Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Roof is Leaking and the Wind is Howling...

Hello Friends.

I spent this past weekend out of town with family and had a great time. I overindulged in booze and food, but they were accompanied by great conversation and togetherness and I'm none the worse for wear. I returned home on Monday resolved to let the positivity of this experience stay with me and keep me in high spirits until Christmas, which I will also get to spend with family. All was well until I actually walked into my apartment, which is plagued, once again, by a leaky roof.

Our ceiling had an intermittent leak for nearly a year. Largely ignored by our landlord, the leaks were small, but tolerable, as we didn't have a lot of hard rain. When we (meaning Jon) got confrontational about this leak with the maintenance staff, they grudgingly did something on the roof and the leak would subside, then return. They'd go up on the roof again, the leak would subside again, then return again. Finally, they took the protruding plaster off of our ceiling, re-plastered the whole offending area, and the leaks stopped. Until this past Monday. The newly plastered area is yellow and brown around the edges, where it's bubbled and saggy. The leak is a persistent, audible, syncopated 1,2 drop of water. It's not a steady stream, but a torturous trickle. Now everything in the immediate area has been moved around and unplugged and covered in garbage bags. I was using my bathroom garbage can to catch the water, but had to get up in the middle of the night to dump it out so it wouldn't overflow. Sheepishly, the landlord provided a large basin for the leak and trudged up the roof yet again, but is stymied. A roof guy has been called, but couldn't go to work today when the rain turned to snow, which stopped the leak for awhile, until the snow started to melt.

As problems go, this is totally manageable. This small, localized dripping has not otherwise affected the heat in my apartment, or the electricity, or the phone or internet or anything. I would rather have a leak than bedbugs, or rowdy neighbours, or any roommate of any kind, but there's something so... invasive about it, I guess. Something that reminds me that I'm still at the mercy of the elements, something driving me slowly insane with every drip. Something must be done.

Dream: Fix the leaky roof.

Goal: Achievable, because I've fixed a similar problem. Once, because I'm a moron, I knocked a roll of toilet paper into the toilet as it flushed. It was the stupid, flimsy biodegradable toilet paper because I evidently care more for the Earth than my own ass. I heard that awful shudder mid-flush and realized I'd clogged up Old Toily (what I call my toilet) real good. Like a simpleton who pushes even harder when a door marked "pull" doesn't open, I flushed Old Toily again. It shuddered again, and cemented the clog. I tried my plunger, fearing it wouldn't work, and it didn't. So get this, you guys! I watched some videos on YouTube, went to the hardware store, bought a weird spindly-lookin' thing called a drain auger, watched the videos again, taught myself how to use it, bingo bango, fixed Old Toily! So it can be done.

Plan: Use a variety of options at my disposal to get this taken care of, such as:

Money. You know how sometimes you hear a sound repeat so often, you put words to it? Like a car alarm going "Be-boop! Be-boop!" starts to sound like, "Tree-root" or "Neice-poop"? Maybe it's just me. But the double drop of the water as it hits its stagnant brothers in the basin sounds to me like, "You're poor. You're poor." I can't help but think if I lived on the top floor of a high rise in the financial district, instead of a four-floor walk-up in midtown, the landlord would do more than provide a basin. I'm luckier than most in that I don't have debts, or crazy expenses, and that Jon makes enough money that he can contribute to our rent here when he doesn't even live here anymore, but I hate stretching every pay-cheque so embarrassingly thin. But nobody makes enough money, least of all people in my age group. Really I should be Occupying some Street right now, but I think the rain falling on my tent would bother me more than this.

Clout. Clout would fix my ceiling. Can you imagine what it would be like to seriously shout at someone, "Do you know who I am?" I don't think I ever would do that, but it would give me orgasmic pleasure just to know that I could. Some would argue that clout is about money, too, but I think it's really more a state of mind. Dr. Phil says a lot of stupid shit I don't understand, but one thing he used to say when I watched him back when he was on Oprah that I've never forgotten was, "You teach people how to treat you." In other words, if you're meek and cow-towing, some folks are going to walk all over you. Conversely, if you believe that you are worthy of certain consideration regardless of how others might perceive your status, you're more likely to get it. Sending food back at a restaurant, barking orders at a subordinate, even stamping my feet about a leaky roof are all things, unfortunately, that are not in my nature to do. I remember reading once that Terry Eagleton, this big, mucky-muck literary critic and scholar said that an accurate tombstone on his family plot might read something like, "Here lies the Eagleton Family. They didn't cause too much trouble." For as-yet unexplored reasons, I place a higher premium on not making a fuss than I do about getting my own way, but I suppose that's another blog.

Finally, knowledge would probably be my greatest asset here. Like my YouTube instructional videos helped me to rescue Old Toily, surely there are tools I can buy or expertise I can glean that would help me fix the damn leak myself. The feeling of satisfaction I got when I finally, blessedly extracted the disgusting roll of toilet paper, and the former flush gurgled back to life and everything worked again was remarkable. It's unfortunate that I can't share this accomplishment with too many people, because it makes me look really interested in toilets, but it made me feel so capable, which is awesome!

In the meantime, though, I could really use a little perspective here. It's been heart-sickening to look at the really leaky roofs, dilapidated shacks, and 12 person tents in Attawapiskat. I know it's an often repeated refrain, but I can't believe what happens in this country we're all so proud of. Red Cross and True North Aid are taking donations, as I understand it, and I have been talking to a gal who puts together amazing music cabarets about throwing a bitchingly awesome fundraiser, where I promise not to sing, this December (exact date and time to come, Readers, assuming everything goes forward as it should). Fundraising is really the least we can do in these situations. After all, I want to help, truly help, not by donating a basin, or patching a crack. I want to be part of the group that fixes the roof.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

And Justice For All...

Hello Friends.

Let me set the scene for you. I'm at a standing room only concert last night by one of those good indie bands with an unmemorable name. I thought they were Dakota Blue, then Fun Candlestick, but they're called Hey Rosetta. Have you forgotten the name already? I have. But they were good. Not really a beat I could dance to, but lots of fun. They were rockin', but they had a cello, which I support.

What was not good was the weird girl sitting behind us. Did I mention the concert was standing room only? I did? Because she was sitting. We stood close to the bar and she sat at the bar and whined the whole night to my friend Lewis, standing in front of her. "Get out of the waaaay! Why are you so talllll! Why the fuck are you so tallll! I can't seeeee!" Lewis tried to accommodate her, but she increasingly became a bitchface. He moved so as to improve her field of vision, but then she would move herself behind him again so she could smack him (like literally smack him) and go, "Get out of the waaaay!" Then, as my friends Dan and Lajya looked back to see what was going on, she said, "What the fuck are you looking at?" And then, to Lajya, "You wanna roll?" She was, apparently, not offering Lajya a roll (which was my first thought), but challenging her to a fight. She declined. We gave her an even wider breadth, which she did not deserve, then another girl approached weird girl and they started making out with each other and then weird girl zipped up her winter coat, put her hood up, and started crashing into me. What? WHAT?

I ignored her, as did my friends, but she only became louder, and more aggressive. Dan ordered another drink and gave the briefest of head-jerks towards the offending party. Kind of a, "Check out this cracky gal" to the bartender. Bartender checked her out and within minutes, two security guards approached her, and kicked her out! I can't stress enough how supremely satisfying this was. She wasn't breaking bottles, or hitting people, or really breaking any rules beyond common courtesy, so I think we all expected to deal with her for the rest of Cable Tree's set. So the fact that she was kicked out just for being super annoying was fantastic, it was heartening, it was justice.

Dream: Justice for discourteous people.

Goal: Unachievable, for now. As much as I'd love vigilante justice for line-cutters, joke-stealers and people who smell like piss all the time, I know there's no way to actually police such behaviour. Best as I can do is offer suggestions and hope that those fat-cats on Parliament Hill take notice. If any political candidate adopted the following platforms, I bet they'd get a lot of votes.

Plan: Create a system of checks and balances that appropriately punishes shitty behaviour. For instance:

All of those so-called "medical experts" who spend their time talking to Star magazine, speculating on how much weight Jennifer Aniston has gained or lost, should be forced to spend their time watching hidden camera footage at restaurants to catch bad tippers. If someone receives good food and service and leaves a tip of ten percent or lower, they should have their picture taken as they leave the restaurant, like those people who run red lights. The medical experts should circulate the pictures to various restaurants (and send a copy to the offender) along with a photocopy of their bill and the tip they left. Consequently, bad tippers will be banned from whichever restaurants feel like banning them. Justice!

Dental hygienists who are all high and mighty about your brushing should be forced to spend one shift of their workweek installing dummy seats in buses. Then, from behind a two way mirror or something, they will watch people waiting for a bus. When the bus comes, if somebody cuts the line and insists on getting on first, the dental hygienist has to make sure whatever seat they choose instantly collapses beneath them. Justice!

Telemarketers should have to use the technology they've created to auto-dial numbers to install an iphone app (am I saying that right? App?). This app will be able to sense by proximity, I guess, when you are standing close to someone and having a conversation with them. Should you continue this conversation and try to text someone while you're talking to me, this app will shut the iphone down instantly. If you are a repeat offender, the iphone will start to vibrate so vigorously it drops from the users hand and shatters. Justice!

Bros who are still doing Borat impressions (the movie is five years old, bros), need to obtain the phone numbers those bored mothers who drag their awful children through the store. You know the mothers I mean. The ones who bring their obviously tired, obviously cranky kids to a store, regardless of the time of day or night, and take their sweet time buying junk food while the kids scream and run and knock stuff over and mother offers only the occasional, "Settle down, Brexler. Do you want another coke?" Anyway, the bros need their phone numbers so they can call the bored mothers in the middle of the night to do their Borats.
Bored Mother (sleepily): Mmph...hello?
Bros: Issa niiice! Issa niiice! Issa niiice!

The downside with being a justice vigilante is that, while people support you in theory, nobody actually likes you very much. My very favourite story of the manners police comes from a few years ago when I was working the till one night. A rowdy but harmless drunk was buying scratch tickets from me. He grabbed his tickets and moved aside and the uptight older businessman started unloading his cart. Then the drunk said, "I won! I won five bucks! Can you put this through for me?" and gave me the ticket. I took it to run through and give him his five bucks (which would have taken my ten seconds) and Uptighty goes, "Hey hold on here! There's a line and you've had your turn! You need to go to the back of the line!" And Drunky pauses a moment, steps back, and says, "Why don't you go fuck yourself?" Ohhh man! Even though Uptighty was in the right and Drunky was in the wrong, isn't that still Justice! So while we can't police everybody's behaviour, can we just agree to all be a little bit more polite to each other, applaud justice when we see it, and sometimes tell Uptighty's to go fuck themselves? That's the kind of beat we can all dance to.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

A Month of Fun-Days...

Hello Friends.

Have you heard about this Movember thing? I'm afraid I was totally late to this party. Movember takes place over the entire month of November where men are instructed not to shave their face and grow a moustache for a month. They get people to sponsor the growing of this moustache and the funds they raise go to prostate cancer. I can't quite connect moustaches to the prostrate (and don't want to give it a try), but it is apparently a very successful campaign.

I'd like to participate in this, I really would, but... moustaches are gross. I know it's all a big laugh riot but I don't need to be any more self-conscious about my appearance than I already am for an entire month. I've never tried to grow a moustache, but I feel like it would be less Ron Swanson and more John Waters. But I would like to be more charitable.

Dream: Designate another month in support of a charity.

Goal: Achievable. Movember only started in Canada four years ago and now it's widespread! I can think of five guys I know growing moustaches right now (and they all look... like they're sporting moustaches).

Plan: Come up with more cutesy-named but philanthropic month-long events. Such as:

Frocktober - Wear a dress every day in October in support of women's health.

Dissember - Diss someone every day in December in support of Tourette's syndrome YOU FUCKING WHOREBALL!

Gaypril - Develop a same-sex attraction every day in April in support of gay rights.

Puly - Document your regularity every day in July in support of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Heptember - Enjoy a different sexual partner every day in September in support of Hepatitis's A through C.

Pube-ruary - Leave your body hair unkempt and overgrown this February in support of people who just don't care anymore.

AIDS March - Hold an AIDS march every day in March in support of AIDS.

Blogust - Visit Big City James every day in August in support of me.

All right, so maybe these proposed months don't have the same appeal as Movember, but they're all for very good causes. I'm sponsoring a friend this month who seems to really regret ever agreeing to not shave these past 17 days and counting, but he's raising a lot of cash with his 'stache, which seems reason enough to keep a stiff, albeit hairy, upper lip.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

An Open Letter to Kim Kardashian...

Hello Friends.

I'm afraid the problem with Kim Kardashian is not Kim Kardashian. It is not her heavily-sponsored wedding, her subsequent divorce, her reality show, her endorsement deals, her parents, or her bangin' bod. The problem with Kim Kardashian is me. It's you. It's us. There's been an internet meme circulating since Kim announced her divorce after 72 days of marriage and a plethora of media coverage with a picture of Kim and her groom on their wedding day captioned something to the effect of “If you think gay marriage cheapens the institution, two words: Kim Kardashian.” This point is well-taken and very true, if not supremely ironic when extrapolated. Gay marriage and Kim Kardashian both have a huge gay following, so is supporting both then working at cross-purposes? Maybe that's too easy, but what if it's not? If every gay American man took Kim Kardashian as a threat to gay marriage and decided to stop watching her show, it's specials and spin-offs, viewership would significantly decrease. Who else but us campy gays watch the E! Network or tolerate such an absurd spelling of “Khloe”?

But let me take my tongue out of my cheek for just a moment to wonder if what Kim Kardashian represents is actually an insidious threat to our culture. It could be said that to value her is to value style over substance, pornography over sexuality, objectification over feminism, vapidity over smart-ishness. So what can I do about that?

Dream: Get a letter to Kim Kardashian.

Goal: Unachievable. With the amount of coverage Kim gets and the lawyers, managers, and handlers that surely filter through everything which is sent her way, I doubt very much that she will ever read these words. But I recently read that, in terms of probability, you're just as likely to find a $50 million winning lottery ticket lying in the street as you are to buy it in a store. I am Kim's lottery ticket and maybe if I can't reach her by conventional means (not that I've tried), she will inexplicably Google her own name and “pizza gut” and find this. I don't know, the method's not important, what's important is the letter.

Plan: Write the letter, mean every word, and hope she gets it.

Dear Kim Kardashian,

How are you? I am fine. You don't know me, but I know you, which is worrisome. I don't watch any of the television shows with your name on them, but I know you have some sisters, you recently separated from your husband to whom you were only just married, a few business ventures that didn't do so well, and millions of fans. Do you ever wonder what your fans are fans of, Kim? What qualities you possess that others emulate? I do. I wonder how you feel high atop the slippery slope of “famous for being famous.”

I'm writing to tell you that, despite what I'm sure is a difficult time for you personally, you have the world on a string. Millions of people are waiting, with baited breath, for your next move, and I'm here to beg you to consider it carefully.

I would love to see you go to school, Kim Kardashian, even if only to learn a trade. It would be amazing if you took those cameras following you around and went to a small liberal arts college and really hit the books. It would be amazing to watch you eating cold pizza with one hand while going over and over the hi-lighted portion of your textbook, repeating the same facts over and over so it'll stick in your head. I find it helps to remember facts using the tune from the song Maybe from the musical Annie. For instance, “Betcha she's Mercury/Betcha he's Venus/Betcha he's made Earth a closet of Mars. Betcha they're Jupiter/as Saturn as Uranus/Don't really Neptune, as long as they're Pluto.” I want to see you value your mind as much as your body!

You have so much, Kim, won't you be charitable? I don't mean start a foundation with your name on it so you can throw a gala every year and wear some bejewelled ass-flattering gown. I mean find out what this Occupy Wall Street business is all about. Go down to the soup kitchen and grab a ladle. Go to the battered women's shelter and help pick out clothes for the ladies to wear for job interviews. Go to the children's ward of a hospital and help them put on a puppet show. Help them, Kim, don't give yourself the starring role. You can take the cameras, if you want, but only if the E! people agree to large donations to each of the charities you visit (as far as I can tell, you don't hold down a full-time job, so you've got lots of time to spare here).

Date a man, Kim, but don't marry him. Not for a long time. Don't marry him until marriage is the only thing you haven't done as a couple. Wait so long that everyone who receives an invitation to your wedding will say, “Well it's about time!” And just have the wedding in your backyard with hot dogs and hamburgers and kids running around. You had the fancy ceremony and it didn't work, so this time, hire a local cover band, get Bruce Jenner to double the recipe of his famous potato salad, and go barefoot! And love this one for his mind, Kim, as well as his body, and make sure he does the same for you. Stay home with him more often than you go out, watch bad tv and make ice cream sundaes for each other. If he falls asleep with his glasses on, take them off gingerly so he doesn't wake up. Make up nicknames for each other you're embarrassed to use in front of your friends. Enjoy doing things together, but enjoy doing nothing together even more.

I'm sorry to bring this up, Kim, but I feel like we're getting closer now. Do you remember when you first realized there was a sex tape of you on the internet? How conflicted you felt when that tape spread like wildfire and consequently you became very, very famous? That fame has given you a platform, influence, even power, which are great rewards, but they came at a very heavy price. You had no say in how you were thrust into the public eye, which I am very sorry for, but with the power you now yield, you have a say in how to take yourself out of it. And the most powerful thing you could do right this second is to turn the cameras off. Leave us wanting more and you leave with your dignity. If you wait until we get tired of you, and we probably will sooner rather than later, you fade from us with little dignity left. I'm not saying you can't be an actress or a singer or something, but let us see you on your terms, not through the heavily-edited “reality” as dictated by Ryan Seacrest. People like me get snarky and bitchy about people like you, not because of anything you've done or anything you are, but for all the things you represent. It's time to change what you represent. I know that if you elect to terminate your contract with the reality show, you'll have a few legal battles, you'll lose some money, and the paparazzi will be relentless, but things will blow over, we'll move onto the next fad, and you'll be young, rich and beautiful with your whole life ahead of you.

You are not a show, you are not your name, you are not your breasts, you are not your brand. You are a woman and, last time I checked, women solved problems, built communities, and made the world better. Take on this role, new Friend, with gusto and abandon, and surprise the whole fucking planet.

Oh, and have a great Thanksgiving!

Your new BFF,


Thursday, 3 November 2011

Curing the Hangover (Again)...

Hello Friends.

Did you ever get up in the middle of the night to pee and realize it's one in the afternoon? Or try to hail a cab home from a party without realizing you were standing inside of a store? Or realize that the well-meaning bartender has been serving you doubles all night so your three vodka tonics were equivalent to some goddamn number you can't calculate because you're drunk? Then you've been hungover.

Dream: Make a hangover bearable.

Goal: Achievable, but keep your celebration minimal, I've got one of those behind-my-eye headaches.

Plan: Several.

Suffer in solitude. What I don't get is how two people can have the same evening with the same alcohol content, and your morning after is rarely identical. Inexplicably, you can wake up feeling like shit and your partner has a tiger by the tail! “Good morning, Sunshine! Nice of you to join me!” Ugh. The worst part is, I'm usually the annoying one! I like the occasional cocktail, but I rarely drink to excess. Something about the loss-of-control in drunkenness really knocks me off kilter. I don't know why, I can't drive or perform CPR, so a sober me is as useless as a drunk me, but I still keep my drinking fairly conservative. Jon's tolerance is higher than mine, but he will usually be the one to have one glass too many and wake up feeling rough. Not all the time, of course, don't get the wrong impression, but there have been occasions where he's not doing so hot but I'm all, “Let's go look at grandfather clocks!” or “Wanna hear me sing Lady Gaga songs? Here they are in order of their release!” The point is, as lovely as it is to have someone wet you a washcloth or turn down the tv, the detriments of having a partner in this instance outweigh the benefits.

The consumption of bad food, which is good. I don't know if there's science behind our cravings for eggs, bacon and carbs after a night out, but I say treat yourself! And, since you probably shouldn't be frying bacon or dealing with putrid breakfast dishes in your delicate condition, take yourself out for breakfast. I believe we should have hangover-themed restaurants (hangover like the phenomenon, of course, not the terrible film franchise). They would serve breakfast food, but also mimosas and Bloody Mary cocktails if you decided to merely delay the hangover and keep booze pumping through you. Each restaurant would be small and comfortable, with no children or boisterous activity allowed. Sorry, hungover parents, but you damn well better keep your loud, excitable, yelling children at McDonald's because they will not be allowed at my restaurant, tentatively titled Rough Night?. The staff at Rough Night? will be made up of retired psychiatric nurses, childless aunts and uncles, and non-judgey librarians. They'll be quiet, efficient and sympathetic and say things like, “Ohh, look at you. Okay, just come on inside. Do you want coffee? Of course you do, here, just take a rest now.”

Finally, I'm afraid the only real cure to hangover is time, which is the worst. The thing I always forget on a night when I drink too much is that, even if I have the next day off, I won't be free to do whatever I want, I'll be in recovery. Somehow, I think I'll just be able to shake it off, do my laundry, clean my apartment, and go birdwatching with a free Sunday, but on my last hangover day, I only managed to wake up late, shower for a long time and eat a blizzard at some point for no reason. I certainly don't condone getting drunk, but what if we were to consider hangovers as some kind of cosmic payment? In exchange for a headache, mouth that tastes like sweaters, eggs and bacon, we get a long night of too much fun with a bunch of friends? Seems fair, doesn't it? I'll drink to that.