Monday, March 31, 2008

Thanks for beating it out of me, really

I used to be scared of the dark, and heights and water, and planes and boats, and snakes and spiders, and death and God, and being alone. I can see how all these fears relate to mortality, which is quite typical, but my fear of death concerned other people's lives, not mine. My fear of God was rooted in the sense that I was a spiritual outsider and possibly subject to purgatory---that I wouldn't become a believer until it was too late and I'd have all eternity to regret it. My other phobias were pretty straight forward.

During the past few years, I've addressed most of them, and now they're manageable. It's not that I'm impervious to them, but they no longer make decisions for me. Exposure therapy, it does wonders.

I would like to thank the catalysts for my ongoing rehabilitation. I am now better able to enjoy the world and its unsettling little components.

Thank you, Dad, for your patience. Thanks for sitting with me on the front porch to point out, one-by-one, shadow monsters in the yard. Remember how you first asked me to describe them in horrible detail, and then to say what I thought they really were? A wheelbarrow? A bush? The neighbour's dog on the loose? You knew my eagerness to please you would outweigh the grim satisfaction I'd get from entertaining this common childhood fear. Instead of making me feel silly for being scared, you made me feel proud for being clever. Your good killed my evil.

Thank you adrenaline, rash decisions and mob mentality. If it wasn't for you guys, I'd never have felt pressured to tackle suspension bridges, then zip-lines, then three-storey jumps and Tarzan swings, or to rappel 50 metres straight down into a waterfall from a trap door in a swinging bridge. Actually, thank you Costa Rica for providing your irresistible playground. My hysterics are worth enduring, for all your gorgeous challenges. Thank you also for letting me survive it all. My knee healed quite nicely.

Thank you Pacific Ocean for your tough love. Pummeling me with your raging surf, and holding me under like any bullish sibling would do---until I realized worse things could happen than breathing salt water---well, it worked. With a little mutual respect, I think we can really develop our relationship. I'd appreciate it if you could try a little harder to leave my bikini on, though. Thanks.

Thank you foreign lands, perfect weather and serendipity. Without your cooperation, I wouldn't have been moved to tears while flying over the Andes at sunset, nor would I have seen the rugged Alaskan ice-scape, or the notorious DariƩn Gap. I'd have no concept of Mexico's vast deserts, or the endless sea of light that is Buenos Aires at night. You might want to work on the sludge seeping out of Manila's port into the turquoise Philippine Sea, though, and the silver layer of smog over Montreal.

As for boats, I'd like to thank you for never capsizing or completely sinking---or subjecting me to the folly of drunken captains and their useless waterlogged life jackets---off Southeast Asian shores, into shark-inhabited Central American waters, or along Canada's homicidally frigid Atlantic Coast.

Thank you to Earth's less attractive creatures for showing me you usually mean no harm. To the rest of you, just take my blood and your poison and fcuk off.

Anyway, thanks to you, the unlikely American couple I met in El Salvador, for inviting me to join you snake-hunting at night in Parque El Imposible, and for your contagious enthusiasm. When you handed me the coffee snake you'd found, I didn't want to hand him back. A big thank you also goes out to the giant rock-dwelling spiders for scattering when I jumped from boulder to boulder up the river, while we searched for boa constrictors. Thanks to the batteries in my head lamp, too. I don't know what I would have done without you.

As for death, I suppose you, the random Honduran gunman, had a lot to do with my understanding what it feels like to be in mortal danger. So, thanks, I guess. You really freaked out my companions, but you helped me realize that either bad things happen, or they don't. I'll not waste time worrying about the plethora of what-ifs. It's so much more fun to celebrate the that-was-crazy-holy-shits.

And, as for being alone? Thanks Bolivia for hosting me in a moment when no one in the world knew where I was, not a single worried relative, not even me. Thanks to my apartment, filled with my stuff, and to my bed with room to spare. At the end of the day, you're always here to hold me. Thank you to the men I have dated in the past for stepping in, and stepping out again, with either grace or grit. Thanks to my friends, family and lucky encounters, and all that awaits me, because I have never really been alone, and know I never will be.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Dumping on humping

He lowered himself to his knees in front of me, facing away, and planted his palms flat to the floor. His poise was that of a randy canine prepped for indiscriminate humping. Breathing heavily, he began tilting his pelvis---up-down-up, down-up-down---his buttocks at eye-level from where I sat.

Only a few feet away, I could see that sweat had soaked through patches of his tight, black knit shorts, making dark and intimate stains as he pumped the air with a smooth, slow rhythm. From the edge of my mat, I was close enough to reach out and touch those sweaty buttocks, but that was the last thing in the world I wanted to do.

I wondered if he knew what he looked like, moving like that. I wondered what he thought about while he did, and whether he'd considered my view when he placed his yoga mat next to mine. I have seen scores of men doing this move at the gym, never any women. I noted that women seem more conscious of what they do with their bodies in public. Mostly, though, I was just disgusted.

This horror, while surely meant to stretch the lower back, has somehow slipped through censorship channels at my family-oriented gym. Had I wanted to think about sex while working out, I'd have kept my membership at my previous gym, known for its clientele of career strippers and horny first-year university students. Sure, it was interesting watching breasts not bounce on the treadmill, but that's not what I'm looking for in a workout. I prefer a gym I can go to sleep-worn, relaxed and make-up-less, and still fit in; somewhere where humping is not top-of-mind.

It was, perhaps, inevitable that sweaty men would find another outlet for grunting and ghost-grinding---somewhere outside of the bedroom, and off the dance floor---but, do they really need to do it at my gym? Alright, so maybe I'm making far too great a deal of the public pelvic thrust. Maybe I should just get over it and acknowlege the move as a healthy, normal part of a common workout routine. But, I can't. And, you can't tell me I'm the only one who's not mature enough to handle it.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Good beaver, bad beaver

Beaver fever. It sounds like it could be fun. Instinctively, I would place the term nearer to "spring fever" than "cabin fever" on the fun-scale. To me, it rings of tasteless euphemism. To hedge a bet, I'd say beaver fever is suffered by heterosexual men after a cold North American winter---a notorious period of olfactory deprivation during which all the little female sex pheromones freeze en route. Those hot little ice crystals fall to the ground before managing to be inhaled, all winter long, so you can imagine what might happen when things warm up a little. In short, I'd say that cabin fever leads to spring fever which can, left unchecked, lead to beaver fever. But, I would be way off.

I'm not completely wrong, though. Beaver fever, also known as giardiasis, does have something to do with reproduction and the cycle of life, but it's not sexy. Well, not for the organism's host, being me. Apparently, I should not brush my teeth with tap water in Central America, or eat street-side barbecue mystery meat. No matter, I must play host to my unwanted guests, who, I'm told will hang around for about six weeks before I eventually kill them. Until then, I'm sure those little bacteria bastards will have a grand time in my small intestine. It sure feels like they are.

Luckily, my beaver fever has granted me only the more benign of the symptoms, including loss of appetite, stomach cramps and rapid weight loss. Two-and-half kilograms (5 lbs) of recently acquired pudge, shed effortlessly in one week? Hmm. I've had worse guests than that.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Thanks, Pussy Ranch-cum-Diablo Cody

This year, I cried watching the Oscars. It was as close as I've ever come to winning one. I held my breath, and, with the announcement, I cried. It's taken me a few weeks to admit that to anyone, so I might as well admit it to you all. When Diablo Cody mounted the stage in her million-dollar shoes, I remembered a time before she was Diablo Cody, during her early days of blogging, and most of the hits to this blog came from her's. Back then, what you're reading now was called, You Silly Girl. Her's was Pussy Ranch. Recently, I've been getting hits from the web archives of her (since deleted) blog again, so it's top of mind: Pussy Ranch web archive

I know, I know. You've heard enough about Juno already. But for me, the win felt personal. Not only is Ellen Page from my home province of Nova Scotia, but I was, perhaps excessively, excited for Diablo Cody. Watching the awards ceremony I usually care nothing about, I was filled with a chemically reactive mixture of surging pride, tinges of little-sister jealousy, sweet admiration and, finally, when she won, immense relief. And, I cried. She done real good. Real good.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Giant rats and states of emergency

Since I discovered the magic of subletters, I've been more comfortable leaving my apartment for a week or so. Not only are there financial benefits, but my plants (theoretically) get watered, my mail (theoretically) gets picked up, and thieves (hopefully) don't break in and permanently borrow anything. Not that that's ever happened, but it has occurred to me as a possibility. Mostly, though, I'm in it for the money.

Generally, I don't ask for a safety deposit, but I might regret that someday. It will be my own damn fault, because I rely so heavily on first impressions. If I like you, we've got a deal. Just give me cash up front and a little time to stash my valuables and any jokes you might not get.

So far, only houseplants and a down mattress cover are casualties of my unlikely faith in humanity. Both fell victim to a male subletter and his three-year-old. From that episode on, I've been sure to specify that plants need water, but still refrain from asking applicants whether they pee the bed.

Because I believe mutual respect is key to returning to my home in the general state I left it, I have prepared an info sheet for subletters with tips on where to find the best coffee, who makes the best bagels and how to use public transit. I also list a few numbers to call in case of emergency, the concierge, home and work contact numbers for a friend with a spare set of keys, my sister in Nova Scotia, and my email address. I title the list, "In Case of Emergency".

For me, "emergency" means fire, flood, theft, and little else. For my subletter, emergencies also include anything to do with mice, or, as she calls them "giant rats".

In the two years I have lived in this large, well-maintained building, built circa 1935, there have been two occasions of lonely mice slipping through for a look, and likely dying a horrible death at the hands of the concierge somewhere else, never to be seen again. The third occasion, unfortunately, occurred this month while I was away, and my subletter was not.

I'd been in Central America for nary a weekend (during which I'd been stranded in the mouse-infested Miami airport overnight) when I received a panicked email titled, "URGENT". The subletter said she'd already contacted everyone she could and begged me to call her from my remote location as soon as possible. Apparently, another mouse wandered in at just the wrong time. Or, I wondered, had she been snooping and come across the flea-market, taxidermied squirrel I stashed in my closet? The more I think about it, the more I suspect that to be the case.

I read on, wondering what she thought I could do from a phone booth in Central America. She'd purchased poison, set rat traps and moved out to live with a friend until "the situation [was] resolved". Can a rat trap could even catch a little mouse? I tried to be sympathetic to her phobia, kicking myself for having overlooked mentioning the possibility of a benign visitation. Still, mice don't scare me, and I know there aren't rats, so I was a little annoyed, but didn't say that in the friendly email I sent her, suggesting she contact the concierge.

What I didn't know, was that in addition to appealing to me, she'd also gone to my friend's work, twice, in a panic, phoned my out-of-province sister, twice, leaving tales of giant-attack-rodents and not called the concierge, not once. She was met with very little sympathy from the hardy women in my life. Since the mouse hadn't caused fire or flood, and hadn't stolen anything, my subletter was on her own for the week-and-a-half. I received regular updates from her by email, noting that she hadn't seen the "giant rat" since, but worried about where it might be hiding. I had a feeling it was still hiding, filled with styrofoam, glued to its plaque, in my closet where I put it.

I returned to my apartment a few days ago, to discover that most flat surfaces had been cleared of all objects, antibacterial sponges and chemical cleaners had been purchased, large green poison pellets contaminated every corner of my home and a huge, empty rat trap covered in peanut butter awaited me in my bedroom. How romantic. Was she trying to kill the rodent? Or, me?

Then, I came to the closet where I'd packed away my personal things, my clothes, my computer, my bicycle and the taxidermied squirrel. Rat pellets were everywhere, on everything. They rolled out of the closet when I opened the door, and fell from my clothes. It looked as though she'd opened the closet, and blindly, desperately thrown poison inside. A-ha.

Now, I know to manage things differently with my next subletter. Next time, I'll make sure they know the squirrel is already dead.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Thousand-word update

So, this is my first update in a month's time, but I assure you I have good reason. Worth a thousand words, this is it: