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!)

Grand Bend, Mind Bend, Grand Day

According to Google maps, it’s 73 kilometres to Grand Bend from my place, so I drove twice that this morning on my weekly tour of southern Lake Huron environs. For most of the way, I listened to CBC Radio One, and am better educated on:

– the reaction of Canadians, especially Quebec Muslims interviewed for the radio, about the murders of six men in the Quebec mosque by another pale-skinned non-Muslim angry young man; the need for Quebec to acknowledge its changing demography; and the continuing hope we have as a people that we will be better than this – that we must be better than this one small evil man’s stupidity and hatred – always.

– interpretations of George Orwell’s “1984” in light of the first days of Donald *rump’s lunatic, lying kleptocracy (my description, not theirs); the optimistic outcomes that can be taken from the novel; and the perspectives of two very erudite and articulate literature experts on the value and re-evaluation of Orwell the man and the recent, sudden renewed interest in his dark vision of a hyper-controlled and repressed society. Very cogent expressions about the divisions in the American populace, where non-urban areas have suffered more from globalization, and the observation that social media has helped isolate people from other groups and individuals, so that exposure to varying ideas in daily life among people you know has decreased tremendously. Points of view are now stretched to ends of the spectrum, leading to less respect for conversation and understanding. Comments on the vilification of Hillary Clinton, who served her government well, and the pernicious use of language used during *rump’s campaign to dismiss her value as a good public servant, a leader, and a woman.

– corporate America’s responses to the new government in Washington, in view of what ideological and social mores and changes corporations can or should be expected to fulfil – if any – and a comparison of those with the functions and roles of good government; and Canadian corporations’ cautious slowness in reacting to Washington since January 20, as evinced by a lack of Canadian corporate representation on the radio panel.

Finally, the “Bend” of my drive to Grand Bend: CBC Radio gave a short synopsis of David Frum’s recent writing in The Atlantic Magazine, after which I must confess I agree with him. There’s a shivering timber moment! He described the current administration in Washington as being desirous only of personal financial gain. And now I must go read what this arch-conservative, once the beloved of the Republican Party, bemoans about the Orange One and His Bunch of Ill-educated Pirates. It may hurt me, and I’m a little scared, but I was impressed and glad he’d written what he did, and so shall find out more.


Grand Bend, like all towns propped up by summer populations, has a distinct beauty in the quiet of winter.


The water looks particularly cold on a very cold, windy day, but the colours of the place are magnificent.


And I’m not the only one to take a look out over the lake from the warmth of my car.

The car is great, the winter tires are great, the rock stations were playing good driving, sing-along tunes during the news segments, so I didn’t have to listen to what horrible things are spewing from D.C. thus far today, and the CBC was great, too.

I spent too much money at the Super Store, but what a sale they had. What a place. I’ve got a barbecued chicken, I’ve got a fresh, half of a steelhead salmon for less than $10, and I bought a roast beef (small)(for under $13!). Chicken for sandwiches and spaghetti with alfredo sauce. Salmon to cut up and freeze. Beef for Sunday, for which I must bake bread!!

And two very nice bed pillows. Because the Real Canadian Superstore was selling one for $12, two for one dollar more.

If you knew what giggly joy I get just throwing stuff in the car, you’d want to distill it and keep it all for yourself. It’s so much fun! So common, so run of the mill, and so wonderful.

Four months in to my new life in a new place. Hurray!

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.

Thor. His Day. Musing on eternal beauty.

Saw a few crows having discussions with a big red tailed hawk about what might have been disagreements about advantageous positions in a particularly large bare tree on the edge of the Blackwell Pond up by the leash-free dog field today. The tallest one, almost smack dab in the middle of this photograph. 

The winds were coming in from the south in a strong, almost unfriendly breeze, punctuated by punchy gusts that were throwing surprised geese into ungainly manoeuvres as they tried to swerve and swirl in for pond-top landings.

Two tiny, flitting birds of a sort I do not know gave up heading across the dog field, and stuck with the trees at the pond edge. I hope they’re headed south and get there soon. They were so tiny and so beautiful: soft brown-gray and gray-yellow is all I could see, and all I could think of is “Some people look for alien life, but who knows all of what is here?!” They twitted and chirped to each other. They stuck together. They were in it for the long haul.

No people but me. No other dogs. Sky, pond, geese, for the most part. Wind pushing me up against the fence, elbows on the top wire. Listening to the world spin, spin.
Hours later, in the early supper time dark, here I am: dog fed, cat nestled against me, twinkling lights along both sides of the river, mild air.
I’ve got the Roku player, so Netflix and YouTube. I’ve got my free from the mail room community papers, and all the ads. For intelligence and infiltration, so to speak, and wrapping coffee grounds all week. 
I’ve got that sky, and that air, and that pond scene, and am amazed and overjoyed that all those years of working and the fortunate circumstances that overtook me brought me here, and now.
Think about those little birds. Wish them home, sweet, home.

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.

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.