Friday, December 28, 2007

The city that never sleeps

Leaving this afternoon for New York City.

The plan involves staying at a mod little mid-town hotel, seeing The Color Purple (intentional US spelling mistake), The Nutcracker (at Lincoln Centre) and shopping till we drop. There's also a great Seurat exhibit on at the MOMA.

My BFF and I have done New York together numerous times. We like to get up early and go, go, go until we fall into bed exhausted with splitting headaches. That's when we know we've done it well.

Home again on New Year's Eve....the ultimate pagan holiday.

Here's to clear skies ahead.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Crazy for You

I had coffee with my friend KM today.

It came out that KM and another friend, JT, were discussing me and my ex and a discussion ensued: who was crazier?

The decision was split.

I actually find this kind of amusing. Which probably is the first clue that the other friend was right. I am actually quite crazy.

It's actually pretty crazy that KM and JT were having this conversation to begin with. On Christmas Day, no less.

The truth is that everyone is crazy once you get to know them.

Some kinds of crazy just make it easier to live in the world.

My particular brand of crazy just happens to come with a higher than average baseline level of happiness, while my ex's decidedly does not.

Anyway, here's to craziness in all its forms.

Go crazy.

Location, Location, Location

I've developed more than a passing addiction to British design shows.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Mistle Tow

Flat tire. December 22nd. The middle of freaking nowhere.

I've got a great story involving a winch, a flat bed truck, and a tow to Gravenhurst, but sadly I'm too emotionally exhausted from four days in North Bay to tell it.

Number of Turtles eaten this holiday season: 0 (Personal best)
Number of trips to Tim Hortons: Too many to count
Number of viewings of Sound of Music: 1
Number of times listening to RyanDan's new album: 3 1/2
Number of times listening to Josh Groban's new album: 11
Number of flat tires: 1

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Dear Santa

I've probably never wanted anything as much as I wanted that Easy Bake Oven.

For a chubby little girl in Northern Ontario, baking individual cakes by the heat of a lightbulb, was nothing short of miraculous.

I wanted one and I wanted it bad.

I remember waking up on Christmas morning in Temagami.

I crept downstairs, and there it was. Unwrapped. Pride of place in front of the tree. An Easy Bake Oven. My Easy Bake Oven.

I remember that first cold shiver of recognition, and the squeal that bubbled up and out.

It's been more than forty years since that day, and I can still remember it with absolute clarity.

With wishes that all your dreams come true. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Friday, December 21, 2007

When you're sitting, just sit

I was sitting beside my fireplace this morning listening again to the final Amen from Handel's Messiah - I told you, I like it A LOT - and I suddenly looked again at the beautiful stained glass above my picture window.

It was like I was seeing it again, for the first time.

It's so artfully crafted. The colours are so vibrant and beautiful. It's from a different time - when craftsmanship was appreciated.

That stained glass was one of the things that attracted me to the place when I first viewed it. That, and this home's serene energy.

Then it struck me: how we always seem to notice things when they begin and when they end. It's in that middle place where we forget the magic.

I haven't given that stained glass nearly the attention it deserves. Despite the fact that I've spent a lot of time working on my mindfulness this year, I've got a long way to go.

Here's to enjoying the middle bits.

As the zen masters say: don't just do something, sit there.

On this, my last day of work until 2008, I bid you all peace, health and happiness in 2008.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Channel for the Divine

Toward the end of The Messiah, just when you think you can't get any closer to God or you'll be catapulted out of your seat and through the roof, comes the final "Amen".

That's when the timpani player, who has sat patiently through much of the two and half hours of the oratorio, grabs his timpani mallet and really goes to town. It is a moment of sheer beauty and absolute divinity.

Talk about a great day at the office. Imagine leaving work, confident that you've channelled the divine.

I can't get enough of The Messiah.

In my next life, I want to learn to play the harpsichord.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Thank you, gentle readers

It feels good to know that both Jesus and the Universe read my blog. You'd think they'd have so much else to do, what with global warming, the sub-prime lending crisis, and all the talk over Jamie-Lynn Spear's pregnancy.

And speaking of my home boy, it's off to see Handel's Messiah at Roy Thomson Hall this evening. You'd have to have a heart of stone not to respond to the Messiah.

While I like the Hallelujah chorus, it's not my favourite part of the Messiah. Not by a long shot. If I had one song left to hear on this earth, it might just be, For Unto Us a Child is Born.

If you have the time, and the inclination, I invite you to listen to it here. It doesn't matter what you believe in.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

In my best interest

Ah, mortgage rates. Those saucy minxes have me vexed. But I'm almost, almost convinced to go with a variable rate mortgage.

The mortgage guy send me a side-by-side comparison of the amount of interest I'd be paying at a five year, monthly, fixed rate of 5.84%, compared with a five year, monthly variable rate of 5.1% (prime minus .90). It's about a $10,000 difference.

And this isn't even taking into account the fact that I want to do accelerated bi-weekly payments.

What would Jesus do?

Monday, December 17, 2007


I love it when we're reminded that the million and one things we had planned for a particular day are all for naught, and we might as well just give up and enjoy ourselves.

I talked to my neighbours more yesterday than I have since I moved in.

There's something about the shared experience of shoveling that puts us all on a level playing field.

One of my favourite things about yesterday was watching how CityTV turned it into "Storm Watch," complete with ominous music and Ann Rohmer moderating.

By mid-afternoon, Ann was taking calls from viewers eager to talk about their helpful neighbours, or how they managed to get their cars dug out of snow banks.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Serendipity and the sacred heart of Jesus

Two things.

Crows figure prominently in The Girls.

Throughout the novel -- some of which takes place in and around Chatham, Ontario -- flocks of crow make appearances. I thought it was a literary convention.

Turns out that Chatham is crow capital of Canada. According to this morning's Globe, these crafty black birds appear to be getting ready to take over the world and using Chatham as their home base. They're so smart that they can even figure out when the garbage route is going to change, before it does.

As someone who has had a lifelong fear of birds (flashback to getting stoned in North Bay, Ontario and watching Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds) you can pretty much guarantee that I'll never go to Chatham on holiday.

My favourite costume at last night's "Naughty or Nice" Christmas Party: a guy dressed as Jesus, wearing a 15 cent birthday hat and a ribbon that read "Birthday Boy".

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The year of magical reading

This has been such a good reading year for me.

Add to my list of great books of 2007: Lori Lansens', The Girls.

This novel is the surprisingly beautiful and poetic story of Rose and Ruby Darlen, the oldest living craniopagus (joined at the head) twins. It is, quite literally, about the things real and otherwise that join us.

I finished the novel last night and feel like I've said goodbye to an old friend. It is highly readable. Brilliant, even. I'd heartily recommend it.

Before I even finished it, I decided to get a new copy for my BFF's Maman. I often pass along excellent reads to her at Christmas time.

So, imagine my joy when I discovered a hardcover copy of the novel on the bargain table at Indigo. Price tag: $9.99. It's worth every penny of its $34.95 list price. Believe me. It's unforgettable.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Would you like a little fraud with your tapioca balls?

I've long believed that Bubble Tea shops are a front for some illicit activity or other.

Really, who likes drinking fluorescent liquid containing bullet-like tapioca balls?

So, imagine my delight when one of my co-workers signed up for a series of pre-paid massages at the Spring Spa, above Tea Shop 168 on Yonge Street.

Young NW showed up for his massage and was met by a young Asian woman who spoke barely any English.

He was ushered into a cold and sterile room. After less than an hour of half-hearted kneading, she suddenly announced "Finish", and fled the room.

When he left, they gave him a receipt signed by a man named Peter, with Peter's RMT number.

Moral: don't drink that stuff.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Bah at the Elmwood

Last night I had a massage at the Elmwood Spa.

I should have known, savvy marketer that I am, that the first clue was the 20% off postcard I received in the mail. Add to that, the free gift basket full of useless and exceedingly smelly bath products. (Note: I'm planning to re-gift them in the office gift exchange.)

Meet Tatyana, lost czarina of the weak handshake.

I knew I was in trouble when I had to tell her to turn down the interrogation lights and stop playing the nature noises at ear-splitting volumes.

Then we went to work on my back. Lame. It was like she was icing a big, pale cake with a dull knife. A few "ows" and "too hards" later, she made her way to my legs. I had to stop her three times while she tried to massage my kneecap. MY KNEECAP!

"Please stop," I said, a little too politely.

"Too sensitive," she asked.

"Well actually, I'm not used to anyway massaging my kneecap," I said, snidely.

"Well, now you know," said Tatyana.

Then she went for my elbow. Must be Russian thing.

This was one of the few times that I -- schooled in the ways of Canadian niceness -- didn't tip for a service.

But I'll give you a tip: stay away from the Elmwood.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Mary Christmas

I'm probably one of the least bah humbug types on the planet, so it might surprise you to know that I'm rather ambivalent about Christmas.

Actually, I quite whole-heartedly support the idea of Christmas. But, in practice, it never really turns out the way you think it will. Few occasions of forced gaiety actually do.

Take New Years for example. If ever there was a holiday that made you want to stick an ice-pick in your eye, there it is. Followed second only to Valentine's Day.

Christmas probably wouldn't be half bad if we weren't assaulted by unreal images of ridiculously happy and functional families on every one of our 358 cable channels. Not to mention the month-long drone of tinny Christmas carols on every radio station in the city.

These are the things that make us feel like we what we're feeling isn't quite good enough, and everyone around us has a notch or two of happiness greater than ours. Categorically untrue.

Personally, I like to keep out of the stores as much as possible and spend some quiet time with traditions I really enjoy, like listening to Handel's Messiah. Frankly, if you can listen to Handel's Messiah without having a religious experience, chances are you're Satan's spawn.

Then there's the requisite viewing of Charlie Brown's Christmas and It's a Wonderful Life. The latter, in particular, is probably one of the darkest Christmas stories imaginable, but it's brilliant and redemptive. I always feel better for watching it.

Staying balanced and centred during the holidays is always one of my goals -- along with not stuffing a chocolate Turtle into my gullet during the first 15 seconds of Christmas morning. I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Petit Dejeuner

I have a hunch that most people eat the same thing for breakfast every day. Do you?

And, by the way, thanks to the Universe for responding to my last posting. I'm still giggling about it.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Find a penny, pick it up

Every time I find money on the street, I hear my Mother's voice in my head. "Find a penny, pick it up, and all today you'll have good luck." Except for the whole lard-on-a-burn phenomenon, my Mom was really on to something.

I found a loonie on the street this morning.

This was immediately after depositing my long-delayed (by me) income tax return in the bank at the crazy corner of Church and Wellesley.

This is not the first time that money has (literally) fallen from the sky when I needed it.

Yesterday, while surfing numerous web sites in the attempt to demystify mortgage rates, I said (and probably out loud, too, since I do work in the Creative department and these sorts of things are tolerated), "Universe, I'd really welcome some financial reassurance."

Then I stopped worrying about it.

And there they were. My income tax return last night and the loonie this morning. Both equally delightful.

Just goes to show you: faith is a powerful force.

Thanks, universe.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

You've got to love Nietzsche

One of my favourite billboards of all time is:

God is Dead
So is Nietzsche

That's why I was delighted to see old Nietzsche represented in my Zen Day by Day calendar today with:

And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.

This quote almost, but not quite, drowned out the music of mortgage rates.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Victoria has a secret

Thanks to my BFF for giving me the heads up on the worthy diversion: the Victoria's Secret Runway Show. If I looked that good in my underpants, I'd be dead of hypothermia.

Part of me was half hoping that Victoria's actual secret might have been the key to unlocking the confusion surrounding mortgages.

Does anyone understand all the mumbo jumbo around fixed rate and variable, and basis points, and monthly, bi-monthly and all that jazz? My brain quite literally goes into la la land when I try to figure it out.

Clearly I was born, and will die, an artsy.

Anyway, if you or yours have a favourite mortgage broker, don't be shy. Do share.

Monday, December 3, 2007

I am a home owner!

In what can only be described as an exceptionally full weekend, I both bought a condo in Toronto AND got snowed in, in North Bay, Ontario.

Almost everything you need to know about my new place is contained in the following blog entry:

I'm not kidding.

Everything on my wish list and more.

Thank you, universe.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Love, Tyra

Television is actually quite useful. It turns out that watching America's Next Model last night was time well spent.

I'm about to go for hair and make-up and a professional photograph for some of our professional "pitching" collateral. There was an entire booklet prepared to tell you how you should look and act "natural".

We're supposed to bring a prop. I'm bringing the little pink flamingo I told you about, many entries ago but I was really tempted to go out and buy one of those blow-up versions of Edvard Munch's The Scream.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Some fun, huh Bambi?

I've been working on some print ads for Disneyworld Resort Vacations this week.

The strong Canadian dollar means that it's now cheaper than ever to take your family of four to Disneyworld.

This is great, provided you have a family of four -- which, happily, many people do.

I am, quite unequivocally, a sucker for all things Disney. I might just adopt me three other people and take advantage of this great deal.

I've been to the parks in LA, Florida and Tokyo. The latter, incidentally, was the only place you could get both hot dogs and egg salad sandwiches in Japan. You haven't lived until you've heard the Country Bear Jamboree in rapid fire Japanese.

During our Briefing session earlier this week, we discovered that all of us, without exception, had our first brush with mortality thanks to the good people at Disney.

For the older ones, it was Bambi.

"Don't turn around, Bambi. Don't turn around." I can remember looking up at my Mother in the dark of The Bay cinema in North Bay, Ontario. Did someone really shoot Bambi's Mother?

Who can forget Travis cocking the rifle and getting ready to shoot Old Yeller? I'm tearing up just thinking about it.

The younger ones have vivid memories of a sobbing Simba pulling the paw of his dead father around his quivering shoulder.

Personally, I still haven't recovered from Dumbo's Mother's incarceration in the wild elephant jail. This scene is cited by a number of sources as one of the scariest movie moments ever.

Do you have a Disney moment to share?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Helio and Julianne 4-Ever!

Who will win the Mirror Ball Trophy? I think watching Dancing with the Stars is seriously reducing my I.Q.

Thank God it's all over tonight -- and I'll be missing it, as I'll be watching Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly watching other people in Rear Window at the ROM.

But, for those of you who find yourselves at home, tune in to watch Celine in all her chest-thumping glory.

For the ultimate in good times, get a load of this:

I don't want to give anything away, but it's Celine and Anastasia doing AC/DC. You've been warned.

Monday, November 26, 2007

There's nothing real about real estate

Staging houses is a real art form, and from the looks of things, most people spend about 20 hours a week watching HGTV.

I saw about eight places on Saturday afternoon -- not counting the two open house lofts in the Merchandise Building that were utterly fantastic and hence completely out of my price range.

About six of the places were beautifully staged. Scented candles burning. A bowl of green apples on the table (with a nod to the original Designer Guys). All clutter removed.

But, even though they were lovingly staged, the personality of the owners often shined through.

We saw a lovely place in Radio City, overlooking my alma mater, The National Ballet School. When we arrived, the two gayer-than-gay owners were just leaving. Both of them were cuter than buttons. The place was everything you'd expect -- a modern and clean design aesthetic, and fastidious attention to detail. You just KNEW these guys would have ten aneurysms a piece if you put a wet glass down on their coffee table top.

But there it was. Their personality. The shrine to Janet Jackson.

The spare room had several poster-sized framed pictures of Miss Jackson, and a triptych of Janet with her dancers during the Rhythm Nation tour. There was Janet on the wall. Janet on the mantle. Janet on the pillow sham. There was so much Janet memorabilia that I thought that one of the departing homo-owners must be one of Janet's dancers, if not the sole-White member of the Jackson Five.

We did our tour. I decided that, while nice, the unit was over-priced (a theme for the day, really) and we took the elevator down to the lobby.

Happily, the boys were waiting there.

"Hey," I said as they came towards us all hopeful and glowing, "What's the Janet connection?"

"Oh," gushed the blonde one, "I just LOVE her!"


Anyway, still looking, but optimistic.

This picture is for my BFF, who had us in stitches yesterday with his assessment of Mr. Big City Broker's marketing campaign.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Smelling like a Rosie

I read this book so you don't have to.

I picked up Celebrity Detox for a bit of mind candy between more serious reads. It took me a couple of hours to make my way through it. I'll never get those hours back.

Here are the highlights:

If you're under 4, and Rosie's child, you can take a bath with her.

Rosie calls things that bring happiness, Yellow. Barbara Streisand is Yellow. Barbara Walters is not.

Rosie believes that Barbara Walters didn't support her during the Donald Trump debacle because Barbara, like The Donald, is part of New York elite -- while Rosie, no matter how famous or rich she is, is still a working class girl.

Working class girls love the Kabbalah. Rosie has a Kabbalah teacher, like that other society maven, Madonna.

Elizabeth Hasselbach from The View was the captain of her college baseball team.

Rosie has a Craft Room in her house and she likes to podge. Incidentally, I also like to podge.

Rosie likes to use the letter "u" in place of the word "you" and "ur" in place of "your". She especially enjoys doing it in freeform poetry.

Anyone want to borrow it?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Kite Runner Flies High

For a time it seemed like I was the last person in North America who hadn't read The Kite Runner.

I'd started it a couple of years ago and couldn't get into it. It was during a particularly stressful time. I found myself reading the same sentence over and over again. All of the poetry was lost on me.

This time was decidedly different.

Don't you love it when a book consumes your life?

You find yourself thinking about it while you're standing in line at the grocery store. You get up extra early to have more reading time. You turn off the TV, to read. That's what The Kite Runner did for me. And Middlesex, a few months ago.

It's been a good reading year.

Friday, November 23, 2007

A Room of One's Own

I'm going condo shopping this weekend. Hard to believe, but it's been nine months since I moved into my own apartment. I'm thinking that if I start looking now, I might just find a place before the end of my current lease.

Because I've read The Secret, and I'm all about the power of positive thinking, I'm going to put it out there. Here's my condo wish list:

A boutique building. The 80 story skyscraper is not for me. Besides, I'd be too scared of height to stand on my own balcony. I'd like a tinier building with character. Note to Universe: "Character" doesn't mean Crack Mamas living in the vestibule.

Two bedrooms. I have one bedroom now, which can feel cramped when guests (read: my Mom) comes to visit. I'd like a nice master bedroom, with a good-sized second room that I can use for an office and guest room.

A central location. I know, I know. You can get more square footage if you get outside the city a bit. But I didn't claw my way down here from Northern Ontario to live on Golden Pond. I like Lesleyville, the St. Lawrence Market area and areas east of Yonge and south of Bloor.

A soaker tub. One of the few negatives about my current place is that there's no tub. There's nothing better than a bath and good book to wash the day's troubles away.

Outdoor space. Either a balcony or a tiny yard.

High ceilings. One of my most prized possessions in my 10 foot tall bookshelf that I had custom built. It would sure be great if it fit into my new place.

Buddy friendly. Plenty of windows for optimum squirrel viewing.

And the most important thing of all:

Good energy. You know IMMEDIATELY if a place feels right. You just walk in and you know. That's what I'm looking for.

So, I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Talkies

There are only two reasons to talk to anyone while you're watching a film in a theatre.

1) You are on fire.
2) Your baby's head is emerging from the birth canal.

My BFF and I went to see the Coen Brother's most excellent film, No Country for Old Men, at the Varsity last evening.

Seated in front of us were two white hairs. Two CHATTY white hairs.

There wasn't anything that happened on screen or around them, that they didn't feel compelled to talk about, full voice, in the darkened theatre.

Most of it was completely obvious.

"The dog is dead," one would look at the other and say.

Or, "That's his wife."

Back in the 80s when I saw Gandhi, some guy used the film as an opportunity to recount the history of India for his wife. Let's just say, it's an old country.

Anyway, after about five minutes of waiting for them to wind down, my BFF leaned forward and asked them, quite nicely, to stop.

Didn't work.

More, "Where's he going?" "There's money in there."

Then, a few minutes later, I leaned in with the same request. They didn't hear me at first....because they were TALKING.

Then, finally, BFF used the tried-and-true seat kick. Worked like a charm.

By nearly propelling one of the chattier White Hairs into the screen, he managed to not only subdue her urge to talk, but probably fixed that problem she's been having with her third vertebrae.

With Granny Chatty Pants silenced -- perhaps for good -- we were left to enjoy the film.

Enjoy is an unusual word to use for this film. It's an incredible movie, but be warned. There's a high body count. But you'll be rewarded with some of the most stylish film work I've seen in a long time -- and incredible performances by Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem. Bardem, alone, is worth the price of the ticket.

If you see it, do me a favour. Don't talk about it until the movie is over.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Jennie Garth was eliminated on Dancing with the Stars last evening. There are no words.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Do you ever really know another person?

You think you know them, then they do something so out of character that you're left wondering if you ever really knew them at all. It so shakes you that you start to wonder about your own powers of observation. What defect in your character could have caused you to choose to love an individual capable of such a thing.

I've been thinking about this recently, particularly since I discovered, on Friday, that my beloved former boss and his wife have split up after more than 20 years of marriage.

He was blindsided.

They were childhood sweethearts. Best friends, even. She met a "friend" -- another woman -- and within weeks was spending all her time with this other woman. She moved out of the house and in with the other woman a few weeks ago. This past weekend she moved into her own place. They have two teenaged children.

I was in shock. I can't even begin to imagine what he must be feeling.

But it's not just my former boss that it's happened to. It's other people I know -- my closest friends. It's also happened to me.

Maybe life, like my little red Suzuki Swift, has a blindspot.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Portable Peace

A framed copy of this W.B. Yeats poem hangs in my living room. I share it with you today, in the hope that your week is peaceful. It's called The Lake Isle of Innisfree.

I WILL arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Everything I know about fashion, I learned from gay men

We won a Silver CMA and, seemingly against all odds, I didn't pull a pratfall on the stage.

In fact, with my freshly coiffed flip, Audrey Hepburn style dress, authentic vintage shoes that my Mom wore a couple of time in the fifties, and perfect jewellry, I was virtually unrecognizable. Pretty even.

I have a lifelong relationship with gay men to thank for how I looked.

If you haven't been on the receiving end of my BFF's speech about wearing white after labour day, you're missing out. Forget Stacey and Clinton. Gay men don't follow the rules -- they MAKE them.

That's why, when my BFF showed up to pick me up for the ballet last night, he felt completely comfortable giving me a full appraisal.

"Nice dress," he said.

"I thought it was very Diane von Furstenburg," I said, proudly.

"Norma Kamali," he corrected. What was I thinking. I was a young Luke Skywalker in the presence of Yoda.

As I reached down to strap on my flats, he tsked. Tsked!

"Heels," he said. "The flats do nothing for that dress."

"But we're going to have to walk down Queen Street!" I pleaded.

"Heels," he said firmly.

So heels it was. He was right.

Friday, November 16, 2007

No nukes

Before I buy the saddest cookbook ever written, I might try online dating.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Shanghai Surprise

Back in the 80s, my BFF and I lived in Japan for two years.

Shortly after we moved there, secured a place to live, and realized that I was teaching at an archly-conservative Catholic Women's Junior College, we went grocery shopping for the first time.

My Japanese at the time was limited to a few jerky head bows and the lyrics of a song that was popular at the time: Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto. I was, quite clearly, over my head.

Okay, I'll admit it. After that first turn around the store, I cried.

I'd gone straight from Queens University to the backwoods of Higashi Urawa in rural Saitama prefecture and I was hit with a wave of culture shock like nothing you've ever seen.

Nothing in my previous travels to Europe prepared me aisle upon aisle of canned foods that I neither recognized nor could read.

The store had a live fish section, and even they looked menacing. There were melons encased in coffin-like boxes, tied with little bows, and costing 10,000 yen -- at the time, about $100.

After that first trip to the grocery store, SO and I went straight to McDonalds. When in doubt, supersize me.

All those memories came flooding back to me when I did my grocery shopping at the new T&T Supermarket on Cherry Street last night.

It feels like a western supermarket but if you didn't know any better, you'd think you were in Asia.

There are a range of products from China, Japan, the Phillippines and Thailand. All in-store announcements are made first in broken English, and then in excited, rapid-fire Mandarin. I was one of a handful of gaijin (foreigners) happily perusing the aisles and filling my cart with noodles, curries, Hello Kitty goodies and Asian favourites.

It's funny how something that once felt so foreign and uncomfortable can now make me feel so nostalgic.

A good lesson, perhaps, in embracing diversity.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

New York, New York

I've been in love with New York city since I first followed Holden Caulfield down its hallowed streets the summer I turned 14.

That's part of why I signed up for a short film series at the ROM entitled "New York: City of the Screen".

The course is run by a professor from Ryerson -- a guy who looks like he can't believe he's being paid to watch and talk about movies all day. He got so excited that he couldn't stop hitting the microphone with his wildly expressive right hand.

When one of the participants in last night's course asked him why he chose to study film, he recounted the story of the first movie he ever saw: The Greatest Show on Earth.

If you haven't seen it, run out and rent it.

It's a Cecil B. DeMille epic about the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus that includes train crashes, elephants, high wire acts and plenty of over the top drama. It's wildly colourful. Perfect for a cold Sunday afternoon. Charlton Heston plays a trapeze artist...if you need any more of an incentive.

Our movie loving professor saw the movie 11 times, on 11 successive Saturdays. That made me love him.

Last night's movie was a rare little gem from 1945 called "The Clock," directed by Vincente Minelli and starring Judy Garland and Robert Walker.

It was Judy's first movie after Meet me in St. Louis and Garland and Minelli got married after the filming of "The Clock".

I won't give the story away, but it's a lovely homage to New York, and you can see the ending coming a mile away, which is oddly comforting.

What's wrong with predictability. If you know everyone's going to end up happy, you can just relax and enjoy yourself.

The next film in the series is Rear Window on Tuesday the 27th.

Is there any better way to spend a Tuesday night than with Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly? I have an extra ticket, so if any of my little blog reading friends would like to join me for Hitchcock on the big screen, let me know.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Recurring Nightmares

When I was a litle girl, we lived in a two bedroom apartment on the second floor of a two story walk-up on Algonquin Avenue in North Bay.

For years, I had the same dream, every three or four month.

In my dream, I'd wake up, make my way down the hall, past my parents bedroom, and into the living room.

Once I got to the living room, the "souls" (and this is the best way I can describe them) living there would emerge from where they were hiding, behind the couch, the rocking chair, and under the kitchen table. They'd simply look at me, or beckon me with their crooked fingers.

I would stand there -- cold and immobilized -- unable to move or run.

Eventually we moved out of that apartment, into a house on Galt Street, and I stopped having that dream. I may have also stopped having that dream after someone explained to me that if you find yourself unable to run in a dream, jumping usually works.

I never did figure out what it meant, but I thought of it this morning because I've been tagged to accept the CMA Award for SickKids at the big Gala at the Harbour Castle on Friday night. It's what an old boss of mine used to call, The Prom.

I've won before, but never had to accept. Usually the clients are more than happy to enjoy their time in the sun.

If we win a Merit, I'm off the hook. But, if we win a Gold or Silver, I have to get up, make my way up the side steps on to the stage, accept the trophy, and make my way down the front front of probably 1,000 souls.


David Bowie once said, "God made Tina Turner to teach women how to walk in high heels." Where the hell is Tina Turner when I need her?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Read this book

Read The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson. It's one of the best books I've read this year. A real page turner -- very Steinbeckian. Plus, it takes place in northern Ontario. Lawson also wrote the incredibly readable Crow Lake.

When I have more time, I'll write about my weekend in North Bay and the Chalice Ceremony that was held this weekend for my Dad and five other deceased Knights of Columbus members.

Is anyone else feeling the weight of a rainy Monday?

Friday, November 9, 2007

More from the land of woo-woo

So, the other night while I was waiting for my friend HR to arrive from Toronto Island Airport to her hotel at Yonge and College, I sat in the lobby reading someone's disgarded Globe and Mail.

I went through a couple of sections.

As the doors to the lobby opened, and my friend walked in, I looked down and saw that I'd made my way to the Facts and Arguments page. This is where everyday people write about a topic of some interest to them.

I noticed that the topic was about a woman, born without a left arm, who struggled against wearing a prosthetic.

The weird thing is -- my friend HR and I worked with the author of this article at CARE. Me for 8 years. HR for longer. In fact, she used to be HR's boss -- and she had the dubious distinction of bringing down the entire IT network at CARE after sending out a slanderous email about one of our co-workers.

Isn't this weird.

What do you think, Magic 8 Ball?

Thursday, November 8, 2007


I wasn't the only one in Susur Lee's swanky new restaurant celebrating a birthday last night. Dinner is an event here -- and an expensive one at that. But it's designed to be shared and enjoyed slowly.Tapas, Asian style.

To start: I had a Mango Mojito and HR had a Lychee Martini.

I enjoyed the Mojito because it wasn't too sweet and because I was starving to death. Our dinner reservation was at 8:30. Without giving away any secrets to my youthful glow, I'm usually in my pajamas in front of the tube by 8:30. HR was less enthusiastic about the Martini. She said it tasted like bubble bath water.

The food was beautifully prepared and elegantly presented and, as in most truly great restaurants, the serving staff really knew their way around the menu.

We shared the:

Singaporean Style Slaw -- 17 different ingredients. Incredible. I've never had anything like it.

Salmon seviche -- a real palate cleanser. This one was served on a bed of soy sprouts that had a little bit of heaven in them.

Pineapple and avocado salad in a peanut satay sauce. Nice, but not the best thing on the menu.

Carmelized cod. OMG. One of the top 10 things I've ever eaten. It reminded me of the incredible piece of salmon I had at the Gotham Bar and Grill in New York, back in the 90s. That's how memorable it was. Highly recommended.

And for dessert. Wait for it. Yes, we shared the molten lava chocolate cake with bananas and vanilla ice cream. It looked like it came out of Susur Lee's Easy Bake Oven. In short, it was perfect! We practically had a fork fight to finish it.

Anyway, today I'm having peanut butter and banana on dark rye for lunch. Not exactly up to the gourmet standards of last evening.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A Reverse Paranoiac

In JD Salinger's "Raise High the Roof Beams, Carpenter", Seymour Glass confesses to being a reverse paranoic. He says, "I suspect people of plotting to make me happy."

That's the kind of day I had yesterday. Magical and perfect.

It included:

Innumerable birthday wishes from far and wide.

A lovely card and gift certificate from my co-workers.

A wonderful dinner with incredibly thoughtful presents from my BFF. (Not many people would know how much I'd appreciate audio CDs of Richard Gere reading "The Tibetan Book of the Dead". That's what best friends are for.)

A trip to Stephen's Happy Place -- Holt Renfrew -- for the unveiling of the Christmas windows...and a concert on Bloor Street by Aretha Franklin!

A great movie -- American Gangster.

Running into Jude Law in the lobby of the Manulife, after the movie.

A personal movie made about and for me, by my home girl, Barb.

And you know what the best thing is? It's continuing tonight. My great friend of Chicago hyper-planning fame is in town tonight and taking me to Susur Lee's new restaurant. It's going to be great!

Feeling very grateful today.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Happy birthday to me

Happy birthday to me
Happy birthday to me
Happy birthday, dear ML
Happy birthday to me

I always envied the children whose birthday parties featured sandwiches on coloured bread -- although those children are probably dead now, their lives snuffed out by lethal doses of red dye #7.

Next year I'm buying myself a Barbie cake.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Lars and the Real Girl

There's something wonderful and decadent about watching movies in the middle of the afternoon on a school day.

I spent part of my last vacation day at a matinee, watching the incredibly watchable Ryan Gosling in Lars and the Real Girl.

Jealous? Don't hate me too much. I also spent the morning getting a pap smear. I don't see you lining up for that one.

Lars and the Real Girl is the sweetly told tale of a sensitive and damaged young man's relationship with Bianca, a life-size doll he orders off the internet. It's testament to the screenwriter (Nancy Oliver from Six Feet Under) and the nuanced performances of the capable cast, that the story never descends into slapstick. There is a real love story here. The film stars one of my favourite actresses -- Patricia Clarkson.

So it's back to work tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Unexplained

I was in a cleaning mood this afternoon and decided to go through an old shoe box full of junk that I'd moved from place to place with barely a look.

Inside, along with old driver's licenses, business cards and luggage tags,I found a greeting card that I bought at the Cabbagetown Festival several years ago...probably while I was living on Sackville Street.

The strange's a painting of the house where I'm living now.

I know! It spooked the hell out of me, too.

Attention Hit Men

If anyone's looking to take a contract out on my life, here's a safe bet as to where you'll find me. Every Sunday night at 8 p.m., I'll be on my couch, wearing the fat pants, brandishing a bowl of some kind of snack food or other, watching The Amazing Race. Routine is such a source of comfort.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Art of Happiness

I woke up with one of the Dalai Lama's favourite prayers on my mind this morning.

It states, quite simply:

For as long as space remains,
for as long as sentient beings remain,
so too may I remain,
to dispel the miseries of the world.

Talk about a commitment to service -- in this lifetime and many lifetimes.

So imagine my surprise when I found an article in the morning paper about the increasing disconnect between the Dalai Lama's policy of non-violence and the restlessness of young Tibetans who have never known a free Tibet.

Who wouldn't understand their impatience?

But who among us cannot help but be humbled by the Dalai Lama's approach.

In an interview with Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman (who just happens to be Uma's Dad, if you care about such things), his Holiness even stated that he has a "comparatively better heart now" due to his exile.

He said, "When we meet real tragedy in life, we can react in two ways -- either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits, or by using the challenge to find our inner strength."

Some people can lose a country and still maintain their compassion and tolerance. Others can break a nail and it's game over.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Canadian Bacon

It's good to be home.

On yesterday's flight from Heathrow, I sat beside a guy who was already 13 hours into his journey by the time he got to London. He was an emergency room nurse who had been visiting his sister-in-law in Sierra Leone, and had some interesting tales about visiting rural hospitals in West Africa.

When we landed in Toronto, he had a 3-hour layover before catching his ongoing flight to Halifax. I can't imagine it.

A few stats from my trip.

In the past 13 days, I have:

Travelled to 6 different cities in 4 different countries

Flown into and out of 4 different airports

Slept in 5 different beds

Flown, taken several trains, a boat, several buses and various taxi cabs

Done two formal presentations

Mimed vomiting at an all night Italian Pharamacia, once

Lost my suitcase, once

Reunited with my suitcase, once

Things I loved: Dutch cheese, being surrounded by people who work in the charitable sector, the wonder of discovery, pasta, every kind of gelato, the gorgeous little evening bag I bought in Venice, the beds at the High Road House in London, Marks and Spencer underwear.

Things I missed: Sushi, peanut butter, Buddy Benson.

I've posted this picture of Miss Piggy because the big news in the UK yesterday was that eating too much bacon gives you cancer. You don't really need to be an Einstein to figure this out. If you saw what these people fry up for breakfast on a daily basis,you'd get cancer just thinking about it.

Happy Friday.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Little birds are tying bows in my hair

Guess what I'm looking at? You're right. It's my shiny red suitcase. I bet it has a story to tell.

When they called me at 7:30 this morning, and promised to rush it over in a cab, I asked the lovely cockney-accented woman, "Does it miss me?"

"Oh ya, love," she said. "It's cryin' its eyes out."

Thanks for all the positive vibes, and to my BFF, SO, for calmly stating that my bag and my phone would find their way home. You were right...and it has. And, in case you're wondering, I've also put my phone in my purse.

See you in the new world.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Oh great luggage goddess

Just hung up with the lost luggage folks who still can't locate my bag.

Trouble is I'm leaving London via a different airport tomorrow, PLUS my missing bag has my phone in it. My only phone. My mobile/home phone. The phone I need to call the bloody baggage people when I get back to Canada!

Normally I wouldn't pack something as essential as this, but it didn't work over here and I was busy vomito-ing my head off while I was packing.

Oh ya, and the bag also contains my new ass-hugging Citizens of Humanity jeans. I knew vanity would get me sooner or later.

Good vibes everybody.

The Stomach Turins

Well, it looks like I got my big experience, but sadly it involved a debilitating tummy bug, thwarting the last day of the gelato tour.

I haven't been this sick in years. In fact, I'm still not feeling 100%.

I managed to make my two flights this morning, but only because my 3 a.m. taxi driver to the airport knew of an all night Pharmacia.

I had to use my best miming skills (although, how hard can it be to mime vomito?) to secure a box of what I presume to be the Italian version of Gravol.

I really didn't care what it was, I just took it.

Oh and then the clincher -- my luggage is lost.

Think positive luggage finding thoughts for me.

In other news, there appears to be a film crew at my hotel. I hope they're not here for me. I look like hell.

Buddy, Mommy's coming home.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Next stop on the gelato tour

I did my presentation at the Milan office this morning.

It was hard to tell whether they were staring in rapt attention – hanging on every word – or simply trying to make out what I was saying. I spoke slowly, in any case, and they seemed to laugh in all the right places.

You have to love meetings in Italy.

There was espresso in a little silver carafe, tiny little cups and saucers, and an assortment of croissants and pain au chocolat. If I lived here, I’d easily weight 500 pounds.

Turns out that Marco, the Managing Director, hails from Turin. That’s the next stop on my itinerary.

Marco’s a short, bald little dude, who’s all dressed to maim in his Salvatore Ferragamo suit. He only came up to my chest – which was pretty handy for him, since that’s where he kept his eyes through most of our conversation.

I’ve noticed that Italians are very proud of where they come from. It’s fundamental to their character. Each region has a specialty and each town or village is famous throughout the country for something or other.

If North Bay was in Italy, it would be famous for producing a Tim Hortons on every corner and a race of bush-whacking lumberjacks from hell.

At any rate, Marco spent most of this morning’s meeting sketching a rather spectacular map of his home town, Turin.

You could tell he was dying for me to stop talking so he could start – a universal trait he shares with Managing Directors the world over.

His directions were worthy of the best Italian trip planning. Things like: “Here you will sit, drink the coffee, eat the chocolate and look at the church.” Or, “Where to eat: Porto Savomma. Taste: Agnolotti.” Or, my personal favourite, “Have a huge experience visiting Porta Palazzo Market.”

Now I can’t wait to get to Turin to have a huge experience.

Turin’s at the foot of the Alps – which I saw for the first time today, on a little cross-border expedition to the designer outlet mall in Switzerland.

This was a true designer outlet mall – not the Pigeon Forge, Tennessee variety, but rather the home of Georgio Armani variety. All the big brands were represented – from D & G to Gucci to Missoni to Armani. Some pretty spectacular merchandise. But half off a 3000 Euro Armani coat is, well, 1500 Euros. Oh well, at least I got to see Lake Como and Lake Garda on the drive up.

Today’s flavours on the gelato tour: pistachio and rum butter.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Venice is for Lovers

I need to stop going to the most romantic places on the planet by myself.

Today it was Venice.

In highly traveled tourist destinations, like Venice, my strategy is to always to go in search of more authentic experiences.

This is how I found an incredible restaurant for lunch.

It is possible to come to Italy and not eat. But why would you?

The cast of characters at “Lania 40”, a small hole-in-the-wall on one of the city’s less-travelled canals, consisted of a single waiter who was exceptionally virile, yet mildly hysterical; an extraordinarily talented, yet petulant chef; a somewhat lazy woman (who appeared to be the owner’s wife) and was subject to almost constant ridicule and verbal abuse from the waiter; and the owner himself who, despite a busy restaurant, continued an almost one-hour long personal conversation with his buddy.

The place was magical. There wasn’t a word of English being spoken anywhere.

The food? Nothing short of magnificent.

I had a simple insalata mista (green salad) and Tagliatelle with shrimp and porcini mushrooms.

For the rest of my life, I’ll remember every bite.

When I left, I tried to pay with a credit card, but the waiter said, “Signora, you have cash? Cash we pay no tax. We hate-a the tax.”

So, when I pulled out the cash, he looks at me and says, “I love you.”

So I guess I did find love in Venice after all.

Today’s gelato flavours: cookie and tiramisu.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Da Vinci Code

I want to have sex with every man, woman and child in Milan.

Everyone’s so bloody good-looking and fashionable that it’s hard not to feel like a dancing bear in comparison.

Have I mentioned I have a terrace?

I think I’ve landed one of the best hotel deals in Milan. The rate is varying between 79 and 99 Euros per night – including breakfast. This is a phenomenal deal for this city. In fact, it would probably be a phenomenal deal for Toronto.

Today part of my 3,000 km walk included a visit to the Museo Nazionale Della Scienza e Della Technologia Leonardo Da Vinci. See what I mean about the vowels?

One of the reasons I chose this museum is that it contains an excellent reproduction of The Last Supper – painted some time in the mid 1600s. (Leonardo was painting The Last Supper while we were stripping birch bark off trees and trying not to die of scurvy.)

The actual Last Supper is located in a church down the street from the museum.

Admission to the original is only with a timed ticket and tickets sell out months in advance – primarily to Americans who have read The Da Vinci Code. (I’m putting money on the fact that more Americans have read The Da Vinci Code than have read The Declaration of Independence.)

SO and I saw the original the last time we were in Milan, so I’m not that fussed about it.

Today’s flavours on the gelato tour: Fig and Macadamia Nut.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Viva Italia

Everything sounds better in Italian.

While you’d normally be rather irritated by that your train from the airport was 10 minutes late, you’re positively jolly about it if the announcement is made in Italian. It sounds like they’re doing you a favour.

While the Dutch are crazy for consonants, the Italians are all about the vowels. Put an “o” an “a” or an “e” at the end of just about anything, and you’ve got yourself lesson one in rudimentary Italian.

It also helps, when excited, to wave your hands around madly, like a swarm of gnats has suddenly descended upon you.

Eleanora and another Italian girl – who was more Donatella than Donatella – spent a lot of the trip in from the airport complaining about Dutch food.

“It has no spice,” Eleanora said bitterly. “No salt…yes, it’s good for you and you’ll live longer. But who wants to live without salt!”

They then proceeded to debate the relative merits of Italy’s regional specialties. I’m a vegetarian, but I found myself salivating for parma ham. Go figure.

It feels really good to unpack. Five nights here feel like a lifetime after my journey so far.

Here’s to a little dolce vita.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Today I had lunch with the Director of Information and Development for the Charles Darwin Foundation in the Galapagos.

Now THAT'S an interesting job.

He's an American dude who lives in Quito, Ecuador.

Part of our lunch time conversation involved a discussion of what is being done to address the indigenous rat problem on the islands. (Not enough, apparently. They're big MFs.) This is slightly different from the regular lunchtime conversations I usually have about Britney and her underpants back at the office.

We shared a table with a heavily accented Scottish fellow who was presenting a talk on Major Gifts Fundraising.

He looked a lot like he could have been fast friends with either Collin or Justin -- the gay as larks decorating pals from HGTV.Interestingly, his name was actually Collin.

Tonight I'm having dinner with the Brits from our sister agency. Then I'm hoping to find some Australians. I'll know they're Australians, because they'll still be here at the conference at 3 a.m.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

You're in the army now

It looks like I have yet another opportunity to create an international incident.

The sleepy little coastal town a short distance from Amsterdam -- NOORDWIJK -- where more than 900 fundraisers from around the world have descended, is also hosting the big 8 country NATO Defence Ministers meeting you've been seeing on TV.

It's serious business. It appears that most people didn't get a job at NATO when their career in stand-up didn't work out.

The entire town has been blockaded. There is troop placement everywhere -- including uniformed forces, anti-aircraft tanks and an aircraft carrier off the coast. They've taken over entire hotels.

Maybe I'll run into Conoleezza Rice at breakfast.

Apart from the surreal carnival atmosphere of the NATO conference, I've been enjoying every minute of the Dutch part of this trip and the conference.

I'm at the hotel now, but it's been a long day. 14 hours. With all the sessions and hobnobbing I've been doing, I feel like I've been working harder here than I do back at the office.

But it's good tired. Tired that comes with the added benefit of an excellent cheese selection.

In a nice little coincidence (are there really any coincidences?) discovered that Eleanora -- a fellow writer from Italy, and one of the only two people I know in Milan -- is on the same KLM flight as I am on Friday night. What good fortune.

Good night, Canada.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Hello from the land of excessive consonants

Well, good news. I didn't embarass myself or our nation during yesterday's presentation at Rapp London.

In fact, I think I did rather well.

I'm pretty sure I won them over in the first few minutes when I pulled out the Maple Leaf Cookies and the bag of Hallowe'en candy. Never come between a Brit and his or her sweets. It could get ugly.

Today I'm in Amsterdam.

The Dutch appear to have an unusual fondness for putting six or seven consonants in the same word. While the English sound smarter with their accent, the Dutch just sound tired of using so many consonants. Maybe that's why they legalized pot smoking and gay marriage long before any of the rest of us. They needed something to look forward to while they were busy constructing sentences that were impossible to pronounce.

When in doubt, I usually just add "en" to the end of sentences, ie. Where is the toileten? It seems to work nicely.

I narrowly missed seeing Tom Cruise in Leicester Square last night. He was there promoting his new movie and I was there getting a last minute ticket to see Shadowlands -- the story of C.S. Lewis's great love affair. They made a movie of it, which I've never seen, but I'm sure it's Terms of Endearment for the Narnia set. The play was really good, and managed to keep me awake, despite the jet lag.

I'm like a fly strip for gay men. Took my seat in the theatre and discovered the guy next to me was a gay-as-a-lark travel writer from San Francisco. Really interesting guy. He was at the end of his month-long trip around the UK, writing stories for a couple of travel pubs. He's looking forward to Bush being out of office. Thinking Americans always are.

I wish Buddy could type. I'd love to send him an email.

Monday, October 22, 2007

London, baby!

Are English people really smarter than us, or do they just sound that way because of their accents?

Had a great discussion about the relative merits of English culture with my Canadian friend Sean and his German girlfriend, Sandra, yesterday.

Sandra made a delicious homemade curried parsnip and apple soup...which was so kind and completely unexpected, given she's caring for a four month old. Turns out she's into fundraising, too, which gave us plenty to talk about.

It was great to see Sean again. He's looking more and more like Dylan Thomas as he gets older.

They own a cute two-storey Victorian townhouse in the South London suburb of Nunhead (which is funny, in it's own way.) Their little pied-a-terre is worth about 400,000 GBP (more than $800,000) if you find yourself complaining about Canadian house prices. When they moved in, they had to install hot water heating. The place had NO heating.

Sean's spent a lot of time on their back garden -- time he should have been putting into his dissertation, according to Sandra. But I think this is the way graduate school goes. I joined a tanning parlour and dyed my hair a shade of purple with a product called Zazu, when I was writing my thesis.

Anyway, I'm currently in the lobby of our offices here -- in an area of the city called Hammersmith, on the banks of the Thames. Getting ready to do my presentation. Hoping to sound smart enough!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Shaking hands

This is me shaking hands with the man who is famous for shaking hands with the devil. Meeting Romeo Dallaire was one of the high points of my life. When it was done, and my co-worker had snapped the shot, I couldn't stop the tears. What a great way to kick off a trip that will include spending a concentrated period of time with people who are working for and in organizations that are trying to do right by our little blue-green planet.

Think We. Pass it On.

Today is International Me to We Day.

Me to We is a social movement. You can read more about it in the book published by those incredibly over-achieving kids, Marc and Craig Kielburger - the founders of Free the Children. It's about living our lives as socially conscious people, engaged in daily acts of kindness. It's about finding meaning in a material world.

EVERYONE I've met from Free the Children is full of the piss and vinegar of well-intentioned youth. They really believe they're the generation we've been waiting for. You've got to respect that kind of passion. When I was their age, I was watching 7 hours of TV a day.

Anyway, happy Me to We Day. Stop looking at your navel and do something nice for somebody else.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Blurr of Gratitude

About four out of five nights in the week, I cart my little iBook home from work.

Up until now, I've been using the the shoulder bag that work provided. It's standard issue and meant to be slung over one shoulder. Trouble is, the computer's heavy and feels even heavier the longer you carry it.

After many months of this, I was beginning to feel like my posture was better suited to playing crazy organ music in the rafters of Notre Dame.

Couldn't really imagine carrying my computer and my purse and enough clothes to last me two weeks on my whirlwind trip to Europe.

Enter KM. What an excellent researcher she is!

After I told her that I was looking for a bag -- and I really wasn't "looking" anywhere, I was simply talking about looking, which is what I do when I procrastinate -- Ms. K. started sending me links to suitably ergonomically designed computer bags. Cute ones, too.

She even, quite cleverly, suggested that I measure my computer to ensure that it actually fit in the new computer bag. (KM is an engineer. She thinks of these things. I simple look at the colour.)

Of the many she suggested, I decided on the one above (it's called Blurr) which KM, in her generosity, actually purchased at MEC for me...and delivered over coffee, yesterday.

Wow. Who does that?

She also made me laugh when she showed me that she had cut out a piece of paper the size of my laptop and inserted it into the backpack to ensure that it would fit properly. That's why we trust people like KM to build bridges, and we forbid people like me from owning power tools.

Anyway, I wore my cute little Blurr home last night, and to work this morning. It's fashionable and functional. And it makes me feel like an eight year old French school girl. This is not really a bad thing, since French school girls probably all smoke Gitanes and eye each other's husbands.

Anyway, word to KM. You really took the weight off my shoulders.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Early Adopters

I had dinner at my boss's house last night.

Shelley's husband, Carl, is an account director at our digital agency and a classic early adopter.

He's got a sparkling new i-Phone (downloaded some pirated software and broken the code so he can use it in Canada) and the most incredible home theatre system I've ever seen. They have actual theatre seats (complete with cup holders) and a HD projection screen, which makes the picture look larger than the VIP screening room at the Varsity.

In classic hyper geek style, we watched the beginning of Star Wars on it. Cue C3PO noise and light sabre swooshing.

So, after a glass of wine, he invites me to play Wii with him. Oh my god. No really, oh my god.

We played tennis, and it was like an actual tennis match.

I could get so addicted to this! Once I figured out the timing, I made him play me until I actually won a match -- it's the only child rule.

Wii could get addictive for me.

Once, when we lived in Ottawa, I could incredibly addicted to something called Apeiron. I used to fall asleep with my clicker finger twitching. Stephen finally had to delete it off our system or I'd still be playing it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

OK, I'm back....

Woke up this morning simply feeling grateful for the gift that is the new day. The simple pleasure of breathing in and out. The pink streaked sky at sunrise. The toasted goodness of my muesli breakfast roll, smeared with almond butter. It's almost never the big things that bring's the little things, strung together like Christmas lights.

I'm leaving on Saturday for a whirlwind European adventure.

Two nights in London, three in the Netherlands, five in Italy, and back to the UK for one before flying home. Business in every port but pleasure, too, especially on the gelato tour of Italy.

Look for EU blogging updates. I'll have my laptop and hopefully one of the 16 adapters that I ordered from the MAC store will work in one of those unruly European plugs.

Peace everybody.

Monday, October 15, 2007

First things first

Today I'm just putting one foot in front of the other.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Finian's Rainbow

I don't know what made me think of him.

When I was sick and working from home the other day, I thought of SL. I knew him for about 7 of of the 8 years I worked at CARE. We travelled together in Kenya. Partied together in Ottawa. He might have visited me in Australia. We even slept in the same bed one night.

Over the years, we've kind of lost touch.

Where aid workers are concerned, SL is the elite. You'll find him wherever the world is going to hell in a handcart. His specialty is complex emergencies.

After the genocide in Rwanda, SL was among a group of CARE aid workers sent to find the refugees. Yes, find them. Hundreds of thousands of people were lost in the Rwandan forests for days after the killing began. They were too scared and scarred to come out. When they emerged, SL was there to meet them at the border of Burundi.

He's lived in the Somali refugee camps of Northern Kenya, dodged bullets in Liberia, and reconstructed tsunami-ravaged villages in Bandah Acheh.

He's seen things I don't even like to think about.

We lost touch over the years, but I'd heard he was living in London. Maybe that's what made me think of him. I was preparing the presentation I'm giving in London in a few weeks.

So I googled him...and I found him. Not only that, he immediately returned my message with one of his own.

He's still doing what he does, but he's also getting his PhD in war history at the same time. Another of life's tortured over-achievers.

He's invited me to his South London home when I get in on Sunday. We'll catch up, and I'll get a chance to meet his four month old son, Finian.

The news about Finian just blew me away.

SL doesn't come by happiness easily. I guess you wouldn't in his line of work. But babies are, by their nature, a sign of eternal optimism.

Maybe there's hope for SL yet. I guess I'll see.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

One of my two favourite jokes

A couple - John and Mary - have a son named Rupert.

Rupert is perfect in every way, except for one. He's never uttered a word.

From the time the child was about three, John and Mary have taken him to a series of ear, nose and throat specialists, desperate to discover the source of their only child's problem.

On this day, the family has returned from yet another specialist.

John has his head in his hands. Mary is busying herself making hot chocolate.

"What are we going to do about Rupert?" she says, as she places the mugs before John and Rupert.

Suddenly Rupert pipes in, "This cocoa's cold."

"Rupert!" his mother squeals. "You can talk!"

And then, after a moment she says, "Why haven't you said anything before now?"

"Well, up until now everything's been okay," he says.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Lard on a burn

My Mother considers illness a personal weakness.

She comes from the mind-over-matter school. This works well for some things (like anxiety, for example) and not so well for others (like acute lymphoblastic leukemia).

When she's not ignoring the illness, she employs a variety of non-traditional healing methodologies that have included putting lard on a burn (I'm really not kidding here) and my personal favourite: the hot drink. This consists of about 4 ounces of Crown Royal, a teaspoon of sugar and boiling hot water. Who knows if it works. You just wake up four hours later.

My Mom (and my grandmother for that matter) also claim to be able to stop bleeding, simply by thinking about the bleeder. (When I saw the French Canadian movie C.R.A.Z.Y., I couldn't believe it. This was my Mother's family!)

If none of these things work, my Mom simply gets mad at the patient.

Some people really miss their Moms when they're sick. Not me. My Mom used to make me go to school!

Anyway, I'm taking a sick/work from home day today. Hi Mom.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The lightness of being

It's rarely the big things in life that leave us awash with feelings of happiness and contentment.

It's a closet, well-organized, income tax - long avoided - finally completed and submitted, laundry done, folded and put away. I sometimes spend more energy avoiding than I do accepting. I think a lot of us do.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Evening - WTF

So I was all set for a perfect evening.

A glass of Diet A & W Root Beer, a few squares of dark chocolate (it has anti-oxidants, you know, and is therefore good for us), and a happy cat on my lap.

So I fired up the DVD player with "Evening" - a promising chick flick with a stellar cast including Vanessa Redgrave, Natasha Richardson, Glenn Close and Toni Collette. I thought it was a good cry waiting to happen. Meryl Streep was even in it, but I couldn't force myself to make it to her entrance.

It's one of those irritating films where they go backwards and forwards through time every 5 minutes.

We know we've gone backwards because everyone is smoking. People smoked a lot back there in time -- which probably explains why Ann, the main character, is dying in present day. All those cigarettes and highballs back in the fifties can take their toll on a person.

Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I was smoking and drinking, but it was hard to get up with the cat in my lap.

I was decidedly tired from the week, but I had a hard time keeping track of who everyone was. And, once I figured it out, I didn't really care about any of them.

Dull, dull, dull.

Anyway, I turned it off and went to bed, forgetting entirely that The L Word is on Showcase on Thursday nights.


Even at its worst, The L Word is head and shoulders above Evening. Now I wish I could go backwards in time.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

No end in sight

They advertised it as "probably the most important film you'll see this year" and they were probably right.

No End in Sight was the meticulously researched film chosen to open this season's Doc Soup documentary series at the Bloor Cinema last night. It is a searing indictment of the Bush government.

For those of us prone to long rants about the state of the world and the ineptness of governments in general, you'll find plenty to be disturbed about here.

This movie makes me want to invade Washington. Check it out:

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Finding my muse

Over the years of writing for a living, I've devised a few little tricks to help me along when desire or inspiration wanes.

These can include anything from beginning in the middle, to stream of conscious, to crafting and re-crafting the same sentence over and over again.

Mostly what helps is relaxing, since my best work always and unequivocally comes from a place of peace.

Along the way, I've also picked up a few totems that I can look to (or throw) when the big idea is still a glimmer in my eye.

There's the small pink flamingo I keep on my desk -- a gift from a Kenyan co-worker. He bought it for me on a work trip to Lake Nakuru in 1994 and I've kept it on my desk ever since.

Then there's the Buddhist paraphernalia -- a photo of the Dalai Lama, my Zen Day by Day calendar, an OM Mani Padme Hum banner (written in Tibetan) and a postcard (which many years ago was an ad for IBM) featuring a giant bolder and a group of Tibetan monks staring at if willing it to move. I'm sure it did...immediately after the photo was taken.

Directly above my desk is the shrine that Barb and I erected while she still worked here.

There's the picture of Shiloh Jolie-Pitt -- Shiloh be thy name. Simply by virtue of being the progeny of Brad Pitt and springing from the loins of Angelina Jolie, Shiloh is subject to worship.

Also in the shrine there's another shot that I love. Barb's indicated on the shot that it's her on the left (in the superstar sunglasses) and me (quite rightly) examining my navel on the right.

I love this shot for a lot of reasons, but primarily because it looks like Barb and I have been working together since infancy.

The truth is that Barb and I work together so well because neither of us has ever completely escaped childhood.

My voice mail message at work says, "I can't take your call at the moment. Please leave your name, number, a detailed message and tell me something you've never told anyone else and I'll return your call."

Barb is the ONLY person who always tells me that thing she's never told anyone else. I've found out a lot about Barb this way.

Everyone needs a muse like Barb. So I give to you, a little of what Barb gave to me yesterday.

Don't say I haven't warned you. The Peanut Butter and Jelly Song.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Double double

Tim Hortons is the Vatican City of Northern Ontario.

During my 2.5 days in the Gateway to the North, I took my Mom out for coffee about 5 times. We never visited the same Tim Hortons twice. If you're looking to meet anyone in North Bay, for any reason, chances are you'll head for your local Timmies. I think the build the drive-thrus a little bigger, too, to accommodate the four wheelers.

In case you're wondering, this is our standard order. Small black with sweetener for my Mom and cream and two sweetener for me. We also split three old-fashioned plain Timbits between us. There's something oddly comforting about this routine.


Let's send our most positive thoughts to the besieged monks of Burma. Courage my friends.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Paper Bag Princess

Checked my email when I got home last night and discovered that our tiny little fundraising package for SickKids has won a CMA Award.

This same little package recently won a DMA Echo Award.

I'm SO excited about this, primarily because, to look at it, this package is nothing special...which is exactly what the AD and my best friend, SO, intended when he designed it. It contains a simple letter and a 3¢ paper bag.

But this little dynamo rocked the house. It raised 30% more money than forecast and had a response rate that was 130% over goals.

The best part of all of this is not that we won, but that the little girl that featured in the piece - Caitlin - has battled through her chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and is currently in remission from leukaemia.

I have a special passion for SickKids. It's so nice when the good guys win.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Don't aim

Just back from our work bonding at Tapatoo.

As is customary at these sorts of things, they divided the larger group into smaller teams of 4 or 5, and handed out assignments to make us work as a team.

Then our team competed with other teams in inane tasks like "pass the marble from one tube to the other and drop it in the cup" or "stand on this log all together and walk as a group toward this piece of duct tape."

Generally speaking, I'd prefer doing my own surgery without anaesthetic to these sorts of initiatives.

Anyway, luckily my group consisted of like-minded individuals who immediately subscribed to my suggestion for a group name: Group Pervo. And, our cheer (cue clap) We're perverted...we're we're perverted.

While other groups got really I mean it....REALLY SERIOUS about winning, we were like, "Fuck it. Let's have as much fun as possible and laugh our asses off."

So want to know what happened?

We won.

Not only that, we won the tie-breaker by doing one of the activities BACKWARDS.

It was perfect. And it would have been MORE perfect if Barb had been there.

Barb would have made a great addition to team Pervo. In fact, I believe she was there in spirit....burnt eyelashes and all.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Hemming and hawing

After a near perfect retail experience with Over the Rainbow, I got my newly hemmed billion dollar butt-hugging jeans home and find that they are at least 1/2 an inch too long.


I even washed them and dried them in the dryer -- a real no-no, according to the 58 pound 11 year old girl who sold them to me. Apparently putting your jeans in the dryer "breaks down the denim". I thought we were supposed to break down the denim...but apparently not.

Anyway, now I have to bring them back and get them re-hemmed all over again.

The picture is what I WOULD HAVE looked like tomorrow, if my jeans had been hemmed properly...and I'd been born with an extra chromosome.

I'm off to Tapatoo Resort near Otter Lake for our big agency love-in tomorrow. I'm meeting my ride at Pape Station at 7:15 a.m. As the only true morning person, I'm planning to make the ride a living hell for the group. I feel a car game coming on. It's the least I can do.

Today, the world needs a little poetry

ee cummings

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully, mysteriously) her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Peach Pit

Whenever I try to register for web sites that solely recognize US addresses, I use the most famous Zip Code of all: 90210.

You can imagine my delight to discover that Jennie Garth is one of the contestants on my guilty pleasure, Dancing with the Stars. Garth played Kelly Taylor for Beverly Hills 90210's entire 10 year run. She's still cute as a button. I'll probably use up my inheritance text-messaging votes for her.

I loved Bev-o, and continue to love it in re-runs.

Who can forget some of the more memorable moments -- like the time Donna (that husband-stealing bee-atch Tori Spelling) is busted for being drunk at the Prom and faces the possibility of explusion. Everyone walks out of their finals to her hearing, shouting: Donna Martin graduates!

Or the time that Andrea Finkelstein (the only 50 year old to ever play a teen on TV) gets knocked up by her Latino boyfriend and ends up raising her bastard love child while waiting for her friends to show up at the Peach Pit after dark.

Or gay-David's elementary school friend who accidentally shoots himself in the head while playing with guns at his freaking birthday party.

Good times.

What's your favourite Bev-o episode?

Monday, September 24, 2007

The sound of one hand clapping.

It looks like the room finally got smaller.

French mime Marcel Marceau died today. He was 84.

Instead of sending flowers, I suggest you pick a single flower, smell it, and take it apart petal by petal.

Saints and sinners

If Niagara-on-the-Lake had a funeral home, it would be called: Death...and Things.

The good people of this picturesque town on the shores of Lake Ontario appear to have a greater than average need to be surrounded by beauty. You can't swing a cat without finding yet another inn, tea room, haberdashery, gelato emporium or year-round Christmas store. Even ye olde public washrooms are located in a building meant to replicate a heritage site.

I saw Saint Joan at the Shaw Festival yesterday. There's nothing like spending the afternoon listening to the heady words of George Bernard Shaw to make you feel like a total hack.

The first act -- which set the political stage -- was slightly dreary, but the second act was electric. Tara Rosling was a terrific Joan.

The place was lousy with "yke-days", as LR says in her fluent pig-Latin.

Woman who love woman go crazy for Joan of Arc -- maybe because they like the idea of a strong woman doing a job reserved largely for men, or quite possibly because they're looking to her for fashion tips. Well, she does cut a rather striking figure as a soldier.