Living alone, I can often go for days without actually having a conversation with anyone. Telling my cat to move somewhere else, or yelling at the computer for not co-operating, does not count as a real conversation. Working alone, for the most part just adds to my daily quietude. While delivering the newspapers, it is just me and the radio; while giving a massage treatment, I rarely converse with the client while they are on the table.
When I am with people, I don't get this sudden need to talk and talk and talk.... though I am sometimes seeing this happening when I am at the checkout counter (much to my middle aged dismay!). I am one of those people who is quite comfortable with silence. For a certain amount of time. And that time can easily exceed 30 seconds.
This is not the case with one family friend who usually spends the holidays with us. Like me, she also lives alone and spends a good portion of her workday alone in a lab. But when she gets with people, her verbal acuity never falters. At Christmas, I realized with slight exhaustion as I gave her a lift home, she never once stopped talking. She monopolized the conversation competently for the entire eight hours. She always had a insight or opinion on everything that was said by anyone else. My family, who also tend to be on the quiet side, just sort of lets it happen and goes with it. Don't get me wrong, she is also entertaining and knowledgeable (especially in obscure facts about anything to do with movies and television and computers) and she will also listen to you when you have something to contribute and converse instead of just talking over you. But, she never sits silently and listens and observes.
I was at a client's house late one afternoon and they invited me to stay for dinner. This sounded like a fine idea as we had to interrupt our vacation horror stories to actually get the massage treatment completed. During a brief lull in a conversation I was having with Cath while she attended to something in the kitchen, I realized that there were seven people at the table and if you didn't include the cockatoo who was screeching "hello" and "look at me, I'm a bird" (I know!!) but did include the dog who was hovering, there were easily four separate conversations happening at the same time. It was all genial and freeflowing and ... oh so overwhelming. My family dinners would seem formally stilted in comparison. We generally have one topic on the go at a time and while there will be the odd side talk between two people, it is brief and generally still on the same topic. The conversation ebbs and flows and has the usual diversions, but it always seems to include everybody at the table.
I often find my quietness to be a bit of an hindrance - though I know, somebody has to be the listener. I can miss out on having my say from taking too long to process exactly what I want to say before I open my mouth. And if I don't have a follow up immediately in my mind, there can be that awkward silence... And I have always wanted to be the kind of person who can walk into a room and just start a conversation. But somehow, I find it all so exhausting. And a bit annoying.
Pity poor Santa. Time was, when he came to visit, he was put up in a splendid grotto. Maybe a castle or a gingerbread house. It would be festooned with decorations. (don't you love that word "festooned"? you rarely get a chance to use it nowadays), there would often be a white picket fence beside the path you had to walk along to get inside his grotto. There would be elves to help you and to hand out candy canes. Long after I stopped believing in Santa Claus, we would make the rounds of the malls to visit his grottos (and maybe embarrass an elf or two into giving us candy canes just to go away...). There was a friendly competition among the various malls into providing the most fanciful, most original grotto for this most honoured guest. It was a spectacle you looked forward to seeing. Now, he doesn't even seem to have a dwelling at all. His massive chair has been reduced to a bench with a bit of green behind him. Nothing special, or magical, or even noteworthy. After getting your picture taken with Santa, the rest is photo shopped in. Like 'magic 'you can have your image in front of a small ramshackled house with a crooked wooden sign saying "North Pole", or out in a snow covered wood, or in front of the massive tree in the mall. That is hardly memorable years later when you look on the old tattered photo. Santa's lair simply cannot compete with a Swarovski laden 35' tree.
Especially when they dim the lights and it begins to snow! Inside the mall! Every night at 7pm, a crowd gathers around the tree, the snow fairy appears and the lights dim. "Let it Snow" softly starts wafting through the speakers, and from the high ceiling of the Eaton Centre, bubbly snow falls and drifts... it is magical.
I have just come inside after a nice long walk in the bright sunshine and crisp, cold air. There is some snow on the ground and a lot of ice, but it is not unmanageable. It is actually quite pleasant. Especially if you are dressed in appropriate layers.
Yet, all around us there is chaos. The wrath and fury of winter and lake effect snows has taken hold and gripped areas of Southwestern Ontario. Highways are closed, hundreds of people are stranded, dozens of vehicles abandoned. People are still digging themselves out of their homes. Yesterday's drive home show on CBC featured listeners calling in to report the conditions wherever they were - some incredulous at the blue sky and crawling traffic for no apparent reason (tales of 45 minutes to drive 8 blocks) and other spots that were virtually problem free while a few miles away there were snow squalls and whiteouts.
I used to live in what is known as the "snow belt" - an area of Ontario that gets a lot of snow, predictably, without fail, every year, though there are bands where the snow can be more or less - it is dramatic and instant as you cross over from one area to the next. You learn very quickly to be prepared. I admit that I have become a bit lax about my emergency supplies, but I used to make sure I never travelled without at least a blanket, a cache of food, a flashlight, an extra sweatshirt and pair of socks, an icescraper, snowbrush and shovel, and a big bag of kitty litter (non clumping!) along with the usual jumper cables, extra wiper fluid and a first aid kit. And a full tank of gas. Driving in a snow squall is probably the scariest thing I have ever done. My route to work took me through some picturesque winding country roads into the ski hills. I once followed the taillights of a vehicle ahead of me into his driveway because I had lost all sense of direction of where exactly I was on the highway. It was a good thing he was able to tell me exactly where we were so I could try to get some bearings once back out on the road. But I did not feel safe. The stress near about did me in. I needed a massage when I finally got home!
It is good to hear the warm hearted stories of people coming to rescue those who were stranded. But as often happens, a day or so on and the complaints start.... why weren't we warned? (weather patterns is not an exact science, how often have we had dire predictions that never materialized), why were the roads not closed? (some were and still people drove onto them... and got stuck) why weren't we rescued sooner? (the police and army had to endured the same conditions as you), and my personal favourite: a guy travelling from Michigan who was angry that he was even allowed to cross the border when there was a storm!! I don't know how much detailed weather and traffic updates these border guards have access to, but I'm sure he should not be blamed for not knowing there would be a blinding snow squall that suddenly come out of nowhere.
A few weeks ago I went to see Priscilla, Queen of the Desert at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto. It was a fun filled, elaborate production (and that bus is freaking amazing, with thousands of LED lights somehow embedded in it to transform it to pink and provide a backdrop to the travels through the desert). Last week, I finally went to see a bloggy friend act in Shakespeare in Hollywood at a community theatre in Rochester. It was small and intimate and full of laughs and had a not so elaborate donkey's head. I love going to the theatre. I love to see the energy from the actors. The magic that can be created from an imaginative set design. And the instant reaction from the audience. But I had never seen anyone I knew personally acting in a play, so I was excited about that. It can be just as enjoyable to see a lavish multi-million dollar production as it is for a much smaller, but no less energetic production from a local company that obviously enjoys being together. The drag queen in the one was expected, the antics of the drag queen in the other was a pleasant and comical surprise.
And far be it from me to make a trip to anywhere without multi tasking (I can't even go across town without planning on getting at least two chores done), so when I looked into this trip I also planned a visit to the George Eastman House (he of Kodak fame) I thought it might be nice to see it all decked out in Christmas cheer. And I was in time for the Gingerbread House display. This year there were the most ever gingerbread houses - 70 - displayed throughout the house and museum (one other reason I didn't go last week, besides the dentist). I got there in time for the docent's tour (docents are always so knowledgeable and make any tour more informative) and just in time to see a bus load of small children leaving. Whew!
I was actually enjoying the tour so much that I forgot about taking photos. Imagine.
After the play, I headed back home. It is only a bit over 2 hours, and I thought I would take advantage of the night and stop off at Niagara Falls to see the Festival of Lights. So, after the border crossing, I bought myself a coffee and drove slowly along Falls Dr and admired the lights. I wondered where I could park, but mostly I just kept driving and enjoyed the view. We have our own Festival of Lights in my town, but these are way better - if mostly because they were so spread out that you could admire each moving illumination individually. It is virtually impossible to get an individual photo of the ones in our park as they are packed in so closely in a small space. Still, I didn't take any photos. I drove along past the illuminated falls, wondering at the wattage of the huge spotlights that reached so far. I drove past the spray that turned to a thin sheet of ice as it hit the car, on to the end of the five km tour of lights display. I got out to walk for a bit, drinking my coffee, then I thought, maybe I should get a shot of the falls all lit up to share with you. Coming back I would be on the side of the road closest to the falls. Since there was no traffic, I figured I could just stop on the road, so I drove along past the spray that added more ice to my windshield and found a spot that wasn't too far from the railing so I could get a better look.
It truly is a majestic sight, these Falls. No matter the season, or time of day. It is even better when there is absolutely no one else around. I reached into my pocket and held up my camera towards the first view and started to play with the settings.
Blink. Suddenly all went dark. It was the stroke of midnight. I had done my oohing and ahhing in the wrong order, it seems. Day was done.
(click on the links for photos and reviews and info)
(I did take some photos, one of which is on my photoblog)
The original plan was to be in Rochester for an event yesterday. I chose instead to visit the dentist. Thank goodness.
Police closed Interstate 90 Thursday after a truck jackknifed and vehicles became backed up and buried in blowing snow, State Trooper Daniel Golinski said. Drivers also were stranded on a 3-mile stretch of Interstate 190.
Though parts of I-90, better known as the New York Thruway, were reopened by midday, an 11-mile stretch remained closed as darkness fell. Traffic, mostly big rigs, was backed up for about two miles in the eastbound lanes and a mile headed west after sunset. Authorities expected it would take several more hours to clear the mess
Oddly this band of lake effect snow (that Buffalo gets every year) was barely 3 miles wide.
But, if I can put off something, for a day, a month, a year or two, I will. So I put off going to this event in Rochester for another week because I really could not put off the dentist any longer. In fact, I was almost looking forward to going, if only for the release of the nagging, intense, sharp needle pain in my tooth. Surely, the freezing needle could not be worse.
Turns out, those needles are not nearly as bad as my memory tells me they are. I specifically chose this dentist because he was available when I had an abcess and because he used nitrous oxide - the great laughing gas. Then one time, he decided that since what needed done was such a small job he would just freeze it, and somehow the gas was forgotten. He puts some sort of tropical topical gel on that this time tasted suspiciously like banana pudding. This was way better than the usual tastes of bubblegum or mint. I haven't liked bubblegum since I was eight and I have never liked mint. Which makes buying toothpaste a rather long, unpleasant exercise. Not far off having to taste the toothpaste. And the unfreezing experience isn't at all as I remembered it, either. In fact, there was nothing to it. I dribbled a bit when drinking, but nothing out of the ordinary, really.
All in all, far better than freezing in a cold car on a thruway for 21 hours.
Even though most Canadians have never been North, really North - Arctic North - we seem to have a certain connection with it. With the images, if not the actual place. It is a part of our consciousness. Those images from The Group of Seven and Inuit artists permeate our being, though I am certain that many of us could not name the artists who have created those images.
That part is not something to be proud of.
In the last two days we have lost two prominent artists, Doris McCarthy and Kananginak Pootoogook. Ms McCarthy was 100 and lived a full and exuberant life by the Scarborough Bluffs (in Toronto). When she retired form teaching at age 62 she had no idea that she still had so much living and creating ahead of her. She travelled throughout Canada and the world, but many of her more recognized paintings were of landscapes and the icebergs of the Arctic. Mr Pootoogook was born in a traditional Inuit hunting camp on Baffin Island 75 years ago, but when he moved to Cape Dorset (Nunavut) in the early 1950s, he became involved in establishing an art collective that showcases Inuit art. He was a sculptor and lithographer and is perhaps most recognized through his prints of wildlife.
So yesterday (and by 'yesterday', I actually mean Monday. I am a slow writer....) was Snow Tire Day. The annual ritual of preparing for the stuff that has already befallen on Alberta and BC (and other points west, not to mention much of Sweden judging by their lovely, wintery scene laden photoblogs). Anyway, even though we had not one inch of snow last year, making Snow Tire Day a reduntant ritual, I decided not to risk it. Besides, I needed new tires anyway, so why not get the heavy duty, practical ones.
By a strange quirk which would be too tedious to explain, but does actually make sense (you'll just have to trust me) my snow tires from last year were stored at a garage an hour and a half away. I had an appointment for 1PM. I gave myself 2 hours, because one never knows with traffic. I was there in 1 hour 10 minutes. Even with a cop hovering on the highway, I made excellent time. And because it was an unseasonably warm 15C I opted for a leisurely stroll along the waterfront to eat my sandwich. That was when I realized my sandwich was still sitting on the counter at home. I am getting so much better at not letting such things put me in a ripping foul temper. I enjoyed the warm weather and found a place to buy something else for lunch.
Then I thought, well, I've come this far, once my tires are on I may as well go another half hour and visit my brother who has just opened up a new store. An antique store. I was really quite excited to see this new venture and see what kind of vendors had rented space.
Now, I am almost glad they are not closer to home, because I would be running out of money. And space for more stuff. I have a thing for buying glass. Especially glasses (of the drinking variety). You could all stop by for a drink at the same time and I would not run out of glasses. And now I have 2 more. I only buy in 2s now, because sets of 6 or more takes up way to much room and I don't actually have that many friends who need matching glasses when they visit.
But really, the thing that caught my eye were these Hand blown door knobs. Danish.
In a most striking and beautiful shade of turquoise. My most favourite colour.
I was their biggest spender that day. Now I just need to find a tumbler that fits.....actually FOUR tumblers that fit.
Well, I am making use of my fancy walking stick I bought last year, at least. My toe is still swollen and very tender. But I have found a sweet spot on my heel where I can put pressure without sending searing pain throughout my foot. It doesn't seem to be broken, but it doesn't really matter - pain is pain. All this means more time spent in cafes, sitting on comfy chairs by the window.... and I don't have a laptop.
Anyway, before all this happened, I took myself off on a house tour to see what I would get if I held the winning ticket for the Princess Margaret Sweepstakes. You can view the house, with a virtual tour and long detailed description of this 3.6 million dollar home that comes furnished by Lynda Reeves (a local designer and editor of House&Home magazine) by visiting helpconquercancer.ca. But, I had to experience the opulence for myself.
It is a large house, modelled on vacation homes in The Hamptons, specifically the one in Something's Gotta Give, which I haven't seen, so the references were lost on me. After seeing the model home in Oakville, I googled the one from the movie and noticed that the Long Island house was much, much brighter. And more casual and cozy.
Nothing is spared. It is a keyless entry (as someone who is always losing her keys, I love this feature - it reads your fingerprints). The kitchen floor is heated, there is an amazing picture window over the sink and tons of storage. Two dishwashers and an industrial 10 burner gas stove with a massive range hood. The stainless steel appliances and cabinets make it look a little less casual in my view, but I like the space. (the steel cabinets are on the other side - to balance out the enormous stove) There are lots of big windows where you can look out on your tiny bit of yard surrounding the house. And the neighbours in their small, single storey 1950 ranch style bungalows. I feel a little sorry for them, having to deal with hundreds of people wandering by to view the house for the past couple of months. And the fact that now they have this totally out of place large (but beautiful) house in their neighbourhood.
The most striking feature I noticed while walking through the living room with the cathedral ceiling and the upstairs corridor that overlooks the same living room was the incredible amount of wasted space. For a 6,500 sq ft home, the rooms were not oversized and there were only three bedrooms (and six washrooms!) but there was still an enormous amount of wasted space. Then again there was also an enormous amount of storage. OMG, the storage! It was everywhere! I like these hinges, which were also predominent on every door.
There was even a dogwashing station in the wide mudroom.
In the news tonight was a segment about how some people are handing out healthy snacks for 'Hallowe'en candy'. Indeed, some people aren't even handing out candy, but have stocked up on stickers and little toys instead. As someone who used to be diasppointed with those little boxes of raisins (no matter how good they actually were, they were not candy or chocolate), I say piffle. One of the highlights of this Hallowe'en Season - I was actually wished a Happy Hallowe'en twice today - are those wonderful packages of little chocolate bars. Except that those mini Mars Bars are so mini now that I end up eating six times a many as I would have normally to get my fix.
A friend of mine was all flustered over her kids' costumes - one is going out as a ladybug, another as a gingerbread man. She could have bought the suits, but decided she could make them just as easily. Well, sorry, nothing is just as easy as buying a ready made suit. Anyway, I'm sure they will be cute. Her eldest son is going as a Mad Man, specifically, Don Draper. I don't think he actually knows who Don Draper is, except that his parents keep referencing him and he gets to wear his grey ring bearer's suit from a summer wedding he was a part of. It may be his last chance to wear it, so he has been granted his wish. He has a dark blue pillow case for his loot bag and she has written Crown Royal on it in elegant gold script.
We got to talking about the costumes of our childhood (mine in the 60s, hers in the early 80s). And the tears when the wonderful costume had to be covered up with a winter coat or rain jacket against the cold and damp.
Gone are the days of putting an old bedsheet over yourself and calling yourself a ghost. Or wearing your dad's old shirt and becoming a hobo. It turns out she does not remember those decorated plastic poncho like thingies that we wore, along with the plastic masks that made your face sweat.
Really, those ready made costumes have come a long way, baby.
I remember going as Zorro, at least once, but I believe I just had a mask and a towel wrapped over my shoulders and a silver foil covered umbrella to brandish about as a sword. Maybe I might have had something similar to this Lone Ranger costume, but I doubt it. Surely I had nothing this cheesy? And just in case the hair wasn't enough (and yes, I did have Farrah Fawcett Hair) this dreadful depiction has a photo AND a name to let the candy giver know exactly who you were.
I don't get any trick or treaters at my door, but I do have a bowlful of candy. I even found one of those candy necklaces that were so much fun to wear to school and slowly destroy by eating piece by piece. But I won't be dressed up. Then again, will my penguin decorated flannel pajamas count? I understand it will be close to freezing on Sunday night. Hot chocolate and mini Mars bars. Yum.
I have been going to see a few plays in Stratford (Ontario) this past summer and have just about fallen in love with the place. It is a lovely town, on the Avon River.
Mostly it is known for the Shakespeare Theatre Festival it holds every summer which attracts many tourists and prominent actors.
It is also the birthplace of a certain teen sensation... who has written an autobiography that is worthy of a reading by a prominent Canadian actor
(as seen on a satirical television news show, This Hour Has 22 Minutes)
I am still kicking around, although you may not have seen much of my presence of late. Work has gotten a bit out of hand. It has zapped me of my wakefulness and energy. And my muse.
Being useful makes me feel good. I usually like being able to help people out. Then there is the asking of help with your deliveries while you are on holidays in Georgia, or North Carolina or wherever, and having the suggested 80 newspapers balloon into 145........ I am exhausted from helping you out.
I fell asleep on the couch with the tv on - again. Actually, the on/off button on the remote is still broken, so the tv is almost always on as I am too lazy to actually wander over to the set and find the little on/off button to turn it off (or unplug it). Anyway, just wondering.... can anybody out there explain the attraction of the Jersey Shore?
There was a brief moment of breath holding. We were both sitting at a patio. Someone I have not seen for many years - how long has it been anyway? 10 years at least, I'm sure. There is a reason we have not seen each other, yet it surprises me a little that we have never run each each other until now. There was no sign of recognition. No flicker of of the eyes, or a quick turn of the head to follow my progress to the table in the sunny corner. Nothing to show that I was at all familiar. I was ignored and I ignored back. I read my book, drank my coffee and listened to their conversation. It was not enlightening, nor even remotely interesting. I thought about how I would respond when I got up to leave. Would I be tempted to nudge the chair as I squeezed past? Would my bag accidentally hit a head? Would I stand in front of the table, directly in line of vision and dare to be noticed? Would I deign to speak? But I realized there was no desire for contact. There was really nothing I wanted to say. That feeling in the pit of my stomach never actually materialized. And that felt good.
...actually, it all started with a little squeal. Then it progressed to a screeching. By then I had checked my calendar and picked a day to have my car's brakes looked at. Suddenly, overnight, it had become a grinding that got worse with every press of the brake pedal. Several hundred dollars later (including a rental for a day) and I was thinking that, yes, that other contract job I'd been offered was going to be pretty useful.
Someone asked me, just days before all this happened, if I knew a good mechanic. Well, yes, I did and I was happy to send some business his way. I told this person where he could find my good mechanic. "Is he any good", was his next question. Huh? Even if I didn't like you that much, do you honestly think I would rather give an unscrupulous mechanic (and there are many of them out there, I'm sure) more business? But, I like my mechanic. Saturdays are a little iffy, but mostly he is available. It is a small garage with just two people so there is no towing service, or courtesy car, but he does seem to be reliable. He explains only enough so that my eyes don't glaze over. I don't get the broken bits returned to me, like another garage used to do, but I'm fine with that. He knows what kind of work I do and takes that into consideration. If he finds something else that needs fixing immediately, he'll just go ahead and do it. If it can wait, he'll warn me to have it done in the near future. If it can't wait, but he is too busy, he'll call up another neighbourhood garage and send me there. He knows I am trying to sleep during the day, so doesn't bother me with phone calls to ask what he should do - I tell him to make my car better and leave him to it. Many's the time the car was left in the lot for me to pick up after hours; he knew I would return the next day to settle up. Try doing that with a big name automotive service centre.
Actually, my custom with Dan was sealed when another car I owned developed a problem with the battery. I knew it was the battery because, apart from the usual signs and symptoms, every time the car died and I recharged the battery it would work. But the charge didn't last very long. This happened when I was heading out to see a new client. It was a little embarrassing, being so late, then having to get her neighbour to give me a boost while I frantically called CAA for help. She was very understanding about it all. The big name automotive centre I tried was less interested in selling and installing a new battery than in performing a 'diagnostic test' to determine if the thing was indeed dead. And that would take time because there was a line up before me. They had a routine to follow. Just like when I needed a plug in my front left tire, a ten minute fix had to take 1 1/4 hours while they did their full feature routine (for which they charged extra). But it was a Sunday of a holiday weekend and I had little option. Anyway, I got my car to Dan's a couple miles down the road and he took one look at the battery and pronounced it as good as dead. Just to show me how little juice it had he attached some machine to it. In less than half an hour I was on my way and he was back at work on one of the other cars up on the hoist. The whole thing cost less than the 'diagnostic test' from Canadian Tire the other big name automotive centre.
Has anyone else noticed how many winter tire commercials are already on TV? I guess that will be the next big expense.
In other news, I have suddenly discovered just how funny The Big Bang Theory is. Apparently I have three seasons to catch up on. That would be two seasons of 23 espisodes and one season of 17, at approximately 23 minutes each. That is a total of 63 episodes. For 23 hours. I was up most of last night working on that by watching it on the internet.
One should not eat nuts while watching this show. Choking may occur.