Thursday, 27 December 2012

Holiday Service...

Hello Friends.

I hope you all had as amazing a Christmas as I did. I was lucky enough to score a few days off and spent them at my parents' house, overindulging in food and booze, visiting with friends and family. Holiday visits always feel too short, but this one had an especially cruel cut-off time. The condition of my few days off was that I return to work on Boxing Day and, as such, required that I fly back here on Christmas Night. It was night proper, though, so I had plenty of lazy present opening in the morning, and we had tucked into Christmas Dinner the night before, as a favour to me, but I still looked out the airplane window wistfully as I flew over large stretches of snowy prairie landscape, dotted with cozy looking farmhouses, their lights still on, where families were undoubtedly gathered. I nurtured my self-pity all the way home as I handed cab fare plus tip over to a grateful driver who wished me a Merry Christmas, and I realized that, bummed as I was about working on Boxing Day, I sat in an airport, ate a hamburger, flew 40 000 feet in the air, and cabbed it home all because other people were working on Christmas Day, and who the fuck was I to whine?

Dream: Always be grateful for the workers.

Goal: Achievable. If you've heard this before, it may have been from last Christmas, or the Christmas before that. Maybe I ought to dedicate Christmas blogs to a more deserving group (war veterans, for instance, or the spouses of dieters). But I think we forget too easily that the minimum wage worker takes maximum shit, and this time of year is the soul-sucking worst.

Don't read that 2011 Christmas blog too carefully, or you'll see that I was about to leave the retail world behind for an office job. I couldn't have foreseen in December a "company restructuring" in July that would leave me and the bulk of my colleagues jobless. Nor could I have predicted that the market for cushy internet writing jobs is pretty small indeed and I might not land the same position twice. But somehow, in the back of my mind, I knew I might be leaving one sort of till for awhile, but the register wasn't going to close for me completely.

Plan: Offer tips on how to be a good customer just in case some of you lose the job you've got and end up working till, making lattes, folding sweaters or otherwise being a worker in places where smiles are free, but happiness is hard to come by. Tips like:

1) Tip. Always tip, and generously. I can't stand bad tippers or people who disagree with the practice on principle. "Why should I pay someone to do their job? It's their job!" Yes, fine. But what if it was your job? Do you think the un-tipped server makes a salary good enough for your life? Could you live on minimum wage and stand on your feet all night? Could you put up with leering drunks and wailing children at your workplace and be nice to them? And you tip someone because they are doing something you are just plain too lazy to do yourself. You eat in a restaurant because you can't be bothered to cook food to shovel into your fat face. You take a cab because you can't be troubled to drive around. You get your nails done because you're too good to cut your own fucking nails. If you can't be bothered to toss a few bucks on top of your bill, that says more about you than your waitress.

2) If you can't tip with money, tip with words. If an employee at a store does something for you, like checking in the back, grabbing something off the shelf, double-bagging a heavy item, you'd be amazed at how much good karma results when you say, "Hey thanks for that. I appreciate it." An employee collects such offhanded praise like lint to a roller. The best workers are meant to function invisibly, from a corporate perspective. Be drones, follow policy, move product, bring in money. So when a customer acknowledges and appreciates extra effort, it often means more to a worker than sales tallies at the end of the day. To that end, it's worth finding out if the stores you visit pay on employees on a commission basis. Personally, I'm grateful I've never worked under that structure. While customers might see commission as a way to encourage employees to work harder, employees end up only seeing bottom lines and end up too pushy, aggressive, and stressed, and who does that benefit? So please realize that it's no skin off an employees ass if you buy the pair of shoes or not, so if they find out if a store closer to your house carries the same item, or offers to wrap them up in a giftbox for you, realize that they're extending a courtesy, and just. say. thanks.

3) Don't be an asshole. You might think this is the same as points two and one, but it is not. There's a big difference between not offering a tip or thank you for a service and being an asshole and it boils down to this: do you realize that the employees working at a store, cafe, restaurant, whatever, are people, just like you? That this is their job? That they don't live in the stockroom, tucked away in a box from the time after a store closes until it opens again? If you don't realize that employees are people, you are an asshole. And there are a lot of you. People who don't get off their cellphone or take out their earbuds when buying something. People who don't hand over cash or plastic to a person, but drop it on the counter to be collected. People who yell at the guy in the uniform not because of anything that he did, but because they are having a bad day and there's no paper towel left on the shelf and someone's gotta be yelled at so it might as well be this creature.

I've been a retail employee longer than I've held any other job title. I hope I don't do it forever, but I've done it long enough that I know how to keep it in perspective. It's my job, it's not my work, it's my paycheque, not my career. But my secret shame is that I can be pretty good at it, and take pride in it sometimes. Tonight I sold a girl a dress for a New Year's party. I saw her give herself a once-over in the three way mirror we have near the fitting rooms. It was a slinky, sparkly, capital P party-dress, suddenly in this woman's price range thanks to a big Boxing Week promotion. She may have been a little self-conscious about her bare arms and cleavage, but the little tilt of the head she gave her reflection indicated to me that she knew how much of a knockout she was in this dress. She turned to me, a little giddy. "Isn't it a little..." she shrugged expansively, as if trying to talk herself out of it. I told her I thought it was perfect. She bought it. I'm glad.

Now's the time of year when people start saying we ought to keep the spirit of Christmas with us all through the year. These are the same people who buy Zen candles and say serenity prayers and carry yoga mats over their shoulder while yelling at the dry cleaner or the pizza man. But I know what they mean. The love we feel over the holidays shouldn't only last as long as turkey bloat and shouldn't solely be confined to the family. Let's sneak a little Christmas to the flight attendant, cab driver, drugstore cashier, book-shelver, burger-flipper, and sweater-folder. Let's thank Pedro and Mike and Kris and Melissa and Vi and Tamara and Heather and Roger and Arvind and Shannon and Jodi and Bradley and Janine and Tracy and Jennifer and Tom and Chris and Sydney and Nateesha and Marie and Steven and Johnny and everyone who opens and closes and accepts cash, debit and credit and has a nice day and makes the world go round.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Another Fifteen Minutes...

Hello Friends.

In response to the new Facebook guidelines I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, comics, paintings, professional photos and videos, etc. (as a result of the Berner Convention)...

If you were on Facebook at all a few weeks ago, you undoubtedly noticed some of your friends (maybe you yourself) posting the above paragraph and its accompanying legalese as a status update. This declaration was eventually widely dismissed as hogwash, but I wonder what it means that so many of us bought into the jist of it. I wonder what we felt we needed to protect ourselves from. Has anybody reading this had the stuff they posted on Facebook stolen and reproduced without their consent? Did the thieves profit from their heist of some unsuspecting Facebooker's status, profile pictures, funny comments?

It reminds me a little of the hysteria over sexting. "If you send someone a nude picture of yourself," people warn, "that could exist on the internet forever and you would be ruined." Yeah, maybe. But have you looked for naked people on the internet lately? There are quite a few to choose from! The chance that someone will stumble upon a naked picture of you ten years from now on an internet search is highly unlikely (this is not to say that I participate in or advocate sexting, mind you, I can't even figure out how to get voicemail on my phone, much less my own dink). Both the Facebook copyright kerfuffle and fear of being undone by a random snapshot of your goods become so important to everybody because I think, deep down, we all think we're going to be famous one day. Our Facebook posts and scandalous pictures will haunt us as we lunch at The Ivy and traipse down the red carpet, on the fanciest of high heels.

Dream: Never be famous one day.

Goal: Completely and utterly achievable. I am not a delusional person. I know rationally that I will never be on the cover of a magazine, appear on a late night talk show, have my own fragrance, or host Saturday Night Live with musical guest James Taylor. The fantasy of these possibilities is endlessly entertaining, of course. I replay particular scenarios of unbelievable fame when I'm on a crosstown bus or trying to fall asleep. Maybe if I'm especially lucky, I might hope for recognition akin to one of the Witty Davids (Sedaris, Rakoff, Foster Wallace), but I lack their sublime prose and access to Ira Glass.

Plan: See fame for what it truly is in an effort to stop coveting it in weaker moments.

Fame as a concept is so fascinating to me. I've heard it theorized that our interest in the lives of famous people in inherently biological. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt represent the most attractive, dominant, and virile of the species, for instance, so their behaviour is of intense interest to the rest of us. That makes sense to me, but doesn't explain the schadenfreude we feel when our favourite stars fall from grace. And if we truly prized the famous for their superior ability, wouldn't TMZ be following Yo Yo Ma around instead of Lindsay Lohan? I might actually prefer such a program.

I think the appeal of being famous is that it's validation on a grand scale. Total strangers think you're awesome, what could be wrong with that? I think part of us all secretly yearn to influence people, want others to like the things we like. But I wonder if that validation, approval from an unknowable public, becomes addictive? Maybe if you become a little bit famous, the edges wear off your opinions, the art you produce becomes blander, all in an effort to get more people to like you. That could certainly become a trap. I wonder if Tyler Perry, in his ever-widening sphere of influence, yearns to tell a more substantial story about being black in America. I wonder if he'll ever make a movie about being gay (not that he's come out or anything, I just wouldn't be surprised). Or if he'll just continue to retread familiar paths with his extremely popular Madea movies. I wonder if Jennifer Aniston wants to play the best friend or damaged sister in a dark indie, but doesn't dare take a supporting role or be cast in an unflattering light when she can continue to make a bajillion dollars on boring romantic comedies.

The invasion of privacy must be crazy, too. I know celebrities court publicity to an extent, in order to promote their tv show or movie or whatever, but does that mean we need to see them picking their kids up at school? I read that George Clooney sued a tabloid because while he was hosting friends of his at a house in Italy, the 13 year old daughter of these friends was photographed while changing clothes in a spare bedroom. There was a paparazzo in a tree outside her window. How sick is that? I feel terrible for everyone in that story, from the poor girl, to George Clooney, to the photographer hiding in a tree who is so soulless that he'd snap pictures of an underage girl for money.

I'm not saying poor famous people. I'm sure they're comforted by the obscene amounts of money they have lying around. But I do wonder why we think it's so great. Why part of us thinks, "If I were famous, I wouldn't have any problems." But famous people still get stomach flu, for instance. Still say the wrong thing to their partner and end up apologizing over breakfast. Famous people make the millions of mistakes we make every day, only they're held more accountable for them.

I hope I know someone now who will become famous one day. I hope I know them well enough that my friendship will them will not seem like blatant star-fuckery as they ascend into stardom. I'd love insight into what that world is like beyond puff pieces in magazines and lies on the internet. But I worry I'd find out that fame is as fake as a Botox-ed forehead, and that the red carpet is stained with the blood of a thousand eager dreamers, crushed beneath too many fancy high heels.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Spoiler Alert...

Hello Friends.

Before I got my current job in a fancy clothing store in a mall, I just applied at the mall itself. You know, at that little customer service kiosk where people wearing suits tell you where the bathroom is. I'm not precisely sure what else that job entails, but once I got hired on at fancyclothes, I didn't think anymore about it. Well the mall called! They asked if I was available for a temporary position in "concierge services", which I learn meant "seasonal customer satisfaction agent", which they finally revealed to mean Santa Elf! I'm so grateful for employment at fancyclothes, because it meant I could turn them down outright, but part of me wanted the job just for the story.

How often does one get asked to be an elf? Especially a six foot long haired elf with a pizza gut? David Sedaris once took a job as a Santa Elf, and his essay recounting the experience became his most famous piece, earning him spots on NPR, book deals, and worldwide acclaim. But I think for me, such a job would kind of ruin my holidays. I don't need to see the old guy playing Santa sneaking a smoke in his Taurus before a shift. I couldn't bear to hear about his life and the choices that lead him to taking an $8/hr shift job through the Christmas season just because he's both aged and fat. And I'd never want familiarity to creep in where we could make snarky asides about greedy children or terrible parents. As much as I know that there's no jolly North Polish guy travelling the globe by sleigh every Christmas Eve, I want to keep my idea of Santa in tact.

Similarly, I don't need to know anything more about the hand up Elmo's ass. I'm not even part of the Elmo generation of kids (he may have been on Sesame Street when I watched, but didn't become hugely popular until after my time) but I found the whole news cycle about his puppeteer's lascivious behaviour really heartbreaking. I get that the guy made some really shitty decisions. Chatting up teenage boys in order to have sex with them the moment they come of age is pretty gross, and while I know that his private life is none of my business, and has no bearing on the joy that his work brings his audience, I keep thinking that someone's gonna have to tell Elmo.

Before this whole scandal broke, I was listening to NPR the day after Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc in New York City. On some radio show, Elmo and some New York children's advocate were guests, and Elmo was clearly there as a comfort for any children listening. "The noise scared Elmo and then all the lights went out but then Elmo's Mommy and Daddy lit candles and we played games and it was so much fun and Elmo wasn't scared anymore!" Basically, they were interweaving information about handling kids' questions about the storm with anecdotes from Elmo and I found myself tearing up a little. It's a thoughtful and meaningful gesture on the part of whatever the radio show was and the Sesame Street people to use Elmo to help kids not be scared. Thinking back on it now, it's also incredibly sad. Elmo's just a cute, furry monster who loves everybody and wants to be your friend. I hate that he is now forever tainted.

I think the problem with being elfin or an Elmo-fan is the same: too much information ruins the experience. Sure, knowledge is power, but in some cases, isn't that a bad thing?

Dream: Don't look too closely at things I love, lest I destroy them forever.

Goal: Achievable. I worked in video stores for quite a few years and often encountered a fascinating type of customer who never watched the special features on a DVD and never wanted to know anything about the stars of the film. They just wanted to enjoy the movie experience without a look behind the scenes. They were like the proverbial butcher's son who loves sausage, but hates to see it being made. I love a good special feature, but I know exactly where this customer is coming from, and want to apply the same standards to certain things in my life.

Plan: Never find out another thing more about...

1) Food. God, I love food so much. But not, like, kale. I love garlic and pizza and hamburgers and chicken pad thai and chocolate cake and potato chips, oh my god. And while part of me knows I'd be healthier if I were a vegan, for instance, or if I cut out refined sugars and processed foods, part of me doesn't want to learn another thing about it. I know a happy, healthy, hilarious guy who is a longtime vegan, as is his entire family. He's not the type to shove it down your throat or anything, but we were talking about it once and he said, "I used to eat meat without a thought, but then I watched this movie about the conditions under which animals are treated to produce our food and I've never, ever touched an animal product since. And that movie was called--" "LA LA LA LA LA!" I screamed in my head, trying to mentally block the title (which worked, I can't remember what the movie was called). I totally admire all forms of vegetarianism, I recognize the blatant hypocrisy of slaughtering some animals while keeping others as pets (there was an ad campaign in Toronto last year where a kitten was pictured beside a calf and the caption read, "Why love one but eat the other?" and I always felt a twinge of guilt for all those cats I eat). But I'm not ready to give up the food that I love so much. Not yet, anyway.

2) Porn. Maybe skip the next couple paragraphs, family members and/or prudes. I think I'm probably part of the last generation of young people that was exposed to pornography at a rate where (I think?) I was equipped enough to handle it. That is to say, my porn consumption was severely limited until I was an adult, which is a good thing, I think. I remember that a friend's older brother had a Playboy or something, and feeling that mixture of titillation, guilt, and shame that everybody must feel the first time they see porn. But I was thirteen or so, and, as I recall, it was just boobs. We didn't get the global pornography distribution centre of the internet in our house until I was in high school and even then, we had a dial-up connection which meant I certainly wasn't watching x-rated videos of any kind. The best one could hope for was to steal a few moments to download a single picture and that was enough for me. I remember the first time I covertly downloaded a picture of a naked man (I think he was wearing a cowboy hat) and I was so thrilled I nearly passed out. The point of this prurient trip down memory lane is to recognize that my experience is practically quaint when compared to people just a few years younger than me. I know that if I had the access then to what I can easily access now with just a few mouse clicks, my thirteen year old brain would have exploded. And I'd probably need an endless parade of really hardcore stuff now to turn my crank. For me now, though, I think my porn consumption is probably normal, but if I really think about it, how can any porn consumption be normal? If I knew about porn performers, for instance, what their lives are like, could I catch a scene from Spring Break Studs and still enjoy it? And what is it about me that is gratified by the experience?

I'm not condemning porn, and I'm not going to begrudge you whatever gets you through the night. I live with my partner 24/7 now and so don't need any artificial substitute for intimacy. But I need to maintain my vague awareness and appreciation of porn to justify a lot of lonely Saturday nights in my first apartment. I've even heard studies saying that in places like Tokyo or Amsterdam where all kind of porn are available everywhere, there are fewer incidence of sexual assault. The suggestion being, I suppose, that if a pervert can get his kicks from a video and release pent-up sexual desire, he's less likely to grab a stranger's breasts on the subway. I don't know if I believe that, necessarily, but I do have to believe pornography can do some good in some cases, or else so many of us are, forgive the word choice, fucking disgusting.

3) Saturday Night Live. Welcome back family/prudes! Like so many of my contemporaries, I have watched Saturday Night Live every week for most of my life. Reruns of certain sketches can automatically transport me back to whatever age I was when I watched them, who my friends were at the time, the basement tv we were huddled around. I remember Janeane Garafolo cutting her finger off as penance for getting an answer wrong on a Japanese game show sketch, or Will Ferrell as an angry boss screaming, "I am this close to raping you!", or Molly Shannon crashing backwards into those chairs, The Falconer, Maya Rudolph's bonkers Whitney Houston, or Bear City! Do you guys remember Bear City? Fred Willard narrated these weird shorts about bears that I can't describe to do justice, but boy I laughed at those. Anyway, a few years ago I auditioned for a newly formed sketch/improv company that would create several teams to perform around Toronto. To pump numbers high, I suspect they took every person who auditioned and our first meeting was held in the back room of a popular bar in Kensington Market. There were probably a hundred people there, maybe more. The guy who was to run the company was talking about his vision. He asked, "How many of you would like to be on a show like Saturday Night Live someday?" Every single person in that bar raised their hand. I did too, and my heart just sank. I mean, of course everybody who thinks they're funny dreams about being on Saturday Night Live one day, but we were a room full of adults who still held out hope. It's like saying to a kindergarten class, "You can all be Prime Minister one day!" Of course they can't. And of course, even the cleverest comedy performers and writers don't have a prayer of getting in that pitch room or soundstage at 30 Rockefeller Plaza without a whole lot of stars aligning in their favour.

While being a part of that show would be some amazing, unbelievable, fever-dream of a fantasy, never getting in the door would be okay too. I could keep the illusion of SNL, a mythical breeding ground of comedy genius, forever perfect in my mind. I could still laugh so hard at a weirdly-premised 12.50 sketch and think, "I could never come up with something so funny in a thousand years." Because there are so many people that show seems to chew up and spit out. People who lasted an extremely short time as writers or performers, made little to no contribution, but then went on to be brilliant, like Sarah Silverman, Larry David, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Mindy Kaling, Louie CK. Or the people who don't last long and you never hear from again. Or the people on the show for years who you never hear from again. I don't want to know what the warts are there. I don't want to think the people working at SNL are fallible, imperfect, human, like the rest of us.

4) My lucky life. I've never fully understood the phrase, "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth" because what's a gift horse? And how do you look something "in the mouth"? Does that meaning looking inside their mouths? Or just at the mouth area? And what's bad about that? But I think it means, don't question what's good in a given situation. But I've been so goddamn fortunate, it's tempting to find out why. Why have I always had amazing people in my life? How many more fantastic opportunities will continue to fall into my lap? Why have I been spared heartaches that others haven't? What have I done to deserve all of this luck? All this joy? I don't have any answers, but I don't need 'em. If this is ignorance, it is truly bliss. Ho ho ho...

Saturday, 1 December 2012

The Laziest Kid...

Hello Friends.

If you're a regular reader, you know this blog usually comes out on Thursday, except for those times when it doesn't. I often have a legitimate reason for my lateness, such as illness, or not properly saving a document, but not this time. On Thursday after work I started writing another entry and it might have been one of those psychedelic cartoons where the words on the page fall off and land in a heap of gibberish. Nothing I was writing was making any logical sense. What's worse is that this entry was previously thought out and constructed in the old bean counter. I knew just what I wanted to say, just the points I was trying to make, and I couldn't do it. Instead of coming back to it in an hour with fresh eyes, or even sleeping on it, I just left it unfinished in my documents folder and did absolutely nothing from 11.30 that night to 11.30 this morning, thirty-six hours later. Like I did actually nothing. Not a thing.

Dream: Stop being so lazy.

Goal: Achievable. I know people who aren't lazy. I know people who go to school and have full-time jobs. I know people who do volunteer work on their weekends. I know people with children. People who make all of their meals at home. People who wake up early every morning to run. And not run from anything either, just run because they want to run. So an un-lazy life can be lead. But how?

Plan: Take a good look at my own lazy habits in an attempt to jolt myself out of them.

Breaking down my last 36 hours is shameful, but having a record of my aberrant behaviour should cause me to think twice before repeating it. Okay, so Thursday was my last in a string of long work days before Friday, my only day off (I'm working through this weekend). So Thursday night I knew I could stay up late, do my blog, and work on a few play projects, then have a satisfying sleep in. Instead I wrote about two pages of blog that were just awful. So bad I knew I could not publish them in any form. I opened the two play files I'm working on and stared at them both for about half an hour. I think I might have changed one line of dialogue. Then I downloaded a Maria Bamford comedy special and laughed and ate crackers and cheese and then watched 30 Rock with a vodka mixed drink and then Parks and Rec and then YouTubed some news bloopers for awhile and went to bed.

After a Friday sleep-in I did not deserve, I put coffee on and added maybe three lines of dialogue to one of the plays, then went on Facebook for quite some time. Then Jon came home for lunch and we watched CBC for awhile which had a piece about the Powerball lottery winners in the States. We fantasized about what we would do with millions of dollars (I want several homes, he wants to donate to the Kapeche Nation) and then he had to go back to work. I took the bus to the mall downtown under the pretense of Christmas shopping. I say pretense because while I might have spent maybe 30 minutes in actual stores, I was really looking for Cinnzeo. Cinnzeo is a cinnamon bun vendor of the HIGHEST QUALITY! Weirdly, it only has locations in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Alberta, Canada. I'm not sure what the connection is (unless oil barons just really like frosting), but they make a good bun. Turns out there was no location downtown, but a quick internet search at the Apple Store told me there was one in West Edmonton Mall, the largest mall in North America. You had better believe I took the half hour cross town bus to the busiest, most baffling shopping centre I have ever been to, walked the entire length of its monstrous corridors, and finally got my bun.

Feeling guilty and fat, I went home, got my swimsuit, and headed out for some swimmin'. Once I got there, though, I realized I had forgotten my goggles, and so splashed around for only about twenty eye-hurting minutes, went to the liquor store, and came back home. Jon arrived, we ate dinner, and watched Dateline and Family Guy until 1.30 in the morning. I fell asleep. I woke up. I'm writing to you now.

What's disconcerting is that I like blogging and working on plays. If I could, I'd do just those things forever. Why then would I waste this time so spectacularly? I shudder to think what else my laziness has cost me. How many opportunities I let slip away in favour of a cinnamon bun or YouTube. I don't come from lazy stock, either. My parents are hard-working people, as were their parents. Several of my peers are on career and life trajectories that require real work, commitment beyond an eight hour shift and a punch card. I'm sure they permit themselves lazy days too, but by god, they've earned them. Maybe that's the ticket. Laziness is a credit we should all give ourselves once in awhile, as long as we have the debits to support it. I plan to be one useless blob for the couple of days I have off this Christmas, for instance, and it would great to experience those days guilt-free. To afford the pleasure of being lazy, it's time I got to work.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Better Get Reused to It...

Hello Friends.

Have you ever seen those survival guy shows? Not Survivor, but the type of show where a guy (it's always a man, women aren't this intentionally stupid) goes into an inhospitable environment to humans, like a jungle, a desert, or an outdoor music festival, then finds his way out They even film themselves, so there's no suggestion of an off-camera crew sharing turkey subs from the catering table. I for one would like to see the reverse concept every episode. Show me how to get into a five star hotel or top-rated restaurant using only my wits and a cup of my own pee.

I will admit, however, a certain appeal to the survivor guy show. It's amazing to see how far one can get without any stuff. It flies in the face of our always-connected age. I envy that freedom from things (that said, don't take away any of my shit). I was without a cell phone for so long, and now Dr. Jon and I split one and I hate when it's not in my possession. At first I thought I'd never use it, or only for emergencies, and now I wish I could use it more. There are, for instance, ways to connect to Facebook and Twitter on this phone, but we don't have a data plan and so we can't and it TEARS ME UP INSIDE! The appeal of such a concept (Facebook and Twitter on a phone) is that multiple functions are served from one device. Like the survival guy who uses a long stick to spear fish and retrieve Frisbees from tall treetops, I love the idea of more than one use for a simple thing.

Dream: Find new uses for everyday objects.

Goal: Achievable. In this economy, one can't afford to waste money on single-purpose items anymore. Most folks will rinse out a jelly jar and use it anew to store thumbtacks, for instance, or turn their expired Jello into a marital aid. It helps one save money and feel resourceful; what's wrong with that?

Plan: List all the tips and tricks I have learned to reuse everyday items, like:

No one buys cds anymore, but we all have those accordion folders where we used to store them. Placing processed cheese slices in there means you and your friends will always have snacks for cross-country roadtrips. For example, on a hot August day, you could reach for your accordion and say to your travelling companions, "Have you heard the latest single from..." (open case) "Kraft? KRAFT SINGLES!" and everyone will laugh and chow down.

New televisions on the market are now often longer than they are wide, making them the perfect sledding surface. Why waste money on a toboggan when you can glide down a snowy hill in style on a television? Strap yourself in nice and tight with the attached power cord and HDMI cables!

Has your infant grown into an ungrateful child? Don't throw out that baby monitor! Turn it into a walkie-talkie you and your spouse can use to grieve lost innocence from separate rooms.

A garlic press makes a fantastic pill crusher enabling you to top any food with psychotropic medication your dinner guests will consume, unawares. Turn your next dinner party into an all-night freakout.

Have a skeleton in your closet? Don't come clean! Use it to retain the shape of your sweaters.

Put a twist of citrus in your colas and cocktails with a quick spritz of Lemon Pledge.

Poop in the tub

Has your messenger bag gone out of style? Fill it with ball-bearings, place it atop the stairwell of an apartment complex, and tip it over as you pull the fire alarm for a fun afternoon.

No ice cubes for your next party? No problem! Swipe some stones from your pretentious neighbour's "garden pathway" in the dead of winter. They keep your drinks cold and don't water them down.

Merchandise in support of Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign makes excellent toilet paper.

Retain the shape of your boots by paying a person who is roughly your size to stand in them for you while you're not wearing them.

This holiday season, we want to save money and time where we can. So surprise Mom with a Lady Shick that also peels potatoes, and keep Dad a fiend on the fairway with a 9-iron that's also a kneecap-crusher. We live in such abundance, we cannot only survive but thrive if we learn to create more from the more we already have, lest we discard our blessings like a cup of our own pee.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

I Am Afraid of No Ghosts...

Hello Friends.

In the revenge fantasies of my childhood, I always cast myself as a ghost. So if some other kid was an asshole and I needed to think of fanciful things to fall asleep, I'd imagine an elaborate scenario wherein I was a ghostly presence who would sneak into his bedroom and mess with his stuff. Steal his money, smash his toys, etc. And he'd be all "Uhhhh whose doin' that?" (you should've heard this kid-total moron). I'd respond in a ghost-voice, "It's meeee! I'm messing with your stuuuff! I'm a ghooooost!" and I'd spill a bowl of potato chips on his floor or, if I was feeling particularly churlish, smother him with a pillow.

Now that I'm older, my revenge fantasies to fall asleep are less supernatural and more convoluted. If a friend jokes that I eat like a pig, for instance, I might fantasize about sleeping with her boyfriend, then her father. If an actor I hate lands a series of plum acting roles, I fantasize about buying a national theatre, casting him as Torvald in A Doll's House, cancelling the production, then sleeping with his boyfriend/father.

What's weird is, although my revenge fantasies have matured (I'm pretty sure matured is the right word here), my notion of ghosts and haunting is exactly the same. They remain as unknown and scary as ever. I want no part of it.

Dream: Never get haunted by ghosts.

Goal: Achievable. Maybe this is tempting fate to an insane degree, but I don't think ghosts have the internet or anything, so I'm going to just say that ghosts sound like assholes. From what little I've gleaned from horror movies, tabloid media, and those ghost-hunter shows, a certain number of factors are common in all haunting. Therefore, it stands to reason if I eliminate these factors, I eliminate the possibility of ghostly activity.

Plan: Observe the following rules forever to keep the spirits at bay.

1) Never live in an old house surrounded by nothing. Oh man, ghosts love old houses! Do you have a musty attic? Did you build your home over a gravesite? Do your pipes clank sometimes but then sometimes its ghosts? Then you have ghosts. And it's always old houses, you'll notice, because the ghosts are always spurned lovers, young soldiers, or eerily calm children from like a hundred years ago! How come there are never stories of a young couple haunted in their condo that was built in the 1980s after a roadhouse bar burned to the ground? And the ghost is named Donna and she has a jean jacket and crispy bangs? That would almost be kinda fun!

2) Don't have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I saw this one show where this woman breathlessly recounted her haunting by saying, "When I went to bed that night, all the chairs were pushed into the dining room table. When I awoke the next morning, one of the chairs had been pulled out!" Are you fucking kidding me? How neat and orderly does your house have to be, how ensconced in a routine are you, that one chair out of place is an impossibility? You didn't just get up from the table and leave it there! It had to have been an apparition! Oh my god, get a hobby or something! Loosen the reigns on your life a little. Plus, if the worst a ghost is doing is pulling out your chairs, just be cool about it. Less effort for you to sit down to take your psychotropic pill regimen every morning.

3) Stop indulging the believer. Have you ever seen that show Psychic Kids on A&E? It's about kids who supposedly see ghosts in their homes and A&E brings in a Medium to talk to the ghosts and figure it all out. The Medium is this fantastic gentleman named Chip Coffey. Chip Coffey is a LEGIT Southern Dandy. He wears scarves and spectacles and always pulls his chin into his face when he's doubtful and says things like, "Oh my starrrrs! You git on outta here, you silly ghosts!" (Here is a picture of Psychic Medium Chip Coffey). Anyway, kidding aside, what's really disturbing is the fact that these kids approach their parents and say, "I see a ghost!" and the PARENTS say, "Oh holy shit! Really? Oh my god!" They greet the claims of their kid (who, I'm sorry, is never a popular, well-adjusted child anyway) with total belief and support. I can just imagine my own father's reaction if I came to him and told him there was a ghost in my bedroom: "Oh yeah? Maybe he'll practice your goddamn clarinet for you. Quit dickin' around!" And that would be the end of it. These kids on this show are TERRIFIED! But the parents don't treat them with any skepticism, and in fact, lavish copious attention on little Timmy, call the folks at A&E, spend a high-strung and finicky afternoon with Chip Coffey, who somehow fixes everything (no skepticism ever greets his "exorcisms" either).

I guess I'm an asshole for treating the idea of ghosts with tongue planted firmly in cheek. I think if I were to believe fully in hauntings, I'd also have to make decisions about what I believe the afterlife is like. Maybe we don't all turn to dust, maybe we don't meet our maker, maybe we just hang out and rattle chains. Plus, I know people who claim they've encountered ghosts. My dear old grandmother said, right after her husband, my grandfather, died, the following thing happened: She was getting ready for bed and at her bedside she had one of those 3-way touch lamps that go bright, brighter, brightest, when you tap it with your hand. She says that while she was making her bed, the lamp started to go bright, brighter, brightest, bright, brighter, brightest, even though she wasn't touching it. It happened again and again and eventually she left her room and went downstairs and realized that she had left the front door of the house unlocked. She says she laughed! She locked the door, went back upstairs, where the lamp was behaving itself, and went to bed. She says that was my grandfather looking out for her. Reminding her to lock the damn front door, Jeanette. If that's what ghosts are, old loved ones trying to connect, to keep us safe, maybe I shouldn't be so closed off to the idea. For now though, I'll get ready for bed with Dr. Jon, ensure the front door is locked up tight, and let the chips fall where they may.

Thursday, 1 November 2012


Hello Friends.

Surely some revelation is at hand. W.B. Yeats said that in his poem The Second Coming, and it's weird how amazing poetry can apply to any time period and situation. Especially prescient of him to predict that, in 2012, I'd be making a public appeal to a heartburn medication.

Dream: Become the the guy who writes the Twitter account for Gaviscon.

Goal: Achievable. Every corporate entity has to have a Twitter presence. The following companies have Twitter: Mrs. Dash, Green Giant, Scotch Tape, Kotex, Crispers, Trojan, Vicks, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. But not Gaviscon, so why couldn't I be the guy who does that? If people log on to hear the musings of a tampon or can of corn, surely my funny tweets will get some new hearts afire (flames which can be easily extinguished thanks to Gaviscon's patented coating action).

Plan: Explain why I would be the perfect candidate for this position.

1) I'm am a good at writer things funny down. Unlike the plant I never played or the clarinet I never watered, some form of writing has been a constant hobby for most of my life. Though this current blog is only three years old, I had a MySpace blog before that, a LiveJournal before that, and a dramatic teenage diary before those. I maintain two Twitter accounts, one that is funny and one that is deeply informative. I write notes for my boyfriend that are adorably passive-aggressive ("It's so cute how you drank all the milk!"). I write plays for teens to perform so as to keep them from wrecking their lives by doing drugs or starting a band with their friends. I write articles for random websites. I comment on pictures of your kids on Facebook so much that I get banner ads for adoption agencies. So I could TOTALLY write 140 character blurbs on behalf of a tablet that foams up all fancy and keeps acid from travelling up your esophagus.

2) I use the product all the time. I don't know when I became a tea-and-toast old person, but lately it seems like any spicy food beyond a certain hour of the day sentences me a painful night. The other day I had this cajun chicken which was so good that I had to dig leftovers out of the fridge for an awesome Dateline double-header about a guy who was like a mime-preacher? Like, he did these gospel performances in silence and then he moved to Vegas and hooked up with this girl who was a bikini model for car magazines and they did GHB together one night and he might have accidentally killed her but we're not sure so it's 2 episodes back-to-back? Anyway, but that was too late for chicken and later that night I woke up just ravaged by my burning heart. I tried to wait out the pain by just waking up to watch the W Network at 4 am. By the way, do you know what's on the W Network at 4 am? Episode after episode of Will & Grace. That show and Friends have become one of the great mysteries of my life, if I might digress for a second. When those shows were first run, Thursday nights in the late 90's/early 00's, I watched them religiously. I found the characters to be witty, urbane, and relatable. I even wrote a spec script for Will & Grace (like every gay kid at the time, so shut up). Now, in reruns, both programs are insufferable. Will & Grace in particular is so shrill! I love Megan Mullaly, particularly her turns in Party Down, Parks & Rec, and Bob's Burgers, but the voice she had on that show! And her co-hort, the guy who played Jack, that guy is bananas. Just so flowery and flamboyant. Here is a scene with all four principles:

WILL: Declarative statement! Statement! Statement! Arm-waving!
GRACE: Whiiiine, though? Whiiining, is how I sound?
JACK: Sofabed lollipop bubblegum power bottom butterfly!

Anyway, I couldn't stand it so I popped some 'scon and was back to bed in five minutes.

3) I would love the flexibility of working from home. Look, I have to believe running Gaviscon's Twitter account would require a computer and maybe a phone. I don't need to put on a suit and punch in every day to write, "TGIF! How are you spending your Friday night? We're thinking tacos! #NoHeartburn #GimmeTenTacos" And if I could write from anywhere, I could travel to anywhere! While I'm grateful to have my current retail job as a sweater-folding priss at a fancy clothier, I am committed to working most of Christmas, which means I'll be lucky to get home to see the folks. But I will tweet 'round the yule log if it means I can get drunk with my brother and play SuperNintendo (like holidays of yore).

4) I can sell things! I've got years of customer service work, Gaviscon, and I recently ended a stint writing online copy for products and services that were often HORRIBLE. I sold weekend staycations at 2-Star motels in Brampton. I sold hot stone massages in a Halifax basement. I sold an exercise machine that didn't do shit! Imagine what I could do for a product I actually like, one that I know works.

I wrote an abbreviated and more professional version of this to the heartburn specialists at Gaviscon, and they recently sent back a form letter saying that my information was being forwarded to their advertising department. I'm choosing to take this as a good sign. Look, just give me the job, Gaviscon. Take a chance on an aspiring writer who doesn't want to backslide into retail and become complacent in customer service drudgery. Allow me 140 characters to change all of our lives. Present me with a sweet challenge to chew on, watch your profits foam up, and let me sleep soundly thanks to the benefit of satisfying employment, the desire for which burns ever brighter in my beating heart.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Fired Up...

Hello Friends.

This past Tuesday I was getting ready to cook up some steaks in my pajamas. Not thick t-bone steaks or anything, but those thin skirt steaks you marinate for a few minutes and pan fry. And not real pajamas, but a threadbare sweats and t-shirt combo that I wear to bed but also wear for cooking because I do stain myself during food prep but it's a t-shirt for a Multiple Sclerosis fun run from 1992, who's gonna care if I get some soy sauce on there (except maybe some MS sufferers from twenty years ago)? Anyway, the drawback to pan-frying anything is the potential for smoke, it's detection, and the smoke detector going off. It throws me off my game and happens all the time. So I was annoyed when the raw steak just sitting on the counter caused the fire alarm to go off. But wait, that didn't make sense. I literally hadn't even turned the stove on yet. And the smoke detector wasn't going off, it was the fire alarm. The one for the whole building.

I sipped my Dr. Pepper more slowly, trying to think it through, while Jon yelled, "Oh fuck!" and turned off the tv. I hadn't overcooked anything, which was good, but the building was potentially on fire, which was bad. I made sure all the appliances were off. I ran into the bedroom and grabbed a sweater, and then put the sweater back and grabbed a hoodie. I zipped up the hoodie, but then reconsidered the sweater. You know how sometimes hoodies give you more bulk than you want but they're also so snuggly? I was about to share my thoughts on the subject with Dr. Jon who ran into the bedroom with his jacket and shoes on, threw me my jacket, and said, "What are you doing? Let's go! NOW!" I decided on the hoodie, put the jacket on over top, and we left our suite. It wasn't until we hit the stairwell of our building that it all started to hit. Hearing footsteps of people above and below me racing to get down the stairs. Seeing all the lights in the hallway and stairwell on that back-up setting while the alarm blared on every floor, hearing all the dogs bark, and all the languages of the tenants colliding in the lobby, where we swarmed out onto the street like ants to a toffee, it was just weird.

As several firetrucks arrived, police cars blocked the intersections, and residents of our twenty-storey highrise all clustered in a frantic lump that was close to, but sufficiently away from, our collective home, I wished I had spent less time decided on sweater vs. hoodie and more time putting on some goddamn pants. As I reported, I was in my threadbare, food-stained sweatpants and, it pains me to admit, underpantsless. I... have no defense for this, except to say that I'm not some sex-pervert. If you see me out and about, know that I'm in underwear. It's just a given. But there's something about pajama sweatpants where you just think, "We're not fancy here." You figure you're at home, it's private, you're loose and carefree. Worse case scenario, your sweats slide down a little and you hike them up absentmindedly. It's not like anybody's ever gonna see you. Unless the fire alarm goes off in your building and your priorities suddenly shift. Through the pockets of my jacket, I grasped my drawstring for dear life as Jon pressed neighbours for information. This was no false alarm, we were told. Nobody reported seeing any flames, as such, but the tenth floor was apparently filling up with smoke.

As firemen approached the building, presumably to asses the situation (and not pants me like I feared), we instinctively dispersed. There's a Wendy's behind our building (that emotion you're feeling is jealousy), and Jon and I got some burgers (thankfully he had the presence of mind to bring his wallet and the phone) and a table near the window while we theorized. From our vantage point, we could see, from lit bedroom windows and things, that they hadn't cut the power to the building. For some reason, that was an immense comfort. To me that said the blaze was containable. If it were an electrical fire (as we had overheard), surely it would make sense to cut the power if they thought the fire could spread. Jon pointed out that cutting the power didn't make sense as the firemen had to see where they were going and what they were doing, and there probably wasn't like a switch in the laundry room they could flip to suddenly shut the whole building down. We were encouraged when we couldn't see any smoke, but then discouraged when we could smell some. We were happy to see the firemen moving slowly and methodically to and fro, but unhappy when they slowly and methodically unfurled the giant hose. Minutes ticked by and soon it had been an hour and we were officially loitering in Wendy's. We went to a convenience store where Jon bought smokes and I bought gum and we walked back to the front of our home, smoking and chewing, and wondering what would happen next.

Dream: Take proper stock of my stuff.

Goal: Not achievable. The worst part about things you've always worried about actually coming to pass is that worrying about them didn't help in the least. The few minutes it took to hear the alarm, grab a coat, and walk briskly down the stairs all seemed to unfold naturally and almost calmly. There was just a sense of the natural order of events in a crisis. But then, as time passed and we knew we were out of immediate personal danger, I began to ask serious questions of myself that I didn't know the answers to. Why didn't I grab this or that personal memento when I had the chance? If I could go back and get just one thing out of there, what would it be? I have plenty of stuff, but no easy answers.

Plan: Accept that maybe the greatest things in my life are intangible.

It makes me sound like such an ingrate, in a way, but I could have dealt with losing my things. All the things we crammed into our little blue car a few months ago when we moved. All the things we've bought for our new little apartment. All the gifts of books and music and DVDs and furniture we've inherited from family and friends. It's cliche to say, but all that stuff is replaceable.

The Friday before the Tuesday blaze, Jon was away at a conference so I spent the night at my friend Steph's house. She has two little boys. Cole is two and Carson is 9 or 10 months. Steph and I talked and laughed while she cooked dinner. She did that thing you can do with little babies who can't walk yet but keep themselves busy anyhow and set Carson down on the kitchen floor nearby to keep an eye on him, while Cole ran back and forth grabbing all his different toy cars. I decided to sit with the immobile one and parked myself next to Carson on the floor. Cole decided on a car, ran to me, and kind of snuggled up under my arm, so we could all be together.

On Sunday I went and saw a production of Hamlet that was so good I forgot I was watching a production of Hamlet. This dude is so wounded by the fact that his father is dead, but makes thing even harder for himself by questioning his every decision, acting in haste, and destroying everything he loves. I was literally on the edge of my seat when Gertrude described Ophelia's drowning death, when Claudius appeals to the God's, "Forgive me my murder", when Horatio cradles a dying Hamlet's head in his arms.

Jon got back from his conference about 12.30 that night, had to be up at 6 am the next morning, but stayed up with me anyway, telling me all about it and catching up on my weekend, until we both fell asleep. Experiences like that can't be lost in fires, and I have to believe they'll continue, even if my books and furniture go up in flames.

After about two hours, we were all allowed to go back inside. Apparently the firefighters put out the initial blaze, they had to check every suite in the building, to make sure nothing had spread. I don't know the extent of the damage to the 10th floor, but we live on 6 and nothing was damaged.

If I look back at my blog these past few weeks, I've done a lot of complaining. I can't find a real job (though I am folding sweaters and selling jeans in a fancy clothes place now, which is better than a drugstore), I can't sleep, I can't contact Taylor Swift. But it doesn't take a fire for me to realize how lucky I am and how grateful I ought to be.

Also, turns out the reason for the fire was that some guy was trying to barbecue food IN his apartment! Like on an outdoor barbecue, but in his living room. God, I hope he was cooking steak as that would make a great closer for this anecdote. Can we agree he was cooking steak? He was cooking steak.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

An Open Letter to Taylor Swift...

Hello Friends.

The weird thing is, I don't think I've listened to the radio in years. I've heard podcasts and all day music channels and other people's iTunes at parties and things, but I can't say I've made a conscious effort to listen to the radio proper. Even in the car, Dr. Jon just uses his small booklet of CDs that he calls Travelling Music, which is cute. Anyway, all of this is to say that I really shouldn't know who Taylor Swift (one of the most frequently played performers on commercial radio) is, but of course I do.

According to Wikipedia, Taylor Swift has sold 22 million records and is the recipient of over 50 million digital downloads. She's won Academy of Country Music Awards, Bilboard Music Awards, Grammy Awards, and induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. She's appeared on CSI, as host and musical guest of Saturday Night Live, and on the cover of Vogue. She has released only four albums. This year she will turn just twenty-three years old. She's got a lot going for her, to be sure, but an enormous weight on her shoulders. I can't imagine what kind of pressure she's under, but I do know what it's like to turn twenty-three. I've been doing it myself for almost seven years.

Dream: Get a letter to Taylor Swift.

Goal: Achievable. I used to work in an office building who's seventh floor was taken up by Sony Music Canada. This guy who worked there presented himself to me as a real mover-and-shaker with the company. Every time he'd see me in the lobby or cafe in the building, he'd say, "Hey, James! Wanna get snacks together?" I never occasioned to take him up on his offer, but when I mentioned my desire to contact Taylor Swift, he told me he could get some fan mail directly to her. I was ectastic and handed off my letter, but then was shocked to find out that Taylor Swift wasn't even on the Sony Music label. I wrote my friend an angry note, telling him I had wasted my time.

So he calls me up and he's like, "I misled you" and I'm like, I'm just... This is exhausting, you know, like, we are never getting snacks together. Like ever.

Plan: Post this letter on my blog anyway, and hope she gets it. Here goes.

Dear Taylor Swift,

How are you? Like how are you really? Because I have to tell you, it doesn't sound like you're having a whole lot of fun. Admittedly, I'm not familiar with your entire canon, as it were. I don't know all of your songs, but I know the big hit singles. Now I'm no expert in psychology or relationships, but it sounds like you invest a lot of time and energy into boys who don't treat you very well. Or rather, turns out they don't know to treat you, and you end up hurt. Drag-race, Taylor Swift! But you're a young girl who's only been with young guys and guess what? Young guys don't know shit! You released your first album of heartbreak songs when you were fifteen! You know what I remember about my contemporaries when I was fifteen? Dudes lighting their farts. My point is, you've got to keep things in perspective. Look at all you have! Look at the audience of young, young girls just waiting to hear what you have to say! I'm not saying you shouldn't sing about your crushes and your relationships, but why not a song about how awesome it is to be healthy, happy, and never have to wait in line for a table at Swiss Chalet because they're all, "Right this way, Miss Swift?" Enjoy yourself, because this fame won't last forever, something for which you should be grateful! If your fame lasted forever, what would become of your life?

I know it's not an apt comparison, really, but you make me think of Michael Jackson, and not just because of your girlish laugh and lilly-white skin. You are both obscenely famous, to the point where it must be impossible for you to go to the grocery store, ride a bus somewhere, or puke on the play structure of your elementary school late one night because your friend snuck some wine coolers out of his parents' fridge. As I have only a cursory familiarity with your music, the same is true for me and MJ. I know the singles, I even had a cassette of his once, but I can't say I'm the huge superfan like other people. And yet, since his death, I've been so fascinated by his life in an anthropological sort of way. I definitely have lost many a night to YouTube documentaries about the bizarre, isolated, megalomaniacal style of his final years. Here was a guy so famous for his whole fucking life that he never learned how to really live. There's no doubt that fame translates to power, even if the most powerful people aren't neccesarily famous, but that must mean that there's no one around to tell you no. As in, no, in light of the charge that you molested children, I wouldn't advise that you turn your backyard into a free amusement park. No, I won't administer emergency room calibur sedatives to you every night to help you fall asleep. No, I can't recommend that you bleach your skin and hack your face to such an altered and frightening state that you are virtually unrecognizable from your former self. There's something classically tragic about the Jackson downfall, he's like King Lear with a sequined glove, and I'm sure it's a long way off for you, Taylor Swift. All the same, though, I hope you don't have an ever expanding circle of friends and family in your direct employ. I hope there's no authority figure standing over you demanding that you practice again and again until you get it right because otherwise your family will starve. I hope your support system is truly supportive and that the people closest to you find you every so often and say, "You know you can stop if you want to."

If I could write just one paragraph to you, Swifty, it would be this one. You need to try to wean yourself off of the validation of recognition and awards. I read recently that you were "completely blown away!" by your nominations to something called the MTV Europe Music Awards. "I was jumping up and down and screaming!" you told one publication. Were you? Why? You've won everything, you confound 2012 expectations of the music industry because you are so universally likeable and marketable, you have fragrances and cosmetic contracts and tribute albums and sold out tours, what could be gleaned from another trophy? If it's disingenuous, that's obnoxious, T. If you're not actually psyched to get an MTV Europe Music Award but you lied and said you jumped up and down and screamed, you're not fooling anyone. But if you did jump up and down and scream, that makes me feel sad, new Friend. I want you to jump up and down and scream because your friend got that promotion at work and now she can finally afford to get her own apartment and you can have sleepovers! I want you to jump up and down and scream because Jesse's Girl is playing at the dance and it's absolutely your favourite song right now. Or you find an outfit at a store that fits perfectly and it's on sale! Or you beat your personal best on your morning run by a full minute! Or you beat a longtime rival at chess, finally! Or just as your telling a friend about this new tv show you just started watching, you idly flip channels and find a marathon! Of that show! The one you were just talking about! AAAAAH!!!

I don't know why it's so important that I write you. I don't think you're a bad role model at all, I love how you write your own songs and play guitar and you don't dress trampy. And I hope it's not sexist on my part to want to counsel you over, say, Justin Bieber, who is in roughly the same position in terms of fame and influence. Maybe it's because he will be allowed more indescretions in his personal life than you will because he's a dude. Or maybe because he can sell records with a catchy tune, but you've become known for your songwriting and so must always produce a compelling lyric. Or maybe it's because JB's stock and trade is in swagger, and yours is vulnerability. So often you seem heartbroken over a boy, or giddy over an award, and I want to you to be a strong, kick-ass woman who takes praise, criticism, even a break-up in stride. Be a goddamn rockstar, Taylor Swift, and change the world. You've caught our collective ear. Make us listen.

Your friend,

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Recipe for Success...

Hello Friends.

The doctor and I were unable to make it home this past weekend for the holiday, but indulged in delicious home cooking all the same. Elissa is a really sweet girl who lives six floors up and generously invited us to her apartment for a kind of orphans Thanksgiving. She made an amazing turkey and stuffing and the rest of us (a mix of people from the building and friends she had made from the nearby university) each brought a dish. While it's usually my custom to bring a big bottle of vodka, tonic water, lemons and limes, Doritos, and a plastic bowl (the guests can indulge in any combination of those ingredients), I thought I'd take a stab at making cole slaw, but bring a smaller bottle of vodka just in case it didn't turn out. But it turned out pretty good, thanks in no small part because there's no cooking, baking, broiling, or roasting involved. The recipe couldn't be simpler and it's always good.

To make Cole Slaw That is Good: Take a cabbage or two, quarter and chop finely. Even if you get the cabbage mix in a bag that's already shredded (as I do), chop it more. Ironically, when it comes to cole slaw, there's nothing more disgusting than a big hunk of cabbage. Add some shredded carrots and about four green onions. Keep chopping. Add 2-3 teaspoons of cider vinegar (chopped), pinches of salt, pepper, and celery seed. Stir a bunch. Add in a spoonful of mayonnaise, then maybe one more, but you need less than you think you do. Stir more. Chop while you're stirring. Cover, but don't make it earlier than the day you plan to serve it or it's gonna wilt.

To make a good vodka & tonic. First take your preferred citrus fruit (but not an orange or grapefruit, you wise-ass). Slice your lemon and lime in half. Take those halves and lay them face down, so the halves protrude from your cutting board like cancerous tumours the size of lemons or limes. Place one hand on top of the lime-half to steady it, then slice from diagonally from the side to the centre on the right, then left sides. This is very confusing to explain, but basically an easy way to cut six thick wedges (three slices from each half) that keeps you from cutting yourself. Squeeze your wedge and drop in a short tumbler, add a few ice cubes and a generous shot of vodka. Then pour tonic util the glass is full. Stir, but only lightly so as to not flatten the tonic. These are tart and refreshing and lack the sourness of gin and soon everyone is sexy and you're hilarious!

The problem with the above recipes is that, in passing them off as my own, I am a fraud. The cole slaw is my mothers to the letter and I had to email her before the party to make sure I had it exactly right. My brother has tended bar for years and taught me that lemon/lime slicing trick that has saved me countless emergency room visits (seriously, can you imagine a worse injury to befall you than slicing your hand open whilst cutting up citrus? How burny that would be?).

What I need is a signature dish that is mine and mine alone. Something to pass along to my kids when they get invited to Fall Holiday Nutrient Exchange in 2049. Since I haven't found a job and none of the neighbourhood kids want to engage in freestyle rap battles, and since Dr. Jon and I finally eat dinner together in the same place at the same time, I've been cooking more and slowly getting better at it. I think I've finally hit on a filling, hearty recipe that I'm ready to share with the world.

Dream: Teach everyone to make a Pot of James.

Goal: Achievable. Pot of James is warm and garlicky and spicy and while you're supposed to make it with chicken, I prefer it meatless, so even vegetarians can get in on the fun (vegans, the recipe calls for some heavy cream, but feel free to replace that with non-dairy creamer or toothpaste).

Plan: Share my step-by-step process for making this delicious autumnal supper.

First, turn on the first burner and marvel at the smoke that comes off of it. Why do burners always smoke like I've been embedding kleenex and woodchips into the coils? I haven't! I keep them clean! But the smoke detector always threatens to go off.

In case of fire, be sure to stay calm. Eeriely calm. I remember my parents cooking something on the stove that caught fire and I sprang into action and remembered what I was told to do in school. I stayed calm, pointed at the flames and said, "Fire. Fire. Fire" in an even tone until they doused the flames with baking soda. It's only looking back now that I realize how creepy and ineffectual I may have been.

On the first burner place a pot of salted water and bring to a boil. While waiting for the water to boil, consider the preponderance of nipples. Once upon a time I was dancing at a bar with a handsy drunk. He wasn't a lech, but he got a little touchy-feely. Anyway, at the end of the song he put his hand on my chest (over my blouse, rest assured), found my nipple and kind of "beeped" it. Pushed it like a doorbell and winked at me. What? Was that supposed to activate something deep within me? Didn't. Similarly, when it comes to ladies, why is it so important to cover the nipple on tv or magazines or whatever, when the rest of the breast is exposed? Is there something about that specific area that, when uncovered, unleashes mayhem and destruction? It's a bit like showing a guy's dong but then putting a pasty or tiny hat over the tip. Why should it be difference with breasts? Cleavage? Fine. Sideboob? Yes. Underboob? How fancy! Nipples? PUT THOSE AWAY.

Anyway, add about two cups of pasta to your boiling water. I like a substantial noodle like a penne or a rotini, but do whatever the fuck you want, I'm not your mother. Then get your second burner going. Vegetarians, skip this next bit, or replace the chicken with a favourite tofu or fig paste. Anyway, if you want, salt and pepper both sides of two chicken cutlets and cook them about two-three minutes per side in some oil on medium heat. I don't love the resulting chicken; it's kinda bland. I like using next day chicken for this. Pick some hunks off whatever's left of a roast chicken or cut up an already cooked chicken breast and toss it in with some paprika or something. Anyway, once the chicken's done (or if you haven't added any in at all), toss two minced garlic cloves and a fuckload of mushrooms (the recipe I used originally calls for only five cut-up mushrooms, but I use at least ten). Also toss in about a tsp and a half of those red pepper flakes. Cook that up until your house smells awesome (about half a minute, I'd guess).

Check on your noodles and think about your celebrity besties. Those famous people you don't want to bone, necessarily, but that you just want to hang out with because you're sure you'd get along super well. My celebrity bestie of the moment is Julie Klausner, this writer/performer who hosts a podcast (How Was Your Week) and wrote a really funny book (I Don't Care About Your Band) and writes great articles for Vulture, the Awl, Jezebel, etc. I just know we'd be pals! She's on Twitter and I tweet her so often and she never responds and I should take a hint and leave the poor woman alone, but she's so smart and funny and makes a living as a writer in New York City and I think if I cooked her a Pot of James, she might really like it.

Anyway, add a small hunk of butter to your pot of garlic and fuckload of shrooms and chili flakes. When it melts, whisk in three teaspoons of whole wheat flour (you could use white flour but then what would you lord over people?). Cook that for about two minutes, reduce your heat, then whisk in some cream just to thicken that noise UP! Like maybe 1/4 cup of whipping cream. Finally, add about a cup of those dry spinach leaves, the baby ones. Stir it all around until the spinach starts to wilt and turn the perfect deep shade of green.

Drain your noodles and combine your sauce with your pasta and mix it all together. Consider how lucky you are in your little kitchen in your very own apartment. Think of all the meals your mother made for you, night after night, how much work that must have been for her. Consider how she must be an expert in all of the things in which you are still a novice. As you ladle your creamy, garlic, spanich, chicken (or figs?), mushroom, spicy, earthy Pot of James, think about all the ingredients that lead to this moment in your life. All the times you thickened up thanks to new friends, got a little spicy when faced with a challenge, was bolstered by your own flavour, became wilted in the heat. Consider that no one, nowhere, makes your dinner the way you do. Be grateful. Be hungry. Serve.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Toss, turn...

Hello Friends.

Fair warning: someone complaining about how they can't sleep is about as interesting, generally, as someone explaining what they can and can't eat on their diet. It's as exciting to hear about as the driving route someone took to get to a party you're both attending. It ranks up there with someone detailing the weather for the past two weeks in a town about which you've never heard and know nothing. Ironically, this flies in the face of my Dream from a few weeks ago about whining, pouting, and bitching, but sleep is all I can think about in my foggy waking hours, so I'm just gonna write about it, consequences be damned. Silver lining: perhaps my complaining about how I can't sleep is enough to put you to sleep, so you can wait until next Thursday to visit this blog again, or read on and settle in for forty winks that I could desperately use.

Dream: Sleep.

Goal: Achievable? I don't know, you guys. It seems like since moving here six weeks ago, I've tossed and turned every night. Plus the oppressive heat of Toronto's June, July, and August kept me in sufficient discomfort during the wee hours this past summer. It makes me wonder if I ever slept well in my life, and if the perpetual "you look tired!" I always hear is less a passive-aggressive diss and more an accurate assessement.

Plan: Figure out what keeps me up at night and put it to bed.

It's not that I'm not sleeping at all (though I've had a few zero-sleep nights), it's that the only way I seem to be able to drift off is by succumbing to complete exhaustion, which hits me later and later, and then only lets me sleep for a few hours, before jerking me awake for some phantom emergency. I'm a terribly light sleeper so any noise and I'm the jerk who goes, "WHASSA MATTER!" and bolts up.

Unfortunately, there's a great deal of noise to contend with in this building. The neighbours in the apartment next to ours own this dog who goes insane every time his owners leave the apartment, which is usually every morning about 6.30. It usually goes on for about twenty minutes or so, but he manages to somehow wake up all the dogs in the building before he retires for the morning, satisfied his work is done. Incidentally, he barks consistently from about 5 to 6 pm every evening. Instead of waking me up and making me angry, this period of noise just makes me sad. Why have any dogs in an apartment building? I'm sorry, dog lovers, but it's such a small space and they're bored out of their fucking minds.

Our building is also beside a construction site, which makes me want to weep. When we first moved to Toronto, the modest buildings at the end of our street were being torn down to make room for two high-rise apartments. Those buildings were under construction for the entire three years we lived there. Here in Edmonton, they're building onto the parkade adjacent to us, and recently posted a sign saying construction would be ongoing for three years. They don't construct at night, of course, but put a real damper on sleeping in.

Before you mention a helpful sleep hint, I've tried them all. I drink one cup of coffee when I wake up, then no caffeine for the rest of the day. I don't eat a thing after 9 pm anymore. I exercise during the day to try to ensure that my body is tired by bedtime, and it is tired, but my mind just races. I've even tried over the counter sleep aids, and that's turned out to be the scariest thing ever (and not just because, if I've had sex with you in a dream, you might have sleep AIDS now). If I pop a Nytol, my body and head feel all mushy and gooey, but I get the sensation that I'm slowly being pushed underwater. I get this foggy, unpleasant feeling and for some reason my brain makes me snap to and I jolt awake. But why? What in the hell do I need to be awake for? Plus, whenever I have fallen asleep thanks to a pill, my dreams are always those terrible neverending task ones. I'm pertually moving boxes, for instance, or trying to schedule a haircut.

The other thing about lying awake late at night is that, like a buzzing mosquito in a bedroom, the negative thoughts fly in and can't be easily contained. I know admonishing yourself for staying awake by thinking, "GO TO BED, IDIOT!" is no help at all. But then this awful Greek chorus comes in with "Look at your life! Look at your choices! You have no job! What's with your hair?" etc. combined with niggling thoughts that are completely inane like, "Do I wear enough green things?" I consider myself a fairly positive person, but there's no convincing pep talk you can give yourself when it's 6 am and your boyfriend's getting ready for work and you haven't slept because you can't get the lyrics to Somethin' to Talk About out of your head.

The worst and scariest part about this lack of sleep, the thing I hate to admit, is that it doesn't strike on a Friday or Saturday night. Almost never. That's because the Doctor and I have a few drinks, we go see friends, we watch bad tv, we talk, we both go to bed late and we both drift off peacefully and sleep in blissfully. But all of that means that my Sunday to Thursday lack of sleep is nothing medical or physical, it's nothing influenced by external factors. My insomnia, it would seem, is entirely in my own head. This notion is unbelievably frustrating. I would imagine it's like being really overweight, hating how overweight you are, then binge-eating to quell your self-hatred. Maybe it's not exactly like that, but there's something about the body and mind's impulse to betray its host at its own peril. Why would I willingly do this to myself?

I know that this too shall pass. I eventually have to get hired somewhere and the externally-imposed schedule will demand that I'm functional from this time until that time and it will just work out. It happened when, after years of shift work, I finally got nine-to-five employment. Despite my concerns that an early rising time would be impossible to meet, I actually got on the best sleep schedule I've had since I was in school. Being mentally stimulated all day meant I slept like a baby all night. So I suppose the best Plan is finding a satisfying, interesting way to fill the days. Let's hope this Goal is Achievable, and lets me Dream again.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Gimme Some Credit...

Hello Friends.

Comedian Louis C.K. has this show called Louie, which opens with a cover of that song "Brother Louie." The one that goes, "Louie Louie Louie Lou-eeee! Louie Louie Louie Lou-ayyye! Louie Louie Louie Lou-eeee! Louie, baby, you're gonna cry." This past Sunday at the Emmy Awards, the show and its star took home some hardware for their second season. I was glad as that season was really good, but there's been something bugging me about the third season which wraps up this week. Since the departure of the character Pamela at the close of the season two, Louie has seen a string of really crazy ladies. Over the course of a dozen episodes, three women offer to blow him, Melissa Leo cracks his head against the windshield of her car, Parker Posey takes him on a deranged all-night date after getting kicked out of a bar, Chloe Sevigny attempts to reunite him with Posey and is so excited at the idea that she masturbates openly in a coffee shop, Maria Bamford gives him crabs, Nancy Shayne has her vagina removed, and Sarah Silverman contemplates "cutting her tits off." Maybe this isn't misogyny exactly, speaks more to Louie's bad luck or the strange people he encounters, but it isn't as if the male characters on the show are alternately oversexed or castrated.

That's a long digression to explain that, in gathering this evidence, I had a strong article to pitch. Louie earns amazing accolades from columnists and critics. The auteur style of of production (he writes, directs and edits every episode himself) and his strange vignette-style episodes make his the cool show to watch. Despite scouring the internet for other articles about his treatment of women this year, I found nothing. I thought, perhaps, that my fresh perspective might stimulate discussion, or at least readers, on a entertainment/culture website. I picked because it's a site I visit often, I like their columnists generally, and they accept unsolicited submissions for article ideas, and they often pay. I pitched the piece on a Thursday, citing the above examples and using something like, "Louie's Girl Trouble" as my working title. I received no response from anyone at Salon and still haven't, but the following Wednesday they published this article.

I can't prove that they stole my idea, but doesn't it seem like it? It's very possible that someone else watching the same season of television I did would arrive at the same conclusions, but it's a pretty big coincidence that Salon would get pitched the same idea and not think to at least write a two line response to me like, "Oh thanks, but someone's contacted us with a similar concept." I hate the idea that some editor took my idea, considered it, then promptly outsourced it to a better writer. If my grapes are especially sour, it's because one, this article has been reblogged from several sources (including my blog, I guess) and two, I swear this has happened before.

Dream: Credit where it's due.

Goal: Achievable, I hope. Can any writers speak to whether this is common practice? It's curious how a lot of these websites work. Huffington Post, for instance, has enormous readership and accepts unsolicited submissions. They don't pay a dime, but one supposes the exposure an article could potentially get would be a fair trade. But the way they accept submissions seems intentionally slick. To pitch to them, you log into their site, click a link, and write your idea in a box and click send. At no time do you get the email address of the editor you're allegedly sending to, nor do you have the option to email it back to yourself. Your idea, once it's sent, is zapped into the ether of the internet and unless you're particularly computer savvy, there's no record of what you wrote them. Ostensibly, they could steal your idea and you'd have no way to prove they did.

Plan: Rise up, move on.

I have no plans beyond this blog to confront the folks at Salon. I have no leg to stand on, after all, nothing to prove that the writer of the published article didn't come to the same conclusions I did and simply get there first, or have stronger prose. Besides, there's nothing they can do to course-correct. Publish my article after hers? Why?

Similarly, I can't fight the folks at a storytelling website I have to be vague about as they could still pay me for future contributions. Every week they put out a call looking for stories concerning a particular theme. The examples I use here are changed to save my ass in case they read this, but trust that the coincidences were the same level of plausibility. So one week, they asked something like, "Do you have a funny story about seeing someone out of context? Like running into a teacher outside of school?" And I sent them a story about bonding with a teacher outside of school after we both got caught in a rainstorm together. They rejected the story but the following week sent out a call asking, "Have you ever been caught in the rain with someone? What did you learn?" It seemed really weird to me that they rejected my idea but seemed to steal the concept. Undaunted, I wrote, "Wow, what a coincidence! I'd like to pitch this story about being caught in the rain with my French teacher one more time!" but because I knew they had rejected the story earlier, I sent along a second story about being caught in the rain during a roadtrip with a friend. They rejected those, but the following week sent out another mass email saying, "This week, we want stories about roadtrips!" Again, these examples are fake, but the eerie coincidences are the same. And like Salon, I can't accuse them of anything because I can't prove that anything actually happened.

I'm not alone here, and there are terrible examples of this kind of behaviour in writing and many other industries. Dr. Jon knows of a PhD student whose supervisor began taking credit for his thesis, submitting it to journals and conferences all over the world as his own work. I know of an actress who set up an audition for what she thought was an indie drama. The audition turned out to be in a deserted office building on a Saturday and when she arrived she was given a flimsy bra to "change into real quick" for an on-camera test. My friend bolted and took a few other girls with her, but there are far worse stories where that theme is concerned. Another friend told jokes at a stand-up night featuring a more prominent comedian. Two months later he saw that comedian doing his jokes on television.

Plagiarism seems to be a fact of life, in one form or another (don't steal this, Wente), but I guess the onus is on the originator to protect his or her own work. Naivete only serves you well in the bedroom. For me, it boils down to being assertive and simply demanding fair and equitable treatment for my work, which is something the women's movement, for example, fights for every day. Their cause deserves more help than my own, but maybe don't ask Brother Louie, or you're gonna cry.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Start Up...

Hello Friends.

Without going into cry-baby histrionics about it, I am still jobless. I'm not as discouraged as perhaps I should be, though, because there are quite a few "ideal" positions that I'm still in the running for: other copywriting gigs, interesting editorial work, vague entry-level positions at various media companies, and a few freelance writing opportunities. I'm hopeful about all of them, but slyly practising my sweater-folding, just in case.

What impresses me about all the businesses to which I've applied is that they were clearly at one point just an idea in someone's head. Somebody took the initiative to buy the storefront, manufacture or bring-in the product/perfect the service, open their concept to consumers, and turn a profit. Amazing! While some clearly fare better than others (RIP Blockbuster--if it's any consolation, you limped to the finish line under a terrible business model), all business, big or small, keeps its creators employed, invested, and passionate for a time. I could use investment and passion, and most certainly employment.

Dream: Start a small business.

Goal: Achievable. Monica Lewinsky started her own line of handbags, and I get to the dry-cleaners even less than she does. The only business I couldn't get off the ground would be some kind of contemporary reference depot as I just made a Lewinsky crack-em-up (though I suppose I could start a Leno-joke app). Terrible.

Plan: Develop one of the follow business ideas for the marketplace:

A cupcake store. My friend Lindsay and I have both moved here at the same time and figure, if other pursuits don't work out, we'll go the drunken Real Housewife route and open a cupcake store. Those places are everywhere! It's like we've suddenly become third-graders on Valentine's Day, or a lonely fatty out to "celebrate ME!" Either way, these oversugared gobs of goo are cash cows. I'ma get milkin'!

I'm going to start a chain similar to Hooters, but one that caters to female/gay male clientele and call it Danglies. Danglies will feature men in small, tight shorts serving you food and drinks. What's the deal with Hooters anyway? Because of the concept, are men just allowed to openly stare at their waitresses breasts? That's disgusting, but if that expressly disallowed, if a customer could get kicked out for leering, what's the deal with Hooters anyway?

The Waiting Room. This is a small, hot, noisy room. We keep a smelly old man and bratty children on permanent retainer and they are a constant presence. We have magazines but they are at least seven years old and randomly ripped apart. There's also a rude receptionist and a really rude person playing a doctor. Doctor agitatedly runs through the list of symptoms you've given the receptionist, which is whatever ailments you have that would bring you to an actual doctor's office. Doctor says loudly, "Okay, so he/she has a sore throat! Earache! Headache! Tell them I'll be ready in forty-five minutes and those symptoms better be pretty severe!" Have you even been to a real doctor's office waiting room, like I have described, and your symptoms suddenly disappear? That happens to me nearly every time I go to a clinic. The Waiting Room reinforces everything that's fucking terrible about going to your doctor's office and makes you rethink whether or not your sore throat is really so terrible. Plus, there's no actual doctor and you can leave whenever you want. This might take a few years to get off the ground.

Starring You. Are you the product of theatre-education with slim to nil acting credits in the last few years? I know I am! Don't you hate how, though you have made peace with your decision to act as a hobby and pursue other work as a profession, your former contemporaries from theatre school are doing really, really well? Now you can keep your envy in check and make them jealous for a change with a visit to Starring You. We have cutting edge film and editing equipment and will work with you to cut you into a really impressive movie trailer. Everyone knows the best part of a movie is the trailer, and Starring You will place you into a small indie drama featuring Allison Janney, Mark Ruffalo, Christina Ricci, and You. Or a slapstick comedy with Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, Rainn Wilson, Sarah Silverman and...who's that? Oh my god, You! Phillip Seymour Hoffman and George Clooney can only take part in this political game of cat and mouse with a little help from You. Joaquin Phoenix and Christian Bale will descend deep into gritty streetlife thanks to You. You see where this is going. Of course, no movie will actually be made, but by the time you post this trailer to your Facebook wall with the modest message, "Sooo much fun filming this! Amy, you are a GENIUS!" everyone will be all, "What? Huh? We severely underestimated your talents, You!" and you'll get offered legit parts in legit theatre and film, and everyone will forget about Garden of Sad, Fart School, President Danger, or Street Dumbs (the indie, comedy, political thriller, gritty drama, respectively).

Kleenex Klothes. Why be embarrassed about your runny nose, frequent sneezing, or disgusting baby, when you can just give 'er right on your own clothes? Kleenex Klothes sells disposable but stylish garments for the busy mom, cold sufferer, or chronic bleeder in your life. Just sneeze and toss!

Just Good Movies. I worked for many years in the two top video rental chains in Canada, both of which no longer exist. They claimed there was no longer a market for video rental, but the indie stores that do survive tell a much different story. Without giving away marketing strategy explicitly (although what can they do? Sue me? They don't exist anymore) both of these chains would acquire mass quantities of the newest high-grossing new release and get rid of older stock indiscriminately to make room for it. Orders would come down monthly to cut the "library" (movies older than one year) by dramatic amounts. One week I wrote a list down of our inventory. We had 42 copies of the sequel to Transformers in stock. We didn't have The Wizard of Oz, Citizen Kane, Casablanca, any Robert Altman movies, Jaws, The Graduate, Network, Working Girl, My Left Foot, A Few Good Men, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, King of Comedy, Casino, Raging Bull, Do the Right Thing, The Killing Fields, The Conversation, Planes, Trains and Automobiles. People looking to rent the latest movie might get it. People looking to rent a good movie never could. I'm going to open a video store with classic films, foreign films, LGBT titles, cult movies, and nothing with Katherine Heigl. You can find any of the latest releases on Netflix, iTunes, there's even a box at most grocery stores. Anything else, you come to Just Good Movies. I swear I'd make a killing.

Finally, I'd open Naps and Craps. A two-story completely soundproofed building equally divided into clean bedrooms and bathrooms where you could take a nap or option number two for as long as you needed, undisturbed, in complete and total silence. No kids or partners allowed. There'd be a two for one special on Sunday afternoons and holidays but get there early because there are lines around the block.

I'm not an entrepreneur, but I am a consumer. As my bank account dwindles to zero, my every purchase is made judiciously, but I'd patronize every store listed here. Maybe the only thing impeding me from starting my own business or even landing the jobs I apply for to which I feel I'm perfectly suited is confidence and courage. Maybe I'd have all the opportunities I wanted if I could just grow a better pair of danglies. I don't know what insecurities or shortcomings are stopping me now, but I'm not about to open the floor to discussion. That's no business of yours.