Sunday, November 27, 2005

Hello from Montreal

So I'm here in Montreal, sitting in my hotel room, which stinks of cigarette smoke. It's supposed to be a non-smoking room. The front desk assured me that it was. I guess they just take the ashtrays out of the room and call it non-smoking.

My hair reeked of cigarettes when I woke up this morning. Not because I was out at a bar last night but because of the nicotine-filled pillows. The windows don't open. I feel like I'm suffocating. At least I have a nice view. I can see the snow on the ground, the city lights in the sky and the cross on the hill.

My head hurts from trying to speak French all day. I try not to let people know that I'm an outsider, or worse, that I'm an imposter. My last name is French and I don't speak a word. But I'm trying. Usually, I just nod and smile and say "oui."

Sometimes it backfires. Like at the grocery store this morning when I was putting my groceries into the plastic bags. A woman came running over and sprayed machine gun bullets of French in my direction. So I just nodded and smiled and said "oui." She paused for a second. I could tell she was trying to determine if I was: a) not very bright, or b) just English. I think she decided on the latter.

"I was trying to tell you that you're using the small bags. The big bags are over here."

"Merci," I said (I don't give up that easily).

Back to the hotel. So there's a bunch of us from work here and everyone but me has a king sized bed. I have two little double beds in a non-smoking smoking room. It's my own fault. I spoke French when I checked into the hotel. In other words, I said "oui" to everything without understanding what the front desk person was actually saying. The thing is, everyone here is so nice that if you speak to them in French (no matter how mangled or poorly accented) they will speak French back to you.

Or maybe the hotel had simply run out of rooms with king sized beds by the time I got here. My co-workers arrived long before I did. I ditched them at the luggage carousel at the airport to share a cab downtown with a scandalously young sculptor I met on the plane. We have plans to meet up for a beer tomorrow. It figures. The second I leave Vancouver, I get a date.

The real action starts tomorrow when the UN climate change conference kicks off. A few hours later, the government is expected to fall. It should be a very exciting day.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

On the road

You know what I love about hockey? The massive bags. I’ve been packing everything I need for the next five weeks into a giant hockey bag and there’s still enough room for a human body (I tried).

Packing has never been easier. No more agonizing about which pair of jeans to bring. No more folding and rolling clothes to save a few inches of space. No more sitting on top of the bag to make it close. No more wrestling with the zipper.

Packing a hockey bag is like making borscht. Just throw in whatever’s lying on the floor and you’re good to go.

On the downside, my luggage now weighs about 300 pounds. And I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to get it from my apartment to the airport without a crane. But at least I’ll have all the comforts of home while I’m on the road.

By now you might be wondering where I’m going. Hawaii? Brazil? Mexico? Nope. I’ll be spending the next five weeks freezing my butt off in Quebec and Ontario.

The first stop is the United Nations climate change conference in Montreal where part of my job will be to get as much media coverage of the two-week event as possible. Which is going to be a lot more challenging now that the federal government is set to fall the same day the conference opens. I have a feeling the conference will be completely overlooked in the campaign frenzy.

On the upside, that means I’ll have more time to eat poutine and update my blog. I probably won’t be blogging about the conference itself, which is a good thing, unless you’re genuinely interested in carbon sequestration projects, post-2012 Kyoto Protocol negotiations and the debate over emissions intensity vs. absolute reductions. I’ll just fill you in on the really exciting stuff (who’s sleeping with who, who drinks too much, etc.).

A la prochaine . . .

Sunday, November 20, 2005

And now for something completely different

This blog has been a little predictable lately with all this talk about non-hot hot guys and my non-dating dating life so I thought I’d spice it up a bit by posting some fiction.

You can thank (or blame) J. Kelly Nestruck for this endeavor. According to Kelly, I’m supposed to go my 23rd blog post, find the fifth sentence ("To prevent squeegee kids from reaching the windshield?") and write a short piece of fiction beginning with that line.

Then I’m supposed to tag five more bloggers. So Tamara, Kathryn, Nicole, Bill and James, you’re it.

Okay. Here goes:

Lost and Found

"To prevent squeegee kids from reaching the windshield?" cried Ruth Brennan from the passenger seat, twisting sideways to shoot her husband a withering look. "Don’t be ridiculous. We’re not getting a Hummer just so you don’t have to deal with squeegee kids. Just give the guy a loonie and he’ll leave us alone."

But Luke Brennan refused to budge. Hands gripping the steering wheel, jaw clenched, eyes locked on the red light responsible for making him feel like a prisoner in his own car, Luke ignored the steady tap-tap-tap against the window.

Ruth mouthed the word "sorry" at the teenager clutching a filthy squeegee on the other side of the freshly streaked glass.

The boy smiled and launched a violent gob of spit that landed thick and phlegmy near Luke’s left ear. Ruth felt a prickle of shock, not because of the spit dripping down the window but because of the black hole where his front teeth should have been.

The light turned green and Luke accelerated hard. The car fishtailed, churning up gray slush under its tires before straightening out and speeding through the intersection.

"Why should I give that asshole any money?" Luke asked. "He just started mucking up my windshield without even asking. This is why I hate coming downtown."

Ruth sighed. She turned away from Luke and stared out the window, cupping her chin in her hand. Here he goes again, she thought. There was no point arguing with him. He never took her seriously. She once told him she was thinking about volunteering at a women’s shelter and he said, don’t be stupid, only man-hating lesbian socialists volunteer at women’s shelters.

They were barely five minutes into the long drive home to Mississauga and her deep discontent was already bubbling back up to the surface. She was so tired of this bloated, balding man, her husband of 30 years.

Their anniversary was the reason they had come downtown tonight. Ruth didn’t really want a party but Emily, their daughter, had insisted on throwing one. It was fitting since Emily was the reason they got married when 20-year-old Ruth accidentally got pregnant with her. They were happier then, when Ruth actually loved Luke.

Luke wasn’t rigid and stubborn then like he was now. He had to be in control of everything. He was even in charge of his own Christmas presents. Every December, he’d go to the mall and stock up on underwear and socks and maybe throw in a fishing rod or a flashlight. He’d come home and put everything into a box, which he kept in the closet. If Ruth or Emily wanted to buy him a present, he’d make them look through the box and pick something out. He’d produce the receipt and they’d hand over the cash. Then Luke would act surprised when he opened his presents on Christmas morning.

"Well look at that! A fishing rod. How’d you know?"

It infuriated Ruth that he kept buying camping gear when he had never been outside Toronto in his life. Ever since he found out his great-grandmother was a Huron Indian, all he could talk about was how he wanted to go to Georgian Bay to get in touch with his "Native roots." Luke would set up the tent in the backyard every summer and sleep outside "just to practice" but Ruth knew he would never go. He liked the idea of change but was terrified of change itself.

"Never been west of Mississauga or east of Scarborough in my life!" he’d brag when co-workers came back from vacation.

Ruth had always wanted to travel. Her job at the Sheraton Hotel’s lost and found department was the closest she’d come to seeing the world. One minute she’d be on the phone with someone from Italy who thought he left a pair of shoes in room 2209, and the next someone from Japan would call to see if she had found a photo album in room 1328.

Sometimes she got to keep the things people left behind. She liked the T-shirts from far away places best. Once, while Ruth was wearing a Boston Marathon T-shirt, a woman in line at the grocery store asked Ruth about the race. Ruth suddenly found herself telling the woman how hard it was, how much her knees hurt but she kept going because she knew her husband was waiting for her at the finish line. The lie was liberating, the euphoria intoxicating. It was exciting pretending to be someone else. Someone who ran marathons in her 50s and had a husband who loved her.

They were almost home now. Luke slowed the car and pulled into the driveway. He was about to reach down to turn off the ignition but Ruth grabbed his arm.

"Don’t. I like this song. You go ahead. I’ll come in once the song’s over."

Luke got out of the car and went in the house. Heading straight to the kitchen to get his big bag of peanuts, Ruth thought. He was always eating peanuts. It wasn’t the peanuts she minded, it was the way he made such a production out of eating them. Grunting while cracking the shells, splitting the peanuts in half between his teeth, mashing them with his mouth open, slapping his tongue against the roof of his mouth, dropping the empty shells all over the floor. Just thinking about it made her stomach turn.

Impulsively, she jumped into the driver’s seat, put the car in gear and backed out of the driveway. She got four blocks away (one block further than last time) before she pulled a U-turn and, with a sigh of resignation, headed home.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Too hot to get a date: Part III

Nearly two weeks after he said he couldn't find love because women were intimidated by his hotness, Robert finally scored last night.

It was a blind date, arranged by the Vancouver radio station that stepped in to help Robert with his affliction. Sherry, a 36-year-old stunner, was chosen to be Rob’s escort for the night (and by "escort" I don’t mean "hooker").

Like Robert, Sherry also bears the heavy burden of being really, really, really ridiculously good looking. But that’s not all they have in common. For example, they were excited to discover they both enjoy good restaurants. (Does this mean they’ve actually met people who enjoy bad restaurants?)

A reporter from the radio station tagged along and interviewed Robert and Sherry at various points during the evening. Those of us who tuned in to the radio this morning were treated to audio clips of the date.

Three drinks into the night, Robert had had just enough alcohol to impair his judgement: "She’s stunning."

Five drinks into the night, Sherry started to see a new side of Robert: "He’s definitely not as arrogant as he appears."

Switching from wine to tequila shooters, Sherry’s vision started blurring: "He looks a lot better in person."

("Um, Sherry," the reporter said, covering the mike with one hand. "That’s the bartender. Robert’s down there, lying on the floor.")

A bottle of beer in one hand and a rum and Coke in the other, Robert was writhing on the floor and yelling at the top of his lungs: "If my nickname is Hot Guy, her nickname needs to be Dynamica!"

Okay, so that’s not exactly how the date went down. The quotes were real but I took some creative liberty with the context in which they were said. I had to. The date was downright boring.

Robert and Sherry were smitten with each other. By the end of the night, phone numbers were exchanged and plans for a second date were in the works. It was a match made in botox heaven.

Who knew something that started off so shallow would have such a happy ending?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

CSI: Tim Hortons

I can’t turn on the TV without seeing that mysterious Tim Hortons "hot smoothie" commercial.

The one where the colour-blind woman is painting her living room hot pink and her husband comes home and says, "Wow! It really is pink." She asks if he likes it and he says he does. Except she doesn’t realize he’s talking about the pink drink in his hand, not the colour of the living room wall. Hilarity ensues.

It’s not the most original commercial but it’s powerful. Every time I see it, I want to vomit.

It’s the close-up of the frothy pink concoction inside the cup that triggers my gag reflex. It looks about as appetizing as a steaming hot cup of Pepto-Bismol. Did they have to made it such a toxic shade of pink? And what is a hot smoothie anyway?

So I decided to head straight to the scene of the crime to do some deep undercover research. I walked up to the Tim Hortons counter and asked the hard-hitting investigative questions.

Tim Hortons employee: Can I help you?

Me: Do you guys sell those hot smoothies?

Tim's: Yup.

Me: Um…I’m just wondering what's in them.

Tim's: It's a vanilla base with a flavour.

Me: So there's no coffee in it?

Tim's: No.

Me: Is there caffeine in it?

Tim's: No. Just a flavour.

Me: What flavour is the pink one?

Tim's: Raspberry.

Me: Are there raspberries in it?

Tim's: No. Just a flavour.

Me: Are they popular?

Tim's: Oh yes (nods her head vigorously).

Me: Have you tried them?

Tim's: Yup.

Me: Do you like them?

Tim's: Uh-huh. Yeah. But I like the hazelnut one the best.

Me: Okay. I’ll try a small raspberry one.

Tim's: Okay. $1.35 please.

After she handed me my hot pink hot smoothie, I peeled back the tab on the plastic lid and took a sip. I was pleasantly surprised. It didn’t taste anything like a steaming hot cup of Pepto-Bismol.

It tasted like warmed milk with about 10 teaspoons of sugar. A little too sweet but not as bad as I expected. The fake pink colour was a bit off-putting, though.

After about half a cup, it felt like a sugar bomb had exploded in my stomach. I couldn’t finish it and had to throw it in the garbage.

The verdict? It wasn’t as gross as I thought it would be. But don’t take that as a ringing endorsement. Let’s just say Tim Hortons is guilty -- guilty of selling really bad fake smoothies. Mystery solved.

Monday, November 14, 2005

What’s the rush?

Add my name to the long list of Canadians who do not want a Christmas election campaign. Christmas is filled with enough bickering and dysfunction as it is.

It doesn't matter whether the election is held now or two months from now. The Liberals are going to win. The Liberal Party may be corrupt but the Conservative Party is too extremist, the Bloc too separatist and the NDP too socialist for most voters.

Like it or not, Paul Martin is going to be prime minister as long as Stephen Harper is leader of the Conservative Party. Prime Minister Stephen Harper? Not gonna happen.

Martin has said he will call an election within 30 days after the final Gomery report is released on February 1. So why force an election now?

Oh, wait a minute. I get it. It’s not about what we want, is it? All of this posturing is about fighting for political power, party survival and getting as many seats as possible.

It would be comical if it weren’t so ridiculous.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Too hot to get a date: Part II

Remember Robert? The guy who says he’s too hot to get a date? Well, the story just keeps getting better.

It turns out Robert is a former catalogue model. Yes, that’s right. A catalogue model.

Someone needs to tell Robert that being a former catalogue model is not a trump card you pull out when you’re trying to prove how hot you are. Just because you once wore waist-high nut huggers in the Sears catalogue does not mean you’re a supermodel. It’s like starring in a porn movie and calling yourself a serious actor.

The real reason Robert can’t get a date isn’t because he’s too hot, it’s because he’s a moron. In case you need further proof, read the hilarious expose on Robert in today’s National Post.

Just when you thought Robert couldn't sound like a bigger ass, he manages to do so with earnest, non-ironic quotes like this one:

"It’s hard always being the centre of attention, that’s what it boils down to," he explains. "Not every woman can handle it. It’s not that people come up and hit on me, it’s just the fact that when I walk into a room, everyone notices me. I stick out like a sore thumb. My last three girlfriends broke up with me. They didn’t like the attention."

He goes on to say he recently dyed his blond hair brown because "I don’t want people recognizing me from the Web site. I want to be able to carry on with my day-to-day life without hassles."

He doesn’t say what kind of hassles exactly. Perhaps he’s referring to the hassle of being outed as Vancouver’s biggest loser? Or the hassle of being a national laughing stock? Or does poor, deluded Robert still think he’s dealing with the hassle of being irresistible to women?

What’s even more incredible is the Vancouver radio station that first alerted us to Robert’s affliction has managed to find three women who actually want to go on a date with the guy.

The radio station is asking people to go to its website and vote for the woman who most deserves to go on a date with Robert. Personally, I’m voting for Daphne. She’s 37 and says her dream guy is between the ages of 25 and 37 with no kids and no desire to have any.

Hang on a second. She won’t date a guy a day over 37 but she’ll date someone 12 years younger than her? Lock your doors! There’s a wild cougar on the loose.

Anyway, the "winner" will be announced on Monday. Robert and the "lucky" lady will go on a date sometime next week. Maybe they can stay in and rent Zoolander.

Stay tuned for Part III.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Madonna and ABBA together at last

Have you heard the new Madonna song? "Time goes by so slowly (unh, unh, unh, mmmmmm, mmmmm, something, something, something, do, do, do, doodle loo) I'm tired of waiting on you."

It’s awesome. I can’t listen to it without being overcome by the urge to throw down a piece of cardboard and start poppin' and lockin' all over the place.

The video for "Hung Up" is even better than the song. Madonna looks like a total fox in that retro Jane Fonda leotard. I probably would have cut the scene where she's riding the giant ghetto blaster, though. That’s a little weird.

My only other complaint is that my favourite fashion accessory -- the sequined belt -- is about to become obnoxiously trendy. People everywhere are going to be wearing sequined belts thanks to the video. That was my thing.

Still, it’s a wicked song. I can’t wait to hear the rest of the album when it’s released in all its disco-inspired glory on November 15.

Monday, November 07, 2005

They’re back!

Two of my favourite shows -- The Hour and The Rick Mercer Report -- finally return to the small screen this week. Yessss! (she says as she make a fist and jerks her arm like she's pulling the handle on an invisible slot machine).

I missed these shows about as much as I miss my daily gingerbread latte during the 10 months of the year when Starbucks doesn’t make them. In other words, I missed them a lot.

I’m normally a Tim Horton’s kind of girl. But my loyalty flies out the window when Starbucks whips up that holiday-season crack-in-a-cup. I had my first gingerbread latte of the year this morning and it did not disappoint.

The return of George Stroumboulopoulos, Rick Mercer and gingerbread lattes. Could this week get off to a better start?

Friday, November 04, 2005

Too hot to get a date

No, I’m not talking about myself. I’m talking about Robert.

Who’s Robert? Robert is a 33-year-old single guy living in Vancouver. Robert is hot. Maybe a little too hot. Apparently, Robert has a problem meeting women because of his high level of hotness.

Robert took the brave step of going public with his plight during a radio interview this week. Hot Rob explained he’s just a nice guy looking for love but women are intimidated by the fact that he’s really, really, really good-looking.

Exposing his sensitive side, Robert said he tries to shield women from the ugly side of his beauty. For example, he doesn’t like going to a restaurant on a first date because he knows every woman in the place will be staring at him. Drooling even. And the last thing he wants is for his date to feel jealous and insecure.

People don’t understand how hard it is to be so hot, he said.

Poor pretty Robert. It’s heartbreaking to think of him crying in front of the mirror, hot tears streaming down his flawless face, screaming "Oh God! Why did you have to make me so beautiful?"

Luckily for Robert, a Vancouver radio station is stepping in to help him with his affliction by "setting him up with someone who will see him not only for the hot guy on the outside but the hot one on the inside as well."

The radio station posted a picture of Robert on its website and is asking single women in Vancouver to email the station if they want to go on a date with the guy.

I admit it. I was intrigued. I mean, maybe Robert had a point. Maybe women were intimidated by his good looks. That can’t be an easy thing to live with. It’s tough being lonely, gorgeous or not.

And then I visited the radio station's website and saw what Robert actually looked like:

Robert’s not completely unattractive. But hot? Too hot to get a date? I don’t think so. Any lingering compassion I had for the guy vanished. He's not hot, he's delusional.

"He looks like a gay flight attendant," said my less diplomatic friend Annelle.

It’s ironic that the radio station is trying to find someone who doesn’t just judge him on his looks, yet its provides nothing about what’s on the inside. We know absolutely nothing about Robert other than the fact he thinks he’s hot. And that he uses way too much gel in his hair.

Lame guys like Robert are the reason Vancouver is filled with a disproportionate amount of single women. Do you people finally understand how dire the dating scene is out here?

Oh, and Robert, if you’re reading this (which you probably are because you seem like the kind of guy who googles himself regularly), I suspect you have a problem meeting women not because of your looks, but in spite of them.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Hot Gomery action!

Watching the sleazy sponsorship scandal unfold hasn’t exactly left me feeling hot and bothered. Nope. The only thing it’s done is make me realize that I actually kind of like Jean Chrétien.

I know, I know. I’m supposed to be “outraged.” But seeing Jean Chrétien come out swinging at his press conference yesterday only endeared me to the little guy from Shawinigan.

It’s hard to be angry with someone who is so damn entertaining. His press conference was classic Chrétien: scrappy, unrepentant, aggressive, blunt, defiant, theatrical. The wild hand gestures were a nice touch too.

Plus, he reminded us that he actually, you know, did stuff when he was prime minister, like standing up against Bush on Iraq and signing the Kyoto Protocol.

Much fun!