Sirius is my Star, Orion my wise Companion

There’s an article on my CBC News App this morning about sports fans in Halifax feeling rotten and sad because the concession stand has stopped putting that warm, wet, orange “cheese food product” on nachos. “Chefs” for the food seller regularly review “the menu”, we are told, and decided to abandon goo altogether a few weeks ago, in favour of plain old salsa.

The horror.

Now that the story has made the CBC New App, sports fans are likely to have all the melted orange gunk they can stand back on their nachos a.s.a.p. This is good. It’s a small thing, easily accomplished, and it’ll make people happy.

Heather Mallick, one of my very favourite columnists anywhere, has an Op-Ed piece in the Toronto Star today about the “migrant” “camp” that is being dismantled in the French city of Calais. Refugees. Semi-incarcerated by political circumstance in a kind of un-state. To be incarcerated. And transported. Somewhere.

There are all sorts of opinions about refugees and immigrants from various places and in various places, but I have had the privilege of teaching a number of them (for this writing: refugees in particular, of both sexes, from Muslim backgrounds in particular, and from all walks of life), and my high and optimistic outlook is coloured by the fact that all of us are in Canada.

Where the absence of orange nacho cheese at a sports venue in a relatively small but undoubtedly important and ridiculously beautiful province makes national news.

Give, is what I say.

Give a little.

Lean towards kindness. Europe, of all places, should be leaning away from camps.

How long do we repeat the monstrous and pretend we didn’t know?


Here in my new home, where I watch ships float by and find myself mesmerized by huge swaths of cloud-studded skies, I have taken up a daily, early walk with Espresso, down by the St. Clair river. Today a sliver of a crescent moon was barely visible through the clouds in the east, and I could not see Orion at all, in the south. Sirius, the Dog Star at Orion’s right heel (on the left from down here) was all I could make out, muted.

I am a city girl, and I know about six constellations. But I do know the moon and the arrangements of stars that humans configured into pictures have been up there, shining gloriously, forever. Islamic scholars studied many of them, grouped them, and named a lot of them, before Islam decided to vilify science, over 900 years ago. Much like groups of people eschew facts and free-thinking backed by empirical evidence today.

I like the ridiculous notion that Espresso and I mirror Sirius and Orion. Ridiculous amuses me.

Ridiculousness, unaccompanied by humour, unchaperoned by a knowledge of history, courts horror.

Time to donate the cost of a plate of nachos to refugee relief.

CSI, Sarnia: Animal Edition

Since I drove my car home one month and one week ago, I have become increasingly melancholy about the number of animals killed on our streets and highways. Fluffy raccoon ears might be all that’s recognizable of a varmint that just wanted to get to the other side. Skunks, ground hogs, squirrels: no wonder so many hawks and crows circle above major roads and highways.

But what was the thing in the Blackwell Trails leash-free dog field?

Two days ago, Espresso loped away to a pile of guts. He stood there so long that I went over to see what was so interesting. And it was a small alimentary canal. A wormy, long section of small intestine, a plump section full of poop, and what I guess were two lungs, from the white and pink colours. No skeleton. No skin. No head. No teeth, no beak. No limbs. No hint of feather, or fur, or claw, or nail. No blood. You’d need two spread hands to pick it up. Which I didn’t.



Gutted and laid out neatly is what I think is the weirdest thing. 

And the best thing is that my dog didn’t mess with these odd remains.

He waited until we went back yesterday and he rolled in what was left at the spot.


For a very long time in Western Europe, soap was made with animal fat and ashes. Lye, fat, ashes. Gentler, expensive Castille soap was made with olive oil, and – unlike those coarse soaps made for house and barn cleaning – was made for persons. 

Thank you, soap, gentle soap.

I performed a spot-wash, and will now hug my dog again.

Neither of us know how to explain The Guts in the Blackwell Trails Leash-free Dog Field mystery. 

I hope it was a one-off. For the little creature, and dog-rolling.

Happy Trails.

Louisiana Tuesday in Southwestern Ontario

Greetings and warm and sticky salutations from Sarnia, Ontario on this ridiculously hot October day. Espresso (The Magnificent) (a moniker awarded the morning he had not pooped in the living room of our new apartment home) and I walked in the humid breezes of the tropics down by the St. Clair river this morning before dawn. Two cotton t-shirts and capri pants were too much. I’m now in shorts. I have put one t-shirt back on. The dog may be contemplating a buzz cut; I’m not going to wake him to ask him. The ceiling fans that were in the apartment when I rented it are proving a wonderful bonus.

I am, alas, a human humidometer. And after this sizzling summer, complete with life turned excitingly and yet also stressfully upside-down, I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF SWEATING THROUGH EVERYTHING INSTANTANEOUSLY ALL DAY AND NIGHT.





I had a lot of great iced coffee yesterday and slept in fits and starts. It gave me time for philosophy:

1. Sarnia is a cigarette smoking town, and a great proportion of those smokers live in the same building I do, and exhale nicotine fumes in the hallway outside my apartment. From whence said fumes seep in and make me cough. How long has it been since I’ve been nicotined? Ages. A cheap partial remedy has failed. I will soon seek a different kind of door insulating strip foam tape thingy.

2. Sleeplessness creates discombobulation that leads to mistakes. I thought, for instance, and most erroneously, that a couple of random and perhaps overly-inebriated arseholes somewhere down on the street, yelling across great distances at one another in the middle of the night every night, was the most irritating thing a person could hear from the comfort of her hot bedroom, but I was wrong. The most irritating thing is a single pop can being buffeted incessantly on the rooftop parking lot surface in an unending, eddying, random wind. Just when you think the racket is over … 

3. The excellent CBC News App has used a completely hilarious photo to illustrate the discovery of some bones in a parking lot of my home town, Guelph:
Yes. It’s the exit booth. Of a parking lot. On Baker Street. From the DO NOT ENTER side.

Of all the shots from any of the devices that take images in 2016, this is what the CBC chose.

I feel so much better about my characteristically wanting pics now.

Time to go hunt me down one pop can.

Lights! Camera! Ding!

My new life is posing some scheduling challenges. I slept a lot yesterday, and so set three alarms on my iPhone this morning to make up for Saturday’s slothing. Which is unfair to the humble sloth, really; as far as it’s concerned, it’s moving like wildfire.

Mornings aren’t a problem for me, anyway.

I have been accustomed to waking at 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. That’s all been shot to hell since the decision to pack up, get out, and sell the house. Then I installed what are virtually blackout curtains over my bedroom blinds here at the apartment, and if the dog could let himself out and then back in, well, when would I get up? And why?

So Captain New Life in Sarnia has set an after-breakfast agenda:

Some kind of outing BY MYSELF. Usually in the car. Then some kind of tiny chore at home. Then blawgg. Then to the leash-free dog field. In the car. Then maybe pick up something I forgot earlier. Then home to a snack instead of lunch, a tiny bit of unpacking or a very tiny chore, some reading, and a pre-supper perambulation with dog. A final walk with dog before shower and bed and a couple of hours reading. Repeat.

The lights were on in the parking garage this morning.

I have lived here just over two weeks, and today I could see quite clearly the entire interior of the parking garage.

I could see all the lines. I could see where many people do not actually use the lines or the pillars as guidelines. I could see how it was that I dinged my beautiful car a week ago trying to park, obstinately, where two separate people made it pretty much inevitable that I would graze a pillar.

I don’t feel so bad about the ding now. Which is the second ding. Much less painful than the first ding, which got the ding trauma over with. With the lights on, with the rotten parkers all around me, I cut myself some slack.

I went to Dollarama for a grabber stick. Now I can put baskets full of spices and such way up on top of my kitchen cabinets and have more room in the cupboards. I went to The Frills of No. I didn’t buy much. I’m at that stage in the house selling process where the money set aside to live on until closing is very, very sparse, and where the bills and debts are monstrous. Some people can’t sleep under that kind of stress. I can sleep all day, apparently.

There’s an unreality – a surreality – to my days since I decided that I could lift the house off me. My calculations offer an extremely modest, thrift-dependent, small-contentments kind of life, with all sorts of options for volunteer or paid activities as yet to be decided. In the meantime, the sums written against me are so uncharacteristically high that my only real response has been hilarity.

When I parked the car to bring in my groceries, the garage lights were out again.

Moving along, doing my best, enlightened on occasion.

Sprinkle of chagrin.

Retirement Tip: Bears and Coolers

I have just spent 15 minutes watching grizzly bears attempting – and in some cases succeeding – to open coolers and garbage cans and food bins designed to be “bear proof”. It’s part of an effort to keep other bears from getting into trouble and then killed for it. I know no other way to spend a Saturday morning. (I lied blatantly just there. I’ll let you know when I do that.) (Sometimes.)

I did watch bears, because that was part of a Toronto Star TOUCH (TM) iPad-friendly online publication that is not a newspaper. I want a newspaper. I will end up buying newsprint this afternoon, but Post Media’s coverage of London and my new home, Sarnia, is not the same as a full Saturday Star, or a full Sunday Star (replete with NYTimes Book Reviews and News Supplement). Should you like the Globe, I admit to reading that on newsprint this week. It is fine.

CBC News online/mobile-friendly has been keeping me informed of the big and small world as best it can since I moved here and abandoned the pleasure of home-delivered information, but there is no Heather Mallick. There is no Op-Ed page or letters to editors. There is no depth or breadth of the kind I crave. I don’t want a 6 minute read, kids. I want complexity and interconnectivity and opportunities for pondering, synthesis, knowledge acquisition, opinion-forming and opinion-changing. I want the joy of a full newspaper.

Apparently, I cannot buy it without the actual newsprint. I will look into this again, but my first foray left me puzzled. I want to pay for news, and read it on my *new! *wonderful! iPad! I am a kind of reading dinosaur, and should, apparently, be more evolving-rat-like: stealing, instead of paying for something of immense value. I don’t want the paper paper. I do want Canadian news and news with a Canadian perspective, preferably Southern Ontario centred.

It may be too much to ask.

Time to check out the webpage that shows me what ships are here, and which are passing through.

Beats unpacking.

Life, Too: Changing Everything at 55

I say to whomever it’s pertinent that I am semi-retired, but that is a lie.

I hope I’m done working for other people.

This month, I moved to a new, small town. All alone. I moved from my own house in a big city to a rented apartment in a high rise. A week and a day ago, my dog and cat joined me. This morning marks the first day that there has been no dog poop or pee, and no cat barf, on what turns out to be an excellent choice in odour and stain resistant wall-to-wall carpeting by building management. [SHAMELESS PLUG: ReSolve(tm) Powder, Carpet Spray, and Pre-laundry Stain Removal Spray are WONDERFUL. All you need is a voluminous ruffle of paper towelling to pick up guck. Apply powder to what’s left, and any accompanying puddles. Wait a day to let dry. Vacuum. Apply spray liberally. Wait a minute. Rub gently with wet cloth. Listen to your relieved heart SOAR!]

On my 55th birthday, I bought my first car. I call her The L’il Snow Queen. My Monarch Park Dog Pack Pals in Toronto bought me fuzzy dice to hang from the rear view mirror from Canadian Tire, so I feel obliged to use “L’il” – it’s as silly and fun as the dice, and makes me laugh. I love my car.

Here’s my view: img_0107

From my table, I see trees that will be bare soon, and allow peeps of the Seaway river park path. I see one of Sarnia’s many churches, the marina, ships moored at the wharf silos, and the Port Huron, Michigan portion of the Bluewater Bridge. I can watch tiny transport trucks coming to Canada all day and night.

It’s the sky here that has me mesmerized, though. Things have a way of floating past or flying away here. Ships’ lights glide along in the dark on the river before dawn. Crows cavort around the church steeple. Hawks abound. At the leash-free dog park on the edge of town, gaggles of geese on the adjacent pond up and form tangles of Vs that separate and exert themselves southwards in diminishing wisps of gronking. And the wide expanse of blue over Lake Huron and the St. Clair river tumbles beautiful clouds at us like a magician revealing astounding surprises. Of course these things exist in Toronto, and elsewhere. But it’s the expanse of the vista and the weight of the vast sky that makes you aware of the beauty of the place.

My friend Joyce told me to rent the best place I could for my thriftily apportioned funds, and I pass that invaluable tip on to you. Her point was to help myself make an easier transition to a new life in a place that made me the happiest. I would have been okay in an apartment building a little less expensive and further from the water, but despite the initial difficulties for Espresso and Gordie, this view brings me utter joy.

I sold my little house and I moved to a new place for joy.

Look at that amazing bridge.

700 Things I Know About You and You and You

There ain’t no end to stupid. You’ve proven that.

You don’t use enough deodorant or antiperspirant or soap.

You can actually wash or dry-clean a coat, you know.

Your toenails are too long.

Any length is too long for toenails.

If I see you spitting pistachio husks on the floor of the subway again, I’m going to hit you hard, backhand, even though I will probably be arrested.

Nobody likes your screeching children.

Slurping is disgusting, and is worse when you leave drops on the table in the kitchen.

I calculate that it’ll take two more months and four days before there’s no room in the microwave at work for you to put your lidless snap-and-lock lunch in, because you’re responsible for the layers of recooked sauce and rice that absolutely no one will ever clean.

You don’t wash your hands after using the toilet.

Your mother picked up everything after you left it.

She probably still does. And you like that.

Your wife would like to kill you.

Your husband would like to kill you. Or at least have you go. Somewhere. Anywhere. Away.

Two of your children are gay, and the third one will be caught in a Thai brothel with a seven year old girl.

Many things can be explained somehow, but not fucking seven year old girls.

You need a password on your phone.

It is your fault.

I don’t care if your father knew Hemingway. All those guys are dead.

You were very cruel on Tuesday.

Nobody walks around saying, “I’ve written a wonderful book” unless they haven’t.

Leaving a smear of snot on the door of the RBC Bank at Marjory and Gerrard should be a federal crime, punishable by having your nose cut off. And the thumb you used to unsuccessfully blow the snot toward the sidewalk. And when you walk around, you should have to wear a sign that says, “I put snot everywhere”.

Your paintings are horribly bad. Try hanging them upside-down for better sales.

There’s nothing that says “Employable!” like a neck tattoo.

Your little dog scratches my shins with its nails one more time and I’m cooking it.

Your kind revving of your motorcycle engine at two in the morning outside my window makes me wish I were an American in America. One with a rifle. And night-vision goggles.

You had those big trees cut down for no reason.

You take free kittens and then you lock them out of your house,

You are a good neighbour to feed them, but the raccoons in your other neighbour’s roof moved in because of the nightly buffet.

You hit a dog in the road and kept going.

Low keeps falling, and you aren’t helping.

You steal pencils.

Stealing pencils is the stupidest thing imaginable, nowadays.

Like, where’s the market, mystique or joy in that?


Your “graphic novel” is ugly, badly written and outrageously over-hyped.

You are so boring you frighten me.

You never shut up, but you never say anything at all of substance whatever.

Gesticulating wildly and repeatedly in the fashion of Falun Gong does not prevent cancer.

You hit yourself in the head and call it “exercise” and you are a moron.

You spend three times more money than you should on food at “organic” stores and you’ll be dead in a hundred years, like all the rest of us.

Yes. You. Need. A. Hearing. Aid. You. Are. Deaf. DEAF! I! SAID!

Brushing your teeth can’t hurt, even if you start this late in life.

You started an internet fund-raising campaign to go to university and spent half the money on an all-you-can-drink trip to Cuba. The kind people in what the newspaper called “your minority community” should be told you flunked out of first year.

You need to get a job. And go to it. And pay for your own way, like the rest of us.

You falsified your academic credentials and were never punished because the institution would have to admit that it knew all about it and let you.

You let them.

You wrote your book at work. Choosing to write a guide to successful career planning is extra funny, believe me.

You robbed my friends’ coats and purses at the christmas party.

There’s no way you were consuming that much crack or meth or whatever the hell it was without being a prostitute.

No one wants to hear your kid sing over the phone.

Everyone is so pleased you fart in elevators.

Shoplifting isn’t funny. Shoplifting from convenience stores is painful to hear about. Why you would admit to it as an adult is profoundly puzzling.

You hit a man in the hopes he would hit you back.

You threw a woman over a kitchen table in front of her kids and thought of yourself as Not A Wife-Beater because you didn’t use your fists.

You cut photographs out of library books.

You were promoted because they couldn’t find anyone else.

You didn’t look for anyone else.

Your communication skills may or may not be worse than those of the person you promoted, but you are pleased that they are frightened of you and will never say anything about anything.

You invited people to your one-year-old’s birthday party and expected big money presents.

You complained that your wedding gifts were inadequate, even though it was your second marriage.

You complained that your wedding gifts were inadequate, and it was your first marriage.

You spit in public.

You ate the food for the afternoon party at work at lunchtime and left teeth marks in a piece of cheese.

You tire me.

You suggested I write 700 things but you can’t even count change properly, so I’m going to stop here because you won’t have any idea if I made it or not.

You can’t make me think of rotten disappointments all the time.

You’ve got a magnolia tree in bloom on your front yard.


Stupid polar bears ruin escape plans completely, wolves complain.

This week, according to the CBC, the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg “temporarily” closed its underwater polar bear viewing tunnel after the bears chewed into some of the silicone sealant around the tunnel’s glass.

The zoo announced that the tunnel, which is part of the Journey to Churchill exhibit, is closed for repairs for at least one to two weeks. However, officials have yet to determine the full extent of the damage.

“We didn’t anticipate anything like this at all. They’ve been in that exhibit for now, what, 10 [or] 11 weeks without any incident of this nature,” said Don Peterkin, chief operations officer with the Assiniboine Park Conservancy.

“It just shows you when you’re working with live animals anything can happen at anytime, and you just have to react accordingly.”

This marks the second hiccup at Journey to Churchill, which officially opened on July 3.

A week after the grand opening, some of the exhibit’s wolves dug out of their habitat and into the polar bears’ space. Staff had to reinforce the barrier that separates the bears from the wolves.

“When you open a new exhibit with the complexity that we have, you expect a few little glitches that you need to work on,” Peterkin said. “This idea of the bears thinking they could eat the silicone wasn’t one of them.”

* * *

“Hiccup, my ass,” said Grwlr Blackfur, Chief Digger and Logistics Officer on Project FREE ME.

The wolves, intent on taking advantage of a GROUPON discount for the Churchill Express, had been working hard to enjoy the “Journey to Churchill”. But it was not to be.

“Polar bears this. Polar bears that. Ice melting. Extinction. Boo fucking hoo,” said Grwlr. “We’ve been shot almost into extinction and we were helping these fat bastards out. Look what they did to us! I’m never going to eat anyone’s Granny before Christmas!”

Officials at Assiniboine Park said they had to reinforce the barrier that separates the wolves from the polar bears, after the wolves dug underneath it and into the polar bears’ space overnight.

“11 weeks of planning, one night of digging, and then we lost everything,” Snrly Fursson admits.

Laura Cabak, a zoo spokesperson, said a barrier divided a large habitat into two sections, with female bears on one side and wolves on the other.

Cabak said when staff arrived Tuesday morning they found the wolves, “who are very good diggers,” had dug under the barrier and made it to the other side.

“At least they give us credit where credit is due,” agreed Snrly.

Assiniboine Park Zoo officials said wolves dug underneath a barrier and into the female polar bear enclosure, but they didn’t see any contact between the two species, and in fact, found Aurora and Kaska, the bears, fast asleep.

“IDIOTS!” shouted Grwlr and Snrly.

The male bears, Storm and Hudson, located in a different enclosure have been on exhibit the whole time.

“IDIOTS!” they shouted again.

The CBC reported that the wolves and Aurora and Kaska had to be moved out for repairs.

“There’s nothing wrong with them! It’s the fence that’s being repaired! Where in hell are the copy editors at the CBC?” the wolves yipped.

“These kinds of adjustments are absolutely normal with the opening of any new exhibit, especially one this complex,” said Don Peterkin, Chief Operations Officer with the Assiniboine Park Conservancy in a news release.

“We had a couple of minor issues present themselves during the first few days after opening that needed to be addressed and we’ll likely see other areas that need attention as we move forward and are able to observe the exhibit day to day.”

All the exhibits are now open again and the animals are back in their own space, the zoo said.

When asked for further comment on the CBC story, the spokeswolves smiled and winked.

“Don’t write off those fucking meerkats, is all we’re saying.”

* * *

With files from