The Cable Guy

I got a letter a month ago saying we had to surrender our old PVR. (DVR, for my American friends.) Apparently, Flin Flon has been stuck with analog television for far too long, and Shaw was bringing us into the 21st century.

The boxes arrived (three instead of one!) and I let them sit until the day my TV wouldn’t work anymore. The boxes had big ‘Self Installation,’ stickers on them, which I didn’t necessarily believe. When something technologically challenging comes along, Clarence is always out of town. But I got the first one unpacked, unhooked the old PVR and stuck the new one in place. The television listed a random message meaning, ‘No. I don’t think so.’

So I called the cable guy. And you know what that’s like. You’re on hold for so long, and when you finally reach someone, they accidentally hang up on you. At least, that’s my story. Anyway, at last I was talking to Dave. (Not his real name. I’ve forgotten it.) He informed me that I had to have the unit authorized. Well, why didn’t they say that in the letter? We got that done with the first machine. It worked. Then Dave announced that I’d have to call back if the others weren’t ready yet. “No, wait!” I shouted into the phone, and promptly put him on speaker mode.

“I’m taking you into the basement, Dave.” He was mildly interested in accompanying me there. I set the phone on the coffee table. After heaving around the furniture and mumbling bad words I hoped Dave couldn’t hear, I got the second PVR hooked up. It wouldn’t work. Both of us started feeling very frustrated, but he managed to keep calm. He said things like, are you sure the co-ax cable is switched to the PVR and not still on the TV? I checked. Then I lied. “Yep, but let me tighten it a bit.” We both cheered as we realized it was working. Two down, one to go.

I was heading upstairs to the bedroom when I realized I’d left Dave in the basement. “I’m sorry, Dave,” I hollered. “I’m coming back to get you.” He replied, but I couldn’t really hear what he said. I’d left the living room TV on Turner Classics, so the backdrop to all my stress was a deep baritone voice singing romantically in an old Errol Flynn movie.

I fetched Dave and we went into the bedroom. We couldn’t get this one to work at all. In the meantime, Dave, my cable guy, asked, “What’s that racket?” We were feeling quite comfortable at this point. “Some guy in an Errol Flynn movie,” I said. After that, he started talking a lot more slowly.

Now that I’d been relegated to confused senior status, we decided I should mail the broken one back. Fortunately, I came to my senses and realized we have a Shaw office in town. Exchange made. Problem solved. I feel I owe Dave a dinner, in spite of all his attempts to persuade me otherwise. Unfortunately, he’s never there when I call. In lieu of that, I’d be happy to phone Shaw’s head office and sing his praises, if only I could remember his real name. Oh Dave. Perhaps I’m watching the right channel after all.

Dear Sigmund Freud

Please forgive the cliche, but I have a bone to pick with you. Back in the day, you suggested that the words we sometimes mis-speak are laden with some alternate meaning, usually having to do with sex. Some of us happen to disagree with you. For example.

I was at our church tea after community choir when a friend sat down at my table. I’d left practice early, so I asked a question of my fellow alto. “What did you sing after the hand job number?”

While the people at my table laughed, I began building a pretty good case against you, Dr. Freud. You see, one of the songs from Grease is called, Hand Jive.’ The fact that I called it something entirely different means nothing about my state of mind. NOTHING.

There are those of us living on the planet who happen to dwell in Freudian slip land. We frequently say the wrong thing. I once said, “Would you like some death with your soup?” to a little old lady, while handing her the bread basket. Honestly, bread and death both contain the letters ‘ea’ which almost makes them a slipdong. I mean a dipthong. (Think of a pair of tiny bikini panties. It helps.)

Meanwhile, some of us also like to use colourful descriptions. Like, ‘He was very thickheaded.’ This does not mean that your mind has taken a sexual turn. It just means that you’ve been singing the Hand Job song. (ha ha, just kidding.)

Once, at choir, a young French Canadian was struggling to sing her part. The conductor was trying to find her a good spot to stand in for the performance. Meanwhile, some of us (or maybe just me) were praying, “Please, don’t put her over here!” She had a strong accent, and tended to sing the words  a couple seconds after everyone else had finished. Anyway, she took one look at me and said loudly, “I cannot take the hate.”

I immediately, and guiltily, jumped in. “Nobody hates you. Of course not!” The other altos all had their eyes averted. I was swimming in the deep end, and it was up to me not to sink. (cliches were invented for a reason.)

“Not the hate,” she said, with great irritation. “The hate.” I was dumbfounded. And then I realized she meant, “I cannot take the height.’ She was short, like me, and wanted to stand in the front row. Another meaning for dumbfounded? Finding out you are dumb. That was me, in the moment. Regardless. Sometimes, Sigmund Freud, a cigar is just a cigar. Even for a heavy smoker like you.

Rambling

We’ve been on the road so much lately, I can hear Willie Nelson serenading us from the back of the car. I love seeing people, doing interesting things and being in the driver’s seat. My brain is so much more creative out on the open road. I could solve half the world’s problems if I only had a machine to record my deeply profound thoughts. (Lois, I know my phone would do it, but I’m not good with those apps and can’t remember my apple password.) And I never think of it until I’m driving. Oh, the solutions that come to mind! I can’t recall even one.

Our car journeys have begun to resemble our lives. Because we live so far from everything (all northern readers, please join me in a deep sigh) we bring too much with us. For reasons I can’t share (in the interests of my marital future) our car resembles one of those overloaded buses you see in India. I’m a tiny part of the problem. If he disagrees with this, my hubby can write his own blog. (hahah…it’ll never happen!)

I have a friend who never eats in her car. Her life is attractively minimalist, but in a very put together way. If she ever died in the woods, she’d have on the perfect outfit, her hair would be done, and all the animals would leave her carcass alone out of deep respect for her togetherness. ‘Namaste’ they’d whisper quietly, and skirt around her.  She’s that kind of woman.

I am not. My car is a reflection of the way I move through life. There are no chicken bones littering the floor, but I have a tendency to bring big lunches, many different coats, and much footwear, everywhere we go. (Damned climate change. We used to be able to count on a cold winter.) My husband also brings too many things. I swear he had a pair of winter boots with us in Houston. He complains about the big lunches I pack, but I’ve noticed him enjoying them later.

I’d like to try paring down a little on the over preparation. Like, I always have to leave my house clean in case I die while I’m gone. People have told me that this is tempting fate. Apparently, the grim reaper is always waiting around the corner. And I’m saying, ‘come on in and, please, bring your scythe.’ But I’m a nah nah, boo boo kind of person. It’s another way of saying, ‘I defy you, stars.’ That Shakespeare…what a show-off.

My husband and I have a pretty good travel relationship. I’m not much help as a navigator, but I excel at spotting danger. I just wish I could do it in a more composed fashion. This last trip, he was changing lanes, and a car coming onto the highway didn’t notice. I started screaming a bad word over and over again. It would have been better if I’d shouted, ‘Horn! Horn!’ You know. To let him know what action to take. He managed to swerve in time, but I still felt bad about all that swearing. Being the passenger can really take it out of you.

Another thing we agree on is what to play on the radio. We like CBC. It’s only when we lose the signal that we switch to music. We’re both in love with Leonard Cohen’s latest album, “You want it Darker.” To that title I say, “Yes, Leonard, I do. And how did you know?” It’s the perfect music for troubled times, and perversely, makes me feel better about everything. I’m kind of mad that he’s dead.

Same with Stuart Mclean. So, dear Leonard who art in heaven, please. Look him up. He’s a fairly new arrival, and he’ll have you feeling better in no time. Get him to tell you the story of Dave going through the carwash while riding on top of the car. Or the one where he and Morley stay in the wrong cabin and do major renovations. Two Canadian icons gone, just when we need them the most.  (Long moment of sadness.) Now, back to my theme.

Car journeys, aside from the great music and CBC radio, provide some big AHA! moments for me. Like, my life might be easier without so many jackets. Or I’ll think of a great twist for my latest novel. Other times, I’ll come up with the best plan, EVER, to save the world. Seriously, it’s on the tip of my tongue. And, if I find a way to record that revelation, I’ll be sure to write about it. Watch for future titles such as, “Polar Bears Saved…All is Well!’ Or, “Peace on Earth at Last!’ Something along those lines. You’re welcome.

Dear People of Houston

Thanks for the warm welcome to your lovely city. Y’all are so friendly that even the teenagers are talking to me. One asked me to weigh in on the purse she was picking out for her mother. Such confidence in a complete stranger! I hope I didn’t steer her wrong. (This is a pun. It was a very western looking purse.)  Some of my other favorite things:

1. The museums are fabulous. I’ve spent days at the Natural Science, Fine Art, and the Houston Space Center. I still haven’t seen the American Cowboy Museum, the Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, or the Beer Can house, which may take us all day. For some reason, beer tastes better here. Maybe it’s the patio life. People really like to sit outside, and with all the beautiful flowers and trees, it’s easy to see why. I’m not sure how they talk themselves into going home.

2. People dress casually, like in Vegas, but without the constant gambling and scent of desperation that leaves me feeling anxious. At any given time there, I’m the least fun person in the room. I like myself better here.

3. The airport. The friendliness goes up a notch, and in Houston, that’s saying something. I don’t think we’ve ever been called baby, before. Certainly not by airport security. I have to confess, I was expecting pat downs, dire warnings and some frank political talk. Perhaps a stern warning about behaving myself. Nope. Just sheer friendliness.

4. There are a lot of good looking men here. Like, seriously good looking. It’s hard not to stare. Even in Whole Foods, where I was this afternoon, the hot guys completely outnumbered the balding hippies (and I say this with no disrespect to balding men, one of whom I love.) I’m surprised I didn’t faint at the Rodeo, the other night. All I could think was, Yeehaw!

5. The weather. It’s the rainy season, but even so, the temperature feels warm to someone from Canada. My only discomfort happens inside the buildings. The museums aren’t too bad but the restaurants are freezing. The maxed out air conditioning causes the reptilian part of my brain to assume I’m in danger. Which sane Canadian allows themselves to get this cold? None of us. I spend a lot of time calming myself down. No, I say firmly, you are not going to freeze to death. My daughter has been converted to the Houston way of life, and really likes it cold. I wear fur slippers and my warmest pajamas at her apartment.

6. The Rodeo. So fun, and please don’t tell my friends at P.E.T.A because I especially loved the Bronc Busting. The horses win way more than the cowboys do. And I loved my giant drink, in spite of being a little embarrassed to be seen with it. It was like wearing a huge sign saying, I AM AN  ALCOHOLIC.

7. I haven’t seen a single gun. It’s true that I’m not very observant, and I confess I was a little petrified coming here. But the people are just regular folks, going about their business, a little friendlier than the rest of the world. If I lived in Houston, my chances of seeing guns would go up. But as a visitor, I have to say, well done. Keep hiding those holsters. Your tourists thank you for it.

8. The food is incredible. I didn’t know barbeque could be so good, and in spite of my gall bladder begging for a break from all the fat, I simply can’t resist. I’ll be good again when I go home. The drinks are also fantastic, though I’ve seen aquariums smaller than these marguerita glasses.

9. The bats down by the Bayou. Every evening they fly out from under a bridge and glide up into the sky. Even more startling are the hawks that swoop down to eat the bats. It’s like gladiators at the coliseum in Rome. You can’t look away, even if you want to. The bats are not interested in people, so I like them.

10. My daughter’s work place. She has a corner office with a beautiful view. I feel like Don Draper in there, waiting for my secretary to bring me some scotch. Disappointingly, they don’t seem to drink at work, and the way she hustled us out of there made me realize that, like parents everywhere, we’re continuing the fine tradition of embarrassing our children.

I’m sure there is much more to see. Meanwhile, our 30 oz. steak dinner and fish bowl drink are waiting. Thank goodness my daughter doesn’t own a scale.

Where Eagles Dare

Last Saturday, I went downhill skiing for the first time in forty-three years. I prayed that my Zumba trained legs would be fit enough to survive the slopes at Kananaskis. It helped having my two granddaughters there. Claire, at six, is a natural. Charlotte, at four, is getting very comfortable skiing with her dad. I figured that as long as I kept up with the kids, I wouldn’t do too badly.

My troubles began in the rental office. They’re quick in there, and don’t have a lot of time for anxious older folks. I could see the staff making eye contact with each other. These people are doomed, they seemed to be saying. We had a sinking feeling they were right.

To my dismay, ski boots have changed since the seventies. They’re higher, and probably safer.  But they grip your calves like they’re trying to bring you down a size. So walking feels impossible. You wear helmets now, too. A sensible idea, given my knack of falling down during a leisurely stroll.

Things began badly when I sprained my arm carrying my skis out to our starting point. The ones I had growing up were much lighter. But my spirits lifted considerably when Clarence fell down right out of the gate. I was so glad it wasn’t me. Sorry about that, honey. I wasn’t there for the other time you fell. But full disclosure: I took my skis off at one point, and hiked down about thirty feet. I have no right to brag. And yet, here I am, feeling pretty damn good about myself.

My difficulties began about five minutes into my first run. I took a corner too fast and ended up heading for the fence, the steep drop-off kind. My son in law hollered, “Does she know how to stop?” My daughter wasn’t sure, and neither was I. Some latent memory came rushing back so I was able to turn at the last minute and save myself. I’m fairly sure screaming was a major part of my self-rescue effort.

Before I reached the bottom, I managed to get my pole stuck under the front of my left ski. Only by performing a stunt worthy of Charlie Chaplin did I manage to stay upright. A svelte female skier passing by, yelled, “Awesome recovery!” It was a proud moment.

A less proud one happened a few runs later. I was doing well, crossing back and forth as I made my way down. At one point, the mountain seemed very hill-like, and I thought I’d have some fun on this ‘gradual slope.’ Heading straight down, I picked up a terrific amount of speed. As I passed my six year old granddaughter, I was laughing in that way you do when you’re trying not to scream. “Save yourself!” I said, or something to that effect. Fortunately, she thought it was funny and didn’t think she had to rescue me.

It ended up being a terrific day, other than the half hour we spent stuck on a chair lift. I was sandwiched between two drama queens, my husband and my daughter. Granddaughter, Claire, was there, too. She managed to keep us all calm. But my knees are still aching from the drag of those heavy skis.

I wish they used tow ropes, like they did when I was growing up. But then, I’d need the Crerar boys to help me up the mountain when my mittens iced up. It happened often in those days. That was how it was when I learned to ski at the Flin Flon ski club. Practice, weekly humiliation and more practice. Fortunately, and to my immense gratification, I’ve discovered that I’ve still got a few of the old  moves. Now all I need is the number of a good chiropractor.

Link

I love taking the boardwalk around Ross lake on my way uptown. Back when I had a job, it’s how I got to work. Now, it’s about the sheer joy of crisp air, solitude and the ability to cut loose unnoticed.

I’m usually a party of one, except for a few dog walkers. In summer, I’ve got bears to think about, but winter? Just ice, snow, and my playlist. I like to mix it up, but the most important feature of the walk is my personal dance off. Is this dangerous for someone with my limited abilities? Perhaps. But picture this.

During my forty minute stroll, I am a sensation. Invisible people cheer loudly as I dance with Kevin Bacon, Ryan Gosling (La La Land Style) and Patrick Swayze. Because nobody puts baby in the corner. Not on my walk. I can throw my hat in the air like Mary Tyler Moore (I do! Every single day!) and moonwalk while Michael Jackson sings in my ear. I’m so good at it.

The best part of walking alone in the woods in winter? If I see someone coming, I shut down the act and pretend to be normal. I like to twirl, too, which allows me to check behind me from time to time.

Though I’d like to be selfish and keep the boardwalk all to myself, this is a gift that must be shared. Who knows how many of you are out there, longing to take your show on the road? I can’t keep it all to myself. Don’t feel shy if you see me there, either. We’ll both pretend that nothing special is happening. We’re not auditioning for American Idol, or So You Think You Can Dance. (Yes, we can!)

I’m especially fond of my Dancing with the Stars moments, where God is my partner. Maybe you don’t think that Franki Valli had me and God in mind when he sang, ‘Who Loves you’ but to me it just fits.

Who loves you,
Who loves you pretty baby? (You do, God!)
When tears are in your eyes,
And you can’t find the way.
It’s hard to make believe,
You’re happy when you’re gray. (the gray thing is true, it’s taking over my whole head. God, you really get me!)

Baby when you’re feelin’ like,
You’ll never see the mornin’ light.
Come to me,
Baby, you’ll see.

It’s my favorite time on the walk, where the Creator and I really let it all hang out, sometimes with the twist, or just a good jive session. He, She, They. My multi gendered God can really boogie. Plus I get a kind of virtual hug at the end, though that might just be my mom filling in.

Thank you, Dave Price, for all your hard work in maintaining this beautiful Flin Flon feature, and to the City of Flin Flon for whatever part you play. (I’m not sure…paint? Gravel? Lights?) Not only am I getting fit and feeling happy, I’m entertaining the ravens and even a coyote or two. And believe me, they’re lovin’ it.

Once again, with feeling, this one’s for the God of the boardwalk, for Dave and everyone else who wants to share their truth with the world, just not with people.

@ Home on the Range

Not everyone enjoys cooking. For most, it’s something we do out of necessity. But now that our kids are grown, I’ve found that I don’t mind cooking meals. After raising a family, making dinner for two is easy. My stove ,er, my range and I are old friends. I’m quick, too. With no fanfare at all, I can have a decent dinner prepared in twenty minutes or less.

My husband has a different approach. When planning a meal, he likes to announce his intentions a week or two ahead. “I’m going to make clam chowder soup,” he’ll say importantly.  The purchasing of the groceries requires serious planning. But after buying the food, days can go by before the actual meal is made. You see, he likes to spend a certain amount of time building himself up. He treats the event like he’s embarking on a triathalon, or about to swim the English Channel. He prepares with lots of self talk. “This is going to be the best clam chowder EVER!’ My job is to offer words of praise and keep the eye rolling to a strict mininum.

Prepping for the main event is everything. There is no time for the chef to tidy, or wash pots after each stage of the procedure. All his energy must be saved for the creation of his masterpiece. When dinner is finally ready, it’s my job to do the drumroll, have plenty of backpats ready, and then simply enjoy dinner. The cleanup comes later.

His finest performance to date is a stew he made in Calgary for the Faktor family. Simmering bones, short ribs, and some kind of secret sauce were just a part of his recipe. My daughter said it was delicious. I’ll take her word for it, since I wasn’t there, and she had to clean the pots by herself. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to that clam chowder soup. It’s due any day now. (light clapping, a mild cheer.)