Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Do we make a cute couple or what?

This Polaroid was taken at the end of a very long day, which probably explains why George looks tired and I look crazy.

It’s been fun riding the Stroumboulopoulos rollercoaster over the past few weeks. But it’s time to get off. You know you’ve written one too many posts about the guy when you no longer have to google his last name to spell it correctly!

Friday, April 22, 2005

Four hours with George Stroumboulopoulos

Warning: The following contains scenes of nudity, sexuality and coarse language. Viewer discretion is advised.

No, I’m kidding. Honestly, the following post is so free of sin it would make the Pope proud.

I’ve just spent four hours with (okay, in the general proximity of) George Stroumboulopoulos, who has been in Vancouver all week taping The Hour. I scored tickets to tonight’s show and invited my friend Annelle to come with me. But first I made her promise to not look better than I did and make a point of flashing her wedding ring if we got the chance to meet George.

When we arrived at the theatre, it was as if we had stumbled into a casting call for Canada’s Next Top Model. The competition was fierce. There were gorgeous, young girls everywhere. Dammit! Don’t these chicks know that George is the thinking woman’s pin-up boy? Why can’t they lust after Ben Mulroney?

The theatre was almost full and we picked seats about four rows up from the front on the left side. George and the production crew were glued to the TV sets flanking the stage. It was just after 4 p.m. and the prime minister was live on Newsworld addressing the nation.

As soon as Martin’s speech was over, there was a lot of running back and forth by people wearing headsets and carrying sheets of paper. They would run over to George and say something while he bent his head and listened. The room was crackling with excitement and energy.

Then George made an announcement of his own.

"Hey everyone. We’re going to do things a little differently today. Before we do the show, Newsworld wants to break in live in about 15 minutes from now to get some reaction from you guys on what the prime minister just said. So who here has something to say?"

One guy raised his hand and said he wanted to say something about how Martin didn’t speak French. A girl raised her hand and said she wanted to say something about how we need more government accountability. No one else spoke.

George seemed a little frazzled. "Anyone? Anyone? C’mon, I know you guys have strong opinions."

Before I knew what was happening or what I was doing, my arm shot up in the air and I blurted out, "I’ll do it!"

"Okay, cool," George said. "What do you want to say?"

I told him I wanted to say that this whole thing was ridiculous. That the prime minister should have made this announcement in the House of Commons. That this is a Liberal crisis, not a national crisis. If Paul Martin wants to get an unfiltered message out he can buy an ad.

What was I thinking? I’m still cringing about what happened when the cameras started rolling. I haven’t seen the footage and I don’t ever want to see it. It’s too horrifying.

At 4:30 p.m., George faced the camera as Newsworld went live to Vancouver for reaction. He ran up and down the aisles and posed questions to those who volunteered to comment. Somehow he remembered what every single person wanted to say and framed his questions based on the answers we had given him earlier.

As he made his way over to me, I was getting more and more nervous. My heart was pounding and I couldn’t remember what I was going to say. Suddenly, George was looming above me and a camera was thrust in my face. He asked me a question and I started talking into the camera. Then I remembered you’re supposed to look at the person interviewing you, not the camera. But I had to crane my neck to see George.

I butchered my answer. I spoke too quickly. I was too nervous. I was too distracted by his dimples and beautiful, dark brown eyes. I tried to repeat what I had said earlier but it came out all wrong. And then he asked me a follow-up question. A follow-up question! Shit shit shit! It was a hard question, something about the opposition. I don’t even want to remember what I said. It’s too mortifying to think about.

And then he moved on to the next person. I was left sitting there feeling like I had been dropped from the eye of a tornado. I had just made the worst possible first impression on George and, oh yeah, millions of other people too. Idiot!

After the show, the audience was invited to hang out in the lobby to schmooze with George and get their pictures taken with him.

As soon as he walked in the room, he was swarmed by a gaggle of girls. He was very gracious and chatted with them as they giggled and fluffed their hair. I inched closer and closer to their circle but before I could introduce myself a pushy woman elbowed her way in and thrust her teenage daughter in front of George.

She then demanded to know where the coolest place in Vancouver was. George seemed a little confused by her question but told her he liked Zulu Records. She pulled out a pen and paper and asked how to spell it.

"What street is it on? Robson Street?" she asked. This was it! This was my entry!

"It’s on West 4th," I said. George turned to look at me and as soon as he made eye contact, I put my hand on his forearm and introduced myself.

"Hey, George. I just want to say thanks for the tickets. I’m Sarah? From the David Suzuki Foundation?"

"Hi," he said warmly. He then turned his back on the pushy mom and her teenage daughter and the four hot chicks. We talked for a little while. He ordered a .5 beer ("I don’t drink"). He talked about hockey and how he just learned to skate. I told him he should take up swimming. He told me he read my blog the other day but neglected to mention whether that was a good or bad thing.

My mind flashed to all the gushing posts I had written about him and I felt exposed and embarrassed. Shit shit shit!

The conversation ended almost as quickly as it began when a loud woman with a group of teenagers from the YMCA pulled him onto the patio for a group photo.

"You’re not in a rush to go anywhere are you?" he asked me. "Don’t go anywhere. I mean it. I’ll be back."

As George worked the room, I met Kathryn for the first time. I started reading her blog after she left a few comments on mine. She confessed that she found my blog by googling George’s name. She somehow picked me out of the crowd when I was making an ass of myself on national television earlier. She’s officially the first internet friend I have met in person and it was a lot of fun speaking face to face.

After about 45 minutes, I was getting tired of waiting around, watching beautiful girls flirt with George. Someone from CBC was taking Polaroid pictures of George and his fans so I marched over to where he was standing and said, "Can I get one of those?"

He laughed and we chatted a bit more. He asked if I was freaked out by his phone call. I told him to call any time he wanted. We talked about cars and David Suzuki and work and stuff. He was funny and charming and down-to-earth.

We posed for a quick picture. Afterwards he asked if I ever came out to Toronto. I told I was actually from Toronto and that my parents still lived there. I also mentioned that I’d be there for almost two weeks next month.

"Well give me a call when you’re in town," he said. "We don’t have a studio audience in Toronto but you can come down and hang out."

What I wanted to say, but didn’t, was "Why wait until Toronto? What about tonight?" But I chickened out. Besides, it was pushing 7:30 at this point and he was on his way out the door. I thanked him again and wished him well.

On the drive home, Annelle and I were both giddy. "That was so exciting!" she said.

In summary:
1. George is even more gorgeous in person.
2. That McBain guy who reads the emails on the show is really short. He looks tall on camera but is quite small in real life. George, who looks short on camera, isn’t short at all.
3. George needs tighter jeans. His baggy jeans do not flatter his ass.
4. George has a razor sharp wit. He is charismatic, charming and genuinely nice.
5. George makes his job look easy. It’s not. It’s bloody hard work to think on your feet and come off sounding smart at the same time. I’m impressed. And smitten.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

One minute in heaven with George Stroumboulopoulos

He called! He called! George Stroumboulopoulos actually called this morning to personally offer me tickets to his show! This is, like, the most exciting thing that’s happened to me since I won $50 in the lottery 14 years ago!

Here’s how it went down. The phone rang at 10:23 a.m. It was the receptionist. "Sarah? I have George on the line for you."

“Okay. Put him through,” I said, with a roll of my eyes. I assumed it was one of my friends playing a practical joke.

And then I heard the voice. That deep sexy gravelly voice. “Hey Sarah, it’s George.”

My stomach flipped, my heart stopped and my brain went into overdrive (be cool, don’t stutter, act naturally, speak slowly, don’t fawn, you’re not 13).

I think I said something sophisticated and eloquent like, “Hi!” And then he started firing off questions faster than Lance Armstrong on the backside of a steep mountain pass.

Strombo: “How’s your day going?”
Me: “Pretty good so far.”
Strombo: “What are you working on?”
Me: “Kyoto.”
Strombo: “Saving the world one tailpipe at a time?”
Me: “Something like that. So how are you doing? How are you liking Vancouver?”
Strombo: “I’m exhausted! I did morning television today. I HATE morning television.”
Me: “Ha, ha.”
Strombo: “So, I’m calling to offer you tickets to the show.”
Me: “Oh, awesome! Thank you. So, uh, how do I go about getting the tickets? Should I pick them up somewhere, or, uh…?”
Strombo: “Just email me. Just tell me the day you want tickets for. Do you have my cell number?”
Me: “Um…no.”
Strombo: (gives me his cell number)
Me: “Thanks.”
Strombo: “Okay cool. I’ll see you at the show.”
Me: “Looking forward to it.”
Strombo: “Bye.”
Me: “Bye.”

I hung up the phone and squealed like a teenage girl. I invited my friend Annelle to the live broadcast and emailed George with the details. We’re going to the taping on Thursday because it’s the last show in Vancouver, which means there might be a wrap party I can wrangle an invitation to (pretty smart, eh?). Or maybe he’ll invite me to have a drink with him in his hotel room, er, I mean at the bar.

So I have two days to figure out what to wear. Heels or sneakers? Sexy or casual? I also need to come up with a good question so I can stand up and say something when George takes questions from the audience. Help!

Monday, April 18, 2005

Waiting for George Stroumboulopoulos to call

George Stroumboulopoulos emailed me this morning. I turned on my computer and there it was, his name sitting in my in-box! Just kind of casually hanging out like it belonged there. The subject line was blank and the message was short:

“Sarah. How are you? What’s your number? George.”

Oh my god. Oh my god. Okay, breathe. Be cool. Stop grinning like that. But I can’t help it. Yes you can. He’s just a guy. No he’s not. This is pathetic. I am pathetic. What will I talk to him about? I have nothing to say. That’s not true. I have lots to say. I'm funny and cute. No I’m not. Yes I am. I’m too pale. I hate what I’m wearing today. I hope he doesn’t want to meet up after work. This turtleneck is suffocating. I should have worn something low-cut to show off my cleavage. What cleavage? I don’t have any cleavage. Good point. At least my hair looks good. Should I go home and change? I hope he doesn’t call. No, I hope he does. What if he thinks I’m boring? Who cares what he thinks? God I'm annoying. No wonder I'm single. Stop being such an idiot and just write him back.

So I wrote back and gave him my work number and home number. I briefly considered giving him my dentist’s number, my parents’ number and the numbers of at least 10 friends in case he has trouble getting hold of me.

George is in Vancouver all week taping his show. I’ve been calling and emailing the CBC for weeks trying to get tickets (you can read about my quest here). I’m guessing that George is writing to a) give me some last-minute tickets, or b) get me to stop clogging up the CBC’s email system. Stay tuned…

Saturday, April 16, 2005

I am never eating at White Spot again!

It turns out my 12-hour vomit marathon was caused by a side order of the Norwalk virus served up at White Spot.

I spoke with Bill at White Spot head office who said there were two outbreaks of Norwalk near Nanaimo recently and that at least four people who ate at the same White Spot I did also got violently ill. He passed along my number to the regional health inspector who is hot on the case and told me that White Spot is taking this "very, very seriously."

I hope taking this "very, very seriously" includes lots of cold hard cash for my pain and suffering.

I still feel dizzy and weak. Although I no longer feel nauseous, I have zero appetite and have to force myself to eat. On the upside, I have completely lost any cravings for junk food and my ass has shrunk enough to fit into my jeans.

Speaking of the sponsorship scandal (okay, I wasn’t actually speaking of it but I’m too weak and dizzy to think of a better transition sentence), I am not happy to see a new poll that shows the Reform Party (oops, I mean "Conservative Party") is making major gains in voter support. Yoikes!

Call me crazy but I’d rather have a corrupt government than a scary one. Stealing taxpayers’ money pales in comparison to passing a law defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. And that’s exactly what the Conservative Party will do if they come to power. I'm not defending the Liberals. It's more of a "lesser of two evils" thing.

Lest we forget, Stephen Harper was that guy who stood up in the House of Commons and said the "silent majority of Canadians" supported the Bush-led war in Iraq. Paul Martin may be a dithering Prime Minister, but Stephen Harper would be a dangerous one.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Twelve hours of projectile vomiting

What’s more explosive than the sponsorship scandal? Me!

I have finally chewed, swallowed and kept down my first bite of solid food in more than 36 hours. It feels good to be back in the land of the living after a day spent violently expulsing the contents of my stomach.

It all began around noon yesterday when my mouth suddenly filled with saliva and I felt an irrepressible urge to vomit. Realizing I might not make it to the bathroom in time, I grabbed the recycling bin by my desk and ran like hell.

My boss, who overheard me loudly vomiting in the office washroom, sent me home immediately. I felt a bit like a 1st grader who had peed her pants.

Once home, I spent the next 12 hours alternating between vomiting and wishing I were dead. Nothing, not even water, would stay down. I finally stopped puking around midnight. I finally stopped feeling queasy around 5 p.m. today.

It all happened so fast that I’m not even sure what it was. However, I have a few theories:

1. A virus: I may have picked something up whilst playing on the waterslides and in the wave pool in Nanaimo over the weekend. When in doubt, blame the kids.

2. Food poisoning: Possibly from White Spot on Sunday afternoon. My friend John was also sick yesterday, though the other three people who ate with us were not sick.

3. Self-inflicted food poisoning: Possibly from the leftover beef curry I defrosted on the kitchen counter for about six hours on Monday.

Whatever it was, it doesn’t matter. I feel like I have been to hell and back. But I also feel strangely grateful for the experience. It’s a powerful reminder of just how thin the line between sickness and health really is. I had forgotten how good it feels to feel good.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Sleepless in Nanaimo

I took the day off work today. It’s not much of a vacation. My arms feel like I bench-pressed an elephant. My stomach feels like it’s been turned inside out. And my head is pounding from the symphony of hammers and drills coming from the apartment under renovation next door.

I'm recovering from a three-day party, which started on Friday when 15 of us from the English Bay Swim Club shipped off to the provincial swimming championships in Nanaimo. On the ferry ride over, the coach asked each of us what our goals were for the weekend. I told him my goals were to:

1. Pick up a cute guy at the banquet on Saturday night.
2. Work up the courage to go down the waterslide.
3. Help my friend Carl hook up with a hot swimmer.
4. Set personal records in the 800-metre and 1500-metre freestyle events (I only threw that in there because I figured I should have at least one swimming-related goal).

By the end of the weekend, I had successfully met two of my goals. Which two? You’ll have to keep reading to find out.

Day 1

We arrived at the pool around 6 p.m. I had five hours to kill until I swam the 1500-metre freestyle so I decided to work on goal number three.

Ironically, the guy my friend Carl had his eye on was the same guy I used to have a crush on. He’s a star swimmer, a Ph.D. student in medical genetics, funny, cute and nice. I tried to work up the courage to ask him out about four years ago when we were riding the ferry back to Vancouver after a swim meet in Nanaimo.

I chickened out and ended up giving my business card to his coach. I told the coach I liked one of his swimmers and that if he liked me back, he should email me at the address on the card.

He wrote me a long email -- to tell me he was flattered but that he was gay.

A few weeks ago, Carl was chatting with my ex-crush on-line and realized they would both be at provincials. As soon as we saw the cute guy arrive at the pool, Annelle and I started jumping up and down and waved him over to where we were sitting.

We chatted him up for a while. Carl, who is normally ear splittingly loud, didn’t say a word. Meeting goal number three was going to be a lot harder than I thought.

Eventually, everyone left to eat dinner and go to bed. I was stuck at the pool until after 11 p.m. because I was in the second-last heat of the 1500-metre freestyle.

I ended up placing first in my age group with a time of 22 minutes and 39 seconds. Not bad considering the fact that I hadn’t eaten dinner or stayed up that that late on a Friday night for a long time.

Day 2

The cup of coffee I drank on Friday night in order to stay awake for the 1500 also kept me up until 4:30 a.m. I arrived at the pool on Saturday cranky, sore and tired.

I didn’t have a very good day in the pool. All of my races were several seconds slower than what they should have been. My proudest accomplishment of the day was conquering my biggest fear -- the green waterslide.

Every year there is a swim meet in Nanaimo and every year my teammates try to get me to go down the green waterslide. I usually get to the top of the stairs and chicken out at the last second. Then I go down the blue slide with the six-year-olds.

The blue slide is gentle and fun. The green slide is steep and fast and scary. Pregnant women or people with heart conditions are not advised to use it. I don’t have many fears in life other than cockroaches, roller coasters and waterslides.

But this year I was determined to get over my fear of waterslides. I warmed up with a few runs on the blue slide. Everyone else from the team was ripping down the green slide and teasing me for being such a wimp.

Before I knew what was happening, I was pulled up the stairs and practically pushed on the green slide. Annelle told me to close my mouth because the water would rush up over my face. Heather warned me that I might lose my lunch. I looked at the gushing water at the opening of the small green tunnel and panicked.

Everyone in line started yelling at me so I tentatively peered down the mouth of the slide. But I slipped and was down the slide, whipped around at warp speed and spat out at the bottom in 11 seconds flat. Everyone cheered and I stood up feeling like I had just won an Olympic medal.

The banquet

The highlight of provincials is always the Saturday evening banquet. These parties are legendary -- legendary for being really bad. One year, we suffered through an embarrassing tap dance routine. Another year, the banquet featured an offensive, washed-up comedian.

This year’s banquet looked promising. It was being headlined by a local band playing music from the ‘80s and ‘90s. The UBC team was drinking heavily and were getting louder and louder as the night went on. Every time they would raise their glasses for a toast, my friend Tom would glare accusingly at me and say, "They're having more fun than us."

Because being beaten by UBC out of the pool was just as bad as being beaten by them in the pool, we started making our own noisy toasts and loud cheers.

Carl was getting impatient with the slow progress of goal number three so I decided to step it up a notch. I walked over to the object of his affection and told him someone on my team thought he was cute and wanted to know if he was single. I was expecting him to say, "Um….didn’t you get my email four years ago?"

But he shook his head and said he had just started seeing someone. Carl was devastated. I kind of thought it was funny that not only were we both interested in the same guy, but we were both rejected by him too.

Unfortunately for me, there were no eligible bachelors under the age of 60 at the banquet so I left without meeting goal number one.

Day 3

The competition was less stiff on Sunday when half of the UBC team showed up late and hungover. It didn’t help me much. I still managed to swim badly. Though not too badly in the 800-metre freestyle.

The most grueling part of the day was waiting three hours to get on a ferry back to Vancouver. Still, even that was fun. I can’t wait until Nationals in Toronto next month! But I think I should work on a new set of goals....

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Everyone has a little dirty laundry

I live in a four-storey apartment building. There are six apartments on each floor. That’s a lot of people. And a lot of dirty laundry.

Not the Michael Jackson kind of dirty laundry. My building is more like a retirement home than Neverland Ranch. I’m talking about dirty clothes.

To deal with all this dirty laundry, my building has exactly one washer and one dryer. It gets weirder. There is a sign-up sheet to use the washer and dryer. Everyone in the building is allowed to pick a time to do laundry. Everyone except me.

This is because I am the only renter in the building. Everyone else owns their apartment. I live in the caretaker’s suite. [Note: I’m not actually the caretaker. He left when they contracted out his services. Instead of selling his apartment, they decided to rent it for some extra money.]

I am only allowed to do laundry during “free time” on the weekend. The apartment owners actually voted on this at a meeting.

In theory, this is a good arrangement. I don’t get home until late in the evening during the week, which means I don’t have time to do laundry until the weekend anyway. The problem is, everyone else in the building puts off doing laundry until the weekend too. Which doesn’t really make sense considering most of them are retired and over the age of 70.

So every weekend there is a battle for the washer and dryer, which pisses me off because I am only allowed to use the stupid things on the weekend and everyone else can use them any day of the week.

I have devised a few strategies to deal with this. One is to pile four loads of laundry in front of the washer as a blockade. It’s kind of passive aggressive but I find it gets the point (“back off!”) across.

Another strategy is to do laundry just once a month. Which helps increase the size of the blockade described in strategy one (see above).

It can get pretty vicious. Last weekend, I put a load of laundry in the dryer. An hour later, I returned to put more money in the machine only to find someone had taken my damp sheets out of the dryer and put their own laundry in. With my quarters!

I was so mad that I stopped the dryer and took out their soaking wet laundry (I have never touched so many pairs of grey socks and white briefs in my life) and put my sheets back in. Then I ran back upstairs to my apartment before they caught me.

Later that night, as I was relaxing on the couch in my clean pajamas under a clean blanket, happy the laundry drama was over for another month, I managed to spill a bowl of chili all over myself. I trudged back down to the laundry room.

Of course, somebody else was using the washer and dryer. And of course, it was late Sunday night, which means I can’t actually wash the stuff until next weekend. I’d move but the rent is cheap and the neighbours are hard of hearing.

If you have any creative solutions to end the weekly laundry drama, I’d love to hear them.

Monday, April 04, 2005

The Pope: Confessions of a recovering Catholic

I don’t understand the wall-to-wall media coverage of the Pope’s death. I didn’t realize he was that popular.

I went to Catholic school from kindergarten through to Grade 13. All I learned about the Pope was that he was the top guy and he had the final say on everything. His name came up a lot in sex ed class. The nuns who taught the class told us we couldn't have sex until we were married “because the Pope said so.”

The Pope was always saying stuff that didn’t make sense to me. In Grade 2, I was told I couldn’t be an alter server because I was a girl. Why? Because the Pope said so. I was only eight years old at the time but it struck me as being profoundly unfair.

I don't have a problem with people who use religion to bring comfort or joy or meaning to their lives. I can respect that. What I do have a problem with is when religion becomes political. And the Pope was highly political.

It may seem hard to fault a man who preached love and compassion. But his love and compassion had boundaries that excluded women and gay men and lesbians.

To me, the Pope’s view on women and gay marriage and birth control is morally reprehensible. The AIDS tragedy in Africa is quite possibly the biggest health crisis the world has ever seen. Millions of people have died. Millions were children. And AIDS continues to march forward. It is staggering.

The Pope’s response? Don’t give people condoms because condoms will encourage people to have premarital sex. He even called contraception an “intrinsic evil.” What’s more evil? Condoms? Or allowing people to die of AIDS? It’s so backwards that I can’t even wrap my head around it.

The Pope, and millions of Catholics around the world, believed he was doing the right thing. But I can’t help but feel his deep beliefs did more harm than good.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Objects in mirror are larger than they appear

Does my butt look big? It's a rhetorical question. Don’t answer it.

My clothes -- my jeans especially -- are getting tighter and tighter these days. At first I blamed the dryer. You know how when you pull your clothes out of the dryer and they’re really tight at first but then they loosen up after a while?

Well, mine have stopped loosening up. Even after a couple of days, I’m still walking around feeling like my clothes are fresh out of the dryer. Stuff that was once “form fitting” is now just plain “tight.” Bending at the knees or lifting my arms above my head is no longer an option.

I stopped blaming the dryer and started blaming my foot instead. My foot injury means that I can’t do as much exercise as I used to. No running, no cycling (other than to get to work and back) and no long walks.

While I cut back on my training, I didn’t cut back on my calories. So I’m still eating as if I were training for an Ironman. Which means I’m taking in more calories than I’m burning. Which is why people are starting to mistake me for J-Lo from behind.

So I’ve decided a few lifestyle changes are in order before they start mistaking me for Kirstie Alley:
  • Stop eating waffles smothered in nutella and whipped cream for breakfast
  • Whilst watching TV, try to eat less chips, popcorn and chocolate.
  • Switch to using milk, instead of cream, in tea (and maybe start using only one teaspoon of sugar instead of three)
  • Eat more salads and fewer chocolate croissants
  • Even though it’s made with with milk, ice cream is not health food
  • Stop drinking alcohol. Too much alcohol makes people do stupid things, like ordering poutine at 3 a.m.