Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Happy Couple

She obviously gave him the t-shirt. 

It is hot pink and it says, “Dipped in HANDSOME sauce.”

Not the kind of shirt he would have picked up of his own volition at The Gap.

“Oh-oh,  you’re halfway there,” he is singing.  If that’s how you desribe the wobbly noise burbling from between his puffy, chapped, teenaged lips. Probably chapped from too much kissing. Although, if asked, he would surely say there was no such thing as too much. 

Then, a key change: “oh-OH living on a pray-er...”

His girlfriend looks at him adoringly.

They are by far the cutest couple at Rock Ridge Tubing Park in Huntsville, Ontario on this snowy, Sunday afternoon.  The sign for the park proclaims GREAT FAMILY FUN and it is true. The hill is dotted with families, riding up the tube lift like snow-suited sausage slugs, then linking hands at the top and spinning down the greased ice track squealing at the tops of their lungs. But not a lot of young couples. And certainly none of them as full of romantic fever as these two.

They have just come into the snack chalet for some fries and hot chocolate after an hour or so on the slope. Their cheeks are pink, flushed. There is a sparkle in their eyes. They are 16, maybe 17, and sugary enough to give diabetes to the hardiest of blood flows.

She  is tall and slender and blonde. Her eyes are big and blue, framed in a plastic fringe of Maybelline. She is wearing a magenta ski jacket with white fake fur trim. He is not as well accessorized but his hunter’s orange toque looks strangely colour compatible with the day-glo Handsome shirt. His hair hasn’t seen scissors since they were invented but the curly dark locks suit him. Women pay big money for hair that great. It is no wonder she is playing with it.

He scarfs down the fries, which are mired in pools of ketchup. He licks his fingers and eats noisily. She watches his fingers move the chips from plate to mouth, plate to mouth. Is she wishing she had ordered something to eat (something young women never do while dating. They want guys to think they are ephemeral, that they live on air). Or is she staring at his long, strong fingers, thinking about how they touched her last night. Or daydreaming, wondering how his ring finger would look encased in gold.

They have been together for a while. He calls her “silly goose” several times. Obviously it is a “thing” between them. Her pet name. 

She calls him “honey.” They sit close on the cheap plastic chairs in the snack shack, touching, smiling, whispering, sipping hot chocolate, playing with their cell phones.

He sings to her, off-key. She encourages him.

When the fries are gone they start to get ready to go outside again, putting on their coats and pushing back from the table.

“You haven’t even finished your hot chocolate yet, you silly goose,” he admonishes her in a teasing voice.

“You can finish it if you want,” she says, smiling at him. He drains the cup in a fast gulp and wipes chocolate off his mouth with his coat sleeve. She grabs the sleeve and holds it up to him to show the brown stain.

“And you call me a silly goose,” she says.

He shrugs goofily and she smacks him with her pink mitt. He snatches her arm and pulls her close. She giggles and pushes him away and they make their way towards the door, wrassling and play-fighting and teasing. He holds the door for her. “After you, honey.”

They go out into the snowy afternoon, wrapped in a warm cocoon of romantic fantasies. They are as in love, at this moment, as they ever will be. From now on, each intimate entanglement they encounter will be fraught with disappointment as they try to recreate this day at Rock Ridge.

Twenty seconds later, a young family struggles in through the door.  Four kids between the ages of three and eight. Three whining. One crying outright. Two frazzled parents. 

They take the table recently vacated by the happy couple.

P.S. The photo of my son, Sam, was taken at Rock Ridge this afternoon. While my family was tubing, I was writing because tubing scares the crap outta me.

Friday, January 29, 2010

#fridayflash: The Bus Driver

Mr. Harper rolled the big yellow bus up to the stop sign, wheels sliding slightly on the icy road, tires crunching, smoke billowing into the frigid air.
He looked both ways at the intersection, then stole a quick glance into the back of the bus to see what was going on behind him. Shook his head when he realized the back windows were entirely encased in the snow that was kicking up behind him. Didn't matter anyway. The back windows were more for show; more for the kids to throw moons and fingers in the direction of unfortunate commuters following too closely. Like all professional drivers, Mr. Harper relied on his side mirrors for most of his backing up. 
Bus was quiet today, he thought as he turned onto Highway 118. Blessedly so. He was nursing a headache that the handful of aspirin he had tossed back with his coffee at 6 a.m. hadn't managed to touch. He'd had a headache a lot lately, probably because he was having trouble sleeping. He fell asleep with no problem, but found himself waking up in the dead hours between 2 and 4, when no one was stirring except truckers out on the main road a few miles away, a distant, lonely moan on a windless night.
He'd get up, heat some coffee sitting in the bottom of yesterday's pot, light a smoke and flip on the TV, trying to find something better than infomercials and the baby blues, but not having any luck. Eventually he'd fall asleep, the cigarette burning up to the filter in the ashtray, the half-empty coffee cup cooling, the TV people bright and chipper with their veggie choppers and their thigh-shapers and their 1-900 numbers. Mr. Harper would snooze that way for an hour or so,  drool puddling on the crochet-covered pillow his late wife had made too many years ago, until the alarm went off at 5:45 to the ratchety-yapping of the local radio jockey squawking about last night's hockey game and what the weather was doing outside.
Mr. Harper knew by the creaking of the roof joists that it was going to be bitter out there. He got dressed in his yellowed long underwear, worn-soft work pants, flannel shirt and hand-knit socks, also made by his wife. He kept them good by darning them regularly. They were the warmest socks he had and he looked after them a lot better than the crocheted, drool-stained pillowcase on the chesterfield. He threw on his coat, his boots and his work gloves, then stuffed his smokes in his pocket, grabbed the keys and headed out the back door. 
The snow crunched as he walked through the inky darkness across the empty yard towards the bus, hulking beast-like in the shadows, waiting for him. He pushed open the door and stepped up into the driver's seat, giving the gas pedal one quick pump before he inserted the key and gave it a confident turn. The old girl complained, bitterly, but she always came through for Mr. Harper, was always there for him, and this cold morning was no different. She started.
While the bus warmed up he went outside and did his daily circle check, tapping the tires with the emergency axe, checking fluids, testing lights, opening and closing the emergency door and sweeping snow off the back. He did the sweeping knowing full well that 10 minutes into his run the snow would cover the back again, but he did it anyway. It was just part of the deal.
He had one more smoke while the bus warmed up, checking his Timex periodically to make sure he wasn't going to be late. Not that he ever was. Young mothers along his route could set their own kitchen clocks by Mr. Harper. He had driven them to school when they were in their short-pants stage, through middle school and high school. Some of them ... well, some were the daughters of kids he had driven to school years before that. Things changed, the world grew older, baggy pants replaced skin-tight jeans, laptops replaced binders and books, but the bus still smelled like moldering orange peels and Mr. Harper was still the silent gray-haired man sitting in the front seat.
He pulled the visor down to block the rising sun and headed west into town.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Jibberty Love and Smile Photos

Dave and our Jeep after a day fishing on Rain Lake, Algonquin Park. Aren't they both pretty?

I heard something on the news that made me laugh: the Toyota recall. 
I apologize if you're one of those Toyota owners and I'm offending you, but, come on! This is funny! I find foreign car owners to be smug, smug, smug about how awful the Big 3 auto makers are, what pieces of crap they make, how much better Japanese cars are, how they are quality automobiles, yada, yada, yada, and I'm sorry but this just looks GOOD on you!
As someone who lives with a Chrysler/Dodge mechanic, let me just say I am sick and goddamned tired about hearing how Japanese cars are just so fricking much better than domestic cars. The odd time when we make a pilgrimage to the city all we see are foreign cars. And people wonder why our economy is in the dumpster.
So now Toyota's formerly squeaky clean image has been scuffed a bit. Heh, heh. So-sorry about your ruck.
When I first met Dave, and was in the market for a new car, he said, "You can buy any kind of vehicle you want, but if you want me to fix it, it had better be a Dodge."
Not that he's fanatic about Chrysler, he's just been working for them for all of his adult life. He knows the cars. He has the tools for the cars. When someone comes to him with another kind, he'll fix it... money is money, after all. But he is most comfortable with Chrysler.
We bought a new Jeep Liberty in 2008. After a lifetime of fixing other people's new cars, it was the first new vehicle Dave had ever purchased. Usually he buys old cars with high mileage that he fixes up and makes almost new again. He can keep a car on the road for almost forever, he's that good.
He's thrilled about having a new car, though. "I figure that if I can keep other people's junk on the road for years, that I can keep a new car for 20 years or more," he says. I believe him.
We love the Jeep. Love, love, love. I have had so many cars over the years but the Jibberty is the perfect vehicle for us. 
It has four wheel drive for snowy, icy winter conditions. Not to mention traction control and really great tires.
It has the guts to pull our house trailer and just about anything else we need towed.
It's great for hauling "stuff." The roof racks are perfect for trips to Ikea and the back seats fold down for wood from Home Depot. And a Jeep just looks happier with a canoe on its roof.
It has room for all our people and their stuff.
And, for such a workhorse, it's not as bad on fuel as a truck. In fact, it's not much worse than my convertible. You're right, it's not as good as a little Japanese piss-whistler, but I'd like to see a piss-whistler do all the things our Jeep does.
There are a lot of SUVs on the road. I love the fact that Jeep was the original and is still, as far as most people are concerned, the best.
I didn't think I'd be writing about a car when I woke up this morning, but there it is.

While I was going through i-Photo in search of Jeep pictures, I found some photos I just absolutely love. They brought a smile to my face, so I'm hoping they do the same for you.

Dave knows some people with a hunt camp in the middle of absolute nowhere (Trout Lake, outside of Sundridge, ON). It's just a shoddy little one-room shack, with the emphasis being on shoddy. But we go there, every once in a while, and always have a good time. In the winter we get there by snowmobile. In the summer, by canoe. There are no  roads  to it. I love this picture because Dave and I had set this up to get Angus. We told the boys to come over and get their picture taken. I arranged it so Gus was under the big spruce tree. Then, just before Dave snapped the pix, I pulled the branch and down came a big load of snow, right on the unsuspecting Angus. Heh heh. 

I call this the Poopy Shoe picture. Sam, my youngest, on the left, is a Dog Poo Magnet. Every day, sometimes twice a day, he steps in dog poo. I am not exaggerating. He doesn't do it on purpose, but somehow it finds him. We'll be going somewhere in the car and all of a sudden Dave'll say, "Jesus CHRIST, I smell dog shit!" And everyone will get out of the vehicle and look at their shoes and, invariably, it will be Sam. He smiles sheepishly and Dave takes his shoe off and cleans it and we're on our way again. This makes me laugh, but don't tell Dave or he'll make me clean the shoes. Anyway, this picture was taken last fall. Sam had - you guessed it - just stepped in dog poo. So I told him to take his shoe off and give it to Angus to go clean (you didn't think I'd do it, did you? Silly!). So there's Sam, hopping over to the lawn chair to wait for a cleaning. And there's Angus, holding the offending shoe and giving Sam the what-for. If you know Angus, you know that is exactly what he is doing in this photo. The set of his shoulders, his arms straight down, and his lips just-a-flapping. This, also, makes me laugh. A lot. Sorry, Angus, it just does!!!! LOL.

Anybody who has kids, I think especially boys, will appreciate how they're always getting into some kind of predicament. Angus has fallen into a green-algae-slimed fish pond while wearing his best clothing at a family reunion. He has had a TV fall on his head. When he joined "the men" on a spring fishing trip he was warned repeatedly by Dave not to go in the water because it was cold, because the ice had just gone out a week previous, because they were three hours away from the car via canoe and because they only had one set of dry clothes. Well, sure enough, Dave turned his back for a second and heard a splash and Angus's surprised yelp. He wound up wearing Dave's clothes for the rest of the day. Sam is no stranger to predicaments, either. This photo reminds me of the Poopy Shoe picture because, once again, it involves Sam's feet. We were on a day-long bicycle trip in Algonquin Park and stopped for a scenic break at a river. The kids wanted to paddle their feet. Which was fine. Except Sam was too excited to take his shoes and socks off first. Above, Sam sits there listening to Bootcamp Dave's mandatory wet-feet lecture, while Dave wrings out the offending socks. Actually I'm not sure if Sam is listening or just pretending to listen. I suspect the latter, but either way, it still makes me laugh.

Question of the Day: what kind of predicaments make you laugh?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Slife One

Slife = slice of life: 
A weekly bit showing our daily world, 
shared with online friends to get to know one another better.

Following the sander home on a blustery, snowy, icy night on Highway 11.
Since they banned cell phone use while driving, do you think they'll ban picture-taking? 

My turn-off.

Stopped for a medium regular cuppa joe at Timmy's.
Tim Horton's is THE Canadian coffee shop.

Get-together tonight at Pub on the Dock in Huntsville for Mz. Paula Boon, famous author, proofreader and euchre nazi. She looks like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm but she stings like a butterfly and gloats like a bee. From left, that's Paula's main squeeze, hubby Nico, Huntsville Forester News Editor Tamara de la Vega (gawd, Tamara, I hope I spelled that right), Mz. Paula, Forester reporter Carli "Snow White/Mary Tyler Moore" Whitwell and production/euchre buddy Leah Burton. Paula is leaving the Forester after many years, moving on to getting her novel published. Go, Paula! And, she had her baby without drugs (I think she's insane; Carli - I have three words for you: epidural, epidural, epidural.)

Mz. Boon's get-together required two tables. Table deux feature new father Mike Dash, husband of the wonderful and talented Carlye (Carli is replacing Carlye on her maternity leave.. how funky is that?), table hopper Mz. Boon, Forester alumni Jennifer Cooper who we all miss, Wedding Guide and Sideroads cohort the lovely and talented pixie-ish Tracy Nita Pender, reporter/photographer/mom Carlye-Q, and the star of the show, the one and only, the fabulous, the extraordinarly pretty-in-pink Miss Olivia.

Part of the production room at the Bracebridge Examiner. That's supervisor Gail Knaus on the left and Marianne Dawson on the right. Note the time: 5:05 p.m. and I was supposed to be gone an hour ago.

My very good buddy Leah at her desk. Note her "holiday tree" that she decorates for holidays, any holidays. Right now it has a Valentine's theme. And that's her new kitten Reagan on the computer.

My leather chair, the envy of all my co-workers, given to me by my beloved, parked at my desk in front of my computer, where I park my arse day in and day out.
Oh, and that's my Kleenex, too.

Question of the Day: If you were having a baby, would you go all natural and drug-free, would you take some kind of drugs for pain, or would you choose an epidural? If you've had a child, what was the delivery like? 

Monday, January 25, 2010

Occam's Razor

Everything is golden when viewed from within the glass vase that sits on top of the very top shelf.
Golden, but not. Quite. Right.
Wavy. Skewed. Like the funhouse mirrors at the county fair.
On special occasions, the vase holds water, sharp thorns, rotting greens and, after a while, a film of white mold that eventually dries up and clings to the yellow glass, marring its perfection.
Most of the time the vase is empty. Dusty. 
A spider climbed in once. Just to see what life was like behind the golden glass. But the carnival view hurt his bug eyes and he abruptly left, seeking the warm and greasy comfort of the dust balls behind the refrigerator.
Still. Occasionally. The vase is pulled down from the very top of the top shelf and lovingly washed, filled with fresh water and dewy pink roses, and positioned in a place of pride.
On the top shelf a round stain waits.

Question of the Day: What waits at your house? And why?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

What the Dead Teach Us

This is my father. 
William John Robb.
Bill. Dad. Grandpa.
I can scarcely look at this photo without having the breath sucked out of me in a raggedy gulp. But it is my favourite photo of him.
I took it, oh, I don't even remember, maybe 18 years ago? Not sure. It wasn't too long before he retired after working for all of his adult life for the Canadian Pacific Railroad. He started out as a fireman, stoking coal into the steam engines that first fired those hulking, ancient steel horses. When diesel engines replaced steam he moved up to being an engineer, the guy that drives the train. And he was an engineer for more than 30 years, working nights, weekends and holidays travelling lonesome tracks that took him to Mactier, Smith's Falls, Port McNicoll and points in between. He'd be gone for days at a time, he'd arrive home at strange times, in the middle of the night or in the middle of the day. You'd never know if he was home, or not home, if he was asleep, or where he was.
He used to curse the railway.
Said he couldn't stand it.
Said once he retired he would never have one of those train sets that some people have. But he did wind up with one of those train sets. And he did wind up romancing the railway ... a little bit. In spite of himself.
Me? I was always in love with the railway. I always was, and still am, proud to tell people that my father was a railway engineer. 
I remember being pregnant with Angus, on my way to work one dark morning, held up at a train crossing. As the engineer blew his whistle and the train when clacketty-claketty-claketty through the darkness, I stroked my belly and whispered, "Your grandfather drives the train, sweet baby," and I imagined the bright noise of the train would travel through my muscle and fat and skin into his tiny, forming ears and he, too, would begin to romance the railway.
This morning Dave and I went out for breakfast and for some reason our thoughts turned to our fathers. I lost my dad three years ago. Dave lost his two months after that. Thank god for Dave. He helped me through one of the toughest moments in my life. I tried to help him. It is one of the bonds that tie us.
"I used to be afraid of death," I said to Dave. "I mean, isn't everybody? I'm still afraid, I guess, but there's a comfort in knowing that my father has done it, and my grandmother, and your father... It's like they've gone ahead on the rollercoaster ride and made it through without incident. They went first..."
"And it didn't kill them?" Dave said with a lopsided grin.
I laughed. "Yeah. Exactly."
He smiled. A sad smile. "Our parents never stop teaching us," he said.
My Dave. 
He is such a wise man.

Question of the Day:
(Tell me HONESTLY the answer to this question. Write as long as you wish. Just tell me the heartwrenching TRUTH. And then, just for fun, guess what my answer will be tomorrow?)
What is the most important lesson you learned from your parents?

Yesterday's Question: What is the worst thing you have ever seen?
(Thanks for your answers, everybody. I love them! Isn't it fun to do that bit of soul-searching? I am eager for this experiment to continue.)
My answer: It's hard to quantify what the "worst" would be. Everyone has so many to choose from, I'm sure. I have a few memories that qualify.
One was seeing a dead man hanging out of the driver's side of a car on a steaming hot summer day on the way home from the cottage. We came over a hill and had to come to a screeching stop because traffic was inching by an accident scene. Cops, ambulance, nobody had arrived yet. It had just happened. As we got closer my dad yelled at us kids to duck our heads. "DON'T LOOK OUT THE WINDOW," he ordered. Naturally, I snuck a peek. The man's eyes were wide open, white and surprised, his face red with blood, the Brylcreem-sliced hair somehow still in place.
Two: when my father died my mother brought his beloved dog, Molly, into the hospital room to say good-bye. Molly jumped up onto the bed and thoroughly licked my father's face. She was never much of a licking dog, but she licked him and licked him, then stopped, looked up at my mom to put her off the bed, and sat down. She was saying her good-bye and it was horrible because it broke my heart. I was barely able to accept that my father had just died but Molly had no hesitation. I cried like a baby. 
Three: seeing my father in his casket.
Four: This is probably the worst thing I've ever seen. When my toddler son Angus pulled a boiling hot cup of coffee down his chest, his father grabbed him and brought him into a cold shower, trying to peel off his steaming pajamas, and when the jammies came off, so did a thick layer of skin off my baby's tiny chest. And then, almost as bad, being in the ambulance with Gus, him screaming, inconsolable, nothing for me to do but try and comfort him and pour cool distilled water on his burn. The ambulance attendant in the back with me was helpless, I was helpless and Angus screamed and screamed. I wanted to scream with him, just scream out my fear and my guilt for this wriggling, pain-wracked, tiny child who I loved, and love, with all my heart.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Question of the Day

There's been a foot on our road for at least a week. At first we thought it was a cow's foot but, on closer inspection, Davey-Crockett-Webster says it's most likely a young moose foot, being cloven and all. 
And there aren't many cows in this neck of the woods.
Kinda creepy, though, isn't it.. butchered clean off just below the joint, stripped of all flesh except a neatly incised strip of hair directly above the hoof. Even creepier to think there's a moose serial killer in the woods, knife in hand, offing moose, chopping up their moose bodies and tossing bits and pieces of moose carcass on quiet back roads like ours.
It's pretty gross, granted, but I have seen worse things.
I'm sure you have, too.
In fact, I want to hear about those things. A whole bunch of things.
But only if they are the honest to god, from the soul, TRUTH.
Every once in a while, maybe even every day (who knows, who cares, there aren't any rules here, it isn't school or work, it's just me dithering around) I am going to ask you a question.
And if you feel like answering truthfully, answer. If you're going to be a smartass, and tell me a fib, never mind. Hit "next blog" and carry on with life.
I've always been good at asking questions. Too good, according to some people, like my father, who used to accuse me of grilling everyone like sausages on a smoky spit.
But I don't mind answering questions, either. So, here's where the fun comes in. 
As well as answering the question I pose, I want you to guess what my answer will be.
Tomorrow, or the next time I blog, I'll answer the question.
And you can see how well you know me, or see what a smarty-pants you are.
In the meantime, I am looking forward to reading your answers.
Tell me the truth.
I will know if you are lying.

Question of the Day: What is the worst thing you have ever seen?

Friday, January 22, 2010

With A Little Help From My Friends

Aren't hormones wonderful things?
I used to think I got bad PMS but this whole perimenopause thing makes PMS look like a good mood.
Last night I had one of those mini-meltdowns all too familiar to ladies my age and fired off a blog in 0-point-zero-seconds-flat about how pathetic I am. I don't regret the missive – in fact I'm amazed at how well and how fast I can write when powered by pure adrenalin-induced emotion. 
Just think, if I got crazy every time I wrote something I'd be as rich as Stephen King.
The best thing, the very bestest of all the best things about yesterday's post, was the swift retaliatory comments from my friends. If I wasn't bawling before I read them, I certainly was after.
I used to think I didn't have many friends.
Sometimes in the darkest, dankest depths of my sadness, I would wish for just one person to reach out and show me they cared. But the only arms to hug me were my own and the desolation of my own black corner was cold comfort to a grieving heart.
I always had the potential for friends but somehow lacked the desire, or the ability to grab hold of that potential and exploit it. I held it back, looked at it from a distance, didn't embrace it, didn't feel I was worthy of it or something, I don't know. And I'd miss another, and yet another, opportunity at friendship.
(This worthy thing, it's a problem with me, I know.)
I don't do that anymore.
I have more friends now than I have ever had. I bathe in their affection, I roll in it, I am loving how good it is. How good they are. How much I need them.
Last night they reached into my dark corner and pulled me into the light.
I just want to thank them.
And tell them that, hey, I love you, too.

P.S. This is a geranium bonsai, a rare sub-species of the common geranium, catered and cared for by my friend CJ, but dedicated to me. Please see
While you're visiting CJ's site, make sure you check out her Friday Flash entries and you'll understand why I love her blog so much.
Thanks Ceej.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What's Wrong With Me?

"I got an interesting email today," Dave said when he came in from work. 
"Oh yeah," I said. "From who?"
"My ex."
She never contacts him. Ever. One day she told him she didn't want him anymore and she disappeared into a black hole. A party princess having her midlife crisis a few years early.
"What'd she want? A divorce?" A little on the sarcastic side.
"Yeah," Dave said. "Her boyfriend proposed."
Anger welled up in me in a rush.
It was so bitter it surprised even me.
"EVERYONE gets a proposal except me," I screamed. "EVERYONE!"
Dave did an abrupt disappearance of his own, shutting the bathroom door in my face.
"I'm sorry," I said to the door.
I went to bed, curled up with a pillow and started a self-pity party. The thoughts that ran through my head were neither positive nor constructive.

I feel like I talked Doug into marrying me.
He told me I was his second choice, that if his first girlfriend ever came back that he would leave me, even if we were married and had six kids, he would go back to her.
Nineteen years later, he left me. Not for her. For someone else.
I was his second choice in the beginning.
And, in the end, second wasn't good enough.

I've been with Dave for more than four years. 
He has never popped the question.
He won't even talk about it.
I know he has issues with being hurt the first time around. But I don't think that's the problem. I don't think I'm good enough.
If I was good enough, he would have asked already.

I've been working on a wedding guide at work for the last week or so. Every day I lay out happy stories about weddings. Every day I adjust photos of beautiful, smiling brides. I read their proposal stories, I see their happiness and I wonder why I'm not good enough.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bear Nipples

Spell this blog incorrectly and you have porn.
Spell it right and you have the toilet paper holder in our bathroom.
Except it's still a little pornographical – see his nipples?
Dave put them there (I told you had a thing for boobies).
It was the only way of holding up the bear toity-paper holder.
We bought it Saturday morning on a chick-flick-style jaunt up the quaint and touristy main street of Bracebridge. It may look quaint (the street) but it is a beacon to wallets that belong to men driving Mercedes and skinny blonde women driving men. It is a mecca of retail paradise in the guise of small town.
We picked up the bear toilet paper holder in one of those trendy, expensive Muskoka-style stores that cater almost exclusively to tourists. We HAD to buy it because the bathroom in our log cabin has somehow become decorated in bears. Bear shower curtain. Bear toothbrush holders. Bear arses. You get the picture.
So we had to buy the bear, even though it was ridiculously expensive – who pays $39 for a tacky plastic thing that dispenses shitter-paper? (Dave and Dave's family and all the people in Sundridge who know Dave call the bathroom "the shitter." They aren't swearing when they call it that... they're just describing the powder room. Dave also leaves the bathroom door open, all the time. He'd leave the bathroom door open if the queen was visiting. But that's another story.)
We brought the thing home and Dave went to hang it up in the bathroom but couldn't because almost immediately some thing-a-ma-jig in the back broke.
"##%#%^$*^(&)E›#@," said Dave. (You can imagine what swear words would come out of the mouth of someone who calls a bathroom a shitter and isn't even swearing. Kids, you better not be reading never do... but I realize the minute I swear you'll be reading it like hawks.)
"You'll fix it," I say. "If anyone can, you can."
Sure enough, a half an hour later he comes wandering in from the garage holding the bear.
"Bear nipples," he says, holding it up to reveal two holes where screws would go to hold the bear to the wall.
"Huh," I say. 
I'd never actually heard those two words put together before and was therefore, briefly, speechless. 
(Dave wrote something on the calendar, god knows what it was.)
What I thought, was, "at least the bear nipples will be behind the toilet paper roll so you won't see them."
Wrong again. Now every time I'm in the shi ... bathroom ... all I see are the two holes filled with bright, shiny reflective screw heads. 
I'm thinking of maybe getting some tassles for them.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

School's Out ... Forever

Parkview Public School, Midland,
 where I attended from kindergarten to grade 4, where I won a poetry contest, where I rode in Mr. Avery's green Mustang convertible, where I got sent out in the hall by Mrs. Drennan and where I got in trouble for fighting with some other girl in the playground. 
It's where I was during Canada's Centennial (we got pins and we sang "one, little two little three Canadians under big maple trees), where I had my first crush (first on Spencer Brown, later on Tom Jones), where I had snowball fights, where my best friend Kim Scott was and where the schoolyard was divided: boys on one side, girls on the other. 
It's gone now, but never forgotten.

Old newspaper stories never die, they just turn yellow and disintegrate.
As a reporter for a lot of years I wrote a lot of stories and, because they were mostly written before the electronic age, they are only available on yellowing newsprint and in my own fading memories. 
I think I'll post one here every once in a while for the sake of posterity. It's also fun to revisit the people whose lives I touched, however briefly, so many years ago.
This is one of my favourites, about the closure of Dorset Elementary School. I was working for the Haliburton County Echo at the time, covering school board, when Trillium Lakelands Board of Education announced it would spend a year having public meetings and hearings to decide whether or not to close several small public schools.
Trustees and administrators promised they would keep open minds on the subject and, if a strong enough case could be made for keeping the schools open, the schools would remain open.
Dorset is a strong, proud, vibrant community. When people heard what was going on they reacted immediately. Committees were set up, research was done, phone calls were made, meetings were attended en masse; in short, everything that could humanly be done to save Dorset's school was done.
To no avail.
After a year of emotional pleas from the community, the school board voted unceremoniously to close it down.
The people of Dorset were devastated. They knew that a community has no heart if it doesn't have a school.
You're supposed to be unbiased when you're a reporter but I couldn't help cheering on the "underdog" in this issue and I was just as depressed as they were when the battle was lost.
There was lots of coverage in the media of all the meetings, but I was the only reporter who visited the school on its last day.
I hung around the school all morning, talking with everyone I could. I was surprised at the low-key atmosphere. Very few of the people who had waged all-out war were at the school to see it through its final moments. A few parents, that was about it. The regular roster of volunteers.
The kids, of course, who were happily oblivious to the drama that had unfolded on their behalf.
One of the public schools I attended as a child closed a few years ago. I admit I cried a little when I heard. I hadn't given that school a second thought for decades but it was nice to know that it was there. Like parents. Like friends. You might not always see them, but they are a part of you, a part of your present, your future, your past. They make up who you are and you imagine that they will always be there.
As adults we know all too well that nothing is permanent.
And even though we know that, when we lose someone or something we love, we are reduced to being orphans, to feeling alone in the big, bad world. 
A school is just a thing. A building. Bricks and mortar. 
But like an urn it contains the ashes of our childhood. 
And when it is broken, the last remnants of all our childlike hopes and wishes are thrown to bitter winds.

Dorset's Last Day

Kathy Morris is putting on a brave face.
It is shortly after 8 a.m. on Tuesday June 26, the last day of classes for just about every school in the district and the last day of school, forever, for Dorset Elementary. 
Morris is updating yearbooks, adding new pages then spiral-binding them together. It's a project she has worked on at this time of year for almost longer than she can remember.
A working mom and active member of the Friends of Dorset School, Morris collects photos and stories, poems and school memorabilia, lays it out in page form, then photocopies enough pages for every student and teacher in the school, the secretary, the janitorial staff and the school bus drivers – maybe 35-40 yearbooks at most. 
And that's the whole problem. Forty yearbooks aren't enough to keep a school open. Trillium Lakelands District School Board trustees slated it for closure, organized a year of meetings, investigation and public hearings, then unceremoniously voted it closed.
Morris was one of the many people in the community who fought to keep the school open and she's still angry about the board's decision.
She works away at the yearbooks, cranking the handle of the binding machine, making small talk with people who wander in and out of the school office. But alone, inside the smaller photocopy room, she lets her frustration show.
"They have just slowly killed our school," she says. "The board says it cares about the kids in our community, cares about schools." She grimaces. "If they cared, they would have done something." Something, she means, other than shutting the school down.
"They shouldn't be allowed to say they care when they don't."

Back in the office another parent wanders in. 
"It's very emotional," Joyce MacKay says about the last day. She's trying to stay upbeat, and says her family is "excited about going to a new school" in the fall. Irwin Memorial is about 15 minutes up the very curvaceous Highway #35 in Dwight.
MacKay and Morris agree it's a good school. "Every school has its pluses and every school has its downfalls," Morris says. 
When asked if they plan to do volunteer at Irwin Memorial, MacKay thinks she probably will. Morris' answer is an unequivocal "no."
"I am taking a year off," she says. "After 3:30, I'm done. Three months of looking at heads is over."
She's talking about lice inspection – it's one of those glamour jobs that volunteers do, getting up close and personal with the heads of every single student at the school, trying to nip any possible lice infestations in the bud. 
This is why parent volunteers do the job, because there isn't enough money in the world to pay someone to do it.

"You want a tart?" Principal Kevin Cutler comes into the office with a plate full of homemade butter tarts.
Millie MacEachern has made them – she's a lady who often does nice things for the school and she's a local legend when it comes to tart-making. "They're awesome," Cutler says, chowing down.
He admits there's something about schools, not just Dorset, that attracts food. Birthdays, Hallowe'en, Christmas – no matter what the occasion, there's plenty of food.
"If it's somebody's birthday, the mom usually brings in cupcakes," he says.
"But in Dorset," Morris adds, "the difference is they bring in cupcakes for the whole school. Not just the class."

None of the staff have been laid off. Secretary Deborah Roberts retired in January. Custodian Marilyn Roche, who came to Dorset to be a custodian for only one year and stayed for 21, has also retired. Principal Cutler and teachers Doris MacDonald, Shirley Cunningham and Annette Schumacher are going with the students to Irwin Memorial.
Schumacher is standing at the front entranceway of the school, helping students bring chairs out on the lawn for the last assembly. 
There's not much left inside the school at this point other than chairs and cardboard boxes. In the last few weeks both students and teachers have spent a great deal of time packing for the move to Irwin Memorial. There are no plaques on the wall. No pictures. No awards. Some of it has gone home with students. Some will go on to the new school. Some is going to the local museum. 
Empty of everything except boxes and chairs, the rooms echo.
Schumacher points to one of the students carrying chairs out. "That's him," she says, pointing out Grade 1 student Curtis Bennett. "He said the school looks like it's been hollowed out. Isn't that a great observation? That's exactly how it looks. Hollow."
The kids walk by with their chairs, excited because it is, after all, the last day of school and they have a whole summer to look forward to. It's the adults who seem most emotionally affected by the closure. The students are just plain full of beans, jostling with their friends, gabbing and fighting. Maybe some day they'll understand the significance of this day ... for now, it's all fun. After the assembly, they get to walk downtown to the frozen yogurt shop.
Schumacher watches them, expressionless. 
"Last days are hard," she says, "but this last day is harder."

The kids are settled restlessly in their blue plastic chairs set out on the lawn outside the school, waiting for Cutler to begin the last assembly.
"Let's bow our heads and think of all the wonderful times we've had at this school," he says, after the singing of O Canada. Everyone – students, teachers, parents – do as he asks. There is a minute or so of silence. It is like an act of respect for the school.
"This is really a special day for the people of Dorset," he says, breaking the silence. "This is the last day the school will be operated."
"What's operated?" one of the students interrupts.
"Good question," Cutler says over the laughter of the 30 or so people in the very small crowd.
Teachers are presenting "Top Banana" awards to their students. The banana awards are based on whatever qualities the teachers most admire or whatever sticks out most about the students' personalities. For example, one student wins because of "scientifically testing the effects of mud and snow on every pair of snow pants ever worn to the school." Others win for being most improved, or best attendance. Courtney Morris is called up to accept the banana award for making sure the Canadian flag is raised every day.
Suddenly everyone is laughing. Courtney's face goes red, then she runs into the school. A few minutes later the flag is seen inching up the flagpole.
When all the students have their banana awards, the Friends of Dorset have surprise banana awards for the staff. Members Lori MacKay and Morris have presents as well – perennial plants that live on year after year. 
"They're like the trees we planted," MacKay says, her voice breaking. "They'll help you remember Dorset."
All the awards are not quite handed out. There are special certificates for the Grade 6 graduates: all two of them. Teacher MacDonald makes the presentation because "they have put up with me for six years of the seven" they have been at Dorset. Nathan Reid and Sarah Parniak step up to the front of the assembly. Their parents take pictures. Sarah's mother wipes away tears. Both students accept hugs from their teacher. Nathan, being a boy and trying to be cool, makes a pretend face as "Mrs. MacD" hugs him. Hard.
"It's sad that we have to let the school go," she says to everyone. "Unfortunately with the funding formulas that the board works with, it was impossible [to keep it open]. But I do think it's neat that we'll all be going to a new school together. Let's make Irwin Memorial our school now."

Mrs. MacD has the task of wrapping up the assembly.
"So, let's close now," she says, then looks around at the other teachers. "Any last words ... ?"
Like a stage prompter, teacher Schumacher loudly whispers the words her co-worker is searching for. They are words that are real and true for the students and teachers and principals who will reunite after summer holidays and find their niche at Irwin Memorial. But those words will never again be true for the red brick, four-room schoolhouse in Dorset.
"Until September," Schumacher says.
Until September.
– 30 –

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Misty the Husky

We are bad, bad parents.
We got playing euchre tonight and forgot that little Misty, our 8 lb. tiny dog, was outside in the winter chill.
But that's OK. 
She is Husky.
Hear her roar.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Cathy by Vic

That's me at work. That's my big burgundy leather chair that Dave bought me a few years ago for my birthday because he was sick of rubbing my back all the time. That's my picture of Sam, a self-portrait he gave me for Mother's Day a couple years ago. Those are my pants with the cuffs rolled up because even though I'm 5'6" tall, my jeans are too long because they sew for Amazonian skinny women, not me, and I'm too lazy to do anything as constructive as hemming my pants.
This is me, drawn today by my friend, Vic, who sometimes pops around the office and occasionally draws me because... I don't know why. Because she's bored, I guess, and she likes to draw. And because I'm such a good-looking subject. Hey, do ya blame her?
The picture is accurate except for one thing: I don't look at my blog all day at work.
I look at it occasionally.
Like, maybe once in the morning and once at lunchtime and once before it's time to go home. And maybe once in between. Or twice, but who's counting?
However, I WANT to look at it all day long.
Work gets in the way of blogging, have you noticed? Everything gets in the way of blogging. Housework. Cooking. Eating. Breathing.
I'm hooked. 
I admit it.
Six months ago I didn't even know what a blog was.
Then one night in bed Dave let a fart go that leveled the entire town of Bracebridge.
Seeking relief I came out to my computer and started a blog. 
Some day someone will ask me how this all began.
And I will have to say it's all because I live with Pepé le Pew.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

How to Eat Doughnuts Every Day and Lose Weight

Eat that other doughnut. I know you waaaannnt to. 
Have two or three doughnuts!
Scarf down the whole box! 
Order another box!  
Eat 'till you puke!
There are not enough doughnuts on god's green earth to make you fat.
Finally, you can eat everything you've ever wanted.
And not gain one ounce.
How is this possible, you ask?
Ladies, gather around. I have a little secret. A miracle of modern technology.
It's called The Auto Suck 500 and it can give you the body of your dreams.
All you do is eat your fill and then plug yourself into The Auto Suck 500 and, voila! All your fat gets sucked out!
No exercise! No dieting! No surgery!
Sound too good to be true?
Wait, it gets better!
The Auto Suck 500 comes with an exciting new option - the Auto Suck 500 Inner Suck is a tiny microchip that is injected into your arse. It's just like the chips veterinarians inject into dogs we actually want to keep! 
Bonus! If you get lost and your husband wants to find you, he just follows the beeping from your arse and you're back in his loving arms! (Important note: If you have an abusive spouse you might want to take a few laxatives and poop it out before you escape.)
With the Auto Suck 500 Inner Suck, you don't even have to plug yourself in to get your fat sucked out.
The state-of-the-fart technology in the Inner Suck senses calories from a distance of 500 yards, so, as you're pulling up to the Oliver's or (in my case) Timmy's drive-thru, the Inner Suck automatically starts working, getting its internal guts rolling in preparation for incoming fat and carbs. By the time you're wiping Boston Cream off your blouse, the Inner Suck has already sucked out all your fat! Incredible!
Even if you can't afford the Inner Suck you can still be skinny the old-fashioned Auto Suck 500 way. But instead of the micro-chip, you have to plug yourself in. Where, you may ask, is it plugged into?
Well, one end can go into any electrical outlet anywhere. It comes with a handy adapter so you can even suck fat in the car.
The other end is shoved up ... um ... that place where the sun never shines.
Admittedly there is a little pain involved plugging your butt with the Auto Suck 500.
I guess it's like every other weight loss program in the world.
A big pain in the ass.

P.S. Thanks to the girls at work for giving me this idea. And thanks to Leah for coining the indomitable phrase, "Auto Suck."

P.S.S. Thanks also to Michael Lorenzo of the Phillippines for this delicious doughnut. I grabbed it from stock.xchng, a great place to see great photos from all over the world.
I did have a doughnut of my own to photograph, but I ate it.
Thank goodness for the Auto Suck 500.

P.S.S.S. (I'm starting to sound like a snake) Thanks also also to CJ Hodges-MacFarlane of Duluth, Minnesota for lending me her painting of her own personal weight loss system - a doughnut with a string tied to it. It's SO simple. In her own words: "Eat whole. Pull."
CJ is my new BFF, even though I don't know her from Adam. We're mutual stalkers.  (I'm reminded of the character Rose on Two and A Half Men.) I was just mindlessly hitting "Next Blog" one day and came across an incredible story she had written about a mother who has sank into the abyss of depression. A stunning, absolutely haunting tale – I've re-read it several times. CJ is a wordsmith and an artist who ravages geraniums and is funny as hell. You can check out her blog by clicking "Mostly Other Things" under my links.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Judge Cathy

Lordy, lordy, it's my favourite time of year again.
Break out the popcorn and the insults, it's time to pony up to the chesterfield for another winter of American Idol.
Don't ask me how I got hooked on this show. 
I don't know. I hate reality shows.
I wish Survivor would just die. Or come to Muskoka and try out a winter in a snowstorm or spring in blackflies... see how far the pretty little contestants make out in their thong bikinis in that scenario.
And that dancing with the ex-stars thing? Could there be anything lamer? (OK, you're right. Figure skating is lamer.)
And how about those shows where has-been celebrities share the same house and bitch-slap each other all day? 
"Oh you HO!" Slap! 
"You cheating HO!" Slap! 
Scintillating dialogue.
All I can figure is there was nothing on TV one January night a couple of years ago and somehow, some way, the remote honed in on Simon.
It's insidious how it grabs you and won't let go.
I actually go into Idol withdrawal when the season is over, getting the shakes, stuttering off-key, repeating Whitney Houston lyrics I didn't even knew I knew (and wish I'd forget), insulting complete strangers and, the worst of all, surreptitiously watching Canadian Idol. And you have to be desperate to watch that. Geez I hate Ben Mulroney. Even more than I hated his father. I know, hate is a strong word. But have you SEEN Canadian Idol? 
Thousands of Canadians must have agreed because CTV finally yanked Mini-Brian off the air.
But back to the Simonized Idol.
I have to admit I was a tad disappointed with last night's performance.
Simon was a little milquetoast. Not enough insults for my bloodthirsty taste.
And was it just me or did Posh look remarkably like Kara? She did give Simon a bit of a going-over but it was all just too polite. Only Kara went over the edge on that serial killer dude. I was hoping they would have kept him longer. Might have added a little Spice to the show.
My favourites so far? The reject from the 70s and the girl at the very end. There were a couple others but my perimenopausal goldfish brain has already forgotten them.
I look forward to tonight's young sacrifices, the lambs of the music business about to face Simon, lord of his own domain.

P.S. That's me with the other Idol judges. That make-up sure is slimming, eh?
I was crowned Idol Judge Runner-Up in case Ellen is having a bad hair day.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tom Hanks & Rita Wilson

Rita was on TV today.
She was doing Oprah, some kind of makeover madness. Rita is so good at that sort of thing. Seriously. 
She always had a talent for it. More talent for dressing than acting, I always say, but I would never tell Rita that. 
It's always "Kiss, kiss, left cheek, kiss, kiss right. You look mahvellous, dahling, mahvellous," and that sort of thing whenever we get together. 
Speaking of which, we haven't gotten together lately. Tom and Rita haven't even been to our new house. In fact, I don't think we've seen them since they were in Sundridge a while ago. 
Tom had just filming Castaway and he was exhausted, the poor thing. The paparazzi was hounding him and he just needed to get away. Seriously, you'd think since they offed Princess Diana they'd lay off celebrities a bit. 
Sundridge is about as far away as you can get, short of a deserted island, of course. So he called us from Pearson and said he and Rita were taking a charter flight to South River and could we pick them up and stay with us a while?
The house was a mess but our friends don't care about stuff like that.
In fact I was shocked when we saw Tom.
He hadn't even gotten his hair cut since Castaway.
And I seriously doubt if he had seen soap and water, either.
Luckily it was a warm day so Dave suggested we all go for a swim. He didn't want to come right out and say, "Tom, you stink, get your arse in the shower." Well, he did want to say that. Actually, he did say that.
Unfortunately the hot water heater wasn't hooked up yet so Tom went for a swim in our brand new swimming pool. We were proud of it. It had cost us several pay cheques and Dave managed to convey its value without bragging.
Tom was so impressed he asked where we got it and thought he might want to try to pick one up himself. "That would give ol' Spielberg something to chew on," he said. "And can you see the look on Meg's face when we invite the Ryans over for the next euchre night?"
He stopped in at the Crappy Tire in Huntsville on his way home but the pool wouldn't fit in the back of his rented limo so he had a fit right there in the parking lot and jammed the pool box in the nearby LCBO dumpster. Seriously.
The editor of the Forester was there snapping pictures and unfortunately she sold them to some tabloid trash in the U.K. So much for Tom's stellar reputation as Mr. Nice Guy.
Hey, but he IS a nice guy. That's why we stalked him and how we met him.
Me and Dave had always heard he was so nice. 
"We're nice," Dave says.
"They're nice," says I.
So we followed them around until they had us thrown in jail. While we were being prosecuted, Tom and Rita kinda realized we really were nice. So they dropped the charges, invited us out to dinner and we've been best pals ever since.
Seriously, we're going to have to have them over some day for some grub and a little euchre. 
Now that we're so close to the Muskoka Airport, they can fly in, we can take the Neon over to meet them, treat them to dinner at Chalet Suisse and put them up in the bunkie above the garage. Oh sure, we'll have to tidy it up first. I mean, they're pretty down to earth but even Tom might not like the mouse droppings in the silverware drawer and our Christmas decorations strewn all over the living room. One of these days we'll put them away. 

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Perfect Male

Dave is the perfect male. 
So perfect, he borders on female.
He cooks, cleans, does laundry, dishes, changes kitty litter, splits wood,  carries heavy things, takes out the garbage and fixes our cars. Not to mention the fact he makes twice as much money as me and pays almost all the bills.
You may well wonder what it is I do around here.
Well, so I do, now that you mention it.
I dunno.
The word "ornament" comes to mind.
I thought I did a lot until I started writing stuff down.
"Dave, what do I do around here?" I asked him a half a second ago.
"Same stuff as I do," he said.
"I guess," I replied. "Except I don't do kitty litter. Ew. Or fix the cars. And you do the garbage. And lift stuff."
"Huh," Dave said. "Then I don't know what you do, either."
I am writing this as I eat dinner that he prepared.
He got home a little earlier than me tonight and promptly started supper, got the fire in the woodstove going, threw in a load of laundry and cleaned out the stinky kitty litter. All he wanted from me was a kiss when I blew in the door, but I was feeling as stinky as the litter and gave him the cheek-swipe instead of a full lip lock.
"No kiss?" he asked, hurt.
"I'm grumpy," I said sulkily. 
"What'd I do?" 
"You started dinner."
What a nervy bugger, eh? Starting dinner! 
"I had it all planned, what I was going to make tonight. I stopped at the grocery store and got all the stuff I needed and everything and now it's all ruined because YOU MADE DINNER!"
He raised his eyebrows and carried on with the cooking, knowing enough about females to stay clear. 
See? I told you he was the perfect male.
We have a lesbian friend who is in awe of Dave's many talents. She said to him one day, "If you tuck that thing in I'll take ya home."
Whoa, sister. Wait just a cotton-pickin' minute.
There are other things that I haven't mentioned that Dave does very well.
And none of those things require tucking.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


"I can see that Mom is kind of upset," Angus says.
I smile at him.
I am, a little. I was hoping to be home in time to post something on this blog, only because it's important to me to try to and write something every day.
But it looks like I am about to miss the midnight deadline.
Angus, dear heart, notices.
He is beautiful, in all ways.
I took this photo of him and Misty this afternoon.
He is as beautiful as any sunrise, any sunset, any child, anywhere.
He is my Gus. 
And I am so proud of him.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Here's Looking At You, Kid

Yeah, I know, this picture is disturbing on SO many levels.
But, come on, it's FUNNY!
Sorry, but it's not my fault. This is what happens when ad salesmen bring leftover Christmas candy into the workplace. Especially the bitsy mini licorice allsorts. So clever, these baby yummies are.
It was Friday afternoon, all the sane people at work had already left work and a few of us were hanging around because we were down on our butt-kissing quotas. One co-worker, who asked me politiely not to use her name ("CATHY SO HELP ME GOD IF YOU USE MY NAME I WILL HURT YOU"), was buggering about. 
At least I was pretending to work.
Suddenly she appeared from around the corner, two mini licorice allsorts stuck to her eyeballs.
She was laughing so hard tears were streaming down her face.
And so was I, of course.
So she posed, still laughing, but her fingers were blocking the licorice.
"LAY DOWN ON THE FLOOR!" I ordered, a la Karsh.
So she did, laughing so hard I think she popped a major organ.
Our floor is somewhat industrial. I think the last time it was cleaned was 1962.
I think tonight she might have had a hard time explaining to her hubby why there was dust all over her back.
I could hardly wait to bring this picture home and Photoshop it.
After I erased her natural eyeballs, I showed the pix to my family members who were suitably appalled.
My job here is done.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Whomp, Whomp

I look up from the camera. Look around.
Nothing. Nobody.
I go back to taking photos of the river. I never thought it would freeze over but it has done just that. Not strong enough to walk on by any means, but there is a layer of ice stretching right across the water. That's how cold it's been lately.
Whomp. Whomp.
I jerk my head up. Look around more carefully. What IS that noise? It sounds like an animal, like a cross between a raven and maybe a beaver with a grump on.
I don't see anything. The noise has stopped, but I'm nervous now. Wary. 
Loud this time. Goose bumps scoot up my spine.
I've heard ice crack before. It doesn't sound like that. Less of a sharp crack, more of a basso profundo.
I was thinking about it as I was going through my photos for tonight's blog. It could be the ice. Because our section of the river is framed by two hydro dams, the water levels frequently go up and down (I was going to say "like a toilet seat" but I share a house with three males and that's simply not true. The seat in our house mostly stays up). 
So maybe it's the changing levels that make that peculiar whomp-whomp sound.
Or maybe it's the river current itself.
The river, I am learning, is a woman of mystery.
Her secrets, her charms, her admirers, are many.
Her explanations, few.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Hello, Rock? I'd Like a Coffee

How hard is it to order coffee at a drive-through?
Every morning for three days in a row I have made a complete and utter ASS of myself at the Oliver's Esso Drive-Through Window in Bracebridge.

MONDAY MORNING: It's freaking cold outside. I'm early for work. I decide, hey, let's get a coffee. Treat myself. I pull up to the drive-through, depress the window button, and nothing happens. I see the lady with the headphones grinning at me through my frosted window. 
I smile back, point to the window and shrug. 
She shrugs back, still grinning.
I open the door, but I'm parked too close to the window, so it won't really open.
I pull forward a bit and open the door a crack. The lady is still smiling but her eyes are unsure.
My toonie slips out of my fingers and falls in the snowbank.
The lady has stopped smiling.
My face is starting to turn red, I can feel it.
I wrestle my bulky form out of the six inches the door will open, bend over and, with cold hands, fork through snowbank searching for my toonie.
There's a line-up of cars forming behind me.
I find the coin and stumble back to the window and plunk my toonie on the counter.
My face is beaming red, my hair is a mess from being upside down and sweat is beading off my forehead.
"I'd like a large regular coffee," I say to her. Standing at the drive-through window.
She gets me one. Smiles.
"Have a nice day," she says.
I waddle back to the car, steam coming from the coffee and my ears.

TUESDAY MORNING: Despite all the crap that went on the previous day, I want another Oliver's coffee. It was really tasty! 
But this time I check my window before I get to the drive-through window. And hey! Blessed mother of god, it works!
I pull up and I'm feeling confident. 
"Good morning," the lady says enthusiastically.
"Good morning!" I reply.
"I'm sorry," she says, "I didn't catch what you ordered."
I stared at her.
She didn't catch what I had said because I hadn't ordered yet.
Suddenly a light bulb goes off above my head.
"Ohhhh.... there's an order box......"
"Yes!" she says brightly.
"Ohhhhh... " I say, more like a groan than a word. She is no doubt impressed with my intelligent banter. 
"Um," I continue, "where is it?"
Her smile falters. 
She realizes now she is dealing with a moron.
"It's back there. Beside the rock."
"I saw the garbage container," I say. "Is it in the garbage container?"
"Uh, no," she says. Her smile has disappeared.
"Is it in the bush?" I ask, hopefully.
"No," she says. "The rock. It's near the rock."
"The rock," I repeat. Stupidly.
She brightens. "Yes," she says, "that's right!"
Oh yay, she's thinking, the stupid woman has finally figured it out.
"Did you want a coffee?" she asks, now that our dilemma is resolved.
I order a large regular coffee and plunk my money down without dropping it.
Just as I'm about to pull away she says, "I like your handles."
I look at her blankly. 
"My handles?"
She smiles and points the handles on the car door. "Your handles," she says.
Under normal circumstances I would say something witty in reply but I realize, in that moment, that witty has completely deserted me. 
So I mumble, "thanks." 
And pull away before I melt in a puddle of humiliation.

You don't think I'll go back, do you?
You have no concept of how far I will go into the realm of the twilight zone. I must go back. I am drawn there. And the coffee is very tasty.
This time I am totally prepared.
The window opens.
I have money ready. And back-up money in case something happens to the original.
I scout out the box ahead of time. I see it. 
Not only is it near a rock, it is very possibly growing out of a rock.
Only in Muskoka.
I even take a picture of the box, which has a very large sign stuck to it. 
The sign is printed in huge black letters. 
It says, "ORDER HERE."
No wonder I missed it.
I order my large regular coffee at the rock and pull up to the drive-through window.
The same smiling lady is there.
"Good morning!" she says enthusiastically.
"Good morning!" I reply.
"I see you found the rock," she says.
"Yes," I say. "And my window opens, too."
Her smile falters.
"Your window?"
I realize that she is not the same woman who was there on Monday, when my window wouldn't open.
She is staring at me like I'm an escaped mental patient.
I smile at her.
"You make good coffee," I say. "They don't make it this good in the home."
As I drive off I look in my rear view mirror and she is poking her head out the window, staring, her mouth hanging slightly open.
It's too bad that I won't be able to go there anymore. 
Their coffee really is tasty.
But Timmy's is pretty good, too.
And Tim doesn't think I live in a looney bin.