this morning

Seven cars idling.

I’d like to tell you it’s a line from a new xmas carol I’m writing but there were in fact seven cars idling on my walk this morning while drivers were inside…their houses, presumably waiting until… until what?? Until their cars got to the boiling point? Just how hot does someone need an interior to be before they slip their tender selves into it?

A pitiful sight. And the smell was worse.

I mentioned this briefly the other day but I’ll say it again… this is what makes me really hope that oil prices get raised to ridiculous levels because it seems that money, not common sense, is the best motivator. [I’m thinking of the ruse used by grocery stores for a while—that quarter we got back if we returned our shopping carts to the right place rather than leave them strewn about the parking lot. Because it seems we’re an untidy bag of bones unless we’re paid/bribed to be otherwise.]

So much to be proud of.

But here’s the kicker. When I see one of the idlers come out of his house and get into his car I notice that on this chilly morning he’s wearing a light jacket that isn’t even done up. Then again, why bother? He’d only break into an uncomfy sweat if he wore a buttoned up winter coat inside a car that had been sizzling for ten minutes.

I was tempted to write a note in chalk on his driveway after he left, maybe offer coat buttoning lessons, introduce him to the concept of hats [easily taken off when things get toasty, the way they do as you motor along]. Heck, for the sake of less filth being spewed into the atmosphere, I’d even go so far as to lend him a pair of gloves.

“P.S.”  I might add. “The next time an entire eco-system is drenched in oil spill, or even just a part thereof, wings and gills gummed up until there’s nothing to do but suffocate, and your children are crying over pictures of greasy little ducklings from the back seat of your over-heated, over-sized ‘vehicle’… all you are allowed to to say to them is— So what? Doesn’t affect us.”


pink toys R girls + blue R boys = *sigh*

Against my better judgement I ventured into a toy store recently. Toys aren’t what I love giving the kids in my world. I prefer the idea of books and clay and donkeys and paint a whole lot more. But I wondered if maybe I was missing out on something, so off I went on a toy hunt. My first reaction was to be stunned with the enormity of choice so I asked a sales clerk if they might be able to help, to offer some ideas for children of various ages. I started with a toddler.

Is it a boy or a girl? the clerk asked.

Does it matter? I said. They can barely walk.

I was assured that, yes, it does indeed matter and once I’d identified the recipient as a girl child, was whisked to the pink side of the room where the shelves were so shockingly bright I momentarily lost focus, barely heard what the clerk said. Something about unicorns. When I asked what she would recommend for a boy the same age she directed me to the opposite wall, said trains were popular.

I was fascinated yet disheartened by this girl/boy division and considered taking solace in the world’s softest snowy white owl—for myself—but the lines were too long. Instead, I decided to to undertake an informal survey of area toy stores, popping into various ones over the next few days, asking for gift ideas for different ages. Result of survey: whether it was a small independent shop, a medium-sized chain or a huge honking warehouse, in every single case but one, the first question, regardless of age, was: is it a boy or a girl?

When I said I’d rather not be limited by gender specific toys, and that I’d prefer if they could just go by age appropriateness instead, sales clerks were flummoxed. It was clearly so ingrained that this stuff is for boys and this stuff is for girls, that it actually took them a moment to consider what to give an individual “kid”.

I kept expecting the first question to be what interests the child had, but no one asked that, at least not until they determined how said child peed.

In one case I was asked if the girl was a girly girl or a tomboy… with a distinct negative tone on the word ‘tomboy’, as if offering condolences. Message received: girly girl = good; tomboy = possibly cute, but slightly off the mark.

In another instance, when I said I was shopping for both a girl and a boy, of approximately the same age, I was shown a fabulous MegaBlocks set complete with helicopter, police station, cars, bulldozer, roads, cruisers—more than 1700 pieces in all.  I said that the girl would love this. The owner of the shop, a man, informed me it would be better for the boy and then, pointing to a small shelf behind me said, This is for girls… it’s pink. He actually said It’s pink. It was also MegaBlocks, but in a plastic storage bin. The label showed that inside were the ingredients to build a domestic scene:  a small house, a cat, a bush, a few flowers and a tiny car. I said it looked a bit dull, not much to do here but drive up to the house and back out again, maybe water your tree. It hardly compared with the helicopter and police station possibilities for saving the world. The guy shrugged, said, yeah, but… it’s for girls…

I began to realize how limiting and subliminally ‘shaping’ is this world of toys. For example, if your boy child likes gardening, I hope you [and he] have the chops to deal with the fact that  ‘gardening’ kits are pink and/or have a girl on the cover. Ditto foodie/cooking type stuff.

In one store the boy’s side had signs indicating “Science Books”, “Science & Discovery”, “Brio”, “Thomas Railway”, “LEGO & Duplo”, “K’Nex” and “Chugginton”.

The girl’s side signage listed: “Dress-Up”, “Fashion & Bling”, “Arts & Crafts” [all pink], “Doll Houses”, “Corolle Dolls” and “Calico”.

The boy’s side included toboggans, table hockey and all manner of balls and racquets and sports things as well as kites, cars, walkie-talkies, wagons, sci-fi material and science projects.

The girl’s side: tiaras, wings, pink and silver slippers, life-size doll heads for practicing hair styles [age 3+], Princess Castle, Sparkle Kittens, glitter art, Bling Bracelets, button making, finger-nail art, costumes, My Sweet Diary, dolls and a whole line of Project Runway merchandise including a makeup and hair design sketch portfolio [age 8+].

In another store, a whole section of pink was devoted to merchandise of an early motherhood training variety. Not that there’s anything wrong with dolls and dolly car seats and other domestic paraphernalia… it’s that it’s all pink.

One can go pink mad.

And I think I did.

Which is why I’ve given up on the toy shops. Am sticking to books and paint and things that allow kids to think, not to mention donkeys and bears

ethanol on the beach: one story, three versions, with pictures

Version I

The city didn’t want it. Another city did. Some shady dealing went on. The city that doesn’t want it is getting it anyway. And they’re upset. And the city that wanted it is upset too. And please don’t ask if an environmental assessment was done because that’s just silly. Of course it was NOT done. The new rules say we don’t need such fluff and nonsense.

So there.

End of story.


Cronyism has won the right to build an ethanol plant in Durham Township, right on Oshawa’s busy and environmentally sensitive waterfront, much to the dismay of everyone except the cronies. Meanwhile, nearby Brock Township has a site they’d love to dedicate for just such a purpose but the cronies wrinkled their noses and said no, they want to play at the beach instead. It’s rumoured that one stamped his foot and threatened to hold his breath until he turned blue(r).


In Search of Gifford Hill—my take on visiting the site.

And pictures too.

a few trashy stories

So there’s the one about the guy who walks over, slow like, walks all the way over from wherever he lives on the street opposite the park where Peter and I are clearing litter from the tall grass area and creek bed that never gets mowed. It’s a pretty big space and we have a few green garbage bags already filled. So the slow walking guy stands there, hands in pockets, smiling, and says it’s great what we’re doing. He wants to know if we’re part of a group or something. (What, like the Kiwanis maybe? I’m not sure what he means). No, I say, we’re just  us. He looks momentarily confused, or perhaps it’s just gas, then rattles on about the sin of littering and how it brings down house prices. He asks if we live in the neighbourhood. Nope, I tell him, we’re on the other side of the ravine but we come through here all the time. His hands are still in his pockets. He’s wearing khakis and a golf shirt. Well, he says, bouncing a little on his toes, brightening considerably, why don’t we form a committee, get a group together to clean the area. But we are cleaning the area, I say, we do this all the time. I explain how you can’t just clean it once, it gets messy again very quickly, and how a group, nice as it would be to have company, won’t do any long-term good… better to just have many people pick up a few things on a daily basis. Or do bigger clean-ups on their own as and when they feel like it. I suggest that groups have a way of getting complicated. They argue. People will find ways to disagree about how to pick up litter. We’re not group people, I say finally… but, hey, thanks, and good luck.

He’s suddenly all crestfallen and slightly pissed off and I silently wonder if in declining the offer to whip up a litter committee what I’ve really done is dashed his hopes for whatever else was attached to the plan. (Brain-storming BBQs? Bake-sale to raise funds for garbage bags? Motivational street party with face-painting for the kids and Larry the Litter Loving clown?)

He mumbles something like yeah, right, and walks back from whence he came, hands still firmly planted in pockets.

If a committee has been formed, I haven’t noticed.
The litter continues to fall.
We continue to pick it up.
We’ve never seen the man nor his pockets again.


Then there’s the couple who sit on their porch comparing their lawn to everyone else’s. We don’t have a lawn. We’re weird. And when I walk past the porch-sitters the man says something I don’t hear and I shout back Yes, it’s a lovely day! and he repeats the thing that I don’t understand. I move closer and he says “What’s that in your hands?”

I tell him it’s litter; I say it’s amazing what you can pick up in just a short walk around the block. Ha!  I toss in some laughter to keep it light.

He makes a bad smell face, goes slightly indignant. The woman also, just stares. So now I’m standing way too close to their tidy porch holding a squashed Timmy’s cup and other bits of debris and I realize the exchange has ended, that I’ve been dismissed, and as I shuffle off I wonder how I’ve offended them. Have I caused them to feel guilty for not picking up litter? Or have I simply confirmed their suspicions about the sort-of-people-who-don’t-have-a-lawn? (Beware the Timmy’s cup, the flattened water bottle, the muddy Rothman’s pack… strange powers to unsettle the masses lurk there!)


A friend of mine gathers litter as she walks to work at King and Bay—which is brilliant because the better dressed the anti-litter warrior, the more influence they have in a 100 monkeys kind of way. (Recently I’ve noticed a guy around the corner who takes regular walks with a No Frills bag or two, filling them with rubbish. I honk as I pass. Wave and smile. I hope he doesn’t get the wrong idea.)


Last but not least is the woman who says—in her not-very-sincere-smiling way (and who insists recycling is a scam)—that it’s very nice to pick up litter and all but don’t I worry that I’m taking away the jobs of people who are employed to do such things?

Though I’ve never seen the ’employed’ scrambling through ravines… I call the Town, present my concerns, and am met with laughter.

Followed by reassurance that no one will lose jobs.

Seems there is indeed enough litter for us all.

On the street, in parks, wherever.

You can imagine my relief.


Once upon a time there was a place, a kind of delightfully welcoming hole in the wall across the street from the ROM, where you could get a couple of spring rolls, the best BBQ pork, greens, a bowl of soup and an endless pot of tea for not much money. So you’d leave a huge tip because the owners were so amazing and lovely and even though the place was always crowded with regulars, and you only went in a few times a year, they knew you, remembered what you liked, were all smiles as you walked in. As if it hadn’t been half a year.

The decor was mostly red with magic marker specials that never seemed to change on sheets of bristol board stapled to panelling. There were jars of soy sauce and chili flakes and plastic roses on the tables, the kind that look wet—the first time I saw them, fifteen years ago, I thought they were real. That was before I had a good look around.

We were there a few weeks ago and found a handwritten sign in very bad English taped to the door. The place had closed. The sign said they hoped to re-open sometime. Somewhere. They didn’t yet know where. (Have since googled them and found they’ve moved to a whole different part of the city, a whole different city in fact… )

So sad to lose places that give character and sweetness to a neighbourhood. And how ironic that it’s precisely these places that are part of what draws people to wanting to move there, yet the very act of moving more people in forces the charming places to move out.

Oh Condoronto, whatever are you doing?? (Fun fact: there are more high rises/condos being built in Toronto than anywhere else in North America.)

I’d be surprised if a year from now there’s even one restaurant left in this neck of the woods (or many others) that has anything resembling plastic roses with fake water droplets and people who shout Hello! and remember, even after six months, that you like the pork lean and always with baby bok choy.

Whatever they build, they can’t build that.

a slap in the face

Given the general hoopla dedicated to the Vancouver Olympics, Part One, I had this stupid idea— that is, I assumed —Part Two, the Paralympics, might also get some attention.

Not that I expected it would get as much of course. Good lord no. Afterall I understand that it’s hard for small-minded marketers to find the same promotional ‘qualities’ in visually impaired, armless, or wheelchair bound athletes. (Though why that is, I can’t quite fathom. One would think—if one were thinking—that not only are these men and women of the Paralympics extraordinary athletes in top physical condition—moreso even than the Part One Olympians when you consider things like cross country skiing without poles or downhill without sight—but their clothing and equipment must also be absolutely top of the line.)

Seems to me lots of marketing opps missed here.

But then, could be we’re dealing with teeny, blinkered brains in the corporate and marketing arenas where sponsors prefer spokes-models of a certain size and limb count.

Small brains seem also to reign pretty mightily over at CTV where, I discovered I will NOT be able to watch the Paralympic opening ceremonies tonight. That’s right, the official Canadian broadcaster for the Vancouver Olympics feels that the latest episode of Medium, an American TV series, is more important.

The opening ceremonies are on TOMORROW (of course, what a great idea!) after the games have actually begun.

Well, here’s news for the CTV Einsteins who came up with that plan—I’m a funny person, I like to watch opening ceremonies at the OPENING. (FYI: that means BEFORE the event gets rolling.) I might be alone in this, I don’t know. 

What I do know is that it’s a huge oversight that the Paralympics are consistently treated like some second class show  but when the show is being held in our own country, you’d think we might just deem it worthy enough to treat it with a little more  respect and dignity. And maybe, therefore, allow ourselves to be more broadly introduced to this incredible event.

Of course that would require intelligence and a certain kind of balls that apparently don’t exist in the CTV boardrooms where this decision was made.

To say that not airing the opening ceremonies is a slap in the face, not only to the athletes, but to viewers eager to share in the excitement, is an understatement. I’m puzzled to say the least. Embarrassed because I thought we were better than that. And more than slightly disgusted.

I never thought I’d say this, but God bless the internet.

Fortunately Part Two of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics can be seen here, live. Including the opening ceremonies.

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