Mayor McCheese

I learned something new this holiday season, no mean feat as I very inactively lounged around in (I don't have to work and you can't make me get dressed) pyjamas for the better part of two weeks.

A while back, I'd watched and enjoyed the Beekman Boys television series chronicling their efforts at  transforming themselves from city to country mice and their farm into a successful business.  

One of the products they produce intrigued me - Blaak cheese, a blend of raw goat and cow milk which is aged in a vegetable based ash.  Not wanting to forgo my pyjamas and travel all the way to Sharon Springs to buy some, I used the magic power of the internet to order some up.  I also bought some Balsamic, Elderberry and Fig Drizzle for the cheese and got them to throw in a couple of coffee / tea mugs.  My credit card barely balked at the thought of international shipping costs.

As I waited patiently for my gifts to arrive, I continued to lounge my way through a fairly crippling ice storm and 27 hours without power (we were lucky).  This happens to be the same amount of time it takes for the charm of ordering pizza in the dark to be lost.   

On Christmas Eve, my bounty arrived by courier and while everything was very well packed and wrapped, one of the mugs was broken.  Their customer service was amazing and they let me know they'd ship a replacement mug "Priority" with no questions asked.  Also amazing?  Blaak cheese and the drizzle!  Thanks Beekmans!

A couple of days ago, I received a call from the courier company telling me that all cheese imported to Canada has to be inspected by Customs and they'd requested the shipment I was about to receive be provided for review.  The representative explained that in releasing the package to Customs for inspection, I would then received the package and a bill equal to 246% of the cost of the cheese as a duty import charge.  Who knew the Canadian cheese people had such a powerful lobby group?!

Her "uh oh" when I said the cheese had already been delivered, devoured and delicious told me someone was in trouble.  She agreed it was their error and she would contact Customs to explain what had happened.  She warned me I might still get a bill from them for the full duty amount.  

We chatted briefly about the Beekman Boys as she remembered them fondly from their season of The Amazing Race and we chuckled about the fact that while ignorance of the laws of your own country is no defence, when you're stupid and hungry, strange things can happen.

Yesterday, my replacement mug arrived and the box was fairly covered in Customs inspection tape.  The outside label mentioned the cheese and the inside duplicate bill showed the previous purchase so this may be what piqued their interest in the contents of the already delivered package.  

If a bill shows up, I guess I'll have to pay it but the next time I get a hankering for Blaak cheese, it may just be cheaper to pull up stakes and move to America.  Is there room for one more on the farm Josh and Brent?  


War and Peace On Earth

Christmas is all about competition!  Whoever disagrees just doesn't understand my rules.

It's hard to say which piques my interest more - the frenzied price slashing between retailers, the people who demand attention with their elaborate light displays (I prefer a half assed effort), my own best and worst Christmas card judging event (poorly attended by all but by me) or, the contest to determine which sibling's gift to my parents will trump all others in the family canon.  Okay, it's that last one.

Through some longstanding failing, I continue to feel I must seek approval.  It's this defect that allows me to spend 8 or 9 bucks on a card as long as it gets the animosity rolling in the ranks.  It's usually an easy win with everyone getting to hear my mother repeat over and over who gave her the "most beautiful card" but on occasion, there can be added jeopardy.  

If one of my n'er do well brothers awakens from a stupor long enough to remember it's the holidays, things get more complicated.  This doesn't happen often but that's not to say I haven't been blindsided on occasion.

Once, after everyone had ponied up with cards and gifts, we were blown out of the water by my brother's genius move of crudely cutting a poem (about mothers) out of the newspaper, putting it in an envelope and easily sailing to a first place showing.  That was talked about for years and I'm nearly over it (I'm still not over it).

The threat this year comes from another brother who has managed after 40 years of saucing himself beyond the pale, to find his way out of the darkness of alcoholism.  We're very happy for his success because hitting rock bottom one more time would have left a wound too deep to recover from.  

The news ticker tells me that his evil plan for this year includes sending a box of chocolates along with a card proclaiming that these parents of ours are in fact the best parents ever!  Clearly, he's still not thinking straight but this move will have definite, immediate and major impact.  Him sending anything, including a box of dirt, would probably have the same import.

It's my definite view that the only thing my parents need, is to be institutionalized, but just the same, I've  sent them a large poinsettia to start and I'm currently narrowing the field on my final strike.  The flowers are a hit (I didn't know poinsettias came that big!) but I'm worried when those chocolates and that card arrive, my efforts will be for naught and he will have won.   

Since it is the season for giving, I'm arguing with myself about whether to give up my whiny dynamic "...but I've been here all along and he's so, so…prodigal!" or not.  It may be the best gift I give myself to just concede and let the glow of my neighbour's 10,000 watt light display keep me warm.

Who knew Christmas warfare could be such a tiring affair?  We all do.  I'm sure of it.


The Pick Stops Here or Breakfast of Champion Trippers

Every time I get a sandwich at the deli in the food court at work, after wrapping it, they stick those little party toothpicks through it and I think:  silly, what do they need those for?  They're stylish enough if you want to strike a pose with one in your teeth, sure, but otherwise?

After getting a breakfast sandwich this morning, I started back toward the office and tripped!  This sent my sandwich sliding several feet ahead.  As I sheepishly scooped it up, I was delighted to see it was intact.

Now I get it.


A Mother's Pride

My longstanding instinct when anyone asks how my mother is, is to say "crazy".  It's always been tough discerning antics from bonafide symptoms with that one.  I could say that anyone who's taken the time to have (and more or less raise) 9 children might be expected to be a little off her game but she did follow the rules printed in the manual:  be fruitful and multiply.

Mother has always had an interesting approach.  She once came home dismayed over the cost of replacing the side view mirror on her car without expressing any concern over who or what she'd sideswiped to lose the thing.  When I was a smoker, she'd cough at the mere sight of a pack of matches to register disapproval.

Her most recent habit is to call my sister hinting that if she was going to the store, but only if she was going!, she needs milk, or bread, or something.  My sister dutifully drops what she's doing and shows up with the requested item to be greeted with "I guess you never thought to bring dessert".  With a nun in the family, there must be paperwork she can start to put my sister on the road to sainthood.

It's never easy to tell which mother you'll get.  One day it's "I had such a good sleep" and another it's "I had a vision last night" and then you have to settle in.  Unsettling.

I pay little attention to the higher power my mother's always inciting but knowing she'd most likely be impressed with a call from Rome, I did just that to say hi and let her know I was at that moment looking up at the Papal apartment from St. Peter's Square.   She was truly amazed, with how clear the phone connection was.

For lasting impact, I bought her some jewellery in the Eternal City thinking this might hold some higher stead.  I could almost hear her pride-sinning to her friends  "My son bought it for me in Rome!".  Instead, she promptly lost the necklace and said "You can get me another one".

I wrote a travelogue of my recent vacation and emailed it to my sisters.  One of them printed it off and gave a copy to my mother.  Now this impressed her!  She even wrote me an old tyme letter to tell me:  "We were amazed, it is so well done.  Isn't it wonderful what people can do if given half a chance?"

There's no telling what's going on in that mind from minute to minute but I suppose I should just thank her for the 'half a chance'.



The revelation a few days ago about a cache of art found in a Munich apartment reminded me of a documentary I'd been wanting to see.

The Rape of Europa is about the systematic theft of art throughout Europe by the Nazis.  From plunder to recovery, the full on horror and beauty man is capable of is on display.

The film is a fascinating perspective I hadn't seen before on the war and gave me another way to say "Thank you for your service".

I couldn't get the YouTube link to work but if you search The Rape of Europa, there's a great trailer for the film there.


Yay! Winter!

Can anyone explain why we need 4 seasons?

Snow flurries this morning remind me of the only positive thing I can think of about winter - fewer shirts to iron!  Sweaters do all the heavy lifting!  Maybe they'd be willing to take in the patio furniture?    

Someone wake me when it's safe!


Fool Britannia!

A while back, I had the opportunity to shift focus and start work in a new area.  This meant I got to keep all my old material and fling it at a somewhat interested new audience.

I now sit across from and in front of a couple of cheeky and charming British women both of whom have accents I could and do listen to all day.

Not long after I pulled up stakes and joined this group, another of my team members remarked to the British contingent while I was away:

"Isn't it a coincidence that all the Brits ended up sitting near each other?" to which the question was raised "Who do you mean?"  "Well, you two and Dale.  You all ended up sitting together!"  "Dale's not British."  "Oh? I thought he was because of his accent."

My voice, if you've heard it, does not sound like I was raised in the United Kingdom.  This is largely because, I wasn't.  My voice has a simple east coast Canadian trying not to sound too much like the trash I came from tone to it.

I'm not sure what we can learn from my co-worker's aural error other than to put some stock in the fact that perhaps regular ear cleaning can help you understand the world around you.

In the meantime, I remain pleased to sit near good folk who have an excellent and intriguing command of the language, who still laugh at my tired old jokes and who are as charming as fuck.


Question Marks

She said:  You have a remarkable reputation!
I asked:  For what?
She:  Laughed and didn't answer.


Drinks Are On Me!!

If you ever need someone to take one for the team, invite me to dinner.

After thoroughly enjoying the excellent musical play Ride The Cyclone at Theatre Passe Muraille and heady with remembering it is possible to be completely entertained for under 20 bucks, we headed for Buca to have drinks and dinner.  The restaurant had a bricked and warehouse-y feel but managed to be warm and inviting.

Wine, cocktails and appetizers were decided on after some discussion and I settled back with a delicious vodka based drink finished off with elements of pepper and pear.  After a preliminary taste, I set it down rather than guzzling it the way I wanted to.

The server came back to fuss with things ahead of the food arriving and got things off to an exciting start by knocking my drink from the table all over my right side (I've found there is no wrong side when these things happen).  Apologies and enough napkins to start a quilt didn't help much with drying off my black pants but did help with the appearance I was quite skilled in the lint harvesting arts.

While the splash down my leg left the impression of a not particularly well executed hate crime, I was determined to grin and bear it - I'm sufficiently annoying when things are going quite well.  Thankfully, the food was fantastic and pulled focus from my tragicomic predicament and the evening ended on good notes several hours later.

This is not the first time I've had to wet-crotch my way through a dinner service.  Once on a long flight, my light grey pants enjoyed a full glass of white wine just ahead of the "chicken or fish?".  While my undercarriage seemed no worse for wear after 6 hours of dampness, my pants definitely were.  On another occasion just before attending the opera for a grand evening, another full glass found its way into my lap at dinner.  It's not over until the fat lady pours out her heart and possibly a drink onto you.

If someone is bound to end up wet not-by-choice, it'll be me, you're safe.  So please, take me to dinner - you're assured to look as fresh and happy as when your evening began while I'll be left with more practice than I need at perfecting the fine art of Canadian restraint.


The Blind Leading The Stupid

A few afternoons ago during my lunch break, I was outside in the seating area near my office among a fair number of other people.  A blind man who works in my building was standing a few feet away from me  having a smoke.  He has a cane that he uses but doesn't wear the cool shades so many of those hipster blind guys do.  One look at his eyes and it's pretty plain to see he's differently abled.

A touristy looking couple approached and of all the people to ask directions from, they went up to him.  "Excuse me but can you tell us where the nearest McDonald's is?"  He said "See that door over there?"  He pointed accurately and directly to the door a few feet away.  "Go through there, down the escalator and into the food court and the McDonald's is on your left at the end".  "Thank you".  The couple walked directly past the door he'd just pointed out and continued up the street toward the next building which has no entrances on that side looking more lost than before.

When a blind man gives sighted people directions they can't follow, I have faith that I will continue to laugh at the human race until I can no longer see straight.