Congrats America, You’re Officially Cool Again!

(photo courtesy of Boston.com)

On November 5th, 2004 I drove across the border from Canada into Upstate New York, to do some shopping at a local outlet mall. Being the day after President Bush’s re-election what struck me was how quiet everything was. Everything and everyone.

Despite the Greater Buffalo area having the appearance of a red state — that is, yellow ribbons on every door and “Support Our Troops” bumper stickers on every SUV — the mood there was anything but celebratory. I particularly remember looking around the tables at a small diner and watching all the sullen eyes staring downwards while John Kerry’s Concession speech blasted on the wall-mounted TV. It was as if every patron in the joint was thinking the same thing:

“Here we go again…”

And now on this Inauguration Day 2009, it seems that America’s got its groove back. It has once again become the land of opportunity and seems primed for (and I’ll take credit for this phrase) Camelot 2.0.

As a dual citizen of Canada and the US and A I wish all the best for my adopted second homeland. Please don’t mess this up, okay?

What The Cat Dragged In

WHUT U LOOKIN AT?
My new alarm clock -- er, roommate...

I think you’ll enjoy this whether you’re a cat person or not…

So I’ve got this new cat — still a kitten, really. And I’ve been going back and forth between keeping it safe indoors and my previous convictions about letting cats outside. But what’s become apparent in the two weeks I’ve had it is that my two-bedroom condo and a few cat toys are no substitution for the great outdoors. So late last week I started letting him out.

We’re quickly settling into a nice routine wherein he wakes me up at 6am (still working on that), I feed him then cut him loose for a morning patrol of his domain while I check my email, web feeds and maybe even write a blog post — just as I’m doing right now.

He’s happier too — so happy, in fact that Saturday morning he brought me a present… In the form of a live baby mouse.

I didn’t see it in his mouth when I let him in (it was still dark out) and didn’t realize what was happening until he plopped the thing on the floor and started batting it around. It got away and hid somewhere behind my TV and stereo, and since my cat was doing a pretty crappy job of catching it I decided to lock him in the bathroom and deal with the mouse myself. But by the time I got a flashlight the little guy was nowhere to be found.

The way I figured, best-case scenario would be that the mouse would die of shock and I’d be able to find the corpse before it started rotting, so I went on with my day and headed into the shower. On my way out I noticed that my cat was paying more attention than usual to his scratching pad. And what lay underneath? If you guessed “a mouse with very poor judgement in hiding places”, you are correct!

I immediately went in search of some rubber gloves. When I came back my cat had the mouse in the middle of the kitchen floor. It looked for a second like they might actually be playing until I came to the realization that the mouse had probably resigned itself to die. I scooped it up by the tail in one hand and my cat in the other (so he wouldn’t swat at it), put the cat in the bathroom once again and set the mouse free outside. It didn’t seem to have any noticeable wounds; in fact, it curled its head around to look at me while I had it in my hands — possibly to thank me, or more likely thinking: “Oh no, what now?”

I guess my cat hasn’t yet been schooled in the fine art of the kill-bite. I kinda hope he never learns…

Vigilante Justice?

Taxi Driver Poster

To understand where I’m coming from with today’s post you first need to understand why I no longer give change to homeless people…

Back in a previous life a bunch of my friends came to see me perform at The Second City, and on our way to drinks afterwards through the quiet streets of Toronto’s financial district we were suddenly besieged by a rather distraught man in suit and tie, freaking out because he had locked his wallet in his car and had no way of getting home. Now with this being the era preceding the ubiquity of mobile phones it seemed like a plausible enough story, so we all dug deep and between the five or so of us the guy made off with at least twenty bucks.

I say “made off with” because later that same week I witnessed the very same man in the very same suit spinning the very same bullshit tale to passers-by in broad daylight. Instantly realizing that my friends and I had been duped, I ran up to the guy and tore a strip off of him — verbally, of course. And ever since that day I’ve been wary of anyone asking for change.

So…

Earlier today on the way to Yorkdale for cheap T-shirts I stopped off at the St. Clair West subway station to check out a new local fashion phenom — which would have been a total waste of time, if not for the scruffy-looking dude at the top of the escalator asking for money to get on the train.

On my way back into the station I witnessed a kind-hearted soul dump a pile of coins into his outstretched hand, and judging by his repeated thank-yous it seemed to me that the guy had scored enough cash for an adult TTC fare — no small feat these days, I might add! Further evidence that the gentlemen was now subway-bound: he started down the escalator directly behind me, waving thanks again to his benefactor as he stepped onto the moving staircase.

But a funny thing happened when I got to the turnstile… Buddy was no longer behind me! Acting on a hunch, I retraced my steps back to the top of the escalator leading to the north side of St. Clair Avenue, then underground to the other entrance on the south side of the street. And lo and behold, here was the man of the hour, soliciting change for subway with the same sob story. He even had the nerve to ask me for some. Again!

Instead I politely asked him why he wasn’t on the platform, since it seemed to me from his last transaction that he had everything he needed to be there. He held out his hand with a sad menagerie of pennies and nickels, clearly not the booty I had seen bestowed upon him a minute before. Plus, if he didn’t have enough cash for a subway fare, why pick that exact moment to switch locations? Logic would dictate that his first perch was the lucky one, so he should stay there, right?

Of course in the heat of the moment I wasn’t at all clever enough to articulate any of this. Instead I mustered up my best Clint Eastwood voice and told him it would be an unfortunate thing if he was scamming people.

At this moment he easily could’ve taken a swing at me or worse, something I really must remember when I put myself into these situations; instead he says to me: “I bet this makes your day, doesn’t it… Wandering around subway stations, harassing people.”

This would be an example of irony, perhaps?

I offered to pay his full fare, provided that he accompany me through the turnstile. He agreed, and we shared a bit of an awkward walk back to the fare box. And the thank-you I got as we parted ways somehow didn’t seem as heartfelt as the one I’d seem him dole out earlier.

As I got on the subway myself (in the opposite direction, thankfully) I gave a lot of thought to exactly what I had accomplished here. Here’s my best attempt at an explanation:

For me, there’s certainly nothing wrong with charity — and I speak from some experience here. But I have a big, big problem with any unscrupulous soul who flat-out lies to unsuspecting citizens and rewards their charity with robbery. I also think that I’m within my rights to do some occasional fact-checking should a situation arise that deserves it. Just knowing that nosy people like me are out there might give one of these scam-artists pause for thought before putting hat in hand to rip people off.

Or maybe I’m way out of line, sticking my nose into business that’s clearly not mine, or as the saying goes “kicking people when they’re already down”.

What do you think?

Dating on Teh Interwebs, Part I

eHarmony.ca

At the risk of exposing myself to all kinds of potential ridicule, I’d like to broach the subject of dating on the internet.

These days I’m meeting more and more people who have met their current girlfriend/hook-up/husband/life partner/whatever online. Since these folks are all well-adjusted individuals (near as I can tell), why shouldn’t this very eligible bachelor enjoy the same romantic success as them? With this as my mantra, I took a deep breath and pointed my web browser to the uncharted territory of eHarmony’s home page.

Short answer: It’s not for me.

Long answer: New registrants on eHarmony get a free personality profile before they’re asked to fork over a hundred and something dollars to continue using the service. I wasn’t really paying attention to my results, due to my growing annoyance at the smarmy words of encouragement on each new screen:

“Don’t think too hard about your answers… It’s meant to be fun!”
“We know it’s hard to rate yourself… You’re doing great!”
“Keep it up, you’re on your way to meeting highly compatible matches!”

Jesus, what is this, Dianetics?!

Anyway, at the end of this ordeal you’re presented with a list of potential suitors (suitresses?) and invited to enter your credit card info for the privilege of contacting them. It was at this point that I removed myself from the eHarmony database.

Call me old fashioned, but given the choice between that visceral thrill that you get when you realize there’s mutual interest from some attractive stranger and the cold, clinical match of x and y values on a database somewhere, well…

It also didn’t help that the matches I got were all too old and sounded entirely too dull for me. Even after I quit some woman still tried to contact me through my expired account. Sorry to disappoint you, “Diane from Moncton”, but that’s not the way I roll…

Coming up in Part II: Lavalife and more!

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Categorized as Random Tagged

Advice for those stupid “Holiday Letters”

Longtime readers of my previous blog will remember that I lampooned the whole concept of the holiday letter back in 2004. I mean, come on people… How narcissistic do you have to be to send out a holiday card stuffed a photocopied scrap of paper detailing all the wonderful things you’ve done over the past year? Isn’t the whole point of a card to wish someone well, and to let them know you’re thinking of them? Am I right? Can I get a “hell, yeah”?!

Thankfully only two guilty parties have affronted my inbox in this way, but they both run so afoul of Christmas spirit that I must, as a public service, pass on their transgressions to you…

Tip #1: Stay “On Message”

I got an email from someone I worked with this past year, whose bulk holiday greeting kicks off like this:

Merry Christmas! Hope you’ve got great plans for the holiday season. Here’s what happened to me in 2006…

… And continues on with stuff about himself for twenty-five paragraphs!

Even more insulting is that he liberally drops names of his friends into the story of his life — I suppose to encourage readers to comb through the dreck and see if they were worthy of a mention therein. Even if I had made the cut that wouldn’t have stopped me from forwarding the email and having a good laugh with the two talented actors this guy has made miserable. What an asshole.

Tip #2: Remember Your Audience

The second bulk greeting came in the form of a link to another generic communiqué, this one on a web page. I’m too much of a chicken-shit to provide a link, as someday she may Google her way to this very post.

If that’s the case and you’re reading this, here’s something you may not have thought of when you uploaded that thing: The only reason I know you is through your ex-husband, so if you send me to a page where you go on and on about what a bastard he is of course I’m going to forward it to him. And if you make me choose sides, well… I guess you lose.

And by the way, instead of bemoaning the fact that you’re single how about you take another look at the stuff you wrote about your ex? Maybe you’ll find some answers there.

And on that note, here’s wishing you a safe and happy holiday letter-free holiday, and all the best for 007!