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.


I Melt With You

Last Thursday, the mercury (do they still use mercury in anything but fish?) hit an astonishing 49 degrees Celsius with the humidity factored in (that's 120.2 degrees Fahrenheit!).  "I'm melting, I'm melting" seems to be the refrain all over the continent.

Only an intrepid named Sans Pantaloons could use a video of me in full after work attire falling into the pool to illustrate how to help me help you.  This graphic he created clearly outlines that A) I look like a pufferfish and B) I need to lose a few pounds.

Once I've managed those corrections, look for a mailer coming to you.  For a mere $29.99, I'm willing to teach you all the right moves.  


It's Not The Heat, It's The Stupidity!

After walking home through a 43 degree Celsius day (with humidity), I had no other choice but to do this:


I See London, I See France, I Have Wet My Underpants!

I just got back from a lovely vacation spent in London and Paris (not the Ontario versions but their European counterparts) and as I've now recovered from the lovely spring cold I got on my way back, I almost have energy enough to talk about it.

After putting in what seemed like an eternity at the airport (why does time seem so much less fluid there?), John and I boarded and settled into our seats.  Also settling into my seat shortly after takeoff was a full glass of white wine.  When you're wearing light grey pants, a healthy serving of wine in the crotchal area can only look like a terrible mid-air accident.  My secret shame lasted about 3 hours.  Dry but still cranky, I managed a little sleep before arriving in London.
The hotel near the Marble Arch was elegant and almost entirely populated with Middle Eastern military men in several different styles of uniform.  I wasn't sure whether to feel worried or safe.  At one point, I was sitting just outside the hotel and a few of them came out to smoke and within a couple of minutes, I was surrounded by 26 of them (I counted) saluting one another and eyeing me suspiciously.  When a large van advertising Al Jazeera TV collected several of them with their shopping bags and cameras, I allowed myself to back down to medium alert status.  

The weather overall in London was quite nice though a bit windy at times, just how I might describe myself.  After a few moments of confusion, we mastered the Underground system but didn't realize when they say underground, they really mean underground!  Many of the escalators were several stories high and the system of tunnels could accurately be described as labyrinthine.  

This is looking up from about the middle of the ride
When I visited London in 2007, I took in a lot of the sights - Kensington Palace (Lady Di's home), Buckingham Palace (the house of Liz), the London Eye (the ferris wheel), Harrod's, The Tower of London, Windsor Castle and Hampton Court (Henry the 8th's place) among other things - and so this time focused on things I hadn't seen or done.  Sadly this time, there was no Coaster Punchman or Melinda June to meet up with.

I managed to get to both Tate museums (the Britain and the Modern) using the handy ferry service across the Thames, the National Portrait Gallery (showing everything from The Tudors to Warhol's Liz Taylor), the Duke of Wellington's mansion (eat that Napoleon!) and of course I ate my way through several servings of fish and chips and mushy peas at the stunning Black Friar Pub and one of the Gordon Ramsay pubs.  I also ate at the OXO Tower high above the Thames, in the food halls at Harvey Nichol's, visited Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, St. Paul's Cathedral, shopped at the Camden and Portobello Road markets (junk and antiques respectively) and generally enjoyed the people watching.

Inside The Black Friar Pub
Did you know you can drink in the theatres in London?  Yep, beer, wine, anything you'd like really.  All the better to empathize along with Tracie Bennett in her tour de force performance as a boozy, pill popping Judy Garland in the excellent drama "End of the Rainbow" and through another very darkly comic drama courtesy of Mike Leigh called "Ecstasy".

Our guide for a day trip to Stonehenge and the town of Bath, Steve Evans,  was quintessentially British and quite a comedian but very knowledgeable.  Thanks to him, Stonehenge is no longer a pile of old rocks to me but rather a mystical burial site (made of a pile of old rocks) that Steve had lots of information and fascinating facts about.  

He also gave me enough knowledge that I can now point out where Johnny Depp lives in Bath and tell you that Jude Law, Peter Gabriel, Nicholas Cage and Jane Seymour also have homes there.  Jane Austen lived and wrote there and a pudgy Mr. Darcy waves to you as you walk by the Jane Austen Centre.  As Steve pointed out, he's put on a bit of weight since the movie.

Oh Mr. Darcy!
The Roman Baths and Pump House Restaurant were intriguing and delicious in that order.  I didn't realize that the "Solsbury Hill"  Peter Gabriel sings about overlooks the town so it was a great bonus seeing that.  Bath with it's beautiful Abbey and streets made for strolling was just lovely and well worth the trip.  I'm still thinking about the best salad I've ever had thanks to the Pump House - warm butternut squash with bacon, blue cheese, walnuts and greens.

Steve Evans demonstrates his pointing skills
 Taking the Eurostar to Paris was uneventful and interestingly, out of the 2 hour or so trip, you're only under the English Channel for 28 minutes and don't get to see the water approaching or leaving the tunnel.  A little English countryside, a tunnel, a snack, French countryside and boom, you're at Gare du Nord!

One view from the Eiffel Tower
Paris was quite a sight to see.  Incredible architecture (a lot of it similar), monuments, bistros, and people watching.  The main disappointment I felt was in seeing the excess of graffiti there was everywhere, no Banksy style stuff, just random letters playing tag with beautiful old buildings.  

The apartment we rented was charming and fully decked out with kitchen, laundry and all the amenities.  It even had two small balconies.  There was a great bakery nearby for fresh baguettes and croissants each day and open air markets nearby for fresh cheeses and meats, all delicious with the exception of the wild boar cold cuts I was forced into trying.

View from the Sauternes Apartment Balcony
Most of the menus in Paris featured steak tartare (raw hamburger) alongside various cuts of horse, duck and rabbit.  I managed to find some beef and pork but had to settle for guinea fowl rather than chicken. Did I mention pigeon was on the menu in London?  No thank you.  I did manage to have a delicious escargots and artichoke soup, French Onion soup, beef bourguignon and a hamburger with a fried egg and bacon on top among other things!  A couple of my favourite restaurants were Bofinger (probably not sung to the tune of Goldfinger) where we got to sit under their beautiful glass ceiling and L'Oulette where the manager was a dead ringer for this guy from SNL's Ambiguously Gay Duo series:

The food and wine were excellent once I figured out what I was ordering and the French seemed willing to try and translate as required.  One tourist asked a waitress what was in a Quiche Lorraine (she pronounced quiche - kwish).  The waitress struggled and came up with 'it has a type of meat but cut small'.  I could have helped but chose not to because listening to the rest of the exchange was just as entertaining.

The Parisians were generally helpful and polite but once they'd hear a few of my weak attempts at French, they'd switch right over to their version of English.  The main difference seemed to be in the stores.  Here, you're bombarded and harangued by sales staff the moment you enter but it was tough work getting anyone to even make eye contact in most of the stores, especially the pricier joints.  They also disapprove of the pawing through of items and pretty much demanded to know what you were looking for so they could pick it off the rack for your viewing.

A tower you may have heard of

I walked the Champs Elysee though I could barely afford the coffee let alone designer duds, saw the Arc de Triomphe and from there walked to the Eiffel Tower.  After about an hour's wait to ride the elevator up, I got to see incredible views of the city and then walked the 43 stories down!  The shopping at Galleries Lafayette was pricey but the beautiful setting with its amazing glass roof made you want to stay.  There are 6 restaurants in this Grand Magasin so staying was no hardship.  Au Printemps next door also had a beautiful cupola and I believe 8 restaurants.
Galleries Lafayette

The Musee D'Orsay housed in an old train station was remarkable not only for the architecture but for the collection of Impressionist works.  I got to see some very famous paintings and sculpture by Monet, Degas, Matisse, Van Gogh (before he cut his ear off), Picasso and hey - what's Whistler's Mother doing here?  

I toured and visited the Palais Garnier (the spectacular opera house), Napoleon's Crypt (small man, large monument), the Tuiliries Gardens, the Moulin Rouge, St. Chapelle (beautiful stained glass and a one hour classical music concert on the altar), Sacre Coeur in Montmartre and I also went to Versailles.  
Palais Garnier
St. Chapelle
Palais Garnier

While spectacular, I was more than a little disappointed with the jostling crowds at Versailles and that the fountains in the massive gardens (800 hectares worth) were not yet turned on.  I bought a DVD of that so I could see what I missed along with a DVD for the Louvre because by week's end, I lacked the drive to tackle this imposing museum.

A tiny portion where the gardens begin
The Grand Canal off in the distance
In London, everyone was in suits and stylish outfits while in Paris, it was all sweaters and scarves on everyone.  I did draw a few scowls in Paris for wearing shorts on a few of the hotter days, forgive me Frenchies, I'll try harder next time.

An exhibit not in the Louvre
Overall, I had a great time and would visit both cities again.  John and I took a different flight than our friends Deborah and Ian and thanks to our Nexus cards, whizzed through Customs in a minute while they spent over an hour and a half in the regular customs line.  C'est la vie babies, c'est la vie! 


A Guy In Trouble

Not far from where I spend time staring at my keyboard are three recently refinished stairs from the kitchen into this room.  The handrails that would generally ensure a proper entrance haven't yet been put back.

The stairs are angled and like someone who's forgotten to take their medication, a few nights ago I approached them at a reckless speed with a glass in my hand.

From the middle step, I slipped and hit the floor sliding into the room protecting the glass but wrenching my neck, back and assorted other body parts.

I'm pretty sure I lost the baby but for a guy my age, that may have been for the best.


Look Up, Now Back To Me

After reading Lisa's searing piece about where she writes, I felt it wouldn't compromise national security much to highlight where the cracker crumbs meet the keyboard at my house.

This is where I turn my back on the room and world and spend hours at a time snacking and agonizing about sentences that will never see the light of day.  At last count, I have 33 drafts dating back to September 2006, most with the good sense to remain comfortably where they are.  There's no pride in this testament to procrastination and perhaps one day, they'll rise up and demand to be completed though presently, they don't have the strength to dare.

Because picture day is an important one, I decided to move four pens (but no paper?) and assorted other small items out of the shot.  They are now behind the plant which may explain why Nigel looks on curiously from the giant cat toy, he knows something's amiss.  The basket in the lower right on the floor has several of his and Rizzo's toys in it.  To the right is a bathroom and the left, a closet.  Don't worry, the glass is not clear in those doors but I'd still probably hear you pee if I was sitting there.  Directly opposite this desk is the family or television room proper.  This writing area is an odd adjunct to the rest of the room but I like the way it's still within and separate at the same time.

I see now those shelves above could use some arranging but cut me some slack - I only moved in 10 months ago!  My favourite distraction while writing is the rain.  I look up at the skylight wishing the sight could somehow match the comfort of the sound but it never does.

At my desk is the one place my posture reaches near impeccable heights. If the exercise was to take a shot of where I watch television, you'd be looking at a sofa comforting a man who wouldn't look out of place in Dali's The Persistence of Memory.

Another writing related fascination I came across recently on The Vegetable Assassin's site involved handwriting.  I broke the meme rules from what she posted - once a rebel...

A letter from me would generally start out looking fairly readable (see below) and invariably end with much less precision (be glad I didn't continue writing).

Several of my siblings write in what appears to be a complicated code that would find the experts up late into the night but somehow I manage to be one of the more legible of the gang.

I'm definitely curious about where you write and what your writing looks like but my Canadian ways will not allow me to pressure you on the matter.  Do as you will, or won't.


Privy Council

The jury in my brain continues to deliberate on whether I fully 'like' Facebook or not but thanks to someone I don't know prompting a more critical look at my privacy settings, my fear of people I barely remember from high school tracking me down has abated.

A while ago, I received a message from a woman asking if I was the same Passion of the Dale who'd dated her sister in the 1970s.  She gave me her sister's name to jog my memory.  Being a courteous fellow, I replied to let her know she had the wrong man.  She sent back an explanation saying she'd noticed Family Feud (one of several games in my arsenal of time wasters) in my profile and the guy who dated her sister had been a cameraman on the television show.  I found that interesting but now wish I'd asked what her motivation was in tracking this character down, it might have yielded a better story.

When Google was first becoming a part of our lives, I remember doing a search on my own name.  Among others sharing my moniker sat an upholsterer and someone who stood in the forefront of the 3D field.  My interest in upholstery apart from being glad it's around is minimal although the world of 3D interested me at least to the point of doing a school paper on it long ago.

Also long ago is the memory of a friend asking me after we saw Jaws 3D together "wouldn't it be great if everything in life was in 3D?"  We're no longer in contact although if I wanted to be, it's good to know that Facebook could probably help me track him down or failing that, I could contract the job out to Coaster Punchman, cyberstalker extraordinaire.


I'm No Dummy

I'm still laughing over this video I saw yesterday for the first time.

I've never found ventriloquists to be particularly entertaining but with this guy, I can't help but think I've been changed for the better.

In other fast breaking non-news, my new favourite word is interstitial.


The Only Time I've Ever Wanted To Be In Grade 5 Again

These kids are going to be singing on the Oscars tomorrow night.  Go kids!


I Like Screamin'

Since there was very little fault to be found with "The Magic Flute" which I went to see the other night, I'll shift my focus to my longtime pal and opera companion Deborah.

When she noisily dropped her program during a particularly quiet onstage moment, I'm sure poor Deb was filled with dread over how I might react.  She needn't have worried.  While I normally would consider this a punishable offence, it was countered by my delight at her exquisite startle reaction, one that rivalled anything Joyce DeWitt ever did on Three's Company.  For about a second and a half, she was all flailing arms and jerking chicken head followed by the perfect wince.

This is a quirk of Deborah's that fascinates me.  Someone can simply clink a glass or drop a knife in a restaurant and she startles and a look crosses her face as though she's been smacked in the back of the head by a large book.  Why I continue to delight in what may well be a neurological disorder is not for me to say although you may have an idea or two.

It puts me in mind of a Catherine Tate sketch that I don't have the heart to forward to Deborah.


With Act Two You Get Egg Roll

Thankfully, I'd eaten before heading to the opera last night and so felt no obligation to hang around for egg rolls.

If you'd told Pat, Henry, Richard or Mao that one day, their meeting would be the subject of an opera (Nixon In China), they might have called the whole thing off.  I'm more a fan of saying "I have season tickets" than of any modern opera I've seen and this production did nothing to change my mind.

Don't get me wrong, I thought it charming that a number of audience members wore red as though to match the stage and the music was brilliant and insistent although not incredibly operatic.  Straw hats off to you John Adams.  As much as I enjoyed the music, it seemed at war with the performers who had a tough time singing the required 2 or 3 metaphors a minute at us.

Also in competition for my attention were the twelve television sets on stage broadcasting variations of actual footage from Nixon's trip to China while the performers were put through their paces.  Throw in a somewhat out of sync and rather lengthy Tai Chi demonstration by the chorus and all I could think about was when I first saw the name Mao Tse Tung in (news)print as a child, I thought it was probably pronounced Mayo TeeSee Tongue.

I didn't feel too much like a crook leaving at halftime but wish I'd stayed long enough to see if the Intermission clocked in at eighteen and a half minutes.

Next week is "The Magic Flute" which I think is a porn so that ought to be awesome!


Master of Fine Catalogue Arts

Anyone who has ever ordered something from an organization that produces a catalogue most likely shares my affliction, that being a surfeit of other catalogues arriving through the mail with alarming regularity.  

After buying Christmas cards through The Metropolitan Museum of Art store site a few years ago, I began receiving their catalogue.  Some time after that, catalogues from other groups began gracing my doorstep with their presents presence.

My exhaustive page flipping research shows Hammacher Schlemmer has the market cornered on gadgets while National Geographic is a great place for interesting gift ideas but no other catalogue provides the Huh? factor for me more than Winter Silks does.

This fine company sells clothing for men and women made entirely of silk and they're serious about it!  They offer a Silk Quarterly newsletter and even give you the opportunity to send in your own Silk Story, most of which I imagine begin with I never thought this would happen to me but...

My recycling bin often gets fed without me ever opening the publication (after careful removal of my address information lest anyone think I've ordered silk long johns) but once in a while I'll page through just to make sure everyone inside is still unnaturally happy in their silks.

A few issues ago, I happened upon an offering that made me laugh so hard it prompted me to finally figure out how the scanning function works on my printer.

Please note the type above the left shoulder of this Silk georgette flyaway tunic and Happy Ordering men and women!