Notes on October

The fog comes in on little cat feet.
–Carl Sandburg

And on those same little cat feet, it always seems to me on days like today, the summer goes out.

Even more so than the fog, autumn is the most enigmatic of natural phenomena; such incredible beauty arising out of relentless decay. Canadian raconteur Arthur Black once described this season as a velvet-gloved gentleman, tapping gently-but-insistently on our doors to warn of Old Man Winter’s approach. It’s a nice image, but my imagination can only reconcile it if the gentleman is F.Scott Fitzgerald.

All of which is an extended rationalisation for why I went out to Niagara this past sunny Sunday to see the fall colours, enjoyed them to the full, but didn’t take a single pic… then came home and took a bunch of shots during a random stroll down to the Second Cup on a misty Tuesday evening. And have now decided to inflict them on the readership.

Seasonal picspam under here…

Idiocracy, the documentary

I honestly don’t expect much from the free Metro subway paper. For one thing, it’s a free paper, and for another it’s designed to be read at an hour when I’m not physically capable of expecting much. That I am sometimes driven to mild irritation at the hack writing and/or shallow insight says reams about how dreadful it actually is.

Then I saw this article about ‘celebrity journalism giant’ Bonnie Fuller yesterday morning. The first few paragraphs had me mildly interested. The rest catapulted me straight past irritation and right to ‘that bout with PMS of which we no longer speak’.

So. Much. Fail.

I don’t know who to toss bricks at first. Fuller, for having real power to ‘explore the world’ via Michael Jackson, the Balloon Boy and Jon & Kate and using it to spawn cocktail chatter; or her interviewer, for not having even the tinest particle of wit required to realise what he’s currently doing with his actual journalism degree. If he has one. Maybe it’s ‘communications’. Or ‘media studies’…

"The great thing about celebrities today is that they come in all different ages, shapes, sizes and ethnic backgrounds… If your marriage is in trouble and you’re wondering if you can go through a divorce, you can look to Jon and Kate…"

Somehow, it all just sludges together into one massive wad of bleak.  On the plus side, though, I got to spend the rest of the subway ride fantasising about What Woodward & Bernstein Would Do if confronted with this situation. Too bad I got to my stop while they were still taking aim on the Pulitzer toss.

Yeah, so about those sweet polite Canadians…

I dunno, maybe they all moved to Vancouver or something.

Short version for lazy clickers: The other night, former Ontario Attorney-General (and, as it happens MPP for my riding) Michael Bryant got into a crankiness with cyclist Darcy Sheppard at a major Toronto intersection, while driving an open-topped convertible. Sheppard – for what it’s worth, later revealed to have serious anger-management issues – dismounts, slams the car hood, grabs the driver-side door…

…and this Harvard-trained potential future Premier candidate just guns it and runs. Drags Sheppard about 100 yards before he fell off, fell under…


Couple things. First, CFRB 1010? Stop calling this the ‘Bryant Bicycle Tragedy’, like, right now. Words cannot express just how tacky it is that the live guy is repeatedly trumping the dead one – one would imagine a news/talk station would have the proper order on file somewhere – but here’s a hint: This is so tacky that your own host kept frantically trying to distance himself from it after every break. ("No, really, as I keep saying, it’s everybody’s tragedy…")

Next… well, yes, it does also kinda suck to be Michael Bryant right now, I imagine. I met him once, very briefly, when he came around our building canvassing for re-election. Given which he seemed unusually sensitive in dealing with a disheveled woman home sick that day who had only opened the door because she’d just woken up and had some vague idea he was the police. So I liked him OK.

I’ve also been thinking about blind panic, what happens when something – someone? – gets too close. Mind you, my field tests have been on nothing like this scale; but I have done some incredibly stupid and painful things to myself while in full-on getitoffgetitoffGETITOFF!!! frenzy. Trying to shake off the teeniest of spiders. Seriously, I almost dislocated a shoulder once. In those moments, it’s goodbye higher function, hello… I don’t know what, but I suspect the spider did.

I’m wondering if this sort of instinct goes so far as fellow sapiens. Hard to imagine it would – that common humanity wouldn’t’ve kicked in at least when it was clear the guy was stuck – but. Bryant was in the car with his wife; maybe it had been a freakishly bad day; maybe he’d read one too many screaming Sun headlines about gang violence. I don’t know. There are reports that he actually climbed the sidewalk, frantically brushing Sheppard off against mailboxes, banging him into light poles. It defines belief that any rational human would treat another like a bug – unless that’s exactly what Bryant’s instinct thought the cyclist was.

In the aftermath, here’s Darcy Allan Sheppard, who by all accounts was doing the best he could with the crummy hand life dealt him, dead. Michael Bryant, politician maybe not as sleazy as the rest, facing the ruin of his career at best and a life sentence for criminal negligence at worst.

Right, we can get back to sweet and boring any time now, universe, OK?

Summer’s here, and the time is wrong

It is hot. H-O-T. The air is soup, the pavement glares, the bugs in the porchlights are the only living things moving fast.

It is so hot that I am reduced to going to work in those silk slacks I couldn’t resist at the thrift shop. The ones that are a little faded and increasingly crumply, so that it looks like I’m wearing the lining of some other pants.

I could iron them, I guess, but I am terrified of scorching the delicate fabric. Because then I would be reduced to going to work in those raggedy cutoffs that no longer fit. It is JUST THAT DAMN HOT.

What a really lovely weekend.

–Threw on a flimsy cardigan over my spring dress and spent two hours’ preaching service in beautiful Rosedale, strolling ‘where the wealthy nobles dwell’, almost giddy with the sensation of warm sun on bare arms.

–Went shopping and managed to find Shoemom the perfect white sweater almost on first go in the change room. Those of you who don’t have mothers for whom clothes shopping is as convincing a Calvinist to have fun, trust me, this was a red-letter event.

–Indulged myself to the hilt in Godiva chocolates — I highly recommend the key lime truffle, by the way – and Shoemom didn’t complain once about the wasted $$. Probably because of my cunning flanking maneuvres involving mandarin orange ganache, at the taste of which she is helpless.

–Got to sleep in literally ’til noon on Sunday.

–Constructed the most amazing outfit for services from various forgotten pieces in my closet. Memo to wanna-be dieters needing a boost: This is the feeling you’re shooting for, and oh, is it worth it. Every last glass of water and stick of celery.

–Had several nifty comments on my blog, including one from an old friend I’d been missing for yonks and another, on WordPress, that said my writing style was ‘unusual and nice’. I am thoroughly chuffed.

–Made various fun and frolicsome plans with friends for upcoming summer weekends.

–Finally found the perfect ‘dark’ LJ theme I’ve been searching for – that is, elegant and evocative of something other than ‘Hey world! I wanna die!’

–Contrived at last to convince myself my Holiday review had simply got lost in my previous column-proposal mess @ PopMatters, and fired it off again, to the features editors this time.

–In the course of the usual angsting over my fiction-writing follies, thought back over a project I’d started and then abandoned awhile ago…and suddenly it all clicked into place, all the plot elements I’d been struggling with resolved. A tight, complete story is now staring back at me out of chaos, one that I’m genuinely interested in telling. All ready, just as soon as I want to commit it to paper…

…so, um, why am I suddenly terrified?

Moving, the sequel: The Day Our World Didn’t *Quite* End

Toronto, my beloved city, is 175 today – and here are 175 reasons, courtesy the hometown Star, why that’s a Very Good Thing.

Which also seems like a very decent segue into a progress report on the Great Shoe Migration of ’09: The moving part is still on. Really, we swear.

However. As it turns out, thinking seriously about leaving a place, and leaving the people, are two distinctly different things. Witness congregations are static within a given area, rather like a Catholic parish; once you move out of the [preaching] ‘territory’, that’s it, whole new congregation. Sure, there’s nothing saying you can’t keep up with your friends anyway, but…well, you know how that works. "We’ll have to get together real soon!" "Oh, I know, I’ve been so busy!" *trots happily away, never to be seen again*

So basically for the last couple weeks it’s been talk excitedly about moving, go to meeting, feel crushed at thought of parting, talk a little less excitedly, go to meeting…lather, rinse, repeat. The lack of excitement was getting to elephant-in-the-room levels – and if you’ll recall, these are very small rooms – before we finally both broke down last night and admitted that taking everything into the balance, we weren’t ready to give up what we have just yet. She would rather take more frequent days right out in the country over a compromise position somewhere in suburbia, and frankly I don’t fancy complicating my commute the way I’d have to anyway.

On the other hand, the lack of space is still a major issue. I do honestly long for a bedroom, with a bed, which isn’t separated from the kitchen only by a low counter that the cats keep knocking things off all night. For that matter, Shoemom wants a living room that she doesn’t have to worry about explaining away all my tchotchkes every time she has adults over – much less the nephews. Some of them are glass.

Thus, new plan. Friends in a nice-but-affordable old building nearby mentioned the other week that there was a two-bedroom coming up there. Shoemom loves the friends’ apartment, is ecstatic about the tree-intensive location (it backs out on to the huge historic Mount Pleasant Cemetery – very quiet neighbors!) and just generally ‘has the same connexion I felt when I saw this [current] place for the first time’. And we’ve been here five years. Kitchen’s a lot smaller in this new place, but not-futon sleeping place….mmmm. Also, walk-in closet. I feel so shallow, but it’s true.

So we’re all set to initiate paperwork. Friends are good buddies with the super, so things are looking…gahhh, don’t want to get too excited about this in case it doesn’t happen…let’s leave it at that, shall we? Will report developments as they come in….

….eeeeeeeeeee i hope i hope i hope

Planet Earth is blue/and there’s nothing I can do…

*returns from further web search* So nobody commutes from Milton to Brampton? At least, not by public transit? *sigh*

So yes, I think we’re serious about moving. Something has to be done, anyway, because Shoemom is going quietly stir-crazy as things stand. She’s a small-town – rural, really – Niagara native who’s been doing her level best to keep up with the urban mileu for five years now; in one of the most multicultural cities in the world to boot. While she assures me she has no regrets (and well she shouldn’t – the woman has a more active social life than I do at this point, for cripes’ sake), apparently enough is enough. She’s not getting any younger, and while she ‘never thought she’d be the kind of person to care about this kind of thing’, the fact is her ‘roots’ are calling her back.

I can’t really complain about any of this, since I’ve had it pretty much all my own way in the matter for those same five years. She can’t afford to live on her own, and neither of the Shoesisters are viable alternatives at this point, so we’re joined at the hip for better or worse – better, since we’re buddies as much as we are relatives at this point. I love her especially for picking up after Shoedad’s desertion and making a strong, independent woman of herself, and I love her generally for what she’s done for me since, well, birth, so what can you do?
Besides…while I also love my city truly madly deeply…I’ve been here for more than a decade now, and have reached the stage wherein most of the reasons I love it can be just as easily pursued at a distance. You know, I’ve been having a lot of fun playing at the city sophisticate – the way you do, in your 20’s and early 30’s – but I’m not really, never will be, and have the strong idea that it might be time to stop trying so hard.

Back to where, now, is the bit we’ve still got to sort out. Shoemom’s idea is naturally of someplace corresponding much more closely to her experience; especially so since as a ‘pioneer’ (that is, one who works full-time in our preaching ministry) she’s out in her community’s face more or less constantly. Thus being able to relate in terms of language, culture etc is important to her well-being on several levels.
Also high on the list of priorities is lowering our expenses, simplifying our lifestyles at least a little. At the moment, we have a great place at a reasonable rent in one of Toronto’s most desirable neighborhoods – and it’s a jr. one-bedroom apartment. We’re literally stuffed into two tiny rooms. An upgrade would be very nice indeed.

Thing is, there are complications. The big one is that I don’t drive – and I work in Brampton, not Toronto anymore. So the search for Shoemom’s more relatable mileu is limited by the exigencies of public transit.  As it turns out, apropos of my post last night, there are a lot of exigencies in the preferred corridor. It’s doable, but it’s nowhere near as simple as we’d thought it would be. The GTA commuter train system is set up to shuttle people back and forth from the outskirts to Toronto, not from outskirt to outskirt. Which is efficient use of resources I guess; but not at all helpful in re: ours, just now.

This nixes, unfortunately, most of the places in which she would be happiest – Niagara Region and immediate environs. Of the remaining possibilities, Burlington is the most desirable – since we lived there for awhile in the 90’s – but still too far away, Oakville is kinda pointless anyway if the idea is to simplify living expenses, and Mississauga and Brampton are just…well, Mississauga and Brampton. All the same objections to the current situation apply, with ‘all there is to do there is shop’ thrown in.

This leaves Milton. Amazingly pretty, fashionable little city, all the amenities (it better have, being the fastest-growing city in Canada) close to everywhere else we’d want to be…a matter of minutes down the highway from Brampton…and no ruddy GO bus. Aargh. Will keep you posted.

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