Sssswwwwwwussssssssssssssssss!!!!! SSSWwwwwuck!!! SSSssweet!!!

I did go today.
I did vacuum.
Well, I plugged in and pushed and dragged the appliance shown above all over my apartment for about half an hour.
I did not use the hose and attachments to go under things. I got hot and sweaty enough earlier, was my excuse.
I can do that on Saturday was my second idea.
And I probably will, because this Hoover is a mighty fine Hoover.
This appliance picked up two canisters of fur and dirt. I think it picked up fur and dirt from the last three tenants, as well as everything neglected by my other vacuum since October. It emptied easily and cleanly.
Also, it is red and shiny.
There was a lavender coloured vacuum cleaner at the store. I was becoming enraged just looking at it.
Red and shiny is good.
Finally, I believe that the furry dog pictured on the box was reduced in size seven times by close proximity to an operating model, and is revealed almost bald.
There is hope yet.

KA-BOOOOOMMMM!!!!

What did I ever do to the Bissell Vacuum Company? Hmn? What have I ever done to anyone to deserve this fifty-six-year-long fight with carpet cleaning and carpet shampooing appliances? And, more importantly, how is Bissell allowed to design, name, produce and sell a "pro" vacuum cleaner that works as well as me shaking a stick at the pet fur on my wall-to-wall apartment carpeting? EH?
I am all sweaty and mad.
I always get sweaty and mad when I vacuum. My mom used to make me clean the house with an old "floating" globular Hoover when I was a kid. It flung particulates everywhere. My dad was a matchstick shredding, tobacco-shedding, ash-spreading slob. I bump walls and furniture in completely unsublimated rage to this day, thanks to him – less the coughing, thanks to air filtering. I have had many vacuum cleaners of greater and lesser worth over the years, but I suspect the entire world would agree with me when I say that the MINUMUM REQUIREMENT from such a machine would bloody well be SUCTION.
I am, today, finally admitting that I am broken. Broken, hopeless and forlorn.
"Oh," you say. "Dyson!" you say. I hate that Dyson guy. He is so smug. He sells $700 vacuums. $800 vacuums. And a pet fur specialty vacuum that I can order from amazon.ca for $900. I wish he would have devoted his life to perfecting a toaster, because I have to toast my bagels and bread in two steps to get them right. And I love my toaster. No one understands the need for perfect toast, so I work around it.
But vacuum cleaners? Vacuum cleaners should be easy! Jets in reverse! Make stuff GO AWAY! There are flippin LEAF BLOWERS destroying everyone's piece of mind all over the damned place! Men LOVE THEM! Turn the motor the other way!!!

Why are there useless $100 vacuums and divinely perfect $700 vacuums and nothing but wretched gambles in between?

I knew it wouldn't be easy. It is never easy. The cat and dog take off to the furthest walls. The cord gets yanked to its utmost length. I push the power button. Dust and fur go in and then
SONOFA
that infuriating sliiiiiiiiithhh sound when a glob of dog hair throws the vacuum into a state of shock and I have to shut her all down, open the hatch, pull out the tangle, shut the hatch, click the canister back on, plug in the machine, touch the floor and
SONOFA
that infuriating sliiiiiiiiithhh sound when a glob of dog hair throws the vacuum into a state of shock and I have to shut her all down, open the hatch, pull out the tangle, shut the hatch, click the canister back on, plug in the machine, touch the floor and
SONOFA
that infuriating sliiiiiiiiithhh sound when a glob of dog hair throws the vacuum into a state of shock and I have to shut her all down, open the hatch, pull out the tangle, shut the hatch, click the canister back on, plug in the machine, touch the floor and
SONOFA

KA-BOOM!

I'VE HAD IT!

If I were one half of a millimeter closer to being a slightly different kind of person, there would be an assortment of busted pieces of a crappy, useless household appliance littering the little concrete paved patio six floors below me.
As it is, I see Walmart, the retailer I hate but can actually afford, has a highly rated Hoover in stock. I haven't had a fight with a Hoover for a long time. Shark was okay to me for a while. Bissell makes me cry. My Bissell "Pro Heat" "power steamer" sits here beside me in the living room. Dead. It lead me along for two years. YouTube advises I open it up, as I might be able to discover a part that I might be able to remove, order, and replace.
I am, at heart, a simple consumer. I wish to purchase a thing and use it for a reasonable length of time that I measure in years and years. I don't want a noisy pile of plastic, wheels, and tubes to exude heat and not ingest anything remotely resembling household dirt.
I am not going today, but when I do, please, little Hoover, please, be good to me.

No Food, Wonders of the World, Art, No Food, Food

I tried to buy lunch today. I got this brainy idea yesterday – I’d visit the newly-opened restaurant on the corner, visit our famous museum, visit our famous art gallery, and enjoy ice cream for supper sometime around 7:30 this evening. President’s Choice Vanilla mixed with Breyer’s Dark Chocolate Truffle. I have enough left of each for one big bowl of it. I have saved it as a kind of a reward. For enduring a “webinar” I should listen to for professional purposes. That I’d rather not.

I live in a small town. People correct me, correctly, to advise that it is, in fact, a small City, Capital “C” – but it is really a town. And I – along with a large portion of the downtown populace – have been watching the dismantling of a failed culinary adventure for some months now, hoping, eagerly, for a different eatery to plunk down, prosper, and stay. Downtown took terrible hits years ago, I am told, losing commerce and all to the outskirts mall. Slowly, it’s been coming back. Each piece of the core propping up and encouraging the others. Two days ago, through the new, massive dark windows of this renovation venture, we could see booths and mops. Yesterday the signs were up, lights lit, the windows were rolled open and the happy hubbub of satisfied diners emanated out to those of us walking dogs and the like.

I googled the menu. I counted the cash. I walked over. I rejoiced in the closed windows – hey, it’s over thirty degrees Celsius with the humidity today – and then I went in.

My rule is: five minutes or being ignored by six separate staff, and I’m outta there. This lovely space, which shall remain nameless, was full. Unfortunately, it has been designed with a large number of extraordinarily comfortable looking six-person curved booths, many four-person booths along the long window wall, and a large, disheartening collection of tippy-toppy high tables for four, with matching tippy-toppy bar stools. And that’s it. So parties of two monopolize more room than is otherwise necessary. And parties of one do not belong. Also, as I stood there, I decided that no matter what happened, the high chairs were not a prudent perch. I am tall enough to hop up. Visions of my rump accelerating all the way down to the floor under a broken stool preoccupied me for a while, though. I did have some time to think about safety, and spectacle, and the social aspects and psychology of seating and comfort. As well as the optics of being elevated among this crowd to eat a burger.

In a city, people eating lunch do not gawk at whomever comes in, and then they do not gawk again when that person waits for a table. As I took inventory of seating design, I made slightly too long, disconcerting (for me) eye contact with probably ten customers, at whom I smiled, because this is a small town, but not one of the five individual wait staff walking right past me standing there would look me in the eye. You know that swervy motion people make with their whole head when a big bee flies by their nose? That’s what I got. Five times. The owners have another version of this place in a town close by that is spoken of highly. Ostensibly, they’ve done this “service” routine before. They may have, in fact, encountered a lone person waiting for a table in a full place before. I can’t tell you anything about it or what might have happened, though, because in a city, a staff member would say, “Hi! We’re so busy today! We’ll have a table in about twenty minutes. Is that okay?” In a town, this big woman is, to those from whom I would’ve ordered a big meal and a pint, and tipped well, absolutely invisible. It’s Las Vegas, pay-per-view magical. Except to ten customers. Who’d probably would’ve watched me eat. And drink. And break a chair.

So they may prosper, but they’ll do it without me.

Off I went to the famous, privately owned Stones & Bones Museum. Entrance fee: $7 even. Stuffed with an alarming large and varied menagerie of taxidermy, fantastic fossils, information posters, preserved specimens of this, that, and the other, and possessed of an excellent gift shop. The best thing about the Stones & Bones, though, amid the walls of beetles and butterflies and shark jaws and gems and dinosaur pieces and hunks of copper and snake skins and bird-killing spiders and EVERYTHING is the ebullient banter of amazed, chattering, joyful kids. One of whom, unprompted, pointed out to me in particular more details about a specific iridescent butterfly than I was quite prepared to enjoy. But still. There’s something wrong with you if you forget how that was – to see something so wondrous for the first time, and to tell somebody about it. It’s a great place.

So off to the Judith & Norman Alix Art Gallery. All contents actually owned by this sliver of a gem. As you will be told three times – all contents owned, I mean – and will thus, in all likelihood, remember. Admission free, donations gladly accepted. Two Emily Carr works beautifully displayed, with illustrations of how one, in particular, was restored to its bright self. Respectable Group of Seven in small number. Modern stuff upstairs. Pleasant and knowledgeable reception, and two interestingly informative volunteers. Thank you. I’ll be back in a year.

And then I walked my heat-heavy ankles over to a pub that had its doors all open. In this heat! So I came home.

Supper will be cremini mushrooms in olive oil and butter, with garlic and spinach, on spaghettini. And a beer. I doubt very much that there is a webinar in my near future. There will be ice cream. My ankles have returned to happiness. A good day, even without lunch.


* GPS! in case you’re helicoptering in! (I told you it is cool for kids!)

Wind Waves Winter

When this building was erected, in the late 70s, it must’ve been utterly snazz. Money was spent on quality features. Some 40 years on, the double-paned windows hang fast, with just a low tremble and a small rattle with every gust of brutally cold air that would shake us up and off our foundation if it could. 40 years of merciless gusts from the river and lake. Congratulations, aluminum frame makers and installers. You did a great job, and I thank you.

The river was a miniature Japanese ink drawing of ocean storms this morning. Deep green-blue undulating triangles punched up to shimmy and writhe, some transformed into dragon paws, flipping white crests off fingers of instantly frozen, icy drops.

The dog had to take me on the full walk for the satisfaction and health of his alimentary canal. My overall health and fitness benefit from this couple of kilometres of perambulation, also, but a face held in a grimace of squinting against a brutal breeze by a full waterfall of instantly frozen tears cannot be a welcome addition to anybody’s Beauty Plan. I would have preferred the quick release, one round block plan this morning, but Espresso’s guts don’t care about my wishes.

How cold was the windchill? I wore my new 5X men’s Walmart jacket with hood, and my triple-warm homemade hat, and I STRODE MIGHTILY FAST, and I didn’t break a sweat. Ooh. That’s cold.

I’ve been watching the bridge a little bit since breakfast, and I am certain I’d be afraid to drive a big rig today. Especially over the bridge. Unless it was laden with lead ingots or something. 

This an interesting town, weather-wise. No snow to speak of, and we dodged freezing rain. You don’t notice fallen tree branches littering lawns, because anything not hanging on for dear life, for the long haul, got ripped away ages ago.

The snow might be coming south now. The horizon on the Michigan side washes out in a cloud, and soon, perhaps, we will be enveloped. Or not.

A sturdy little land ship. Ever on.

SANTA CLAUS PARADE!! Small Town Style.

I didn’t remember to take my phone, with its camera – and I’m glad.

I’m also glad I live in a place where advertisements, banners, newspaper notices, and PARADE banners bearing the words “Kinsmen Santa Claus Parade” carry no evil or untoward connotations of any kind – unless you are a jealous supporter of the Rotary Club, and they were in the parade, too.

I have never seen so many huge, beautiful, shiny & chromed-up industrial trucks, tow trucks, crane trucks, vintage fire trucks, emergency response trucks, beach patrol jeepy things, lawn care company trucks, petroleum industry pickup trucks, and whatever a “Badger ™ Daylighter” is. (Underground excavation with lighting, is my guess from the massive vehicle’s impressive attachments.) Some of the guys driving and pulling the flatbed floats had their wide-eyed, happy toddlers on their knees. Some of the guys made sure the trucks made a lot of noise. It was suitably festive and awe-inspiring, especially if – like me – you enjoy feeling five years old. And I did. Thanks to LEDs, twinkling lights were festooned everywhere. The crowd was devoted and big, but small town big, with room enough to see all.

The parade was to start at Exmouth at six p.m., and was to make its way down Christina Street to Wellington. That might be about two kilometres. I live in the middle. At six, I could see the police lights approaching, so I went downstairs in my new, long puffy coat, and sat in its toasty warmth on a low concrete wall for over an hour at one of the best Santa Claus parades I’ve ever seen.

It started with the police playing with their flashing lights and sirens and waving like lunatics. Next, a car dealership transported the local Noteworthies: village, town, municipality, province and federal representatives, who were riding in many examples of fun, glossy automobiles. Some of the Worthies walked between the dealership’s fine offerings. Symbolic and silly, because the kids had eyes only for noise, sparkle, and THE MAN, THAT MAN, THAT NORTH POLE MAN.

Everybody in the parade, which must have been the half of the population of Southwestern Ontario and some of our Michigan neighbours not sitting or standing along the street watching – waved, and waved, and sang, and shouted greetings, or handed out candy. Except one little girl on the softball organization’s trailer, who was UTTERLY FLAKED OUT. She’ll go down as The Kid Who Slept Through The 2016 Parade, Despite the Noise and Enthusiastic Hubbub.

My favourite participants included ten real tricked-out cowgirls on tricked-out western-style horses. Two of the women stood on their saddles for the duration. Astoundingly impressive. If you look them up on Google, they’re not the porn ones. They’re canadiancowgirls.com. Then there were THE WESTERN OUTLAWS!!! Whose banner hinted at mayhem -nay! Danger! – until we all saw “EXTREME LAWN MOWER RACERS”, with some of their members speeding and scooting around trucks and paraders and marchers in expectedly EXTREME daredevil fashion. Not a few guys got some ideas there.

One of the churches persuaded a large number of teenagers to sit morosely and motionless in fake beards and bedsheets on a flatbed helpfully named JESUS IS BORN. PERIOD. I believe they were Lutheran, and they do not go in for exclamation points. We have all been invited to services on Sunday, too, which was nice. The best part about that flatbed, though, was the two sheep in a crate under a spotlight: one chewing thoughtfully, the other bearing a haughty look of absolute disgust.

But it was a concrete cutting business, which shall go unnamed, that wins my prize for Minimalist and Slightly Begrudging Effort. I can hear one end of the telephone conversation:

“Angelo! They want money for the parade again!”

‘We still got those lights?’

“They only go over the top of the front windshield on the cube van!”

‘Put the lights on the truck and tell your brother he’s driving again this year.’

“He won’t wave at anybody, Angelo.”

‘So he doesn’t wave.’

They do driveways, pools, and assorted concrete cutting. And in a small town, you just put your truck in the parade. TA DA! Christmas.

There was a scaled down old-fashioned train with matching WHOOO-WHOOOO! that may have been a recording.

There were some excellent drummers, and a couple of radio stations, and some impressively in-tune and on-beat high school marching bands. A Christian school collected for The Good Shepherd food bank.

The company that owns and manages my apartment building and others in town had a flatbed themed “Finding Nemo/Dory”. Fish costumed persons shook hands with tots along the route.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten somebody. It was an hour of fun, with no break in the moving presentation.

In the elevator, I asked a teenager if he’d seen Santa.

“My friends thought it was stupid, but, yeah.”

You got a candy cane out of it, too, I said.

“I like being a kid,” he said.

Me, too.

Migration Report, Canada Goose Great Lakes Chapter 4456321a, Nov. 2016


Sarnia Empty: Congratulations, Everyone!

Dear Fellow Geese,

HONK!

HONK! HONK HONK HONK HONK!

HONK. HonkHonkHonk, HONK, Honk. 

Except Bob.

Enjoy the trip. See you next year!

BUNNY RABBITS!!!! (Maintaining mental acuity in retirement.)


Six-oh-four a.m. is a little early for most, and late for some, but it is the time I rolled out of bed this morning to a tail-wagging, front-leg-hopping, let’s-go-walking dog.

He’s happier every day about our new accommodations, and I am proud of him for making the effort to cope.

The elevator was all ours. Joy all around.

The eastern sky, dark, showed a blanket of cloud disappearing southward, and feathery wisps high in the southwest revealed the bright, waning, “supermoon”. It’s always a little damp around here, but it was the start of a promisingly pleasant day.

Down to the river walk we went. Me, trying to keep Espresso walking fast enough that I could say I’d exercised, and he, trying to sniff out the notes and scents of previous perambulators, the better to construct the complex totality of all the life and activity in this small patch of our teeming earth.

Too early today for geese, terns, gulls of any kind. Just grumpy ducks, unhappy to have to swim away from the path wall, in case of jumping, fowl-retrieving, water dog. Which Espresso is definitely not.

And then, after we crossed the railway tracks to come home, just past an art installation I call “Tetanus and her little sister, Lockjaw,” A BUNNY RABBIT! I stage-whispered it aloud, “Bunny rabbit!” as if Espresso was mentally dim, or hadn’t smelled it or seen it perhaps five minutes previously.

Please understand that Espresso has never, prior to seeing a rabbit in the same spot two weeks ago, evinced any interest whatsoever in chasing anything. But he wants to chase this little rabbit. Very, very much. He’s also good enough to sit and watch a small rabbit watching us. For a while. With just a quiver now and then, in anticipation of a run that never happens. Until a second set of ears pops up, giving the word, I guess, and suddenly two cotton-ball bottoms bounce and ping off into the shrubbery, whereupon Espresso forgets the leash for a second and gets himself yanked slightly.

Life is full of small disappointments. But then we get home and have breakfast!

The Eastern Cottontail rabbit is pictured here, thanks to Google Images. It really has a cotton-ball-like tail, and in the dark, the tail is a funny thing to watch, hopping away. A hopping beacon, in fact, for eyes attached to carnivorous teeth desiring meat. An odd evolutionary adornment, but not as disastrous as one might think. Because there they were.

Think about this: bunny rabbits. The two words sit together, comically I think, for an adult utterance. I worry that this sounds too close to “yummy,” a word used incessantly by some of my former workmates and beginner-level adult English language learners. A word I detested and continue to detest beyond any kind of rational explanation, and for which I find more accurate and precise synonyms: tasty, flavourful, sweet, spicy, hot, aromatic, tangy, cool, refreshing, gloriously delicious.

Which I hope those two Eastern Cottontails will never be. Long may they live and prosper. Ditto luscious and evocative synonyms. For the interior eye, and the well-oiled, happy humming of the active, engaged, intelligent, aging brain.

Pickup Trucks: a Guide to Small Town Vehicles (especially for Jennifer)


I’ve been away from Toronto for two months now, and would like to finish a report on vehicular transport that I began for my friends when I arrived in my new home.

Pickup trucks: they’re everywhere. When I walk Espresso in the morning, before the 7:00 a.m. shift for a lot of people, there can be nine trucks at a single stoplight, and maybe three SUVs, one Jeep, and two cars. The most popular models have crew cabs, which makes almost all of them a four-door truck. The deluxe models, I guess, are the extended crew cabs, where all four doors are big, for ease of entry into the back seat. Some extended cabs have narrower passenger doors, and I suspect these are for kids rather than crew. Some trucks have only two doors, so the kids in the back seats are small, or only theoretical. There are “regular” two-door pickup trucks to be seen on occasion, but not as many as you’d think.

Around here, the extended crew cab pickup is the equivalent of a city minivan, perhaps.

The piece de resistance in a pickup seems to be the oversized tire, double back wheel, diesel extended cab with extra long cargo bed. The one I saw this morning had sci-fi piping around and over the cab. VROOMBLE ROOMBLE. Yes. We can hear you. Accelerate wildly out of the 7-11 and wake everybody up!


Obviously, from the advertised price, these monsters are attractive options in a place where the snow closes Highway 402 regularly.

What I don’t understand, even in a petroleum processing town, is the propensity to idle these vehicles. To leave them running. To leave the keys in them and leave them running. Outside the Christina Coffee and More. Outside Walmart. I’ve seen this four times. It’s unbelievable! Do the drivers not pay for gasoline? Is it sloshed on them or doled out in barrels when they leave work at one of the refineries? Doesn’t anybody steal trucks around here? What about the goddamned environment?!? I’m breathing this air!

This morning, the Toronto Star supplied me with two appropriate photographs, and they got me thinking: polar bears should steal idling pickup trucks from small town parking lots! They could ransom them for World Wildlife Fund donations. It’d be a win-win situation.

If you think this is an impossible publicity opportunity, you have missed an entire U.S. election. 

End of report.

Next time from smaller town Ontario: Incredible invention now in every car and truck signals your intention to turn! AND IT’S FREE!

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.