Archive for September, 2007

I got a call from the laundromat where I dropped off the quilts.  They’ll be ready for pick-up after 5pm today, but they still don’t know how much I’ll be charged.  The actual dry cleaners submit the bill when they drop off the product at the laundromat.  How sad is it that I’m excited to find out?  Pretty sad.

Also sad?  Finding a dead bird on the front porch last night when I got home from work.  It was sitting up near our front door.  I figured that some sort of scavenging animal would make short work of it overnight, so I kicked it off the porch into the bushes.  Then, this morning, it was back up on the front porch.  I figure one of the neighbourhood cats brought up to the door as a goodwill offering… or perhaps a threat.

Our new neighbourhood has no shortage of outdoor cats.  They wander our alley and some will even come up to our back porch for a quick visit.  They’re very friendly (for the most part) and they all seem to get along (as I rarely hear the sounds of cat fights out on the street).  That might all change in spring when nature takes its course, but for now it’s peaceful.

I’m a huge fan of the variety of wildlife in our new ‘hood (raccoons excepted, of course) and I’ve been thinking about setting up a bird feeder in our yard for the winter.  With all the old growth trees and cedar hedges, I’m willing to bet there are hundreds of chickadees within a square kilometre who would go nuts over a suet feeder.  Mind you, I also know that there are millions of grey squirrels and tens of millions of black squirrels in that same square kilometre who would try to strip it first.

Maybe that can be my project for this coming winter.  I can go head to head in a battle of wills with the local squirrels.  Consider the guantlet thrown down.

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In the summer of 2002, I moved back home for a few months after leaving University.  I had a job in the city and was commuting by GO Train while trying to get my head around living at home again for the first time in five years.  It was a short-term solution and I moved into the city that fall.

While I was at home, my parents introduced me to a new member of the family, a German Shepherd/Husky named Boston (he came with the name and despite my protests, he kept it).  It was a shock having a dog in the house after a lifetime of having cats, and even more shocking was having such a big dog, but he was pretty laid back and spent most of his time chewing his toys to bits.

Boston at the cottage

My mom had found him in a kennel where his previous owners were paying to have him kept.  They were an older couple who just couldn’t look after him anymore, and he didn’t really seem to click with anyone who came by looking to purchase him.  When my mom walked up to the cage, the staff were surprised to see how much he perked up, and when she actually bought him, he couldn’t wait to get out the door with her.

His gentle disposition masked a deep, dark secret.  Our dog was bitterly racist.  It seems that he held a strong bias against boys of a certain skin colour, and a pet specialist told my parents that Boston had likely been teased as a pup and learned a pattern of aggressive behavior as a result.  Once we learned that, we knew how to handle him and treat him.

Boston and my brother had a particularly stormy relationship.  They got along well, but when our parents went on vacation, my brother would look after him.  One evening, I got a call in Toronto from my frantic brother asking how to wash skunk smell out of a dog.  It seems he got a blast of spray square in the mouth while trying to play with a skunk.  He handled it well, and after a few days, the smell only surfaced when he burped.

Speaking of burping, Walter the Farting Dog had nothing on Boston.  Our dog could clear a room in seconds.  I have always blamed that on his remarkably varied diet of dog food, scraps and treats fed to him by my parents and whatever he could steal off the kitchen counter and table.

Boston really came to life when my parents moved up to the Ottawa Valley.  He had a huge yard of his own (well, he shared it with the cat, but she stayed well out of his way) and my dad took him on frequent trips to the local dump.  There were plenty of flies to hunt in good weather, and lots of snow to play in when the weather was cold.

He was an easy dog to please.  A light scratch on his head, and he was your best friend forever.  He would rest his chin on your knee and peer up at you begging for a pet.  The second you starting petting him, he knew he had you and it was just a matter of minutes before you found yourself rubbing his belly as he rolled on the floor.

He was there through thick and thin for my parents in good times and bad.  He was always underfoot in the house, and any time a stranger came to the door, he would plant himself between the stranger and my mom, sometimes growling and baring his teeth if the stranger seemed aggressive.  He was everything you’d want in a pet and a guard dog.

Early this week, he had trouble keeping food down and was suddenly more lethargic than usual.  My parents took him to the vet and were told that his heart had become enlarged and was double its normal size.  Blood flow to his brain was becoming diminished and it was just a matter of time before he seccumbed to it completely.  So yesterday they said goodbye to their beloved Boston after five years.  He wasn’t a young dog by any means, but I find a lot of solace in how he was able to spend his remaining years with a loving family in the great outdoors rather than in a cage in a kennel.  Still, I’ll miss our games of tug’o’war.

Boston, again at the cottage

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Something I’m getting used to in our new neighbourhood is the garbage collection.  It’s not any different than garbage day in any other part of the city, it’s the timing of the collection.  In the time we’ve lived at our new place, the trucks have always been on our street (and our walk to the streetcar) just as we’re leaving in the morning.

On the plus side, this means that I can collect my garbage cans, green bin and recycling bins before leaving for work minimizing the chances that they’ll be stolen or, in foul weather, will end up way down the street.  It also means that if I forget to get the garbage out the night before, I have a chance of catching them in the morning.

There is a downside.  Stench.  I have to walk past all the recently emptied cans (with no lids on) and then pass the truck as its compresses foulness and oozes its juices onto the street.  The wave of stink is overpowering, and I find I have to supress my gag reflex every time I pass it.  It’s especially bad on muggy mornings like we’ve had today.

I have no idea how the garbage men deal with it.  Really.  Some might say that you just get used to the smell, but I’m not sure if I’d last long enough to tune it out.  It’s a good thing I’m a writer.  I can always fall back on my default career choice if the writing gig goes sour.  “Would you like fries with that, sir?”

Speaking of trash, you still have time to submit an entry to win a book.  I haven’t heard from the dry cleaners yet, but expect to today or tomorrow.  Get your guesses in!

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I’m not sure if it was the gross Turkey Nuggets I had for dinner (you know, like Chicken Nuggets only grosser and with less taste) or the intense weather change we had in the GTA overnight, but I had some messed up dreams last night.  Some were sad and disturbing, but one in particular was just strange.

I watched “Holmes on Homes” when I got home from work (a show I enjoy a lot) and was wondering what Mike would do with my rundown little cottage.  Well, that thought popped into my dream life.  He and Xhibit teamed up to “Pimp My Cottage”.  First, they fixed our sagging floor and collapsing northern wall.  They weather-sealed all the doors and windows and upgraded our electrical system from the original 1959 set-up.  All of that stuff is on my life-long list of stuff to fix.

Then, Xhibit stepped in and installed peek-a-boo LCD screens with DVD players all over the house and mounted HUGE amps on the inside and outside of the house.  He also installed hookups for instruments all over the place, and a home recording set-up in one of the bedrooms.   He turned the little house into a great live music venue slash home recording studio.

Then, with Mike Holmes on drums and Xhibit on vocals and decks, I jammed on my guitar and we cut an album.  It was terrible (like just about every album I’ve recorded… do a search for “Slow Like Big Hams”), but fun (like just about every album I’ve recorded).

And finally, just a quick reminder to get your guess in for The First Annual “Guess the Dry Cleaning Bill” Contest.  So far we have three contestants, so the odds of you winning are pretty good.  Granted, the prize is pretty crappy, but you can always brag to your friends that you won an internet contest.  Surely that’s worth a few seconds of your valuable time.  I should be getting a call to pick the items up tomorrow or Thursday.

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What a weekend!  Here’s the breakdown…

Friday:  On the way home, we bought a Hibatchi and had our first house guests for a steak dinner.  Marty and Felicity came by to talk music for the wedding, and we enjoyed some great wine and some crispy on the outside/gooey on the inside steaks.

Saturday: I grabbed brunch with Kenneth after picking up a free guitar and amp (you’re the man, K), and Danielle and I hit up The Bay to pick up some registry items that have already come in.  We debated whether we should open them or not (we decided not) and then I headed downtown to get fitted for my tux.  Man, I look GOOOOOD in baby blue and ruffles.  Afterwards, I headed home for a relaxing evening of playing guitar on the back porch and barbecuing burgers.

Sunday:  After church, Danielle and I did some shopping at the mall (new shoes), picked up our wedding rings and I went off in an epic search for a music store (instrument, not recorded) that’s open on Sundays.  It took a little work on the TTC, but I ended up at Steve’s on Queen West where I actually got great service for a change.  Rather than just limit my purchase to a few packs of guitar strings, I splurged to reward myself for a shopping trip well done and picked up a cheap Digital Delay pedal for my electric guitar.  Now I can play U2 songs and they’ll sound real, because every guitar player knows that the Edge LOOOOVES his Digital Delay

It’ll be an exciting week of laundry, general house-putting-together and sundry wedding plans, so stay tuned.  I’ll try to keep the updates short and go long on my usual mindless drivel about whatever is tickling my fancy.

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I almost forgot to mention that Rogers finally showed up last night, so you won’t hear any more diatribes about them for a little bit.  You’re welcome.

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For the second time in a few weeks, I had to visit our friendly neighbourhood Passport Canada office.  The first time was to submit my passport renewal application so my wife-t0-be and I can fly over international borders to Hawaii a couple of days after our wedding.  My second visit was to find out why I still hadn’t gotten my passport from the first visit.

My first visit to the office on Victoria Street in Toronto (between Richmond and Adelaide) was efficient and courteous.  I showed up before the office opened and got into the pre-formed line.  A passport office employee was walking the line giving out numbered tickets and double-checking that everyone had all the forms and papers they needed and to answer any questions.  She would give out the tickets and direct anyone who was elderly, infirm or carrying nine screaming children (quite common in that kind of line) to the  elevator so they could immediately head to the reception area and sit down.

Once inside, another employee gave instructions on how the numbering system worked and where the wickets were.  He instructed everyone to turn off their cellphones and that no food and drink and were allowed.  Then he went one step further… he actually EXPLAINED why.  Apparently cell signals wreak havoc with their computer system somehow, and given the number of delicate and important documents around, having spillable food and drink is a bad idea.  I love when people explain rules that seem pointless.

When I got to the wicket (WAAAY quicker than I expected), I was met by a smiling, friendly face.  I was wished a good morning and then she dove right in.  While she input my data, she chatted with me about travel and before I knew it, I was out the door on the street with a big smile on my face.

My second trip was even better.  It was exactly the same, only this time the woman at the wicket was telling jokes and leaned to the people in the office behind her to tell them I was getting married in three weeks.  They applauded.

Is the Passport Canada office in some kind of bureaucratic Bizarro world where long lines and grumpy employees aren’t the norm? I thought that was just par for the course in dealing with a government department.  These people were a far cry from the soul-crushed, jaded and spiteful troglodytes you find in other offices (I’m looking at you, Ministry of Transportation of Ontario).  They seemed genuinely happy to be doing their job, worked well with their co-workers and most important, they loved working with the public.

I had such a great time, I think I’m going to renew my passport every couple of weeks.

[Don’t forget to Enter the First Annual “Guess the Dry Cleaning Bill” Contest. Competition is getting stiff.  Actually, it’s not, but enter anyways.]

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I’m not all that experienced with the weird and wonderful world of dry cleaning.  Given that I dress (sometimes a little too) casually for work, I don’t often need to have my suits cleaned, and my jeans and dress shirts and other sundry ‘office clothes’ are all machine washable.  I like it that way.

After the move, I decided that it might be a good time to get all my handmade quilts (courtesy of my loving and skilled Grandmother) professionally cleaned.  I figured I’d throw in our duvets for good measure.  On the way to the the cleaners to drop them off, I estimated what I thought it might cost to have them cleaned.  I figured $30 each for both regular duvets and $20 each (average) for the six quilts of varying size (from Queen to single).

When I dropped them off, the cleaners weren’t able to tell me how much it would cost in the end as they get billed by the actual dry cleaning firm and then bill me.  They were able to price the duvets (usually $19.95 each, but presently there’s a sale at $13.97 each), but not the quilts, so I have no idea what to expect until they come back on Tuesday.

I was kind of shocked to discover that there are really on three (or so) actual dry cleaning plants here in Toronto.  They’re huge operations that regularly pick up from all the  little outlets all over the city and then drop off finished items.  They charge set prices (except for handmade quilts, apparently) and then allow local vendors to charge based on mark-up and guaranteed turn-around time.

Even more interesting, the dry cleaning plants require you to purchase a permit to use them.  I guess that discourages cheapskates from just showing up at the plant with their suits to bypass the middle man.  It’s a crazy system, and given the amount of transit that laundry items are subjected to, I’m surprised more clothing isn’t lost or damaged.

So, now that you know how much the duvets are, let’s see if you can guess my total bill for the 2 duvets and 6 quilts (plus tax).  Put your guess in the comments (feel free to guess more than once, but be reasonable) and according to the classic “Price is Right Rules”, the person with the closest guess without going over will be declared the winner.

The prize is a copy of the book “The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life” by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander.  Apparently it’s a National Bestseller and “One of the most inspiring, practical and uplifting books…” that Christiane Northrup, M.D. has ever read (according to the cover).  It was a parting gift after my corporate event thingy last week, and after a brief perusal, I figured this book was destined for a blog giveaway.

It will make an ideal Christmas gift for your boss or Uncle Mark who gave you the $9 gift certificate to Grand & Toy last year.  Actually, it’s not a bad read and I was surprised to find that it wasn’t a Tony Robbins-esque “I have the power” kind of book.  Just a series of remarkably unconnected anecdotes.

Best of luck to all entries and the winner will be announced on Wednesday (or whenever I actually get the bill for my dry cleaning).

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