. When I tell her that the watch means conditions are ripe and the warning means it's imminent or occurring, well, she unfailingly responds that it should be the other way around:

WARNING: THERE MIGHT BE SEVERE WEATHER AT SOME POINT WE DON'T KNOW WHEN OR WHERE.
WATCH: OUT! THERE ARE THREE F5 TORNADOES THAT HAVE YOU BRACKETED AND BRACED!!!

As usual, I can't fault her logic.

I do love severe weather, though. I've seen my fair share of it: six tornadoes have passed within a couple of miles of my location, and a downdraft took out our garage in Ingersoll in 1990.
I've always wondered why cyclonic storms seem to favour trailer parks. Yeah, I know, the mobile homes are sitting ducks, but how is it the tornadoes always know to head for the duck ponds?
Yup, give me window-rattling thunder, hail, high winds, maybe a tsunami: I'm in weather heaven. Of course, now that I own my own house, if lightning whacks a tree in my yard, and it falls through my living room window, well...
Hmmm. Maybe Eva's got a point. She favours Vancouver weather. Despite all the rain that place gets, lightning is front page news.

See you in Oz, everyone...

01 July, 2004

The Proud Canadian:

Ten great things I find quintessentially Canadian:

1) Sunset over water in the Canadian Shield. Do yourself a favour and drive anywhere north of Barrie in Ontario. Stop at a lake, turn to the west, and wait. You'll come away believing in God a little more than you did before.
2) Tim Horton's double-doubles. I assume these are laced with low-grade narcotics: how else to explain why I, an avowed coffee hater, have become ever-so-slightly hooked.
3) Hockey played hard but fair. For every Todd Bertuzzi in this country there's a dozen Gary Robertses and Doug Gilmours.
4) Poutine. It's a heart attack waiting to happen, but you'll go with a smile on your face and a song in your heart.
5) "Peace, order and good government". I'll take that over "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" every day of the week and twice on Tuesdays. Granted, "good government" is at a premium in this country of late, but we're Canadians. We keep hoping in the face of impossible odds.
6) Vancouver's Stanley Park. I don't have to travel anywhere else in the world to tell you authoritatively this is the single greatest municipal park on the planet.
7) Butter tarts. Pardon me while I wipe this drool off my screen.
8) The High Arctic. This vast region, never seen by most Canadians, has insinuated itself into the collective subconscious nevertheless.
9) Winter: the High Arctic brought special delivery to us. I love winter. I love that crisp, rosy-cheeked, hot-chocolate-is-waiting feeling you get when it's thirty below. I love blizzards in all their fierce glory, and if I'm at Dairy Queen, make mine a chocolate-covered cherry, okay?
10) Our national anthem. Not a bomb or a rocket anywhere in sight, just 'the true North, strong and free'. Calixa Lavallee, thank you for an inspiring composition.

Happy Canada Day to one and all.

Ceci n'est pas ma maison!

My father, my stepmother and my aunt Dawna have been here for the past couple of days. My cousin Terri joined them the first evening. It's not quite "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"--the rooms are still all the same size--but nevertheless this house has taken leaps and bounds since they got here.
The kitchen, which was once a sort of industrial booger colour, is now a very pale yellow. Its cupboards (and our baker's rack) now match the table; a big ceiling fan has been put up. The bathroom has been painted and gussied up real pretty-like, and our bedroom has been transformed, from beige-y taupe into "cornsilk". (Painting that was a tassel.)
Curtains have been installed throughout, very nice ones. And all of our appliances are now up and running. Let me tell you, that was arguably the most, well, "interesting" part of the last two days.
Hooking up a washer and dryer ought to be child's play. This was child's play's total antithesis: adult work, and quite a lot of it. Blood was spilled. Curses rained down until they coated the ground.
With the washer, it was a matter of actually getting the $%^*ing electrical cord out through the back of the ^&*(ing thing. It was secured in there like the ^&*(ing crown jewels: four nuts, six large washers, two monster braces, all behind four Liliputian screws set at impossible angles.
This washer and dryer was made in America. How do we know this? Because every last @#$^ing screw is a slothead. The anti-Americanism emanating from around our house over the last couple of days would have done Carolyn "damn Americans, I hate those bastards" Parrish proud.
Obligatory Canadian plug on Canada Day: Robertson screws, a Canadian invention, are vastly superior. There oughta be a law...
The dryer vent required a master's degree in engineering to install. (Final exam, worth 100% of your grade: get a pipe four inches in diameter to fit into another pipe four inches in diameter. You have four hours...)
In the end, we managed to acheive this with the use of a slightly wider bore collar, a couple of clamps (with slothead screws, the %^&*ing Yanks), some drywall screws of our own (that'll hold ya, you sonofawhore!) and a whole lot of duct tape. Yup, Red Green was in the house, with Ken here playing a very good Harold. (Why in the ^&*( is that aluminum vent piping so &*()ing fragile? It unravelled every time we tried to clamp it and tore outright in three places.)
The word of the day is "cock-knocker", boys and girls. Say it with me!
Anyway, it's done. We've done some much needed laundry, and I have a recommendation for all of you: BUY A FRONT-LOAD WASHER. This thing *rocks*. Well, it did until we levelled it. No really, the spin cycle on this practically dries your clothes by itself. My pants were going around so fast I swear I saw pant-puke dot the inside of the door.
I couldn't be more grateful to my parents, my aunt, and my cousin for all the stuff they've given us and all the work they've done. There's more coming, too: a whole truckload of furniture, including a hutch. (We brought enough furniture from our one-bedroom apartment to do a creditable job of filling this three-bedroom, finished-basement house!)
Thank you so much, folks.

Now to continue the unpacking...