Monday, May 08, 2006

My Day with the Dumases

Dumases? Dumasses? Dumai? Just what is the proper plural form of the word 'Dumas'?

I once asked the patriarch of the family - Gaetan - for the correct pronunciation of their family name.

"Dumb Ass!" he barked in response. He's very much a 'barker'. I like him. Besides barking he's a sculptor, poet, writer and electrician. His wife Nancy is a scream. She's psychic and an interpreter of dreams and of astrology. She's very spiritual in her own individual non-religious way - a quality I respect.

She calls herself an introvert but she's the most extroverted introvert I've ever met. In fact she's more extroverted than any extrovert I've met if you know what I mean. But as I hate labels I insist that people at least be allowed themselves to choose their own label however they please. So if she says introvert - so be it.

Basically she rarely ever stops talking but to her credit - when she does take a rare break she really listens and remembers everything you have to say. And that's a marvelous quality. I know a slightly less extroverted extrovert who hasn't absorbed a single damn thing I've said to him in 19 years.

So I hear the same stories over and over again but that's okay. I like it. I'm trying to memorize them all so that one day I can recite them right along with her as she's doing the telling. That'll be some good fun.

I like Nancy very much. She's the informal leader of our writing group of which her husband and her daughter Carrie are also members.

So I'm driving along the country road and I see the collapsed barn that marks my destination. It amounts to a stone foundation of four foot height. It's not an uncommon sight in rural Ontario but I have somewhat of a fascination with them. It's the closest thing we have to archeological landmarks in Canada. Our native Indians were all about teepees and wigwams. They never built anything cool for us to find. No 'Chitchanitzas' or the like. I feel a bit gypped over this but of course I don't complain to the few native Americans I know. I'm a little hung up on the whole ancestral guilt thing. So I tread lightly around my native acquaintances. It's hard to know what to say sometimes.

All these barn wrecks really move me in the sense I find them symbolic of the slow and painful death of family farming in this country. I know a few independent farmers and I feel bad about it 'cause they're loveable folk but I realize that the demise is inevitable. That they're bound to extinction no matter how many protests they hold. No matter how much traffic they hamper. No matter how many people they make late for their appointments.

Good grief - what a tangent or two! My apologies. So I pull into the dirt laneway, pass between some trees and park. Now I can see their house - a large two-story 200-year-old brick affair that is starting to show its age. I can also see a two-story wooden free-standing tree-house type structure with an exterior stairway and a balcony. A playhouse that has turned storage shed with the daughters all now in their 20's and 30's.

There is also a wood pile and many miscellaneous junk items lying around - some of a curiosity or even decorative value. Some are possibly farm implements and one or more are possibly antique. There's a big cover to a cistern and three automobiles - all small and grey and perfectly roadworthy.

There's a large wooden rabbit cage on the secluded front lawn. Near it are some seemingly abandoned toys, the odd Tim Hortons coffee cup, rims rolled up of course, and curiously there are about eight large miscellaneous items - unrelated at a glance but that all adhere to a theme. Each is roughly bucket, bowl or tray shaped and flooded with standing water.

Chained to a side door is big dog #1. Chained to the front door is little dog. Neither the rabbit or the little dog require numbering as there are not more than one rabbit or little dog in the family. There are two big dogs, two cats and a multitude of fishes who also need not be numbered as they are fully interchangeable. They're all flat, wet and very poor conversationalists. Actually they might all be named Eric for all I know. I never bothered to ask. Okay, 'nuff said about the fishes.

Carrie suddenly appears half way between the front door and my car. It always happens that way. I never see her as I approach their property and never see her actually emerge from the house. She always just appears like an apparition somewhere in the wider regions of my peripheral vision. I've nicknamed her Spooky which she doesn't mind too much - being a writer of horror among other things.

I'm glad to see her though. I've only once had to go to the door to alert her to my presence and it was a failed experiment that I wish not to ever attempt again. Reason - I never know if big dog #2 is lurking around somewhere ready to come bounding over to me and start going into a schizophrenic tizzy that stems from some combination of two attitudes. One - that he's happy to see me because I'm such a swell guy and his buddy - and two - that he's happy to see me because I look downright delicious and he's quite ready to sink his teeth in and find out for sure.

So Carrie embarks and we back out the laneway and head for the restaurant - East Side Marios. One of our favorites. Her mom and dad and her small daughter Vanian will be joining us but we're taking a head start so that I can look over a portfolio of her selected artwork and poetry to explore the specifics of her pending participation in the writing group's web site.

"My mom's almost out of gas," says Carrie. "So we might have to go back and pick her up. She might call us." She holds up mom's cell phone.

I no longer have a cell phone. I misplaced it a couple weeks ago, discovered I didn't miss it and low-and-behold a Rogers Customer Service Stalker - whoops! Dear me. My Freudian slip is showing. A Customer Service Rep called me just to say hello - a courtesy call - they call it. Not a goddamn thing courteous about it of course but you know them phone pirates. It's all double-speak with them. My 2-year sentence - whoops! I mean contract - expired recently so she just called to see how I'm doing and if there's anything I need and - I confidently assume - to try to get me to upgrade my phone and start another dandy new sentence - BLAH! - contract! But I surprised her by saying I'd like to cancel my account please. This swung her right into salvage mode of course. She punched the big red panic button and her computer screen switched to the special offer menu.

"May I ask why you wish to cancel your account?" She's thinking I've been flirting with a competitor 'Two timing bastard,' she's thinking. She's ready to play ball. Ready to tease and tantalize me with special offers.

"I've discovered that a cell phone doesn't enrich my life," I said. "I was happier before I had one. I find I'm wasting an awful lot of money on something that just annoys me." She immediately gave in and offered to put me through to the cancellation department or some damn thing. I'm sure these are the people with the special key that allows them access to the Most Very Special Of All The Special Offers menu screen. But I was growing bored with this game and promised to call back later instead.

Oh dear. This post is getting terribly long. Let's pick it up tomorrow, shall we?

To be continued...


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