Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Chicken Dance?

TW and I ventured out to one of the many malls in Richmond, a suburb of Vancouver. While at the mall we stopped on the second floor to eat in the food court. While we ate our delicious coconut soups, duck breasts, and sushi we noticed a crowd gathering at a railing near to our table by so that they could look down on the first floor.

Out of curiosity we got up out of our chairs and joined the crowds at the railings. As we looked down we discovered that the water fountain below was spraying water in complex synchronicity in concert with various musical numbers. As the first song, “We are the Champions,” reached its crescendo point the water spray grew so high that I actually felt droplets of mist land on my head and face.

The next song, “Dancing Queen,” raised the choreographical bar by including colored lights into the already frenetic scene. The lights would turn on and off in harmony with the water and the music. The intensity of the strobe lights coupled with the torrents of water frightened a few young children and came close to causing someone in the crowd to have a seizure.

During the final song, “Ooops!…I Did It Again,” a pair of drag queens dressed like Brittney Spears, ran down the stairs and began to dance on the retaining wall of the water fountain. Most of the on-lookers stared blankly at the performance giving me the impression that this was not the first show performed by the Brittney twins. I, on the other hand, stood with my mouth agape and my eyes wide open taking it all in. At the end of the set, TW turned to me and said, “Do you think they take requests?” As I was about to answer the person standing next to me pointed at a sign on the wall behind us.

The sign read, “Anyone seeking to make a requests must do so between 3:30pm and 4:30pm on Mondays and between 9:15am and 10:00am Thursdays. We reserve the right to determine whether or not your request is inspired or just plain ridiculous. Ridiculous requests will not be played.”

After we read the sign, the gentleman that pointed it out to us, said, “If you want to make a request be forewarned the panel of judges is not kind. They turned me down three times already.” In response I asked, “What songs have you requested?” He said, “The ‘Chicken Dance’.” I then asked, “What were the other two songs you requested?” He replied, “I asked them to play the ‘Chicken Dance’ all three times.” Upon hearing this I turned to TW and said, “Note to self…no ‘Chicken Dance’.”

Sunday, January 29, 2006

My haircut doppelganger

TW and I went to a reception at one of the local art galleries this past week. This monthly event/reception, geared to "woo" younger patrons", features a DJ, spoken word artists, and booze. We decided to check it out because we are suckers for advertising targeted to thirty-something artsy types.

When we arrived at the gallery we soon learned that the highly touted spoken word artists and storytellers finished their third set and were done for the evening. However, the receptionist at the door informed us that a musical ensemble was coming up next. She actually spoke the words, "They are not to be missed." She seemed like a nice lady that would not steer us wrong so we walked through the doors and sought to find a place from which to view the ensemble.

To our chagrin, the ensemble was performing on the ground floor of a rotunda. Throngs of people encircled them and since they were not on a stage we were unable to see them. As a result we ventured to the second floor so that we might be able to look down upon them as they played. However, on the second floor came head to head with yet another mob and moved on to the third floor. As we stood on the escalator on our way up to the third floor we realized that we, for a mere three seconds, had the best view in the entire building. As a result of this discovery, we rode up the escalator and then down again close to eleven times. Each time we would look to the left, as we rode up, and to the right as we rode down, and take in a view of the musicians.

As we were about to embark on our twelfth journey up the escalator, TW said to me, “Are you even listening to the music.” I turned to look at her and responded, “Not really. I feel that their use of sewer pipes and artillery casings as musical instruments is really derivative.” TW replied in a flat voice, “Then why have we been riding up and down the escalator these past ten minutes?” I responded in the flattest voice I could muster, “I really like to look at the top of people’s heads as we move up and down the escalator. As a height challenged person this is the only opportunity I have to look down from on high.” TW shook her head and stormed off to the galleries to view the art exhibitions. I, however, took a few more trips up and down the escalator and only left my escalator perch to find her and suggest we go for a drink.

TW agreed to the drink so we headed up to the “Members Only Lounge” located in an underused corner of the gallery. When we arrived at the entrance to the lounge we flashed our membership cards and proceeded inside. As we entered the lounge in our handmade sweaters, Gap jeans, and winter coats, we immediately felt like soccer moms who stumbled into the twilight zone. Inside the club we observed a man wearing a long white trench coat with epaulettes that spanned the length of his 6’5” frame, a woman wearing a body suit made of a leather and Lycra blend, another women wearing a white lace skirt, white lace stockings, and leather boots reminiscent of the renaissance fair or a bad production of Peter Pan, and my haircut doppelganger.

My haircut doppelganger was a child in the range of two to four months old. He had very little hair on his head but the hair he did have was carefully fashioned into three spikes at the top of his head. As his parents held him in their arms he would move his head ever so slightly to rhythm of the music, which in turn, would make each spike move up and down in time with each of the musical beats. I briefly tried to mimic my doppelgangers movements but TW caught site of me and began to laugh. She said, “What are you doing?” I innocently replied, nothing, and then sought to change to subject but to no avail. TW continued, “Look, you have the same haircut as that baby. Maybe his stylist could cut your hair too. Do you want me to ask his parents where he gets his haircut?”

Although slightly embarrassed that evening, upon further reflection I have come to peace with the fact that I, like Madonna and Brittney Spears before me, am setting fashion trends for all future generations. I wear this mantle as trendsetter with pride.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Diaper Breath?

Today on the bus I was privy to a conversation between three nerdy, gawky, and awkward 13-year-old boys.

The conversation began with two of the teens railing against the third teen’s bad breath. According to his friends, his breath smelled like diapers. I am not exactly sure how one's breath can smell like diapers but such is the logic of 13 year olds.

Then with nary a warning the conversation shifted from breath to fashion. The ringleader of the group informed his friends that he was wearing a Tommy Hilfiger vest. According to him the vest cost $250 plus all the applicable taxes. The teen with the diaper breath responded that he prefers Calvin Klein to Tommy Hilfiger. The ringleader informed him that Calvin Klein is gay. This remark spawned a ten-minute conversation that lacked what I would consider any logical reasoning.

Ringleader: Calvin Klein is gay.
Diaper Breath: He is not.
Ringleader: He is.
Diaper Breath: He is not.
Ringleader: Is too.
Diaper Breath: Is not.
Ringleader: He uses purple and pink in a lot of his clothes. That means he is gay.
Diaper Breath: No he’s not. He’s heterosexual.
Ringleader: What does that mean?
Diaper Breath: He loves women - like me.
Ringleader: How do you know?
Diaper Breath: I have seen him having sex on TV.
Ringleader: Yeah right. He’s gay.
Diaper Breath: How do you know?
Ringleader: Dude, he is so gay - he makes men’s underwear.
Diaper Breath: Oh. I guess you are right.

A few times I considered turning around to set the record straight, so to speak. However, I decided to hold my tongue and take solace in the fact that these two will likely be relegated to a life of celibacy until they are at least 40 years old. Oh, such sweet revenge.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Maxi Pads, Sleigh Rides, and Snowboarders

Yesterday, Meta-M and I took a tram to top of a mountain that stands 4100 feet above sea level. Needless to say, given Meta-D's pathological fear of heights, he remained planted in the coffee shop parking lot while we were up on the mountain.

As soon as we reached the peak we trudged through the snow to the free sleigh rides. We stood in line waiting for the sleigh for close to 7 minutes. As we waited Meta-M learned that that Adam, an 18 year old college student was cutting his philosophy class so that he could spend the day snowboarding; Chris, also a college student, was taking snowboard lessons for the first time upon the advice of Adam; Leslie and her husband Albert, home schooled their two children, Sam and Madison, and thus had the freedom to take them skiing for the day; and Allison, a 15 year old high school student, was there on a school trip.

When the sleigh finally arrived we discovered that all the seats were wet since there was a rain/snow mist coming down steadily the entire day. Since Meta-M and I did not have waterproof pants on we sought to dry the seats off as best we could but without much success. First, I tried to use my mittens but since the mittens were waterproof they just moved the water around the seat. Then I tried to use the sleeve of my jacket but instead of drying the seat I moved water around to a greater surface area making the seat even wetter. Meta-M then pulled out some tissues thinking that she might have more luck with them. However, the tissues broke apart the minute they touched the water and left shreds of white tissue on the seats, on our hands, and on our clothes.

In a last ditch effort Meta-M pulled a maxi pad from her purse, unwrapped and unfolded it, and began to wipe down the seat. To my surprise, chagrin, and embarrassment the maxi-pad worked so well that our seat was bone dry. Once the seat was dry I urged Meta-M to put the pad back in her purse so that no one would see us. Instead, she pulled three more pads from her purse and offered them to everyone else on the sleigh. I cowered with embarrassment.

As it turns out, Adam, Chris, and Leslie took her up on her offer. They each unwrapped and unfolded the pads and used them to wipe down their seats too. Once all the seats were dry the sleigh driver asked Meta-M her trick for drying off the seats without a towel. In response to his question, Meta-M pulled out another pad from her bag and explained the absorbency power of the maxi-pad. The sleigh driver responded, "Wow. I have to get myself some of those for the remainder of the winter season."

I looked at the sleigh driver cautiously and said, “Instead of buying max-pads maybe you can use just a good old fashioned towel.” At that moment everyone of the sleigh turned and looked at me. Adam, the college snowboarder, was the first to speak. He said, “Clearly you need to learn to think outside the box man. Think outside the box.” Meta-M nodded her head vigorously and said, “I agree with Adam. You are too inside the box. You need to learn to relax and take the wave in stride.” As I slumped in my seat defeated I thought to myself, my mother speaks snowboarder – who knew?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Meta Proportions

The meta proportions are in town this week. Although often confused with some ubiquitous doo-wop singing group of the 1960's the meta proportions are actually my parents. For all those mini proportions readers that have not met my parents, which is likely most of you, you should know that Meta-D and Meta-M have some distinctly charming quirks.

Meta-M's quirk is that within the span of three, maybe four, seconds she has the innate ability to meet, speak to, and learn the life story of all those that cross her path. This was evidenced, yet again, as she traveled across the country on three planes to be here with me. As soon as Meta-M got off the plane she told me of Jane, the airline ticket agent whose daughter lives in Ottawa but would rather be living in Toronto; Thomas, the airport security guard who has spent his entire life on the East Coast of the United States but dreams of traveling to the west coast; Martha, the airline baggage handler whose family is from Montreal but whose parents live in Florida during the winter; Russell, the flight attendant whose family has a history of high blood pressure and fears that he, too, will have high blood pressure as he ages; and Jack, the air traffic control agent who is often cold while working outside and is in need of one of my mother's hand knit sweaters - which she has asked me to deliver to him at the airport.

Meta-D's quirk, a pathological fear of heights, is equally as charming in its own way. Before arriving at the hotel Meta-D informed the reservation agent of his fear of heights and requested a room close to the first floor. Upon arrival and check-in Meta-D was handed the keys to the room and told us that the room was located on the 2nd floor.

Meta-D, Meta-M, TW, and myself took the elevator to the 2nd floor where we found a laundry room, a gym, a pool, a sauna, and three conference rooms. We walked up and down each hallway and into the sauna, the pool, the laundry room, the gym, and the conference rooms looking for some hidden entrance into my parent’s room. We also asked three swimmers, two gym attendants, a woman exiting the sauna, and four conference goers if they had seen any guest rooms on the 2nd floor and they informed us that they had not.

After close to 25 minutes of walking up and down the hallways fruitlessly, TW, the only non-blood relation in this motley crew, ventured to say, "I don’t think there are any guest rooms on the 2nd floor." Meta-D responded, "How is that possible? I asked for a room close to the 1st floor and my room number is 2017 so it must be on the 2nd floor." TW warily replied, "Um. I think that means your room is on the 20th floor." Upon hearing this news, Meta-D’s face reddened and he replied through clenched teeth, “ I knew we should have stayed at a Motel 6.”

As we left the hotel and got into the car to drive home TW eyed me suspiciously. In response to her wary look I turned to her and said, "Don't worry. I have done the math - I inherit one of my parent’s quirks every two years. At this point I already have Meta-D's corny sense of humor and Meta-M's "yoda-like" wisdom. So according to my calculations means I am not due to inherit another quirk for two more years." TW continued to look at me and said, "I can't wait."

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Help! I'm in a box.

I saw a mime on the bus today. I knew he was a mime because he wore a black and white striped shirt drawn tightly across his chest, tight black bellbottom pants, stark white face paint, and black eyeliner framing his eyes and accentuating his eyelashes.

As the mime entered the bus he mimed shaking out his imaginary umbrella. However, as he walked toward me it became clear that his mimed umbrella did not work since his shirt and pants were soaking wet. He then took the empty seat directly behind me.

Soon after sitting down the mime tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around, secretly wishing that he would “speak” to me, but that did not happen. Instead, he mimed that he was cold by crossing his arms, grabbing his shoulders, and shaking back and forth. He then pointed at the open window above my head and mimed shutting it. I dutifully complied and shut the window.

As I exited the bus I looked back at the mime to see if I might catch him off-guard talking on a cell phone. He was not on a cell but was engrossed in sending text messages on his blackberry.

The mimes actions raised two questions for me:

1. How/why does one become a mime?
2. How does a mime afford a blackberry?

Life's little mysteries....

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Avant-garde Animal Art

Yesterday while TW and I were on a walk we discovered an Oriental rug store going out of business. Since the store was trying to unload their entire inventory before closing their doors many of the rugs were being sold for half their original price. As we ventured into the store we thought we discovered a gold mine.

Once we crossed the store's threshold we were greeted by one of the many rug salesmen seeking one final commission before moving on to a sales job at a home appliance store, a car dealership, or a clothing store. Our salesmen introduced himself as "Doug the Rug Guy." As soon as I heard this moniker I turned away for fear of insulting him with my hearty laughter. As my head was turned TW hit me hard on the back in an effort to make me stop laughing. It worked. As I turned back to face "Doug The Rug Guy" he began the hard sell.

Doug the Rug Guy explained to us "The beauty of Oriental rugs is achieved through the manipulation of designs and colors to form pleasing patterns." He then went on to say, "Patterns in Oriental rugs are never quite what you expect - a flourish here, a surprise there. The more you look, the more variations you will find." He seemed so knowledgeable about the history and patterning of Oriental Rugs that for a minute I actually thought Doug the Rug Guy would earn this commission.

Doug began to walk and asked that we follow him. He explained that he wanted to show us some of the more unique rugs on sale. We dutifully followed. As soon as he stopped walking he directed our attention to a 5-foot by 7-foot rug hanging from the ceiling above our heads. When TW and I looked up at the rug we saw a visage of a water buffalo. The face and horns of the water buffalo were on such a large scale that they encompassed the entire facade of the rug.

Upon seeing this rug, I immediately gasped in horror, which Doug mistook as a gasp of delight. As a result, he immediately went on to explain the distinct features of the rug that make it valuable. He explained that the hand stitching, color pattern, and the portrait of the Water Buffalo make this rug a rare a collectible item. In an effort to stop his oratory I explained that we were looking less for a collectible rug and more for a rug that would sustain the wear and tear of daily use. In response he nodded his head and said, “Not to worry I have many rugs that fit that description.”

Again we dutifully followed Doug as he walked further into the depths of the store. This time when he stopped he pointed at a rug hanging on the wall directly in front of us and said, "Feast your eyes on this one. I think it will be to your liking." As we "feasted" our eyes we took in an Oriental rug in the shape and coloring of a life-size tiger. Doug observed our perplexed looks and assured us that this rug could withstand daily wear and tear. In an effort to move on without offending him I responded, “We are not sure the color of this rug would fit well in our apartment. We like the black on orange look but we need a more muted color to match our couch.” He assured us he had the just the right rug and commenced his now patented walk through the store.

As we followed Doug once again, I turned to TW and said, “What do you think he will show us next? A giraffe? A gorilla? A zebra?” She responded, “I would love to see an Oriental rug in the shape of a pig.” I nodded my head in hearty agreement.

This time when we stopped walking Doug pointed at a rug that combined elements of traditional Oriental rug patterning with elements of "avant-garde animal art". The rug’s border used intricate Oriental rug design patterns to draw the viewer into the interior of the rug. The interior was that of a black bear’s back – much in the style of a bear rug found in front of the fireplace of an avowed hunter. Upon closer inspection I came to realize that the black bear was actually one of those aforementioned bear rugs sewn on top of a traditional Oriental rug. When I touched the bear’s back I realized it was elevated about three inches above the rest of the rug and was furry to the touch.

As I recoiled from the touch of the bear’s bottom on my bare hand I turned to TW and said, “I think I need to burn my hand.” She responded, “Before you maim yourself permanently can I take a picture of you next to the bear?” I said, “Umm. No.” I then lamented, "Alas. Yet another day without a rug."

Monday, January 16, 2006

The rainfall seen around the city!

Vancouverites take their rain very seriously. Since mid-December we have had 27 straight days of rain in the city. Everyday of rain brought us closer to a rain record that has stood for 53 years. The record: 28 straight days of rain.

Well, yesterday it rained in Vancouver ever so slightly, a 28th straight day, but the official rain counters claim today that this rainfall does not count. Their argument, "If it does not rain at the Vancouver airport then it does not count as an official day of rain."

Vancouverites are up in arms because the airport isn't even in Vancouver proper. The airport is located in Richmond, British Columbia, a suburb of Vancouver.

The horror. A suburb foiled our rainfall record. A suburb.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Great Yoga Smackdown

In a moment of whimsy I signed TW and I up for a yoga class. I am now cursing that whimsical decision for what it was, a momentary loss of sanity. We attended our first class yesterday and I can now safely say that yoga is torture disguised as exercise with cutesy names.

During the ninety-minute class, the instructor would yell out a “cutesy” name every few minutes. I soon came to realize that each name equated to a humanly impossible contortionist movement we were expected to do with our bodies. She began with the child's pose, then moved to the cat's pose, the crow's pose, the down dog, the up dog, the inverted dog and so on.... after a while I felt like I was in a barnyard and not at a yoga class.

When we moved from a standing position to the first pose I, and the instructor, soon realized that I lacked any and all flexibility. I knew immediately I was in for a long hour and a half. At first the instructor tried to be kind and did not call me out for my inability to bend forward or backward, sit cross-legged or straight legged, or raise my legs or arms.

I first noticed the instructor’s empathy for my plight, when she demonstrated a pose that involved lying on your back, putting your arms and legs straight in the air and rocking back and forth. As soon as she demonstrated this pose she noticed my inability to do anything but lie down on the floor. As a result she said to the entire class, although meaning just me, "Those who cannot do this pose should try an alternative pose." In this case the alternative pose involved much less legs and arms and much more lying still on the floor watching everyone else as they moved their bodies effortlessly.

As the class progressed and the poses got more and more difficult the instructor dropped the pretense of trying to shield me from embarrassment. Instead of saying, "Those of you that cannot do this pose..." she began to look directly at me and say, "As an alternative you should just stand”; "...you should just sit"; “you should just lay on your back”; or "...you should just watch".

During these moments when I opted out of the proscribed poses and engaged in my alternative poses of sitting, standing, laying, or watching, I noticed that TW and all the women twice my age were able to do every pose with ease. This realization made me giggle. In turn, my giggles raised the ire of those women taking the class very seriously. They glared at me with the rage of soccer moms whose children were not put into the close game because they were not good enough and grandmothers who are told by their sons and daughters that they cannot hold their grandchildren for fear that they might drop them. It was at this point that I began to look for an escape route because I feared the verbal shaming I would receive when class ended.

As the class wound down to completion, the instructor asked us each to lie down. This was a pose I was very familiar with and thus I was able to lie down like a pro. As we lay on our mats she put on some soothing music and taught us how to breathe and release the pent up tension in our muscles. We remained in this position for close to 10 minutes and I dozed in and out of sleep.

The woman behind me, however, began to pack up her belongings and awoke me from my slumber. When she picked her mat up off the hard wood floor I could hear a sucking sound similar to a suction cup being removed from a bathtub. She then clomped around on the floor as she put her mat and the other yoga accoutrements away. Then she began to zip and unzip her backpack as she packed up her clothes to leave. Needless to say I had finally mastered a pose, the lying still and breathing pose, and she had broken my spirit. This time I glared at her like a haus frau on holiday forced by TW to stop into every store promoting a storewide sale in their window. She got the point and quickly stopped her needless moving until class was officially over.

At the end of class, the yoga instructor tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Have faith in your bodies ability to become more flexible. I worked with a woman in her 80's who was just a bit more flexible than you are when she first started coming to class. After two years she is now at the point where she can almost do almost a third of the poses." I turned to TW and mouthed the words, “Is that supposed to comfort me?”

In response to my question TW shrugged her shoulders and said, "Well I guess in six more years you can be confident that if you come head to head with an 80 year old in a yoga smackdown that you can take her." I then responded, "Thanks for those lovely words of encouragement. I look forward to that day."

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

It's a Slippery Slope, a Slippery Slope

Here are some more entries that should seriously be considered for entry into the annals of “The Huh? Diaries.”

While in the gym locker room I heard two women talking about Christmas gifts. One of the women said to the other, I bought my son a telescope for Christmas." The other woman responded, "Is he enjoying it?" The first woman replied, "Well, since we have had 23 straight days of rain the only thing my son has been able to observe are the neighbors across the street. I fear I am fostering peeping tom tendencies in him." The second woman responded, "Trust me, its a slippery slope, a slippery slope." As they talked I feigned disinterest because it would be considered bad form to make eye contact in the locker room but oh how I wanted to ask about the slippery slope.

While in a second-rate copy store I noticed a very carefully screen-printed sign measuring 6 feet by 3 feet. The sign was being uses to promote the value to the customer if they chose this copy store over a better established copy center like Kinkos. The sign read: "WE WILL MEAT OR BEET ANY QUOTATION IN TOWN". Needless to say the misspelled words did not instill confidence in me. The sign, however, did make me wonder how this copy store would fare in a one on one battle against Bartlett's Book of Quotations.

While walking out of a press screening of a soon to be released French film I heard one well established Vancouver journalist say to another, “The films over right. You don’t think anything else is going to happen do you?” I turned my head slightly to see if the film critic who asked the question might have been joking because the credits had been rolling for close to two minutes by the time he asked this question. He had a look of concern and confusion on his face and clearly was not joking. This conversation further cemented my belief that French filmmakers confuse film critics into thinking their movies are great – because really, aside from this critic who would admit they did not understand the plot.

Oh the joys of listening surreptitiously to other people's conversations.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Canadian Definition of Irony

TW and I went to a movie the other day. We were a bit early so as we sat in the theater waiting for the movie to begin we glanced up at the screen as various advertisements flashed across every few seconds. As we waited, we caught sight of the standard movie theater ads hawking products as diverse as coca cola to liposuction to cranial therapy to dental surgery.

We continued to sit and wait for the movie as the advertisements looped once, then twice, then three times. During the fourth loop we noticed for the first time a hand written slide soliciting artists to display their work in the theater. As I read the solicitation I turned to TW and said, "I didn't see an art gallery when I came into the theater. Did you?" She shrugged and said, "No but I would be curious to find it."

As soon as we turned back to the screen we saw a slide with typewritten block letters reading: "JANE BROWN, PAINTINGS OF EVERYDAY OBJECTS". At that moment I turned to TW and said, "Um. I think we found the art gallery". Following the typewritten sign was a slide with a brief artist statement. The artist’s statement read, "My paintings convey the raw emotions of people using everyday objects on a daily basis."

As we sat waiting for the impromptu art show to start I overheard an older gentleman turn to his companion and say, “I have seen this exhibit already but it is so great I don’t mind seeing it again. The yearning for everyday objects is so…oh, what’s the word I’m looking for?” His companion responded, “So powerful.” The older gentleman responded in agreement, “Yes, that’s it. The yearning is so powerful.” Upon hearing this profound endorsement I waited expectantly for the first painting.

The first slide depicted a painting of a household toilet. In an effort to display the realism of the painted toilet in both the painting and the slide of the painting, the artist propped the painting on top of a real toilet. The title of the painting, written in bold type at the base of the picture read, “I need the washroom.”

The second painting depicted a young boy sitting on a park bench. This painting titled, “My legs hurt,” was displayed in the slide atop an actual park bench. It was at this moment that I tried to contain my giggles so that I would not offend the older gentleman behind me in case he was related to the artist. After the second painting I turned to TW and said, "Is this the Canadian definition of irony?" She assured me that it was not but I had my doubts.

The painting, “I need a book,” portrayed a painting of a bookshelf full of books photographed on top of a real bookshelf; “I want my MTV,” portrayed a painting of a TV on a TV stand photographed on top of an actual TV stand; and so on.

The final painting, “Look at me and my dog,” depicted a painting of a life-sized person holding a smaller painting of a dog. The photograph portrayed an actual person holding the life-sized painting of the person.

As the impromptu art exhibit ended the older gentleman turned to his companion again and said, “I am blown away by the meta-realism of this work.” I in turn looked over to TW and said, "I am not sure what to say except that you Canadians do meta-irony like no others and I thank you for that – I think.”

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Canadian Super Heroes

Recently in a conversation with some of my Canadian brethren the topic of superhero toys from our childhood came up. I reminisced about receiving a Stretch Armstrong toy was I was six and playing with him for hours and hours. I commented on how I loved to stretch his arms and legs and see them bounce back into place at the blink of an eye. However, those Canadians at the table met my comment with blank stares. One after another they admitted to me that they had never heard of Stretch Armstrong. I could not believe that Stretch Armstrong did not make it across the border so I went on-line and did a bit of research.

In my on-line quest, I came across an article about Stretch Armstrong. According to the article, when Stretch Armstrong debuted in 1976 almost every American kid wanted this toy. However, Canadian children were not nearly as enamored by it. Thus, after months of exhaustive research the toy manufacturer deduced that Canadian children didn't like the toy because of the high number of American action figures already on the market. In an attempt to woo Canadian children, the manufacturer introduced the "Stretch Leonard Cohen" doll, modeled after the venerable Canadian singer. According to the article, Stretch Cohen proved to be the poorest-selling toy in Canadian history. One young Canadian was quoted as saying, "It looks just like my principal".

I have no way of knowing if the statements is this article are really true since I searched high and low and could find no reference to Stretch Cohen. However, even if the claims made by the article are not true it got me thinking about what other venerable Canadians who could be turned into superhero dolls. Here are but a few of my thoughts....

“Stretch William Shatner"
Superhero Persona: Priceline Man
Powers: Ability to make you bid too high on plane tickets to far off places that you had no intention of traveling too before he got his hands on you.

"Stretch Pamela Anderson"
Superhero Persona: Bad Actress
Powers: Ability to convince casting directors of her acting prowess.

"Stretch Alex Trebek"
Superhero Persona: Game Show Host
Powers: Ability to provide answers to trivia questions before the question has even been asked.

"Stretch Corey Hart"
Superhero Persona: 80's Pop Icon
Powers: Ability to make you travel back to the 80's with his all but forgotten catchy pop tunes.

I believe each of these Canadian action figures will provide hours of fun, ah, hours of fun.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

World Class Mitten Spotters

As I was walking down the streets of Vancouver yesterday I spotted a lone, unwanted glove cast adrift on the sidewalk. I pointed the glove out to TW and then kept on walking at my usual brisk pace. TW grabbed my arm and said, "Aren't you going to pick it up?" I looked at her quizzically and said, "Why would I pick it up? Presumably the person who lost the glove will come back to look for it." She then said, "But if you pick it up you can get a free tote bag from the National Mitten Registry." At that very moment I thought TW was trying to fool me into picking up, laundering, and taking home someone's dirty, sweaty glove. However, I was wrong.

When I got home I typed the words "National Mitten Registry" into the computer and was surprised to find that such an organization exists. It seems the mission of the National Mitten Registry is to reunite Canadians with their lost mittens and gloves. You may think this utopian vision is true good to be true but to prove that it does exist I have reprinted verbatim the GUIDELINES FOR MITTEN SPOTTERS

1. Keep your eyes peeled around mailboxes, cash registers, subway turnstiles and anywhere else people tend to be digging around in their pockets. Our research shows these are mitten hot spots.
2. Does the found mitt look too gross to touch? Has it been repeatedly run over? Is it submerged in slush? Leave it be!
3. Is it propped up on a fence post? Again, leave it be! While we'd like everyone to participate in the National Mitten Registry, the greater goal is recovery.
4. While we sympathize with the plight of lost earrings, socks, keys, laptops, umbrellas and pets, they are more than we can handle here at the Mitten Registry offices. Handwear only, please!
5. An online gallery of all registered mitts will be maintained at www.nationalpost.com/mittens

I find two aspects of this project really remarkable. First, seemingly sane and reasonable people are spending money, hard earned money, to send a mitten that is likely never to find its home again to a “mitten” registry. Second, another sane, reasonable person is actually employed to take a picture of each mitten and post these pictures on a website with the expectation that one day, not too far in the future, someone will actually claim a mitten.

You know, on second thought the prospect of a tote bag is quite tempting. I think I'll go dig through TW's closet and find myself a "lost" mitten to submit. I do love a good tote bag.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Nature's Perfect Food

I had a hankering for gefilte fish yesterday so I went to a local grocery store to buy myself a jar. I embarked on my search with some trepidation since I was not sure I would be able to find a jar of gefilte fish in any store so long after the major Jewish holidays.

The first stop on my journey was a major chain grocery store found in both the US and Canada. I thought for sure they must sell gefilte fish. As soon as I walked into the store I made a beeline for the fish aisle but did not find any gefilte fish. I then trekked over to the meat and chicken department, then the deli counter, the pre-prepared food aisle, the frozen food aisle, and finally to the miscellaneous aisle which housed a mish mash of Mexican, Chinese, Thai, and Indian food. However, I was unable to locate any gefilte fish so I moved on to the next store and the next store and the next store.

By the end of the day I realized that my gefilte fish vision quest took on epic proportions far greater than I ever anticipated. By the end of the day I had taken five different buses, walked 1.7 miles in the rain, lost close to 2 pounds in water weight, and visited five different grocery stores. The only thing that kept me going all day was the mantra, “It’s for the fish. It’s for the fish. It's for the fish.”

At the exact moment I was about to give up I spotted a small deli. As I walked into the deli I said breathlessly to the clerk, “Please help me. Do you sell gefilte fish?” He looked at me bemused, pointed off in the distance, and said, “Of course. It is in the international food aisle over there.” I responded curiously, “Huh. International food?” He did not respond but instead just took me to the aisle.

As I stood in front of the international food aisle I noticed flags from Italy, Mexico, Belize, the Ukraine, Indonesia, China, Iceland, and an assortment of other countries know for their distinctive cuisines. As I scanned the aisle I noticed freeze dried fish under the Icelandic flag; seaweed wraps and sushi rice under the Japanese flag; and hot tamales under the Belize flag. I was unsure what nationality would claim gefilte fish so I kept looking and looking but with no luck.

After five minutes of intensive searching I asked the clerk to help me find the nationality housing the gefilte fish. He begrudgingly came to my aid and pointed to the Israeli flag lodged between the Portuguese and Greek flags. On the shelf immediately below the flag I found bags of lentils, boxes of matzo, cans of chicken and split pea soups, and jars of borscht and gefilte fish. As soon as my eyes spied this cornucopia of pre-prepared food I decided to buy everything on the spot and surprise TW with a special dinner.

When I finally got home I pulled all the food out of the bag and presented my loot to her. TW looked at me warily and asked, “What is all this for?” I responded, “Oh this. Well, I decided to surprise you with dinner. Actually not just any dinner but a theme dinner.” She looked at me again, then looked at the food on the counter, and then again at me. She finally said, “What’s the theme?” I responded, "Isn't it obvious - the theme is 'The food of my people.' Look, I have gefilte fish, lentils, chicken soup, and matzo."

In response to my offer of a special dinner TW shook her head and said, “I think I’ll order a pizza.” Stunned by her reaction I sought an explanation. I asked her why she was rejecting the food of my people and explained to her that, “Gefilte fish is high in fiber and low in carbs. It really is nature's perfect food." She looked at me again and said, "If you don't mind, I think I'll get my fiber elsewhere." I guess that means more fiber for me!

Monday, January 02, 2006

Clamato...its what's for dinner

TW and I went out to brunch this past weekend. Since I was in such a festive post-new years mood I decided to order a Bloody Mary to accompany my bacon and eggs. When I asked the server for a Bloody Mary she explained to me that they do not serve Bloody Marys, instead they serve Caesars.

Since I had never heard of a Caesar I asked her to explain the difference between the drinks for me. She explained that unlike a Bloody Mary, which uses tomato juice and vodka, a Caesar uses clamato and vodka. When she observed my perplexed expression she further explained that clamato is "a robust clam tomato cocktail with secret spices". I immediately grimaced upon hearing the words "clam tomato cocktail" and "secret spices". She, however, assured me that clamato was "delicious" and that I should consider one of the "spicy clamato Caesars" on the menu.

Her words of encouragement did not assure me that a "clam tomato cocktail" would be delicious but I took a chance since I want to live like a Canadian. I hesitantly asked her to suggest which of the clamato Caesars she would suggest I order. She opened the drink menu and pointed her finger at an entire page of clamato Caesars.

Each of the drinks contained the requisite clamato and vodka, as well as, varying degrees of spice including horseradish, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and pepper. As I quickly glanced at the menu these Caesar descriptions caught my eye...

1. The Rock'n Caesar - The Fender Stratocaster of Caesars.
2. The Mardi Gras Caesar - You may want to hold on to your beads for this one.
3. The Fireworks Caesar - Use only under close adult supervision. Designed for outdoor use only. Always keep a pitcher of ice water close by for emergency situations.
4. The Russian Caesar - Nikolai would be so proud.
5. The Fusion Caesar - Domo arigato, Mr. To-mah-to.
6. La Fête César - A Caesar recipe designed specifically to satisfy all generic and third tier festive occasions.

The Caesar descriptions sounded so fun that I turned to TW and exclaimed, “Why had I never heard of clamto before?!” After much thought and consideration of the choices I opted for the “Maple Caesar” because I thought the addition of maple syrup to a clam juice based drink would be a taste sensation like no other.

When the drink arrived I immediately took a sip. At first blush my mouth and lips experienced a savory, fishy, and tangy zing. This taste was surprisingly smooth and crisp. The second blush, however, was indescribable. The drinks aftertaste was a cross between a sugary sweet syrup and liquid fish.

When the server came by the table to ask how I was enjoying the drink I looked at her and said, “Do many people actually order the Maple Caesar?” She looked at me and said, “A sucker is born everyday and I guess today is your birthday.”


Sunday, January 01, 2006

Second-String Towel Holder

Canadian children are a hearty lot. This thesis is evidenced by the fact that 3-5 year old children play in a toddler hockey league that allows them to check one another to the "boards" and shove their opponents to the ice in the same manner as professional hockey players. This is also evidenced by the fact that most Canadian children learn the fine art of curling in elementary school gym class and begin to curl competitively as early as age six.

However, the most shocking evidence of this hypothesis is the fact that young Canadian children of all ages are invited and encouraged to participate in the annual polar bear swim. The polar bear swim is that annual tradition that occurs in many North American cities every January 1st. It is the time of year when those seeking fame, glory, and a jolting rush of heart palpitations akin to a heart attack strip down to next to nothing and the jump into water at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the dead of winter.

Although the polar bear challenge is not my idea of a fun new years day event TW and I chose to attend this year because a friend of ours asked us to serve as his "official towel holders". We were awarded this honor early this morning because his other friend was too hung over to get out of bed. We felt honored to serve as second-string towel holders so we attended the event.

While engaged in my towel holding duties I surveyed the vast expanse of the beach. While shaking my head as one after another person entered the water I noticed out of the corner of my eye a group of young children readying themselves for a dip in the freezing cold bay. As I ventured closer to the gaggle of young people ranging in age from four to fourteen I could hear a male voice coming over speakers positioned in the lifeguard station. In a booming voice loud enough to drown out all the other noise on the beach the announcer declared, "Pee Wees get ready to rumble. On your mark, get set, go."

At the word “go” 25 children between the ages of 4 to 7 years old dropped their towels, bathrobes, and all other extraneous clothing to the ground and took off running. One after another of those hearty youth leaped into the water. Some stayed in for as little as three seconds and others remained in the water bobbing their heads, swimming, and riding cresting waves.

The announcer then said, “All Pee Wees please exit the water so that we might announce the Polar Bear awards for your age group.” As the crowd quieted down we all awaited the announcement of the awards with great anticipation. The announcer boomed, "The prize for 'The Longest Time Spent in the Water' is awarded to a 5 year old who spent 42 seconds in water reaching as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The prize for 'The Longest Time Spent Holding One's Breath Under Water' is awarded to a 6 year old who spent 12 seconds under the water - a new Pee Wee record. The prize for 'The Longest Distance Traveled from the Shore' is awarded to a 7 year old that swam 6.8 meters. Finally, the prize awarded for 'The Cutest Bathing Suit' is awarded to a 4 year old wearing a matching polka dot bikini and hat."

The next group to enter the water were the youth in the "In-Between" category. There were close to 35 “In-Betweens” and they ranged in age from 8 to 11 years old. I kind of felt sorry for this group of young people because not only were they in that awkward pre-middle school age but this awkwardness was made apparent to everyone by the fact that no one could come up with a title more creative than the “In-Betweens”.

Once all the “In-Betweens” entered and exited the water the awards were announced. The reigning “In-Between” champion, a 10-year-old girl from a Vancouver suburb, swept all the awards categories. I thought this was a phenomenal achievement until I heard various people rumbling that this was her third year in a row winning all the prizes and that they could not wait for her to age out of the “In-Betweens” category.

The final group to enter the water were the "Tweens” ranging in age from 12 to 14 years old. The Tween competition was by far the most exciting of the three. Within 35 seconds of entering the water all but 5 tweens exited and returned to their towels. Those five that remained in the water were two girls, one girl of twelve and the other of thirteen; and three boys, two boys of thirteen and one of fourteen. Each of the tweens was vying for the overall title of “Heartiest Polar Bear” in the 14 and under category.

Since this was my first polar bear competition I turned to the man standing next to me and asked how the judges would determine who was the "Heartiest polar Bear" if all five competitors remained in the water for equal amount of time. He informed me that if it came to that the judges would factor in height, weight, smallest change in lip color after being in the freezing water, and greatest need for a towel upon exiting the water. As he informed me of these additional measures two of the boys and one of the girls exited the water. The only remaining competitors in the water were a twelve-year-old girl and a fourteen-year-old boy.

The crowd began to take sides. Those crowd members chanting for the male tween yelled "manly" words of support - "You can beat her", "Don't wuss out now", and "Win one for the Gipper." Those crowd members chanting for the female tween urged words of support that included, "Go girl", "Womyn Power", "Even if you don't win you tried your best. Be proud of yourself". After ten minutes the judges called time and both tweens were forced to exit the water. The female tween was declared the winner because her lips were mostly red with a slight tinge of blue. The lips of the male tween were a dark shade of blue verging on purple.

When the competition ended I freaked out when I realized that I still had a dry towel in my hands and had not handed the towel off to my friend. I scanned the beach for my friend who was undoubtedly in need of the towel and could not find him. I finally ran into TW and asked her about our friend and she told me that because of my lack of commitment to my towel holding duties we had been demoted to third string towel holders. I responded, "Does our friend still need my towel?" TW said, "No. He was desperate so he paid a nine year old $20 to borrow her towel." Ooops.

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