Monday, September 19, 2016

My Friend

There's this cashier at our neighbourhood grocery store who Barclay and I affectionately refer to as Our Friend. We call him that because that's what he calls us. Every time one of us sees him, it's, "Well, hello, my friend!" He's here today, and I'm not surprised. He's here every day, no matter what time I come.

I'm buying eggs and cream and avocados - when you have a grocery store right around the corner, you can afford to just pop in and pick up a few things at a time. I pick My Friend's line-up, like I always do if I have a choice. I wonder if he knows I do this? Is it weird? 

He's chatting up an old woman, who is absolutely loving him. She only has a few things too, and he sends her on her way with, "You have a good day, my friend!" And then it's my turn. 

"Well, hello, my friend! How are you today?"

It's worth noting that this guy is probably in his late teens or early twenties. He's got long, dark brown hair and looks, at first glance, like the type who might listen to Metallica and ring your groceries through without a word. For this reason, he catches you off guard the first time you meet him. He doesn't smile, exactly, and his voice isn't quite what I would call cheery, but it's friendly in an old-fashioned kind of way. He sounds like a mob boss in an old movie. Like he should be scratching his chin while he talks. 

"I'm good, how're you?" I return, smiling.

"Oh, I'm doin' just fine, like always - you know me, my friend, there is absolutely nothin' wrong here. Got big plans for the rest of your lovely Sunday morning?"

"No, not really." I laugh. I'm not trying to be stilted in my conversation, I'm just literally going home to fry these eggs - but my answer delights him. 

"Good. Good! Dick Tracy! Watch Dick Tracy. You'll love Dick Tracy. You've got Warren Beatty, you've got Madonna, you've got Al Pacino - you like Al Pacino? Of course you do. Who doesn't? If you like Al Pacino, you'll like Dick Tracy." He gives a definitive nod. There are no spaces between his sentences.

There is an older gentleman standing behind me in line. He looks bored. His eyes are a quarter of the way shut. His gut is hanging over his belt and he's hunched forward. He's buying four microwave dinners.  But at the mention of Dick Tracy, he springs to life. He lurches toward the conveyor belt and slams his fist down, yelling, "I WANT DICK TRACY DEAD!" 

My Friend's face cracks into a wide smile. 

(Aside: this is the second time I've seen My Friend smile. The first was a few months ago when my grocery bill added up to exactly $23.19. He hit the button on the cash register and said to me, "Okay, your total is...$23.19. OH MY GOODNESS. I have been waiting my entire career for this moment. TWENTY-THREE NINETEEN! WE HAVE A TWENTY-THREE NINETEEN! RED ALERT! RED ALERT!" He shouted it. People were staring. It was a Monsters Inc. reference. I didn't think to tell him in that moment that the kid on my hip was named Sully. I should have.)

My Friend also slams his fist onto the counter in front of him, and echoes the old man. "I WANT DICK TRACY DEAD!" They both give a couple extra fist slams and exchange knowing glances, sharing a common bond across a several-decade age gap.

The old man settles back down into his hunchstance and his bushy eyebrows descend, again, down his forehead. "Haven't seen it," he says gruffly.

Anyway. I didn't end up watching Dick Tracy that morning, simply because I don't have it and don't know where to get it. But the point is that if you hate grocery shopping, you should call me up and I'll give you the name of my place. I'll hook you up. You'll start to look forward to it.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sometimes Say Hi to Strangers

When I was a little kid, I met another little kid at a mall in some huge city - stop me if I've told this one before - and the kid became my friend. I said to the kid, Meet me at The Swimming Pool tonight, and she said, Sure. When we walked away, my mom was like, This is some huge city, Suzy. It has hundreds of swimming pools. You'll never see that kid again. And I was like, Just you watch. And she was like, What hotel are they staying at? Are they even staying at a hotel? I shrugged. What did that matter?

Sure enough, that night, at some random hotel in that huge city, I met up with my friend, who just happened to be staying at the same place.

This is because of some weirdo law: it is waaaaaay easier to make friends when you are a little kid than when you are an adult. Like, if I picked a random adult in a mall and said to them, Hey. Want to be friends? they'd be like, No, not really. I have all these other friends. Plus I have kids/a spouse/a pet/a hobby/a volunteer position/a demanding job and don't have time to be your friend. Plus, you're weird; people don't just walk up to other people in malls and ask this question straight up. We're adults. We don't say what we mean. We do everything in a confusing, roundabout way.

And I'd be like, Fair enough.

And even if they did say that they wanted to be my friend, and I was like, Cool, meet me at The Swimming Pool, we'd probably end up at two different swimming pools. It's like adults are not supposed to be friends with each other. It's like there's an invisible force trying to stop it.

And, I mean, I don't know if you've experienced this, but as I get older - notice I didn't say old, I know I'm not old - I am getting progressively worse at social interactions. At, like, simple small talk and polite introductions. Chit chat. I think about things I never used to, such as, What should I do with my hands? Am I smiling in a fake way? What if my eyes pop right out of my head?

The worst.

Anyway, so there was this thing down the street yesterday called an Instameet - basically, a bunch of adults who don't know each other except for on Instagram go hang out and walk around and play with their cameras. They had one last year and I went for about...half an hour? And then I just quietly slipped away down a back alley at one point and went home. It was too much! There were so many people and I didn't know any of them.

This year, I decided I would go. And then I decided I would stay home. And then I decided I would go. And then I decided not to. And then, at exactly 3 o'clock, when they were supposed to be meeting in front of the museum, I decided I would get in my car and drive past. And if they were still there by the time I got myself and Sullivan out the door and down the street, I would maybe park, get out of my car, and walk past. And if they seemed to recognize me from Instagram and smiled at me, then perhaps I would stop walking and, effectively, be there.

So that's what I did. They smiled, I stopped, and we all had a great time.

Pretty much all of them seemed to be very serious, very good photographers - they had neat equipment and fancy cameras and I was there with my plastic La Sardina, but it was cool - no one seemed to care. I brought my little Sony point and shoot too and showed Sullivan how to work both cameras. I met a bunch of people I've previously only known from Instagram (how dorky do I sound right now?), and liked them all. I told a girl that I was nervous and she said she was too and that helped a lot. It was really nice.

These are some of the pictures Sullivan took:

And these are the ones I took:

I stayed for over two hours, and am now officially an extrovert (just kidding). But seriously: it's a good thing for me to remember: don't always make excuses not to do things. Sometimes do things you are afraid of. Sometimes say hi to strangers. That's how you make friends. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Park[ing] Day

So, I'm curious: do you live in a city that does Park[ing] Day? I'll be honest: I didn't know this was a thing until I drove past one of the instalments on 11th ave yesterday. It looked like something fun was happening, so I got out my phone (don't worry, kind and caring Internet Strangers, I parked first) and typed everything I was seeing into Google. There it was: Park[ing] Day. #parking day. Parking Day. Depending on the source.

Basically, from what I've gathered, businesses turned the parking spots in front of their buildings into fun hang out spaces for the day. One business made a little beach, complete with sand, water, free popsicles, and lawn chairs. The library made a forest out of house plants and had a little area for people to sit and make friendship bracelets. Another space had giant games of Jenga and Connect 4 and chess, while a coffee shop made a living room, right on the street. Free coffee and brownies, too.

This is the kind of thing I love: something different, interactive, quirky, and fun. Next year, I have high hopes that more local businesses will get in on this, and more people will be in there checking it out. It was so sweet. 

PLUS PLUS PLUS, my friend Becky was in town. We used to share a neighbourhood, but she moved away this summer and I've been missing her a lot - she was always so wonderful at exploring the city and finding funny little things like this to do. So we were able to hit up Park[ing] Day together, and it was just like old times. (And then we went back to my place and she showed me her wedding pictures - which were, by the way and way off-topic, ridiculously beautiful. She eloped on a rainy day in a Saskatchewan forest. Liiiiiiiike...)

So that was yesterday. Today, there's other stuff happening downtown, just in case you're a local and want something to do and feel like meeting new people who are also into quirky, fun, free things. This Pop Up Downtown Walking Art Tour, for example (it's free, starts at 7pm), and this Instameet at the museum at 3. I mean, what's the point of living in a city if you're not going to interact with the other people who also live in the city? 

(I say this as someone who showed up and then completely ghosted on the last Instameet because I got a sudden and debilitating case of Oh Heck No I Absolutely Do Not Want To Say Hi to Strangers. What can I say? I'm into it sometimes, and sometimes I'm not. It's my prerogative.)

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Two New Talents

Sullivan has developed two new talents, and the first is that he can tell by my cry of pain exactly in which specific way I've injured myself.

For example, last week, he was in the living room playing with his cars and I was in the kitchen washing dishes and when I turned the water on to rinse, it scalded me. I yelped. I didn't yell, "Ugh! I've scalded myself!" or "Oh! Blazin' hot!" as some people probably do.

Anyway, the point is that all I did was yelp very ambiguously, and Sullivan called from the living room, "Mom, you burned yourself!" He didn't say it like he cared very much, either. It was just a declarative statement.

A few days later, I dropped a fork on my foot while I was unloading the dishwasher. I yelped. It must have sounded different from the yelp I gave when I burned myself, because Sullivan, who was colouring at the kitchen table, looked up and said, "Mom. What'd you drop on your foot?" He looked bored.

And then yesterday, I stubbed my toe while he was in his bedroom and I was in mine. Again, I yelped, but possibly in a different key? Again, he yelled, "Mom! You stubbed your toe!" Like he was a little inconvenienced, maybe, but mostly unconcerned.

It's the weirdest thing. I promise I'm not making it up.

His other new talent is earning money for not doing very much, a talent I grew out of 27 years ago. He works the doughnut shop on the corner of Broad and Dewdney.

We were in there just a couple of days ago, actually, and an old man came over to our table to give Sullivan a dollar. It had happened the time before too, except it was a different old man and it was 25 cents. Sullivan, the first time, had not understood the transaction, but this time he grinned and whispered his thanks and put the loonie straight into his pocket, along with the quarter still in there from the last visit.

$1.25 just for existing. I was impressed.

I thanked the man too, and he seemed to take it as an invitation. He sat down. I was surprised, but also I wasn't. Elderly people love Barclay and Sullivan. At the last job Barclay worked, there was an old lady who'd come into the office to do her business in person instead of over the phone just because she liked Barclay so much. Isn't that cute? I think it's cute.

This old man didn't want to visit so much as talk. He asked how old Sullivan was and told us how old all of his various children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren were and where they were and what they did, and then he told us about his wife. He said, "I was the one who told her to go to sleep. She was suffering so much, and so I said to her that she should go to sleep and just not wake up anymore. And she did exactly that."

I can never tell if old people's eyes are glassy because they're tearing up or if old people just have an excess of face fluid all the time. He told us about his wife's funeral and even laughed about his various grandchildren and their confused and innocent reactions to the death of their grandmother, including a little girl who was put out that she had to leave her pretty red flower on the coffin to be covered in dirt.

It's interesting, how old people talk about death. And who they talk about death to.

Anyway. Those are Sullivan's two new talents.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


We went to visit my parents this past weekend, so of course we popped out to the farmhouse to see where things were at there. The first thing we noticed was the roof: new shingles!

My mother, just so you know, is either the most meticulous, artful, patient person in all of the known universe (she did raise me, so) or she's completely off her rocker (again, she did raise me, so).

She's still in the process of stripping every bit of ancient paint from that house - so far she's been at it since May 1 and she's done all the door and window headers, plate rails, window sill plates, baseboard quarter rounds and half of the doors themselves. I'll show you some pictures of the piles of stuff she's been working through so you can fully appreciate the gargantuan nature of this task.

It's a bittersweet thing. The paint job in there was kind of amazing - pastel yellows and minty greens and bubblegum pinks everywhere you looked. Maybe not everybody's taste, but pretty adorable. For example, these are the door headers from a few of the different rooms (they all have matching radiators!):

But paint doesn't last forever, so my mom loaded up a trailer with everything she could pry from the walls, took it all home, and is carefully stripping it. She's done so much that her thumb no longer bends. Like, actually. It's frozen straight from overuse. You could say she's invested in this project.

Here's a lovely picture of the gunk she's scraping off this wood:

Isn't that nice?

But underneath the chipping, old paint and all of that gunky stuff? This:

Beautiful, right?

One of my favourite little transformations is the front door.



Slowly but surely, she's working her way through that whole house. Some of the wood will be repainted - there's a little girl in Frontier who has laid claim to one of the second-floor bedrooms, and everyone has started referring to it as her room. Mom wants to paint it and wallpaper it similarly to how it looked back in the day. Pink and flowers and all that. She's on the lookout for vintage light fixtures and pretty rugs and wallpaper. The goal, as I understand it, is restoration, not so much remodelling.

Her other little pet project this month, when she wasn't stripping paint, was restringing a vintage chandelier for the entryway. She got it second-hand for $40. Probably because no one else in the world (again, patient, meticulous, maybe crazy) wanted it. Did I mention it was in a million pieces when she bought it?

Here are the first few pictures she sent me, along with a witty caption about her new 'puzzle':


However, I can attest to the fact that she finished it; I'll save the after pictures for when it's hanging in its place.

That's that for now; this was a lot of pictures to scroll through. Dad sent me home with a bunch of the moving pictures though, and I'll upload those later. The process of moving a 100-year-old house 228 km is actually pretty fascinating.

Until then, here's an adorable picture of my adorable parents: