Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Beyond funny

Oh

My

God.

This may be the funniest person alive. Wait! Don't click the link unprepared. You will laugh til you cry uncontrollably and your throat burns out. Have a box - nay - two boxes of kleenex handy and a stack of Halls lozenges. Oh - and it would help if you tie yourself to the chair.

Are you ready? Are you sure you're ready for this? Here we go...

http://rachelmurie.blogspot.com/

Letter to Tim Hortons

I'm mailing the following letter today:

Steve Endrich
247 Queen St S #7
Streetsville, ON L5M 1L7


Tim Hortons Head Office
Corporate Affairs Dept
874 Sinclair Road
Oakville, ON L6K 2Y1


Dear Sir or Madam:

As an infrequent TV viewer I'm somewhat familiar with your line of TV commercials bearing the slogan 'Every cup tells a story'. I especially like the one where the immigrant reveals to his son the 40-year-old secret that he has covertly followed his hockey pursuits by displaying a portion of his son's team photo while they’re sitting in the stands at grandson Tommy's hockey game.

"You play wight ring," he says.

Excellent! Very touching.

I would like to share with you another story of one of your cups that you may not be aware of. It too is very touching, you'll surely agree.

'Brian' and 'Debbie' became acquainted on a telephone chat line and then met in person - for the first time - at one of your restaurants. Brian bought Debbie a double-double. She blew him in your parking lot. Years later they are still together, married and living in the Thunder Bay area.

I assure you this is a true story. I think this would make an excellent commercial that would really resonate with TV viewers.

If you would like to pursue this project I am available to share more details or for any other consultation. I do not require financial compensation.


Sincerely,
Steve Endrich



I'll let you know if I get a reply.

FWG

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Conan the Saleswoman

I feel dirty. I think I’ve been molested.

She was young and sexy and somewhat voluptuous. She mastered the lead wagon of the vendor wagon train that lay woven through the main thoroughfare of the shopping mall. Her cart was filled with a single product - a kit of some sort containing three items of the feminine cosmetic/skin care realm.

I drifted too close to this Salesmobile of Doom and she stepped right in front of me, halting me at once. She stared right through me with haunting terrible eyes.

“Do you ‘ave a girrrlfriend?” she asked. Her voice dripped with a syrupy European accent. Parisian French maybe? She sounded like the guy from the Alberto hair product commercials of my childhood. Alberrrrrlto…

“Um. Not exactly.” I sensed at once I’d stumbled into a pit of snakes and high-pressure salespersons.

“No? Zomeone zpecial?”

“Well. Something like that. It’s very secret though – and dirty!” I widened my eyes and bobbled my head just slightly, half hoping she’d think me crazy and let me go. Instead she changed the approach.

“What about your muhzzare?”

“My mother? What about her?”

“You are shopping for ‘er present. No?”

“Well – I have something in mind already.”

“I ‘ave what she want. ‘old out your ‘and.” I turned up my palm. She tipped a sleek white plastic bottle over it and dumped a mound of cream onto me. I stared at it stupidly. “Go on. Rub it in.” I did so. God, there was a lot. I spread it over both palms and after much rubbing I still glistened. Later that night I would watch a movie and idly wonder why the popcorn tasted like hand lotion.

“I need one finger,” she said, taking my right hand and turning it palm down. She took firm hold of my forefinger, brandished a white block about the size of a spice jar and began stroking it vigorously back and forth across my fingernail.

This went on for quite some time. Frankly it was becoming a tad painful.

“You know – I think you’re rubbing away some skin there while you’re at it.”

“No-no.” She continued to sandpaper me and make small-talk.

“Um – excuse me but I’m in some discomfort here-”

“You won’ believe the rezult when I am done. You’ll be amazed.”

“Yeah, um – is that blood?”

“She’ll only ‘ave to use this once every tree month or so.”

“Is that how long it takes for the finger to grow back?”

“I’ve zold so many of these today. Everybody love them, you know.”

My mind drifted back, summoning the survival lessons learned from my mom when I was four or five years old. I tried to slot this experience into the lesson scenarios. ‘Is this where I punch the bully in the nose and then run away? Or is this where I kick her in the crotch and run away?’

The buffing mercifully stopped at last. She put down the sanding block while simultaneously covering up the target finger with her other hand.

“Now,” she said, “Before I reveal this to you, you must promise to remain calm. You will be amazed. You will wan’ to jump up an’ down an’ zcream – you will be so exzited.”

“I’ll restrain myself,” I muttered.

“Voila!” She took her hand away. My one fingernail positively gleamed. It stood out from the rest like a sore – finger. “Well? What do you zay?” She produced the third item – a smaller clear plastic bottle – and spilled a drop of clear liquid onto the nail.

“It’s very shiny,” I said without emotion.

“Incredible. No?”

“If you say so.”

“So ‘ow much would this cost, do you think?”

“I have no idea.”

“What would you zay if I told you it cost only thirty nine dollar?”

“Mm. Well, thanks for the demonstration.”

“So ‘ow many would you like?”

“I’ll keep it in mind. Thanks.”

“Wait! Wait! Look ‘ow many I ‘ave zold today! Look at all these bills of zale! Everybody love them!”

“Wow, that’s a lot. Good for you.”

“Wait! Come back! I ‘ave more to show you!”

“Thanks again!” I waved without turning back – flashing the back of my hand. The one nail positively sparkling. It glowed like the grail-shaped beacon.

‘Great. Now Sir Galahad will be after me. He’ll chop my finger off to get it…’

FWG

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Movie: Apocalypto

To all the moral superiors out there who suggest we boycott this movie in order to punish Mel Gibson for his (albeit idiotic) comments I must point out that this is not a one-man stage show but the collective work of hundreds of actors/technicians/creators. And I ask – is it more important to punish one individual than to leave hundreds of innocents unpunished? It’s for the sake of those innocents that I paid to see Apocalypto.

And to those who cry ‘historical inaccuracy,’ I would certainly cry with you if only this were a documentary. Instead I will gently point out that this is fiction and that all fiction must inevitably offend some man or creature in some way though only in the strictest sense. Every story depicting a Doberman as a vicious guard dog would enrage me were I simple-minded enough.

‘Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story,’ is Richard Ingram’s famous dictum and to disagree is to declare enmity on all artists everywhere.

While the setting is almost surely Mayan, based on appearances alone and while certain activities fail to flatter, I will furthermore suggest that no history of Mayan behaviour is guaranteed accurate. In fact – the native guides at Mayan sites will confess that much of their dissertations are invented. I know. I was in Chichen Itza and I asked.

As for the story: It captures your attention early and doesn’t let go. A very nicely assembled thrill-ride. It is endlessly violent though rarely gratuitously so. It’s full of tension and emotion and there’s a plethora of very convincing acting to sell it all.

Unfortunately the climactic sequences are almost precisely a splicing of First Blood and Lord of the Flies.

Nevertheless I must insist that if you can stomache the violence – you must see it. It’s different enough that you owe it to yourself. But see it in the theatre while it’s still there. The landscape is key at times and demands the big screen.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Movie: Badder Santa


This is just the original Bad Santa with Billy Bob Thornton but with more of the swearing left in. We’re talking a whole lotta swearing here. The shock value alone – of Christmas’s Saintly hero engaging in all the moral vices – drinking, smoking, swearing, stealing and fornicating – all in copious volume – is darn funny in my humble opinion. And that’s really all the film has to offer.

Surprisingly though – it remains funny for almost an hour and by then we’re rushing toward the rather predictable climax, making the whole ordeal quite survivable.

The theme is redemption of course – for the Santa and for the awkward twerp of a kid that he ‘befriends’ in a purely exploitive manner.

Under the philosophy that any comedy that makes you laugh is a successful comedy – this film is a success. I’ll go so far as to call it a Christmas classic right alongside Bill Murray and Scrooged. Watch it annually at the end of your holiday movie binge – just when you’ve about had enough of all your favorite drippy heartwarming classics for the year.

FWG

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Movie: Aeon Flux


Oh dear. We’d best keep this short. I rented it by mistake, thinking it to be the movie for which the trailers promised some kind of epic sci-fi fantasy story where the dialogue was sparse but the scenery grand. Most unfortunately I still have not figured out what that intended movie is called or where I can find it. Perhaps it’s yet to be released. I’m tempted to suspect Apocalypto but I really don’t think that’s it. I seem to recall images of a society more other-worldly and warfare more complex. If anyone has an idea I’d be terribly grateful!

As for Aeon Flux: It had all the depth and sophistication of an early TV Star Trek episode, with marginally better graphics but that same problem where the story suggests massive surroundings but the environment feels like somebody’s basement or at best – the interior of a warehouse.

This is some grand subject matter done on the cheap.

You see it in much of the stunts – done with neither acrobatics or CGI but with bursts of macro filming – an arm in motion – a body jerking on the ground as though he’d just landed there.

You see it in the casting. It’s like they slotted 42 roles from the first 45 John Smiths that tried out. The villains – far from looking the slightest bit villainish – looked like your next door neighbors. The ones with two kids, a mini-van and twelve years left on their mortgage.

Big yawns. Do miss this one.

FWG

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Movie: Little Miss Sunshine

Something about the trailers suggested this was a simple honest flick with some good laughs and maybe even – just maybe – a little dose of a rare something I like to call… character development. And indeed these qualities came to be.

Boy – I like to harp on character development don’t I? Do I seem to judge films by literary standards? You may have a point there but can you blame me? I suggest that there are common core elements to all forms of storytelling and character development is chief among them. Why?

While no single element is necessarily essential in making a story worthwhile, I say the ideal story uses strong developed characters to reveal the creator’s insight into human nature. This, I feel, lies very close the core purpose of art. To trade perspectives on humanity. How else may we begin to understand it? And what more critical pursuit is there in life than to discover who we are – if, as I do – you believe that the human being is the most miraculous of entities in the known universe yet one of the least understood?

Will Little Miss Sunshine unlock the secrets of humanity? Of course not. Not on its own. But for those of us out there collecting the millions of clues - there are a couple here. The characters are over the top, granted, but still fall in the realm of the plausible – as do the plot elements.

This movie is a breath of fresh air. It’s solidly funny and entertaining from start to finish without resorting to the inane slapstick or supernatural action sequences that pollute the majority of mainstream American movies.




The heroes are plenty and are all loveable. Empathy abounds. There’s a clear message to this film and granted, it’s a tired old one. But it’s a valuable one – especially to young people – and can surely stand to be repeated now and then.

Had I watched the movie with the intention to critique it later – I would probably have stored up a lot of criticisms for later regurgitation. Luckily I don’t operate that way. Only after the fact might it occur to me to blog a movie. And I suspect this may bear relevance to the fatal flaw of movie critics. By watching a film with analytical intentions one seizes on an apparent flaw before finding out whether it mattered or not.

If you like to laugh and love and feel good – this film will do it for you. I think that’s enough of what matters to make it worthwhile. Go out of your way to watch it.

FWG

Friday, December 15, 2006

Get yer pop-culture trinketry here!

Okay. The last thing I want for this site is for it to be reduced to an index for pop-culture trinketry but these are too good not to pass along.

No Christmas is complete without a gander at these two sites:

http://www.elfyourself.com/ : Better than any e-card. Put your own email address in the To field and then forward to a list of recipients. Better yet - Use a photo of a friend and send to that friend...

http://www.simonsezsanta.com/ : Use your imagination. Make Santa do anything you want!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Strange Journey - a poem

Five days ago
In this very village
I met a most unusual man
And likewise, he claims, did he.

Plain were peace and disinterest settled upon his face
And old was the weariness that scarred unhealing eyes.

He spoke of things strange beyond strange.
Things inconceivable and ungraspable.
But he spoke too of lonesome truths.
Those same long haunting my head,
Having never passed my ears or lips
Until that day.

I begged him, teach me more.

But I have taught you nothing, said the man
And I cannot do so.
For nothing real can be learned in the telling.
Only you can teach yourself.
I can do just this for you.
I can help you silence all this noise
So you may hear the voice within.
For that is my task.

But I can not teach myself, said I.
For I already know what I already know.

But you can, said he.
Waves of knowledge rush upon you every moment.
But so terrible and colossal are these waves,
That they crash undetected
And ravage you unseen.
And they extol a terrible price
While not a thing is learned from them.

But those like us who face the empty page
Day after day in search of truth,
As they exhaust themselves each day,
Leaving no poem unwritten,
No vision unpainted,
No melody yet composed,
They attain such a state
That they detect the waves
And they are appalled.

As will you be appalled, he cautioned me.
And you will be terrified.
For the learning
Is a horror.

I think I shall not be terrified, said I.
For I have heard voices before
And I was not afraid.

So we shall see, he said.


Four days ago we embarked on a journey,
The same course he had taken before, alone.

We came upon a Spanish town
And a funeral.
Men were gathered, downward bent,
Stroking their mustachios while unseen above,
Angels soared in the torchlight.
And upon high their Savior presided,
His white robes flowing seamlessly into clouds.
And in those folds and wisps and swirls,
Small cherubs gathered like fruits in bunches,
Like petals of flowers.

The Count, his body clad in exquisite armour,
Was cast into to the earth, only to fall,
Unseen by the revelers,
Into the gentle hands of saints,
Who hunkered in brilliant robes,
Each a fine tapestry on which images were sewn.
Depictions of their very own bloody martyrdom.
And on their faces peace and disinterest were plainly settled
And ancient was the weariness that scarred their unhealing eyes.


Three days ago we came to a hill
And on the hill two churches stood,
One, many times larger than the other.
Why an extra church, I asked.
Surely the larger alone would suffice for all,
So huge it is.

Ah but here, said the man,
There are separate followings.
For the devil too has his own church.

I was appalled.
Then we should strike it down, said I.
Look upon the structure
So small and weak.
We may break it.

Stay your hand, my friend replied.
For that is God's house there.
It is the devil has the larger congregation.


Two days ago we came upon a silent city
Crossed with vacant thoroughfares
And tall lifeless buildings.
A solitary man stood in the square.
Where are all your neighbors, I asked.

They all have vanished, he replied.
Now I toil at lonely tasks.
Now I hear only waves.
And on his face peace and disinterest were plainly settling.
And in his eyes the scar of weariness laid claim.

We bade him join us
And he came along.


Yesterday we three came to a bridge
That spanned a great hole in the Earth.
Strange it seemed that the road did not simply skirt the pit.
Less trouble that would be
Than building a bridge.
Instead there stood a long queue,
And on the bridge each traveller
Was searched head to foot.
Their pockets turned out
By a troop of white-robed guards,
Each without shoes but with great wings
Folded behind their backs.

Though no contraband was seemed to be found
On any one traveller upon the searching
They were each hurled into the pit, one by one.
None were allowed passage.

My two companions seemed not alarmed
By this circumstance and upon the searching
They were smiled upon and allowed to cross.
Upon my being scrutinized there was some suspicion
And some deliberation before I too was allowed to pass
And rejoin my gently smiling friends.
What were they searching for? I asked

For a single grain of truth, my mentor said.
Today they have found three
And will unlikely find more.


This morning we returned to my village
Or so I thought at first.
For it seemed like the place of my home
And the villagers seemed as my own neighbors.
But only for moments.
For I saw that the familiar houses were only facades
Erected before each foreign structure.
And I saw that the familiar faces were only masks
Worn by imposters.
This was some other village, disguised.
I became afraid.

What vile place is this, I begged.
That weaves such elaborate and yet so clumsy
A forgery, surely designed to ensnare?
Let us flee!

My friend, do you not recognize your home?

But this is not my home! I cried.
Don't you see?
This is a place of crude deception.
These structures and these people
They are not what they seem!
They all wear masks!

So they do, he said.
And I ask you again,
Do you not recognize your home?
For this is surely the place
And nothing here has changed since we departed.
But you have since heard the voice within
And you are finally learning to see.
And now you know the truth about some things.

Still not believing, I watched two men
Come together in conversation.
The first spoke a purposeful deception
About a thing he wrongly thought to exist.
And the other took him for his word
And spoke a further deception.

This place is a contrivance! I cried.
It is only layers of illusion upon layers of illusion.
This place is an absurdity!

So it is, he said.
As it always has been.

I was suddenly filled with a terrible mourning
For the world I'd fallen out of.
I knew at once, there could be no return.

I saw a woman go by with her baby held close.
She wore a mask, of course
But the child did not.

I took comfort in that.

Thank you friend, I said,
For taking me on this journey.
For though I shake with fear,
I am glad to know this truth.

Oh but the journey has not begun, he said.
For that was only a test
Which you have passed.
The journey lies still ahead
And if you choose it, I will go with you.
But be warned the task will occupy us many years.

Tell me this, friend, I asked,
What more is there to discover?

The most dreaded thing, he answered.
The thing that lies beneath the masks.

I trembled at this.
But I summoned courage
And I asked the question that frightened me most.

Do I wear a mask?

And he answered, yes, my friend,
You do.
And it is only slightly askew

But redemption awaits you
As it did for me.
And though the horror has only begun,
There is a place of joy for us,
A paradise to end the journey,
If we are faithful and adamant to this task.
This I know although you can not.

In five days, mentor,
Not a word of your tongue has eroded
And some instead have formed
A solid foundation beneath my feet

I say you can be relied upon.
So lead on, I say. Lead on.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

How I spent my bogus vacation

Oh dear. I hate to drag karma into it again but this does seem like a clear-cut case.

The new boss reminded me that according to official records I still had two vacation days to book before the end of the year.

"Use 'em or lose 'em," he said. "There's no carrying over to next year."

I was confident that all my vacation days were used up except for the mandatory three that are booked between Christmas and New Years (The office shuts down for a week over the holidays). But I could not come up with any records to prove it and New Boss recommended I just go ahead and take two more days and not worry about it. So I took his advice. I booked off Monday and Tuesday of this week - making for a nice (albeit dubious) little 4-day getaway.

And as luck (karma...) would have it - I became miserably sick for precisely four days.

To make a long story short - here's all the fun that was had:

1. Sneezed repeatedly.

2. Blew nose roughly 300 times - until it was red, raw and painful.

3. Snorted and swallowed two or three times when lacking required energy to drag sorry ass to the nearest box of kleenex tissues.

4. Laid around listlessly.

5. Skipped Headwaters Writers' Guild meeting, declining perfect opportunity to spread germs to many families.

6. Tried - almost entirely without success - to sleep.

7. Finally took up Steve-o's offer to try out his Playstation game system selecting a first-person-shooter game where I command a Navy Seal unit infiltrating an Albanian terrorist drug lab (yeah - okay). I thought I did pretty good too - knocking off eleven Albanian drug-running terrorists before accidentally blowing up myself and my unit - until my post-game performance review scored my attempt as unacceptable and suggested I stick to Pac-Man.

8. Kept movie/dinner date with Professor Plonk and Captain Vino despite warnings of my dire condition and advice that they back out (which they declined). Chalk up victims #1 and #2.

9. Kept dinner date with elicit sweetheart despite stern warnings of my dire condition and strong suggestion to back out. Further insisted that no kissing on the lips be engaged but couldn't possibly resist. Nothing trumps the care and protectiveness felt for the beloved except for - you know - rampant hormones. Chalk up victim #3.

10. Dusted entire lower level of apartment and cleaned both bathrooms top to bottom.

11. Used up an entire can of spot-remover on the dining room and hallway carpeting, greatly lessening the stain-factor left behind by the last tenants of this apartment - Jabba the Hutt and a large family of chain-smoking hydrophobic automotive mechanics and their chain-smoking pet pigs, I assume, by the state of cleanliness the place was left in.

12. Walked off said carpet and onto the ceramic kitchen floor with wet, slightly soapy bare feet which went flying out from under me.

13. Crashed into wine rack and freestanding cutting-board/shelf/implement-rack thingamajig stubbing toes and sending knives and barbecue utensils crashing to ground but miraculously not doing any permanent damage to anything. Definitely a bona fide Christmas miracle.

14. Sat on my ass on ceramic floor and fired off 78% of all known English language obscenities in one continuous breath and even promoted a few previously-considered innocent words to vulgar-status.

15. Had two breakfasts out. One at Bobby's Hideaway of Streetsville and one at Apple Annie's of Burlington where my order for decaf coffee could not be accommodated until my meal was almost finished and where said coffee was full of grounds and where said coffee was left untouched and removed from bill and where - I shall never return despite their very nice breakfast menu. Sorry but nobody fucks with my morning coffee and gets away with it (well - except for my Super Karma Man nemesis at the office).

16. Watched three more movies - two of them renters. Perhaps I'll post brief reviews. Of the limited feedback I've received regarding this blog I've learned that the movie reviews are appreciated and the poetry is not!

17. Wrote a rather lengthy dark and allegoric poem which perhaps I'll post here just to piss you off.

That's about it. I'm back at work today and - whaddaya know - feeling healthy again. Go figure.
FWG

Saturday, December 09, 2006

FWG's nugget o' wisdom #12

If life gives you water, sugar, glucose-fructose, citric acid, potasium sorbate, sodium hexametaphosphate and acacia gum - make lemonade.

This has been an original nugget o' wisdom from the brain of Fantasy Writer Guy. Do not use nuggets o' wisdom if you are pregnant or may be pregnant. Do not take orally.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Xiphisternum Strikes Back

Cruising along Eglinton Avenue I easily spot the Medical Arts Building. The address, '2000' is displayed on the windowless top floor in numerals roughly eight feet high. Finding unit 103 is another matter.

I must travel down a side road well past the building before discovering a parking lot which might actually be residential parking. I'm unsure. Off of that lot lies a two-tier parking complex where a sign touting Public Parking points to the lower-level entrance. I see many cars heading up the ramp to the second level instead but my mother raised no fools. I follow directions. Oddly - of the three parking areas the only one marked Public is also the only one featuring controlled access - for which there are no instructions provided and for which I have no access card as is obviously required.

Clearly some building manager or sign painter has struggled with the English definitions of public and private and confused the two. Okay. Dilemma solved. I park elsewhere.

I climb the stairs to the plaza and discover a long row of medical type outlets that are clearly marked. Unit 112, Unit 111, etc. I carry on, whistling a happy tune until I reach the door that I expect to be unit 103. Alas there is no unit 103. Only a 103A. So I check the requisition form and it clearly reads 103. Also the name on the form reads Credit Valley Diagnostics and the sign over 103A is - I don't recall - Speculum City or some damn thing.

But there is a doorway to the plaza interior and minimal wandering within reveals a sign bearing directions to unit 103. Bravo.

Inside the waiting room there are two patients apparently in queue and I curse myself for having left both my novel and notebook in the car.

But to my delight I'm ushered straight through. Rock-star treatment. I suppose xiphisternums are currently all the rage and I'm boosting this outfit's reputation by choosing them. I nod smugly as the lady at the desk views my form and keys my info into her computer.

"Where's the sternum?" she asks.

"It's in my chest," I say. She shoots me a very brief tired glance.

"On the second screen," says the woman at the next desk. My lady nods, clicks her mouse and continues typing. Oops. I guess she wasn't talking to me.

I'm led to the hall of curtains where one of them is whipped back revealing a very small cubicle beyond. I'm told to enter, to bare myself from the waist up and to don a gown.

'Oh great,' I'm thinking. 'Bib, you mean.' I'm sure it will be too small. I enter and the curtain is whipped closed behind me. The booth is very very small and is dark and full of signage.


Please put on gown provided. When finished,
deposit gown in white basket.



There's no white basket in here. Just me and a bench and one gown and one magazine. Oh and about seven molecules of air.


If you are pregnant or may possibly
be pregnant please notify us.


I chuckle aloud. Potential fun here. I consider the possibilities but decline.


Please do not stand in hallway. Stay seated in cubicle.
We will come for you shortly.


Oh dear. I shall be come for. How ominous. I lose the jacket, collared shirt and tee shirt while knocking the crap out of the three walls with my elbows. 'How does Superman do this?' It takes a monumental effort to haphazardly tie the various strings behind me. I should have tied them up first and then pulled the thing on over my head. Duh.

I sit as instructed and take up the magazine. It is Aboriginal Banking Magazine and it's extremely thin. Thank god because space in this cell is at a severe premium. I open it to find it's even thinner than I thought. The first six pages are in English and the final six - upside down - are in French.

Did you know that Churchill, Ontario is the polar bear capital of Canada? Or that Cuper's Cove in Conception Bay, Newfoundland was the first permanent English settlement in Canada? I know - because I read all about it in Aboriginal Banking. So there. Did you know that polar bears provided banking services to the earliest English settlers and that they would maul them to death if their mortgage payments were late? Okay - I made that last part up. Sorry. I had you going there for a bit, didn't I?

I hear my name being called. They're coming for me. I exit and am escorted to the lab where a big robotic octopus awaits me with open arms.

The process is relatively quick and almost painless. But it's not enough to stand in the right place and be very still and not breathe. The technician insists that I contort myself.

"Point your elbows back," she says. "Push your chest out." Good grief. What next? Shall I quack like a duck? I'm not at all limber. I'm in significant discomfort.

"Come on. Get those elbows back. Try to push them together!"

'Jesus Christ, lady, I'm not a transformer. What you see is what you get.'

Three pics and the ordeal is done. I'm released. I'm slow to redress. My flank is tender after all the chest thrusting. Probably pulled a muscle I hadn't used in nineteen years. Good thing I'm going back to the doc on Friday.

FWG

Monday, November 27, 2006

Tom foolery, car poolery

Steve-o and I are doing a lot of car pooling these days - since we're both working fairly regular hours now. It's good. Saves on gas and pollution. Doing our part for Kyoto y’know. This morning’s drive was entirely typical.

"Nice weather eh? And it's gonna get even warmer tomorrow."

"All Novembers should be like this. I tell you, global warming can't get here soon enough."

"Damn straight. To hell with coastal encroachment. Who cares."

"Yeah. So what if Malta becomes the size of my thumbnail. They don't need the space. They're all Pygmies and Oompa Loompas down there."

"I know. It's true! They're all tiny down there. You should see when I go back home. They're all like - All hail King Steven! The one who grows tall!"

"They probably even thought Robin Williams was tall when he was down there."

"Yeah. Him and Shelley Duvall. They're like the national heroes of Malta."

"And they still have the Popeye village, eh?"

"Yeah but no one goes anymore - since they started charging admission. Is this guy gonna turn or what?"

"Oh, come on, dude. Turn the corner. Jesus. Life's passing us by, here."

"What the heck's wrong with this guy?"

"I don't know. I hate people who don't know how to drive. I'd like to round them all up and ram explosives up their nose and blow their heads off."

"Yeah. Or take away their license."


"Or that, yeah. Whatever's easier."

"Cars ought to come equipped with a poo-flinger for times like this."

"I never thought of that. Why don't you invent it then?"

"I will. For sure. I'll make millions."

"You'll need some kind of distribution channel for the ammunition."

"Yeah, I'll handle that too."

"And some kind of humidity control. Dry poo wouldn't fling well I don't think. It certainly wouldn't stick."

"I realize. I've got a sort of hyperbolic chamber in mind."

"Sounds cost-prohibitive."

"Well. That's just for the high-end models."

"The high-end poo-flingers."

"Yeah. The regular models will just have sprayers - intermittent - you know - like at the produce section of the grocery store."

"Maybe that's your distribution channel. Grocery stores. They've got the equipment already. They could display it between the celery and the parsnips."

"Yeah, maybe. Speaking of which - I wouldn't mind hitting a grocery store when we're in the States tomorrow."

"That's cool. Theirs a Taps Friendly Market near the Cove. We can hit it on the way home."

"Right on. They should have good meat prices there. Meat's cheap in the States. I want to get a turkey for Christmas or maybe a turducken."

"Turducken?"

"Yeah. They're good. "

"Well, Taps is the place to go. They have excellent turducken - with extra turds - and a free flinger."

"I hope I don't get O.J. Simpson's finger."

"Flinger, son. I said flinger. Not finger. Clean the wax out. That reminds me - I should get some Q-tips while we're out."

"We got tons of Q-tips, man."

"I know but I don't like to take chances. Q-tips are very precious to me."

"You shouldn't clean your ears more than once every two days."

"Why the hell not?"

"Not good for you."

"Oh. Yeah. Yeah, right. I think I read about that actually. In the Maltese Book of Wives Tales. It's right after the one that says eat your spinach and you'll grow up to be a movie star."

"You making fun of Popeye, man? That was an excellent movie."

"Yeah, whatever you say, Tattoo."


Okay. I’ll spare you the rest. Can’t remember much more anyway.

And to think I gave up Howard Stern in the mornings for being too immature. Oh well.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Xiphisternum update

I saw Dr. Youssef today. The waiting room is small and the wait was short. Bravo.

"How do you pronounce your name, doctor?" I asked.

"Yow-seff," he replied. "Like Joseph - but Egyptian."

"Ah. I see."

He ran an ECG on me. That's where they hook umpteen electrodes up to you with sticky fly paper. He says the heart is good and yes, I can safely join a gym.

"I want you to run three hours a day," he said, patting my belly. I just about fell over. He shrugged his shoulders and giggled. That crazy Egyptian humour...

Anyways, I quite like him. I have to go for X-Rays Monday and see him again in a week.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

My xiphisternum revisited

I've been feeling a bit of discomfort in my chest of late. In fact it seems to get a bit worse every day. Further probing revealed that the lump in the centre of my chest has grown significantly. Enough farting around. Gotta find a Streetsville physician and get this looked after. I'm confident it's just a harmless lipoma as Dr Harry suggested but I get the feeling it's gonna have to be removed. It seems to be raising a bit of a fuss down there. To be honest I'm a tad worried.

The web site for the Ontario College of Physicians & Surgeons offers a very convenient search facility for locating doctors who are accepting new patients. I find some who's offices are located in the neighborhood that lies between the apartment and my workplace and I get on the phone.

"Dr. Tsang's Office."

"Hello. I understand Dr. Tsang is accepting new patients."

"No. He's not."

"He's not accepting new patients?"

"No sir."

"Okay. Bye then."

Perhaps the web site is in need of updating. I call up Dr. Hany Tawfeek Beshay.

"Hi. You've reached the Bristol Family Medical Centre. Our hours are Monday through Friday nine AM to eight PM, Saturday and Sunday ten AM to three PM. We're not available to take your call right now but please leave your name and telephone number and we'll return your call shortly. Thank you and have a good day."

"Hello. My Name's Fantasy Writer Guy. I understand Dr. Beshay is accepting new patients and I'd like to make an appointment please. My number is..."

After a half hour I've received no return call and I'm growing impatient. Screw Dr. Beshay. I go back to the list and dial up the next doctor. The receptionist is clearly the world's fastest talker.

"Medical-associates-of-Meadowvale-can-you-hold-please!"

"Certainly," I reply - to no one in particular. She'd cut me off two milliseconds after voicing the word please. But she comes back.

"Are-you-calling-to-make-inquiries-regarding-the-new-patient-information-form!"

"Um. No. I understand that Dr. Wong is accepting new patients and I was wondering if-"

"No-he's-not-but-doctor-Summersol-is-accepting-new-patients-she-can-see-you-December-third-would-you-like-to-make-an-appointment!"

"Oh. Um. December third? That seems a long way away. I don't think I can wait that-"

"I-can-direct-you-to-an-internet-site-providing-a-list-of-physicians-accepting-new-patients!"

"That's okay. I already found one. I'll just-"

"Goodbye-then!" Click.

"- um..."

Back to the list. I dial the number for doctor Markijan Kramarchuk. I get voice mail.

"Hello. You've reached the Sprains and Strains Sports Medical Rehabilitation-" Click. To hell with that. Back to the list. I try Doctor Philippe Yostos. More voice mail. They're closed Wednesdays. Back to the list. Ooh! Dr. Wang Chung! This has got to be the one. I can't wait to tell all my friends that my new doctor is Wang Chung and we're all havin' fun tonight. I dial the number.

"Dr. Chung's office."

"Hello. I understand Dr. Chung is accepting new patients? I'd like to make an appointment please."

"You need to come down to the office and fill in an application form."

"And then I can see the doctor?"

"No. It's just an application. We'll call you if you're accepted."

Awkward silence...

"Oh. Um. Okay then. Tell me - what um - what kind of patients are deemed acceptable - um - generally? 'Cause - you know - maybe I could get an idea whether or not I fit the profile - of a desirable patient. And if not then - you know - I could save us both some time - um - you know what? I think I may have called the wrong number. Thanks anyway. Bye."

"You're welcome." Click.

What the f...?
Have I missed something here? Does Canada still have a single-tiered health system or have I been in a coma for a while?

Back to the goddam list.

"Credit River Medical Clinic."

"Hello. Is Dr. Youssef accepting new patients?"

"Yes. He is."

"Oh. Good. May I make an appointment?"

"Certainly. What time of day is good for you?"

"Any time. I'd like to see him as soon as possible please."

"How does Friday - ten-thirty sound?"

"This Friday?"

"The day after tomorrow."

"Sounds perfect. Thank you."

"Your name please?" I tell her.

"We'll see you Friday. Bye now."

There. That wasn't so hard now, was it?


FWG

Monday, November 13, 2006

Instant karma done got me

Hmm... Apparently I’m not the only Super Karma Man in town. I’ve met my arch nemesis.

The fellow is an office associate but his name is unknown to me.

We stood side by side in the cafeteria this morning with our coffee mugs in hand - each first in line in front of the two coffee vending machines. We watched the digital displays on the machines. They both read the same.

LOW WATER SUPPLY --- PLEASE WAIT

We waited. The machines are always in sync it seems. They’re either both in ready status or both in waiting status at any given moment. As if they share one water source. The water source (or sources) are hooked up to the plumbing so there never is truly a water shortage. What it means is the hot water supply is low. The tap water must be further heated prior to use.

My display changed.

READY --- CHOOSE SIZE AND PRODUCT

I glanced over at my neighbor’s machine as I reached forward to place my mug on the small tray beneath the nozzle. I was surprised to see that his display has not changed. He still had to wait.

“Ha Ha!” I teased. “Sucker!”

I should not have taken my eyes off what I was doing. Just as I was taunting this man - this sucker - my mug collided with the front egde of the tray instead of sliding onto it. My fingers slipped off the handle.

Just as the word sucker left my lips I turned to watch my mug - my ‘I LOVE LONDON’ mug - fall to the floor where it shattered to bits.

My friends who were present just about died laughing. They had to sit down to keep from falling down.

My arch nemesis tried valiantly to surpress a smile as he reached across and served himself the coffee that would have been mine. But I could see it at the corners of his mouth.

‘Who’s the sucker now?’ were the unspoken words.

I shall have to watch my step around this man.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Boston Pizza

I'd assumed I'd never come here. Several reasons.

1. Vino and Plonk gave it the thumbs-down and their culinary judgement is without flaw.

2. Friends of mine are beef farmers and reported that the steaks they'd received here proved significantly smaller than specified on the menu.

3. I had the vague impression that they would be one of those places that survive on generica - who's every offering amounts strictly to that collection of common foods, drinks and features that you can find anywhere.

Like Philthy McNasty's for instance. Places like that are so painfully unoriginal they suck the life out of me. By selling only the most popular fares and decorating in only the tiredest pop-culture trinketry they offer nothing of consequence. As the late great Jackie Brenston said:

'If you aint doing something different, you aint doing anything.'

Brenston and his Delta Cats are generally accredited with the 1951 recording Rocket 88 - touted by many music aficianados as the original rock and roll song - though the circumstances around this event are somewhat convoluted. Ike Turner was more likely the greater contributer. As the story goes - Willie Kizart's guitar amplifier became rain-damaged just prior to Rocket 88's recording appointment at Sam Phillips' Tennessee studio - thus producing the now-familiar "dirty, distorted," grinding guitar sound that Brenston mandated they would keep - his rationale being the above quote.


Reason #4: I'm not a fan of Howie Mandell or his annoying Boston Pizza commercials. In fact he inspired a story I wrote about a down-and-out comedian who's last hurrah is a TV commercial for a fish-and-chips restaurant where he interacts improvisationally with real customers and where his true colours are revealed as everything goes awry and mayhem ensues...

Who knows - maybe I'll get a chance to tell Mandell what I think of his act. An associate of mine recently applied for contestantship on his show Deal or No Deal and included my name and photo as a co-applicant member of her cheering section! I asked if I could pose for the photo in halter top and with pom-poms but she declined.

Although - to be fair - All those slow-motion labotomized perma-smiley automatons on the Keg commercials creep the hell out of me but I never hesitate to visit that fine restaurant. I suppose that's because I was long familiar with their good food and value prior to their ads going twilight zone on us.


So why am I here at Boston Pizza?

Firstly- I must give it a chance. Can't bash it properly without trying it.

Secondly - Just as I was discovering in my briefcase a formerly forgotten pair of movie passes, my friend Spooky was pondering a gift certificate for Boston Pizza. Such an alignment of the stars is not to be ignored and soon we were off together in Orangeville on a largely complimentary night out.

She wanted to see Saw 2 - or Saw 3 perhaps, whichever is applicable. I forget. But I don't do those kinds of movies. I'm a pathetic trembling cowering chicken-shit when it comes to horror movies. We saw The Departed instead - with Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen, Mark Walberg, Matt Damon, Leo DiCaprio and a host of recognizables.

And I'm happy to report this was a very decent movie in my humble opinion. It didn't survive just on action sequences and big name stars (neither of which I have any appreciation for). It actually had some substance and a compelling predicament where you find yourself empathizing with both heroes despite their lethal opposition. My only criticisms: Why the ridiculously coincidental (and tiredly metaphorical) conflict over the girl?

Oh. Right. The Hollywood formula. Of course. Why did I ask?

Also the ending - though not of the Hollywood formula - was simply unappealing and built up a whole lot of unresolved tension. Not at all on line with the FWG school of good storytelling but what can you do? I still reccomend the movie.


It's approaching midnight. Spooky and I are almost alone in the too-bright dining room but the bar area is hopping. I excuse myself to use the loo and as I do a young local enters and staggers up to the facility next to mine.

"How ya doing t'night?" He asks in a loud warbly voice.

"Very good thanks," I say. "Just came from a good movie. The Departed. Jack Nicholson's in it. Matt Damon. Mark Walberg. That Sheen guy. Is it Sheen? Yeah I think so. Is Martin the dad or the son? Anyway it's the dad. How are you tonight?"

"Oh - well," he blurts, "I'm havin' dinner with my girlfriend and my ex-girlfriend!"

"I see. How's that working out for you?"

"The way it's going - I'm gonna be leaving without no girlfriend!"

"I see," says I, zipping up. "Well - I wish you luck with that."

"Oh that's okay. I'm drinking enough it won't matter."

“That’s the spirit,” I said and left the washroom.

The wine list is nothing to write home about.

I pass on the pizza. I sample a spicy Tai chicken apetizer and it’s indeed spicy - and sweet. Not bad. And the dry ribs appetizer that is grotesquely dry but it’s called dry ribs so I guess I walked into that one.

The waitress is a bit of a concern. She speaks to us with a ridiculously exaggurated pleasantness.

“Okayyyyyyyy! Yeahhhhhhh! No problem!!!!!!!!!! Beautiful!!!!!!!”

“Your welcommmmmmm!” (We hadn’t even said thank you).

The verdict: I’m in no hurry to come back.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

All-you-can-cook ribs!

I've been without the truck today. I loaned it to my brother because his vehicle needed to be in the garage and he's a salesman. He needs wheels and no alternate rep was available to cover his route for him today.

I accepted a ride home from a co-worker. Had I the truck I would have stopped for groceries on the way home. Instead I ponder the empty fridge and a grumbling tummy. I must eat out. It's the only reasonable solution!

Ah ha! Wednesday is all-you-can-eat ribs day at Montanas! Perfect! And there is one such location within walking distance - barely. And a little exercise is just what I need to stifle some of the associated guilt. Somehow I come up with this plan: I shall head out on foot but hail the first bus or taxi to come along and ride in comfort the remaining distance. Excellent! I grab my jacket, writing notebook and a good pair of running shoes and I'm off.

The walk from here to Montanas - I don't yet realize - is about an hour long. But I will come to realize it. I don't intercept any buses along the way. Many pass but at each occasion there is no apparent stop within dashing distance and I'm not inclined to risk making an ass of myself by frantically waving at a bus when - for all I know - it will pass on by, ignoring me. I remember being a kid and flagging buses down between stops but that was long ago and I have this vague sense that the world has since become less kind and less gentle and so too have its bus drivers. Perhaps embarrassment is not what I fear so much as confirmation that the above 'sense' is true.

I do wave my notebook at the first taxi to pass and he slows down and begins to pull over. Hoo haw! But as I approach he accelerates again and takes off - thus making an ass of me anyway.

My presumption is that he thought briefly that I might be the guy who called his company requesting a cab, but upon taking stock of my location realized I could not be and thus pulled away to honor the previous commitment. My presumption is not that he just felt like messing with my head for kicks. This first taxi is also - surprisingly - the last.

On very weary legs I arrive at Montanas having walked an hour and suspecting that with my luck the all-you-can-eat Wednesday policy will have been discontinued. I can imagine myself begging the manager to extend the deal.

'But I haven't eaten all day! I walked for hours! Please!'

But no such worries. The deal is still on. I see reference to it on the chalkboard over the counter where a smiling teenager will greet-me-and-seat-me - in a booth that is easily big enough to hold a family of six. Which is appropriate. The number of ribs I intend to eat would feed such a family.

A waitress shows up promptly, pulls a brown crayon from her batman utility belt and scrawls something on the sheet of kraft paper that covers my table.

'73W'.

Is that my table number? Oops. Of course not. Her name is Mel. She's written it upside down to align to my point of view. It's easier to write your name upside down than to just say it, I guess. Give it a try sometime. She hands me a menu. I quickly check the wine list.

"I'll have a glass of water, a half litre of the Wolf Blass and the All-you-can-cook ribs please!"

Get it? All-you-can-cook ribs? This is a joke. I use it all the time. She doesn't laugh. No one ever does. Ever. Not even the people I dine with. The joke works like this: The quantity of ribs I shall eat will be limited only by your capacity to cook them - because my capacity to eat them - is infinite! I'm that much a pig! Isn't that great? Hysterical? No? Well I don't care. The more nobody laughs at it the more I get a kick out of it. I shall use it always. Come the year 2054 I shall be eighty five years old and going to Montanas for the $170.00 All-you-can-eat ribs and I shall be saying "I'll have the all-you-can-cook ribs missy!" and then I'll split a gut laughing til my false teeth tumble out onto the table at which I'll laugh even harder while missy stands there horrified.

"Mommy, what's wrong with that old man?" a little girl at the next table will ask.

"He's crazy, honey. Just ignore him. Don't look. It's not polite to stare at crazy people."

I look forward to that day.

The ribs are delicious of course. Very saucy. I get the 'Texas bold' sauce of course (It's Bullseye brand).

I'm well into the second rack when a posse of wait and bus staff march past my table. Uh oh. That can only mean one thing. Some birthday sucker's gonna get the treatment. I get very squeamish around these scenes. I know the restaurant staff must love this chore almost as much as that of picking up dog poops on the hottest day of the year.

They converge on a nearby table and work at convincing the birthday guy to stand up. He resists. He waves his palms at them. The staffers don't have time to fart around. They got work to do. They resort to high-pressure tactics.

"Get up! Get up! Get up! Get up!" they chant. He won't resist for long. Old ladies at the next table join the fun.

"Get up! Get up! Get up! Get up!" They're all yelling and clapping. Staffers and old ladies. There's nothing like group hysteria to wear down the will of the individual. It's like the campfire incident in Golding's Lord of the Flies. Despite my horror I'm drawn in. It's almost impossible to resist. "Get up! Get up! Get up!" I want to cry. "Kill the pig! Bash her in!"

He stands finally and the chanting fades without violent incident. But the man holds his hands over the top of his head preventing them from placing their special birthday head-gear upon him. So the ganging-up begins again and he submits. He is disguised now - not in a rudimentary pig mask as Golding had it but in an antler-equipped helmet. He is a moose instead. I contemplate another half-rack. For it is I who is the pig.


Oink.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Sinking in

I don't think it has "sunk in" yet.

Or maybe it's just starting to. It doesn't quite feel like reality yet. That she's gone. None of it went as planned.

I couldn't be reached this afternoon. I was playing a half-day's hooky from work to be with a close friend who's enduring girl-troubles of the most serious kind. The kind where the girl is a cohabitant and his bed may soon - at short notice - cease being his. He's been taking stock of which friends and family have guest rooms or a decent couch at their disposal. We hit the road in a big way and cruised some dear old familiar landscapes along with one of our favorite lunch venues and one of our favorite old dessert venues too.

Meanwhile Blue, the miracle dog was running out of miracles. She was facing the veterinarian yet again and being diagnosed with cancer.

"There's nothing we can do."

She appeared to be suffering, I'm told. It's her fifteenth year. The decision was a no-brainer.

So it was done without me. A blessing that I didn't have to endure it but a huge bag of guilt and regret too. It's tough to put aside the massive illogical sentimentality that surrounds it all.

"They're like one of the family," everyone says to me. Everyone. As if they've held a secret meeting to strategize my handling.

I'm not sure 'family' is the right word. I don't suspect a dog has any concept of 'family' but sure as hell there's a bond. Sure as hell.

She will not be buried at my parents' farm as was planned either. The ex suddenly objects. For reasons that are bizarre and selfish of course as is all altered reasoning that comes out of that sadly deranged head but I won't fight about it. I relinquished claim of guardianship when we split up five or six years ago. So the decision is not mine. Blue's body will be quietly and anonymously eliminated.

I have pictures, videos and some of her toys and most importantly - memories. That will suffice. I'm not sure a headstone is altogether appropriate for an animal anyway.

Damn. I would have liked one though. And she deserved one if any dog ever did.

You were an exceptional dog, Blue. I'll write stories about you.

I'll miss you always.

Monday, October 16, 2006

But it was on the way home!

Okay. Lesson learned.

Just because it's on the way home from work - is no excuse for shopping at No Frills. Not if it's as dismal a crap-hole as this particular No Frills at Bristol Road and Creditview. Oh - by the way - there is no view of the Credit River from Creditview. None whatsoever. That's a myth I refuse to propagate.

However misguided, the No Frills is on the route home and I see it coming just as I realize I'm much too low on groceries to make a worthwhile dinner, so I pull in and park in their chewed-up debris-ridden parking lot.

Steak and salad appeals - and is compatible with the detubberization project.

The entrance door places you in the produce section which is a bit of an Alice-in-Wonderland experience. The mushrooms are lettuce-green in colour but the lettuce is mushroom-brown so at least there is balance in this alternate universe.

I choose some Portobello shrooms that don't look too bad. They're all undersized so I get three instead of two. I can find no baby spinach and no arugula so I resign myself to settle for the spring mix. The problem of course with spring mix is the gamble. It comes in a big clear tub which seems as though it will yield a great many servings but then you only get a couple days out of it before a few pieces suddenly turn zombie, becoming this sea-weedy black mushy slime. And then it's all over. It spreads like cancer and you're done for.

But at this No Frills there is no gamble. The longevity of their spring mix is clearly indicated and guaranteed. The little black zombies are already present in each tub for sale thus indicating that it will last precisely as long as it takes for you to drive it to your home and throw it in the garbage.

So I search through all the heads of lettuce instead and choose the one that is closest to lettuce-colour.

The red peppers are all shriveled up so despite the intriguing purplish discolorations, I pass. I don't even bother to inspect the green peppers. It occurs to me that the greenish-looking peppers might actually be red peppers gone wrong and the reddish ones might actually be green peppers for all I know - or perhaps they're just oversized raisins with reddish discolorations.

The goat cheese is all on the watery side for some reason but I'm impressed they even stock it so I take one. It's plain. They offer no pepper, dill or herb varieties of course. That's against their principles. Those snobby uppity types who eat goat cheese with dill and drink imported chardonnay are simply not welcome here.

It's like the old Sawmill Creek commercials from years ago when I used to watch TV: No pretentiousness! No attitude! Just really really horrid wine for nice simple people like you who don't know any better! - or something to that effect. I remember stopping at the liquor store once to pick up a couple bottles of decent wine to package as a birthday present for my friend. I spied a display of Sawmill Creek White Zinfandel on sale for $6 a bottle. The cheapest thing in the entire store but still overpriced in this case. I passed on that of course. At the party later my friend's next-door neighbor showed up. He was relatively new to the crowd and popular on account of being good-looking and on account of all my friends at that time being hopelessly incapable of detecting freaks and losers when they see them. I had long ago learned that professional freak-detectors like me must bite our tongues in these situations and allow our poor companions to clue in for themselves ever so gradually. The usual period is about nine months. Some things just can not be taught.

So anyway - Freak Neighbor showed up for the party toting a bottle of wine - non-wrapped and without a card. The wine was - anyone? Anyone? That's right. Sawmill Creek White Zinfandel. He proudly marched up to birthday boy and held the six-dollar investment up for they and the crowd to see and proudly announced that this was his favorite of all wines and that he's sure birthday boy will like it. The crowd tilted their heads and batted their eyelashes. There were very high contingents of straight girls and gay men in this crowd, you see. I just yawned and checked my calendar. The bozo had just a few months to go.

Back to the present. Enough Alice's adventures in produce land. I head for the meat. There's a large area of bare shelves in the meat section. Very strange. And sure enough - it is the steak section. They have the usual half-ass selection of pork and chicken products, a couple trays of cubed beef for stewing and one single steak. Just one. I kid you not. I scoop it up. It's a dismal $3 blade steak affair. I roll my eyes and put it back down. But wait. I pick it up again and hold it just the right distance from my eyes. Right at that sweet spot where I can still focus. My eyes have been deteriorating when I wasn't looking. My eyeglasses are losing effectiveness. I now observe that the steak actually looks nicely marbled. Perhaps it will do. I keep it. No Frills is now officially steak-less. I grab a quart of 10% cream for coffee and on a whim I cruise the nasal-burn aisle - you know what I mean, right? The nasal-burn aisle? The one that reeks of laundry detergent? And I'm delighted to discover that they carry replacement flushable pads for our Super Happy Fresh Brush. Excellent. Kudos to you, No Frills. I'd underestimated you.

Back in the parking lot I begin to cross from one aisle to the next by route of a pair of empty parking spaces end-to-end. But a gal in a pick-up truck wishes not to wait for me and pulls in from the opposite side. I stop, sigh and turn around to pursue another route. I can hear her running over and crushing glass bottles as she parks. I can't help but smile. I owe thanks to whatever gang of teenage boozers had been loitering here on the weekend.

I see the gal is now out of her truck and squatting, inspecting the broken glass beneath her tires. I keep having these experiences. No one who crosses me prospers! I am some kind of supernatural Karma Man. I need to get me some tights and big letter K for my chest. And a cape of course. I suppose an old towel will do.

Back home I cook the steak carefully to medium rare and use a little more Montreal steak spice and pepper than I would normally and I also add a little salt and melt a bit of butter over it. Measures I don't normally resort to. And though it pains me to confess - I must. The steak was actually pretty good. A bona fide bargain at $3. Thank you No Frills.

The cream however - was no bargain. I've been hoodwinked. I should have noticed that the blue colouring on the carton was a suspiciously lighter shade of blue. Or should I say tint? I finally discover that the boldface text reading 10% is actually part of a greater message reading Tastes like 10%! Way over in the corner in regular non-bold text is the label 5%.

Let me explain something in case anyone's confused.

Everything tastes like what it is. Apples taste like apples and oranges taste like oranges. 5% cream tastes like 5% cream and 10% like 10%! Never will one taste like the other! It's all ipso facto!

Get a life, Nielsen. You suck.

They don't even offer any explanation - BS or otherwise - on the carton as to how they supposedly pulled off this miracle of making one thing taste like another. Perhaps they're making lead taste like gold while they're at it. Morons.

I tell you folks. It's astonishing - the outrageousness of the lies that we hear constantly in this society. Constantly. Every day. Every minute. How are we so retardedly docile that priests, politicians, marketers and every ass hole wanting to make a buck can say whatever the hell they want without fear of consequence?

Three cheers for the misinformation age. Three cheers for freedom of speech. Accountability? What's that? No cheers for you, accountability. Why are you even in the dictionary?

How are we such unthinking sheep? How are we seduced into playing this game? Just drifting along fulfilling all our societal expectations without question.

Or is it that we all know about the bullshit but we're happier to play the game? That fighting it will only yield frustration and misery? Maybe that's it. Happiness trumps misery any day, I concede. Maybe you're right and I'm wrong. Maybe I should shut up about it. But I can't. I need the truth. I gotta have it. It's a drug for me. It really is. It's why I write.

Oh dear. I've turned a nice fun little No Frills bashing session into a terrible rant. I'm sorry. I shall stop now. Or as Galadriel said:


I shall diminish, and go into the West, and remain Fantasy Writer Guy!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Trek

A dissertation of my dear friend's birthday dinner - um - not exactly written in the usual style:


And so the trek begins
In a boat of bananas
Shooting down the forbidden highway
Tracked by the omnipresent electric eyes
Of the profiteers
Kin of the treacherous grits

Safe in the town of Burl
We coast unto the rows
Of homely homes
Where the professor awaits
With Calicoco
The looniest cat in the West

Where Ice box foraging yields the nectar
Of barley and berries
Where the cellar dwelling farmer's blend
Too long confined
Is brought forth to the light of day
Where it dances like prunes
On a ticklish tongue

Where the Captain arrives at last
Safe returned from Fidoland
With six shoes for the six-legged beast
Only to gather us into the mothercraft
And wisk us away to the land of the cask

To the great hall
Where people are milling
And firewater is spilling down our gullets
Chased by the radish of horses

Beams of crimson light
Dancing on the mage's disc
Summon us to our place of honour
Among the commoners

The three Brads
And a servant not named Brad
Who pours the essence of the grape from down under
Into our goblets
And summons a flask of the Pelegrino
To appease Captain Vino

And the tid bits from the sea
Are brought forth and arrayed
On the feasting table
Neptunes shrooms afluffed
And unspoilt fishes sliced and dressed
And scallops disguised in pig's clothing
And the limbs of the great calamari
Torn asunder and layed in a platter
Of the finest adornments
For no defilement be too great a sacrifice
When a Brad's craving demands sated
And there new words are created
And the legend of Percentametrus debated
And life's years counted and celebrated

Bellies fair bursting with the slain cow
And the lowly potato
And the servent well rewarded
We all are reboarded onto the mothercraft
And forth go we on dark roads
To the now familiar abode
Where the beast is shoed
And the chamber door barred
And songs of the Z are sang
Unto the heavens of the Gods of slumber

*

So there you go. I'm thinking of making this the permanent style of the blog. Everything will be a Homeric epic poem from now on - or - not. Okay, maybe not. Maybe I'm the only one who likes that sort of thing.

Friday, September 29, 2006

FWG's deliciously more excellent all-week adventure - Thursday

Day 6

Another poor sleep. From 3AM to 5 I'm awake reading Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weiss and Tracey Hickman while waiting for the latest Tylenols to kick in. The book utterly sucks but I'm determined to get through it for the following reasons - each one stupider than the last:

1. I always seem to expect some badge of honor to be bestowed upon me for surviving such an experience so heroically. (Obviously the badge-of-honor issuing people have quite a backlog to fill because I'm owed quite a few.)

2. It's useful learning (reinforcing really) exactly how not to write a fantasy novel.

3. There are forty or fifty books in the series (seriously) and I've already acquired close to thirty of them prior to reading a single sorry word from book one so I'm praying for some kind of miracle to happen to get me digging it.


11:00 AM

I go for a nice walk and do lunch at the Tribune Cafe where the poulet miel dijon resembles a Cuban sandwich but is much nicer. A sampling of two salads - both lovely - and a coffee and I'm rockin' and rolling. The music here is enchanting. I love it. Some kind of Euro-Parisian-retro-jazz-piano- okay - who the hell am I kidding? I have no vocabulary for music. Sorry. But I really dig it. So I struggle to explain to the cashier that I must learn what CD is playing. I must find me a copy. She struggles to explain to me that this is no CD but Muzak. Each song a different artist.

"Oh."

So much for that.

I hit the street asking strangers for change - quarters actually. I buy them with dimes and looneys until I have enough to do some laundry at the hotel.

I grab a shower and hit the street. Ah hah! The Librarie next door to the hotel is not a library after all but a book store! Ooh la la! Formidable! The English section is small but yields some Atwood and Jack Chalker for me.

I hop in the beast of burden and cruise on down to beautiful Old Montreal and go for a long walk - looking out for a drug store and for a restaurant named Gibby's where I'll later be meeting a most excellent man by the name of Jean-Francois who recently retired from the company I work for. He was a big shot at our Laval office and was much-loved by all. He retired to pursue another ambition.

We'd chummed around at our annual company meetings because we're both cigar smokers and both great fans of the Montreal Canadiens. He'd given me his number with the instructions to look him up if ever in Montreal. I did so and true to his word he arranged for dinner at a primo steakhouse.

But my congestion and runny nose are becoming a nuisance. I need Dristan. Must... find... Dristan. But oh - what a chore.

I try three depanneurs. No luck. I ask various merchants who shrug their shoulders.

"Drug store?" I beg.

"Not around here," they say. "You must go uptown." I find it bizarre that with all the office buildings around there is nowhere for an employee to go on his lunch hour to pick up a cold remedy.

I walk vaguely north. I ask a pedestrian for help.

"Drug store?" I say. "Dristan? Decongestant?" I make sniffing sounds as I point up my nose. In hindsight this was not the best choice of charades strategies.

The man frowns at me deeply. "Drugs?" he says.

I'm suddenly horrified. Does he think I've mistaken him for a drug dealer because he's black?

"No no!" I say. "Drug store!" I'm thinking wildly. "Pharmacie! Pharmacie!"

"Ah, oui. Drug store." He gestures forward - way forward - as if indicating Greenland.

"Thank you," I say. "Merci."

I eventually find myself at Place d'Armes, the historic square, site of the Notre Dame Basilica. I'd been in there once before and found it absolutely magnificent. Huge and dark and creepy and as welcoming as Dracula's castle. Religon and I do not mix well.

There's a taxi stand here. I approach the lead driver and repeat my Dristan/pharmacie/sniffle/snort routine but with more care this time.

"Ah!" he says finally. "Jean Coutu."

"Yes! Oui. Jean Coutu." And we're off.

He drives me all over hell's ten acres. Half way across the city it seems.

"I can't believe the closest drug store is this far away!" I finally complain. "Do French people never get sick!"

He responds with monosyllabic grunts and broad hand-gestures which serves me right. I already know he doesn't speak English."

Cutting to the chase - it's $9.00 for the Sinutab and $22.00 for the lift there and back.

My first drink at Gibby's - a vodka and grapefruit juice with salted rim - is $10.20. I sense I'm in for an expensive night. The restaurant is huge and gorgeous with broad wooden beams and columns, mammoth stone walls and coach lanterns. I'm almost an hour early. I sit in the bar-lounge area that easily seats eighty comfortably. The smoked almonds are delicious and very fresh. I say so and am informed that they roast them themselves in their own smokehouse on the property!

Wow. This will definitely be an expensive night. The service is lightning-fast and the drinks are meticulous. The salt is spread sparsely over a deep surface area of the glass allowing just the right salt-per-sip ratio. Wow. Do I sound like a twit or what? But the place truly rocks. It's gonna suck going back to being poor next week.

I ask the server here if he knows of a decent cigar bar for later.

"Of course," he says and returns promptly with the name, address and phone number of the place written on a card for me. Sweet! I so want a butler when I grow up.

The sinutab has kicked in and I'm feeling good. Jean-Francois arrives a tad late due to traffic and is gracious, apologetic, exuberant and dressed all spiffy-like in checkered sport coat. A nice one, that is. Don't go picturing Don Cherry on me. A lot of men wear suit jackets casually here - with jeans for instance - which is common in France too as far as I know.

There are other European flavored cultural phenomena immediately apparent in Montreal. The language of course but also the high quotient of bicycles and compact cars and of restaurants and clubs. And of smaller independant business.

"Quebeccers work to live," Says JF. "We don't live to work as Ontarians do. That's why we have small houses. We prefer to eat well and drink good wine."

"I know," I say."Me too. I'm more like a Quebeccer that way."

"But all this small business - it doesn't stimulate the economy. Montreal is dying, my friend."

"Dying? But there's such vibrancy here! I sense more life here than in Toronto."

"Economically it is dying," he says. "There is no growth of big business. It's all been scared away to English Canada because of Cretien and all his separatist talk - scaring everyone. It would have died away if he would shut up about it but he keep warning everyone and provoking separatists so they don't go away. We voted. Quebeccers said no! Twice! That's enough! Shut up about it and let's work together for Canada!"

The waitress is mature and prim-looking in floor-length apron. She knows immediately to speak to me in English and JF in French. She leaves us with delicious fresh bread, a big stick of butter and a bucket of pickles. A bucket! My eyes saucerize. JF laughs.

"It's a French tradition," he explains. This is a French restaurant - as in France - not French Canada.

I order one of the two rib steaks on the menu - medium rare. The waitress shakes her head and explains that I want the other rib steak - the superior one. I take her advice.

"Double baked potato or rice pilaf?"

"The rice please."

She shakes her head ruefully. "No," she says. "You want the potato. It is best potato in Montreal."

I sense I'm not so much ordering dinner as taking an oral quiz - and failing miserably obviously. I accept the potato.

"Do you want salad?"

"I don't know. Do I?"

"Yes. The salad is good."

I shrug.

It doesn't look like much upon arrival. Mixed greens and typical garden vegetables. But the dressing is magical as are the mounds of fresh crutons - no doubt baked in their own crutonnery - that she continued to shovel onto my salad long after I said 'when'. But mm-mmm. She proves my judgement wrong again.

Dinner arrives. The steak is massive and seasoned brilliantly with a delightful crust and a perfect pink interior. Finally, without initial enthusiasm I sample the potato and am blown away. It's almost like a mash in consistency and oh so tasty. Even the unassuming tomato slice is a treat - dressed in some crumbly topping. I leave the unnadorned branches of broccoli the hell alone. I'm not gonna risk ruining such a spectacular triple with a failed play for home plate.

That's a baseball metaphor by the way. Get it? No? That's okay. Metaphors aren't my strong suit. I'm working on it.

The wine was my choice unfortunately. Silver Creek or something like that. Previously untried, I figured you could never go wrong with an Australian 2002 Shiraz/Cabernet. Surprise. You can.

JF and I have a marvelous time. We talk about all the special people we know - who bring us such joy. We're fortunate men. Very happy with our lives but still looking up. I suppose that's what has brought us together really - more so than cigars or the Habs.

He has raved about Gibby's signature dessert. I have only the vaguest recollection of the name but we shall call it 'chocolat chaucer' for now. (A thousand apologies to all keepers of the French language for that mutilation.) But tonight the dish is suspiciously absent from the dessert menu. JF is troubled.

"It has been replaced by the chocolat chausette!" (a million apologies) our apron-garbed waitress explains, "Which is even better!" This prompts a flurry of rapid French.

"Blah blah blah chaucer!" JF excaims.

"Blah blah blah chausette!" she retorts.

"Blah blah blah chaucer blah blah blah!" JF insists but gives in and orders the 'chocolat chausette'.

"I'll have the same," I declare.

"The same?" she says, aghast.

"Oui. The same." I'm not giving in this time. Not on your life.

"But you spoke of the creme brulet!" JF exclaims.

"You will have creme brulet!" she says.

"No no!" I say.

"It is best creme brulet in Montreal! I will give you two spoons. And two forks for the chausette. You will share."

I give in of course. Both dishes are outstanding.

Jean-Francois drives me back to my hotel, stopping at Modavie to fetch my jacket. He crushes my hand with his powerful handshake.

"Farewell my friend. I know we will meet again."


I certainly hope so.

FWG

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

FWG's clearly more excellent all-week adventure - Wednesday

Day 5

I hit the lobby to check out and get some breakfast. Mm-mmmm! Coffee and buscuits! I stupidly hope that 'buscuits' might refer to croissants. Ha! Dreamer. They're in fact cookies. Acme chocolate chip cookies or some damn thing. I have one. Just one. That'll do fine, thank you. Don't open another economy box on my account. Thanks anyway.

There's a black urn and a white one. I touch them and the black one is hotter. I pour coffee from it into a styrofoam cup and hit the road to Ottawa. I very nearly cause an accident upon taking the first sip. It's disgusting. Horrific even. Worst coffee experience ever - barring, of course, the time as a teenager I ate a spoonful of instant coffee powder right from the jar.

It's a lovely day. Clear and warm. I power on the digital camera and as I cross the great bridge again I hold it out the window and raise it, pointing it back over the roof of the truck and I snap away at the Ottawa landmarks. And the camera fails every time of course.

I do however get a decent shot of the giant spider just before it eats the National Art Gallery. I'm sure you heard all about that on the news.


I spy a nice looking park of sorts on the Hull shoreline and figure that to be an excellent vantage point. So I cross another bridge back over to la belle province and easily locate the park. The vantage point - as you can see (or can't - depending whether Blogspot has got their image-uploading problems fixed or not) obviously did not live up to expectations:


The park at least offers a nice bench so I sit and do some writing in the sun. Here's a candid pic of yours truly at said bench:

Alright - so it's not exactly candid. I took it myself while pretending to write. I'm not even left-handed.

Hunger rears its ugly head. Back to the market district for a pint of suds on the patio of a happening Irish pub and a raw tuna dish just caked in a spicy-sweet rub and swimming in a puddle of tasty sauce and with a yummy creamed wasabi on the side. Absolutely delicious. Superb.

But enough farting around. It's time for the meat of the vacation.

To Montreal!


Welcome to
Casselman
The giddy-up town! Home of Wilma and the Pony Girls

St. Albert
Peanut butter capital of the greater St. Albert region


The trees around here are only just beginning to shift colour but the ochre and burnt-orange fields are a delight to the eye. At least that's how they look through my sunglasses.


Cornwall
Home of three Henriks and a great many Daves

Welcome to
Vankleek Hill
Smell our Petunias


Okay - is everyone sick to death of the town slogan project? If you are - let it be known and I shall can it! But if not - start helping out! There's a lot of towns still neglected. They need your slogans. Throw us a bone!

Many warning signs are posted on this highway alerting to deer crossings and moose crossings. In some places there are both signs standing side by side - which I find very peculiar. I struggle to decipher the reasoning behind this. Is the act of looking out for deer very different then that of looking out for a moose? And by extension - different again than the looking out for both simultaneously? I'm suddenly concerned that I may be an incompetent driver - being unlearned in these matters. I wonder should I pull over until proper coaching can be sought?

Perhaps my consternation is unfounded. Perhaps there is merely a point system at play here and the double-sign is intended only to inform contestants of this high-yield bonus area.

The trek into downtown Montreal becomes the chore I expected it to be. I get lost immediately - thinking I'm going the wrong direction when in fact I'm not and thus exiting the highway without need. This is the second of five detours on the day after an extreme low-fuel episode had me off the highway roaming god's country with the gas needle hanging off the wrong side of the red bar.

It was a brick-pooping moment or two I assure. I wound up in a delightful cow town of a place called Regault where a kid - maybe twelve years old pumped my gas. I was keen to ask why he wasn't in school but he clearly knew little English other than 'fill'.

'Oh? Fill? Yes. Yes please. S'il vous plait. Oui, merci," I stuttered. I disembarked to stretch my legs, standing on the sidewalk while a big tanker truck came to a stop on the road beside me. The driver leaned toward the passenger window and rattled off some request to me in French that surely had something to do with directions to somewhere. Besides my ignorance of the language I didn't know the directions to anywhere from there but along came a woman pushing a baby stroller right then so I tried to indicate to her that this driver needed help. She didn't understand me and scurried away. Too bad really. They would have been perfect for each other but I couldn't negotiate the introduction.

There's a Montreal traffic jam of course which I survive. I get lost again, recover quickly and escape l'autoroute and claw my way through the local streets to find the Hotel Montreal Enspace Confort after just two more hiccups including a strange perpetual-motion one-way dead-end street loop that sucked me in for a couple revolutions. I probably broke a couple laws - of physics and/or the moving violation type - in escaping.

The hotel room is nice. It's clean and modern and everything looks new although the furniture all looks a little Swedish-for-common-sense if you know what I mean.

I discover that their particular breed of internet is not compatible with my antiquish lap-top so these posts will be late in hitting the internet. (I know - what else is new?)

The walk to Old Montreal is a long one but I complete the journey because I'm a champ. Well - that and because the hundred and fifty restaurants I pass along the way all fail to sufficiently capture my interest. But upon hitting the cobblestones of wonderful narrow rue St. Paul I know some holy grail will be near.

Indeed it is a dozen strides away - on the opposite corner of the intersection. It is called Modavie (Way of Life?) and it is dark and features floor-to-ceiling wine racks. Oh... yeah...!

I sit at one side of the U-shaped bar. Two women sit at the section to my right and a little man sits across from me. He looks like the dark-curly-haired actor from Kids in the Hall but shorter. And his behavior measures up. He's halfway through his bottle of Rosemount Cabernet Sauvignon and he's already tipsy. He smiles for fifty seconds of every minute and does his best to chat up the girls who are clearly tourists. He wears a sport jacket over a casual shirt and is clearly not a tourist. He listens intently to the girls' conversation before interupting with vaguely relevant input. Then he apologizes for eavesdropping and the girls graciously assure they're not offended. He apologizes a second time and the girls repeat themselves. He apologizes a third time and the girls awkwardly resume their conversation. This is the formula that repeats itself endlessly. They talk while he watches them and smiles. He interupts and apologizes three times. They talk again while he watches them and smiles. He interupts then apologizes three times. I take all this in, fascinated. An excellent performance for people-watchers like me.

The baked brie seems a tad bland but then so does the fifty dollar bottle of Wynn's Coonawara Shiraz so obviously this insipid little touch of a cold I've got is mucking with my tastebuds.

The gorganzola/sausage/black olive pasta is delightful though - putting Windmills' gorganzola carbonara to shame.

I time the wine drinking wrong and dinner is done with a glass and a half to go. Such a full-bodied selection is too bold to sip post-meal so I order the cheese plate to compensate. But that dish runs long and now I need a glass of Chianti to compensate for that - which proves utterly tasteless by comparison. Oh well. You can't win 'em all.

One particular bite from the cheese plate contains morsels of pear, walnut and goat cheese simultaneously. The flavor marriage is a thrill and I make notes in my omnipresent breast-pocket notebook. I shall have to craft a salad recipe around this combo for my next dinner party.

Finally the girls actually ask Mr Kidinthehall a direct question.

"What is there to do around here for fun?"

He immediately launches into a long list of restaurants with critiques of each.

"Besides restaurants though - What else is there to do around here - you know - for fun?"

He nods, still beaming as they speak. And then rhymes off another list of restaurants.

The bartender is Katie (not Matt) and helps me with the highway crossing sign dilema suggesting they are erected not for motorists but for the beasts' benefit so they'll know where to cross. This works for me. Case closed.

She whispers to me that Mr. Kidinthehall had come in earlier all smiley and he proudly announced that he would be having dinner and a bottle of wine - maybe two - and would perhaps even get drunk. I glance over her shoulder and nod.

"He's doing a good job of it so far," I say. She rolls her eyes.

It grows late. The crowd thins. Katie is a clever conversationalist and we have a nice chat. She won't let me buy her a drink but buys her own. She even helps us out with the town slogan project!

Welcome to
Pefferlaw
Try our horseshoes and Monopoly


I drop a small fortune and cab it back to the hotel. I realize I forgot my jacket at Modavie. Oh well. I'll certainly be back in the neighborhood tomorrow or the next day. Old Montreal is the bomb!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

FWG's back-on-track more-excellent all-week adventure - Tuesday

Day 4

10:00 AM

Woe is me.

I awake with a world-record-breaking headache and a delightful taste-o-puke at the back of my very dry mouth. Ah! The life of an unpublished fantasy writer! Aren’t you jealous?

It takes an hour to brush, shower, pack and brush again. I’ll be checking out right at the deadline.

I suddenly remember something wonderful and I stop to process the memory – desperately trying to extract it from the scotch-flavored anarchy that is my brain. I saw artwork last night more beautiful than I realized art could be. So amazing that it changed my perception of art. There was one piece in particular that shattered me and I had stared at it until a tear threatened to fall. Granted I was stone drunk but still. I can picture it now. Two white horses. Two fishes. Three or four trees and a flock of black birds. So harmonious and radiant with joy these creatures seemed to me that they outshone the giant yellow sun.

Wait. Did I take a photo of it? I stumble around and find the digital camera. I hit the ‘review’ button and there on the display is the image of two dogs toting pink accessories. Pink eyeglasses. A pink ball. What the fuck? I have no recollection of this. Did I join a circus last night?


I hit the ‘back’ button and there it is. The masterpiece. I’m sober now and the image still moves me.

Oh my lord! Did I purchase this piece? It’s not in the room. Did I purchase it and then lose it somewhere? That would be so like me. No. No, I didn’t. The memory solidifies. I tried to buy it and the restaurant manager declined.

“Come back tomorrow when you’re sober and I’ll sell it to you.”

Thank gawd. What a fine gentleman. It was two thousand dollars. It would have ruined me. I also find a business card for an artist by the name of Mark Graham. I pray that he has prints for sale. I’ll definitely be Googling him and giving him a call.


Head pounding, I descend and check out.

“I hope you enjoyed your stay,” says Mr. Day Shift.

“It was lovely until the hangover. It’s been a bit of a trial since then.”

I steer the banana boat onto Highway 15 north (Ottawa bound). I’m back off at the first variety store where I scoop a coffee and a danish and a 24-pack of Advil. I immediately reduce the inventory to 21.

The drive is generally nice – a typical Ontario highway with great carvings through the Canadian shield. The not-so-nice portion comes in this form:

At the end of a passing zone I’m generous and remain in the break-down lane to the very end – allowing one more vehicle to pass. However, the next vehicle after that – some land pirate in an Oldsmobile or something – decides that I am purely expendable in relation to his imperious agenda and viciously tailgates and drives me onto the shoulder. Miraculously I contain myself, figuring this to be some kind of karmic payback for last night’s debauchery. I do take notice of the license plate though. A habit I’ve fallen into whenever marking another motorist for possible future assassination.

Welcome to
Smith Falls
Proud home of Canada’s 278th Wal-Mart

In Smith Falls highway 15 necessitates four turns at local intersections. The first of which is another near-death experience when another Oldsmobile-or-something makes an impromptu left-hand turn from the straight lane while I’m in the left lane jumping all over my brakes.

“Mother f-!” Oh. But did I say another Oldsmobile? Pardon me. It’s the same damn car! You’d think I’d be fit to kill at this point and be trying to run him into a telephone pole but I’m so utterly amazed that I just sit there in a daze, shaking my head. At the next lights I snapped a photo of him though – just so I can get the word out. If anyone happens to be acquainted with this particular creature of darkness – please say a warm hello from me – oh and drive a stake through his heart for me too. Thanks!


Welcome to
Numogate
Wonder twin powers – activate!

Arnprior
And twice as arn since

Welcome to
Ottawa
Don’t feed the Grits

There’s a huge demonstration in front of the House of Commons as I arrive in the capital. I hope nothing goes terribly awry resulting in the death or serious injury of the Prime Minister. That would be mildly unfortunate.

I cross the big bridge into Gatineau, Quebec where the Hotel Du Chevalier awaits.

“Bonjour – Hello,” I say to the woman behind the front desk. This is my way of saying, ‘Greetings. I’m English but I’m making an effort, see?’ She seems to understand. We swap documents.

“Monsieur Landriault,” she says, pronouncing my name in the purest Frenchest accent possible. “You ‘ave a French name but you speak English.” She says this in a sultry voice and with the faintest hint of a smile and a devlish gleam in her eye. She’s right out of a James Bond movie. ‘We shall make love and then I shall kill you,’ I fear she will say but she doesn’t need to. Her gleamy eyes say it all.

I hit the room. It’s nice and has a balcony. A good place to do some writing with a stogie and a bottle of plonk for company. Perhaps later. For now I unpack, freshen up and depart for Ottawa’s downtown ‘market’ district.

After a long walk, some people-watching, window shopping and menu-reading I settle on The Keg of all places. I know! I know! Seems a terrible waste coming all this way to dine at a chain restaurant but I’m seriously in the mood for good steak and I just don’t see another reliable steakhouse option. I choose a small table by the bar and settle in for a four-hour bout of writing (in a notebook of course). It also seems strange ordering the calamari having just sampled the best calamari ever at Windmills the night prior but I do and am rewarded. Windmills falls to second spot after only 24 hours in the limelight. The Keg’s new calamari dish is utterly – and I mean utterly – to die for. I won’t even describe it. Just go. Promise me you’ll go to the Keg and try it.

I consider two more orders of calamari as my dinner but instead I get the Keg-sized prime rib with au jus, horseradish, garlic mash and crispy coated onion bits. I stack it all carefully into a 5-tier sandwich fit for the gods. Tonight I finish a bottle of Twin Fin Cabernet Sauvignon (it’s tasty but a bit wishy-washy – seems more like a pinot or zinfandel to me) and migrate to coffee rather than scotch. Regular coffee. Not boozy coffee. It’s 9 PM. I’m falling asleep. So I call it an early night, keen to rise early next morning and do some exploring before leaving for Montreal.

Good night.