Tuesday, September 02, 2014

{a retail fable}

They were brown. Close-toed. Extremely comfortable. 70% off.

I tried them on and they were my size. Magic.

I took them to the cash register. I was in a hurry, but the line was short. There were three people in front of me and they all appeared to be together--a young couple and a man holding a bag of chips. The man was complaining about his wife, who'd just spent three hundred dollars he didn't have on a purse she didn't need.

They moved to the next available till and then it was my turn.

The woman working there was about my age. She had long black hair piled up on top of her head like a birthday cake. Her nails were the kind that curved over her fingertips, long and shiny and deadly-looking, and clacked against the register keys and the countertops and her front teeth. She drummed them on everything and they flashed and glinted in the light like dainty little knives. She smiled vacantly past me as I pushed my shoes up onto the counter.

She scanned the barcode and raised her eyebrows at the glowing numbers on the computer screen.

"Twenty-two ninety-nine."

More magic. I had a twenty and three ones in my pocket. I slid the bills across the counter, making the standard Canadian-in-the-States joke about how "all your money looks the same to me!" She didn't laugh, and I didn't mind. It's not a funny joke.

She turned and started pecking away at the keys with her talons.

She paused. Her brows crept further into her hairline as she squinted at the screen.

A minute passed. I examined the shoes. I checked the time. I didn't have much, but I should be okay. The girl with the cake hair popped her head over the divider between her register and the next one. "Jennifer, get over here."

Their backs were to me and they were talking in whispers. A few more minutes passed.

Jennifer's voice over the intercom: "Manager to till 2, please, manager to till 2?"

Three of them now, huddled together like football players. The first girl turned to look at me for the first time since I arrived at her station.

"Sorry, I just don't want to give you the wrong change--wait, are you good at math?"

A penny. A penny. One cent. Twenty-three, subtract twenty-two ninety-nine, one cent. My mouth gaped open. Out loud I said, "Uh, well no but...I don't need change..."

In Canada, pennies don't exist anymore.

The manager said, "One cent!"

Cake Hair's hand flew to her mouth. "No way! Yes! Oh funny! I guess I got thrown off because of the decimals! I always have the hardest time with decimals..."

She gave me my penny and my shoes and that was that, I guess.

The moral of the story is make sure you go to all your math classes. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

{in which I am a mess}

I went for a walk with Robyn on Thursday.

No, wait.

Even as I typed that, I realized that I don't know what day it is. I went for a walk with Robyn two days ago. But if two days ago was Thursday, then today is Saturday, and why, then, is Barclay at work?

I checked. Today is Thursday. Two days ago, it was Tuesday.

Not that it matters even remotely. But let's try it again.

I went for a walk with Robyn on Tuesday. It was sunny and warm out, but I wore a blue striped sweater over my grey tank top just in case. She was five minutes early, because she is and always has been that kind of person, as far as I can tell. I was running late because I'm the same kind of person, only the exact opposite.

I blew out the front door like a whirlwind, Sullivan in one arm, his shoes tucked under my other one. I said, "Hello!" I said, "Let's go!" But then I paused. I felt like I was forgetting something.

I was. I was forgetting my house keys, a hat for Van, my phone, the diaper bag, and my shoes.

Yes, I was barefoot. And Robyn was five minutes early. And Robyn was wearing shoes.

Lest you blame it on me having a baby, I have to admit here that Robyn also has a baby, and Robyn's baby is four months younger than Sullivan, and Robyn's baby was wearing shoes too. There is no excuse, I just need to get my act together.

So the next day, yesterday, Wednesday, not that it matters, I went for a walk with Brittany. I was meeting her at the Marina, a short walk from my place. I was on time. I remembered my keys, and the diapers, and the hat, and shoes for both of us. I felt like Superwoman. I felt like Robyn.

I rounded the corner, about five blocks from my house, and I saw this:

It's a strange thing to go for a walk and see your clothes hanging from the trees. I looked around, almost expecting to see the rest of my outfit from the day before decorating the park. I was not Superwoman anymore. I was a crazy lady whose clothes were hanging from the trees. 

I tentatively stepped forward and retrieved my sweater from its branch hanger. A girl strode past, staring inquisitively. I smiled at her and put my sweater on. I couldn't remember even taking it off the day before. Had I just shrugged it off and left it on the ground? 


I am super bad at life.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

{great grandpa}

On our way from the airport, a bus driver asked what brought us to Seattle and I told him my Grandpa was getting married in Kent that weekend. He laughed, hard; he was an older man himself. He said, "What? No! You tell that man to calm down! You don't do things like that at our age! Marriage is for you young people."

But if he could've seen my grandpa standing up at the front of the church waiting for his bride to come down the aisle, he would've taken it back.

There was an open mic at the reception after the wedding. I've never wanted to go up and take the chance to say something at a wedding as much as I wanted to that day. I didn't. I sat on my hands. But if I had gotten up the nerve to, this is what I would've said:

I'm not the kind of person to keep every card I've ever received in a box under my bed. I don't have that kind of storage space, and I know I'd never go back and read them all again. But I have kept one or two over the years, just the very special ones. One of the ones I've held onto was from Grandpa Martin. It's from Christmas 2011, the very first one after Grandma passed away. The front of the card has two birds on it, and in pen Grandpa drew a little arrow pointing to one of them and wrote: 'That's a love bird, there.'

On the inside he wrote a sweet note which ended with, "I pray daily for all that concerns you. Love you much, Grandpa Martin. My prayers follow always." 

Grandpa has told me on several occasions that he prays for me every single day. It's a simple thing, but it's a beautiful commitment he's made. It speaks volumes to me, it challenges me, and it makes me feel special. So I kept the card.

When we found out that I was pregnant with Sullivan, we went down to Frontier to tell all of our family in person. We had Grandpa over for supper and in between bites of mashed potato, I told him, "You know, you're a great-grandpa." 

He looked so caught off guard, and he blushed and stammered a little before I handed him my phone, which had a little black and white ultrasound picture on the screen. "Oh!" He said, "A great-grandpa! I thought, ha, I thought you meant I was a 'great' grandpa..."

But you're that too, Grandpa Martin. You're a great grandpa, and a great-grandpa, and a great great-grandpa. And I love you a lot and I'm blessed by you and encouraged by you and thankful for you and challenged by your faith. Plus, you make me laugh, and I like that. I'm so happy for you and Sylvia. Happy, happy wedding day, lovebirds!

Monday, August 25, 2014

{a post about food}

When we went to Seattle, I had a list a mile long of coffee shops and restaurants that friends had recommended to me. We ate at zero of them. Because the thing about travelling with a baby (I'm talking about me, not Sullivan) is that when she gets hungry, you don't have time to hop on bus number 5 and casually stroll around Fremont looking for Delancey (though I kind of regret this now). You stop and you eat at the first interesting place you come to. But the thing about Seattle is that there is no shortage of interesting places.

Like I said in my last post, part of the fun for us in trying new places, be they coffee shops or restaurants or food trucks or whatever, is putting our judge faces on afterward and rating them. We critique the customer service, the atmosphere, the coffee, the quality and selection of baked goods, the menu, the artwork on the walls, the music playing in the background, etc. We do it like it's our day job. I wish it was.

So here, even though you didn't ask for it, is a very professional list of our top contenders in Seattle for Best Food Experiences.

1. Beecher's

Beecher's is a little corner shop in Pike Place Market that specializes in cheese. Cheese. The menu is full of grilled cheeses and mac'n'cheeses and cheesy soups and breads, and if you can find a spot to sit, you get a front row seat to watch the cheese-making process in action while you eat. It's exactly what I needed to know exists somewhere in this crazy world. I got the mac'n'cheese, Barclay got a grilled cheese, and we shared a breadzel.

I got us a spot by the window and this short woman came and stood right behind me. She stared at my seat with big sad eyes until I stood up, and then she promptly displaced me. She didn't say thank you. We had to take our food across the street and eat in the market--which was nice too, don't get me wrong. But that short lady needs to have lessons in frequenting public establishments without being a jerk about it.

2. Storyville Coffee Company

Storyville is also in Pike Place, but it's tucked up in the top floor of the Corner Market Building (if you're going to explore Pike Place, you have to make sure to check out every stairwell, every back alley, and every old building, or you'll miss something great). I'm about to make a super bold statement: This place makes the best mocha in the whole world. The baking was also ridiculously good and they were playing an old Stars CD when we walked in. Plus, probably because it's so hard to stumble across, it wasn't packed. That was nice.

3. Top Pot Doughnuts

A classic case of judging a book by its cover. We decided we'd like this place based solely on how it looked from the outside, and we were right. We got coffee and doughnut holes and sandwiches and it was all amazing. I feel like I can't give it a 10 though, since the coffee at Storyville owns my loyalty forever. Besides, the music selection was very subpar.

4. Piroshky, Piroshky

Another Pike Place place, a little bakery with a line-up that stretched out the door and around the side into the alley. I got a cherry white chocolate piroshky and Barclay got one with ground beef and cheese in it. We were in a hurry, so we took our baking to go and ate it on the Link on our way home. I wanted to cry when I finished, partly because it was so good and partly because I couldn't have another one. Good graish.

5. Victrola Coffee Roasters

Look at that doughnut. That is the best doughnut I've ever had. The mocha was good (Storyville has ruined me), but the doughnut stole the show. Victrola was just down the street from our B&B but we didn't find it until our last day there on our way to the train. That was pretty sad. But it was nice and quiet and the lady behind the counter didn't seem to mind that we had all of our luggage with us.

6. El Quetzel 

Last on the list but not in my heart. This place is in Beacon Hill, right next door to Victrola, and it's small and dimly lit. It's as hot as a furnace and the mariachi band is horrible. Can't carry a tune in a bucket. We loved the whole experience. The food was beyond amazing, and there was just something about the atmosphere of the place...not to mention the free dessert samples and complimentary nachos.

So there, as they say, you have it. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


We went to Seattle last week. We touristed the crap out of that city. We came back yesterday. I'm in the fuzzy place between vacation and real life where you can't remember how grown-ups do stuff. Make my own food? Clean up after myself? Drive? Errands? What?


We're learning this about ourselves lately: we don't love being where all the people are. We like walking around, avoiding the large crowds, looking for coffee shops and greasy pub burgers and finding quiet parks and live music and stuff like that. But Seattle has this thing called the City Pass that gets you into a bunch of its main tourist attractions for $65 altogether. We decided to try it out and see if it was worth it.

It got us into the aquarium, the Space Needle (twice), the EMP Museum, the Museum of Flight, and on a cruise around the harbour. We were tourists to the max, and I hung the camera around my neck without shame.

Verdict: worth it if you're into those sorts of things. The EMP Museum (a museum entirely dedicated to music, sci-fi and pop culture) was very cool, the hour-long cruise was good, the aquarium... would've been a crushing disappointment if it hadn't been for the giant octopus (no sharks?), the Museum of Flight was sweet, and the Space Needle was just okay. (Apparently, you can get the same view from the Columbia tower for only $7 or something like that, and if you've been up the Empire State Building or the CN Tower or anything like that, you might possibly be seriously underwhelmed.) So maybe not something we'd do again, but also not something we regret.

Plus, it was all generally easy stuff to do with a 7 month-old in tow, which was key. Babies love museums.

We did other stuff too though. We saw the Blue Jays play the Mariners at Safeco and took the obligatory gum wall pictures. We wandered through Pike Place at one in the morning and went shopping downtown and visited the Olympic Sculpture Park by the harbour. We visited as many coffee shops as we could and rated them on atmosphere, coffee, and baked goods. 

When we were tired of the crowds and the walking, we sat in our room and watched Shark Week on the Discovery Channel while Sullivan read One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish in his playpen. 

It was a different kind of vacation but that in itself was fun--it was our first as a family of three. Slightly (very) terrifying, but good. Really good.