Tag Archives: people are people

Ninety — Library Books Are Not Wikis, Actually

I took a book to work today, a library book, that I might read while eating my lunch. Don’t worry, I was going to be meticulous and not get food on the book. I’ve been reading and eating a long time. I only smear chip grease in books I own. Anyway, I grabbed one of the many library books I have in a pile on my shelf right now: The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje. Last year I heard him read at the Writers Festival from this book and I have been meaning to read it for an entire year so here we are, possibly to the day one year later, and I’m opening the book.

One page in, I see some words neatly printed in pencil in the book’s margin. The printed, book text reads (about our hero, who is a little boy on a big ship sailing across the ocean):

He ate several sandwiches, and after that he made his way down to his cabin, undressed, and slipped into the narrow bunk.

and next to it, there is an arrow drawn in pencil and a question:

Without steward guidance?

On the next page, our amateur editor adds a question mark to the phrase “two-stroke” (referring to an engine) and a page later, there is a tiny Boys’ written next to the typewritten phrase ..a small Boy’s Own Adventure.

I was only at page seven and in full bemused/rant mode.

I saw reference today to a study or article that said reading even six minutes a day is relaxing. WELL I’LL TELL YOU WHEN IT’S NOT. WHEN SOMEBODY TAKES IT UPON HIMSELF TO EDIT A LIBRARY BOOK.

Seriously, neat pencil printer, what is your problem? You can’t edit this book. It’s done. Also, who the hell do you think you are, editing Michael Ondaatje? Also, to whom are you addressing the questions? (and to whom am I addressing my questions? And how futile is all of this?) The other readers? Because you know, the library doesn’t send copies of books back to the authors when queries are pencilled in the margins. Those books just go back on the shelves for OTHER PATRONS to read and enjoy. Michael Ondaatje will NEVER HEAR your questions unless you send him an e-mail or a paper letter. THERE’S an idea! Write the man a letter with NOTES for his NOVEL. I bet he doesn’t have a critique group he can really trust to be honest with him. Dear Michael: Re: The Cat’s Table. See attached.

For fuck’s sake. Fucks’ sake? NO I KNOW WHAT I MEAN MOTHERFUCKER.

I think the best part is that on one page, there is a pencilled-in sentence that’s been rubbed out. Maybe another library patron erased it, but I like to think the Mad Editor did it him/herself. “Oh, sorry Michael Ondaatje. That note was off-side. I’ve removed it.”

People. Seriously.

Sixty-Five — Things I Saw

I take a two block walk to Safeway to buy milk. I pass a screaming infant in black stroller, hungry, freaking out, its minders chatting about frequency of screams, intent. I remember walking with baby Arlo, having to stop in the uptown park to feed him on a dirty, bird-pooped bench surrounded by old, leering men because he wouldn’t stop being hysterical and the need for him to stop being hysterical overrode my own need to not nurse my baby on a dirty, bird-pooped bench. My reward: he slept the rest of the walk home.

An old couple on a bench, slouching against each other, their feet touching.

Three young boys on bicycles, whipping wind behind them as they tear up the path around the park.

Teenage girls doing soccer drills, stepping like show horses around cones, passing the ball. Their pony-tails swish just like actual pony’s tails.

The air smells like barbecued things, lavender, cigarette and marijuana smoke. It’s the still, warm air of a summer evening before the sun goes down.

Two men do synchronized lunge-squats across the field, drop to their fists and do push-ups, then alternate squats–one up, one down, so they resemble those pop-up toys the kids used to play with.

A man and his dog, one of them bored, the other thrilled. A man and his gangly middle-school son. The son has a basketball, the man is distracted. A car pulls up and parks, the driver talks on the phone, blows smoke out his window, the engine is still running, the stereo is playing.

An SUV the size of a tank drives by, the small driver has big sunglasses and holds an iPhone aloft.

A different baby is taken out of its stroller, its screams muffled against an adult’s shoulder.

Milk, limes, cross the street again, around the park again, there are boys playing basketball, girls lying on the grass, knees bent, talking and texting, and then I’m home.

Fifty-Two — Complicated

Arlo came running in the house, letting the screen door slam behind him.

“Can I watch TV, or is it too early. I’m just asking,” he said. The words came out in one breath. He fell onto the couch and stared at the ceiling.
“It’s too early,” I said. “What happened outside?”

He heaved a sigh.

“Well, Neighbour Friend is acting weird again. He’s doing that thing where he runs away from me and hides. He knows I hate that.”
“Right,” I said.
“We were just sitting there, and playing video games and then he just got up and ran off. I don’t know where he went. It was like he wanted to get away from us.”
“Where’s Eli?” I asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Is he sitting on the stairs, waiting for Neighbour Friend to come back?” Because that’s where he usually sits.
“Yeah I guess so.”

A great quiet followed.

I think of Arlo as an introverted kid. He’s friendly, polite, and slow to warm to strangers. He will retreat to his corner of the room if he’s uncomfortable, he has a good sense of his own limits. He doesn’t like tag, water fights, or being run away from.

But Neighbour Friend is his own category. He gets overstimulated, can’t stand it, and takes off. Usually to somewhere he knows my kids can’t follow. They love him so, they’ll eat him up, you see. They worship him. Eli more so. Arlo did two years ago but now he’s wiser. He knows the love is not always reciprocated.

“You know, when I go to parties,” I said to Arlo, “I often decide to go home and then I just leave.”
“Without saying goodbye?” he asked.
“Kind of,” I said. “I say goodbye if people are paying attention but if they’re not, I just go.”
He looked at me quizzically. “Why?”
I thought about it. I’ve thought about this a lot.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I think because sometimes goodbyes take a long time. People don’t want to let you leave, they want to keep chatting, they want to make plans for next time. Sometimes it all just takes too long, and when I decide I want to go, I want to go.”
Arlo nodded.
“Maybe that’s what Neighbour Friend is like,” I said. “Maybe he just needs to go, right away. You know he’ll be back.”
More nodding.

Twenty minutes later, Eli came in, slamming the door behind him.
After another fifteen, Neighbour Friend came in too, and all was well for one more day.


My day started with a fast. Fasting is such bullshit!

It was so I could have an abdominal ultrasound at 9 am. Three months ago I had endured three months of nausea and finally went to a doctor about it. He referred me for an ultrasound. The nausea has since mostly resolved itself but I figured pictures of my insides are always good, so I kept the appointment.

Fasting! People do it! Right now it is Ramadan, even, and Muslims fast every day between sun-up and sundown. I might reach a higher plane if I did that or I might just kill everyone I know. Once again I am positively reminded of my former former boss, a Muslim, who not only fasted during Ramadan but was an Imam (preacher-type) at his mosque so performed two services per day PLUS had three kids PLUS worked full time AND never once ate me alive. He could have. He didn’t. To Former Former Boss! Cheers.

The dumbest thing is thinking about cheating on the fast. At 9 am someone is going to take a picture of my stomach with a camera. He will SEE if there’s anything in it. If I put water in it, so much as a drop, he will shake his head and cluck his tongue and make me come back in three more months! And yet, I’m standing in my kitchen this morning, empty-handed, thinking, “I could just have a sip of coffee?”

I was hungry, sure, but not overwhelmingly so. It was more that my routine was disrupted. If I’m not drinking coffee and eating cereal, what the HELL am I doing? EXISTENTIAL CRISIS! So I washed dishes.

My day ended with wine on my patio. Some neighbour was making a clapping noise and their baby was chortling. It was a good way to end.

Fifty — Happy Baby Day

Is it a coincidence that the Royal Baby was born today, the day of my fiftieth post? I DOUBT IT. When I got up this morning, twitter was all a-flutter about the baby being born, which is so funny because later it turned out the baby was born at 4ish UK time which is morning here which means while we were all a-fluttering, Kate was already lying in her nice hospital bed, all cleaned up, clutching her giant baby boy to her bosom.

I’m not much of a monarchist but I like a nice baby story. Does that sentence make me sound sixty years old? So be it. The alternative is a bad baby story, and no one likes those. So even though I wasn’t keeping track of how many cms dilated Kate was, I was happy to hear she did it, just like I am always happy when someone who wants a baby manages to carry and deliver (or be delivered of…) one. I’d be just as happy for any other woman whose new baby I heard about on twitter.

I mean sure, next there’s meconium and screaming and toddlers and preschoolers and toilet training. And — god, can you imagine — all the opinions of the commonwealth, now in realtime. (Reddit AMA with the Duchess! Halp! halp!) But first, tonight, there’s sweet baby smell and sinking back against the fluffy pillows, and being happy you did it. And there’s Nicole’s post, which includes adorable newborn baby photos of her kids, a great photo of Prince Charles, and a link to William’s birth story that is just so damn carefully written compared to Modern Journalism. It’s only from 1982, (Shut up yes I know that’s 30 years ago) but it sounds like it could have been written in the 1960s.

So: The Royal Meconium? Best or worst punk rock band name ever? Yeah. That’s what I thought.


Things we did yesterday:

1 Arlo did his Saturday morning karate class at the community centre
2 then we dropped kids at my parents’ place for the afternoon
3 SA and I took the bus downtown
4 we went to the Alibi Room for lunch and beer
5 and ate brunch instead because there was no lunch yet, even though it was 1 pm, you crazy hip young people
6 got a stomach ache because beer at lunchtime is not usually how I roll (though it was delicious beer)(and brunch)
7 walked through Gastown and enjoyed the fine flora and fauna, including cruise ship tourists (so! shiny!)
8 took pictures and felt self-conscious about it and then noticed a guy sitting at a cafe table, taking a picture of the next cafe table through the slats of the chair and felt less self-conscious
9 walked up to the butt-end of Pacific Centre so SA could use the bathroom
10 walked through Holt Renfrew and then tried to get out of Holt Renfrew
11 had to be directed out of Holt Renfrew
12 into the mall! Which is very like a mall but much more fleh, where fleh means fancy and rich
13 then out of the mall onto Granville Street
14 there was a hip hop break-dancing demonstration on the street
15 those boys were young! and very good at break dancing. And sweaty!
16 we kept walking up Granville and then up to Chapters
17 though it felt kind of stupid to be in Chapters when there’s one at Metrotown
18 nevertheless. I needed to look at books.
19 ran into the dad of one of Arlo’s friends, working in the Indigo Kids section
20 asked him if there were any locking journals for sale (there were not)
21 looked at the biography section, the blank book section, the new fiction section
22 looked for deals, didn’t find any
23 got a peppermint tea from Starbucks because my stomach still hurt
24 considered using the bathroom but decided against it because SO MANY PEOPLE WERE IN LINE
25 took the escalator to the top of the store and then back down again
26 met up with SA again and we walked back to the butt end of Pacific Centre to use the same bathroom he used before
27 bought six doughnuts from Tim Hortons to share with the kids and my parents for dessert
28 tried to remember where the bus stop was, but couldn’t, so walked all the way back to where the bus starts
29 waited for the bus
30 saw a young woman on a fancy old-style bicycle, talking on her cell phone by holding it against her ear with her shoulder, wearing no helmet, crossing Burrard Street in a very wobbly fashion, as you would if you were riding a bike with your head glued to your shoulder
31 restrained myself from shouting rude things at her
32 rode the bus back to my parents’ house and walked up the very steep hill from the bus stop and nearly expired
33 found the children drinking ginger ale in the back yard, covered in dirt and the remnants of face paint
34 entertained them until dinner time; no small feat, as they were tired and grumpy and hungry
35 ate delicious barbecued meats and oven baked potatoes and home grown lettuce
36 lingered over wine while the children entertained us with their revue show “The Idiot Children”. They called it that. Eli came in the room with his t-shirt on over his legs like pants and no shirt and said, “Greetings fellow grownups. We are the IDIOT CHILDREN.”
37 were somewhat irritated by the second act of The Idiot Children until we realized that Arlo had lost the second tooth on the top of his mouth so had a legitimate reason to be sucking on his shirt and interrupting our conversation with his “urgent” voice
38 noticed it was quite late, well past our usual departure time and encroaching on bedtime. Despite our better judgement, gave the children doughnuts for dessert
39 packed up our stuff and came home
40 fought back a jigger of road rage and kept my eyes forward while driving when a douchecanoe in a thumping bass car passed me on the right just as I was about to change lanes because I was two blocks from home
41 ignored Arlo asking me “what’s a douchecanoe?”
42 put the children to bed. Once again, Arlo decided not to leave his tooth for the tooth fairy.* That makes four teeth the tf has not been allowed to claim
43 poured a snifter of wine
44 watched an episode of Homeland on Netflix
45 ate a few chips
46 locked the door
47 read my book
48 went to sleep.

* 49 this morning we learned that he actually *did* put his tooth under his pillow but didn’t tell us, as an experiment. He wanted to see if it was Eli who would take his tooth, or the tooth fairy.**

** Apparently there is a tooth fairy and s/he is a thief because the tooth is gone, no one in this house took it, and there was no money left.

Forty-Four — EveryMom

We spent the weekend camping with a bunch of people, some of whom I knew and some of whom I didn’t, all of whom were totally awesome. Little kids frolicking on a mossy forest carpet, adults drinking their weight in assorted alcoholic beverages, walks and brisk air and sunshine and tent sleeping and campfire smell. O! Campfire smell, I have missed you. Perhaps I will have an opinion to share about camping with the kids, something we only did once before, three years ago, and which obviously scarred us. But at the moment I am too tired and can only relate two anecdotes.

1. Yesterday I was walking, alone, up the very steep hill from the beach to the campsite. A man and his teenage daughter and their big shaggy dog were walking ahead of me. The dog kept turning around to look at me and smile and pant at me. The man was getting annoyed because it is a steep hill and come on dog, just walk. They were walking so slowly that I passed them, and then the dog sniffed me and smiled and the man said, “There, you saw her, are you happy?” to the dog and I smiled at them and thought, “gosh I am such a special person that even DOGS have to smile at me,” and then I heard the man tell his daughter that he thought the dog thought I was her MOM. Not the dog’s mom. The girl’s mom. In other words, the dog thought I looked like its owner, who is the mother of a teenager.

2. Today I was at Safeway, alone, replenishing our food supply because we ate all our food when we went camping. Weird, huh? Anyway, this dude was pushing a toddler in a stroller and as I passed him the toddler got all excited and said something toddlery. I ignored him because I don’t talk to strange toddlers and then I heard the man say, “Yes, she DOES look like Mommy but she’s not really Mommy.”

First of all, suddenly my “you look familiar” face has gone from “that girl from the cheese shop? Maybe?” to “Mom” and how do I feel about that, I wonder? And second, he made it sound like I was purposely impersonating the kid’s mother. “She’s not REALLY MOMMY. Don’t be fooled.” Hey, I’m just buying bread and apples, man! I don’t want to be anyone else’s mommy! I sure as hell don’t want to look like EveryMom, unless I can make money from it. Can I?

Is it too late to do commercials for laundry soap or yogurt? I guess then I’d have to eat yogurt. DEALBREAKER.


I was outside this evening in our common outdoor area (we call it “the courtyard”). Eli and I were looking for ladybugs to bring home to eat the aphids on our rosebush. Yes, we have a rosebush. For the first four years we lived here, it provided one rose per year, then for two years it made two roses, and this year we’ve had three and there are four more buds! It’s exciting. Especially because I am not a gardener and know next to nothing about plants (aphids bad. Ladybugs good! That’s the sum of it.) so it’s very like magic. Seven years in this house, seven roses. The rosebush has some kind of spell on it.

Well, what it has on it is aphids and I sort of know they shouldn’t be there so we went looking for ladybugs. Didn’t find any. Found a woman and her ten month old baby girl, though. Neighbours I’ve never met. Then another woman with another baby girl came out of her house. They mentioned a third neighbour with a baby girl. I’m excited about this, too, because the place we live has a preponderance of boys. So many boys, ranging in age from 3 – 9. One girl (until this recent influx) among seven boys. Nothing wrong with boys! Or girls, either! I like there to be some of each. The circle of life.

It was so fun to be next to these two women talking about their babies. One baby is ten months, the other is four months, so it’s all naps and fussiness and milestones and teething. The moms are on maternity leave and are nearly finishing each other’s sentences because they are so grateful to have found each other, someone who understands. A fellow soldier. “Oh the naps will get better,” says the ten month old’s mother to the four month old’s mother. And then disappear entirely! I prevent myself from saying. Yay me, I am not that old lady who tells you to enjoy every moment JUST YET.

Meanwhile Eli, not used to not being the youngest person in the room, is running around, wearing only boxer shorts and four hundred temporary tattoos, waving a can of sunscreen, yelling, “I’ve got sunscreen and I’m not afraid to use it!”

We all laughed, some of us more nervously than others. Don’t worry, I also didn’t say. You’ll get it someday.


I ran into a high school friend today. I recognized her because she and I are facebook friends, and because when you look at someone for five years, you get pretty familiar with her face. She had her three year old with her, I had my two with me. We chatted very briefly about things — I know most of what’s going on with her because, again, we are facebook friends — and then moved on.

Later I got a message from her, telling me it was great to see me!!!!! and she hoped I would have a great summer!!!! and I scanned the message and then debated replying and then replied, to be polite, and then I looked at it again and realized that the first sentence ended in five exclamation marks and the second ended with four.

I want to know, now, how people go from one exclamation mark to five. If one exclamation mark is intended to indicate a level of excitement slightly greater than you would get from simply ending the sentence, then surely two would be enough to indicate that you are excited beyond that first flush of excitement. And if two says you are beyond excited, does three say you are over the moon with delight? And then, four. Four exclamation marks, to me, says you are making a joke about how many exclamation marks you are using.

But five. You went all the way to five exclamation marks. Just because we ran into each other at the mall.

I’m not being as snarky as you might think, here. I honestly want to know a) how she decided to go to five exclamation marks and b) why she stopped there. Once you’re at five, why not six? Eight? Nine? Nine is my favourite number, I would pick nine.

This is what a sentence looks like with nine exclamation marks at the end!!!!!!!!!

There is no way to ask the question that doesn’t result in a de-friending, and I don’t want to de-friend, so I won’t ask, but I will continue to wonder.

Twenty-One Gun Salute

For those about to rock: we salute you.
For those about to sleep: we salute you, too.

For those whose children are dotted with red marker –but don’t worry, guys, it’s washable, (except I can smell that it’s smelly felts and smelly felts aren’t washable)– we salute you.
For those whose heads are foggy with lack of sleep and clouds of despair: we salute you.
For those who’ve had to work every day but weekends and the occasional holiday since their children were born, meaning they only get the evening and weekend and holiday behavior, meaning they get the grumpy/tired/hungry/sick children end of the stick: we salute you.
For those who still plan holidays, who still come home on evenings and weekends, who do the job, regardless: we salute you.

For those with hobbies: we salute you.
For those who pay down mortgages: we salute you.
For those who take a deep breath, apologize, and crack a joke: we salute you.
For those who hope for the best: we salute you.

For those who stick around, even when they don’t want to, ESPECIALLY when they don’t want to: we salute you.
For those who write it down: we salute you.
For those who try to teach instead of judge: we salute you.
For those who know how to do the heimlich maneuver: we salute you.
For those who know how to dance like a hip hop video: we salute you.
For those who can cook for other people: we salute you.
For those who know that laundry needs doing, always: we salute you.

For those who sing out loud and squint their eyes and play air guitar: we salute you.
For those who belch the alphabet: we salute you.
For those who smile at strangers: we salute you.
For those who know how to end blog posts: we salute you.