Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Reason I love to travel #4

I've learned that a smile can get me out of all sorts of trouble – particularly when it comes to dealing with the (presumably) self-appointed, easily excitable, bullet proof-vested Nicaraguan beach patrol and its collective libido.

Short skirts, on the other hand, only get me into trouble.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fewer things to kill me

If you believe everything my mother tells you, then you'll know she has no moral issue with endangering your life for the sake of 10 minutes of pleasure, or however long it takes to eat her spaghetti.

At the family table, it was everyone for their respective self. We didn't say grace, but my mother occasionally kicked off mealtime by announcing the possibility of death, advised us to be vigilant and, smiling, encouraged us to dig in and enjoy.

According to my mother, the bay leaf – a spice known for its distinctive fragrance and flavour – is both essential to any good spaghetti sauce and entirely capable of slicing your intestines with its razor sharp edges and causing internal bleeding.

Pigging out on Mom's meat sauce, I surmised as a child, could result in anything from indigestion to dying quietly in your sleep. This I believed, among other questionable, unquestioned quasi-truths:

Jesus is a white guy. Raw hot dogs will give me worms. Uncle So-and-So isn't gay. My face could get stuck like this. Bay leaves can kill me. Me, and everyone I love.

Having survived my childhood, I thought it best to avoid cooking with bay leaves altogether when I moved out on my own. I just couldn't bear the thought of my mother receiving news that, despite all her warnings, I'd gone and accidentally offed myself in that particularly unsavoury way. Not until I cooked with someone unaware of the risks of this common albeit deadly ingredient was I forced to, for the first time, express these thoughts out loud.

"Let's leave out the bay leaf," I suggested, explaining the risks.

"Who told you THAT?" my co-chef asked, scrunching up his face.

"My mother," I declared, considering her the authority on all things culinary.

"Doesn't she also think her house is haunted?"

"Well, yeah," I said, "but so do I."

He just looked at me. "Bay leaves can't kill you."

"Yes, they can," I said, steadfast.

Leaves in hand, locking his eyes with mine, he motioned toward his mouth.

"Don't do it!" I yelled, and tried to grab them away. The last thing I need is an accidental suicide in my house, I thought. "No!" I screamed when he shoved them into his mouth and began to chew.

"Why would your mother put something in your food she thought might kill you?" he asked. He was talking with his mouth full.

Because my mother takes cooking very seriously.

"If I die, you win," he taunted and swallowed.

Later on, when he didn't die, he didn't shut up about it for long enough that I kind of maybe sort of wished he had. Just a little bit.

Still, through the fog of my annoyance, I managed to glean that sometimes being wrong is best for everyone.

Photo: Mom and me on an evening walk, after another perilous meal.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Reason I love to travel #3

Travel allows me to hone valuable powers and render them "super", like the ability to sleep anywhere. Anywhere. Even in Miami's mouse-infested airport, surrounded by grumpy strangers:

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Happenings down below

If you're a serial killer looking for the perfect spot to first torture, then maim and slaughter your next victim, perhaps you'll consider the basement of my last apartment building. Built circa 1910 and changed very little since, the bowels of the edifice easily surpass the expectations of any set hunter, outdoing even the creative minds behind the creepiest of contemporary gore flicks.

Trips to the basement I limited to daylight hours and avoided as long as possible. To prevent my own apartment from adopting a similar stench, I was forced to go about once a week, because that's where the garbage is disposed.

I'd often wondered what might happen if I were to round the final corner of the serpentine concrete hallway – past the filthy basin with corroded, dripping faucets, and through the heavy meat locker-esque steel door – and encountered a stranger. There are only two things a person could want to do in that dimly lit bunker, I reasoned, and they both involve disposal (trash or bodies).

When it finally did happen, I screamed. Loud.

Bags in hand, I made the final turn and there stood – with hair greasy and matted, teeth sparse and yellowed, clothing torn and ill-fitted – the hunched, twisted form of...the janitor.

When I stopped screaming, I realized he'd been screaming, too. I want to claim my reaction was only so violent because he looks like a crazed maniac, but I also scared the shit out of him, and I'd like to think that had nothing to do with my own appearance. He mumbled an apology in a nervous mixture of French, English and Spanish, and I stammered mine.

The events that followed, I could never have predicted.

The bunker fell silent. I launched my trash into the bin and, seizing the opportunity, he thrust a small tube into my now empty hands. Then, he turned away, mumbled something incoherent and lifted his shirt. I looked to my hands for clues as to why the elderly janitor was undressing for me in the basement, and in them was the tube of arthritis-relief cream. Perhaps he'd felt we'd bonded, what with screaming together that day, but I still felt that expecting a massage was a bit of a stretch.

Is this a creepy, or oddly sweet request? I asked myself, and hesitated briefly, but the long, ancient scar on his back where he wanted the cream, trumped that thought. As I rubbed in the offensively strong, sinus-clearing menthol-scented cream, I realized just how old he must be. His skin was devoid of elasticity, his spine was twisted bent, and he struggled to steady himself under the gentle pressure of my hand on his back. Still, I had my suspicions.

"Do you need cream anywhere else?" I asked, testing his intent.

"No, murr-see, tank yoh, gracias," he answered, covering himself. He turned to face me and his expression was soft and appreciative.

Awwww, he really did just need help, I was thinking, when he interrupted to say, through a mischievous and mostly toothless grin, "Dat wuz dee firz time a wooh-man touch me in twenny yeerz."

"Creepy" and "oddly sweet" aren't, apparently, mutually exclusive.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Fortune echoes in the void

Of hundreds of meals enjoyed in my Park Avenue apartment, chow mein was my last. It was my $6 reward for having dragged, rolled and huffed another 60 pounds of my former life – the one I had before I decided to relocate to the UK – eight blocks to the donation bin at the local mission. I suppose I could've just used that $6 for a taxi, but then I wouldn't have gotten a fortune cookie out of it.

In the sole remaining chair in my apartment, I sat before the now empty Chinese takeaway carton, with a few more ibuprofren-enabled hours of lugging boxes ahead of me.

Tearing open the fortune cookie's clear plastic wrapper, I thought three things:

1) They don't even have these in China.
2) I hope this cookie isn't stale like the last one.
3) This fortune better say something good.

It read, "You will soon travel abroad."

Drawing a slow breath, I scanned the nearly empty space that was once my home. Assessing the final precarious tower of awkwardly packed boxes awaiting transportation, I couldn't help but feel that the cosmos hadn't been paying attention to my life plans at all. Incredulous, I responded as any exhausted Canadian might, after spending more than a grand and weeks of preparation to move overseas:

"Noooooo shit!" I yelled.

"No shit," my four walls echoed back. "Nooooo shhhhhhit."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The final countdown

What is 4 x 24? Fewer hours than I have to purge two years of living from my apartment, that's what.

In four days, a French PhD student will be sleeping in my bedroom. Actually, she'll be doing whatever she wants in there, and I suppose she'll do it anywhere she wants, just like I did. She might even do it on my sofa. I won't be here to stop her. No matter what she does, I'm sure I did it better.

Ninety-six hours to transience and my house is still full of furniture, art, cookware and crap. You'd think losing all your belongings and mooching off friends would be easier. Don't people do it all the time?

Yesterday morning, I signed a contract with movers who've agreed to transport my antiques and irreplaceables back to Nova Scotia where my parents will reluctantly, but thankfully store them. Then, the new tenant arrived to see what of my furniture she'd buy, and last night I hosted a giveaway/livingroom sale I called, 'Dinner and Dibs'.

Basically, I sorted through all my things, lured some close girlfriends to my house with the promise of a home-cooked dinner and gave them first pick of everything I'd rather not pay to store or transport to England. Whatever they didn't want, I forced on them, like an annoying salesgirl working on commission. "Oh, Pyrex cookware is timeless, and would go so well with this sailor's cap!"

I'm stuck with a few dining room chairs, which I rescued (read: pilfered) from the basement of this building. At the time, I wondered why anyone would abandon something so nice, but now I see that furniture fate is inescapable and, chair by chair, they're going right back to where I found them so someone else can wonder the same. There are also some leftover books, deceivingly titled and disappointingly academic, from my university years: Pornocopia and Public Sex (among the less scandalous untouchables, Anthropological Theory and The Mass Media in Canada). Most everything else is claimed and awaiting pick-up.

Perhaps the greatest marker of the evening's success is having finally uncovered my house keys – one of life's little conveniences – which have been missing beneath the chaos for nearly a week.

The crumbs I'll be donating to the local mission today, and by Sunday, all evidence of my life here and my ongoing battle with mice and my creepy neighbour will be completely gone, save for bits of furniture the new tenant bought, that red paint I spilled in the sink, and the stack of papers that fell behind the fridge. These little accents will add to those left by the previous tenants: the good luck charm bolted into the oak frame of the doorway, unidentifiable trinkets lodged in the radiator, and little poops left by midnight visitors – the furry rodent kind, not the freaky weirdo sort.

Ninety-five hours to go...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Death, lies and dinner

When I was small, my parents lied to me all the time. "It's beef," they'd say, and drop a plate on the table. Sometimes, I'd refuse to eat, convinced I'd heard them slip a barely audible "just like" between the "it's" and "beef". It was inhumane, I thought, to hunt wild game and (at that age) equally inhumane to force me to eat vegetables as the alternative. My parents were cruel, and I was right not to trust them.

Several incarnations of Bambi's mother and his philandering father have joined us for dinner, as have Thumper, Donald Duck, Winnie the Pooh, Jaws and various anonymous guests, sometimes in a medley of murder my mother liked to call 'stew'. Children's stories, cartoons, movies and Teddy bears did not serve me well in a family of naturalists, hunters and fisherfolk.

Not until I fully understood the horrors of industrial farming, and tired of my diet of pasta and frozen chicken nuggets while studying at an out-of-province university, did my views on my parents' eating habits begin to soften. By then, I cared more about what food wasn't (pasta or mechanically separated meat), than what it was.

Not until I'd travelled throughout Southeast Asia and Latin America did I begin to actually appreciate my parents' choices. As it turns out, a lot more can be considered food than I'd initially thought, and the horrors of my mother's cooking weren't, comparatively, so terrifying. Travelling, I learned to find my happy place, which allowed me to politely choke down whatever lovingly slaughtered, hacked and salted ungodly creatures I'd been served. They won't eat me from the inside out, I consoled myself. Even if the heads are still on? asked my little voice.

While I maintain my belief that food should not be able to look back at you, I've learned to appreciate dead, cooked versions of creatures, so long as I have nothing to do with their death or any stage postmortem/pre-meal.

Among life's greatest motivators, however, (pain, necessity, a full bladder) is the desire to look tough in front of one's peers, and this is what got me to both kill and cook one of Earth's most hideous, head and all: a lobster.

I watch my parents do it every year on Christmas Eve, and, with the help of my happy place, I was pretty sure I could pull it off for my mostly urban, English, fruit-and-salad-loving boyfriend. On this, his first visit to Canada, my family had already introduced him to bear stew, moose sirloin, vampire-repelling dill and garlic pickles, pierogi and three batches of Mom's cookies, and it seemed a shame to have him leave Nova Scotia without eating something from the sea, especially since he'd never tried lobster.

My greatest realization, in cooking the beast, was that I truly am becoming more like my parents. Here I am, carrying on the tradition of lying to people who are reluctant to kill for dinner, while my boyfriend screams, "It's ALIVE! It's ALIVE! OH, EFF! It's still ALIVE!":

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Putting the 'pet' in petulant

It's dead under a stool in my kitchen right now, and no, I am not going to do anything about it. Not until my visitor has come and gone. He's due in about ten minutes, and I'd hate to be caught red-handed, heartless and with a body on my conscience. Once he leaves, I'll roll it up and carry it at arm's length to the basement – the logical place to stash a corpse. Until then, I'll just act casual.

I won't pretend I didn't get a sense of satisfaction from the kill, maybe even a little adrenaline. I am entirely capable of killing again. The deceased should've known better than to enter my home uninvited, sneaking around at night, stealing bits he thought I'd not notice and presumably defecating in miniature throughout. I wouldn't accept that behaviour from a person, it's just not polite. For a mouse, that behaviour is punishable by death – preferably the quick, sudden and immediate sort.

The entire scenario feels as though it might've been orchestrated by a higher, comic power. Just this week, my boyfriend proposed getting a hamster – a sad interim replacement, I think, for the cat he can't have thanks to his roommate's allergies – to keep in his own corner of the house, his bedroom.

He seemed surprised by my disgust with the idea, perhaps having seen me as the quintessential Canadian, in tune with nature and with love for all animals. Likewise, I expected more of him. He's English, after all, and you'd think the Black Death would've been enough of a lesson.

I said everything I could to deter him, short of threatening to never spend the night again and letting him imagine the horror of that on his own. I spoke of pee and wood chips, pet shop odour and the relentless whir of exercise wheels. A bedroom is no place for a rodent, and I think both Richard Gere and most gerbils would agree.

Faking my best heartlessness, I resolved to tolerate his particular rodent, but only as fodder, until it came time for us to move in together and I'd get a cat and let nature take its bloody course. You know, like Darwinian selection for pets. I was mostly joking.

Still, when I saw a mouse in my house yesterday, I set traps straight away, with delicious canapés of dried fruit, cheese and whole wheat muffin crumbs. One bite for me; one bite for the undead.

Before long, the mouse enjoyed its last nibble and now I am faced with the only thing more disgusting than a rodent scurrying unchecked about my house, and that's a dead one.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Breaking up with my apartment

The last time I moved from an apartment, I walked in on strangers having gay sex in my living room.

Apparently, there'd been a miscommunication (read: no communication) between me and my recently "exed" boyfriend concerning when the new tenants could have the keys and start moving in. That's the difference a day makes.

Our relationship was a recent fatality, having ended with style and force usually reserved for collapsing mine shafts, atom splitting and revolution quashing, as most long-term relationships do. Everyone involved scrambles for their lives, there's screaming, and no one makes it out unscathed. Still, when it's all said and done and a new day comes, it's a bright one.

More than simply packing up, we'd had to negotiate seven years' worth of mine vs. his. Through clenched teeth and the staccato of monosyllabic reluctance, we still managed to negotiate divisions of things like dinnerware: Three plates for me. Three plates for him. A holy travesty.

The car was his. The furniture was mine. The apartment and its gorgeous patio would soon be for someone else. The hate was initially his, but we soon managed to ensure there was plenty for everyone. Eventually, all I wanted was 'out'.

I'd arranged for movers to come when I didn't think my Ex would be there, the cheap kind that arrive late and try to buy weed from you when the move takes longer than expected, because they can't call their regular guy after 11 PM. It doesn't occur to them that you don't smoke weed and don't know where to get any, so they become annoyed, and you end up tipping them more than you would have otherwise. They know where you live.

The final and more delicate remnants of my three years in the old apartment were still there come midnight. Returning in a taxi to gather them in a last run, I'd romanticized that perhaps the night would end with one final moment of silence for that era of my life, and with a deep breath I'd both symbolically and literally lock the door behind me. Saying that I felt like I was reluctantly saying good-bye to a beloved, but toxic friend would be a good analogy, if that wasn't exactly what was happening.

When I arrived, all sentimental and melancholy, I remember turning the key and slowly pushing the door open, expecting to be struck by the vacant space that was once my home. I remember just as clearly how instead there were two svelte, naked bodies humping in the dark on my living room floor.

Oh my gawd, I gasped and gawked, too shocked to avert my eyes and still not quite understanding what I was seeing. Initially, I'd thought my Ex was exacting some sort of revenge, and had arranged to have me catch him doing the dirty with some poor martyr or hussy. Moments later, I realized both bodies were of the male variety. Oh my gawd, my sense of wonder renewed. Then, I realized neither belonged to my Ex.

They scrambled for pants and sheets, all the while apologizing and urging me in. Blushing and gathering my things, I knew I wouldn't have that final moment of closure I'd romanticized, just as the new tenants' first romp in their new home didn't quite go as they'd imagined.

That's a lot less likely to happen this time, I think – as I pack, sell and donate my belongings before my next big move – but I can't wait to see what will.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Reason I love to travel #2

If I put on a brave face for the camera, even if only for a few seconds, someone will snap a photo that will make me seem tough for all eternity – not because I like to eat bugs.

Costa Rican Crunch, originally uploaded by Kate Savage.

Friday, October 03, 2008

The 'big prize' for learning French

"I should warn you," said my friend, J, who's witnessed every bad dating decision I've made since becoming single again two years ago. "Grand Prix asked about you."

Grand Prix is a friend of a friend of a friend, and the sort of guy who could be attractive if he changed his shirt, cut back on the beer and said something coherent, but that's just not his style.

He's had a major crush on our friend Cathy for quite a while, which manifests for her as unwanted awkward, drunken advances at gigs, in French, a language she doesn't know and the only one he does.

For Grand Prix, Cathy's beauty compensates both for her total lack of interest in him and her complete inability to speak his language, so he continues his pursuit convinced she'll eventually come around. Two years of dedication and he's holding strong, and she's still ducking into crowds to evade him.

"Yeah, he was all excited," J went on. "Apparently, you spoke with him in French, and now he thinks you'd make a better date than Cathy, because all she knows how to say is 'no'."

Second language math, originally uploaded by Kate Savage.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Reason I love to travel #1

I get to take pictures of Teletubbies-lovin' child Christs. Not everyone can say that.

Señor Santo Niño and the smoker, originally uploaded by Kate Savage.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I'm someone's favourite

So, I pour myself a cup of coffee and head over to BlogHer – a vast network of women bloggers that's been getting quite a bit of recognition in the press lately, and to which I submit my own writing – for my morning fix of other people's tales of travel and sex and relationships, my two favourite categories by far.

Spotting Blogher editor, Liz Rizzo's article, BlogHers Tell the Best Stories. My Favs: Sex & Relationships Stories, I decided to go straight for this week's creamy middle – and there I was, with this introduction:
Back to the party... or at least the pub, in my favorite story of the day, Kate Savage shares, Sixty minutes in a London pub – How do I know you? It's a great post about when the horrible guy in the bar turns out to know someone you know...
There are two things I love about Liz's quote:

1) She said my story was her favourite.
2) It reinforced my belief that good stories always win over evil, even drunken sleazoids in bars.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Monogamy, and dys-sex-ia

"I told him, 'If we're going to be monogamous, I think I want to get a DUI,'" confided my friend Cathy – a barely recovering commitmentphobe with her first serious boyfriend in years – "and he just stared back at me like an idiot and didn't say anything. Can you believe that?"

She sipped her pint and waited for a reaction – for me to express disgust, incredulity, and ultimately validate her annoyance with him – but I could believe it, and I, too, stared back at her like an idiot.

"Do you mean 'IUD'?" I ventured, remembering she's dyslexic and the words-and-letters section of her brain has a tendency to go rogue. "As in 'Intra-Uterine Device', the birth control method? Or, 'DUI', the acronym for 'Driving Under the Influence', the crime?"

"Oh my gawd," she said, already cackling.

"Basically," concluded our new friend, Rax, "you told your boyfriend that the thought of being in a monogamous relationship with him makes you want to drink yourself stupid and get behind the wheel of a car. How was he supposed to react?"

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Merrymaking with mischief-makers

I love to travel solo, but when the little monsters asked to accompany me on my first trip to England and Ireland, I couldn't refuse. I really couldn't. They're monsters, and I just can't risk responsibility for inciting their wrath. Thankfully, my best friend in London agreed to help chaperone the unpredictable and tactless duo during my three-week sojourn. The monsters helped us make no friends. No friends at all.

Click here to see the monsters' most terrible vacation memories, and read their captions to learn why monsters think "England, Ireland suck".

Monsters no pay, no see nada, originally uploaded by Kate Savage. Monster photos are a collaborative effort of Kate Savage and the lovely main photographer, La Perla Esperanza.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sixty minutes in a London pub, some degree of separation

"Kyahnahseetahayah?" frothed the Rugby-sized pub regular. His substantial ass imagined itself small enough to wedge in next to me on the over-sized chair in the London pub.

"Can you sit here?" I repeated for clarification, but said ass was already testing the possibility and subsequently established, at the misfortune of my left thigh, that no, he physically couldn't. "You can sit there," I suggested with a lubricating smile, pointing at a seat a few meters away. To compromise, he slid himself onto the arm of my chair instead, where his giant body eclipsed my view of anything else in the pub and proceeded to emanate noxious fumes. I met the degree of his lean with my own in the same direction so as to avoid contact with anything more intrusive than the spray of his saliva.

I'd chosen the seat nearest the window, both to watch the time on the tower clock outside and to maximize daydream opportunity with a clear view of a bustling London street. In an hour, I was to be at the Liverpool Street tube station to meet my new boyfriend after work, and I intended to enjoy a moment of solitude over a cold, bubbly pint of cider. We were heading to the English countryside, to play house alone together for a few days before my return to Canada, and he was really all I wanted to think about. As a wise English band once said, however, "you can't always get what you wah-ahnt."

"Yer prittay," sprayed my new companion, his eyes entirely out of sync, neither directed at me. "I'm Welssssshhhhhh," he said, hoping to create an allure of exoticism that might win my favour, or failing that, any woman's favour, despite his probable impotency to follow through with anything beyond ordering more pints to spill on his bar-rag of a shirt. "Have you met people from Wales before?" he frothed for the third time, this after we'd established, more than once, that I was Canadian and not offended that he'd assumed I was American. Boring him off, my usual tactic, didn't seem to be working.

"Leave the poor girl alone," his friends called from across the room, from somewhere behind this fleshy barricade of man. "She's not interested in a drunken idiot, you drunken idiot."

I liked them straight away. "I've met drunken idiots all over the world," I said, "and three of them happened to be from Wales."

"Reeeeeh-leeeeeh?" he said, leaning closer, ignoring that I was the fourth person to call him a drunken idiot since he'd made his introduction. His arm was around my back now, but I didn't particularly mind because the added support prevented him from toppling over and smothering me. Still, I edged forward to avoid coming into contact with whatever was making his skin damp.

"Two at a wedding in London this past weekend, and one in Argentina," I clarified in monotone.

"Argentina!?" he boomed. His enthusiasm made up for my complete lack. "What was his name?"

"Caden," I answered, because it was easier than saying, "Stop talking." I checked the time again, and alternately gulped cider and covered the glass with my hand to protect it from spit-spritzing.

"Caden [So-and-So]?" he asked, slightly more sober. "The one from the Welsh pet food empire?"

"What?" He finally had my full attention, though my brain didn't immediately allow me to understand how, on my first visit to the United Kingdom, I'd managed to encounter Caden's older brother's best friend in a random London pub around the corner from the Liverpool Street tube station. Within minutes, I was on some stranger's mobile talking to Wales. "It really is a small world, " I said to the brother of a traveller I'd met, and maybe smooched, at a Buenos Aires hostel two years earlier, "Say 'hello' to Caden for me."

My sixty minutes alone in a London pub was up. I grabbed my bags and ran to the station.

Liverpool Street Train Station, originally uploaded by RonDeeView.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

How Ireland nearly did my head in

Generally, guided tours aren't my deal. Something to do with not being a herd animal, and something else to do with the risk inherent in entrusting my life and happiness to a potentially overzealous herdsman whilst crammed into a minibus with any sort of mammal for hours at a time. Very few scenarios can push me to a guided tour, like fear for my life, for example – as was the case in a Salvadoran national park at night – or a desire to see more of Ireland than Dublin pubs through the creamy blur of Guinness goggles, which is exactly how I found myself on a minibus just a few days ago.

In the spirited stereotype of a city with a best friend from London – the one who insists on being referred to here by her exceedingly ridiculous pseudonym, La Perla Esperanza – I reasoned that an organized outing might not be quite so abysmal as I feared if it meant we'd be able to enjoy a little Irish countryside. Within moments of our departure, however, we knew we'd made a terrible, terrible mistake.

Our guide was also our driver – an arrangement we later realized was the only sure way to guarantee his personal safety. Otherwise, surely there was risk of mutiny, with passengers shoving the microphone dangerously far down his throat, or up the alternative, if we thought doing so wouldn't put us at risk of death by gruesome highway pile-up.

For seven hours, this man babbled. When he didn't have anything relevant to say, he filled what should've been peaceful moments left to appreciate picturesque pastures and gently rolling hills in quiet reflection, with personal opinion and brash commentary concerning all matters from biofuel to gender roles. When he ran out of opinions, he resorted to nonsense, which eventually degraded to gibberish – evidence, I believe, of a clinical disorder.

"Dublin isn't a big city," he said. "You've all been to Manhattan. You live there, probably."

"I'm not sexist, but..."

"Red and yellow are warning colours. Warning colours, people. Red and yellow."

"What do you know collectively about dogs?"

"I'm your fairy godmother without wings."

Then he announced the country of issue of every foreign license plate we passed.

"Let's just get out," I said to my friend before we'd left city limits. "We could just get off the bus right now and catch a city bus back." She laughed, but I was serious, if not panicky, and more than willing to cut my losses at the 25 euros we'd paid and just make a run for it. She's got resolve, though, and encouraged me to develop some – we stayed. Precisely two hours into the tour – the exact amount of time it took the last lubricating vapours of the previous night's whiskey to dissipate – I began losing the will to live.

Usually, I'm quite good at coping with annoyances – or, as a therapist once called it, completely disassociating – but my normal capacities were compromised, my ears couldn't process the flood of constant and pointless anecdotes and misinformation. We went manic, our eyes rolled unrestrained in their sockets, and we laughed so as not to cry. OK, maybe I cried a little.

"Shuuuuuh-uuuuuh-uuuuuh-uuuuut up!" was the sound of my every exhale.

"No!" was our collective response to his every rhetorical question.

By hour six, we were at the tipping point, another minute of asinine chatter and I might not have recovered. We needed silence like we need oxygen. The damage done was very nearly permanent.

Ironically, it was herd animals that saved us, allowing us a few moments of respite when they were needed most. The guide had begun playing a selection of easy listening Irish tunes, the worst versions available in all of Ireland, alternately inserting clips of the Braveheart soundtrack, and ranting that Dutch drivers are especially bad, when a flock of sheep loomed into view. "There's Ireland for you," he rolled his eyes, and stopped the minibus full with its mostly catatonic passengers. "Go take pictures," he said, like it was our idea, and that the idea was really, really stupid.

So, we did.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

From London with love

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I like him as much...

I'll share more details when I return from Ireland in a few days, but for now, I've exhausted myself setting the stage with the previous entry, Cabbie love. (See below.)

What I can tell you for certain is this:

I like him (the man I met on the internet via a best friend who ridiculously wishes to be known in my blog, from this day on, as La Perla Esperanza) as much as can be entirely inconvenient to like someone who lives on the opposite side of the North Atlantic. He's fantastic.
Cabbie love

"I got my wife and family for $1400," my cab driver shouted over the wail of a siren, turning around so I could see the full breadth of his grin.

"That's quite a bargain!" I shouted back, and we shared a laugh that drowned out everything else.

He was driving me to the airport, where I was to barely catch a flight to London. Within the first few blocks, I'd already excitedly informed him that on this trip, I'd be meeting a man I suspected might be among the best I've ever had the excellent fortune to meet, but that I'd met this particular man via a best friend, via the internet. My story prompted him to share his.

"I'd been wanting to marry a nice Lebanese girl," he explained. "You understand." He shrugged apologetically, as though I might be offended for failing to qualify as a contender in his search for a life partner. "Of course, I understand," I said, though I couldn't relate. I've never been on the hunt for a 'nice Canadian boy', I've simply been holding out for someone truly great.

When his brother called from Lebanon to offer him the number of a worthy future sister-in-law, my cab driver was more than intrigued. For four months, the two spoke over the phone for hours at a time. "Everything is a lot to learn about someone. It takes a while," he said. Boarding the plane to go meet her, he hadn't seen so much as a picture. All he had to go on concerning her looks was what his brother had said: "She's not ugly."

Having perused and reviewed and obsessed over hundreds of pictures of my current interest, I just couldn't imagine at all how he must've felt. His situation speaks loads for the weight of personality, I thought.

Not surprisingly, his friends thought he was crazy for entertaining the idea that she might actually be right for him, that she'd return to Canada with him to live, and that she might actually be anything less than horrendously malformed or psychotic. "They told me I was just wasting my money on a plane ticket," he said.

Then, he started yelling. "You have to take chances! Look at me! Look at me!" He was now flailing his arms and laughing like a lunatic, and I thought his friends may have been right about him after all. "I took a chance, and I won my life. I have a wonderful wife and three kids now."

Crazy or not, I'd never been so glad I'd struck up a conversation with a cabbie. I couldn't help but fantasize that my meeting with the English boy would go as well, especially when he said, "I'll never, never forget how I felt when I first met her." He became silent and looked ahead at the traffic, reflecting for a moment before laughing again, not because something was funny, but because he'd won big. Really, really big.

While I recognize that advice is really little more than nostalgia, I'm willing to accept his. "I'll tell you what to do," he declared (at this point I'd been doing little more than egging him on for a while). "Go to London, meet this man, and fall in love. If he's a good man, and he respects you, keep him. You'll figure out how. You really don't have anything to lose."

At the airport, we were both all smiles. He helped me with my bags and we shooks hands for a long time, moments short of hugging. We wished each other all the luck in the world for all the chances we love to take.

"I'm going to tell people your story," I told him.

"Please do," he said. "There should be more stories like it."

I boarded the plane thinking $1400 really is a bargain.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Clover, 11:11 and other people's birthday candles

I'm willing to use any tactic I can to make what's about to happen as fun as is romantically possible. And it's about time I update and tell you all about it.

Remember when I admitted to you that I met an English boy on the internet? And then I went on to describe that, despite how wonderful he is, I'm totally embarrassed about how we've met? And then I dared you all to heckle me, but you just egged me on instead?

Well, thanks. I'm all packed for London.

[Here's the original post.]

We're both ecstatically terrified. We meet on Thursday afternoon, in the historic centre of the city, for the first time in person. It's not a blind date, not at all, but I've also never watched his mouth move when he speaks to me, and I've never even laid a single dirty finger on him. I do plan to, though, if he lets me. And, he really should let me.

Over the phone, I sometimes have trouble understanding little bits of what he says, but not as much trouble as I let on. Certain words sound particularly silly, and I like him to repeat them, for kicks. Certain things he says to me make my whole world spin a bit, like an amusement park ride, and I make him repeat those, too.

I really do like him as much as is possible to like someone I haven't yet met.

I'll let you know if I like him as much as is possible to like someone I have met, too.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Skanky half-naked bush-dwellers

The first time the security guard caught me in my underwear, he made me put my clothes back on. The second time, he was a little more lenient.

"You're not allowed to be here," he said. I was standing knee-deep in a pool of water, just below a mini-waterfall – a scene suitable for low-budget porn, on the island built for Expo '67. It's been party central for 41 messy years and now plays host to all Montreal-area music festivals, including Osheaga.

"Oh, great," I sassed. "I suppose you're going to tell me I'm not allowed to take my pants off either."

"Put your clothes back on," he said, straight-faced and ever stoic. I pretended I didn't understand what he was saying while my friends attempted to distract him, but he out-waited me and I gave in. Being under-dressed put me at a disadvantage in this stare down; otherwise, I totally would've won. Out of respect for his authority, I waited for quite a while after he'd gone before stripping off again.

The way I see it, it's the promoter's fault for planning an outdoor concert rife with the devil's music on an island park with hidden brooks and ponds that look entirely swimmable in the dark – even if you've seen their filth and reeds in the daylight (hours earlier), back when you still knew better.

Besides, between the excitement of seeing Iggy Pop thrash his leather-draped skeleton around the stage for an hour and my roommate's bottomless flask of whiskey, we're lucky we weren't involved in anything worse than petty nudity and illicit swimming. I mean, of course, aside from that very unfortunate incident of theft, in which we were implicated, not as thieves, but as skanky, half-naked, bush-dwelling whores.

To our credit, we'd been on relatively good behaviour all night. Most of the night. Or, at least some of the night. Not until the final band played to the dwindling crowd – and we were saying hello and good-bye to people we'd lost much earlier in the day – did our reputations take a sharp and exhilarating turn for the worse.

It was then that an old friend joined us, along with the young mother of his child – a woman with whom we share a tumultuous past and who has only fairly recently softened enough to concede that she might actually like us, or, that failing, at least started making efforts to fake it. We settled in together at a picnic table by the water.

Whiskey banter filled any and every gap in conversation and we did our best to appease everyone, but it was proving somewhat challenging. The young mother, on this rare night out, wanted nothing more than to go home, and our friend wanted nothing more than to hang out just a little longer. Understandably, she won the battle of wit and will and he agreed to leave as soon as she returned from the washroom. As she walked off, he ran to the bushes (presumably to water them), and we decided it was a good time to escape for a swim.

Following the short path through the bushes to the water's edge, we peeled off our skirts en route and then realized we weren't alone. Polite as ever, we cleared our state of undress with the amorous couple we'd interrupted, and only then did we pare down to the basics. We hadn't yet made it into the water when our friend – the one with the girlfriend whose jury was already out on us – rushed over.

"Do you have my girlfriend's bag?" he asked, somewhat panicked. He'd left it on the table and in the few moments we'd been gone, someone had stolen it. Somehow, it seemed rude and insensitive to hop into the water while he was still registering his misfortune, so we just stood there in our underwear in front of him. "We don't have it," I said.

"Shit!" He stared at us in disbelief, and he was still staring at us in disbelief when his girlfriend, the woman who had only recently started pretending to like us, rounded the corner and saw us there, mostly naked, with the father of her child.

She yelled for the passing security guard (about the missing bag, not us), and that was when he, once again, saw us clearly intending to swim. Thanks to her distracting aura of billowing anger and hatred, however, the young mother inadvertently saved our all-but-bare asses, and he let us be. I'm sure she'd take back that favour if she could.

"COME!" she barked at our friend, and he rightly ran to her side and they left. Snap! I suspect we're the last people to have seen him alive. We thought about that for a moment, and we thought about how many different ways the story could be retold, concluding that in no version did we seem like anything but skanky, half-naked, bush-dwelling whores. Still, our consolatory swim was glorious.

"Why isn't everyone doing this!?" we shouted, revelling. "They must know something we don't know," I joked, as we drifted away from shore. It was meant as rhetoric, but in saying it, we realized it might be true. Racing back to shore, we spit out all the filthy water we'd taken on while laughing about how, the trouble with drunken public swimming is that it sobers you up just enough to realize you're an idiot.

When we got home, soaked-through bottoms and all, my roommate wrote an email to another mutual friend, our friend's band-mate, as a preemptive defense for our role in the night's events, however they may be relayed. It read something like this:

"I didn't steal that girl's bag. The rest, unfortunately, is true."

Saturday, August 02, 2008

The real thing

I've finally found what I've been not-so-secretly looking for all my life. It's the sort of thing that either is, or isn't. That you find or you don't. And now, I have it. I really might be the luckiest girl in the world.

On quite a few occasions, I've thought I'd found it – stomach-flipping sure I'd found one – only to look a little closer and see that one part was missing, one essential bit, the kind that changes everything. That's the difference between magic and the ordinary.

Very early on, I've been faked out by a few sneaky tricksters and opportunists, but they couldn't hold it together for long and always revealed themselves as the grade school con artists they were. I've fallen for their trickery, I'll admit that, but only because my hopes were high and my primary character flaw is that I'm willing to forego most things for excitement and adventure. I could probably still be fooled into believing you had one for me, too, but only because my primary good fortune is that, despite my high hopes, enough has gone right for me that I'm not entirely jaded – but dishonesty is no foundation for luck OR love, and tricksters' names I don't recall.

In the park yesterday, lazing in the grass with some best girlfriends, I realized I'd really found one, and the moment was cathartic for more than just me. "I stopped believing they really existed," said my friend, Cathy (a catch who couldn't be caught, not until recently, and she's barely admitted she's fallen for a certain worthy and talented rising Canadian artist), "...but you finally effing found one."

"I know," I said, smiling [insert adjective for a huge grin, overwhelming sense of fulfillment and renewed hope for the world]-ly. "Yet, there it is."

It happened exactly how I'd heard it happens, where and when I least expected, and right in front of my face.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Kiss, or just Tell

"I told my parents you're my girlfriend," he casually announced, mid-conversation, like I shouldn't be surprised.


It was ten years ago. He was a writer/editor for Vice Magazine when it had just gone glossy – back when one of its co-founders still lived behind a curtain at the office, before its headquarters moved to New York, and my friends and I were occasionally recruited for minor publicity stunts as basic as disrupting media interviews and giving the impression that the Vice office was always overrun with girls vying for laps to sit on. I'm sure there's more truth to that now, but back then they lured us in with a pretty-please, free swag and beer.

"Yeah, so we're going to have to share the same bed." He said it as though it was an unavoidable complication, a necessary evil we'd suffer together, all the while avoiding my fuming stink-eye. "Otherwise, they'll catch on," he shrugged. If I'd ever doubted I might be the sort of girl guys could take home to their parents – Nineties-era spiky hair and all – it ended there.

We were on our way from Montreal to Ottawa by bus – my first visit to our nation's mediocre capital – where we'd be staying with his parents. He was smart to bring this up then, with an hour of the ride remaining to justify himself and rally my support. He'd been trying to get into my pants for a while, but it had never quite worked out, and I was still naive enough to think he'd give up trying and just be my friend. Still, he was very funny, sweet, and clever enough to play on my love of the absurd, so I agreed to go along with his act for the weekend, as deceitful as that was. Besides, his family was already expecting me, as his girlfriend, and there'd be light fanfare at the gates. What else could I do?

"You might have to kiss me to make it believable," he said. Add euphemism to cliché and he'd taken the inch I'd given him and was trying to slip me some tongue through it, resulting only in more stink-eye.

Over coffee, bacon, toast and fruit the next morning, I felt a little guilty. It wasn't hard to say nice things about this friend to his parents, but my thoughts were all scrambled from my sudden promotion. Like any new job, it takes a while to get into it. His dad was very sweet and very British and after breakfast, he took us to the garden to show us his flowers, then strategically excused himself, leaving his son alone with me, the stand-in, in the romantic setting.

"I think they're watching from the window," said my friend, nervously glancing back over his shoulder. "Quick. Kiss me." I put my arm around him instead, and we stood there awkwardly, backs to the house. If he didn't mind making his parents think he was dating me, I didn't mind having them think he'd chosen a prude.

His 17-year-old brother was the first to figure us out, but that was weeks later, maybe months, while visiting in Montreal. Eventually, he told his parents that we just didn't work out, or that's what he said he told them. For all I know, he told them I'd gone the way of the gay – he has been known to bend the truth, and he did have an apparent creative flare for it.

We lost touch when he moved to London to become an editor or something for a more respectable magazine, but just recently, as all modern friendships go, we reconnected via Facebook. He looks great, and happy, and hooked-up. His status says he's "In a relationship", and this time, I think I really believe him.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


There's a rogue cheerleader in my neighbourhood and he's chosen me as his cause. I'm not sure whether I deserve unbridled enthusiasm for every public move I make, but I can't say it isn't nice.

He's short, he's pot-bellied, he's undergone years of psychotherapy because, he said, his parents abandoned him with his unstable aunt and her 28 cats, but this grey-haired, middle-aged bookseller's got a certain je-ne-sais-quoi that I really can't knock. Maybe it's that he thinks I'm amazing – a most charming quality in a man.

Natural processes brought us together, feces actually, when the puppy I fostered for a month chose a tiny grassy patch adjacent to his semi-basement locale as THE place to go. I was happy to not have her going in my apartment anymore – outdoor shame and ridicule win over indoor retching – but I was mortified, daily, when the puppy shat in front of the bookseller's only window, and his face would fatefully appear, level with the puppy's unsightly contribution, to meet my apologetic cringe of a smile with an ever-cheerful double thumbs-up.

As early as that, I began to realize I could do no wrong.

Soon, he'd recruited more adoring fans for me – literati and drunks, and drunken literati – and from his stoop, within earshot, they'd halt chess matches to recount tales of my selflessness, undying patience and deep understanding of the human-animal bond, all of which was clearly a farce. But who am I to interrupt a good story?

The dark circles under my eyes and mussed hair, evidence of the learning curve involved in incorporating a 3-month-old puppy into my urban singleton, nighthawk existence only served to accentuate the mysterious beauty of my Eastern European eyes, or so he declared one day after I excused myself for being particularly unkempt. I could deal with that, I thought.

Since the puppy left, he's found other cheer material, namely my [arguable] sense of style, contagious smile, strength of character, independent nature and, his current favourite, my work-out habits and skin-tight attire.

"I can see those cookies falling off you," he said just yesterday, the third consecutive day he's said that to me. It's my fault for telling him my mom fed me 5 lbs of sweets while visiting her back home. I wasn't speaking literally, but saying it has apparently given him permission enough to check me out, head-to-toe, every time I pass by. "I think you look great," he says religiously, leaning round to assess my behind, "Really, really, really, really great."

While this level of praise is unwarranted and entirely unsolicited, I can't say I haven't encouraged him. I've answered all his questions about my personal life, accepted books as gifts, and will sometimes pause to allow him a few uninterrupted moments to freely adore me and offer advice about never settling for anything but the very best, because that's what incredible women like me deserve.

Nevermind that he's serving me a crock of feces like that which I delivered thrice daily to the grassy patch near his window, or that he's got my name completely wrong, I'm getting the sweet end of this deal. I won't correct him, because I'd really hate to rain on his parade – particularly since that parade is especially for me.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Pork and Poker, they did

My hometown on the east coast of Canada is the sort where everyone knows your name, like the small town version of the classic show, Cheers, but not as friendly and with more alcohol.

While I left nearly twelve years ago, my immediate family still lives there, and I'm very interested in whatever happens, because it probably involves someone I know. Thanks to at-home technology and self-publishing – and one woman's hobby that's inadvertently rendered the weekly paper redundant – I can follow everything that goes on via an independent online news source. I especially enjoy wedding announcements for couples sharing the same last name, before the ceremony. You'd think I'd be over that by now.

Yesterday, my sister sent me a quick email, telling me to check the site. I knew there'd be something good, and while it wasn't immediately obvious, I finally found it under the heading, Pork and Poker.

Pork and Poker. Say it out loud. What does that sound like to you?

On that page was a photo of my sister, accepting a cheque for hundreds of dollars. My sister participated in an event that can be summed up with the heading, Pork and Poker, and she got money for it.

The fact that it was a family-friendly contest involving a card game and community supper doesn't detract one bit from my enjoyment of this otherwise extremely perverted news.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Haven't we met? If not, we will.

Yesterday, the universe poked me. Hard.

For the purpose of learning from the experience, and sharing it with you, I'll pretend I believe that the universe is a will-exercising entity. A sexy one with a sense of humour, and a penchant for reminding us that Earth plays but a teeny, yet scandalous, role in the Big Picture.

The day ended with the full moon eyeballing me all the walk home, and with me concluding that the more I travel, and the more I talk to strangers, the more I think there are few true strangers left. I bet I know someone you know. Don't believe anything they say about me.

The day began as any muggy Montreal summer day should, at the city pool with friends, and beer. Cheap, watery, cold, cold beer. We mused that regardless of how few rules there may be in any given situation, we always manage to bend them. If my travels in Mexico have taught me anything, it's that when no one stops you from doing what you like, it's as good as having permission. If my travels in Germany have taught me anything, it's that I definitely don't belong there.

We were already questioning why we hadn't brought more beer, apologizing for nearly hitting a man in the head with a flutterboard, and mocking the sleazy guy who loitered next to the change room, when my friend Leigh's newest ally arrived to meet us. I'd met her before, when we were performers in the same arty burlesque show, but we'd never been in a position to chat. She's a sickeningly talented young painter, and she'd come to photograph Leigh. Allow me a moment to temper my jealousy. Ahem. There.

My mind must've been playing some sort of subconscious matching game all day, fitting things she'd said to dusty, old scrapbook snippets of memory, and when we left the pool together in search of delicious snacks and more beer, I suddenly remembered her from thirteen years ago. And more, her older brother.

More than 1200 km from here, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where we were both visiting at the time, I somehow managed to land an invitation to lunch with him, and his entire family. "You were more of a hippie back then," said the painter. I cringed, but didn't argue. We've all made our mistakes.

I can't remember for how long we kept it up, or why we stopped, but it was with her brother that I learned to flirt by mail, at the tender, confused age of sixteen – a primitive version of what I'm doing now with Mr. England. His letters were beautiful, and it's no surprise to me that he majored in Creative Writing, or that he's now living in Prague with his Czech girlfriend, with whom he nurtured a similar, but more advanced relationship-by-mail. It's nice to know it can work.

All that was established before we even ordered our delicious nachos. While still marvelling at the coincidence, my friend pointed out the restaurant window and interrupted to say, "Hey, don't you know that guy?" Pretending to read Timothy Findley, on a balcony across the street, was a favourite friend I hadn't seen since he abandoned ship for Scandinavia last year. I ran out the door, up the stairs to his new apartment, and welcomed him home. He'd returned just a day earlier, and was still wobbly on his Swede legs, so we invited him to join us for beer in the park next to Leonard Cohen's house. This is Montreal, after all.

Not an hour into bending public consumption laws, a random punk busker asked my friend for a light, in exchange for a song on his fiddle, and also joined us. "In a culture like Sweden's, there ARE no winners!" My friend was complaining to me about his basketball league's reluctance to keep score, when Leigh yelled at the punk, "Oh, YOU'RE the fiddle player!" That was the third and final coincidence of the day. The fiddler had met Leigh's musician boyfriend at a gig in Toronto a month earlier, where they'd talked about collaborating.

These were much happier coincidences than the one that has my ex-boyfriend living across the street from me, or the one that made my Argentine boyfriend sleep with the very same Swedish girl I knew from Mexico long ago, or the one that had me realizing that, of all possible Mikes, I'd just made out with one my friend had a crush on, or even the coincidence that had my sister's ex-husband waking up at a close friend's little sister's place right at the moment we decided to call her. Whoever said "honesty is the best policy" must've known that the world is far too teeny to allow you to get away with anything anyway.

Of everything I could possibly conclude from this day of coincidences, I've decided to conclude the following: It's the universe that's absurd, not me, and there are stranger ways to meet someone than on Facebook. So, I'm done making excuses for how I've met Mr. England, and more into celebrating that I have.

2 beers in the grass, originally uploaded by lepublicnme.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Naked in the back yard

My mouth was still agape when my friend's neighbour came out into their communal courtyard to see what all the laughter and chatter was about, and caught me kneeling on the ground with my camera, taking pictures of the terrible thing she'd done.

Our eyes met, and I wasn't sure what to say. Both mortified and fascinated, I had a flashback to my junior high school library, where I had the unfortunate timing to walk in on one of the special needs kids playing with himself among the stacks. Scandalized, I did what any 13-year-old girl would do, I told all my friends, just like what's happening now.

Confronted by the guilty neighbour, I knew the polite thing to do would be to look away from the living atrocity before us, but there I was, taking pictures of it instead.

She immediately began apologizing. "I had to do it," she said. "I had to do it." She went on to say something about matted hair and hot weather, but I didn't catch all her excuses, because I found the nudity entirely distracting.

I suspect in an attempt to salvage a vestige of pride, the cat began grooming himself in front of us. The scene was both sweet and pathetic, and so we did the only thing we could, we took more pictures.

Click the photos for the larger view. It's seriously worth doing, for the booties alone.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

You might as well hear it from me – I met a boy on the internet. I just said that out loud, didn't I?

If you look to the top of this page, and re-read the introductory blurb in that little partitioned box, you might notice it's worded a little awkwardly. It's not my fault, it's just that there's no other way to say it in the 500 allowed characters without rewriting the paragraph. And I've got no time for that, because I'm far too busy actually doing the thing that sounds awkward. No longer is "soliciting dates with foreigners" listed as an alternate activity to writing, but rather "soliciting dates with a foreigner" – a subtle, but significant change. Did you catch that? Against all odds, I've gone singular.

As a beloved friend of mine likes to announce with an open-mouthed grin, to anyone willing to listen, "Kate's met a boy on the internet!" She does it because she loves the confused scowl the statement elicits and the red in my cheeks, and she loves hearing me justify the truth of it. I have met a man via the internet, but not on purpose, and not like THAT. And I really like him, and that wasn't on purpose either, but, yes, maybe like THAT. Liking him is actually a very inconvenient state of affairs, for which I blame him entirely.

If the bubble bursts as I've been warned it might/promised it will, then I suppose I could re-list myself on Montreal's dating market before the end of the summer, and I wouldn't have to go all the way to England to meet him, which would save me a lot of hassle. That doesn't look like it's going to happen, though, because he keeps getting better and better and seeming more and more real, and I can't quite remember meeting anyone in recent history who could make me feel what he does. I'm packing my bags and heading for Heathrow. If we hit it off, I'm really screwed.

That said, I'm not crossing five time zones and one of the world's largest bodies of water just to check him out. This trip has been planned for a year or more, with the purpose of visiting another beloved friend in London, someone who's known me for ages, and is deeply invested in my best interests, and her own. She moved there years ago, and I've been promising to visit just as long, but the allure of tropical beaches and the Latin American unknown kept trumping my good intentions. This friend of mine is clever, and romantic, and just a little tired of always being the one to cross the ocean for a visit, so I wouldn't be surprised to learn that she orchestrated this entire fiasco to make sure I'd cross the pond, for real this time. Alternate explanations for what's happening include, naiveté, coincidence and kismet.

Regardless of her intentions, or lack thereof, she made the fateful introduction sometime around January, through a social networking site – this fact is a source of great embarrassment for me. I barely knew what he looked like when the exchange began, and didn't think much about it at the time. Initial silly, sporadic messages about little-to-nothing gradually evolved into daily hilarious emails, which eventually became well-composed, highly entertaining essays of epic length for which I held my breath. Soon, I looked at every photo of him I could find, twice, and that's about when I acknowledged I'd already taken something too far, or I'd become one of THOSE people, but I couldn't quite put my finger on what that something was, or when I might pass the point of no return. I was too distracted by the butterflies inhabiting the space my vital organs used to occupy.

Of course, as I hear these things go, I became obsessed with the idea of talking to him, but was terrified to call, lest a real conversation change something. He'd given me his number weeks earlier, when I was still the kid in grade three who wouldn't talk to the boy she liked. Thinking about it made me feel as though I was preparing to jump from a bridge. Once I managed to grow balls enough to actually dial his number, he missed the call. Admittedly, my relief grew with every unanswered ring. Leaving a message might be easier, I thought, until I started actually leaving it. Keep it short, I reminded myself, you just want to touch base. A drive-by message of sorts. Hanging up, my heart was pounding and I asked myself, out loud and very sincerely, "What the EFF are you doing?" And right then, the phone rang. Ga-gunk was the sound my heart made.

"Hello?" There was a pause on the other end, as there sometimes is with international connections. It was him, I was sure of it. My ga-gunking heart ricocheted off my flipping stomach, sending my head spinning, and the whole process transformed me into a giggly, dumbstruck teenaged girl. Not unlike a concussion would. At least I wasn't in grade three anymore, I was in junior high.

"Hello, Miss Savage?"

"Yes..." I answered tentatively. Something wasn't right. I wasn't expecting a thick Asian accent.

"Hi, this is the Hudson Bay Company and we have a new offer for you." It was the fastest I've ever managed to get off the phone with a telemarketer. Thinking he'd called, realizing he hadn't, left me with whiplash.

Seconds later, I threw myself backwards onto my bed, bicycle-kicking my girlishness into the air, yelling, "This is too intense! This is too intense!", and the phone rang again. That time, it really was England calling. Our first conversation was wonderfully, appropriately and thrillingly sweet and awkward, and I was both hooked, and pleased with myself for keeping it together after all those bicycle kicks. That time, after hanging up, I said this out loud: "Oh, great. You really have met a boy on the internet." He'd left me thoroughly, undeniably, inescapably intrigued, and yet completely embarrassed about how we'd met.

What's happening is the exact inverse of a one-night stand. We're all talk, no sex. Not even close. In fact, I'm not even comfortable mentioning it here, because I know he's reading this. We've already established that we're intellectually compatible, uncannily like-minded, and we each think the other is great, but the idea of intimacy in any sort of physical sense seems as real as telekinesis. Maybe it's possible, but I'm not entirely convinced, so I don't spend time thinking about it. Still, I'm not about to rule it out. As it stands, we'll be friends without a doubt, and anything more will just have to manifest as naturally as this unlikely situation began. Thinking about anything beyond that first "hello" might send my heart ricocheting again, leading to another concussion, and I hear the human brain can only handle so many of those.

Sure, it seems too good/lame/strange to be true, but all the best (and worst) things start out feeling that way. I like him as much as is possible to like someone I haven't yet met, and it would be a shame to end the story there.

Dear readers, you may now heckle.

Blue with airplanes, originally uploaded by fluffysam.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Update? Sunday-ish.

I tried. I did. But I couldn't. I'm on vacation and spread too thin. The promised update (already half-written) is coming on Sunday the 13th. Yes. Of this month. The odd affair it will mention is ongoing. And wonderful. And he's on vacation in Turkey, so I'll even get away with saying what I want about him/it for an extra week.

I love you all for waiting so patiently for my next post. I do.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The elusive update

It's coming, it really is. Apparently it takes updates slightly longer to reach you when I write them from my hometown, where I'm currently visiting family and friends I haven't seen for months (read: fattening up on barbecued everything and probably drinking too much). But the update's coming. And soon. I've already started it. It's going to be about a man I met on the internet and how I am likely losing touch with reality, but so totally enjoying it. And then you can make fun of me. And then I will make fun of me, too. And he'll probably read it.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The grocery whisperer

The new cashier at the discount grocery store knows he stands out from the rest. Dressed entirely in black, he's literally a stark contrast from the bubble-gum-outfitted cashiers, with logos spanning their asses, making saucy declarations like PINK and JUICY, that I try not to think too much about.

This market is the sort of work environment that thrives on chaos, where I suspect applicants are subject to a minimum decibel requirement, and it fazes no one to get knocked by a skinless lamb riding the butcher's shoulder on its way to the meat counter. Stock-boys clog the aisles, recounting tales of their weekends and things they did to piss off their girlfriends, not always waiting until you're out of earshot to say something that would further piss off said girlfriends. But this market, it's got its charm, and great sales.

I'm not sure how this new cashier got his foot in the door, though. He never wears anything but black. His pants, his shirt, his hair, his eyes, his piercing, all black. And yet, he's found enough common ground with the juicy pink cashiers that they've become his cheerleaders. "He's awesome!" one said for my benefit, fluttering her silver-glittered eyelashes, and he smiled an appreciative snaggle-toothed grin. It was just the opener he needed.

Apparently, her compliment was enough of an icebreaker that he felt a segue was unnecessary, and, turning to me, he said, "I'm an insomniac. I have trouble sleeping." Unconventional, yes, but I'd assumed the statement would be followed by some sort of qualifier, something relevant, so it wasn't yet a story I'd retell. But he went on, and without pause:

"I'm an insomniac because I suffer horrible, HORRIBLE nightmares, really awful nightmares, so I try not to go to sleep until I'm completely exhausted and just can't stay awake anymore, like physically can't keep my eyes open, and that way I'm just too tired to dream anything really, because it's the dreams that keep me awake, because of some messed up things that happened to me, like accidents and shit, and partly because I do that thing on Mount Royal where we dress up like medieval warriors and battle, which I love, but that combined with my memories and all the transcendental meditation I do, well it just sets me up for some pretty crazy lucid dreaming, but I take part responsibility for it as well because when I meditate I can communicate with both sides, you know, like life and death and I really like talking to the dead because I know not everyone can do it and the dead are just so wise because they've seen it all and they can travel back and forth from the physical world, where the rest of us are so limited, but they can go to the realm of the afterlife and come back with this cool perspective and I'm not scared of them, and usually they're pretty nice if you just open up to them, but I think most people would be, so that gives me an advantage. It's all about compassion, you know?" he said, and he smiled. I smiled back and thanked him, sincerely. He'd given me the gift of absurdity.

"Can I get $40 cash back please?" I asked, and passed him my debit card. He smiled at me like an old friend, and processed the transaction. "The colours are in your aura," he said. "I see you can talk to them, too, but more on that the next visit. I'm an insomniac, so I have lots of spare time."

All these years I've lived in Montreal, I thought, and brought visitors to gawk at one of Quebec's strangest subcultures - its anemic Conans and their Red Sonyas - battling in homemade costumes with fur appliqué and fitted leather loincloths, wielding styrofoam swords, swinging axes of plastic, protected only by their shields of cardboard, duct tape and hand-painted logos. All that time, I've just written them off as freaks and weirdos.

It's nice to be right sometimes.

IMG_7468, originally uploaded by djnoel.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Iron Maiden's maidens

When I agreed, last minute, to help a friend and work at Montreal's first Heavy MTL festival, I knew, I just knew there was fun to be had. I mean, I know basically nothing about heavy metal or its hardcore followers, so it was in the name of hilarity that I signed up, and brought a few friends along. When all was said and done, it was probably the most fun I've ever had working. I wish I could take my best friends to work every day.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Death, destruction and deprivation: A lesson in cat-sitting

Three times I've poked the cat to make sure he's dead. But every time, he manages to revive himself. Initially, I was worried because he appeared to be falling into bits, like the doomed goldfish I had when I was five, but now I'm finding swirling, autonomous clumps of him all over the house, like mogwai spawn. Gremlins. I have gremlins and I fear for my life.

I'm kitten-sitting for friends, while they bask in the sun on a beach in North Carolina, and it's not as easy as I thought it would be, what with all the death, destruction and sleep deprivation involved. The long-haired mini-beast appears comatose all day long, upside-down on the sofa, spawning more mogwai even while exhausted from meowing and playing cat hockey all night, every night.

He arrived with the promise to rid me of any mice I might have, and indeed I've witnessed his homicidal tendencies. A born killer, he sees every beating heart as a challenge to his reputation, and I find it quite unsettling that he watches me sleep. Every time I open my eyes, he's there. The way he looks at me, his dilated cat pupils could very well be the portals to Hell. I can't shake the feeling that if he had opposable thumbs, I'd be dead by now.

We didn't get off to a good start, and I guess that set the tone. I'd let him out of his box to sniff around, and gone to retrieve the rest of his rations from the car, for the term he's serving with me. When I returned, that long-haired, sadistic beast was ready and waiting, and within seconds, and without losing eye contact, he produced a foul grey mass from his throat, and all but gave me the finger. While I cleaned it up, he circled around, produced another and walked off. He'd only been an inmate for five minutes and already I knew he was trouble.

Day 5: I've accepted that there's been a one-cat mutiny, and relinquished control. He's beaten me down psychologically, with the gradual destruction of everything I care about. On Day 2, he pushed a ceramic pot from the window sill, smashing it and revealing to me its ridiculous contents (an anatomically incorrect bobble-head lobster, a dollar-store spaceman action figure, poker chips, an antenna adapter from the Eighties, craft scissors and a beer cozy). Gathering it all together under his watchful eye, I was forced to examine my lifestyle. On Day 3, he attacked the only remaining living thing in my apartment other than me, my starter basil plant. Next, he went to work on some electrical cords, and I was tempted to let him.

Diligently, he guards the windows, preventing my escape, stopping only to refuel so he can create increasingly vile gastro-concoctions for me, as I'm on latrine duty. And worst of all, he can't keep his filthy paws off me.

Perhaps the approach of the full moon has wakened his feral beast within, as I hear happens in asylums, because last night I got no sleep at all. For hours, he tore around the house, the sound of his terrible claws scratching the wood floor as he rounded corners in crazed pursuit of any one of a hundred objects he'd found.

Laying very still and quiet as to not encourage him further, I prayed for the madness to end, and I was very nearly able to retreat to the happy place that is my unconscious, until the big bang. Having survived the terror which ensued, I investigated the sound and I'm still not sure what caused it, if it elicited the attack, or simply served as a warning. Either way, upon hearing it, I opened my eyes and turned my head in time to see the airborne cat's silhouette, in full Halloween arch, flying at me. I barely had time to pull the covers over my head in defense and scream "Jeeeeeeeeeeeeezus!" before impact. "You've got to be kidding me!" was the next thing I said, with a pounding heart.

It's clear now, he truly wishes me dead. He should know, the feeling is mutual.

Monday, June 16, 2008

P is for Park, and Pervert

Dear PP (Park Pervert),

I'm not sure if the video will be for your private collection, or one of those voyeur websites I've seen, with videos of unsuspecting women on beaches in bikinis (and maybe a little nipple here and there), but I'm quite sure you'll be winning no awards for today's footage. If I thought you might, I'd ask for a cut of the profits. Or, a "thank-you" at the very least.

I knew it was risky to blog in a city park in a bikini, or to do anything at all in a city park in a bikini, and that's why I chose the predominately homosexual section, and sat away from the crowds. And I didn't shower or do my hair, but all that succeeded in doing was filtering out the sort of men that care about hygiene. Prime example of how practice can defecate all over theory.

After weighing the risks, there weren't any I thought I couldn't ignore for the luxury of a little vitamin D, not catcalls, drunken lurkers, nor UV warnings would deter me. No, I was going to indulge in one of nature's sweetest lunch combos, a sunny afternoon in the park, warm skin and a cool breeze. How relaxing, I thought, until you arrived. I was instantly and instinctively suspicious, something about the way you greased your man-boobs and splayed yourself under the sun like a giant fuzzy "X" just wasn't quite palatable, but I wasn't bothered enough to consider relocating. I was enjoying my sandwich.

Your awkward spy tactics gave you away and called attention to me. You did your best, but your best caused a ripple of concern to unsettle everyone in the vicinity and ultimately, I had to acknowledge you and gesture for you to stop, for the sake of social norm and my peace and quiet. No one actually believed you were videotaping yourself, not with the camera aimed high over your shoulder, the viewfinder turned so you could see what you were recording, me on your right, and that girl in short-shorts on your left. It would have been more convincing had you said something, as though you were making a video for a far-away relative or had you smiled as though you were taking still shots.

When you knew you were caught, you pretended to be surprised to discover that you'd "accidentally" turned the camera backwards, oh silly you, and that wasn't especially convincing either. I've baby-sat sneakier third-graders.

Going paparazzi on me, and running off, would have been a more considerate approach. Then, I could have gotten on with my day after little more than ten wasted minutes. But no, you opted for stealth too early in your career of "park pervery", and your skill-set doesn't complement your raison d'être.

I know it must be hard for you, perving out all by your lonesome in the big scary city, but I'm sure there are plenty of great women looking for a man with no allure, no tact, no respect, no hope at all, just a pant-load of frustration. Or has that not been your experience?

Either way, if you're wondering where you might be going wrong with the ladies, I may be able to offer a few pointers.

You could have at least stuck around long enough for me to take a successful picture of you (with that little camera in my laptop), taking pictures of me. But, alas, my skill-set does not match my sense of humour.