Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Canadian Movies

It must be because I'm a foreigner. I don't get Canadian-made movies. Maybe they're hysterical and smart to the locals and I just need to spend a few more years here and then I'll understand.

HBO Canada ran a movie the other day with Leelee Sobieski and Tricia Helfer. I'll watch Tricia Helfer read the phone book, so I was happy to tune in. It was Walk All Over Me - have you seen it? Let me save you some time - don't.

Tricia was fantastic, as expected, even in the gratuitous (PG-rated) dominatrix scenes and Leelee was tolerable. I liked that it was set (and filmed) in the Vancouver area - thought I might recognize something.

The plot was predicable, which is fine, it's not high-concept cinema. What was puzzling is how in every scene where Leelee has to drive a car, they had her crashing into other cars (or structures) - every time.

I can understand the first couple of times - she's escaping a dangerous predicament and would be understandably flustered. But in every scene, even when not rattled?

Is showing us she's an incompetent driver every time really a meaningful part of the story? Or is that an inside joke for Canadians because they know they're terrible drivers?

I had to stick with it to see if it was going to improve or at the very least, to see how it turned out. It never improved and the ending was even lamer than expected. Thanks, Canada.

Today I found another HBO Canada movie starring Scott Speedman and some "kids" I've never heard of. I like Speedman - he can be entertaining - so I gave it a look-see.

Wow. Lordy hell - it was horrible. Basically a drug-caper-comedy - drug-fueled hijinx ensue that result in the kids getting mixed up with satan-worshippers. That's a funny premise, eh?

If that doesn't sound funny, fear not - there's a medieval-weapons-toting midget who's a security guard at the mall. That's HILARIOUS, no? Stop! You're killing me!

Like the other movie, it was predictable, very lame, and nothing was funny. But one thing I liked was that it seemed like the characters were realizing they should kick the drugs and make something of their lives - growth - that's always nice to see.

Toward the end of the movie, it looked like they'd all learned some hard, if totally unrealistic lessons and were going to get off the H or the meth or whatever and grow up.

Oops! What? Get off drugs? You shut your mouth! The end of the movie shows the main characters smoking weed with a weed-loving family and having a terrific time. There's your lesson, kids. Shoot horse, snort crank, smoke weed (laced with crank) and life's a breeze.

I get it - I'm not the core demographic. I guess I have to accept that I'm a fogey - a foreign fogey - and none of this is supposed to appeal to me, eh?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Loving The Little Things

I was feeling pretty bitchy when I returned from California... conflicted about leaving "home" to come "home."

I'm torn between the place that feels like home and the place where I've made a home. I'm sad to say it, but where my stuff lives does not feel like home.

In the midst of my pique I was goofing off on Facebook and found myself laughing out loud at friends' hilarious comments on various status messages, links & such.

It was a great reminder of how fortunate I am to have these people in my life. I might be too far away from them for now, but at least I have their hysterical words to tide me over. It's a small thing, but it means the world to me.

In the meantime, I continue to observe and report on this weird place we live in...

For example - I've noticed every time I go to the Save-On-Foods, when I'm walking up to the store from the parking lot, I can hear the Muzak playing some random song from the 50s or 60s, but as soon as I enter the store, it switches to a fabulous 80s soundtrack.

HOW DO THEY KNOW I prefer the 80s music? Are they watching shoppers enter the store, guessing the median age and then changing the music accordingly? I'm starting to believe they are. Yes, I know that sounds ridiculous. Come run your own tests. You'll see what I'm talking about.

At the local hardware store, ye olde Canadian Tire, I keep getting the same snarky checker who, on some days is Super Bitch and other days Super Nice. The funny thing about her is, bitchy or nice, she doesn't communicate any information about the transaction she's performing.

She says Hello and that's it. You're on your own after that.

When I returned/exchanged something one day, she processed all the paperwork and left the item I intended to buy on the counter exactly where I'd set it down.

She said nothing the entire time, so I had no idea that she'd already processed the credit, rang up the new item and used the credit toward the purchase of the new item.

When she finished silently shuffling papers and receipts, I pointed to the thing I'd intended to buy and told her I needed to pay for it.

She just stared at me. It was like a deer was running the till. She stared at me for a few seconds, then I watched her mouth slowly start to form words.

Like I'd just asked her to explain quantum physics, she struggled to explained that she'd already processed the credit toward the new item and I was all done.

You have to wonder - is she always stunned when people don't understand what's just happened? Does she think we're using telepathy to know what she's doing?

I'm so tempted to suggest to her that she might want to, I don't know, maybe pick up the item and move it across the counter and perhaps into a bag, or ask the person if they want a bag, or maybe say, "Thanks very much," to audibly indicate the transaction has been completed. Anything would help - say SOMEthing so we don't have to stand there like total idiots wondering what the hell is happening.

But I'm cutting her some slack, because I've worked that register where all the freaks come to return things. It means a bunch of lame paperwork, processing the refund, re-labeling, repackaging & restocking the crap - it's a pain in the ass. I copped an attitude more than once, but - BUT - I was still able to use my words to communicate with the customers. I'm just sayin.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Definitely Back in PoCo

shot of vancouver from the plane - looks yummy, eh?

Traveling can cause you to lose track of the days, especially when you've had a busy two weeks in a different climate or environment.

I knew I was in BC on a Friday afternoon today when on the way to the store, I saw a guy up ahead of me in the bike lane on a very slow moped. I could have run faster than he was putt-putting along.

He had what looked to be large, white plastic packages or bags across his lap – big, awkward looking things – they looked kinda heavy, too. I wondered if the weight of his packages was what was slowing him down – he was going that slowly.

As I got closer, I saw that he had two large BC Liquor Store bags hanging on each arm – four really big bags, total. Starting off the weekend right, PoCo style.

At the grocery store, the checker couldn’t get one of my things to scan. She started typing numbers into the system, not looking at the screen. I saw “Nutrition Consult… $25.00” come up on my tab as she went on scanning the rest of my stuff.

When she finished I asked her about the Nutrition Consult and she started explaining that they have a consultant who, if I want her to, will take me all around the store and show me products that can help me live a healthier lifestyle. I said that sounded great, then asked her why she was charging me $25 for it on my tab. She hadn’t realized she’d typed that in.

I'm repacking my duffel bag.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Back To Reality

Flew back to PoCo today and while I tried to check in online the day before, Alaska's website said No.

So, I had to check in at the counter, which was OK, as I thought that might prevent me from forgetting to check my bulging 75lb duffel bag. No way would that thing sneak through security.

I hefted my bag onto the scale and the nice agent read the result - 64lbs. I left a couple of pairs of shoes and some clothes in Alameda, but not enough... 14lbs overweight.

She told me, "It's overweight, do you have something to put it in?"
"Put it in?" I answered? My stupidity? The tequila? "Put WHAT in?"
"The extra 14lbs - do you have something you can put it in?"
I'm thinking, Like what? Do you see an empty bag materializing before our eyes?

I told her no, I knew the bag was overweight and I would just have to pay the overage fee. $50. Yikes! But, hey, I got away with it on the way down, so it seemed like a fair deal.

On the first plane I had the pleasure of sitting next to a very loud little boy and his louder younger brother. Thankfully, I had the forethought to recharge my iPod the night before. These kids were born without the Inside Voice Gene and their mother was born with poor hearing. Such a pleasure.

A few rows up from me a guy about my dad's age settled into his seat with a fresh copy of the National Enquirer. By the end of the flight, he seemed to be all caught up on Miley Cyrus and the stars of Twilight.

Just before our scheduled departure, two actual A-Holes boarded the flight with large carry ons and complained loudly to each other that they'd have to move some things around [in the overhead bins].

The second flight was uneventful, though tiny prop jets always make me nervous. It just looks like at any moment, it might stop spinning, and down we'll go like a hot rock. I did another crossword and hoped for the best.

Of course, I returned to grey skies and rain. Very funny. It was sunny and warmer in Canada than in Alameda while I was gone. Canada is kind of a bitch.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Leaving Paradise

So, the weather hasn't been ideal this week - high winds, chilly temperatures - even rain & hail in some spots - but after being away for nine months (wow, I just realized, it's like I was sent away to have a baby in secret), I realize Alameda truly is a beautiful bucolic bubble.

I promise I didn't sneak away to have a baby. If I did, I've no idea where I left it or what it's doing.

This week I've been able to enjoy gallons of Peet's at the store up the street (which apparently causes rhyming), get gas at a brand new Safeway station at South Shore (now called Alameda Towne Centre, even though it's nowhere near the actual town center nor is it olde or British), shop at Trader Joe's and a fantastic local market just a couple of blocks from me, see my amazing chiropractor barely a mile north of our house, get good food and wine just up the street, and shop at the brand new Kohl's also at the Towne Centre.

Just 10 minutes away is Rockridge full of great shops & restaurants and just 20 minutes away I can eat tiny pancakes at Sears or, when it's open, which is not on Tuesdays, for reference, get a fantastic breakfast at Dottie's. That's just the tip of the tip of the iceberg of all that can be enjoyed in San Francisco. Then there's Marin County, the Peninsula... so much, all right here.

I know I was excited about moving to Canada and having an adventure, but it wasn't until being back for this visit did I realize how great this area is to live in. Growing up here you can lose perspective.

It's about time to start packing - gotta make sure I can fit my tequila safely in my bag - but I'm procrastinating... I see rain in the forecast for Friday in PoCo. So irritating. More rain and no more Peet's, no more TJ's, no more fabulous chiropractor, no more Sears, no more Dottie's, no more Cumbre green salsa. Fucking LAME.

But, I will get to see my husband, cats and the parrot. I've got that going for me, which is nice. I guess it's time to see how much tequila and Peet's coffee beans I can fit in with my clothes, or how many shirts, pants, etc. will be staying behind.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Family Dynamics Explained

This trip home has been extremely valuable. My oldest brother and I accidentally stumbled upon a whole new understanding of our family dynamic.

While chatting away the wee hours of the night (morning?), we talked about our respective positions in the offspring order - his trials as the first-born, the unplanned; and mine as the baby of three and the only girl.

We remembered the time when our brother, the Gifted One, when still a small child, took a shit in a shoe box and put it away in his closet. He'd made something very special and wanted to keep it forever.

Our mother, upon finding this, thought that was very interesting indeed. Clever. Brilliant, you could say. A brilliant box shitter. We don't yet understand this type of brilliance. He's in a league of his own, that one.

Had my oldest brother shat in a box and put it in his closet, he'd have been carted off to a shrink and locked up until he could explain with a straight face why it's not acceptable to keep your shit in a shoe box.

Had I shat in a box and put it in my closet, it would have surely been ignored and never spoken of. Ever. Girls do not shit in boxes. End of story. Now wash your hands and get ready for dinner.

We agreed this assessment made sense because as the first-born, you have to pave the way for the parents and the future kids to come. The parents don't really know what they're dealing with. Shit in a box as the first born and you're in for a world of trouble.

As the middle child, expectations are reset and the parents believe they can improve upon past mistakes - it's a do-over, really. The first kid is the starter kit where you work out all the bugs. Child 2.0 means a whole new start. This one will be good - we worked out all the kinks with Child 1.0.

When Child 2.0 shits in a box, it must be special. A great deal of effort has been put into 2.0. He's making a statement of some kind. He's creative. Again, brilliant. Its meaning is deep and multifaceted. He's barely stringing words together into complete sentences, but someday this will all make sense and we'll be amazed.

When Child 3.0 comes along - aka Girl Child 1.0 - years have passed and finding shoe boxes full of shit in a kid's closet has lost all the luster it probably never had. What's more, there are yet new expectations.

This Girl Child 1.0 has to be better than Child 1.0 and 2.0. If she's not, we're SOL, because we can't return any of them. Whatever goes sideways with 3.0 we will simply not address. If we ignore it, it doesn't exist. End of story.

Now wash your hands and get ready for dinner.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Driving a Robot

I drove up to Alameda in Dad's pimpin' Chrysler 300... What a fantastic robot that is.

If it starts to rain, the wipers come on automatically. Sounds great in theory, but the car needs a few minutes to evaluate how much it's raining. At first, the wipers are infrequent.

You sit there waiting, wondering when they'll make another pass across your obscured view, anxious for the car to make its complex precipitation calculations, not wanting to hurt its feelings by overriding the controls so you can see where you're going.

Finally it figures it out and there they go, wiping diligently as you drive through the rainstorm on the Grapevine... which quickly passes... and the wipers continue with gusto as the windscreen squeaks with each unnecessary pass of the dry wiper blades...

Then there's the automatic headlights... Most new cars have these, but Chrysler forgot about needing to see the dashboard information in daylight. If the lights are on during the above-mentioned rainstorm, as they have to be by law, you won't be able to see the electronic display.

Other than that, it's a fantastic ride. When you stop & remove the ignition key, the seat slides back and the steering wheel tilts up - cockpit open. Better than that though, the radio stays on until you open the door. I love that.

Lots of bells and whistles, tons of horsepower and a four-body trunk. Nice ride, Pa! Thanks!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Escape From PoCo

As I relax on a warm patio in sunny California, I feel like a fugitive on the run from constant rain, depressing clouds, mediocre food* and overpriced booze.

I've been eating and drinking like I've just been rescued from a damp, empty underground bunker.

My first shopping excursion in Palm Desert was to BevMo! where I purchased three bottles of tequila. I can't even bring that much back with me, but I bought it because I could, for less than $200. For about half that, really.

A bottle of Don Julio Silver will run you $100 in BC. $100. Yeah, when I saw that at the province-run liquor store, I stopped drinking. Just on principle. No way am I handing over that kind of money to the government for average tequila. You can blow me.

That's the best tequila they have, too. That's all you can get. No one's going to buy that, let alone anything better. What the hell would that cost? $300? Hilarious. I'm happy to spend my booze money in California.

They're making it back on the auto insurance and the nickel and diming to renew the registration. We just had our cars inspected so we could get them registered - a full rectal exam on both cars. We had to get them smogged, after just six months. What a racket. Blow me.

I have about a week left in California. I gotta get back to my drink.

* not all the food is mediocre, but coming from SF, few places can compete...

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Great Warm South

Boy, does it feel GOOD to be out of the fugging Great Wet North. To any Canadians who find this post, I'm sorry, but I fugging hate your country in the winter. It's so fugging depressing. The fall wasn't so hot, either.

I'm sure some people don't mind mildewing for months, but to me it's akin to eating sand. I could, but I'd rather not. The whole idea is stupid.

What's more, there are a LOT of Canucks who must feel the same way, because I'm running into them all over town here in Palm Desert. They came south in SEPTEMBER. While it was STILL WARM up north.

Funny thing though, when I chit chat with these folks, they all rave about how much they love Canada. As they luxuriate here, in California. I find that hilarious. I love Canada too, as a jaunty cap for the U.S.

It's hard not to ask why they're not still there, enjoying the chilly grey days and endless rain. Yeah. It's fugging beautiful country, when the clouds ever lift and you can see clearly for a few miles. Gorgeous.

Why can't they admit that they don't love the stupid winters any more than an almost-native Californian? No one's buying your story anymore, folks.

Know what other story no one's buying anymore? "This was an uncharacteristically long, cold winter. It's not usually this bad." Bullllllllllllllllllllshit. How would you know if you're outta there every September? You kids are hilarious. Really. You're killing me. Please, try the veal and tip your servers.

I've only been here a few days and I'm already dreading going back. If only I could teleport David and the kids down here... Sure, he doesn't care for the heat, but he doesn't complain about that when he's floating around in the pool sipping a cocktail.

He also doesn't complain when I wear short skirts and high heels. Because here I can dress like that without deep-freezing my hoo-ha or soaking my feet in endless puddles. Here I can be a girl. There, I'm a lumberjack. Take your pick. I know which option I prefer.

Though if I stay here much longer, none of my skirts will fit. I've had more cocktails in the past three days than I've had in the last six months and it seems like all we do is go from one meal to the next. I think my parents are trying to fatten me up for a livestock auction. I might have to run back to Canada just to break even on the calories.

It's late now and I should be asleep, but I want to be awake every moment I'm here. I never realized how much I missed California 'til I was gone. I love you, California.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

How To Travel Like a Dumbass

A step-by-step guide, should you need it. I don't - I'm a pro.
  • Pack a 75lb duffel bag that will help pull you down the front steps of your house and strain your back if you try to lift it. It has wheels, so go ahead - stuff that sucker.
  • Cook yourself some eggs. You're going to need the protein. Trust me.
  • Say a lengthy goodbye to each of your three cats and angry parrot, who doesn't appreciate you waking him up at 5:30 a.m. just because you couldn't wait to get to Palm Springs.
  • Leave 40 minutes later than you should. Enjoy the rush hour traffic.
  • At the airport, blaze right through to Customs and forget the U.S. Customs Declaration Form. You're departing from Canada - this should not be necessary, as all the crap you have was bought or imported from the U.S.
  • Go all the way back out to the airline counters to fill out your stupid customs form. Your flight boards in 10 minutes.
  • Blaze back through to Customs and forget to check your 75lb duffel bag.
  • Proceed through Customs to Security with your 75lb duffel bag that has no airline tag.
  • At Security, realize no one will know where to send your stupid 75lb duffel bag. Ask Security Dude for help. Get directed to the only phone in the area you can use to call the airline counter. Your flight boards in 5 minutes.
  • Find only phone in-use by a man who has no intention of releasing his desperate grip on the receiver.
  • Ask man politely to use the phone "real quick." He says "Sorry, mum needs her medication." Man's wife explains that she checked her bag by mistake and it's the bag with all her medication in it. She must get it back.
  • Plead with Security Dude for help. You will not be allowed back through Customs without an airline representative. There is only one phone. Calling the airline's customer service # won't help - they cannot call the check-in counter (which is odd, don't you think?). Your flight is now boarding.
  • Return to magical phone and plead with Mr. Medication to make your call before you miss your flight. He capitulates and hands over the receiver. Call the check-in counter and obsequiously ask the very nice lady to bring a tag for your stupid 75lb duffel bag. Thank her profusely. (BTW, this is one way to circumvent baggage weight overage charges.)
  • Wait for the very nice lady with your tag. It will feel like a half day before she arrives, slowly walking her pregnant belly into Security. Thank her again profusely, affix tag to your bag and drag your luggage onto the belt. Thank Security Dude for the tip to put it on the "fragile" belt that's faster than the regular one. Your flight is boarding.
  • Wait in the long security line to have your carry-on screened. Luck out by getting behind two families with small children. Resist barking at little Sally to put her damned binky in the bin and to stop crying. Smile even though it feels like your face might crack.
  • Get your crap scanned by four - FOUR - screeners crowded around the X-ray monitor, all of whom appear to be in training as they casually discuss with each other the different shapes and objects they're studying. Watch them shift the belt into reverse repeatedly. Your flight is almost done boarding.
  • Wait 3 days for your stuff to clear the X-ray machine. When it finally arrives on the other side of Never, quickly repack the laptop and your dangerous lotion & chapstick, put on your jacket and put your shoes back on. You should lace them up, but you won't have time. Your flight is about to leave.
  • Run. Keep running. Your gate is all the way at the end of the terminal. Keep running. Hear the final call for your flight. Keep running.
  • Run all the way to the gate and rejoice at seeing another family with small children ahead of you.
  • Hand your boarding pass & passport to the annoyed gate agent. Tell her you really like her necklace. Smile as she smiles back and says, "Thank you! Welcome aboard!"