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.


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."


"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.


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


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


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


"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?


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.


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.


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.


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.