Sunday, May 29, 2005

Parting is such sweet sorrow

My vacation officially comes to an end at 5:45 p.m. today when I board a plane back to Vancouver. Then it's back to work, back to reality, back to the grind. I'm not complaining. I'm actually looking forward to going back. It's just that the past 10 days in Toronto have been really, really fun.

I'm mentally juxtaposing the highlights into one big shiny happy memory. If my life was a movie and this trip was a montage, it would be edited down to include:

1. The swim meet.
2. Ice cream with Bill D.
3. Hanging out with Rommel and Larysa.
4. Sarah Day with Hilary.
5. Walking along Lake Ontario with my mom.
6. The First Annual Sarah Marchildon BBQ at Marni's.
7. Playing board games at #6 (see above).

This trip also introduced me to some new blog lexicon. For the first time in my life, I found myself saying "see you in the blogosphere" to people ("people" meaning Nicole and J. Kelly and Laura). Apparently, this is what you say instead of saying "see you later" after you hang out with fellow bloggers. Nerdy but true.

Speaking of nerdy, I've been thinking about wearing my silver medals under my jacket and "accidentally" setting off the metal detector at the airport. Then when they wave the wand over me and find the medals, I will feign ignorance.

"These bad boys? That I won at the Canadian Masters National swim meet? For the 800 and 1500 metre freestyle? I totally forgot I was wearing them!"

Hmmm . . . maybe not. I think I'll just bring the bling to work on Monday. Ah, well. Goodbye Toronto. It's been fun. See you soon.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Why I am never going to another movie again

I don't go to movies very often. I don't really enjoy the whole movie-going experience. Mostly because I am a magnet for the smelliest, tallest and loudest people in the theatre.

The person who has bathed in perfume or smoked a pack of cigarettes right before the show always picks a seat right beside me. The tallest person in the theatre always sits right in front of me. The loudest talkers sit right behind me. And all of these people arrive two seconds before the movie starts, which means it's too late to find another seat.

Last night was the final straw. My sister Hilary and I went to see Million Dollar Baby. It was the first time I had been to a movie in months. In case you haven't seen Million Dollar Baby, the plot is pretty straight-forward: Troubled girl wants to box; troubled man eventually agrees to coach her; girl eventually breaks her neck; girl asks coach to kill her since she cannot do it herself; he agrees. End of story. Not very complicated.

But the basic plot seemed to be beyond the grasp of the couple sitting directly behind us. The husband spent the entire movie pointing out the obvious, like "He's writing a letter to his daughter" or "She bought her own punching bag." Plus, they seemed to get confused a lot, "Who's in jail?" or "What is she talking about?" And they spoke really, really loudly.

This went on every five minutes for the entire two hours. I'm not kidding. I turned around at least four times to glare at them. Glaring at someone in a dark theatre is pretty pointless but I was too spineless to actually ask them to be quiet. Besides, in this city you never know who's going to pull a gun on you. Yes, they were a married couple in their 60s. But still.

At one point, after one particularly inane comment, I whipped around and yelled out "Jesus Christ! Are you really that stupid?" Well, technically, I yelled out "Jesus Christ!" and then muttered "are you really that stupid?" under my breath after I turned back to face the screen. Unfortunately, they didn't hear me (or they chose to ignore me).

Despite the running commentary, I didn't really *get* the movie. I mean, what was the point? Yes, Hilary Swank was fabulous but, uh, that's about it. I was pretty disappointed. Not because she died but because it wasn't all that interesting. And if the whole mercy killing sub-plot was supposed to be thought-provoking or controversial, well, it wasn't.

I might have liked it more if I had rented it. Renting a movie vs. going out to a movie wins every time. It's cheaper, I get to wear pajamas, I can lie down on the couch, there are no loud talkers, tall people sit beside me instead of in front of me, the snack bar is always open. I don't know if I'll ever go to another movie again.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Today is Sarah Day

My 18-year-old sister has decided today is Sarah Day. I read it in her day planner, which she had left out on the kitchen table. In the space beside May 26, she had written "Sarah Day." She even put a couple of stars and an exclamation mark beside it like this: *Sarah Day!*

We've been planning to spend a day together for a few weeks. It took me that long to wear her down and convince her to skip school for the day (she's in Grade 12). You would think it wouldn't take much arm-twisting to get a teenager to play hooky from school. But then you don't know Hilary. She is a straight-A student who spends most of her time doing homework.

Sarah Day begins with a couple of smoothies. Then we're going to grab a coffee. We're going to walk over to Bloor West Village and check out the funky clothing and jewelry stores. We might hop on the subway and head downtown for more shopping. But that's Hilary's idea and today is Sarah Day, not Hilary Day. Then we're having dinner at a Thai restaurant, followed by a movie. It's going to be a non-stop Sarah and Hilary hang-out marathon.

Anyway, I've got to get going on those smoothies. Sarah Day starts in less than 1/2 hour.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Race report

Just a few of the nice young men who came out to cheer me on.

Canadian Masters National Swimming Championship
May 20-23, 2005
Toronto, Ontario

Just a few days ago, I was pacing the pool deck right before one of my races, vowing to never swim at another meet again. My heart was racing, my stomach was in knots, my nerves were shot, my whole body was shaking with anxiety.

How you deal with that moment -- the moment before stepping up on the blocks, before the gun goes off -- can make or break your race. You are either good at controlling your thoughts and emotions or you're not. I'm not. In that moment, I am overcome with dread. What I fear most is the pain I'm about to put myself through.

I have a low tolerance for pain. I dread feeling like my lungs are alternately on fire or about to explode. I dread feeling the oxygen-deprived muscles in my arms and legs turn to lead near the end of the race. I dread feeling like I'm about to die.

I have the same internal dialogue before every race: "Why am I doing this? This isn't fun. This is going to hurt. I hate pain. Why do I keep putting myself through all of this? I feel sick. I think I'm going to throw up. This is the last swim meet I've ever swimming at."

So why do it at all? Well, because two days after the meet ended, I'm sitting here thinking about how much fun it was and how happy I am with my results. If you really wanted to analyze it, there's probably something masochistic about it too. Anyway, here are some of the highlights of the weekend:

Two silver medals
I ended up winning two silver medals in the 1500 metre free and the 800 metre free. Completely unexpected and unintended. While I am happy about this, I am conflicted about being a distance swimmer. I'd rather be a sprinter. The race is over so much faster and there's less pain.

The banquet
Masters swimming banquets are legendary -- legendary for being really bad. This one did not disappoint. We were "entertained" by an Elvis impersonator, who also gave us a "motivational" speech. Actually, I found the table of swimmers sitting next to us more amusing. They called themselves the Aurora Ducks, but I renamed them the Aurora Cougars. All of the 40-something women on the team were wearing slinky black dresses. Their hair was perfect and their makeup was thick. It was obvious they were on the prowl. It's just too bad none of the cute young guys at the meet showed up for the banquet.

My parents hosted a BBQ on Sunday night for the English Bay Swim Club. Except my brother and my cousin Doug crashed the party. They were over at my parents' house watching basketball playoffs since they don't have cable at their apartment. Now that I think about it, the only time I *ever* see my brother or my cousin is when there is free food or some sort of game on TV. The BBQ was fun, other than dealing with my dad going around the table asking everyone's life stories. I cut him off at 20 questions per person. Thankfully, embarrassing stories about my childhood were kept to a minimum.

Team bonding
My friends Victoria and Gilles stayed with me at my parents' place. We didn't spend a lot of time there. I felt bad for Victoria, who had never been to Toronto before. There wasn't a lot of time to take in any tourist attractions. However, Victoria made time to go up the CN Tower where she was surprised to find out that Toronto is much bigger than my parents' house and the pool. I also got to hang out with our other two teammates, Peter and Paul, who I now know much better.

My dad
This was the first swim meet where my dad and I were both competing. It was fun cheering him on. My mom and my sisters also came out a couple of times but decided that watching a swim meet was kind of boring. My dad didn't win any medals (although he did place 7th in the 50 metre breaststroke). He said he role for the weekend was to provide entertainment value for others.

Free massages
Need I say more?

Good times
  • 1500 metre freestyle: 22:03.29, 2nd place
  • 800 metre freestyle: 11:21.31, 2nd place
  • 400 metre freestyle: 5:29.20, 5th place
  • 200 metre freestyle: 2:38.36, 5th place
  • 50 metre freestyle: 31.61, 5th place
  • 100 metre freestyle: 1:09.75, 8th place
  • 200 metre freestyle relay: 1:53.21, 5th place
That' s it for now. I've skipped a lot of details but it's 20 degrees and sunny right now and I'd rather be outside than in front of this computer for another second.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Two days down, two to go

I have been staring at a blank screen for about 10 minutes trying to figure out what to say about the past two days. Nothing comes to mind. Not because nothing happened but because I am so tired, so sleep-deprived and so completely unable to think normally.

This sentence, although it appears to flow naturally from the one above, took another five minutes of staring into cyberspace before I actually typed any words. Anyway, before I fall asleep on the keyboard, here's a brief recap:
  • Friday: Swam the 1500 freestyle in a time of 22:03.29, which was good enough for 2nd place. Am surprised about this. Wear medal around my neck the entire day.

  • Saturday: Swam the 100 freestyle in a time of 1:09.75 (8th place). Also swam the 400 freestyle in a time of 5:29.20 (5th place). Swore never to swim at another swim meet again. Too much pain. Not enough gain.

  • Attended banquet with parents and house guests (two teammates from Vancouver are staying with me in Toronto). We were "entertained" by an Elvis impersonator with a British accent. Elvis impersonater also gave motivational speech. Something about frogs in a pond. If you can't get out, keep swimming around. Cannot confirm point of speech. No one else was listening.

  • Left banquet after dancing started. Annoyed that I am the only one on the team who wants to stick around to get down on the dance floor. Leave with group. Sulk in back seat of car.

  • Home now. Updating blog. Friends are watching tv. Five minute blog update has turned into half hour. Am being yelled at to get off computer.
More later. For those of you who are really curious, or really bored, live results from the swim meet can be found here.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Mmmm . . . Speedos

I got into Toronto late last night and didn't get to bed until 2 a.m. Four hours later, my bedroom was filled with sunlight.

My body was saying, "Okay, it's morning. Time to get up" while my mind was saying, "Dammit, how the hell am I going to block out that annoying light so I can sleep for another six hours?"

I hate flying east. I'm not much of a morning person to begin with so having that part of the day arrive three hours sooner is torture. Since I was awake, I started hunting through my suitcase for black clothes that I could drape across the window. Because I'm not seven feet tall, none of my shirts were long enough to cover the window.

So I went back to bed and tried to sleep but couldn't. I started dreaming up other ways to block out the light.

"I could get a couple of towels and nail them to the window frame. Hmm . . . better not. Don't think mom and dad would like that. Plus it would wake everyone up. Maybe I could cover my eyes with something."

I tried tying my fleece jacket around my head but it was too lumpy and made sleeping uncomfortable. I dove back into my suitcase for a black t-shirt but pulled out a black swimsuit by accident. Since it was made of spandex, it stretched easily and I was able to tie it in a knot in the back of my head.

It worked perfectly. I slept soundly for the next six hours and woke up feeling like a genius.

Now I'm trying to eat breakfast while typing at the same time. I'm feeling nervous about swimming the 1500 tonight. When I get nervous, my stomach shuts down. So it's taken me almost half an hour just to eat one bagel.

We'll be heading out to the pool later this afternoon. I am so excited.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Goodbye Vancouver. Hello Toronto!

I’m flying to Toronto tomorrow. I think I’m ready. I’ve watered the plants, taken out the garbage and returned the stack of way overdue movies sitting on my coffee table (a flagrant abuse of Blockbuster’s "no more late fees" policy).

My bags are packed. Well, technically my bag is packed but that doesn’t quite flow as smoothly. I’ve crammed everything I need for the next week and a half into one carry-on suitcase. Which is basically a couple of swimsuits and a lot of hair products.

I expect to get a few raised eyebrows from the security people at the airport when they put my suitcase through the x-ray. There’s something not quite right about someone bringing nothing but a bunch of swimsuits and expensive shampoo to Toronto in May.

How do I explain that I am voluntarily spending the long weekend inside a pool? In Etobicoke? I don’t think normal people get giddy and excited about flying across the country to spend four days at a swim meet. But that’s okay. Because I’ll be surrounded by about 1,000 other geeks from across Canada who do get it.

It’s going to be a fun time. Nationals is the super bowl of the masters swimming world. By the way, "masters" is just a nice way of saying "old and slow."

There are five of us from my swim club who are flying out to swim at nationals, two of whom will be staying with me at my parents’ house. Plus my dad is racing too. It will be the first time I have swam at a swim meet with my dad and I’m looking forward to some father-daughter bonding.

It’s funny how things change. In high school, I banned my parents from coming to watch my swim meets because it was soooo uncool to have your parents cheer for you. Now my dad is racing at the same meet as me and I’m begging the rest of the family to come cheer us on.

Anyway, the meet starts Friday and ends on Monday evening. Then I’ll be sticking around Toronto for an extra week, which is already packed with activities. Having dinner with Larysa. Dancing in the living room with Rommel (it’s a long story). Eating ice cream with Bill. Hanging out with my sisters. Catching up with my New Brunswick friends at a BBQ. Playing chess with my brother. Drinking wine with my mom.

It will give me something to look forward to when I don’t win any medals at the meet. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s not about winning, it’s about having fun. But that’s like sandpaper against my competitive grain. (Is that the right expression? Does that even make sense?)

I’ll be updating my blog from Toronto regularly. More to come later. Right now I just need to get a nice long sleep. If I can sleep at all, that is.

Monday, May 16, 2005

To Kabul or not to Kabul?

To Kabul or not to Kabul? That was the question I was agonizing over for the past two weeks. I had alluded to it in a previous post but didn’t want to spill the details until I knew what was happening for sure. I finally got an answer today.

You might want to sit down for this. I applied for a four-month contract with the UN in Kabul, Afghanistan, leading up to the country’s parliamentary elections in September. The UN was looking to hire a media officer as part of a massive and complex operation to set up the elections.

The job itself is very similar to what I do for a living, which is write press releases, organize press conferences, provide communications advice, etc. Except I’d be doing all of that in a war zone under extremely restrictive security conditions. I would live and work in the UN compound and be unable to go anywhere without an armed guard by my side.

It seemed terrifying and slightly crazy. It also seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So I sent in my resume after my boss agreed to give me a four-month leave of absence from my current job.

Anyway, I found out today that I didn’t get the job. I was disappointed (and more than a little relieved). It turns out they’re not going to create the job at all, partly because the situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating and getting worse.

I was also told that I needed more international election experience. Apparently, sleeping in a sea container in Bosnia, drinking shots of vodka in Russia, lying on the beach in Jamaica and hiking through Alaska isn’t exactly the kind of international experience they’re looking for.

It took me a while to work up the courage to tell my parents I had applied for the job. My mom said she’d go in a second. Of course, that advice comes from a woman who is used to wearing a bulletproof vest on the job. My dad, on the other hand, was less enthusiastic. "Let me make a phone call," was all he said at first.

Whenever my dad says "Let me make a phone call," it’s not a good sign. I have no idea who he calls on these occasions but he becomes an expert after a few minutes on the phone with his mysterious deep throat. Within 10 minutes, I had two urgent messages from my dad telling me to call him back on his cell phone "IMMEDIATELY."

He then proceeded to give me a lecture on the current situation in Afghanistan and told me it was a suicide mission. I could be bombed, raped, maimed, kidnapped, tortured or murdered. And then he would phone me before work every morning to read me the latest story in the newspaper. "Just calling to let you know I’m reading a story on page A7 of today’s Toronto Star that says a UN worker was killed when a suicide bomber blew up an internet café in Kabul. Have a good day."

Anyway, it’s all behind me now. Dad, you can stop sending me your daily Afghanistan briefings. Everyone else, you can relax too. I’m not going to Kabul. And that’s just fine with me.

I'm a bad babysitter

That’s me babysitting my little buddy Parker on Friday night. It was early in the evening when this picture was taken and I can’t figure out who looks more nervous, Parker or me? The poor kid looks like he’s trying to say “Dad, don’t leave me alone with this drunken maniac!” You can read the rest of the story here.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

I am never drinking again (originally titled “Adventures in baby-sitting”)

This post was supposed to be about how I spent last night baby-sitting for the first time in 15 years. Except I ended up having too much to drink while baby-sitting so I’m having a little trouble putting the details together.

I think I had three, maybe four, glasses of wine last night but I can’t remember. My friends Dave and Cris came over with their five-month-old baby Parker. I volunteered to look after Parker so that Dave and Cris could have a night to themselves.

It was the first time they had left Parker alone since he was born. For some reason, they thought I was responsible and trust-worthy enough for the job. It probably had something to do with the fact that I kept bragging about how I baby-sat through high school and practically raised my four younger sisters and brother.

That last part is a bit of a stretch. I didn’t actually *raise* them but I did baby-sit my two youngest sisters once and a while. It was fun. We’d make up stories and play games. My favourite game was, "Let’s pretend I’m a teenage mother and you’re my children." I’d take them to the mall and make them call me "mom."

I was a little nervous about baby-sitting Parker last night. I wasn’t sure I’d know what to do if he cried or needed his diapers changed. Apparently, this is the last thing you should say to a new parent the day before you baby-sit his child.

Dave: What are you talking about? This whole thing was your idea. You told me you were an awesome baby sitter and that you raised your sisters.

Me: I know, I know. It’s just that I’m a little rusty. It’s been more than 15 years.

Dave: You’ll be fine. Cris and I will come over. We’ll all play with Parker for a bit. And then we’ll give him a bath, Cris will feed him and then we’ll put him to bed. Then the three of us can sit around and drink some wine before we go out. It’ll be fun.

Me: Whoa, whoa, whoa. You need to give him a bath? In my tub? You never mentioned that before.

Dave: What?

Me: Um….I haven’t cleaned the tub in, like, a month.

Dave: That’s disgusting. So you bathe in a dirty tub?

Me: No. I don’t take baths. I don’t even have a tub stopper.

Dave: You’re telling me that you don’t fill the tub with bubbles and light candles and play soft music? You’re the first girl I’ve ever met that doesn’t do that.

Me: I don’t want to clean the tub all the time just so that I can have a bath. It’s too much work. I’d rather just lie on the couch or something.

Dave: You have got to be the laziest person I have ever met.

Anyway, it turned out neither of us had anything to worry about. I cleaned the tub and Parker was a breeze. It would have gone even more smoothly if Dave hadn’t insisted on opening the second bottle of wine last night. I don’t drink very often so when I do, it hits me like a ton of bricks.

After we put Parker to bed, Dave and Cris went out and I settled in to watch a movie. But I was too distracted to really enjoy it. I kept thinking, "Oh my god. There’s a baby in my bedroom. Please, please, please don’t let anything happen to him."

At the same time, I kept thinking how nice it was to have a baby in my apartment. It made me feel warm and fuzzy. Or maybe it was the alcohol…

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Haircut horror stories

I’ve been walking around with this picture of Kate Winslet in my back pocket. It’s a little wrinkled because her face has been pressed up against my left butt cheek all day.

I’m getting my hair cut tonight and when the stylist asks me how I want my hair to look, I’m going to whip out Kate’s picture and say, “Like this.”

The hairdresser will probably roll her eyes and stifle a laugh. And then she’ll explain that my hair is too thick, too dark, too dry and too frizzy to even attempt to emulate Kate’s soft, wispy, bouncy waves. Sigh.

I hate getting my hair cut. I really do. It’s not like I actually expect to leave the salon looking like a dark-haired Kate Winslet. I just want to leave looking better than when I arrived.

But it almost never works out that way. At best, I leave disappointed. At worst, I leave in tears. Well, not literally. I usually save the tears for when I get home. I’d be too embarrassed to cause a scene in public.

Plus, being surrounded by glamorous stylists makes me feel frumpy and unhip. Could they maybe just hide their stares of disapproval when I enter the salon with my chlorine-damaged hair up in a ponytail and my face free of make-up? I'm not *that* hideous.

Anyway, I’ve spent the last six months growing out one of the worst haircuts I’ve ever had. I was trying a new stylist so I told her exactly what I wanted: 1) No shorter than shoulder length, 2) If you’re going to give me layers, make sure they’re long enough so I can put my hair up in a ponytail.

She then proceeded to give me the exact opposite haircut. So I’m going back to my old hairdresser and taking Kate Winslet with me. The thing is, this isn’t the first time I’ve cheated on Nathalie and crawled back begging forgiveness.

The first time I was unfaithful, it was with a woman on Main Street who didn’t speak English. She seduced me with her cheap prices but left me with a head of hair that looked like it had been cut by a lawnmower. When I went running back to Nathalie, I could tell she was a little annoyed but she did her best to fix my hair.

We were happy together for a couple of years until temptation struck again. This time, the girlfriend of a friend opened up a hair salon two blocks from my apartment and I felt obligated to help support her new business.

Daisy left me with bad, stripy highlights and a cut I would spend the next two years growing out. But I kept going back out of a sense of loyalty. Besides, I had to pass their little salon every time I left the apartment. They would smile and wave at me as I walked by. I couldn’t exactly stop going.

So I was relived when they moved the store to a different neighbourhood last month. It gave me a good excuse never to go back. But it left me conflicted about making an appointment with Nathalie.

My inner dialogue went something like this: “Are you allowed to cheat on your hairdresser twice? Is she going to make me feel guilty? Is she going to take her resentment out on my hair? I could tell her I moved to Toronto for a few years. But what if she starts asking me questions about what I was doing in Toronto? No, too risky. I’m a bad liar. She’ll see right through me. Maybe she won’t even remember me. That’s dumb. Of course she’ll remember me. I don’t want to sit in that chair and feel bad for an hour. Maybe I should go to someone new. No, too risky. Nathalie was good. I liked her haircuts. Why did I ever cheat on her? I’m such an idiot.”

So I called and made an appointment for tonight. I figure a little time in the penalty box will be worth it if she can make me look a little bit like a brunette Kate Winslet. My fingers are crossed.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

What a long strange week it’s been

I’ve been a very bad blogger lately. But a really, really exciting, scary and crazy opportunity unexpectedly landed in my lap this week and I was way too distracted to blog. I considered writing about it but I think I’d better wait until my dad is less livid with me.

No, I’m not pregnant or anything. It’s just a little too sensitive and premature to discuss right now, especially when my dad refers to it as the "suicide mission."

Besides, I really need to focus my energy on my upcoming trip to Toronto. It’s hard to believe that in only 11 days I will voluntarily board a plane in order to have my ass kicked at Nationals.

The last two weeks before a big race are supposed to be spent resting and recovering in order to absorb all of the hard training during the past few months. Which is great in theory, but not so great in reality when you’ve neglected the "hard training" part of the equation.

I decided the only way to make up for my lack of sufficient training was to drop a small fortune on one of those fancy Speedos the Olympic swimmers wear. Besides, buying a new swimsuit for Nationals is like the finance minister buying new shoes the day before the budget. It’s tradition.

So my friend Gilles and I hopped on our bikes and rode over to North Vancouver yesterday to try on some Fastskins, which are supposed to maximize the flow of water over the swimmer’s body to reduce drag. These Speedos are engineered to fit like a second skin.

Of course, the fact that they fit like a second skin also makes them impossible to get on. You need a pretty healthy self-image, lots of patience and extremely flexible limbs in order to squeeze into these things. It’s not pretty. The fluorescent lighting and large mirrors don’t help either.

Gilles pulled me into his change room to make sure his ass didn’t spill out of his suit when he bent over. Apparently squeezing into his suit was far less traumatic for him. "If I was a straight guy you’d be all over me," he said, admiring his reflection.

After spending enough money for a down payment on a condo, Gilles invited me to lunch, his treat, at Capilano. I immediately agreed, assuming he meant Capilano Park where we could have lunch in the woods, in a café overlooking the river.

So when we left the store and got on our bikes, I was surprised when he turned right, instead of left towards the park.

"Aren’t we going to Capilano Park?" I asked.

Gilles looked puzzled and then laughed. "No, I meant the food court at Capilano Mall."

Sitting inside the mall’s food court watching guys with tattoos and screaming children and tired married couples eating in silence wasn’t exactly the view I was expecting. But who am I to turn down a free lunch?

So we rode over to the mall and ordered up some Japanese noodles. Afterwards, I ducked into a cigar shop to buy the weekend newspapers. There was a long line-up but I thought it would go fast. Wrong! Turns out I was the only person in the store not buying lottery tickets and cigarettes. But it wasn’t just a simple 649 they were after.

The big draw was the scratch and win tickets lined up like paint chips under the glass countertop. People would run back and forth pointing to the exact ticket they wanted. They were throwing toonies down on the counter, demanding "One of these. Two of those." I felt like I was in Las Vegas.

Twenty minutes later, I met up with Gilles who had been standing outside the store waiting.

"What the hell took you so long?" he asked.

"It was weird," I said. "People were buying cigarettes and lottery tickets like crazy. It’s like we’ve crossed into some weird alternate reality in this mall."

We jumped on our bikes and rode over the Lions Gate Bridge, through Stanley Park and accidentally landed smack in the middle of a B.C. Marijuana Party march. We ordered ice cream and watched the rally as it slowly moved down Denman Street.

Actually, I wasn’t watching the march as much as I was watching the reaction of other spectators. Like the little girl who complained to her mom that the weird smell was making her sick to her stomach. Or the senior citizen who turned up his nose and dismissed them as a "rag tag bunch who won’t get any votes."

When I finally got home, I opened up the newspaper only to find my name and my words in a Vancouver Sun story about people who blog about their jobs. Ack! How did I get lumped into that category? The column actually ran part of my post on my five-year anniversary at work. It turns out my boss had read the Sun article too and left me a voice-mail while I was out. Luckily, he thought the whole thing was hilarious. And, to be honest, it was pretty exciting to see my name in print.

It seemed a fitting end to a crazy week. Life has been anything but dull these days.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Pimp my blog

Apparently, I can be bought. And apparently, I am very cheap. All it takes is a few Tim Hortons gift certificates and some dark chocolate to win me over.

A few months ago, I wrote about how people were using my blog against me. It was a little disconcerting to have family and friends throwing my words in my face in the middle of a conversation “Yeah but in your blog you said [insert random incriminating statement here].”

I figured if people took what I wrote that seriously, I might as well twist it to my advantage. So I jokingly suggested that if I wrote about how much I loved Tim Hortons gift certificates and dark chocolate, maybe people would start sending me Tim Hortons gift certificates and dark chocolate.

Well guess what happened? People actually started sending me Tim Hortons gift certificates and dark chocolate! Well, two people did anyway.

The first wad of gift certificates arrived shortly after my birthday, tucked inside a card made out of a box of Timbits. They were from a guy in Toronto I have never met.

And then yesterday, another reader sent me $5 worth of gift certificates and a bar of dark chocolate. They were from a guy in Waterloo who says he reads my blog (very closely I might add, as the chocolate he sent was my favourite -- 70 per cent cocoa).

Both times, these strangers made my day. But I think I set the bar too low by asking for gift certificates and chocolate. Had I known that people would actually take me seriously, I would have asked for a new stereo, a new computer, a new couch, a cycling vacation in Italy and a potato masher.

Just google my name to find out where I work and the mailing address. No, don’t. I’m just kidding. . . or am I?

Sunday, May 01, 2005

A very weird pick-up line, and other strange stories

Maybe I’m over-analyzing it. Maybe if I were on the receiving end of more pick-up lines this one wouldn’t have seemed so strange.

It happened after swim practice on Saturday. I had gotten out of the pool and was standing on the deck, chatting with one of the straight guys on the swim team.

Him: "So we’re going to the Buffalo Club tomorrow night."
Me: "The Buffalo Club?"
Him: "Yeah. They have a mechanical bull and some of the girls get really drunk and ride it topless. You should come."
Me: "Um…no."
Him: "Meet me there at 10."
Me: "Um…no!"

And then he just walked away. My friend Annelle who had overheard the whole thing told me he was being serious. "He talks about that mechanical bull all the time. I think he goes every weekend."

Okay, but why would he think I’d want to go? Maybe it’s a cultural thing. Maybe in the hard-drinking, male-dominated, eastern European country he comes from that invitation would be considered a broad romantic gesture. I don’t know.

I feel like I need to make excuses for him because I can’t handle the thought that the 30-something dating pool is filled with guys like him. Please tell me this is not normal!

It gets weirder…

So I’m sitting on the couch, reading the weekend papers when I come across a bizarre story about a new bra that makes you look like you’ve had implants.

Actually, it wasn’t so much the story that puzzled me but the fact that it was a Vancouver Sun editorial. For some reason, the editorial board deemed the story important enough to take an official stand on it. Even weirder was the fact that they didn’t try to make the story funny. Its earnestness is what makes it truly strange.

The editorial explains this new bra gives you "a naturally cosmetically enhanced look." It even goes on to eloquently argue that the bra is "just the ticket for those who want the rack without the risk." It explains surgery is expensive and the bra is a cheaper alternative. And it ends with the following sentence: "We support the bra -- no pun intended."