Wednesday, June 25, 2008

in Flux

No, not an influx of inspiration or an influx of opportunities (though I suppose I have had plenty of chances, of various natures, recently). No, I am in a state of flux and it's affecting my blog.

And it's not acid reflux -- I kicked that about a year ago. The endoscopy hasn't come back yet but I'm guessing my G.I. will tell me I'm just a too stressed out, and it's affecting my tummy.

I'm between full time and freelance. Between a long-distance relationship and a live-in boyfriend. Between spring and summer (cause I don't quite trust that the rainy spell is over). Between endurance sports and capoiera! pick-up soccer! ultimate frisbee!
I like to play in the summertime. I like to give up my regimes and give into random team sports, sparring as the night grows on. Then out for beers to watch the game.

So I was determined to commit an entry every three days this June, then market my blog to the world and see what happens. Alas, the flux has me watching my back and flexing my limbs, always aiming for a smile and a calm, cool demeanor. 200 words is as much as I can muster, it seems...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Underused word of the day

a coarse-mannered woman who is prone to shouting.

I was looking up fishy words for a piece I'm writing on Whalesbone Oyster House. I had oysters there this morning at 10 a.m. and they put me in a right snappy mood.

And I think I have now found the fishiest word of 'em all...
I found this interpretation at, and it really made me wish I shrieked like a fishwife more often:

In London, fish mongers were also known as "The wives of Billingsgate". according to Ackroyd, it is thought that they were descendants of devotees of the God, Belin who was worshipped there at one time. "They dressed in strong 'stuff'gowns and quilted petticoats; their hair, caps and bonnets were flattened into one in distinguishable mass upon their heads." They were also called 'fish fags'. "They smoked small pipes of tobacco, took snuff, drank gin and were known for their colourful language... A dictionary from 1736 defined a 'Billingsgate' as a scolding, impudent slut." You can almost imagine how they must have smelled.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Don't ya hate ... golf.

Golf is taking a lot of flack these days -- and so it should.

From soaring rates of cart accidents to second-guessing their right to drain our water resources and even taking the issue of golf as a pleasurable activity to court (and winning!), everyone seems to be picking on the little (white, moneyed) guy.

Me, I have a love-hate relationship with golf -- or should I say golf courses. Like Sports Illustrated writer Frank Deford, I feel that while "only God can make a tree, but golf course architects can make trees seem prettier, and golf course superintendents can make the grass greener, and the flowers brighter, so that even when you can't hit a fairway or sink a putt, a golf course certainly is an awfully lovely place to be frustrated." Or tired but tanned, meticulously pruning and mowing your way through an afternoon for $10 hour.

And, like Deford, I have seen first hand the environmental scourge that these oases of greenery are, by nature. Nevermind the pesticides flowing into waterways, or the gas spills that naturally occur when you put teenage boys behind the wheel of all-terrain vehicles and tell them 'quick, the Gator's out of gas and the first tee-off is in five minutes!'
No, it's the need for constant water that really plagues the regions that golf courses call home.

In the summer of 2003, while sitting out a summer, waiting for cracked pelvis to heal (another casualty of the golf industry: poor workplace safety records), I had a lot of time to look around my mountain town of Invermere, B.C. -- and watch it wither away for lack of water.

This was the same summer that saw B.C. break record after record for high heat, drought, and, of course, forest fires.

So while I absorbed the rays from my balcony, the bush and trees were dying and igniting. From Google maps it must've looked like Armageddon. I know that as I passed through Banff National Park in late August (that is, after an hour of waiting -- with the threat of fire so high, they could only let traffic pass through in spurts), I put on "The End" by the Doors and imagined it all falling away...

Though Deford insists that the golf industry is beginning to understand that it's fundamentally unsustainable, I'm doubtful. New grasses that require less moisture? Overseeding 'frowned upon'? There's only so far that recycled water can go, my friend, and fostering the notion that man can (and will!) control nature will be an uphill climb -- with a heavy load of metal sticks.

I call on golfers to follow the lead of Henry Rachfalowski, the financial executive who shunned golf -- and shocked his colleagues -- by refusing to golf. He not only set a precedent for individuals who are taxed on benefits they don't enjoy, but he also got people saying ... outloud, everyone, 'Don't you hate golf??'

Maybe this could be their swan song...
(I can see it: black ash raining down on their golf umbrellas as bit their lip and straighten their plaid collars)

The End
This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end

Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
Ill never look into your eyes...again
-- The Doors

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Book of the Year: 1960

It was one of those Sunday evening moments, like a relaxed, enjoyable phone call with your cousin or playful, invigorating game of soccer. I walked around my house in my pajamas.
The garbage was at the front of the house and the recycling at the back and I am responsible for putting the garbage out this month so yes, I walked around my house in my pajamas (and it's not the first time!).
And there, on Gilmour Street at Lyon, were two stacks of encyclopedias, tied up with string. Being the proud user of such reference books as a child (no Nintendo here), I stooped down to have a look. And there I saw it: the Book of the Year for 1960. Yes they had 1959 and a bunch of other regular reference texts, but I stuck with my gut and yanked 1960 out of it's twine.
Honduras -- Home furnishings. Communism. Baghdad Pact -- Baking industry. Motion Pictures.
Special feature on Hawaii! (The Island State?!!)
With Canadian Supplement!

I really don't know where to start, but I do feel a new part of my brain tingle. I've never been good at history, I've felt a total imbecile, actually, but I'm feeling this book might be good for something...though I have already noticed that the information is mostly about market prices and industry production.

But it is signed by Diefenbaker -- who, I have learned since my curbside find, was Canada's 13th prime minister (1957-1963).

Friday, June 13, 2008

Very Superstitious

Are you superstitious?
It's a tough question.

I would say no, but I believe that some 'omens,' call them indications if you want, can get the better of our ability to maintain a positive outlook and a sense that we're in control of things.

It's Friday the 13th ... and I have my second triathlon tomorrow.

On the day before my last race, the wind broke my mirror. My roommates mirror has since been similarly smashed -- she also puts the blame and the seven years of bad luck squarely on the shoulders of the wind. And who has seen the wind? Neither you nor I ...
Sorry, Couldn't help it.

But somehow we feel like we have to appease the bad forces that might trip up a race, and because i love lyrics and Stevie Wonder:

Very superstitious, writing's on the wall,
Very superstitious, ladders bout' to fall,
Thirteen month old baby, broke the lookin' glass
Seven years of bad luck, the good things in your past.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Keeping a pet

And he gave you a german shepherd to walk
With a collar of leather and nails
And he never once made you explain or talk
About all of the little details

--'Master Song,' Leonard Cohen

I've been thinking a lot about pets these days.

I suppose it's mostly because it's puppy season; everyone everywhere seems to have small canines with extra skin and too-big paws. I melt at the sight of them and crane my neck as I pass dog parks. I've always been a dog person and even took out all the dog books when I could first read, memorizing breed names and planning my litter.

But now, after years of deciding it wasn't the right time -- I was moving or wanted to, I didn't know where I'd be living for the next fifteen years -- I'm not so sure about the role dogs will play in my life. I'm not sure I want to 'keep' a pet, and I'm not sure dogs are meant to be kept.

In Hawaii, things were different when it came to dogs and cats. They hung about, you put food out, they offered affection, you accepted. It seemed a mutually beneficial relationship, with each party able to walk away from the set-up at any given point.

In Ottawa, 'owners' (or 'caregivers' as local retailer Posh Nosh refers to them) invest thousands to purchase and maintain a pet -- even more on the emotional level, as pets come to serve as surrogate children and life partners.
Is this fair to the beasts?
Did they ask for this kind of co-dependent relationship?

I suppose one could argue that children, too, don't 'ask' to be born. But that seems a bit more natural, like part of maintaining a species.

But when I try to see my sister, who has a 2-year-old husky, or my friends who just adopted a bulldog, as parents involved in a natural course of events, something inside of me cringes. It's similar to my aversion to the argument that 'we might as well eat cows -- there are too many of them. What would cows do if we didn't eat them?'

And who would take care of pure bred dogs if not wealthy westerners?

I believe the mutts at the pound may be a different story -- though with this week's scathing article by Randall Denley at the Ottawa Citizen (The humane society's big secret: euthanasia), I really don't know if I can trust our local humane society.

In then end, as I walk with my sister's pooch and watch her, nose in the air, searching out scents and enjoying this brief, elated hour of partial-freedom (huskies are a breed that cut'n'run, making off-leash sessions for city-dwellers few and far between), I wonder who is getting the most out of this relationship. I imagine how I would feel as a kept woman; I feel uneasy about the extra attention I get with a dog; and I feel like I owe her something.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Cigarettes, and something that seems to work

At first, I thought I was just the first one to visit the Quickie on Bank and Gilmour that day: covering the cigarette stand there was a piece of hard plastic. (As my previous post attests, sometimes I get up pretty early in the morning, for no apparent reason).

Then, on Friday night, a group of us happened to be in another local convenience store -- this one just a block way, at Bank and Maclaren. If you know the area and enjoy fries, cheese curds and gravy, you'll know the place.

This time it was sheets of pale orange cotton material that adorned the area behind the cash. We all know what sits there, we all know that they lead to lung cancer and are a scourge on our public health system, and yet many of us still enjoy a cigarette or twenty now and again.

And here it was that I realized the coverings were not because the Quickie was actually slow to fully open up (isn't it a 24-hour joint anyway? and why would they cover the cigarette racks overnight? perhaps dawn isn't my best time after all...). No, it was because, as of May 31, retail stores in Ontario and Quebec aren't allowed to display cigarrettes.

Especially since I'm a journalist, I felt pretty out of the loop. The only excuse I can provide here is that, at the time, I was preoccupied with the healthy endeavor of running a half-marathon. But I happened to be one of those 'runners who smoke;' not often, but occasionally, after a big meal and with a glass of wine, I'll enjoy a drag of a cigarette.

In any case, the rule is out. Apparently cig stands were known as 'power walls,' and were one of the last remaining areas for tobacco companies to push their product.

And, apparently, the crumbling of these walls are having the intended effect. While the studies haven't come out yet, people are talking.

About alcohol-induced purchases, the painful process of trying to quit, the situation of the 'social smoker,' and starting a rally at Giant Tiger.

Yes, Your All Canadian Family Discount Store also sells tobacco products, but when a friend attempted to inquire about the price of her favourite brand, the cashier timidly responded that she was not allowed to divulge this information. Promotion? I guess so. Soon the people behind her in line were up in arms, complaining about the ban.

And while she may have gathered momentum for the opposition, she didn't buy cigarettes.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Wondering while wandering

This morning, I did something I've never done before -- in Ottawa.
I woke up early, by accident, and, unable to got to sleep and too sore to run, I went for a walk.

I knew I wanted to climb, to a vista or up a mountain or even just some stairs. Centretown is pretty flat, though yesterday from my balcony I realized we have a view that belies our concrete surroundings (if I look to the northwest, all I see are the trees of precious Dundonald Park). In any case, whether dreams or calf muscles were calling for it, I went in search of a climb at 5:55 a.m.

I've always been a morning person, so it's no surprise that I felt a rush of positive energy upon stepping out into the streets. I also felt mist, fog, or rain; it was a wet morning but, unlike yesterday when I was already late for a meeting with a financial adviser, I didn't run back for my umbrella. No, I kept walking and threw in my earphones, striding through the mist with Bjork.

On the way, it occurred to me that ...
... I have had the best success in running races when I don't try or strategize that much. As I enter the final week of training for my second triathlon, I plan to take this lesson to heart and play with the water, listen to my body, and have fun on race day.

... some people might get cute, fluffy chows because they are lonely and enjoy talking to strangers. Dogs that, when wet, feel like wet toques near a fireplace and could probably use some training, but nonetheless really tug at my heart strings perhaps have owners that need some warm-heartedness, too. All this in an effort to reconcile my conflict about pet owners and my deep, constant, dog-envy.

... the headlines do affect me. I am scared of our NCC pathways. I feel safer when I see, from afar, tiny bodies making use of the Ottawa River pathway, but the cyclist and the runner may not be able to save me from the attacker.

... in some ways we walk around in a bubble of our own making, engaged in dialog with ourselves or plugged into iPods. But in other ways, ways that hit me like a ton of chemically-saturated bricks when I hit Bank Street, we are utterly consumed with projecting a fresh face, a strong scent, a put-together image. The scent of cologne really hung in the air this misty morning, and I realized those hyper-sensitive people might be onto something in their demands for a scent-free workspace.

All to say,
what a way
to start a day.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Excuses, excuses

Wow, a full two weeks since my last post. Excuse One: my life, house, body, and schedule were completely overtaken by the Ottawa Race Weekend. For once in my lifetime of participating in road races (18 years now!), I was with a strong crew of runners, and I completely indulged in the experience, taking a week off to tour with an old friend from B.C. who had come in for the race.

Now I'm back, and meant to be working. But the day my friend left, it was like my body gave up the ghost, and I fell prey to some weird allergy-flu thing that has kept me in bed for two days.

But this is my first time being sick as a freelancer. What to do? I can't use the excuse that I might contaminate my workplace. No, only my roommates suffer, and I can't do too much about that.

This morning, as I hauled my sore body out of bed, I figured, "well, this is an advantage of the freelance life. You don't need to call in -- you can just take a sick day when you need it."

Then, my roommate was heading out to work. The sun was shining and I thought, "maybe that's all I need. Some fresh air..."

Then, I misspelled a name in a pitch. Turns out I can contaminate workplaces, virtual, perhaps, but workplaces just the same, with my foggy head.
With that, off to bed.