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smartygirl

the chronicles.

from 2001.

White Christmases are over-rated.

I think it's all a plot. I think the whole white Christmas concept was invented just so people might manage to hang on to a shred of sanity over the holidays. Kind of the same way kids are told carrots are good for your eyes (ever see a rabbit wearing glasses?); otherwise, they'd never put up with them. Same goes for white Christmases. Paint them with enough sentiment to seem indispensible, and people will even start to believe they like them.

As one who just spent ninety minutes on a highway during an ice storm, I would beg to differ. Picturesque? I'll give them that. But also dangerous and scary as hell.

Not to mention isolating.

Growing up, there were many occasions when the Christams was so white, you couldn't even open the door. Not with a metre and a half of snow drifted against it. We imagined this was "romantic." people would regularly crash into the hydro poles when the snow started drifting across the roads. I'm sure the drivers and passengers didn't enjoy it, but we imagined the ensuing blackouts were delightfully old-fashioned as we played scrabble by the light of the old coleman-oil lantern, while cooking a roast in the old wood stove. And it was lovely, as long as you didn't venture beyond the kitchen, aka the only warmish room in the house.

The older I get, the more responsibilities that land on my shoulders, the less charming it all seems. Winter weather completed the transformation from nicely nostalgic to nemesis during the ice storm of 1998. My parents went nine days without electricity. Every day I called to see that they were okay and to suggest that they move. Every day my mother responded by complaining that I had got her out of bed, where she and dad spent every moment that they were home, in order to keep warm. I couldn't even go home to help out, as there was no safe way to get there.

It doesn't seem so pretty anymore, to be sliding sideways down sidestreets when driving to a friend's house for a yuletide visit. I don't care what anyone says. Next year, I'm dreaming of a green Christmas.

diary updated 24 december 2001 permalink

December.

Even if you aren't religious, it's a time of year when families are reunited by default - with all of this time off, there's no excuse not to.

There are plans to be made, cars to be rented, flights to be booked. With all of this pressure, it's no wonder the holidays are often a let-down. Too many people in too small a space. Too many bad movies with saccharin endings that just don't happen in real life. But somehow, we buy into the myth. Every year, we let ourselves believe it again: this Christmas will be different. This year we'll have a lovely festive meal, with no one fighting or making rude remarks at the table. This year everyone will cooperate and pull their weight and get along.

Never happens. Despite all of the andy williams songs about the christmas spirit of peace and hope and charity, people continue to exist in their own little worlds. It seems most people expect to be on the receiving end of the squishy holiday feelings, these days. No one believes any longer that it is better to give than to receive. Not that they'd admit it, but you know the old saying: in theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they're not. In theory, and in their own minds, people are loving and giving. In practice, they are too busy watching tv to lend a helping hand.

Goodness, I sound bitter, don't I? I guess some days I feel like the only "giver" in my life. I'm sure things look different from other eyes, but somedays I am just too tired of working while others sit idly by. Don't I deserve a holiday, too?

For now, I'll try to hold my tongue, and continue the role of the good daughter/sister/aunty/cousin. It's the holidays, after all.

But soon, I'd like a holiday for me. It's been a while.

diary updated 20 december 2001 permalink

Some rights are more equal than others.

the eglinton cinemaThree of Toronto's downtown cinemas, one of them an art deco beauty, will be closing shortly.

There are a number of reasons why, but the most important factor was a lawsuit launched by a small group of disabled people, who argued that the cinemas' inaccessibility was an infringement on their rights.

Now, I didn't know that going to the cinema was a "right." if it is indeed a "right," I think we should be more concerned with the lousy quality of the films to which we are subjected these days. But I digress.

There are many accessible cinemas in Toronto, and they all play the same films for the most part. Just around the corner from the inaccessible Uptown and Backstage cinemas, there are the Varsity and the Cumberland. Why not go there? Why close the Uptown?

I guess it's the principle of the thing.

Sad that principle should take precedence over practice. My mother is disabled. She lives in a town where *nothing* is accessible beyond the post office and library. Nothing. When she became disabled, she had to change doctors, because her old doctor had steps. She has to drive to the next town, fifteen km away, in order to buy milk. Or she can bring someone along, or tap at the door until someone comes along and offers to help.

Why aren't these businesses asked to adapt?

I suppose they aren't high profile enough. A big corporation in a big city is news, a woman in a small town who can't get into the cornershop is not. It's a little too mundane, I suppose. A little boring. Never mind that being able to get one's own groceries is more integral to quality of life than seeing a movie at a particular cinema.

What is especially upsetting about the closure of these cinemas, beyond the loss to the community of affordable entertainment (the backstage was cheaper than most) and an architectural treasure, is the blow dealt to the credibilty of the ontario human rights commission disabled people in general. To concentrate on something so unnecessary in some ways and so precious in others makes them seem petty and foolish: more intent on spoiling the fun of others than helping the people who need it. As long as the ohrc wastes its time pontificating about the right of the disabled to attend film festival parties, they aren't tending to more pressing concerns.

Accessibility is clearly an important issue, but someone's got priorities mixed up.

diary updated 10 december 2001 permalink

The womanly arts.

I went fabric shopping with a couple of girlfriends the other day. One of them commented on the fact that at the baby shower we'd been at the previous weekend, there had been no less than five sewers in attendance - somewhat unusual these days.

Two other sewing buddies confessed to being somewhat shy about mentioning their crafty hobbies around guys, for fear of seeming geeky, or somehow scary.

I can relate to this. I sew a lot of my own clothing, although I am often loath to admit it in public. And I *hate* it when someone (and I know they mean well when they do this, but) points it out. "she made that dress." I always feel... I dunno, reduced to a child showing off something not all that worthy of boasting. Look, my handprint in plaster. I made it all by myself. Whoopee. I try to change the subject quickly before whoever is listening tries to come up with an appropriate appreciative noise about something that really doesn't interest him.

But why do I assume disinterest? Why assume that my skills are uninteresting and even embarrassing? I might as well be blushing in a parlour somewhere.

But that's it, isn't it. The reason women are shy about admitting any interest in needlework or other such womanly arts is that they are considered lady-like. Unreconstructed 'fifties housewives did this kind of thing. Us twenty-first century foxes are supposed to disdain such homey skills.

Funny, I don't notice any of my carguy friends quietly pretending they aren't interested in anything automotive, for fear of seeming old-fashioned.

Feminism was supposed to be about the right to choose - to choose a career or to choose to stay at home with the children, to choose knitting, or plumbing, or whatever you damn well wanted, regardless of what your gender might happen to be. And, like most of my friends, I have chosen career - so why should I be afraid that having a hobby somehow negates what I do fifty hours a week? I mean, it's not like I sit at home making patchwork toaster cosies or something (on our shopping expedition, we all went for the corset patterns). I can knit and read at the same time.

But somehow, pat me on the head for sewing, and I suddenly become Molly Ringwald in her homemade dress feeling out of place at the preppy boy's party.

I guess the war's not over yet.

diary updated 3 december 2001 permalink

The time has come once again for my annual foray into fitness.

Usually, this consists of a one-time mini-marathon on the treadmill, lasting until I fall face first to the floor beside the infernal machine, since no matter how much I stretch, it's never enough.

Thenceforth I head to the exercise room, telling myself I will exercise, and then sit in the sauna for an hour instead. But it's the thought that counts, right?

It's not just that I don't like exercise. I mean, I despise exercise, but that's not the point. I'm a contrarian by nature. Everytime someone nags me about how I should be doing this that and the other thing, how I shouldn't eat the things I like, how I shouldn't snack in bed, I just think, "oh yeah? I think I'll just have me a fluffernutter sammich, so there."

And I appear to be blessed with a metabolism that will allow me to do that non-stop without gaining weight.

However.

I was at a baby shower on the weekend. The father-to-be's grandmother was there. 93 years old, she lived on her own until last year. Now, my grandmother was in her nineties when she died (I was five), but she was in a wheelchair. My own Mum uses a walker, dad uses a cane.

It scares me. They're not that old. I mean, they're older then a lot of my friends' parents, but still young enough that they should be spryer. Or I'd like them to be spryer. I'd like to be able to take a trip to the ol' homestead with Mum. I'd like them to be able to come and visit. I'd like an iron-clad gurantee that they'll still be driving me crazy thirty years from now.

No guarantees, unfortunately. But maybe it's time for me to quit coasting and start drinking more milk and riding the ol' bicycle more. Maybe even jog. Organs and bones are not easily replaceable yet, it's time to look after the ones I've got.

diary updated 26 november 2001 permalink

These days it seems everyone is addicted to something.

Beyond the usual drunks and chain smokers and Robert Downey Jr, there are the potheads, the massively irritating cokeheads (you're not as clever as you think. Really.), relationship junkies, porn addicts, gambling addicts (I spoke to two people last week who signed on for digital cable solely for the two horse-racing channels), workaholics, and my favourite, people addicted to what they can't have.

Usually "what they can't have" comes in the form of another person. You know these people, they're everywhere. Their lovers are married to other people. Or they're only attracted to commitment-phobes. Or people who live a thousand miles away. Or they wait for a hint, a clue, and then rush over the the home of the object of their affection, expecting (against all odds) a night of sweet love, despite the obvious evidence that this will not happen.

It's a safety device, really. If you set yourself up for failure, you know it's guaranteed. No disappointment. Or at any rate, no surprises. If you fear intimacy, what better way to seem normal - mooning over a non-functioning relationship, without ever risking being in one that (god forbid) works?

And some people are addicted to disappointment. They crave proof that the world is a horrible place. They sabotage happiness - their own and everyone else's - any time it looms near.

Or worse luck, they pretend to be normal just long enough to confuse the innocent.

At least the relationship junkies tend mainly to attract their own clingy kind. Anyone else would run screaming at the first sniff of their desparation.

I read an article a while ago about a guy who was instrumental in the opening of a casino up north. He traded one addiction for another - sex, booze, bingo, blackjack - until he lost everything he had. Each time he conquered one addiction in a fit of righteousness, he took up another with religious fervour, trying desparately to fill some unnameable void inside, with whatever happened to be available at the time. It's frightening to think that addiction could be that inescapable. Maybe it's better to let some people just chain smoke as much as they want, and hope they never discover other vices.

Speaking of, I haven't had a cigarette in well over a year now. Yay for me.

diary updated 19 november 2001 permalink

The fallout continues.

So here I am on my day off, sitting in an internet café typing away at a crummy and well-abused Mac keyboard.

Do forgive the typos.

Just yesterday I was having brunch with a friend and we were shocked to realise it had been a full two months since the World Trade Centre attacks. And how little our lives have changed.

For those in the middle of it all, for those anywhere near ground zero, or any large american city which has been plagued with evacuations and anthrax threats, everything changed irrevocably two months ago. But for those of us lucky enough to live in the country too boring to bomb, there has been little actual effect beyond the effort spent comforting friends.

We don't have to live with something scary happening every day.

But this morning something scary happened again. And so I came here, to check on my new york friends, to make sure they're all still alive and kicking.

And then there was the relief that it looks like it was just a simple mechanical failure.

And then the weird guilt. How can one be relieved? There are still lives lost. In a neighbourhood that's already hade more than its share of funerals.

It's a rather brutal reminder to us lucky ones that the world is still a pretty terrifying place.

Yesterday there were soldiers marching downtown. Marching in formation, a ceremonial salute to those who died fifty, sixty, ninety years ago. I thought of the people I know who fought in those wars, my father, my uncles, two of whom died within the past decade. Many who fought beside them did not return home. In 1918, they believed that the war, the great war, had been so horrible, that the world had learned its lesson, and would never make war again.

If only they had been right.

diary updated 12 november 2001 permalink

It's been a bad week for gaudy signage in Toronto's music scene.

First Sam the Record Man went under, and then on Sunday, the elMo closed.

Okay, they're taking over Ted's Wrecking Yard around the corner and up the street on College, but still. It's not the same.

Now, the elMo has closed before, and risen from the ashes re-born and as raunchy as ever. And the new business that's moving in doesn't sound so terrible in and of itself: it's going to be a dance studio, returning to the real roots of the building's original tenants, making full use of the beautiful sprung wood floor on the second storey. It's not an evil corporate overlord, and some suggested this might be a blessing in disguise: the new guy moves in, fixes the place up (especially the horrifying bathrooms, please, we beg you), goes out of business after six months, and the *real* elmo can move back to a new improved version of its home.

We can always hope, but I won't hold my breath.

Especially after seeing all of the nasty graffiti directed at the new owners. Carved into the lovely old wooden bar. Such behaviour is not exactly a way to win friends and influence people.

Then again, it is in keeping with the spirit of the place. I mean, the New York Dolls played there. After all, David Johansen himself is said to have decorated the stage with his urine (or was it vomit?). The Rolling Stones picked up Maggie Trudeau there. It's not exactly a Miss Manners kinda place.

Which was more than evident at sunday's closing night bash.

Farewell, elMo. We look forward to seeing you on College Street!

diary updated 5 november 2001 permalink

Boo!

The leaves have fallen, the snow is thinking about it, the mood is elegiac, mournful.

Perfect timing for a costume party.

Hallowe'en is the one day of the year that we get the change to indulge our childish whims. Shy people can hide behind make-up that masks their identity. Prudes become vamps. Pacifists become bloodsucking demons. Arriving underdressed at a costume party on saturday, I was immediately sucked into conversation with a series of strangers. All the while I was thinking, do I know this guy? Have we met? It's hard to say when someone's distinguishing features have been replaced by a series of spikes and horns.

Would I have been as polite and receptive to conversation with these people had I been sure they were strangers? Probably, knowing me - I'm a chatterbox and a bit of a social butterfly (as anyone who's tried to call me at home will know). But not everyone is. When you're talking to strangers, you don't know if they'll be receptive or not - it's luck of the draw. The protective armour of masquerade allows people the freedom to approach those they might feel intimidated by in other circumstances - and costume is an instant ice-breaker. Conversation drying up? You can always ask "what are you supposed to be?"

I wasn't in full costume, just wearing an old high-school marching-band jacket, festooned with buttons and braid. I had forgotten what a conversation piece it is; people are curious, and there is that subconscious understanding that anyone who wears clothing that attracts that much attention doesn't mind being approached.

Think I'll start wearing it more often.

Have a spooky week.

diary updated 29 october 2001 permalink

I am always hungry.

No, I mean literally. I eat and eat and eat and still feel hungry, even when I feel too full at the same time.

Where does the food go? Does it evaporate into the air? I know a certain amount of it ends up on my clothing (damn tahini), but surely some gets consumed.

In the past month or so I have eaten above and beyond my usual gluttonous levels. I have had prime rib on a weekly basis. I have had turkey, roast chicken, roast pork. I have had seafood chowder and sushi and sashimi. I have had kale and rapini and tortellini. And yet still (still!) I am hungry. I can feel the thinness of the blood in my veins, despite falafels and spanakopitas and pizza slices. I am wasting away in a sea of peanut butter captain crunch.

In case you're wondering, yes I did have lunch today. And a chocolate croissant for brekkie. There is no reason for me to be swooning at the keyboard, but there you have it.

Feed me. Feed me now, I beg you.

diary updated 22 october 2001. permalink

Well, this has been a very New-York-y weekend.

On Friday I attended the wedding of two newyorkers, on saturday I attended the professional operatic debut of a cousin from manhattan, and on sunday had dinner with her and her husband.

It's really hard to ignore recent events when you're surrounded by people who have experienced them up-close-and-personal-like. Especially when some of those people (the groom, his classmates, and colleagues) are architects. Specialising in skyscrapers.

As difficult as it is for everyone to cope with the events of the eleventh, it's nearly impossible for those who were there, and still deal with the fallout constantly. In the words of one friend, "every day, another scary thing happens. Each day is more scary than the last." bomb threats. Evacuations. Anthrax. A friend who lives around the corner from the head office of the MTA skirts a cordoned-off block every time he leaves the aparment. While comforted by the knowledge that the national guard is close at hand, "it's disturbing seeing all of these guys with machine guns." How can you think of relaxing?

All you can do is get on with the business of life, which for a lot of people means figuring out a way to leave town. Get a transfer? Go back to school? Head for Thunder Bay?

In a room full of old friends a thousand kilometres away from ground zero, with the warm glow of weddings and wine, people were able to relax for a moment, be light-hearted. In a small city away from the world, they could say, "I feel safe here." I wish I owned a house in the country the size of a hotel, somewhere remote and pleasing to the eye, so I could say to everyone: please stay. Don't go back if you don't want to. Enjoy a time of respite, relax here while you can.

But I do not own a big country house. And we can't ignore the recent events forever.

As one NewYorker told me, "if they wanted us to live in terror, it worked."

diary updated 15 october 2001. permalink

It's formalwear season again!

We're barely out of weekends-in-the-country season, and already the time has come to don frocks and gowns and jewels. It seems one can never have a weekend to oneself!

I had been looking forward to spending a weekend in the city, one that didn't involve packing and driving and everything else. But even in-town weekends are hectic. Friday is Julia's wedding, saturday is Mimi's professional debut, Sunday is destined to be a coma. Where does the relaxation come in?

Funny, when I was reading Wodehouse as a child, weekend visiting and theatre-going and life in general all seemed so carefree and relaxing. Trunks effortlessly packed themselves, meals appeared as if by magic, one only had to send a short wire and all preparations would be taken care of. Nobody wasted a moment fretting over hotels and hire-cars. There was no rush-hour traffic. Everything just fell seamlessly into place with nary a second thought.

Bertie Wooster never spent a harrowing couple of hours going 100 in a rainstorm wondering if he'd be forced to take shelter in a seedy motel overnight. And there was no last-minute shopping for wedding gifts or gourmet junk food or who's-in-charge-of-booking-the-opera-tickets madness.

But then I suppose they all had servants, didn't they? I *knew* something was missing...

diary updated 8 october 2001. permalink

This weekend, I give back my car.

I shouldn't call it *my* car. It's not mine, really. It's mum's (how teenager is that?). But I've grown awfully attached to it over the summer. I can't believe how quickly this summer has gone, although the way I drive, I guess it's not surprising.

The world is different experienced in a car. You listen to different radio stations. You see different things when you're driving. Your perspective is framed in a different way. Who knew, for example, that the air Canada centre featured such lovely architectural details? If you haven't been parked on the gardiner in rush hour traffic, you wouldn't know.

There's the rub, of course. Traffic. Even having a car at my disposal, I generally would rather walk. That's why I live downtown, and having a car only confirms it. Anytime I find myself in rush hour traffic, I marvel at the drivers around me: how do they do it every day? Two hours of your life, ten hours a week, five hundred hours a year - that's three weeks every year spent commuting! I think I'd lose my mind if I had to do it everyday.

But I'm going to miss the wee trips, the weekends in the country and the cross-country jaunts, the hunting-down of obscure kitsch meccas and the spur-of-the-moment decisions to attend events out of town. The visits with relatives. The evenings spent lying on the couch in a friend's suburban basement, listening to his record collection. The tours of friends' childhood haunts.

Of course, every freedom comes with a set of responsibilities, and I won't be too sad to say goodbye to those. Sometimes, you just want to stay home and do nothing, rather than drive across the country, or even across town. That's when those five words ("while you have the car...") sound like a curse rather than a blessing.

Still, it's too dark and weathery to roadtrip in this country in the winter. Already the nights are longer than the days, and I can barely see the landmarks on the seven in the darkness: the giant goose ("drop in for a gander!"), the minty-green mattress store, the inukshuk.

Hopefully spring will come soon!

diary updated 1 october 2001. permalink

Hi.

Spent weekend ignoring the entire world. Friday night I helped a friend of mine update the catalogue of his record collection (25,000 78s, all from 1917 to 1943). Saturday I tried on foxy frocks at various bridal boutiques, then went shopping for over-priced gourmet junk food (my beloved cheese crispies!) at a shwanky grocery. By the time I hit the road, it was after dark. Most of the drive I thought, "What am I doing? This is dumb." then I saw a sky full of stars, and it was all worthwhile.

It was eleven o'clock when I reached the cottage. Finding the key in the darkness was a small adventure. Actually, finding the cottage itself was pretty difficult. After figuring out which fuse to plug in where (better safe than sorry!), I went down to the water and stuck in my toes. A frog jumped and swam away in the starlight. The water was cold, but soft and very clear. I made some jiffy-pop popcorn and had a sip of sherry from the decanter in the hanging-macramé-decanter-holder (is there a name for this?) in the kitchen. I sat outside and listened to silence.

On sunday I hopped into the wee pedal-boat (being far too klutzy for the canoe) and toured the lake. It was quiet, except for the sound of a loon laughing as it flew overhead, and later, two loons calling to one another. Sounds like autumn.

I have this thing for acorns; when I was a kid my sister and I would collect them. Sometimes, we would plant them in tins of sand, and grow little oak trees. Anyway, in times of stress, looking for acorns always makes me feel a little calmer. So I brought a few back to the city with me.

Everyone should do this, if they can; take a day to remember the things you love and store up some inner peace, however hokey it may sound. We had a book when we were kids about a mouse who, instead of spending the summer collecting food for winter, just sat around looking at stuff and remembering colours. The other mice got kind of cranky about it. But when the cold grey of winter was wearing them all down, this mouse told talkes of red flowers and green leaves, and the other mice were comforted. These pleasant thoughts and memories are sustenance as much as food and shelter.

It is important to remember what is wonderful. Turn off the tv.

diary updated 17 september 2001. permalink

I am really getting tired of the obsession the world has with weight.

It seems people have lost their reason when it comes to this issue. For me, the straw that has broken the camel's back is this: I have a medical appointment coming up, getting some tests done, for which I have to fast. A number of people have commented on the "bright side" being that I'll lose weight. Aside from the fact that I seriously doubt a two-day fast would have much effect on the figure of anyone, and I don't *need* to lose weight anyway, I find this emphasis on weight loss at all costs to betray a complete lack of concern with actual health or fitness. I'm going to the doctor for tests! Why not ask, "is anything wrong? Do you feel okay?"

Everyone I know seems to be obsessed with his or her weight. Every day someone tells me that I really should do yoga or weightlifting or eat less carbs or more zucchini or whatever. Any day now, someone is going to pull a Mariah, and confess their envy for the waifish figures of famine victims.

I'm not a total slob. I walk to work everyday, and climb the stairs when I remember. But this isn't enough for the zealots; exercise doesn't count unless you work the muscle to exhaustion. You have to work out for at least an hour and keep your vo2 rate up to blah blah blah.

To which I would like to say: shut up! Your workouts and diets are boring! Can we please talk about something else for a while.

All that I worry about is "will I be able to climb the stairs when I'm eighty?" I don't need to run marathons to do that, or lift weights, or anything else. I am not concerned with whether I look like a playboy bunny.

Sometimes, though, it seems that all of this babbling about weight is a concerted effort to attack my self-esteem, to make me believe that I'm fat when I'm not. Actually, I look pretty damn fine, if I do say so myself. Sure I may be a bit hippy, but anyone who was paying attention in 7th grade health class will surely remember that girls' hips are a secondary sexual characteristic (much like boys' broad shoulders). They are supposed to be like that. Besides, anyone is bound to look hippy who has a waist as tiny as mine (24"). There is no reason why someone my size should even think twice about my weight. And generally I don't, unless I have been subjected to one of the endless weight-loss lectures of my friends. Is that what friends are for? To make me feel miserable?

Pardon moi if my efforts are not enough for you. But as long as I am a size six, I really don't see why I should care.

diary updated 10 september 2001. permalink

Break time is over

Has it been a month? It is certainly time for another update.

This summer, like every summer, has been busy busy so far. But in a good way. Every weekend from here to september is spoken for; some are double booked. I was trying to make plans with someone a while ago; I realised my plans were:

  • family reunion
  • visiting cousins
  • dinner with sister & nephew & aunt & uncle

And another familial visit had to be cancelled!

I'm noticing a pattern here.

I'm very lucky to be my mother's daughter; as the youngest of five, she is close enough in age to my cousin Gaylord (whom we visited this weekend past) that they were quite close when they were young; she also lived with her various siblings before she got married, and pratically raised half of my cousins. As a result, Mum is very much the glue that holds the family together, and even when I haven't seen relatives in years (bits of our family reside in such disparate locales as singapore, rome, and bahrain, as well as stretching coast to coast in Canada and the united states), the stories and memories make the years seem like minutes.

I am amazed at the things we all remember and the things we don't. The prevalence of family legends (the infamous macfee). The similarities and differences. The mannerisms and phrases and family jokes that are passed on from generation to generation.

Not that we are all identical in our interests; we comprise artisans and executives and everything in between. And there are some cousins who have inexplicably never learned to do cryptic crosswords or play cribbage. They will be shown the way.

We may straddle the globe, but we are still close as ever.

diary updated 23 july 2001. permalink

Summertime, and the living is easy.

And lazy.

Don't expect updates here more than once a lazy-hazy month, as I will be spending weekends out of town, evenings on sangria soaked patios, and in between times desperately trying to catch up on laundry and sleep.

For this is Canada, and the outdoors cry out to us all summer long! After long hard months of darkness in which we sleep with the bears, we need to stretch and lie in the sun. Hot sticky air curls around our necks like seductive tendrils, coaxing us away from buildings and out to the countryside where the air smells fresh and sweet and fields of colver beg us to spend entire weeks doing nothing but lying on our bellies, idly sifting through leaves with our fingers, searching for the lucky four.

We saunter up the streets of the city, scantily clad and langourous, unwilling to go inside even to the wee hours. The streets are alive all night long.

This is the time of year that young male herons start to practise their nest-building in earnest in the tops of dead trees. Lie still in a rowboat, and listen to their wingbeats as they float past.

This is the time of year when it's hard not to trip over the deer in the woods, but they still manage to outrun my camera every time.

This is what we wait for for cold impatient months. And if you think I'm going to waste even one minute of it indoors, you are quite mistaken.

diary updated 9 july 2001. permalink

What is with you people?

A while ago, I started paying attention to site statistics. How many visits, how people found me, what they were really looking for.

Now, most of the keywords that people plugged into google made sense. Like "smartygirl" is pretty obvious. People look for me, they find me. It's fairly straight forward.

But some of these keywords have sent my wee brain spinning in wonderment. Some are funny. Some are odd. Some are poignant.

For example, someone went to google.com or wherever and typed in "I am sad." and then "why am I sad." it's sad that people are sad, and sadder still that they believe their only recourse is askjeeves.com. In sooth, I know not why you are so sad. It worries me. I hope you are feeling better, sad person.

Or, "how do I talk to a girl I like." I don't know the answer to this either. I have enough trouble working up the moxie to talk to a boy I like. I can offer no help.

Then there are the "I don't even want to know" searches. Like "homemade tranquilizer darts." go away! People ask why I don't trumpet my real identity here. The reason? Ll of those people making their own tranquiliser darts. It gives me the creeps.

And finally, last but not least, the "huh?" searches. My current faves: "opium den design," "Faulkner making his own gin in an apartment," "capitalism and archie comics." I am curious about these people. Who are they? How do they think up these things? I lie awake wondering.

These people, I would almost like to meet. They seem interesting and off-beat.

Of course, they're probably just a bunch of salivating weirdoes, but you never know.

diary updated 1 july 2001. permalink

Out of the mouths of babes.

"Oy," I hear you cry, "what gives? Why the long absence? Still sick? Or too busy? Or too lazy?"

A bit of all three, actually, what with parties and gigs and weekends out of town. But as my buddy jeff likes to say, "where there's an oy there's a vey."

Even if the world does seem to be moving a bit too quickly these days.

But I am lucky. I have young Nick to remind me of my priorities when they seem about to fall by the wayside.

Spending time with a toddler makes you look at the world through a child's eyes, to see it as something fresh and wonderful. Everything is new, everything is a delight.

And with a well-spoken young feller such as nick, one is also reminded of the ineffable charm of proper grammar and etiquette. Frightening though it may seem, he is more polite than most people I know, and more likely to speak in complete sentences. What is it about growing up that makes us forget these things? Is it so difficult to get blood to our brains when we are over four feet tall?

Of course, the best part of being aunty is that I can go home when I get tired of it all :)

diary updated 25 june 2001. permalink

Weddings! Weddings! Weddings!

Is anything more lovely than two people declaring their love and devotion to one another? Nothing I can think of! I mean, I even know people img src="images/wedding.jpg" align="right" alt="no one ever told us about the 'till death do us part' stuff!">who've been through bitter divorces who still think there's nothing more beautiful that a person could hope to do.

It doesn't matter if it's just two people exchanging vows alone on a beach, or three hundred spectators whooping it up until dawn. It's the sentiment that counts.

"Sentiment," I hear you cry. "No kidding, sentimental is the word for it." To such cynics, I say: whatever. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a big ol' sap who crys at holiday-themed cell-phone adverts. Nothing wrong with that. Some of them are really sad, okay?

I know a lot of people don't "believe" in marriage. Many people don't think a piece of paper is necessary to validate their relationships; indeed, they see such things as unnecessarilly intrusive. I won't argue with that.

But the "piece of paper" is not what a marriage is about. The piece of paper is not even necessary, really. Look at the number of gays and lesbians, for example, who choose to get married even though their marriage won't be legally recognised. Look at the number of people who have a ceremony to renew their vows, an act which has no legal value. There are also large numbers of people who have non-traditional spiritual beliefs who have a city hall wedding for the sake of the law, and a separate ceremony for the sake of love.

Because that's what it's all about. Two people celebrating their love for one another. And what could be more lovely than that?

diary updated 11 june 2001. permalink

Back from the dead.

Nothing like a bit of good ol' fashioned sickness to make you feel like a kid again.

But where is my ice cream? No one brought me ice cream. Surely that is the least I deserve.

The good thing about illness is it provides an opportunity for introspection, since who has the energy for anything else? It makes one realise the true fragility of our wee bodies, as well as their amazing resilience. Because really, we are full of bugs all of the time. We are a sea of nasty germs, but we have the strength to keep them at bay.

Until our resistance is low.

This led me to think about grief. It's an apt metaphor, I think: grief if like a virus, ever present in one's system, only to take over and cause a case of the mean reds when one's resistance is lowered for whatever reason.

In addition to being an apt metaphor, it's also a way of dealing with it.

The biggest frustration (I find) in grieving the death of a loved one is the belief that we should be able to somehow "get over it." well, I am over it, some days. Most days. But not all days. You feel the need to hide your feelings from the friends you should be able to share them with, because you can't help wondering if they're secretly thinking: get over it.

But you don't get over it. You can't and you won't, not if the loss had any importance at all.

The best you can do is keep yourself healthy and strong, and when it catches up to you because you've been burning the candle at both ends, treat yourself like a five-year-old tonsillectomy patient: sleeping in and ice cream and board games.

It's not your job to "get over it," any more than it's your job to grow new tonsils. And don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

diary updated 4 june 2001. permalink

Good Lord.

I was going to write about Conrad Black's decision to renounce his Canadian citizenship, but then I thought, why waste a beautifully sunny long weekend thinking about someone as unpleasant as Mr Black?

Although, Mr Black's news is good for Canada. He's a pretty poor citizen, seeing as he doesn't seem to understand the concept of universal application of the law. He seems to think, for some unknown reason, that the law doesn't apply to himself. And he has, after all, promised to stop commenting on Canadian public affairs, and for this we most assuredly are grateful. There is nothing more tedious that slogging through one of mr. Black's opinionated articles, filled to overflowing with four-dollar words, which are generally misused. He tries so hard, but so frequently falls short of the mark.

With any luck, he will take his incapable-of-building-a-sound-logical-argument wife with him.

Mind you, if he had actually done something worthy of reward, I might agree with him that the law is silly. After all, the queen is on our coin, why shouldn't she write our laws? Unfortunately, mr. Black's only contribution to the world at large has been to start a newspaper war in Toronto. Had he built an opera house, for example, I might be more inclined to sympathy. Mr Black, however, does not seem inclined to share the spoils of war. Ergo he is undeserving of the title. Case closed.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the sky is blue, the birds are singing, the lily-of-the-valley blossoms in every vale. Here in the country, the air smells of clean fresh earth, and cool breezes moderate the heat of the sun. The cows graze contentedly. Fiddleheads are ripe and and tender and plentiful for picking. The trees are in full leaf, and hang heavy with sweet blooms.

Why bother to waste time thinking of anything unpleasant?

diary updated 21 may 2001. permalink

I love those weird little moments that cause people to forget where they are and who they are and make them just stop and be still for a moment and really observe the world around them in a little moment of awe.

Once I was riding home in the tail end of a rainstorm and was just crossing the bathurst street bridge, and suddenly the sun broke through the clouds in rays like the fingers of god and there were two hug rainbows, massive circles of coloured light, one ensclosing the other, and I was stopped in my tracks by the beauty of it all.

A moment later I noticed that other people had stopped too; an older fellow in a luxury sedan, another cyclist, a mother with a toddler child, a homeless guy. All, for that one moment, all thinking the exact same thing, "wow," unable to think of anything else.

It happened again yesterday. I was walking down university avenue and saw a building being demolished. Its windows were long gone, and the north wing was being eaten alive by large yellow machines that tore into it leaving electric-wire entrails dripping out between storeys. The sun shone through from the other side. In places all that was left was the depth of a single brick.

And again, everyone on the street was stopped to watch. No one said anything, we just stared in awe at the power of these machines that could eat through a ten-storey building as though it were made of crackers.

A slightly different although similar event: a stunningly irresistible lilac bush. Waiting for a bus, I noticed men and women, young and old, rich and poor, every person who passed by had to take a minute to be enveloped by the rich scent of spring.

Or the new subway trains. When they first came out, looking sharp and supershiny, smelling fresh, if I was on one, I couldn't help but sit a little straighter and feel a little special. I noticed others react the same way, wearing proud posture and a silly little grin.

These little moments, are a tangible reminder that we're all basically the same, we all respond to beauty and power and wonder with the enraptured eyes of a child. We get a strange sense of community from things that are aesteically pleasing and/or powerful. This love of spectacle has informed the arts since the beginnings of civisation; have a look at the pyramids or greek theatre for a couple of examples. The greeks believed that catharsis brought about via theatre could cure illness. really.

Nowadays, all of this spectacle gets wasted on disaster movines and special effects. Why not use this power for some purpose greater than greed?

Silly me, I know. But the miracles that happen every day in the street should remind us that spectacle works. And it really needn't be all that expnsive. If one healthy lilac can turn a couple of dozen people a day from sullen grouches into polite and happy people, it's a start.

diary updated 14 may 2001. permalink

Mary Kay must die.

Last month, I was invited to a friend's house for a mary kay makeup party thing. I'm not a very girlie girl, had never been to one of those things, so I thought, "sure, it could be fun."

Or not.

Madame la Salesbitch decided to focus all of her hard-sell energies on me. Our hostess was already a guaranteed customer, and the other two women there were visiting from overseas. So I was it. I don't wear makeup every day. Partly because I don't see why I should have to (none of the men in my office do), partly because I would much prefer the extra five minutes' sleep. :)

The "kit" she was pushing was $160. If I'm gonna spend that kind of money on treats, it ain't gonna be no mary kay shit. It's going to be shoes or scotch. So I'm politely demurring, saying I really don't know, my skin changes massively depending on time of month, so what works today may not work tomorrow, I don't think I would actually use the stuff, it would end up in a drawer, blah blah.

So she says, "well, you're the one who looks in the mirror and doesn't like what she sees."

I was so taken aback I couldn't speak! I just stood there for a moment and then left the room without saying a word (everyone else had gone in to dinner at that point).

When I look in the mirror, I don't see someone who is hideous because my skin gets all spotty every four weeks.

I see someone who has lived overseas and jumped out of aeroplanes and ridden my wee bicycle straight up a steep escarpment (three times), who gives blood and does volunteer work, who has an above average iq, who is not afraid of snakes, who has friends and family I love dearly and who love me back.

And who is way too confident to fall for that whole "you're only as good as you look" crap.

I swear, the beauty/diet industry must be the only area left in the world in which insulting your customers is an acceptable sales technique. Sorry, it doesn't work on me. If you want my money, you better kiss my ass. And if you want my respect, you can earn it by being a thoughtful human being, rather than selling out your sisters for easy money.

diary updated 7 may 2001. permalink

The entry about my trip to Vancouver has been moved to the roadtrip page.

diary updated 30 april 2001.

Summer is here at last! Yahooey!

Saturday was the first barbeque of the season. Strolling through my old neghbourhood carrying meat and a bottle of vino, listening to the local yokels hoot and holler their enthusiasm for the new warmth in the air, it finally all seemed real: patio weather is here to stay!

It's amazing how the changing of the seasons affects the psyche in a place like Canada. It's overwhelming, the difference between summer and winter; we change from swaddled bundles of polarfleece to parading our flesh like concubines. Can't help it. We need to feel sun and air on our skin, to absorb the vitamin d while we can.

Of course all of this is hard on men.

Being unused to the display, after months of hibernation in portable down-filled lairs, they tend to over-react a bit when confronted with visible femaleness. They lose control a mite. They stutter, their hands shake, they make mumbling comments that try to be inoffensive ("um, nice midriff"). It's cute, this level of vulnerability, this naked animal lust.

Heh.

It's also flattering as hell. Big ego boost. And who can resist that?

diary updated 23 april 2001.

What is the ultimate luxury commodity in the world today?

Sleep.

I just spent most of a glorious long weekend asleep. Occasionally opening an eye to see the blue sky and think, "damn, I should get out there." and then nod off again.

Notice how many designers have branched into fine linens. See the variety of monstrously expensive mattresses. Infomercials for special pillows. Relaxation tapes. Chamomile tea. Et cetera.

It's funny to think that, all throughout childhood, I would refuse to sleep. I'd stay up as late as I could get away with, and bounce out of bed at six o'clock on a saturday morning. Naps? No thanks. Not me.

Now, the tables have turned.

Now I'm expected to actually be at *work* at eight-thirty, a time when no sane human would ever be out of bed, let alone out of the house.

And I hafta cook my own brekkie. No fair.

But oh, what a glorious weekend I just had! Three whole days to sink fully into relax mode. Sure, I made my own pot of coffee and breakfast, but then it's back to bed to nod off peacefully into a pool of maple syrup, squirming around between the sheets just because they're so soft and comfy. How could I have been so foolish as to stubbornly lie eyes-open in the dark on my wee cot at daycare? Fool. Fool.

Worse still, good sleep seems harder to achieve the older you get. I remember my oldest aunt (now eighty-five) saying she only needed four or five hours a night. Not something to look forward to in retirement.

It's the one thing you can't buy. Treasure it while you can.

diary updated 16 april 2001. permalink

Happy birthday to me.

happy birthday to me. Yep, the day has arrived. Woo hoo.

Tragedy is a tradition on or around my birthday. It's almost eerie. However, this year I seem to have broken the curse (knock wood). No death, no disability, no one I know has been stricken with famine or flood. Praise be.

Funny how grown up birthdays, even the milestone ones, lack the same resonance they had in childhood. All the hols become less exciting as an adult. I suppose it's because we have control over our lives; if I want candy now, I can buy it now, and I don't have to wait for the holiday spirit to invoke my parents' spirit of generosity and tooth decay. Conversely, the price we pay for this freedom is that our parents are no longer willing to stay up till the wee hours preparing lovely holiday surprises. Ah, well.

The glory days of childhood couldn't last forever, now, could they? No, of course not.

No matter how we may cling to them.

Still and all, the good parts of adulthood (scotch!) outweigh the downsides (rent!). And the number one benefit of adulthood is the right of self-determination. Comes with responsibilities, too, obviously, and we don't always feel like we're in control, but ultimately we are, and there's a certain comfort in knowing that, in knowing that however buffetted by the slings and arrows we may *feel* we in fact did, however inadvertantly, get ourselves into this mess. And if we got ourselves in, we can get ourselves out.

Also, of course, means we can peaceably accept all credit for our successes, knowing that no one helps us with our homework anymore.

diary updated 11 april 2001. permalink

Well.

Today is the second anniversary of Greg's death.

Funny how even after so much time, it still doesn't seem real. It still seems too implausible, like a practical joke or a mistake or I don't know what. Some days I think I must be crazy to not be over it yet, but I know I'm not the only one. He was truly every cliche of uniqueness and wonder that you've ever heard. My favourite description is still Johnny's: "anyone else who was that irritating, I would have stopped speaking to years ago." but somehow Greg was just so greggy that it made up for his greggishness. Those who knew him will know what I mean.

The hard part for me, of course, is all of the what-ifs. I could what-if my life away if I'm not careful. From the "if we'd gotten married I'd be a widow" we arrive at the "or maybe he wouldn't have gone camping and he'd still be alive" or "if I had gone with him maybe he'd still be alive."

Of course, there's no point in pursuing such trains of thought.

Losing someone dear to you makes you stop and consider what is really important. Never hold a grudge. Never not call someone because you think they should call you first. Never waste an opportunity for happiness. Never let pride get in the way of anything. Stay in touch. Treat people with kindness. It's all trite; it's all true.

Last night I went to see Stratochief at Mackie's with Gayle. Two years ago they were debating whether they would/could/should go on without him. It was his band, his baby from the repertoire to the arrangements to the snappy suits. They decided Greg would want them to keep going, and I'm so glad they did. Two cds (and another on the way), later, they are a great, tight group, and a testament to a charming fellow. I hear Greg's voice whenever I see them play, and for that I am truly grateful.

diary updated 4 april 2001. permalink

The perils of success.

I often joke here that the only person who reads this is my Mum. Not quite true. Unless she is chained to her computer and checking it hourly, which I doubt. Before I abandoned interlog/psinet/inter.net.ca* as irritatingly unreliable, I considered moving this wee site over there. Now I'm really glad I didn't.

A while ago, one of the regulars on the salon.com discussion groups posted a link he found somehwere or other (probably plastic.com).

It was a link to a neat little flash animation page called nosepilot. I thought it was really cool, so I added a wee link to my very own stuff page and sent it to a few people.

One of those people replied, "It's not there anymore. What was it?" I clicked the link to see if maybe I had mis-typed it, and discovered that the link was indeed correct, but the neat animation had been replaced with a threnody lamenting success.

Seems the poor owner of nosepilot, who had stuck his animation up for amusement and to possibly get some freelance work, was paying his isp by the megabyte transfer. So when everyone and his dog, including humble moi, thought his site was really cool and shared it with others, the numbers added up.

His isp called him up and said "you owe us $16,000."

Eep.

I've been getting roughly five to ten hits a day, not enough to bankrupt me, but probably more than I would want to pay for. So I will stop complaining about the limitations of yahoo. It is free. I am happy.

diary updated 26 march 2001. permalink

If I may take a moment to complain about herr Day...

If I hear one more comment about anti-religious bias thwarting his victory last november, I will surely scream. It's the policies, stupid!

Not only that, there is the question of incompetence. Why on earth should we elect a law-maker who is ignorant of the law (even its most basic principles: does the phrase "innocent until proven guilty" ring a bell?) and refuses to admit it?

Yes, he offered up a half-hearted apology last week after being ordered to do so by ralph klein. And he even offered to contribute sixty grand to cover some of (less than 10% of) his legal costs. Lah-di-dah.

Hmm, isn't sixty grand the amount that goddard asked for in the first place, back in 1996? Why did stock need to waste five years and three-quarters of a million dollars of other people's money to produce the same net outcome? He's a wee bit slow, I guess.

Then on friday, there was a gem of an item about a York prof who wrote a mildly scandalous letter to the editor. He thought his career had been adversely affected by it, and took it to the human rights tribunal.

Over twenty years of fighting, he spent $250,000-$300,000 on legal costs. He eventually lost, and was ordered to pay york's fees too - a total of $39,641, which the judge considered to be "unreasonably high." the amount the prof is required to pay was reduced to $17,500.

Still and all, the total for both sides for a twenty year battle adds up to less than half of what alberta paid for five years of stupid stock's stubbornness. And he calls himself a fiscal conservative.

Quoth the professor: "It must have been the most costly letter to the editor in history."

Tell that to Alberta!

diary updated 12 march 2001. permalink

That lethargy I warned you about? It's here.

I have an excuse though, I'm not feeling well. I'm ridiculously anemic, it seems, despite eating liver and brussells sprouts.

This of course leads to a dangerous syndrome - the modern equivalent to sns*, but much, much more widespread. Advis, or "amateur diagnosis via the internet syndrome." and yes, it's contagious.

After visiting onhealth and Dr Koop, I was sure I had thyroid problems. I had the symptoms and the risk factors. I even started to imagine symptoms that weren't there: are my eyes getting worse? Am I going slowly blind? Nope, thyroid's fine, it's just severe anemia. So of course, I had to go back and look up symptoms and causes. Symptoms of one type of anemia include delusions and psychosis. Laugh all you want, it ain't funny when it happens to you.

Ecch. I'm not usually like this, really! It's been years since I've seen a doctor! I'm not at all the type to rush off to the emergency room every time I have a hangnail.

So now, tests. Unfortunately, in order to find out why I'm not absorbing iron, I have to avoid it entirely this week. No meat, no veg, no fruit, no vitamins. Yikes, no wonder I feel lousy.

diary updated 5 march 2001. permalink

What is it about February that turns me into Little Suzy Homemaker?

Is it the cold winds that inspire the desire for the warm scent of baking bread? Is it the whole ant vs grasshopper dichotomy rearing its head once again? Is it some sort of crazy nesting instinct, which should really happen pre-hibernation in the fall, but which has been thrust off-schedule by six months due to the fact that my father is from the wrong hemisphere?

Or is it just yet another technique to avoid dealing with my taxes, whilst still trying to fool myself into thinking that I am a responsible human being, capable of planning for the future?

Whatever it is, it has certainly filled my freezer.

Loaves of bread, gallons of soup, dozens of homemade crepes: you name it, I've baked it.

It's getting a little silly, though. It's one thing to throw dinner parties, it's another thing to spend days making your own pate and crackers for a casual get-togethers.

Mind you, I know myself all too well. I may be preserving fruit and inventing new muffin recipes *now,* but it won't last.

All too soon lethargy will overtake even the ability to nuke leftover take out nachos from Sneaky D's. In the meantime, watch for new recipes, coming soon to the food page.

diary updated 19 february 2001. permalink

happy spad, everyone!

I am a recovering Smiths fan.

Every high school has them: the misfits who cope by cultivating an air of superiority. We don't frankly *want* to fit in, thanks. Hiding our powder-puff prom night dreams behind a facade of brazen disdain. Sitting in the library writing bad poetry, would-be nihilists misinterpreting Nietzsche and Kafka, wearing our alienation on our sleeves.

When I was a teen misfit, the teen misfit aesthetic of choice was black clothing (as always) and the smiths. in a school full of preppies and rockers, I was the lone post-punk-neo-beatnik. Thank goodness I grew out of it.

Because I must confess, I was one of those. Mere mortals could not comprehend the profundity of a soul as complex as mine. The only person who could possibly understand was... Morrisey.

I can try to paint this in a positive light: hey, those retro-eighties tunes are considered classics now, no one could fault johnny marr's brilliant guitar work, and whatever you may think of the Smiths, they were way better than my previous crush: Duran Duran. I shudder at the thought.

Much of my brain is still consumed with remembering the leftover lyrics of that bygone era. Fortunately, in an attempt to turn a negative into a positive, I have found a practical use for this store of smiths lore.

Are you confused about love? In the grips of an ethical dilemma? May I present... The Smiths diagnostic test.

It's simple, really. Ask yourself this simple question: does a smiths lyric apply? If so, run screaming.

This technique came to me when mulling over a friend's romantic crisis. She was doing something that would seem foolish and wrong to outsiders, but "that's because they don't know the whole story... They don't know him like I do..." the refrain sounded familiar. And then I remembered (from hand in glove):

it's not like any other love
this one is different, because it's us

Well, yes of course, we've all let that thought cross our mind, haven't we? But hearing it sung by Morrisey in that almost adenoidal drone of his (which I confess I still love, by the way) makes the flaws in such reasoning all too apparent.

The next time you find yourself in a quandary, listen to a few smiths songs. The proper reaction is either

  1. Tapping your toes and reminiscing about clubs you used to go to and thinking, "ah, I was so young and foolish then."
  2. Outright laughter. Snorting, even.

If you find yourself "really relating" to them, dunk your head in a sink full of ice water; that should return you to your senses. If you are using smiths lyrics to justify your actions, I implore you, reconsider. Or else you might find yourself getting run down by a ten ton truck (what a heavenly way to die).

Now, if only I could find a use for the lyrics to the theme from the Littlest Hobo.

diary updated 12 february 2001. permalink

Gossip.

Many have studied it, offering a variety of reasons for its enduring popularity.

It's the original example of information as commodity: people trade stories like baseball cards, using info to get info. But like any commodity, it's more valuable when unavailable.

Give away a little, get a lot in return. Keep giving it away, and you won't get any more.

It's also a way of cemeting alliances and building up self-esteem: there's always one kid in the schoolyard who gets picked on. If you can get the cool kids to focus on someone else, you hope they won't pick on you. You all have a common enemy. Or common victim.

And sometimes you hear something that is just too good not to pass along.

But one thing people often forget: sometimes gossip is just comfort food. A chance to share a common experience and know you're not alone in the world. Sometimes you just need to get drunk with a coworker and have an all out bitch session so you can exhale and say "okay, it's not just me, so-and-so really *is* evil. All this time I thought I was being paranoid, but no, they really *are* out to get me." sometimes it's nice to know that other people look at the world from the same angle as you do. Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Of course, your confidante could be gaslighting you and waiting for a chance to stab you in the back.

You didn't hear it from me, though. I promised I wouldn't tell a soul.

diary updated 5 february 2001. permalink

Snobbism on the dance floor.

An acquaintance told me recently that he and his friends have a policy of "seriously dating" only people with income/assets equal to or greater than their own. "seriously dating" was defined as a relationship of more than one-and-a-half years, since two years of cohabitation=common law=potential legal problems in the event of a break-up.

I was stunned.

I couldn't imagine dumping someone I truly cared about simply because they had less money than me. And I couldn't imagine dating someone for a full year-and-a-half if I wasn't in love with that person.

Of course, this fellow had anecdotes to support his theory that people are evil and selfish (note: as my cousin Wendy once said, "the plural of 'anecdote' is *not* 'data'"). This got me to thinking of people I know who ended relationships recently... A bunch of divorces, a couple of long-term (four years) cohabitors... Out of all of them, only one turned into a property battle. And in that case... Well, lemme just say that having known one of the parties since high school, I wasn't hugely surprised that it ended the way it did. I'm sure I could have told you ten years ago, "if that person ever gets a divorce, there will be blood on the courtroom floor."

I guess what it comes down to is this: if you date greedy and vindictive people, you can expect them to behave in a greedy and vindictive manner. And if you are greedy and vindictive yourself, guess what kind of person you will attract? People tend to live up to (or more frequently, *down* to) expectations.

How can you ever hope to find happiness if you expect the worst of people? How can you find love if you won't take risks?

Then I went out for drinks with a friend of mine who works in the cruise industry, who told me the story of a woman, in her seventies, who booked passage for two on a round-the-world cruise. 106 days at sea. Table for two at all meals. Her travelling companion dressed for dinner, had a variety of outfits for shore-trips and lounging on the deck.

Her companion was a teddy bear.

Who spends sixty grand to spend four months sitting alone at a table with a stuffed toy?

Wait, I'm beginning to see a pattern here...

diary updated 29 january 2001. permalink

Latimer.

The Supreme Court of Canada has just handed down one of its most important decisions.

The case of Robert Latimer and his daughter Tracy has gripped Canada for much of the past decade. His anguish is palpable, the family's pain real. It is clear that he did what he felt he had to do. But does that make it right?

Anyone who has watched a loved one struggle with unmanageable pain, or fade away on life-support, can understand the emotions with which he must have struggled. When my uncle Jim suffered a major stroke a few years ago, his children were torn over what to do. He suffered what they call "locked-in" syndrome, in which one is aware and alert, but unable to control one's actions or communicate. All uncle Jim could do was flail, trying to pull the tubes out of his arms, and cry. His daughters knew he would not want to continue this way. He had led a full life. They did what they knew he would want, and they saw relief and gratitude in his eyes in his last moments.

Tracy Latimer, on the other hand, didn't have the benefit of seventy years of experience. She seemed to manage to enjoy life in spite of the limitations imposed by her illness. She is not known to have contemplated or attempted suicide to escape her pain. There is nothing to suggest that, given the choice, she would have chosen death.

The choice was made for her.

Well-meaning relatives often find themselves in a situation where they have difficulty coping - physically or emotionally - with the illness of a loved one. There have been many cases of euthanasia that have been discreetly ignored out of respect for the family's feeling. However, a study was conducted a few years ago in florida with regards to euthanasia cases in which the healthier partner in an elderly couple euthanised his chronically/terminally ill spouse, and then committed suicide. In the vast majority of cases where an autopsy was performed, there were signs of struggle. The victim did not see mercy in death. The victim chose life, and struggled to maintain it.

How much of this kind of decision is based on our inability to see a loved one in pain? Was Robert Latimer trying to spare tracy, or himself? It must have been agonising to see his daughter suffer so. Did he kill her to spare himself the pain of watching her deteriorate?

After my uncle's death, we talked a lot about death, mercy, and living wills. I think cases like Latimer's prove why we need to legalise euthanasia: in order to prevent similar murders from happening. We look to the law for answers to these dilemmas. If the law recognises living wills and the individual's right to escape suffering, family members, already over-wrought with emotion, will be spared burden of making this choice. The choice will have been made by the person whose life is at stake.

The choice should have been Tracy's. Her father stole that choice from her. The government must act to prevent this from happening again.

diary updated 22 january 2001. permalink

Ethics. Hrm.

Ethical dilemmas are one of the downsides of being a grown-up (the others are paying rent and having to do one's own laundry).

The biggest problem with ethics, of course, is other people's lack thereof :) a friend of mine used to say "everyone will do what they think is right, but their idea of what's 'right' might not be the same as yours." too true. Some people may think, for example, that it is okay to mess around as long as one's s.o. Doesn't find out (some people think trying to pick up doesn't even *count* as cheating, as long as the endeavour is unsuccessful. Phooey.). Many people think it is a-okay to aid and abet such rats; the theory being that if you don't know/never meet the innocent victim, you can pretend that s/he does not exist.

How many times have I heard someone with a married lover say they'd be crushed if they found out the spouse was cheating on them, too? Surely this is muddle-headed thinking of the highest degree!

This kind of solipsism is rampant in personal interactions these days. Too many people allow themselves to believe that their actions have no consequences if they aren't personally around to see the fallout. As in, "people do not exist except as they relate to me." or better yet, the consequences are cancelled out by the amount of amusement their transgressions generate. Whatever.

To me, it's a matter of being naive rather than jaded. To behave ethically is to have faith in human nature. To act out of self-interest (which, in my sort-of humble opinion, includes blindly following the tenets of an organised religion, in order to gain some theoretical reward like "eternal life") is to believe that we're all rats on a sinking ship.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Is that so hard to understand?

Apparently.

diary updated 15 january 2001. permalink

What is it about meat that makes a house a home?

Let's face it, that's what everyone loves most about the holidays. It's not the seeing loved ones and the getting pressies, it's the roast, the preferably-whole-dead-animal that graces the centre of the table, the ceremonial carving of said beast.

Does this trace back to the days when our ancestors thought getting *any* meat for dinner was cause for celebration? Does it speak to our primitive hunter-gatherer selves?

Or are we just greedy gluttons who love the decadence, the look of a pristine, unblemished creature, its crispy golden skin as yet unbreached by blade?

Who knows, the main thing is that I got to partake of not one but *two* roasts over the hols, not to mention lovely leftovers from a third. Oh, it's making me hungry just thinking about it.

There is something wonderfully grown-up about a roast. Savoury food, something that hasn't been cut already into bite-sized portions. One big bird, enough to feed more people than can even fit at the dinner table. The formality of a dinner that takes hours to prepare, the wine and candlelight and feeling pleasantly full.

I had an ex-boyfriend who spent almost a year trying to win back my heart by cooking for me. He would casually ambush me on my way home from work, saying, "I just picked up a rack of lamb for dinner. Care to join me?" who could resist? Certainly not me.

The formality of a whole dead animal (or a largish chunk thereof) cannot be denied. It makes the difference between daily humdrum and festive holiday meal. Mm, how long is it till easter?

diary updated 8 january 2001. permalink

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