Potpourri’s Revenge

So I’ve spent the past few days (when not curled up in the foetal position, whining and wheezing) exploring one of the bigger problems you encounter writing a weekly column – or at least, a weekly conglomeration of thoughts you’re pleased to call a column. Namely, coming up with things to conglom about.

It’s not a shortage of ideas, per se; I’ve started up any number of promisingly thoughful trains…only to have them fizzle and die not much further down the tracks. Clearly I need to come up with more interesting concepts, or possibly just be more interesting period. The quest to find out which it was naturally led me back around to my many and varied influences.

Didn’t work. Or rather, worked all too well. By the time I was half-way through the list of workaday idols, it became clear that all of them had either had or were in the process of having really interesting-/exciting-/amusing-incident-filled lives, to the point where my own random irritation with movie posters in the subway was starting to make even Arthur Black look like a raconteur on par with Twain. The only major exception was Dave Barry, but I’m really not into either booger jokes or beer, strong indulgence in the latter I suspect is necessary to make the former that funny anyhow.

I found myself spiralling down through the depths of recall, calling forth every random regular bit of newsprint I’d ever read, finally landing up back in my pre-teen-hood. We had a subscription to the Toronto Sun for a few years…

That’s when it hit me. Potpourri Guy.
Potpourri Guy – whose real name I have long since forgotten – was the trivia columnist from the back pages of the Sunday Sun’s TV listings. He fascinated me totally; not because of what he was but what he so determinedly wasn’t.
Sure, you’re thinking. Bored hack, stuck in the back, why should he be bothered to work up thrilling trivia for both of his devoted readership. Ah, but you see, that’s the point: This guy worked really really hard on his slacking off. Week after week, he’d kick off with an elaborate discursion on what his column could be, if only he actually cared. Relevance! Excitement! Tie-ins with that week’s cover story! Usually two or three options, even; as for instance “Let’s see…the debut of Trapper John, MD. Medical shows through the years? Bonanza alumni? Shows starring Lorne Greene?” It worked pretty well, on a kid looking to add to her store of Trivial Pursuit ammunition…

Before, inevitably, the letdown: “Nah…potpourri.” Followed by a totally random list.

Every single freaking week, this went on. I know, because after several in a row it got so I was flipping compulsively to the back page as soon as the paper came in, just to find out. A boiling young mixture of righteous frustration and…well, admiration, kind of. Even then, I knew this guy had to have the cushiest writing job going.

Then, of course, they invented blogs. After a few years we moved out of the GTA and I lost track, but I have no doubt whatsoever this dude, and/or his descendants, are WordPress’ best friend.

So there you have it: I am a child of the stars no less than at least one published newspaper columnist, and probably a whole whack of bloggers, to boot. I know it doesn’t seem like much, ultimate-meaning-wise, but it’ll do well enough while I work my way up to, say, the guy from the Hamilton Spectator whose collection I picked up on break one day at the bookstore. Or, y’know, wait for the cats to do something LOL-worthy.

So…potpourri.

Canada Blooms 2008, aka the Toronto Flower & Garden Festival, kicks off next week, for those of you So. Ontarians still doubting the existence of a merciful God. I am not suggesting this so much from the ‘how beautiful His creation’ angle, although that works well anyway, as the ‘just got hit with one more ruddy snowstorm and more predicted for Friday and oh God if you don’t do something about this RIGHT NOW I will be forced to run amuck through the streets like that dude I saw on America’s Most Wanted once, except with a good-sized icicle instead of samurai swords’ angle. Roughly speaking.

Seriously, if you only get to one trade show a year, this is it. Acres and acres of big fluffy colourful gardens, beautifully appointed decks, sunrooms, patios…yes, summer still exists outside of wistful imagination, and here’s the proof. Also, they apparently have some killer lectures on the types of grass-seed to use on shaded lawns, or so my sister tells me. My personal belief is that she’s been hanging out with my brother-in-law too long, but whatever hoes your row, I guess.

–The aforementioned movie posters. Specifically, a couple that have been confronting me every time I head down to the Queen subway after a long day:

i] The Eye. This is more of a taste thing than anything else, although it might help to point out that it’s not like Jessica Alba is any closer to Oscar buzz thanks to a thriller that covers territory Stephen King was yawning at back in 1985. Here and now, my main concern is that I not have to spend another three months staring at a poster that consists entirely of giant fingers poking out of a giant eyeball. Please, parental advisory boards or somebody, couldn’t we work on some legislation? Y’know, to pass the time while we wait for the next cartoon character to come out of the closet? Thanks.

ii] Fool’s Gold. What, you may ask, could their possibly be wrong with staring at a bronzed Matthew McConaughey day after day? Absolutely nothing, of course. The issue is with his holding up Kate Hudson…or as much of Kate Hudson as is left after the studio’s army of Photoshop elves got through with her bikini’ed form. The result is this awkward sort of…sexy-type pose that really just isn’t working. My serious impression, before finding anything else out about the movie, wasn’t “Oh, my darling, isn’t it wonderful to be Young and enjoying Life?” so much as “Oh, my darling, isn’t it wonderful that you’ve recovered from  your eating disorder enough that we can go swimming again?”

–Meanwhile, back on the Serious Artist front: Apparently, getting your heart’s desire doesn’t actually exempt you from total pettiness. I’m thinking of notifying Disney…right after I sign onto the Kalan Porter family forum just long enough to chortle ‘Who’s unreadable now, eh? Nyahhhh-ha-hahhhhhh…!’ Truly, I need somebody to explain to me why this is a bad idea, because – well, bless the many friends I still have there, but still and all, the more I think about it, the sweeter it sounds.

–Audiobook of the week (one of the nicest things about my job being that nobody cares if I employ the iPod in turn, so long as my response time to random hollers is on par): I’m currently relistening to Bill Bryson’s Notes From a Big Country (published as I’m a Stranger Here Myself in the US), his collection of columns for the London Daily Mail Sunday magazine written upon his move back to America from the UK, circa about 1998.
Bryson – who under normal circs is a celebrated travel writer – is one of those idols I mentioned above. For one thing, he’s just one of the most naturally funny people I’ve ever read; intelligent enough to see all-too-clearly how the world should work, damnit, yet endearingly fallible in re: the reality of trying to execute same. The kind of guy you wish was sitting next you on those long train trips.

Besides which, he has one of the more uniquely interesting of those backgrounds I mentioned above. Born in Des Moines, Iowa (“somebody had to be”) as part of the first Boomer wave, he fell completely and utterly in love with Europe through foreign films. Backpacking accordingly as a young man, he fell into a job in a UK mental hospital, met and married a beautiful nurse, and settled down in rural Yorkshire to raise a family, via the expedient of informing newspaper editors he was ‘the one man who could be relied upon to spell Cincinnati correctly.”  Nearly two decades later, he and the family packed up and as noted moved back to the States, whereupon one of those British editors finangled a weekly column on the experience out of him.

The result is something completely unique to a North American reader; a series of entirely fresh perspectives on topics as familiar as megamalls and the energy crisis. The situations and statistics he cites are naturally some way out-of-date now, and have to be taken with a grain at any time; on at least one occasion he falls headlong for an obvious urban legend. Still, though, warmly recommended as the closest thing to a perfect meshing of American hyperbole and British awareness of same the average humour/sociology aficionado is liable to find.
(After which the really dedicated type can check out Notes From a Small Island, in which he applies the same process to the UK with such affectionate deadliness that it earned him the chancellorship of Durham College awhile back).

Jeff Healey fades away, age 41. Not much to add here, except, well, crud. We’re not so well-equipped with the good ones that we can afford to lose them at this rate.

–On the other hand…the terrifying prospect of Paris Hilton reproducing also, er, reared its ugly head at me this week. Or, more accurately, her canine companions – all seventeen of them. According to the gossip pages which are my main conduit to same, she’s under scrutiny by the animal services of LA for running a sort of little foofy kennel without a license, or for that matter much in the way of awareness.
I would ordinarily be less than amazed by this – after all, passionate poodles etc have been imdiscriminately decorating (in every sense of the word) flighty heiresses’ boudoirs since at least Marie Antoinette. Remind me someday to tell you the story of the Princesse de Gumenee, her best friend, who believed that her little darlings actually whispered spirit messages in her ears. (That this was overlooked – among many other real-life royal follies – in the Sofia Coppola movie, which did include a shopping montage set to I Want Candy, left me frankly really…puzzled.)

At any rate. What caps Paris’ particular indulgence off, to me, is the excuse she gave to the investigating officers; something to the effect of: “Well, they keep having babies, and I keep thinking if I had a baby and somebody took it away from me, I’d be really upset, and…”

There comes a moment at which your brain just flat-out refuses to believe any human being could be that stupid, and I’m going to give the be-pinked-one her due here. After all, the movies career flopped, the CD flopped, there’s absolutely nothing here that suggests she isn’t now angling for a high-profile gig as a PETA spokesperson. Or maybe this is a sort of cri de coeur re: her infant-free state in a Hollywood where it’s the latest rage: “Look, available males! If I have a child, contrary to all available evidence, I will so not lose it under a pile of fishnets!”

–Finally…I don’t ordinarily do a lot of shilling for my workplace here, largely because our new boss’ take on privacy makes Richard Nixon look like Mata Hari. Also, we have one of those intranet thingies that post ever single Net mention of Hbc they can find, meaning I’m liable to find my ruminations re Paris and poodles splashed in places where lots of severely un-impressed management will see it.

However. The fact is, I work in Ladies’ Better Apparel, meaning basically tons and tons of cool designer wear. (Yes, indeedy, they do call it ‘Better’ apparel. As opposed to ‘moderate’, in case you were wondering. Not to worry; every now and again the clutch of trendy twenty-somethings I work with sit around and feel reallyreally bad about being shallow and promoting consumerism. Then they go get a cappucino, and maybe some cool boots, and it passes.)
…ahem. This is all beside the point. The point being, once again, truly cool clothes. Yes, from the Bay. We’ve been working very hard at upping our coolness quotient for the past few seasons or so, not that anybody has noticed or anything, and with the release of this spring’s adverts we’ve come far enough that I feel it’s high time somebody patted us on the head and gave us a cooky, or possibly one of those little vanilla scones from Starbucks. Yummy.

…so, that’s about it. Tune in next week, I’ll save the cute kitty stories.

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