Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Who ARE those guys?

A squib in the newspaper caught my eye this a.m. An apologist for the New Conservatives (party co-chair John Baird it was) jumped nimbly on the new party line, agreeing with the pundits and pooh-poohers who claim their loss was solely due to "the Liberal party’s fear campaign and the missteps of a handful of rogue Conservative candidates".
Personally, I don’t agree (but then I wouldn’t would I?) because I believe that anyone who was daft enough to base their vote solely on the campaign commercials was just as likely to be turned off - or even on - by the Conservative message. Or possibly deserved what they got…
That, plus, I further believe that the Conservatives do have a secret agenda; the coyness and obfuscation offered up by Steven Harper in response to questions about his plans for use of the Notwithstanding Clause (for instance) made interpreting his answers an exercise in ambiguity.
(Folks whose religious views - of any type or stripe - inform their opinions make me mighty nervous, and Steven Harper, let me tell you, makes me very, very nervous indeed.)
But it was Baird’s comments eschewing the scattered nutterguff spouted by Conservatives such as Randy White (“To heck with the courts, eh?”) and MPs Rob Merrifield and Cheryl Gallant (anti-abortion mutterings) that struck a sour note.
“Randy White and Cheryl Gallant do not speak for the party on these social issues,” said Baird. “Former Ontario Premier Mike Harris had the right formula; you can be a solid Conservative while staying away from social issues.”
You can?
Baird, MPP for Nepean-Carleton and former Harris cabinet minister presumably believes this – but why? The fact that he isn’t aware that many of the New Conservative party members – particularly those whose votes delivered the ridings of the Bible Belt west, and therefore the majority of new seats - are there specifically because of the party’s (sotto voce during the run up to election) take on social issues like same sex marriage and abortion rights is worrying in the extreme. Or perhaps he like many other blue Tories would rather live in a Cloud Cuckooland where those whose fundamentalist views differ from the opinions of the disgruntled Liberals they'd like to attract would somehow magically disappear – their usefulness and their votes no longer wanted on the journey.
So who do these people represent, and more importantly, who represents them?
I may disagree (vehemently) with them, may unfairly stereotype them, or describe them in terms neither they nor their families would find flattering (nattering nutbars of negativism or somesuch) even be nervous of their fundamentalist beliefs and prefer not to be seated next to them at a revival meeting, but I do sincerely believe that they deserve representation, particularly when they had every reason to believe they were represented – that their opinions were valued – and that their votes actually counted for something.
If anyone deserved to be really mad about their leadership, feel they’d been lied to, used and thrown carelessly aside, it’s the grass roots of a party who are now being used as an excuse for why their candidates didn’t do better.
Is it possible now to get some straight answers? Now that the votes – for the time being anyway - have been made and counted? Does the Conservative party represent Tories of all stripes, leaning heavily toward these solidly ‘uninterested-in-social-issues-just-the-economy-stupid' members, or do they in fact also represent and value the people whose red necks made unwelcome the party’s former proud tradition of red Toriedom?
There's something unutterably hypocritical about a group of people using another for the benefits a short term alliance with them can bring. But now that the New Conservatives are properly established, they really don't need the people who all but brought them there. And it looks as though they don't want them; they're an embarrassment - a reminder of their fundamentalist wacky right wing genesis. Like a homely girl used and abused, then discarded when someone more attractive comes along, these new New Conservatives have caught a glimpse of the mainstream and with just the right cutting and pruning they believe it can be theirs.
Can they do it? Can they lure back the red Tories and toss their far right wing supporters over the side?
I don’t really know – it’s all rather murky still. But if I remember anything from my Sunday school classes it’s that betrayal and denial was central to the creation of Christianity – which may ironically represent the sole nod to the Christian wing of the party as the fundamental truth about the New Conservatives continues to evolve.
Post Script @5:55 p.m....
Jim Flaherty announces his candidacy for leadership of the provinicial Conservatives and describes the party thusly:
"There are two wings in the Conservative party - the red Tories and the mainstream..."

Monday, June 28, 2004

Smells Like Bush Spirit

Oh my aching back.
I spent the weekend up to my elbows in sheep manure and loam, planting roses and lilacs and impatiens, and discovering just how irritatingly anal I can be trying to find the perfect equilibrium between little lavender-coloured flowers and prickly little bushes.
How many times did I rip up and re-plant the same five or six little bunches, aiming to create more balance in the bed? Enough to make moving about this a.m. a virtual cartoon of the ancient whiner, complete with little squiggly lines radiating out from the hand-supported spot on the small of my back, little moans escaping my frowning puss, impressing precisely no one.
I’m on the landscaping committee of my condo (our motto: “if it bends it’s comedy; if you break it - you buy it”) and I had no idea showing up last year’s landscape committee was going to come at such a high personal price.
And speaking of manure, howsabout this election?
And speaking of anal, howsabout those candidates?
Steven Harper – hiding out on the campaign trail, attending only those events mounted by Conservative riding associations, speaking only to those already committed, making sure to be on the same (bible) page as his audience, preaching (as it were) to the choir.
Jack Layton – who simply cannot believe his luck, copping votes he could never otherwise hope to win, gliding up the centre aisle, gladhanding all the way. Who knew he had a sincere smile in him? (If he Nader’s this election, it just might turn that smile upside down.)
I have no idea what Gilles Duceppe is doing – just that he’s likely doing it in a calm, relaxed manner, sitting pretty as he pulls in more votes than he, like Layton, ever thought possible.
And Paul Martin – he’s here, he’s there – he’s everywhere; driving his staff and supporters crazy, flying frenziedly from coast to coast, leaving no hand unshaken, no baby unkissed, no vote unasked for. You’ve gotta give him credit – the man’s not afraid of hard work, not afraid of admitting the going’s getting tough – not afraid of getting going.
Oh my aching head.
I’m afraid – really actually afraid that we could wake up tomorrow to an Alliance/Reform government. Because let’s face it – that’s what it really is. This election has fooled some people into forgetting that until recently, these were people who occupied a space on the continuum, just a few too few towns away from Kookoobananasville.
A party created by a lie told by a lying liar. (If Peter McKay had kept his promise during the leadership race, none of this would be happening now.) A party born in deceit, (manipulated behind the scenes by Brian! Mulroney!)sharing few if any qualities with the once great Conservative party, and peopled by some of the most narrow-minded, me-firster’s, me-righter’s Canada has ever produced, now has an actual crack at running the joint.
If so, wave goodbye to our most hard won principles and policies; flap your hankie at social programs that actually separated us from other countries like opposable thumbs separate animals from humans; bid farewell and adieu to soon not being able to tell even the slightest difference between Americans and Canadians. And by 'Americans' I don't mean American Americans; I mean George W. Bush Americans - the ones currently running that country into the ground.
You can shovel all the manure you like, spread dirt around from coast to coast, but if we don't watch out, what comes up tomorrow with the sun won't be smelling like roses...
More like Bush.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

For Want of a Nail...

By the time my niece was about four years old, she was running her parents and relatives like a drill sergeant preparing troops for inspection. It wasn’t just the nerve with which she approached such maneuvers, but her commitment even as a toddler that inspired such awe. I predict a future in politics.
One incident that captured my attention (instilling fear in my heart for my rather soft and sweet sister) was the occasion of the bath. While visiting a friend with like-aged children, after a day of games and treats my niece was popped into the bath for a quick sluicing off of grass, mud and chocolate. Much splashing and giggling of course, a few high pitched shrieks and fake drownings later, my sister told her she mustn’t pour the shampoo down the drain. She told her again – there would be consequences – she told her for a third and final time (Vidal Sassoon for Normal to Dry Hair now almost completely drain-bound) before heaving her out and demanding she say sorry to the friend. The niece refused; she even denied pouring out the shampoo. Demands for apologies continued, until in frustration, my sister placed her in a corner (still dripping wet – but it was a hot summer day) telling her she wasn’t to turn or move until she had apologized.
…two hours later, my sister gave up, yanked her out of the corner, dressed her and took her home. My niece is in her teens now, and sorry still seems to be the hardest word. There’s a terrible sort of power in refusing to apologize – but there can be an agonizingly high price too.
It’s interesting, the concept of apology – after all there are so many types, rarest of all being the sincere sort.
There’s the ‘forced to make it, sullen’, ‘forced to make it, fake’, ‘forced to make it, sarcastic’ and ‘forced to make it, ingeniously devised to imply exactly the opposite’ – and all the shades and colours in between. There’s also point blank refusal, and ‘over-the-top but completely crap’, which is just as annoying.
But sincere – not to mention unasked for? Don’t hold your breath (until your face turns blue.)
Why is it so hard for some people to say they’re sorry?
Political apologies, which should be the easiest (if greasiest) of the lot, are just about the blue moon, four leaf clover, hen’s teeth rarest; you don't have to be a four year old to approach them as sullenly and mutinously as a President in front of a congressional committee - but obviously, it helps.
W’s inability to say sorry became almost comical for a while; his ‘I’ll let you know when I think of a mistake I made, but I just can’t think of one now’ answer to questions from the press about responsibility in the Abu Grhaib abuse allegations was itself painfully tortuous.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld obviously made note of the public’s astonished reaction to the President’s personal ‘no fault’ policy, and decided to take responsibility when he testified before the house and senate committees, but couldn’t quite make the leap of actually admitting any decisions were regrettable or mistaken, deciding instead to blame the entire affair on the ‘few individuals’ we were led to believe were really the sole culprits, thereby by-passing any actually consequences – and any genuine responsibility.
Former President Bill Clinton may be the most artful dodger of the last century. His recently published book My Life performs the astonishing feat of seeming to apologize for Monica Gate, but falls at the last crucial fence, as he ‘but’s his way to blaming the entire affair on Ken Starr. The outrageous costs of the investigation, the stress and horror for the country (and in fact the entire world) of the impeachment proceedings, the endless, revolting descriptions of cigars and thongs and girlish gossip, the retelling of squalid stories of former girlfriends and pleasures taken at the expense of credulity, trust and honour – all of this we are to understand, was the fault not of the President, but of the investigator.
Lost in all of this is the fact that had the President told the truth – or even had he stonewalled instead of outright lying – ninety-nine per cent of the horror would have been avoided.
(Let us not forget – the reason for the Presidential probing was in order to ivestigate a possible pattern in a very real charge of sexual abuse against another woman; the sordid facts were relevant in terms of the law, however intrusive or insulting upon the Presidential person. Only when all was truly lost, did a small – though heavily qualified and agonizingly worded – apology squeak out. But much the same as a kid saying “Okay, I’m sorry I broke the window – but Kenny made me do it!” the admission loses considerable sincerity if not all actual meaning along the way.)
And now Steven Harper – as he stumbles and trips in this last crucial week of campaigning before the federal election on Monday – cannot bring himself to say sorry. Staking out the high moral ground (built on steadily shifting sand) the leader of the New Conservatives refuses to step back from accusing Prime Ministerial rival Paul Martin of actively supporting child pornography. This despicable insult, which even in the most broadly brushed interpretation of the facts is patently absurd, could well be reflected back upon on as the initial swipe that ripped defeat from the jaws of near certain victory as recently as late last week.
For want of a nail, the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost; for want of a horse the rider was lost, for want of a rider the battle was lost; for want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
For want of an apology, the Liberals will win.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Baaaaaaad Science?

I got a bit of stick a while back when I suggested that straight men – as evinced by their sensitive tiny dog owning brothers – might perhaps be evolving into patient, caring nurturers, transferring the lessons of love learned from their cute little puppies to their put-upon girlfriends. (See Wednesday June 9th - 'What Little Dogs Can Do...')
It was a gentleman by the name of ‘Lamb’ who pooh-poohed the notion most vociferously, claiming that only big dog type guys could provide women with the level of big dog owning attentions we need. However, upon sending him photographic proof of the kind of dog I was talking about, he made my point far better than I ever could: “Oh she’s so cute!” He gushed. “Just like a little baby Wookie!”
I rest my case.
So it is with great interest that I report now on further evidence streaming from the animal world, evidence that suggests enormous implications for the future of committed human relationships.
The article, published in the redoubtable Nature Magazine, relates how a genetic breakthrough observed in the promiscuous male Meadow Vole has transformed the formerly slutty rodent into a calm committed one-vole vole.
And scientists say that there’s no reason why a little genetic manipulation couldn’t produce exactly the same results in humans.
Women everywhere (vole and human alike) are celebrating the discovery.
According to Nature, the problem with males (both Meadow Vole and human) is a lack of pair bonding resulting from a dearth of the hormone vasopressin. Since the Meadow Vole’s close relative the Prairie Vole is famous for his ability to fall in love with precisely one lady vole and bond with her for life, the endocrinologically-inclined scientists were able to compare and contrast, finally being able to pinpoint the specific component missing in their cheating cousins: insufficient vasopressin receptors.
The scientists (and, it must be assumed, irrepressible romantics) quickly shoved in as many of the specific receptors as they could, resulting in a complete change of behaviour: from love ‘em and leave ‘em lounge lizard, the Meadow Voles were transformed into swan-aping lifelong lovers.
No doubt equipped with industrial strength hankies, the scientists further observed that the now committed vole would stick with his chosen mate, even if tempted by the charms of another (likely cheap and desperate) female vole.
“We think what happens is when the moles mate, vasopressin activates the reward centre, and it really makes the animals pay attention to who they are mating with,” said co-author Larry Young, from Emory University in Georgia.
“It makes the voles think: “When I’m with this partner I feel good” and from then on they want to spend their time with that particular partner.”
Extrapolating from their astounding results, these same scientists opine that given vasopressin is similarly released during human on human sex, with a little genetic tweaking, the same results as observed in Meadow Voles may be mirrored in Homosapiens.
No word on when human tests might begin – or even if – but the potential changes likely have certain women investing heavily in the appropriate pharmaceutical stock.
My colleague Mr. Lamb may disagree, bleating that Meadow Voles and men are of distinctly different species.
But I wonder; I have the distinct impression that he himself could well be a wolf in sheep’s clothing…

Saturday, June 19, 2004


Cheaper than a ticket to a haunted mansion, less dangerous than juggling chainsaws, more powerful than a protest march, Canadians are giving themselves a vicarious thrill and getting all goose-pimply over the outcome of the upcoming federal election.
It’s understandable really – nearly everyone loves the thrill of the roller coaster… the heart stopping terror of the horror film… even the naughty pleasure of imagining themselves to be an entirely different person - the kind who with a sociopath-like consciencelessness does whatever it is they want with neither thought nor concern for the ones trailing behind. Or worse – has the crust to suggest they possess the necessary gnosis to decide what’s right, and perhaps more worryingly, not right. For everybody.
Because what other reason - besides scaring themselves silly for the thrill of the experience - can explain Canadians considering the notion of extending the right wing agenda north of the 49th? A Conservative (slash Alliance slash Reform) government represents membership in the Coalition of the Willing. We’d be extending tacit support to a President who just the other day denied the findings of the bi-partisan 9/11 Commission (which after exhaustive study was unable to come up with a single creditable link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda) with the rationalization that there was a link between Hussein, Bin Laden and Al Qaeda because there IS a link between Saddam etc, etc. He must have an instinct – maybe a feeling… possibly even an inkling; he must have. Because he offers precisely no proof for this conviction whatsoever.
I don’t know how so many of us are finding it so easy to ignore what we used to know to be true: that the far right wing of the Conservative party – a disturbingly large, distressingly angry group of people – if given support and representation would finally begin to demand all those things they used to demand before they were within voting distance of 24 Sussex.
The lid has been pretty tightly fastened down on those voices, with only a few squeaks and squeals escaping over the past few months – and doesn’t that worry anybody? This is the party of homo-hating, abortion-denying, immigrant loathing individuals whose marked silence says more about getting in than getting real. It should be remembered that the ‘Paul Martin Supports Child Pornography’ (cute little question mark notwithstanding) memo-sending, Ralph Klein (bless his cotton socks for telling the truth!) “We’ll wait ‘till the election is over, then overhaul Health” announcing, agenda concealing party was just a very short while ago, scrabbling and scrambling for simple legitimacy. And voters, pissed off with the sponsorship scandal – a gold-plated, diamond-studded gift if ever there was one – are willing to roll the dice and pray that that party doesn’t exist; that the reasonable-sounding one fronted by the reasonable-sounding guy (that they don’t have anything specifically against at this precise moment) will show the handful of Liberal cheats and creeps who created the scandal under a different Prime Minister altogether that they mean business.
I’m not suggesting that Paul Martin is perfect – or that there aren’t enough rotten apples within the Liberal ranks to host a well attended Wormapalooza – just that their agenda, imperfect as it is, isn’t based on hate and fear – not to mention the distinct possibility they’ll find a way to tinker with Charter of Rights outside of the courts.
The world needs Canada. It needs our peacekeeping skills, our ‘sober second thought’ reputation, and possibly even our boring, trying-to-find-the-middle-ground mentality. It needs our balance. And by veering to the right, the scales threaten to sway in a very dangerous direction indeed.
We need Canada.
Get your thrills at an amusement park – but politically, let’s get off this crazy ride.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

What's the Magic Word?

Some days you just want to give in.
Some days it just starts bad, and then it’s all downhill from there.
I had to get up early this morning to take my car in for the Drive Clean test – step one in a multi-part paper chase that will end in triumph when I can then toddle on down to some inconveniently located and inadequately staffed outpost of the department of motor vehicles to renew my plates. It’s a test, which by the way, if the government could afford to put out the information on it would not be happening at all; sometime previous to the announcement that the provincial government was in debt to the tune of 5! Point! 6! Billion! Dollars! (all the fault of the former Tory gang) was the announcement that the test would be scrapped. But since through staff layoffs and cutbacks the government can no longer afford to tell us this, the test continues… Your tax dollars at work.
So I get the car into the local Canadian Tire – the second trip natch, the first being yesterday when they screwed up my appointment – and girded myself for the long walk home… in the rain… (I foolishly brought the dog, who went from happy bright eyed adventurer, to pathetic rain-soaked victim of neglect in the space of two short blocks.)
The walk wasn’t that bad until the heel on my shoe snapped only halfway home. I abandoned my ingenious plan for picking up a cup of tea on the way, figuring a rain soaked barefoot woman with a shivering muddy-pawed Victim of Neglect would likely put the fear of God into the Rosedale matrons and matronettes fueling up at the local Starbucks. (They’re a judgmental crowd at the best of times – just mental at others.)
So I kept going – and eventually stumbled in the door. But achieving sanctuary was not going to provide the peace and happiness I yearned for. Moments after getting in and making a beeline for the kitchen and a cuppa (de-bagged too soon, it was bound to be weak) came the call from Canadian Tire.
“Bad news ma’am.” He honestly started the conversation this way. A mechanic with my car in his care and my well being in his power to affect actually began by telling me the news was bad.
“Well,” he amplified, “it’s bad in two ways: your exhaust needs replacing before we can do the Drive Clean test, but even then, we can’t do the test, because our machine isn’t working.”
I took a sip of tea. Did I say weak? It was nearly helpless.
“What do you plan to do?”
There followed a distressing interval in which his English and my temper were soon lost, but eventually we were able to agree that the exhaust would be fixed and after that – well, who knew?
I began not to care.
After all, I was still recovering from the previous day’s bad vibe – an enforced viewing of Jennifer Dale’s one woman soporific ‘Duse’ at the Terragon Theatre. (I don’t know that I can adequately describe the combination of horror and ennui produced by the two act paen to self indulgence, but suffice it to say that it was just as bad and boring as you’re probably imagining right now. And to make matters worse, the tale of the legendary actress of understatement was delivered with a level of scenery chewing unheard of since Norma Desmond took a crack at ‘Salome’. All of this might have been fine – fun even: when you’re watching something that dire, there’s endless opportunities for a giggle with a good friend. Sadly, the friend and I were seated practically in the laps of the actress’s mother and celebrated sister Jennifer, so all we could do was kick each other’s ankles and poke each other in the ribs, mentally bookmarking some of the worst transgressions for later picking and bitching.)
When I hung up from the empathy-challenged torturer who refused to even speculate when the Drive Clean machine might be functioning again, I picked up my morning paper for a cruise through the headlines. A welcome distraction I was thinking, as I popped water in the microwave to be heated for another cup of tea, only to achieve that distraction moments later by a pop and a sizzle that indicated my microwave (purchased exactly the period of the guarantee plus one day ago at Canadian Tire…) had decided to call it a day.
But did this latest inconvenience send me hurtling toward despair? It did not. That happened when I began reading the paper, drinking the defenseless (and now tepid) tea, and discovered that the liberal party had journeyed beyond the rock bottom expectation of squeaking through with a threadbare victory, to end up somewhere in the neighbourhood of quite possibly bypassing that, and missing even a minority government altogether.
So as I sit here this morning, with neither shoe nor microwave, nor dog, nor car, nor peace of mind, nor hot beverage, nor artistic sensibility, nor tax dollars, nor government secure, I wonder: why was it I got up this morning? And the capper? It’s only 11 a.m.
What’s the magic word? Uncle!

Monday, June 14, 2004

Happyish Birthday

It wasn’t that long ago that I thought birthdays were for celebrating.
Coruscating like a cushion cut diamond, done up like a dish of fish, partying like it was 1999… and to be candid, back in 1999 I was still coruscating.
But for the past few years, my birthday has been a day to be anticipated with horror, experienced with shock and looked back upon (even one day later) with aching nostalgia. The one coming up is not a tombstone, but it is at least a milestone, so I’ve decided to reflect rather than reject – but don’t expect me to be happy about it… it’s just going by so damn fast.
I’m at that stage where though I won’t lie about my age, I’m not advertising it, remembering with dark humour a time when I thought people who couldn’t face up to aging were pathetic. I think I was 23…
I was born within days of the original Barbie Doll, yet when I finally got a fashion doll of my own for my birthday, it was Barbie’s best friend 'Midge'. I may have been 4, but I knew a spinster when I saw one.
But that was about the only dark cloud; around that same time (pre Sesame Street) I was enjoying Captain Kangaroo, Tom Terrific and My Friend Flicka. My Dad smoked cigarettes with us kids in the car and the windows rolled up – and no one thought anything of it. Kennedy was dead, but barely, my hero was Roy Rogers and my biggest crush was Mighty Mouse. (I used to imagine he’d fly in and save me from doing the dishes, and when I finally read Stewart Little, I couldn’t imagine why that tiny little human girl didn’t fall for him – especially after he’d taken her for a paddle in his miniature souvenir canoe, leaning against the scented sachet with ‘For you I pine, For you I balsam’ embroidered on the pillow slip. I still wonder what her problem was…)
When I turned ten, we had yet to discover designer jeans – designer anything actually – and television (with the exception of Saturday morning) was something to do when they made you come inside. No computers, no video games – just hide and seek, bike riding and building backyard forts.
By my 11th birthday, I still liked to pretend I was a show jumping pony, and boys were just slightly dirtier girls.
When I was 12, I had my first date. He was the shortest, but also the funniest kid in grade 6 and he saved all his paper route money to take me to the Ex. $17 was enough for both of us for a full day: bus fare there and back, all the rides and all the snacks, and a necklace made out of already tarnishing tin as a special birthday gift. I wore white hot pants, a purple bubble shirt (with a yellow ‘Keep on Truckin’ button) and my hair was tied back with a Happy Face pony tail elastic. There was a quick peck goodbye at the door - and my career as a femme fatale had begun.
When I was 14 I learned to French kiss, though I learned it with my brother’s friend, the way all decent girls did.
When I was 15, I got my first real French kiss, fell in love for the first time and had my heart broken, all in the space of a school field trip. We still didn’t have designer jeans, sparkle nail polish or hand held hair dryers – but somehow (unlike now) I always had something to wear and I could be out of bed and into the world in 10 minutes – including breakfast.
For my 16th birthday I finally got designer jeans (the ones with the star on the back pocket) sparkle nail polish and my neighbour experimented on my hair with highlights. I have never looked as good again.
When I graduated high school, I went to the prom with the boy I had a heart-stopping crush on (the biggest since Stewart Little) but ended up dancing with the boy I would be involved with for the next ten years. Our first date was the day after my 18th birthday.
(The sad truth is, he asked me out for my birthday, but had to cancel because the CALGARY STAMPEDERS WERE PLAYING. I will forgive him one day. But not today.)
My 20’s were all about career milestones – I was usually the youngest one doing the neatest thing. I had a radio show, a sports car and my own furniture. For my 22nd birthday, I got diamond studs – for my 23rd, the knowledge that my mother was close to death. Yet I went from triumph to triumph, before moving to Monaco to host the afternoon drive show on Radio Riviera 104.
(Many of you reading this may have experienced the whiz kid syndrome; it never occurred to me that it could go from: “wow – how can she be doing that at her age?” to “gosh – shouldn’t she be doing more by now?”)
My thirties were about moving back to Canada and trying new things – being in the right place at the right time for some amazing opportunities. I made money, friends and lots of dates. I was given a surprise party every year for nearly 10 years. I learned to cook, got into working out (as a result) and bought my first home.
(I also lost my remaining parent – careless – screwed up a great job, and found myself emotionally cut off from my brother and sister.)
Things are better now. I’m pursuing a new dream, I spent last Christmas with my family and I’m thrilled to be reconnecting with a very good friend.
There was a time when I couldn’t have imagined this birthday outside of dog years, but as it approaches I’m enjoying the reflections and the memories; my gift to myself this year will be to recapture that sense that it’s all still there in front of me – because the truth is, it is.
It’s just going by so damn fast.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Burying Reality

“The old order changeth,” wrote Tennyson, “yielding place to the new.”
Okay. Fine. So, like - when?
The old order has been very much front and centre for the past week, nearly stumbling over itself, practically elbowing fellow enfeebled former world leaders aside in a pellmell rush to eulogize The Great Communicator ™.
During the most extensive crepe hanging since Princess Diana became easier sifted than lifted, as eulogy after eulogy shoved Ronald Wilson Reagan up to a pantheon somewhere between Jesus Christ and Elvis, the great, the near great and the great unwashed followed the Presidential remains around like stations of the cross for six straight days: from California to Washington, from the Rotunda to Arlington, then back to California for a sunset send-off held yesterday at Point Mugu. (Until I saw it supered on the screen, I always thought it was spelled 'Magoo', as in 'Mister'.)
And the sound bites poured in – from Washington and every living President and their father (sometimes a twofer) to New York and newshounds who knew him when, to Hollywood where his career as both actor and politician began.
(My favourite anecdote, told years ago by Reagan himself, was of a famous film director who on hearing the actor was running for Governor of California was supposed to have exclaimed: “No, no! Jimmy Stewart for Governor – Ronald Reagan for best friend!”)
One of Reagan’s best friends was at his funeral – Great Britain’s former Prime Minister, the slightly rusty ‘Iron Lady’ Margaret Thatcher, who thoughtfully committed her admiration to video tape some time ago, preparing (in what can only be described as a prescient manner, considering her recent series of speech altering strokes) a final hail and farewell to 40th Chief.
Brian Mulroney, pretty much universally loathed back home in Canada, but beloved by Ronnie and Mommy, shared a front row seat for the SRO funeral with Thatcher, Gorbachev and other former staples of the nightly news, rising to give a eulogy that contained some of the purplest prose ever to flow from an empurpled ex-Prime Ministerial pen.
(Interesting story – according to a pal who’s toured the Reagan library in California, it was Mulroney himself who advised the curators to title him ‘His Excellency’ in any material or photographs in which he appears. Barring any recent changes, the undeserved – and un-awarded – honourific remains.)
And it didn’t stop there; after thousands of collective hours of television devoted to slavishly following every last detail of the Presidential life right through the Presidential death, every fact and factoid, every rumour and lie – the hushed golf announcer type voice-over delivered by the pompous Paula Zahn and the diminished Jeff Greenfield provided a sort of bizarre play by play for the taking off and landing of airplanes… the hearse loading and flag waving (and flag folding)the embedding of the word 'catafalque' in the vocabulary of each and every American, the riderless horse, the 21 gun salute, not to mention the staged salutes of clueless little boys as the Presidential death-capade rolled on by - the endless, senseless, heartwrenching, hankie-wringing, hyperbolic love-in was just too much!
I’m almost afraid to read the most recent editorials, concerned that any moment now rose-tinted remembrances will turn B-actor and commercial cigarette hustler into ‘Oscar winner’; that the guy who was far friendlier with McCarthy than fellow actors accused of possible membership in the Communist party during the House Un-American Activities Commission hearings will instead be recalled for his fictional fame as the eternal best friend; that the guy who did deals with devils from Iran to Columbia is now being haled as a freedom fighter, and that the famously neglectful and disinterested father will somehow ride off into history as a dedicated family man.
Wait – I’m too late.
And there’s something deeply creepy about newly beloved by press and public ‘Mommy’. I distinctly remember the reports of her talents for squeezing freebies – everything from gowns to goblets, and from designer jewelry to designer dishes – from anyone who came near the White House back in the 80’s. The hoo and the hah that was created by some of her more creative efforts at intimidating providers into scrapping their various bills, forced her to perform a decidedly defensive version of ‘Second hand Rose’ at one of the annual White House press dinners. Now, if the 'all is forgiven' over-the-top media coverage is to be believed, she’ll likely be canonized before she goes to her great reward – therefore continuing a lifelong tradition of me-firsting by the former First Lady: first of the not-yet-dead to be accorded sainthood.
(Talk about ‘Just say no’!)
So as America wallows endlessly on in a sticky nostalgia for one of her more average sons (his approval ratings when he was President inarguably unspectacular) we’re left to wonder how the funeral of an ancient back number has become the siren call for remembering the great old days of the excessive 80’s.
Trickle down and voodoo economics, Star Wars missile systems, Noriega, Contra and the image of Reagan shoving soon-to-be-ex President Jimmy Carter aside to garner the glory for bringing home American hostages on the first day of his Presidency (possibly the most cynical public approval move of his entire administration – and on the very first day!) are all forgotten as America remembers a time when the Twin Towers still stood, war between the US and the Middle East had yet to occur and charges of torture and abuse against the forces of democracy were yet to be brought.
Perhaps this last week is less a burial of a past President, and more a welcome distraction from the present – the hideous ‘New’ that has replaced the more or less re-imagined ‘Old’.
Perhaps what Americans would really like to have been doing the second week of June 2004, was burying the memory of Iraq and Afghanistan and Lynddie England and Abu Grhaid prison six feet deep - sowing it with salt, pouring it over with concrete – and relegating it with a sigh of relief to a faint and distant memory.
Going by how Ronald Reagan was remembered this last week, it’s just a matter of time.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

What Little Dogs Can Do...

The ‘Metrosexual’ is old news now – a word, a descriptor and a fad already in danger of overexposure, and just a few repetitions away from certain inclusion on one of those yearly lists of over-used and abused words and phrases.
But the changes that created the term and the changes that continue to shape the hairier sex are evergreen. The times they are a-changing – and men appear to be at the forefront… though in actual practice, trailing behind with little plastic bags…
Case in point: driving along today to drop the dog off at the Poodle Parlour for a wash, trim and spit-shine, I couldn’t help but notice the curiously large number of men out walking their dogs.
Their little dogs. Their cute little dogs. Their pocket puppies – the Shitzuhs, Lhasa Apsos, Yorkies, Poodles, Bichon Frizes, Pomeranians, Maltese, Jack Russells, Fox Terriers and Mini Dobermans. A plethora of pooches – and all of them, just as teeny tiny, as cosseted and petted and adorable as you can imagine.
Of course I was looking; like the phenomenon that occurs when you decide to buy a new car and suddenly discover the roads are stretched to the sidewalks with whatever it is you fancy, my enforced attendance lately at vet clinics (clutch the pearls - she’s going to be fine) and a visit to the recent ‘Woofstock’ dog appreciation day in the Distillery District, have opened my eyes to the statistical anomaly that presents us with an abundance of large straight men lavishing affection on their small fey dogs.
When did this happen? Why did this happen? Is it possible men are finally uncovering their inner-nurturer?
Eleven years ago when I was bringing home the approximately 13 ounces of animated dryer lint I call Lily, while men were no doubt interested in the tiny Yorkshire Terrier (many with that detached, scientific ‘how do they get the ship in the bottle?’ sort of curiousity that would explain how such an insubstantial little thing could be the same species as a Great Dane) there was a definite reticence in actually being seen alone with her.
And honestly, we’re not talking about a polish-clawed, diamond-collared and be-bowed mass of dog obsessed fussiness - she was (and remains) a rough and tumble, spike-collared, dragged through a hedge backwards kind of miniature hairball, but for all of that, to most of the men I knew then (including the homosexual ones) she was just too gay to go walkies with.
Things are entirely different now. Yesterday at the vet for instance, I shared the waiting room with three guys, all of us lap-loaded with our furry babies. There was the construction worker type carrying his Jack Russell (who was doing an dead-on impression of Mimi from La Boheme… right down to the subtle little coughs and obsequious, pleading, tear-filled eyes) who needed constant cuddling and bizarre baby-talk to offset the stress of his yearly heartworm test; the lawyer beside me, on the cell to his wife to say he wasn’t leaving until he heard from the vet himself that Percy the apricot miniature Poodle was going to survive the (invisible to my eye) limp he’d been displaying since jumping off the bed that a.m.; and the huge Greek guy, sweating and pacing, trying to compose himself enough to hand over his mini long-haired Dachshund to the veterinary assistant to have his (the dog's) toenails clipped.
I was gob-smacked. Gob-smacked, but encouraged. I mean, how big a leap is it from little dog-loving to increased sensitivity? I may be wildly extrapolating from an unscientific sample, but look around you – this is happening. And the complex emotions these guys are learning as they heap lashings of love on their tiny canines, bodes well for the future.
Because this is beyond Metrosexual: who cares if men shop for antiques, or cry at the movies, or co-ordinate closets, or enjoy spending a Saturday visiting open houses – that’s peanuts in the scheme of things.
What if they started to love cuddling and consoling, being patient and caring about our little aches and pains, comforting our fears?
What if they started listening when we called them to come?
I’ll tell you what – the rewards would be better than a biscuit.

Monday, June 07, 2004


If it wasn’t for my friend Emma, I’m sure I’d right now be sunk in the deepest of deep, dark, dank depressions.
When my agent called Friday to tell me about the audition, the words he used to describe the character I would imbue with all the experience and talent at my disposal, were: “sexy”, “sensuous” and “Kathleen Turner”.
When I arrived at the recording studio this morning to apply my vocal stylings to the deathless prose created to sell one of Canada’s two most famous beers, the word they used was “cougar”.
It wasn’t even 10 a.m., and already I’m being insulted.
(The demographics of the studio waiting room should have been a tip-off though; looking like a cross between a casting call for The O.C. and a plastic surgeon’s anteroom, everywhere, as far as the eye could see: dozens of shiny young Kelso’s interspersed with tarted-up old bats like myself – masses of blonde hair, snug low-riders and eyeliner before noon. Look – over there! Stifler’s Mom, Stifler’s Mom, Stifler’s Mom…)
But wait Рit gets worse! When 10:15 rolled around (the studio equivalent of 9:40) and I finally got behind a mike, I got my first look at the radio commercial script and nearly fell off my Springolaters. Forget political correctness, this ad agency was going straight for the clich̩, damn the torpedoes, full sneer ahead.
(Buddy: “Hey! You didn’t even remove your cigarette to put on your lipstick!” Cougar (growling with unseemly lust): “That’s right sonny…”)
Can they do this to me? Enlist me in my own humiliation? Ask me to do it twice? And do it 25% sexier the second time around?
Apparently so.
It didn’t help that “Buddy” held open all the doors for me as we left – the gesture had lost any courtliness it might once have possessed and had moved briskly on to boy-scout-offering-assistance-to-frail-little-old-lady.
But I was okay – because like I said, I have Emma.
I’ve known Emma since before she was born – which is to say, I’ve known her mom since before she was born. I remember when she was just a slight bulge in her mother’s Capri’s… a bigger bulge in stretchy pants… and finally, an adorable watermelon under a tight pup tent.
Her mother, Ottawa Jane (she of the great hats and wicked sense of humour) allowed Emma and I to build our own special friendship right from the beginning. Emma was 4 when she began coming for sleepovers, 7 when we started to get together for our own private outings, and 11 when she brought her mom and came to stay this weekend.
What a friend.
I’d been having a tough week – the dog nearly threw in the sponge, I was overwhelmed with volunteer work, underwhelmed with paying work, and I’d just invested one third of my entire life savings in penny stocks. I was almost regretting the invitation (when would I find time to squeeze in all the self pity I’d been planning?) when Emma came bouncing through the front door, threw her arms around me and smiled like they were going to ban grins along with cigarettes in the GTA.
I couldn’t help myself – my spirits started to soar.
And it just went on like that all weekend long. From intense conversations about friends and school (if I ever bump into that cow Madame Sylvie in a dark alley some night – well, let’s just say she’ll be berating her students in an accent that owes more to a knuckle sandwich than a French finishing school…) boys – not that she’s interested – dogs, horses, computers, music, clothes, shoelaces, pierced ears, The Simpson’s, Survivor and ice cream, to a day spent on the rides at Ontario Place, to a shopping trip deep in the heart of Kensington Market (that kid totally gets style – ankle high Converse sneakers, AC/DC t-shirt, studded black leather cuffs… and the cutest little boy short-style underpants) she used every moment at hand to boost me up, build me up and include me in.
Emma on body shape: “You could never be fat!” Emma on looks: “You’re so pretty!” Emma on age: “You’re so young!”
Me on Emma: “Thank you.”

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Best Served Cold

Standing in the supermarket checkout line at Loblaws last night, waiting for one of those fanatical exact change Nazis to finish counting (“No, no, it’s alright, I know I have some pennies – oh maybe they’re in the other wallet at home. Just a minute, there’s probably some in the bottom of my purse…or maybe my pocket, won’t be a moment…” I feel like Archie Bunker pulling out his imaginary revolver and spinning the chambers as Edith blathers interminably on…until KABOOM!) I espied a National Enquirer cover that confirmed what I have been predicting for some time – Martha Stewart is about to be re-born.
(See below: Tuesday May 25th – ‘Quelle Dump’; and Tuesday March 9th – ‘Martha the Musical’. If there’s something I like better than being right, I’d like to know what it is – though I do have a soft spot for French fries and kissing.)
“MARTHA FRAMED BY GOV’T!” screamed the outraged 48 point font. “Ah ha!” I thought in no particular font at all.
Let the reinvention begin.
But before I get all self back-patty smug and superior, it’s only fair to admit that it’s likely many others have been doing the same fairly simple math and come to the same fairly simple conclusion: get too big, they knock you down; get knocked down too small, and its only a matter of time before they start to build you back up again.
The scale seems to have readjusted and some sort of judicial balance appears to be shifting the weight of public opinion in favour of the Domestic Diva.
The question now is, how much will she get back – money, stock, respect, reputation – and how high on the 20/20 lineup will be her ubiquitous tears welling up, thanks-be-to-God ‘Come to Barbara’ tell-all debriefing segment take place on the show?
- Somewhere, anywhere and things are looking up for Omnimedia.
- First, and they’ll order up a new series of Martha Stewart Living shows.
- The whole damn program – the sky’s the limit.
(Though to be perfectly honest, if Martha goes all ‘Jailhouse Christian Squirrely’ I’m prepared to have my I Heart Martha tattoo lazered off. No kidding.)
The signs have been emerging steadily and quietly since her conviction was announced: a few positive mentions from Page Six gossip columnist Liz Smith here, a few less skits on Saturday Night Live there, business journals taking a decidedly pouty tone when detailing the cruelties inflicted upon Martha by her Board of Directors… Dominic Dunn’s empathetic telling of the tale in Vanity Fair (including the interesting tidbit that the ‘close friend’ who testified that she was with Martha when the call came in to sell the Imclone shares, is married to a man who mysteriously was able to unload 600,000 of his own shares soon after - many more, as it turned out, than Martha divested herself of…) had to create some ripples, not the least of which the image of a woman once perceived as proud and haughty, brought as low as she could conceivably go by the testimony of her best friend.
Add to that the news that one of the experts who testified in court against Martha is now being charged with perjury; Stewart’s lawyers couldn’t get a new trial on the basis of the deceitful witness, but America is much more powerful judge and jury than any legal system could ever have hoped to assemble, and appears to be bellying up to the legal bar to affect some form of public opinion redress.
But it’s the National Enquirer front page story that has really turned up the volume on the musings of Middle America, which will no doubt soon instigate a run on the ‘Martha Stewart Everyday’ line of home furnishings and accessories at Sears. It’s where America shops you know… and probably where America shows its forgiveness - one tea towel at a time.
It’ll be interesting to see how the growing Martha momentum plays out. Interesting too to see if the whispers and grumblings comparing the enormous price paid by Stewart versus the discount low, low price paid by the slimy but powerful rip-off artists at Enron increase in volume. Big bad Martha has been transformed in relatively short order from Off-With-Their-Heads “Who brought me Russian caviar when I specifically demanded Iranian?!” to little old hard done by “Please sir, may I have another plate of gruel” Martha, quiet and contrite, polite and politic.
I believe that if she can just chill for a little while longer, she’ll soon be able to present heaping helpings of crow to her enemies and detractors; a recipe Martha will no doubt be planning to serve cold.
Revenge – it’s a good thing.