The Tallest Man on Earth and Ice Cream

June 15th, 2012

I’m going to see The Tallest Man on Earth tonight which has reduced me and my fellow concert going pals to giddy school girls. He is like a Swedish Bob Dylan, plaid-wearing adorable folky guy who, ironically for his monicker, is actually quite slight in stature. The week has seen a barrage of emails discussing his marriage to a curly haired hat wearing cutie and whether we should invest in floppy hats and perms.

Today’s email included a report that my friend had dreamt that she was having ice cream with the singer. Our other friend quickly responded that in  her dream he was making her ice cream on their farm. I have them both beat. I am wide awake, watching him on video while eating real ice cream.

Puppies, Guardian Angels and Forging Ahead

June 10th, 2012

cute puppy

I have been recovering from a trip to British Columbia, where I had been soaking wet, cold and anxiety ridden. I have returned, if not triumphant, at least intact.

Much to everyone’s mirth, concern and confusion, I decided that I was going to take a canine massage course. “Dog massage?” A sensitive friend snorted. “It’s called petting. You don’t need to take a course to learn that.” When I told my parents of my intentions my dad dropped his head in his hands. “Please,” he said from behind his hands, “Stop talking. I don’t think I can take it.”

I’ll admit that it sounds a little crazy. Then again, when I attended massage school twenty years ago it was far from mainstream and was met with raised eyebrows. I decided not to worry abut how I would make it work or if it would lead to anything. Not everything needs to be mapped out and planned perfectly. Not everything is a straight path. If nothing else I would be popular among the neighbourhood dogs.

“Besides,” I reasoned with the Sweetie as he tried to keep his face in a neutral mask of support,“all ideas sound crazy at the beginning, right?”

I fast tracked myself through the distance learning portion of the course and found a practical class that was happening in Langley B.C. I booked myself a room at the one of the suggested hotels, packed my things and ventured out to the middle of nowhere.

The first day didn’t start out well. In the cab en route to the facility I was alarmed that we seemed to be driving forever on the Trans Canada highway, dodging giant logging trucks. I started to smell a faint trace of oregano and opened my bag to discover that the pasta salad I had bought for lunch was slowly leaking its contents all over my books. The assignment that I needed to hand in was becoming mottled with olive oil and sun-dried tomatoes. The cab fare had now reached $50, I was late for class and was considering throwing my bag out the window.

As we did the rounds of introductions I started to feel myself perspire. Everyone was either a vet tech, a dog boarder, or worked in animal shelters. “Hi ,” I said,” acutely aware that I smelled like a pasta salad and was sweating profusely.” I massage humans and I have a cat that doesn’t like me.” I saw one of the instructors exchange a glance with the other.

It suddenly occurred to me that some experience other than having a family pet thirty years ago would have been helpful. I started to panic. Somehow everyone but me had figured out that our learning  facility was nowhere near Langley and everyone else was at a hotel minutes away. I had already prepaid my six days at the Travelodge to get a better deal. I was stuck and screwed. I felt like a fraud. I was feeling like I had made a huge mistake and I wanted to go home.

By the time it was our lunch break I was close to tears. As I stood in the grocery store looking  for a replacement for my abandoned salad, I recognized a classmate. I started babbling about lodging in the middle of nowhere. She reached in her bag and shook out some lozenges. “Have you ever tried these?” She asked, “They’re Rescue Remedy lozenges.  I always have them on hand because I get anxious and it takes the edge off. We use it at the shelter when the dogs are freaking out. I’ll give you a ride back to your hotel, don’t worry about it. Find me after class.” With that she floated away in search of her lunch, as I stood in the produce section furiously chewing my Rescue Remedy lozenges, my eyes burning with hot tears of gratitude that a stranger could be so kind, just when I had needed it the most.

It was a week of mishaps and a comedy of errors. I hadn’t packed enough warm clothes and it was cold and rainy every day. I’d spend the evenings trying to dry my running shoes on the radiator and guzzling wine. I’d listen to the giant black crow that seemed to be squawking with a megaphone on top of the Travelodge sign like a bad omen. I would struggle to get my dog out of his kennel while my classmates in their dry clothes and rubber boots would already be settled with theirs.

I had a few good moments during the course. One day we massaged ten week old puppies. There were a few times that my dog actually sat still and seemed to settle into his massage and I didn’t feel completely incompetent. My guardian angel would pick me up every morning and drive me back every evening, gracious and generous each time. We’d compare anxiety stories and she’d press more rescue Remedy lozenges in my hand while refusing to accept gas money.

Sometimes you embark on something with particular expectations and come away with completely different outcomes. I learned some canine massage, but I learned a lot more. I will never stay at the Langely Travelodge again. I learned how to use a travel corkscrew out of sheer desperation to get at my wine. Regretfully, I realized that despite growing in many ways I have never left my insecure self behind. Happily, however, I have the ability to forge ahead, even when I want to run in the opposite direction. I found out that guardian angels do exist. I was very lucky to meet one. I learned that you should double bag your lunch if you have packed anything that can leak. I learned that when everyone, including yourself, thinks you are an idiot you can still come away with valuable lessons. They won’t necessarily be the lessons you thought you’d learn, but foolish experiences can still make us wiser.

The Sweetie and The Surgery

May 17th, 2012

Yesterday The Sweetie had surgery on his spine, something called microlumbar decompression surgery. He had been on a waiting list for surgery, got a call on Monday and by Wednesday he was on the operating table. He had not been able to sit for over eight months, which, needless to say, was limiting. We have been lounging on the floor, taking modest walks around the neighbourhood and fantasizing about going out for dinner or seeing a movie. He has been very stoic. As much as I make fun of his dramatics when he has a cold, he has been unbelievably patient and positive throughout this ordeal. It was unanimous among everyone who knows us that as horrible as it was for The Sweetie to be suffering, it was better that it was him and not me because I would not have been as brave. Everyone would have been suffering along with me, I would have made sure of that. I would have had a breakdown by day two.

It was very hard to see The Sweetie looking vulnerable in his hospital gown and paper slippers when he was getting prepped for surgery. He came out of the change area looking like a little boy with the hospital paper shower cap on his head.

“Hey hon?” one of the nurses called out to him,“You don’t need to wear the paper hat yet unless you really like that look.”

We had to wait a long time for the doctor and anesthesiologist to arrive.

“Want to do the crossword with me?” I asked. “Want to play dirty hangman? Want to read about dog facts? Want to plan a trip to Portugal?”

“Actually I just want to pace,” The Sweetie replied.

As he paced all I could think about is how few things there are that truly matter. Love, health, connection. That’s it. If that is gone there is nothing else. All the things that I get stressed out about, all the things that I think are a big deals mean absolutely nothing.

“I think you should go now,” The Sweetie said when he had finished pacing and was lying under a blanket the nurse had brought him.

“I’m not going before they wheel you away,” I answered.

“I think I need some time on my own just to zone out and stay mellow and if I have to say good bye to you and you get all emotional I won’t be in the right frame of mind.”

“I won’t get emotional,” I said, starting to cry.

“Really, you should go.You’re going to have to wait around forever while I’m in recovery anyway.”

The Sweetie closed his eyes and then opened them again.“You’re still here,” he said. “You should really go.”

I unwrapped a throat lozenge.

“God, you’re like an unmovable force.”

Eventually the anesthesiologist came, a quirky Nordic fellow with a cute accent and soft hands. I kept it together and watched as they wheeled The Sweetie away and then burst into tears on the elevator. I baked cookies and washed dishes in a daze and waited for the surgeon to call me after the surgery. It’s funny how you always watch the world from outside of yourself when things feel stressful. Things felt slightly removed from reality, like I was sleepwalking through a dream.

I came to the recovery room to find him enjoying a glass of apple juice and nibbling on a tea biscuit. His nurse Svetlana seemed to be a little overly attentive and looked disappointed to see me. “You’re girlfriend?” She asked The Sweetie. “His wife”, I said and tried to drape myself over the bed, the metal rails digging painfully into my side.

Everything is fine, The Sweetie is home and is enjoying painkillers and soup. The cat is keeping a faithful vigil by his side. We have been taking tentative walks around the block and have been outpaced by a toddler. There is nothing I would rather be doing.

Another Hot Docs

May 11th, 2012

Hot Docs, my favourite festival of the year, has come and gone. I adore documentaries. I love peeking into people’s lives and being inspired, informed or incensed. With so many documentaries in such a short span of time I am petrified that I will be forced to kick myself incessantly when I hear about the amazing ones I missed.

I can rest easy knowing that I saw Charles Bradley: Soul of America. It’s the story of a down and out aspiring singer and James Brown impersonator who released his first album at the age of sixty-two. It is about dreams that won’t die and perseverance, but above all it is about a beautiful soul that couldn’t be crushed despite heartbreaking hardships. Somehow his spirit remained so pure and loving and hopeful. Naturally I cried like a maniac and of course I am going to get his debut album, stat.

When I was describing the movie to my fellow doc nerds one friend looked on in horror and asked, “He wasn’t at the screening was he?”

I knew right away that my friend was concerned for the safety of Charles Bradley because he had witnessed first hand what I can be like when I am overcome with emotion after a documentary. I am not particularly skilled when it comes to pulling myself together after a sobfest. I tend to gush and frighten people.

Enjoy the trailer below and to make it more like a Hot Docs experience imagine a sniveling woman clutching her Kleenex to her chest and doing everything in her power not to burst into spontaneous cheers and applause.

R.I.P. MCA

May 5th, 2012

mca

I was very sad to hear that Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys died of cancer yesterday at the age of forty-seven. MCA was always my favourite Beastie. I loved his hangdog face and how he always seemed satisfied to hover in the background.

The Beastie Boys provided many a soundtrack to my hazy twenties. Initially they struck me as slobbering frat boys, screeching anthems for beer swilling neanderthals. Eventually, however, I fell hard for their exuberant, irreverent music. It wasn’t just for frat boys after all. Back in the nineties they played at the Concert Hall in Toronto and although I am uneasy in crowds with an overload of testosterone I gamely went with my boyfriend and his band of glassy-eyed cronies. Although I was a little anxious, feeling like a prim Holly Hobby out of her element, I was memorized. They were silly and uninhibited, something I wish my self conscious twenty-something self could have embraced more fully. I will always cheer for those who are unafraid to look like fools. Those who aren’t concerned with looking like cool guys are always the coolest. The unabashed goofs will always have my heart.

A Sob is Sometimes Necessary

April 27th, 2012

I really shouldn’t complain. This winter was the mildest that I can remember. I feel like I had a guardian angel considering that The Sweetie was unable to sit all winter, eliminating our chances of going on a beach vacation. Nor could he shovel snow. If ever there was a winter that I needed it to be mild and snow free this was it. The past month, however, spring has been dragging its heels in getting here. The wind is raw, the days have been chilly and I just heard on the radio that parts of the city are getting snow flurries. I just looked out the window and saw little bit of white stuff blowing around. I am trying not to panic. I know it won’t last, I’m taking deep breaths but a small choking gasp escaped from my throat.

Luckily I found some solace when I discovered this Pinterest the other day (here).