May 31, 2009
May 28, 2009
There are very strict guidelines for passport photos. No glare, no shadows, no red eyes (?), facial features clearly visible. But the quideline stating that applicants must show a neutral facial expression (no smiling, mouth closed) and look straight at the camera, is the one that got me. Those who know me, know that I smile most of the time (I'm sure I don't in my sleep, but I've never checked). So for me to pose with a "neutral facial expression" was difficult. How to keep the corners of my mouth down? How to keep laughter out of my eyes? I remember thinking "have no emotions, show no feelings". I believe that thought was accurately captured by the photographer. It wasn't until I received my new passport that I realized I looked like a serial killer.
Now with the Western Hemisphere Travel Intitiative going into effect tomorrow, whenever I want to visit the U.S. I will need to present my passport to the border guard. And herein lies my concern. Would I let someone who looks like me in that photo into my country? I'm always a wee bit nervous crossing into the States anyway -- don't know why. I've never smuggled any contraband into or out of the country (oh, there was that time I accidentally brought food for my dog -- but it was confiscated). I'm not on any "wanted" lists. There are no restraining orders against me. I don't even smoke marijuana or do recreational drugs (wine does not count!). Yet there is always that slightly queazy, butterfly feeling in my stomach as I approach the guard booth. I guess it has to do with the fact that the border guard could decide, just for fun, he doesn't like the look of me. He could rip my vehicle apart, and while he's at it, do a complete body search. And then, if I utter a peep in my defense, he has the power to ban me from his country. For ever! Or maybe it's just that I have an issue with authority figures. Either way, it's the guard's decision as to who passes Go. I don't like the look of me in that photo -- why would he?
I know the border guard also casts a wary glance at me and I can flash my winning smile, hopeful he realizes that it's just a photo. I guess if I was a crazed killer I'd make sure my passport photo was extremely flattering so as not to draw attention myself. So the fact that I would allow such a mug-shot likeness of myself to grace such an important piece of government issued identification must speak to my innocence. Right?
I have another 3 years to go before I can apply for a new passport. The lineups at the border crossing are torturously long so I applied for a Nexus pass. No passport required. This allows me to drive to the front of the line, flash my wallet-sized ID card at a scanner and pass unmolested. Though the last time I crossed into the U.S. the scanner wasn't working so I had to approach the guard. He looked at my Nexus ID, looked at me and asked me to remove my Paris Hilton's. I smiled broadly, batted my lashes, and sailed right through. Now that's what I'm talking about. Celebrity!
May 27, 2009
What's your number?
|You Are 4: The Individualist|
You're emotionally honest, real, and easily hurt.
Totally expressive, others always know exactly how you feel.
At Your Best: You are inspired, artistic, and introspective. You know what you're thinking, and you can communicate it well.
At Your Worst: You are melancholy, alienated, and withdrawn.
Your Fixation: Envy
Your Primary Fear: To have no identity
Your Primary Desire: To find yourself
Other Number 4's: Alanis Morisette, Johnny Depp, J.D. Salinger, Jim Morrison, and Anne Rice.
Your Soul is Searching
You are a wanderer. You constantly long for a new adventure, challenge, or eve a completely different life.
You are a grounded person, but you also leave room for imagination and dreams. You feet may be on the ground, but you're head is in the clouds.
You believe that people see you as larger than life and important. While this is true, they also think you're a bit full of yourself.
Your near future is a lot like the present, and as far as you're concerned, that's a very good thing.
For you, love is all about caring and comfort. You couldn't fall in love with someone you didn't trust.
Iggy Pop, reading the novel "Possibility of an Island" felt it was about "death, sex and the end of the human race and some other pretty funny stuff." He was moved. Later he was approached by the author, Michel Houellebecq who was directing the movie -- to do the soundtrack. And this song was born.
Life as a dog is so much better than life as a clone.
May 26, 2009
Yes, I know, it's still only in hard cover, but get over it. Spend the money. It's worth every penny. It will keep you at home where you should be, not out at the bars, blowing all your money while losing your self-respect. In fact buying this book in hardcover will save you money. You'll be a happier person.
May 23, 2009
When I see a movie like I've Loved You So Long I feel a tug back to my former life. I love all things french; wine, cheese, films, books, language, cities and towns. I feel that this is where I really belong. And I long to get back there.
Failing that, there is always America --
May 22, 2009
But the friends had relatives coming, so we moved on to option #2. Vegas! We checked airfares out of Bellingham, WA with Allegiant Air and things were looking good for an evening departure on the 16th and a morning return on the 19th. Airfares weren't the lowest we'd seen them ($18 return is hard to beat) but we were optimistic that they would drop. They always do. We were holding out for a grand total of $500 USD for airfare and hotel for both of us.
It was siesta time for travel to Mexico. But people had holidays booked, bags packed, dogs kenneled. They had to go somewhere. And almost overnight (ok, it actually was overnight) our reasonable little one way fare of $78 skyrocketed to $248. We were now looking at a whopping $650 each for airfare and three nights’ hotel (and Bally's to boot -- nice but not the Wynn). It would appear everyone was going to Vegas. So we weren't.
Option #3 was Whistler. We figured we could ride the motorbikes up and spend the weekend wandering the village, eating and just relaxing (no dishes, cooking, laundry – heaven). But the weather forecast was for rain and we'd been-there-done-that so many times that it just wasn't doing it for us.
So what to do?
One night, over a bottle or three of wine I was struck by a great idea (I was also struck with a weird urge to alphabetize my entire CD collection). What if we didn’t go anywhere? What if we stayed in Vancouver and “pretended” we were on vacation? What if we didn’t do any cooking or dishes and instead went out to eat? What if we did all those things tourists do when they come to Vancouver – things that we haven’t actually done because we live here? What if we had a Staycation?
We jotted down things to do:
Grouse Mountain (www.grousemountain.com)
Museum of Anthropology (www.moa.ubc.ca)
Vancouver Aquarium (www.vanaqua.org)
Drinks at the new Shagra-La Hotel (www.shangri-la.com)
Dinner at The Keg (use that Christmas gift card)
Movie -- in an actual theatre
River Rock Casino Resort (www.riverrock.com/home.aspx)
Motorcycle ride to Harrison Hot Springs (www.harrisonresort.com)
Dinner at Vij's (the best Indian in the world) (www.vijs.ca)
Saturday morning we headed up to Grouse Mountain (just on the north shore of Vancouver). It was overcast and there was still quite a bit of snow For May.
But we found a zip-trekking line...
...and the grizzly cubs, who aren't cubs anymore.
The evening found us at the River Rock Casino Resort and Dining Extravaganza. We started at Runway 26 -- the all-you-can-eat-pay-through-the-nose-buffet. We ate crab claws till we got our money's worth.
And while it wasn't Vegas, we headed to the casino to part with some more money.
Back to our Bed & Breakfast (ok, our apartment) where the host graciously left a bottle of red wine out for us. Once finished (wouldn't want to insult the host), we prepared for day two of our Staycation.
We woke to glorious sunshine so hopped on the bikes and took the slow road to Horseshoe Bay -- stopping at Whytecliff Park along the way.
Horseshoe Bay was bustling -- ferries coming and going,
people browsing, dogs drowsing.
Pat ate a hot dog, I had ice cream. We sat by the water and did nothing. Nothing! It was grand. Old folks shuffled past, kids Razored around and teenagers brooded. We enjoyed the scenery for a bit...
...then headed back into Vancouver.
I traditionally make dinner Sunday night for the boyfriend and our friend Brad. Just because we were on Staycation Brad wasn't letting me off the hook. So there was some cooking done and some dishes to be washed. (We hid the dirty dishes in the oven until Tuesday.)
No early check out on Monday, so we slept in. Lox and cream cheese on toasted bagels were on the menu. And as the sky was grey, we decided to go for a walk down to Granville Island. We actually do go to Granville Island fairly often, but we take the dog so one of us has to wait outside while the other "accidentally" gets lost inside the Market for two hours while he picks out duck foie gras. This time the dog stayed home and we were both able to wander around the market.
With everything from bread...
...it's not a place to go if you're hungry and on a budget.
We were neither, so we picked up some beautiful Cuban sausages, and a smoked chorizo to eat on the way home. And as we strolled along the boardwalk, the rain started. Our Staycation was coming to an end. We headed home to our dirty dishes, piles of laundry and hungry dog.
All in all it was a great weekend. We only did 3 of the 9 things on our list (really only 2, but we swapped Horseshore Bay for Harrison), yet we were busy -- never bored. There really is alot to do in Vancouver and by pretending we were visitors we actually saw our city with fresh eyes.
As for the other 6 things? We have friends coming to visit in two weeks. We get to play tourist all over again.
May 20, 2009
I can't believe that Fisheries and Oceans Canada has drafted a plan with the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council to allow aboriginals the right to kill sea otters (a threatened species) -- in the name of "aboriginal spiritual rights". The Nuu-chah-nulth want to kill defenceless animals because the wearing of sea otter pelts "gives them tribal status" and they are claiming it as their "right" and "religious tradition".
Roger Dunlop, the regional fisheries biologist for the tribal council said, "Sea otters are very cute. There will potentially be some outcry at any harvest at all. But this is an aboriginal right and the harvests won't harm the population."
Dunlop also said, "The draft management plan would allow Nuu-chah-nulth hunters to annually shoot one per cent of the 2,000 otters found in the region."
Have you ever seen a sea otter in the wild? It will swim up beside your boat, roll over on its back and have a little clam snack. You could reach out and tickle its belly. The hunters will just have to lean over the side of their boats and shoot the otters as they float by.
"Hunters would target adult male otters and would receive training on the proper skinning of the animals."
So, the hunters need training on how to skin the animals? This says to me that the Nuu-chah-nulth have not been hunting sea otters for a while. In fact it has been over one hundred years. And now that the sea otter's status has changed from threatened to one of "special concern" it has become crucial to their religious tradition and spiritual rights?
I think the real reason for the proposed sea otter hunt is that it is "necessary to stop the burgeoning sea otter population from decimating sea urchin and shellfish stocks, which are a valuable source of food for First Nations communities and commercial fishermen." (Keith Atleo, a council member of the Ahousaht First Nation is quoted as saying this.) Ahh -- some truth here? Protecting a fishery?
You know, I don't have a problem with cultural and spiritual tradition. I just don't think that it needs to involve the sacrfifice of anyone -- human or animal. We no longer sacrifice children or animals on an alter before our gods or to seek the favour of our kings.
There are a lot of things we used to do "culturally" that we don't anymore because we've seen the harm these actions cause. We don't litter. We don't send our children to work in factories. We don't drink and drive. We still have a long way to go to correct what we humans have done in the name of "inherited right" and I just don't see how sanctioning an otter hunt would be to anyones' "cultural" benefit.
So why don't we say what this is really about. It's not about cultural identity or or spritual rights -- it's about the perception that a commercial industry is potentially threatened by a "burgeoning sea otter population". Don't coat it in an otter pelt and call it tradition. It's really just about the money.
May 18, 2009
May 17, 2009
May 16, 2009
drollgirl's blog this morning was about her boyfriend and his aversion to all things vegetable. Veggies can be somewhat offensive, especially to small children, people with texture problems (don't get me started on over-cooked peas) and all voracious carnivores (drollgirl's boyfriend may fall under a couple of these categories) so it is my belief that veggies are always best hidden in a delicious meat or seafood based entree such as Shrimp Bascom (thank you chef Paul Prudhomme's Fork in the Road cookbook).
May 14, 2009
I read for a few minutes, then looked up, checking out where we were and the new arrivals. As I brought my eyes back to my book they settled on a woman sitting across from me. She was staring at me, and she smiled when she saw me looking at her. Whatever. I grinned back and resumed reading. Another few minutes passed. I looked up again, this time in the direction of the staring woman. But the woman next to her was now staring at me. She smiled. I smiled back -- and continued reading.
A few more minutes passed and you guessed it, I looked up and both women were staring at me. When they saw I was looking at them they turned, looked at each other and smiled. Then they both looked back at me and smiled. I was starting to get a little weirded out. Who is this happy first thing in the morning while riding on a crowded bus? It's not normal. And why were they including me in their little giddy party? I went back to reading.
The androgynous bus voice said my stop was next. I read to the end of a paragraph, tucked a bookmark inside and as I was putting the book back inside my backpack a voice said, "that looks like a really good book." I looked up and the two women were now smiling broadly.
That what this was all about? They had been smiling at my book, not me. I paused, turned the book around to look at the cover again and said, "It is a really good book."
"I'm going to have to get it," said smiling woman number two. "It looks like a really good book. What a great cover."
Considering that the number one bus rule had already been broken (Do not, under any circumstance, make eye contact with anyone on the bus, and if you do, do not, I repeat do not smile), I figured there was no harm in breaking rule number two (Do not, under any circumstances, strike up a conversation with anyone on the bus, especially a stranger).
"It's a series of personal essays and the author used to write for Letterman. She's really funny and there's a lot of truth in what she writes. I should be finished the book in a couple of days. I'll give it to you if you like."
And as I got off the bus I saw her smile.
I should be finished the book in a day or two. I'll carry it around with me for awhile, hoping to see the smiling woman again because a book with a cover like this deserves to be shared.
May 13, 2009
May 12, 2009
May 11, 2009
May 10, 2009
May 8, 2009
Stepping up to the intercom, I press it again. It crackles to life as a scratchy “Hello?” jumps out at me.
“Hi, it’s Lianne.”
“__i! __um __on __p.”
And the front door buzzes open.
The lobby is sterile and small. Metal mailboxes line one wall. A watercolour – paint by numbers? – of a lake and a mountain, hangs crooked on the opposite wall. Straight ahead are the elevators. Once inside, I push 16 and then check myself in the mirrored panel. Nothing stuck in my teeth, no gunk in the corners of my eyes, no zit too noticeable. Comb through the hair. OK, acceptable.
The elevator stops then drops a few inches. It settles and the doors open onto a hall, slightly reminiscent of a 60’s lounge in Vegas. Dark lighting, flocked wallpaper, and carpet of such an intricate pattern, it’s hard to make out its colour. I turn left out of the elevator, walk several steps and realize I should be going the other way. I can feel a cool dampness in my armpits. I wipe my palms on my pants.
#1605. This is it. Behind this door is the woman I’ve wanted to meet my entire life. The woman, who gave birth to me, named me Susan, then gave me away. I raise my fist to knock…Oh God, I’m going to collapse, I can’t feel my legs…Will she like me? Why’d she do it? Was she just an unwed teen faced with the burden of an unwanted pregnancy, forced to conform to her parents' and society’s wishes, to give her love child up for adoption… I’m going to be sick…Did her husband die, leaving her alone with six other kids to raise, and no insurance and she wanted only the best for me?…I can always just turn around and go home. Do I have brothers and sisters? What will we talk about? What if I don’t like her … knock, knock, knock …What’s she look like? Will I look like her?
The door opens, and –
She looks -- well, average. She’s not Marlo Thomas or Cher, the fantasy mothers of my childhood. She’s of average height and build, has light brown, chin length hair. Wire rimmed, thick glasses sit on a subtly upturned nose. A slightly out of date polyester skirt in brown tweed is matched with a crisp white blouse; ruffles up the front and around the neck. She’s wearing a cardigan. I can't tell if there's any resemblance but I know I wouldn't have recognized her on the street.
We stand there looking at each other, then she leans forward and puts her arms around me. Too stiff to be called a hug. I attempt to return the gesture, but she starts to pull away.
“Lianne, come on in.”
And that’s it. The moment I’d fantasized about, over in an awkward hug. The evening is spent with Jean and her husband Peter. We eat KFC and look at photo albums.
“Your cousin, Susan, who was named after you.”
Jean points to a black and white picture, and I squint to see the resemblance. There is none. Another picture of another cousin, this one named Leanne.
“Leanne looks a bit like me at that age.”
I hold the picture up to the light. Same fine hair cut in a pageboy, same lanky, uncoordinated stance. This could almost be me at age seven. A twinge of something I don’t recognize, a feeling of belonging? I am holding open, in my lap, my biological history. A similar smile, same bad eyesight, a tendency towards knitting and playing the piano. These are the people I come from.
(that's me -- second from the left back row -- looking like a dog in a tub waiting for a bath -- how did I get here and how do I get out? Jean is standing to my left, holding on to her sister for dear life)
“You and Jeannie move your hands when you talk, and stand the same way,” Peter notes. The question of nature versus nurture. Some things you are given and others, you take. It’s an uncomfortable feeling.
She tells me why she gave me up and I realize it was the reason I had expected…I had done the math. New Year’s Eve on the couch, too much booze, nine months later. She loved me but she was 17. She only wanted to do the right thing. She answers the questions I’d lived with my entire life…Where did I come from? Who is my mother? Why did she do it? Did she love me? But...
This woman had carried me and pushed me into the world and was the one person I should be closest to. Yet I had never felt further from anyone. My belief that she was the one who got away -- the mother I never had -- was gone. I realized, with absolute certainty that the woman I lived with, fought with, hated and loved – the woman I called mom – was my mother. This woman who gave birth to me was a stranger -- someone I would have to get to know, have to decide if I even liked. I was grateful she had answered my questions. But the most important question -- who is my family? -- I realized I had the answer to all along.
(dad, me and mom)
May 6, 2009
May 5, 2009
Wit (touched wif sarcasm)
Play on wo'ds “ah brin' yo' flours” (fum Peekoolyarr Than Fickshun)
Seein' sumpin o'dinary in a noo way
Wit (touched with sarcasm)
Play on words “I bring you flours” (from Stranger Than Fiction)
My friend Dan's Blog - Honk if you're a Knob
Seeing something ordinary in a new way
my dog Cass
In a Paris hotel elevator:
In a Rhodes tailor shop:
Order your summers suit. Because is big rush we will execute customers in strict rotation.
Advertisement for donkey rides in Thailand:
Would you like to ride on your own ass?
In a Budapest zoo:
Please do not feed the animals. If you have any suitable food, give it to the guard on duty.
In a brochure of a car rental firm in Tokyo:
When passenger of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage then tootle him with vigor.