Saturday, July 29, 2006

Me and my new boat

For years I teased my buddy, Porn King about his yellow pick up truck, referring to it as the banana boat.


Now that this very same truck is mine and I'll be paying for it for the next three years - I'm hoping that PK will be a gentleman and not return the compliments.

The truck is up on a hoist right now, hood open, in the bay of the Canadian Tire Service Centre at Mavis and Britannia supposedly receiving its mandatory safety inspection. A service that runs $97 minimum here by the way. Most terribly and unfortunately Brian of Orangeville - the one mechanic I can trust - is unable to do the job today and I'm unable to wait. I'm at the wrong end of the ten-day window in which to get the vehicle safetied, insured and registered with the gov'ment so they can tax me half to death.

I chose Canadian Tire for the job despite my long-standing policy restricting these bozos to the installing of tires and no other service whatsoever.

"Don't you touch those brakes!" I barked at a stunned young Canadian Tire employee, years ago, having just purchased new tires from them and witnessing the youth remove my wheels with a sledge hammer before I went running into the bay to accost him. "I have a real mechanic who does that! Just change the tires and don't touch anything else!"

I've been long aware of their incompetence but on this occasion I believe the safety check is a mere formality and my hope is that they're not savvy enough to effectively scam me for unneeded work - to which every other mechanic in the world is drooling over the opportunity.

I'm not sure if the hoist itself is performing the inspection or if one of the "certified technicians" is actually sneaking over to peak at the truck on each occasion I'm looking a different direction.

Okay - I just sauntered over to the window for a closer look and I see that while no one is within a stone's throw of the vehicle at this moment - one of the tires has been removed and is lying on the floor. So - progress.

I'm really hopped up right now. Positively jittery - which is very unlike me. I'm not a high nervous-energy kind of guy normally. Let me tell you how I got this way this morning.

Earlier I'd surrendered my keys to a man at the counter named, according to his name tag, Orsi and then replied to his inquiry regarding the truck's specific whereabouts within the parking lot with, "It's yellow for goodness sake. They'll see it."

I then had to force myself to chuckle after he responded, "But what if they're colour blind?" at which he and his shadow - an older employee with apparently nothing better to do than follow Orsi around - both collapsed in a fit of laughter.

I then crossed the parking lot and patronized a Krispy Kreme shop for the first time ever, ordering a large coffee. While there I sampled three of their legendary donuts - each a different variety. Why not eh? When in Rome...

Ee-freaking-gads! Those things are more sugary than sugar! What can they be made of? Not sugar apparently. Because sugar is precisely as sugary as sugar and these things are clearly more so. Maybe they've discovered a means to super-concentrate the sugar or something. I don't know but I'll tell you this. My long held belief that sugar-induced hyperactivity in children is a myth propagated by coffee-addicted Canadian parents who live in denial of the spazmatazzing effects of caffeine - is beginning to waver. Cause I got some kind of perma-piss-shivers right now, I tell you. And the coffee was decaffeinated, for crying out loud.

Perhaps this environment here in the Canadian Tire waiting room is contributing to it. There's one crap-load of stimuli in here. There's a TV playing - no sound thank goodness 'cause there are three other sources. Music is piped in - between constant paging messages. Plus there's some kind of lunacy-inducing ad machine in here that features a 36-pocket grid of business cards and a video screen complete with audio that's playing constant commercials of some sort. I've never heard of such a bombastic contraption before but I imagine it'd be great to have in the event of a nuclear attack. You'd just take one gander at this thing, consider its commentary on the state of our society and immediately welcome the annihilation of said society.

There's one other machine in here, by the way. A simple Coke machine. And it's blessedly docile. Just a tiny digital display that scrolls this little message:


God bless the Coca Cola Company I say! With their down-to-earth tradition and their lower-case D's and their scrumptious Fruitopia flavors! Pip pip! I have the urge to go give the Coke machine a big steamy hug and a sloppy kiss before I go tramping down the aisles of the store beating myself on the head and screeching like a monkey.

Wisely, I resist these urges.

Instead I tow the line. Is it 'tow' or 'toe' the line? I dunno. What would Rocky Burnette say? I sit politely, slightly a-trembling, waiting to hear my name on the damned paging system and gazing at the vast collection of certificates on the wall.

Wow! There is just a plethora of qualification and expertise here. Two - count 'em two - licensed mechanics here! Bravo. Hopefully at least one of them is not currently on vacation. There's a long row of certificates of achievement from the Snap-On Diagnostics company. Boy oh boy. If I received a certificate every time I achieved a snap-on - let me tell you...

There are six certificates boasting Gold Medal Customer Service awards. Oops! Upon closer examination there are only three distinct award winners. There are two copies of each. Oh well.

And of course there's a collection of certificates alluding to institutions of obscure renown. For instance - the last time I bought tires for the Grand Marquis they were installed by a fellow accredited as a certified propane cylinder filler from the Cylinder Refilling Institute. You think I'm joking, don't you? I assure you, dear blogger, I sadly am not. Apparently you must buy more expensive tires if you want the privilege of the services of a bona fide Canadian Tire School o' Tire Changin' graduate.

Someone is on the paging system now, stumbling and stuttering over a name that's difficult to pronounce. I suddenly realize it's mine. Whoopee. Time to get mugged for cool hundred bucks and geet on outta here.

Back in the customer service area no one seems to be expecting me. I see that Orsi is going over a long itemized list with another staff member and I feel sorry for whatever customer they're about to soak. Orsi looks up at me for just a brief moment. Then he does it again and again. Jesus Christ - this better not have anything to do with the banana boat. Orsi's glances at me seem to carry a slight element of fear - as if he's sizing up my capacity for violence. I outweigh him considerably in fact. I narrow my eyes and nod very slowly - almost imperceptibly. 'Your personal safety is in dire jeopardy little Orsi man,' I try to project to him.

He finishes with his crony and nods me over to his station where we meet. The older fellow - his shadow - is also present.

"Here's what you need to pass safety," he says. "It'll be thirteen hundred dollars or so."

"Oh," I say - in my deepest voice which smacks of Lurch from the Addams Family. "Really."

Orsi nods.

"Is that after tax?"

"No. Tax is extra."

Lovely. How on Earth will I pay for all this? Perhaps I should kill Orsi and sell his wife and kids as slaves. That should be good for a grand and a half, eh?

"Can we go over the list, please?" I expect him to spin the sheet sideways so that we can both read it but no. He starts reading it to me. I try to follow along on the sheet but that's impossible. It's upside down and the writing is messy. Plus he's adding in his own dissertations and he's reading the items out of order. I get the impression it's all brake work and tires. He finally winds down.

"Can I have a look at this now?" I ask, taking the sheet and turning it.

Two tires, a ball joint and an abundance of brake parts.

"Someone will have to look at the truck with me and point out these problems."

He gathers up the technician and we three hit the bay. The technician shows me a tire.

"See - there's slashes in the wall there. Very deep, see?"

Yes, I see. You want to empty your pockets there, hot shot? Let's see if you got a knife in there.

"And see the tread? Uneven wear. It's too low on the inside."

"Okay." Plausible I suppose.

"See the brake pads? Looks like original parts. Look at the separation."


"The pad material has separated from the metal."

"Oh." I fiddle with it. He seems to be right.

"The rotors are scored."

I run my finger along it. It's a tad wavy. "Can they be turned?"

"Nope." He's already making his way to the rear tire.

You little pip squeak. Why, I oughta -

"Drums are bent. See? I had a hell of a time getting them off." He's holding a drum up to me. I give it a feel. It's imperfect. He puts it down and pulls a small knife from his pocket.

The knife! Remain calm, Watson. Let the man speak. Let him trip himself up and utter his own inadvertent confession! It's elementary my dear!

"It's too wet in here," he says, gesturing toward the brake shoe arrangement. He pokes the knife into areas on either side of the brake cylinder - between the doo-dads and the widgets. The knife drips red liquid. Blood or brake fluid - who knows?

You beast.


"I see. Is it not supposed to do that?"

"No! It's not supposed to leak!" A hint of mockery.

"But would it leak if you weren't stabbing it?" I ask. "Because when I'm driving the truck - there won't be anyone back here stabbing my brakes, so-"

"It's not supposed to do that."

Fine then. You bitch.

"There's no time to get all this done today," says Orsi, stepping between us. "But we can get started and you can pick up the truck tomorrow."

"No good," I say. "I have appointments in Orangeville this afternoon - with my bank and my insurance company."

Orsi and I return to the service counter. En route I look to the wall for the photo of the inspecting technician I've just met and I find it - on a document that boasts his qualifications as a certified emissions control technician. Perfect. Just perfect. How lengthy was that training endeavor, I wonder?

"Okay Billy - here's how you turn the machine on. And here's how you turn it off. Same method, you'll notice, but you push the switch the opposite direction. Here's where you read the numbers. Here's where you write the numbers down. And here's how you attach the hose to the tailpipe. Don't attach the hose to ANYTHING else, okay? No funny business! This is serious stuff. We make a lot of money from this shit. Now print your name on this certificate. You passed. Very good. You'll go far, kid. NEXT!"

"So what's the total after tax?" I ask.

"Well - it's twelve-sixty-nine plus fourteen per cent."

"I'm not good with math." I say loudly. I'm becoming aggressive. If there's one thing I've learned it's this: Don't be soft spoken when someone wants your money. It's like jumping into a shark tank with a bloody nose. You'll put that merchant into a feeding frenzy. Orsi gets busy with his calculator. "Wait a minute! Fourteen per cent?"

"Yeah. PST plus GST."

"Oh, that's right. Harper dropped the GST by a per cent, didn't he?"


"What a sweetheart."

Orsi reads me the total. "Fourteen-forty-five. That's after discount."

"What discount?"

"Brake sale. Today's the last day. Twenty per cent off brake parts."

"My lucky day."

Shadow man says something to Orsi that I don't catch.

"Oh - there's a discount on the labor too - just the brake labor." He recalculates and gives me a new total. It's considerably lower.

"That's a lot better," I say. "That's after tax?"


"So what is it with tax?"

He gazes at the page a moment. "I can round it down to 1200."

"After tax?"


I'm starting to see why Orsi is not a Gold Medal Customer Service Award recipient.

"Is the tax optional or must I pay it?" He frowns. He's not eager to respond to this. "Because if the tax is mandatory then I'm very keen to know how much it is." He reaches for his calculator. "Never mind," I say, then whisper, "Ten per cent is one-twenty plus - plus - four per cent is - forty-eight? That's One-sixty-eight?" Orsi nods. "So - thirteen-sixty-eight."

"Plus a few extras. Just small extras."

"Such as?"

"You know - cleaner."

Cleaner? What the f-? My truck requires cleaner to pass safety inspection? Is there unsafe dirt somewhere on this truck? Has PK been holding out on me?

"I've never paid for cleaner before," I state. Orsi just shrugs. He's growing bored of me, I think.

"I need to use your phone," I say. "I need to ask the seller if he's willing to split this bill with me." I already know what Orsi's answer will be. And I'm looking forward to it. I've already planned my response. And sure enough:

"Well - if it's local that's okay."

I barely let him finish before snapping at him. "No! It's long-distance! It's Burlington. And it's a pittance compared to the fourteen hundred bucks you're taking me for!"

Orsi's smiley shadow man promptly whips out his cell phone and thrusts it toward me. I turn to him. We trade smiles. I nod respectfully and take the phone away from the counter and call up PK at his workplace.

"Buddy, I'm sorry to bother you at work. I'm in a pickle here. I'm at the garage. They want fourteen hundred to safety the truck. Brakes all around and two tires. They showed me everything. It looks legitimate as far as I can tell. But I never expected this kind of expense."

"Okay," says PK. "Is there some way you can cover the bill until I get the cheque from your bank? Can you put it on your Visa or something? I can pay you back."

"You can pay me back?"


"Buddy. I'm only calling to ask if you'll split it with me - down the middle."

"It's up to you. I'm willing to pay the whole thing."

"Well, you're a good man Charlie Brown, but I bought it as-is. If you're willing to give me half - that's all I want."

"Whatever you say."

"That's what I say. You can pay me whenever. Seven hundred."


"Okay. Thanks buddy. Bye now."


Is he a good man or what? I tell you - I got the greatest friends in the whole damned world. Got the monopoly on them. I'm the luckiest guy on the planet.

Back at the counter I return the phone to Shadow Man.

"Okay," I say to Orsi, "Let's do it. He's gonna pay half. Is that a nice guy or what? How 'bout that eh? There's still some nice guys left in the world!"

Orsi just glares at me. He's reading hostility into my happy comments. He thinks I'm insinuating that he is not a nice guy but really - I meant nothing by it.


I swear!


Friday, July 28, 2006


I once read an anecdote by an arctic explorer or something that claimed to have witnessed a polar bear making his way across the crest of a great icy hill when he lost his footing - the bear that is - and fell slipping and sliding down the great hill to the bottom.

The bear, so the story goes, then slowly and steadily climbed the hill to get back to the top where he turned - and slid down again.

I've always been sceptical. Might a bear really toboggan for fun?

We've had a tremendous wind storm here at the office today. We're near the airport and we get the highest winds here for miles around.

My cubicle is on the second floor of our office building. I'm right by the window. Right outside the window is a tall tree and in the tree today - sat a raccoon.

The wind is not steady but comes in strong gusts and brief lulls. The raccoon was quite high in the tree where the branches are weaker and the winds higher and the sway of the tree runs a greater arc.

The poor guy was getting thrown around pretty good. Quite the wild ride.

So what did he do? Did he climb down safely? Oh no.

He climbed higher.


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Not Long Until The End

We adopted her in the fall of '93 and named her 'Bluejay' officially, 'Blue' for short. The reason was threefold. The Toronto Bluejays were currently competing in the World Series and were about to win it. Also I was a big fan of Don Cherry at the time - this was prior to his degrading into a senile idiot - and his beloved dog's name had been Blue. Thirdly it was an easy transition for the puppy who'd been named 'Lu', short for 'Lu-lu' by the sweet old woman with Alzheimer's who'd insisted on selling her over a paranoid conviction that this hyper little Red Doberman puppy would surely soon scratch the eyeballs clear off of her other pet - an old pug-faced, bug-eyed Boston Terrier named Cinnamon Saint Magoo Antoine - or 'Goo-head' for short.

Cinnamon Saint Magoo Antoine! Is that great or what? This is my second favorite name of all time. It follows this moniker at top spot: Belhap Sattlestone Wirldess Ag Miracloat Roo Conanson. That's the villain-of-sorts from a marvelous short story called Not Long Until the End by delightful sci-fi author Larry Niven.

Our Obedience trainer was the first of several knowledgeable Dobie fans who tried to gently enlighten us that our Doberman named Blue was actually a Red Doberman, not a Blue Doberman. We already knew that of course. (A quick lesson on Dobie coloration - Reddish brown ones are officially tagged 'red' while rare gray ones are referred to as 'blue'.)

We were thoroughly puzzled though when a family, visiting from Australia took the opposite tack. They took a keen interest in our pooch and immediately began calling her 'Blue' without even being introduced!

"But how did you know her name?" we begged.

"It's obvious," they said. "Anyone with red hair gets nick-named 'Blue' - at least where we're from. It's like calling an elephant 'Tiny'. Don't you see?"

I do see of course. It is obvious, though why - is difficult to express.

I must brag for a moment. She's one hell of a dog. Thoroughly obedient. Smart as a whip, with a very extensive vocabulary. A fierce watchdog and hopeless lap dog rolled into one.

Walks, treats and ear-scratches are her favorite things. And she's been given them every day. We've been accused of spoiling her. Not true, I say. She's earned her privileges.

Perhaps her fourth favorite thing - at the time we all lived together - were the weekend mornings when we slept in - the two of us - crashed on the queen-sized bed together. And when she would rest her head on me and we were very very calm, I would whisper, "You're my beautiful girl. Yes, you are. You're my beautiful girl." And I'd pet her softly. "You're my beautiful girl." And we'd drift off and sleep the morning away.

Now, just a few days until her 14th birthday, Blue's looking like she may not make it to 14 - or rather that she really shouldn't make it - if her masters have the sense to let her go when the time is right. She's got a thyroid condition, arthritis, a heart murmur and cataracts. Her equilibrium is damaged, she's covered in benign tumors (we stopped having them surgically removed) and she's almost deaf. The latest problem arising last Friday is grotesque. She developed an ungodly volume of blood pooling up inside the flaps of her ears, making a hideous mockery of her head.

Last Friday my former darling and I agreed - or so I interpreted - that the time had come to put an end to things. But I was stuck at the office with severe pressures and critical deadlines and no car besides. I was spared the task that we long assumed I would be the one to perform.

"No," I said. "I don't need to be there. Go ahead. No, I don't need to say goodbye. Just give her a hug for me." I hung up the phone and remained in the conference room, alone for awhile. I'd known enough not to take the call from my own desk - that more privacy may be needed. There were two or three false starts leaving the conference room. Halfway down the hall each time my breath fell short and I retreated to the meeting room to pace the floor again and gather composure.

The deed was not done after all. I spent the bulk of the workday believing she was gone and making peace with that. But my ex, Blue's primary guardian, is an emotionally stunted 41-year-old adolescent who can't handle stress of any sort without throwing a monumental fit of distress and despair. Blue underwent a surgical procedure instead and now her head is wrapped in a tight bandage for the course of two weeks, the end of which will prompt further analysis and another day of reckoning - and almost certainly another nervous breakdown of biblical proportions from the ex.

Perhaps this procedure will prove effective. If not, there are two further options. A more serious and costly operation that she might very well not survive - or else - you know. The sleep.

She can still pull herself to a standing position after considerable effort. She still makes it up or down short flights of stairs with few collapses - on the occasions that something above or below captures her interest and no one is quick enough to come lending assistance by guiding her weakened hips. She still meanders over to you and presents her neck and back for a good scratching. She still staggers into the kitchen in hopes of a biscuit or a simulated bacon strip whenever any human treads there. And she gets one every time now.

How does this all sound? Like a dog that should be put down or not? I've lost any grasp on objectivity.

I am resigned to the notion that her life is complete. That she's well into bonus time. I just want to do the right thing. I'm told that pet owners should not be present at the time of departure. It can be traumatic. I understand that. But I'll have to be there anyway. I can't abandon her to be executed by strangers.

I'll whisper "You're my beautiful girl," and she'll sleep. And I'll hold her tight when her nerves go haywire and her body spasms and my heart gets ripped out. I just think it has to be that way.

She'll be buried on my parents' farm. They offered without my asking.

I always said I wouldn't want another dog after Blue. Because she's too special and deserves to be missed. But if I ever do get another dog I will name it in honor of Blue. Not by giving it the same name. That wouldn't be right. Blue can't be replaced. But I will honor her nevertheless. I'll do it right. If I ever get another dog it will have to be a blue Doberman this time. And of course - I'll name him Red.


Friday, July 14, 2006

Ode to a not-so-Grand Marquis

'Twas eight-thirty this morning and down Bristol Road
I drove away from my Streetsville abode
Not a light was stirring on my darkened dash
I foresaw no problem, no breakdown, no crash

When what to my horrified ears did arise?
But the sounds a transmission makes when it dies
There came from below such a terrible clatter
Oh crap! I exclaimed, What the hell is the matter?

I pulled to the curb and killed the ignition
Oh please! I exclaimed, not the transmission!
The engine stuttered and sputtered and stopped
I put it in park, out the door I hopped

I yanked on the lever and threw up the hood
Not knowing why but supposing I should
A cloud of blue smoke did billow and grow
Leaving hazy glimpses of the engine below

I feared the old beast must finally be dead
Visions of bank loans danced in my head
Back in the seat, my head on the wheel
I prayed that this all was a dream and not real

I gripped the ignition with a silent plea
I crossed my fingers and turned the key
The motor grumbled and rumbled to life
Giving faint hope of an end to this strife

I took hold of the shifter and put it in drive
In hopes the transmission might still be alive
I stepped on the gas with a fervent prayer
But the damned old car wouldn't go anywhere

A string of expletives burst from my lips
This Grand old Marquis would make no more trips
I went to see if a payphone was near
In hopes that a tow truck might soon be here

I borrowed the phone and the yellow pages
From a friendly merchant, then waited for ages
Santos the tow-truck man finally appeared
With a wink and a nod he confirmed my worst fears

With his hairy chest and his greasy old cap
He assured me the vehicle was nothing but scrap
I can take this car off your hands, he offered
I gazed at the four green bills that he proffered

Eighty old dollars was all he would pay
He gave me the cash and he towed her away
I waved farewell but the tow man didn't
Good bye you old beast! Good bye and good riddance!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Professor Plonk and Captain Vino's Garage Sale

Coffee mugs and drinking glasses
Water jugs and trays for ashes
Ticking clocks, a test tube rack
A binto box all brown and black

DVD's and music tapes
Things with nicks and dents and scrapes
Little jars and cups with lids
They'll buy it all, those crazy kids!

Pepper mills and salt shakers
Balls of yarn, a coffee maker
Incense burners, candle holders
Candles too, don't let them smolder!

Golf balls and tupperware
A hair dryer for those with hair!
And what are these? No one can guess
A milk frother and coffee press!

Novels, cookbooks, little wallets
Widgets, trinkets and whatchamacallits
Gadgets, gewgaws, knick-nackery
But who the heck's Ed Zachary?

A wooden 4-chair dining room suite
Fit for four to sit and eat
That trailer trash, she says she wants it!
Don't return her damn deposit!

Bowls and bottles, knives and spoons
But not that crazy sun and moon
Leave them in the back room closet
What the?? You returned the deposit!

A wheelbarrow, whipper snippers
Garden tools and hedge clippers
A 1970's vintage dresser
Worth a dollar, more or lesser

A lawn mower, a soup ladle
The world's ugliest end table
Come one, come all! You want a bag?
Hide that blemish with the price tag!

They haul it away in their cars and trucks
Look, we've made three hundred bucks!
It's pretty nearly all been bought
Let's give the rest away for nought!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Extra Cheese Please!

It was an educational weekend. I learned a lot.

Thursday: Extra white cheddar popcorn topper

I pick up a movie. They have a really decent foreign section at the Blockbuster Video at Mavis and Eglinton. I really appreciate that on account of Hollywood's 38-year streak producing predictable fluff.

Ouch! That was a bit harsh, eh? Alright, alright. I'll withdraw the comment but for the most part that's how I feel.

The foreign section includes such gems as Gas Bar Blues. Can you guess which foreign country produced this delightful little flick? No? I'll tell you. Canada. It's true. Canada. I've been there once or twice.

I choose a holocaust movie called 'Fateless'. I never miss a holocaust movie because it's good to be reminded how perfectly despicable humans can be to each other. It's good to be reminded how we once were outraged in the face of barbarism and genocide. How we carved "Never again!" at the gates of Auschwitz and figured we meant it. Of course, "Again and again," is the real motto, isn't it? It's good to be reminded 'cause then it makes us ask ourselves - what happened to the outrage?

But pardon me. I didn't intend to preach today.

I nuke two packages of microwave popping corn.

Lesson #1: Don't nuke popcorn for a full 4 minutes when the package reads "2 to 3 minutes." Bad. Just bad. Burnt popcorn tastes like a dead rat's butt.

I've already piled the two batches - one good, one bad, into the same bowl before I notice the disturbing scent of sulfur - or baked formaldehyde - or whatever chemical nightmare has resulted from my latest kitchen boner. Not wanting to waste $1.60 worth of pseudo-food product I just heap on mounds and mounds of white cheddar popcorn topping powder, hoping that'll disguise the taste. It works. Sort of. Well - kind of.

Up in my bedroom, watching the movie, I eat my way through the spoiled section unharmed though mildly repulsed and then I really enjoy the good portion beneath. But after a while I stumble upon a rogue party of burn-outs and that just puts an end to things. I abandon the remainder. I write it off and put the bowl aside.

Friday: Extra parmesan is only one of the seven sins

I manage to get away from the office at 2:45 PM and start the weekend by flying down the 407 to Burlington where I meet Captain Vino at his picture framing shop. We hang out until 6 when the shop closes. While there we make plans to meet the Captain's co-breeder and get a look at the new baby. While hanging out, he gets a bit of framing done; makes a few sales to customers who are picking up their finished artwork; goes searching for a missing length of frame following a mysterious clattering noise that emanated from the back room while we were in the front showroom; finds said piece lying in a corner - the path between that and it's previous resting place with the other three matching pieces being a physically impossible route for said piece to have fallen and tumbled with only the source of gravity to help it along; and reveals anecdotes of their ghost's previous hauntings. You know - the usual stuff.

Mamma has announced a seven-thirty bedtime so we delay dinner and visit her first. We make it there for seven. It's mamma's first day home from the hospital and Brynn's first post-emergence day at home. Brynn is the adorable kidlet, one of Earth's most recent arrivals.

'It's a pretty scary place,' I warn her - telepathically - as we cuddle in an armchair. She doesn't understand English yet. 'But it's also a place of incredible joy and wonder - if you learn how to find it. Yes, Brynn, I know it sounds cliche but It's true. I know from experience. I don't know your mamma very well yet but I know your daddies real well. They're clever guys. You're lucky. They'll help you find the way.'

Neighbors and family are omnipresent and mamma's early-to-bed scenario goes out the window. It's about nine before we get away.

"Argggh!" I cry, now in the privacy of Vino's Honda. "Get me to a restaurant before I die!" There's nothing like hunger to bring out the sensationalist in me. He takes me to Macroni's in Westdale. It's a marvelous restaurant and they surely deserve better than to have their name misspelled by some half-assed unpublished fantasy writer but I'm sure that's what I've done. Their Ziti Tagliatti is worth waiting for. And I've misspelled that too, I'm certain. Ultimate Pasta Euphoria is a more apt name.

We both order the Ziti and split a honkin' big ring of bruschetta bread and a bottle of Little Penguin Merlot. This is a cheap wine, I know but it's a good bang for the buck. Besides, their Chianti selection is a Remole and a real letdown. I know to steer clear of it.

A small group gathers at a table nearby. We're the only two parties in this wing of the dining room.

"I'm not sure whether to try the pizza or the baked Ziti," says one fellow. Vino and I, the eavesdropping good Samaritans that we are - fall all over ourselves leaping to his rescue.

"The Ziti!" we cry, almost simultaneously.

"Oh, okay," he says. "With the parmesan sauce or the tomato sauce?"

Stunned, we gently inform him that the parmesan cream sauce is very strictly the only way to go. Boy, some people live a sheltered life.

Our Zitis arrive and we're taken aback. The appearance is troubling and the first nibble verifies that all is not right with the Ziti. The Ultimate Pasta is less than euphoric tonight. The sauce has not thickened properly. It's too thin and thus does not coat the pasta sufficiently. The flavor is diluted.

Lesson #2: Don't make recommendations to strangers in restaurants. It's bad karma. You're just begging to be made an ass of.

But the Cap'n and I are not easily defeated. We know all about hardship. We're troopers. We improvise. We take the jar of grated parmesan provided on the table (a thousand curses on all you restaurants who don't provide such - and all your families too) and we give our Zitis a liberal dumping. I actually unscrew the vented lid and really pour it on. This helps to thicken the sauce somewhat and adds more flavor though the parmesan quotient is now a little too high. But we're hungry as crocodiles and enjoy it anyway.

I can't recall how this came about but for some reason Vino is asking me to name the seven deadly sins. It's not a test. He wants to know. He can't recall them.

"Sloth, Gluttony," I say.

"Yes. Go on," he says, raising his thumb and then his forefinger.

"Overeating, Piggishness, Feedbagging -"

"Wait a minute!" He has raised his driving finger then lowered it again. "They're not all about food!"

"Oh. Right."

"Sloth, Gluttony. What else?"


"Yup." His driving finger goes back up.

"Um. Jealousy?"

"Ah-huh." Ring finger goes up.

"Hmm. Pride?"

Vino considers it, then throws up the pinky. "Sure. Why not."

"What do you mean - Why not?" I demand. "It either is or it isn't. This has all been decided. You don't have any discretion!" I protest.

Vino rolls his eyes and drops the pinky.

"Um. How many we got?" I ask.


"Let's see. You think Pride?"

He shrugs. "Sounds good." The pinky's up again.

"What do you mean - Sounds good? We're not choosing the seven sins based on merit! We have no such authority! I tell you it's been done already!" I pull my ever-present notepad from my shirt pocket. "I gotta write this down." I write:

7 deadly sins

YES..... NO...... MAYBE
Greed............ Pride

"There's something on the tip of my tongue," I say.


"No, no. One of the sins. I can't quite think of the word but it means - something like - something like -" I'm getting frustrated now. "Kinda like coveting. Like to covet thy neighbor's wife. You know?"


"Yeah, you know. To covet something. I know that's not the exact word. It's not even a noun after all but something like that. To covet."

No reaction from Captain Vino.

I write Coveting under the 'NO' column.

At the next table someone is talking and the words 'butt plug' are mysteriously spoken. It catches Vino's attention. He frowns. "Butt plug?" he murmurs. "Did that guy just say butt plug?"

"Huh?" I say. 'No. No way. Not butt plug." I write Butt plug under the 'NO' column.

Our seven sins project is dead in the water at 4-and-a-half deadly sins. Our good waitress appears. We order coffees and a biscotti for the Cap'n and ask her if she knows what the seven deadly sins are.

"Other than sloth and gluttony," I add. "We're all over the sloth and gluttony."

She ponders a moment but comes up dry. We thank her for trying.

Soon she's back with our coffees and desert. She passes them out and then whips out a piece of paper and reads from it. "Greed, gluttony, sloth, wrath, lust, envy and pride!"

"Oh!" we gasp. I grab my pen and add to my notes.

"There's a table full of university profs outside," she says. "I asked them."

"Did they just remember them from the movie?" asked Vino, "Or did they really know them?"

"I think they really knew them," she says.

"It's envy, not jealousy," I say, correcting my notes.

"And pride was right after all," says Vino. "What did we miss?"

"Wrath and lust."

"Wrath and lust!" exclaims the waitress. "How could you forget wrath and lust!"

Now - in hindsight - I realize she was just trying to be friendly and gregarious. But at the time I took it as insinuation that we were wrathful and lustful! I became indignant.

"I'll have you know," I said haughtily, "That I have a very under-active libido." Vino's jaw dropped in shock. "It's true," I continued. "And I don't care who knows it. I tell everybody!" The waitress just laughed and walked away. Vino's jaw still hung slack.

"Well this date is over!" he barked and slammed his palm on the table. We died laughing.

"I heard that!" came the distant holler of the retreating waitress.

On the way out of the restaurant we paused at our neighbor's table and apologized for our recommendation. We assured him that it was an off-night for the Ziti and our intentions were good.

Saturday: Too cheesy for words

Leaving the annual used book sale at the Orangeville Library and stepping onto the main drag where Founders Day celebrations thrived all around us, the first thing I heard was a deep male voice, amplified, talking about the choosing of a red pill or a blue pill. It sounded familiar. There was music in the background. Hollywood tension kind of music. The voice continued and then I placed it. It was the soundtrack of the movie, The Matrix. Weaving through the crowd I came upon a clearing where the speakers were located and mats were laid out on the ground. Young men stood upon the mats dressed in white pyjamas with black sashes.

Now picture this scene, people. Martial arts dudes are demonstrating martial arts moves - live - but in slow motion - to the soundtrack of The Matrix.

Cheeziest damn thing I ever saw in my life. I shook my head sadly and walked away.

Sunday: Lesson three

Remember the movie from Thursday night? And the popcorn - half-burnt and how I hadn't finished it and put it aside?

Lesson #3: Don't leave ultra-cheesy popcorn sitting in your bedroom for 72 hours. It gets a little bit rank.