Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fresh as a Daisy

Life with two dogs has sent me on an endless mission of finding ways to make the air around me smell nice.  I am all about open windows, fans, and vacuuming on a daily basis.  I also wash my sheets and couch cover (hooray Ikea) all the time, so I am fairly certain the Vancouver apartment smells un-dog-like.

I once got a plug-in air freshener, only because a cat owner friend of mine had one and her house always smelled so girly.  But clearly I got the wrong one.  Those things are horrid!  Even plugged into the second bedroom with the door closed, the stench made it’s way into every room of my apartment and gave us headaches.  In fact, the Engineer and I woke up in the middle of the night because of the stench.  If a bad smell wakes you up, you know it’s bad.  Or when you get out of the elevator and can smell your house?  And the person in the elevator says ‘what is that weird smell?’ you know it’s time to ditch the plug-in ‘freshener’.

On our Cape Cod trip, we had some smell issues.  Firstly, we stayed at the oh-so-not-luxurious Brentwood Motor Inn.  They were one of the only places that took dogs AND that we could afford.  At barely $55 a night, we figured out why. 

Our first room was actually pretty good.  Big and spacious, we were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves in a non-dump.  But then we had to move rooms.  To a very small, very stinky room.  One with holes in the sheets and  an air quality akin to that of what I imagine jail to be like.  Let’s just say if we had this room the first night, we would have checked out the next morning.

Add two dogs to the mix?  Two dogs who keep getting wet in the ocean/rain?  And some digestive issues of too much fried seafood? 

You have a problem. 

So I went to find some air freshener.  I was stunted in the ‘Stop & Shop’ cleaner aisle.  Glade candle?  This would probably be the least noxious option but we didn’t have matches.  Air spray?  Seemed like a good idea as I could use it in both the room and the car that was starting to smell of wet dog.

I picked Febreze because it seems cleanest.  They had three scents:  normal (but this was sold out), Clean Linen, or Moroccan Bazaar.  I picked up the latter and sent a puff out to see how the bazaar smelled.  I didn’t spray enough so did it again.  Except this time I hit my eyes and face.  After choking and wiping tears out of my eyes, I felt my cheeks smelled pretty good.

The description is this:  “Inspired by the fragrance of fresh-ground ginger that fills the air in the spice markets of Casablanca”.  Ooooo, sounds exotic.  They go on further:  “No need to fill your house with the heaping barrels of brightly coloured spices – just give it a spray or two.”

What is wrong with this picture?

You got it:  it’s disgusting.  I sprayed the car and then promptly got a massive headache with the sweetly smell.  Ground spices my ass.

Then the Engineer looked at it and started to laugh.  He pointed out that he was pretty sure a Moroccan bazaar stinks.  Then he asked me why I didn’t pick the small Chinese store scent. 

Good point. 

Not that a Moroccan bazaar necessarily stinks badly, but I am sure it isn’t exactly what you want your bedroom to smell like.  It is comparable to a Chinese corner store.  Ooooo, the smell of incense and bok choy will take you to the exotic streets of Shanghai.  Let’s bottle that.  Or let’s capture the crowded streets of Bangkok.  Yum, the smell of hot city sewers and pad thai.  Febreze should have the F Train during rush hour to take you back to your holiday in New York.

What was Febreze thinking? 

On that note, what was I thinking?



Clam for You, Clam for Me

Fried Clams!  Fried Clams!  I finally had fried clams – and I actually understand what the big deal is now (also, where the heck did I learn about them in the first place?).

They are YUMMY!

A fact I found quite surprising, seeing as all the other fried seafood just seemed a bit . . .  well gross.  The Engineer was sweet enough to indulge me, so we stopped once again at our ‘friends’ Seafood Sam’s – the place of the lobster-bisque-thick-as-mayo fame.  We opted to order a small dish of fried clams, otherwise known as belly.  The girl was quite surprised we ordered a small.  Clearly we are one of the first people to order a small.  Ummmm, look at the picture – doesn’t that seem like quite enough fried food?

I had to eat them on my lap in the car, as Hurricane Danny was making quite a name for himself in the form of crazy blowing rain and freezing  temperatures.

These little pieces of ‘small, fleshy belly’ (as the Seafood Sam’s girl explained) were like little pieces of fried heaven.  So freaking delicious!  Full of flavor, a batter quite light, and plenty of meat. 


I am very happy that we tried this Cape Cod delicacy.  And quite happy we waited for the last day.  Otherwise my meals would have been fried clams and ice cream at the Creamery for dessert.  FYI – if you ever find yourself is South Yarmouth you must go to the Creamery.  It’s homemade ice cream all named after places on the Cape:  Orleans Oreo, SOMETHING Coconut, Sandwich SOMETHING.  My favorites were the minty SOMETHING and the coconut – both topped with delicious hot dark fudge.

Anyways, back to my clams.  I still can’t believe that the biggest seafood dishes on the Cape are all fried.  I feel that if I were to eat an entire large platter of fried clams, fried calamari, fried shrimp, fried lobster, fried scallops and friend crod (ummm, some fish that I don’t know) I think I would have a heart-attack at the tender age of 29.  How do these Cape Codders do it?  And yes, all those items I just listed are in fact what is offered all together on menus here.

Things I learned here on the Cape:  it is not gourmet heaven and eating out is super expensive.  We are not against paying high prices for food, but good money after bad food (and wasted calories) is one of my pet peeves.  When we come again, it definitely will be all about getting a place with a kitchen and making our own food.  The ‘Stop & Shop’ is plentiful here and my new favorite grocery store – so you can make your own fresh seafood prepared in perhaps a more healthy way. 

The Engineer and I struggled all week with what to eat, and spent the entire time suffering with sore tummies and other digestive issues.  I think we thought the Cape would be full of wharfs where we could get fresh seafood right off the boat.  Maybe you can, we just didn’t find it.

Martha’s Vineyard is in the Edible magazine family, so must be abundant in good eats.  But once again, we didn’t find it.  Clam chowder at the Black Dog Café was about it.  Nantucket?  Full of amazing looking restaurants.  Unfortunately all with prices starting around $27 for an entrée. (we paid $9 for a sandwich – it was a plain ham sandwich on brown bread) 

Next time we come, it will be a diet of ‘Stop & Shop’ food, clam chowder, fried clams, and ice cream.  Oh ice cream, how delicious thou art.  Lobster bisque from SS?  How delicious thou ain’t.



Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Kennedy Obsession

The Engineer and I were literally in Hyannis Port when the death of Teddy Kennedy was announced.  In fact, we passed the Kennedy Compound on the ferry to Nantucket.  

This is the closest we have ever been to something historical, as it was happening.  The other day, the LAST sunny day we had on the Cape, the Engineer and I were driving home from the Sandwich Glass Museum (yes, that's right.  We wasted the last heat and sun of summer at a museum. Damn you Frommer's) and passed a pile of people stopped on the overpass looking at the highway. 

First thought?  Someone jumped.

On the highway, we saw hundreds of people lining the streets.  Still didn't clue in.  Were the Obama's on the Cape?  Oh wait, it finally dawned on me (before the Engineer!  HA!  That almost never happens), the Kennedy's must be on their way to Boston.  

Sure enough, we pulled over to a gas station, and I asked a sheriff what was going on.  Grrr, I would have looked less like an idiot if I had said 'are the Kennedy's coming?' rather than 'what's going on' because he treated me like a slow-minded sloth.  Whatever, I pulled the Canadian card.

The Engineer and I waited for five minutes (ha!  other people waited hours!  Totally pays to be ignorant) and the motorcade did indeed go right by us out of Hyannis on it's way to Boston.  It was sort of cool.  There were about four limos, the hearse, three Escalades, and a Peter Pan bus with all the Kennedy kids.  The Kennedy's waved at us as the Cape Codders (ummm?) thanked them and waved their flags.

So the obsession began.  I have always been sort of fascinated with the Kennedy clan.  Who isn't?  An massively powerful, political and rich family that is so big it fits into four Peter Pan buses?  Thanks to Wikipedia, the Engineer and I have learned everything there is to know about this family.  Even if you hate the Kennedy's, you can't help but feel some sort of compassion for the amount of tragedy that has hit this family.  Besides the two assassinations, did you know that the oldest son was killed in World War II at the age of 28?  Or the oldest daughter died in a plane crash?  The second oldest daughter had a frontal lobotomy that went wrong (did they ever go right) that left her a vegetable in a Wisconsin institution?  That Teddy Kennedy's oldest son had cancer at 12 and lost a leg?  Or that Jackie Kennedy had a stillborn AND her fourth baby died three days after his birth?  

Weird right?

I am the most unpolitical person I know.  But in this last week, I have learned more about what the Kennedy's have done for the Democrats and the US than I probably care to know.  I even cried during Patrick and Obama's speech.  I think it's quite lovely that despite what Teddy Kennedy did in his private life (and wow, was that something) that he personally spoke to all 177 Massachusetts families that lost someone in the attacks of 9/11, that he wrote to a widow about how one continues on after such tragedy.  

Watching the funeral where the world's most influential people sat, I felt very very small.  One of the most interesting figures of the Kennedy family, I think, is Eunice (mother to Maria Shriver).  She passed away only two weeks before her brother and I think she could have been the first woman president if she had run for office, in another time of course.  Joe Kennedy (the dad) was so ambitious that he wanted all four of his sons to be president.  He overlooked this amazing woman because it was the sixties.  She would have rocked.  

Eunice is the driving force behind the Special Olympics.  I first learned about her on Oprah (no comments) where Oprah told a cute story: 
In 2004, I was vacationing in the Caribbean when the catastrophic Indian Ocean tsunami hit. I was standing at the edge of a pier overlooking the water when suddenly I heard a strange commotion. Coming toward me was a woman wearing a swimsuit, a bathrobe, and a pink bathing cap flipped up around her ears; arms waving in the air, she was calling my name loudly. It was Eunice. 

She wasted barely a moment on the niceties of Long time, no see, How are you, blah, blah. Instead, she dove right in: "I know you're on vacation, but what are you planning to do about the tsunami?"

"I…I…I don't have a plan right now," I stuttered. "I feel terrible, though. It's just awful what happened."

"Everybody feels terrible," she said. "But you can do something. Call Maria. Set up a meeting. Make a plan. Meet with Teddy. Do something."

This has me thinking.  About that small feeling I got watching the funeral.  How can I make a difference? I am not Oprah or the Kennedy's. I don't have buckets of money.  I feel strongly that people who do have buckets of money should contribute to the world using their power, influence and chequebook. But how can I make sure that at my funeral, people will stand up and talk about all the contributions I made to our world?

Is it through volunteer work?  Or writing letters to the government?  Comments are welcome here.  I know it's time to get off my butt and volunteer for a cause I feel strongly about.  But is that enough?  How can people truly, really make a difference?

It's Like Disneyland! Except real . . .

Cape Cod is pretty much the most adorable place I have ever seen.  It's all quaint houses, tavern's named 'Bee Hive Inn',  and hydrangea bushes abloom (is that a word?).  I feel it's as if I have vomited all things Sarah and 'boom' there's Cape Cod!

Such a lovely metaphor for such a lovely landscape.

It isn't just the views of Cape Cod that are so wonderful.  It's the people.  They are nice.  Like really really nice.  I might go as far to say they are even friendlier than Manitobans.  That's saying a lot.  It's also a wonderful refreshing change from the streets of New York.  

Being in Cape Cod is making me a better, friendlier person.  Just the other morning, as I strolled the dogs to the AMAZING bakery (hello?  I actually got a sticky pecan Cinnamon bun RIGHT OUT OF THE OVEN!!!!) at the end of Willow Street behind our motel, everyone we met greeted us with a smile and a 'good morning' or 'isn't it lovely?' or 'top of the morning to you' (okay, fine, they don't say that last one but I know they all want to).  Even the drivers wave to you!  It puts an extra bounce in my step and a bigger smile on my face.  It's just like Disneyland except (a) it's real and (b) these people aren't being paid to be nice to you.

I thought this area was the bee's knees.  Until I went to Nantucket.  I fell in love.  In Nantucket.  With Nantucket.  Through Nantucket.  I love Nantucket.  And so does the Engineer.

In fact, I have never in our near-three year relationship heard him trill on enthusiastically about anything.  He certainly never agrees so forthright with me about anything.  I can say, "do you love this" and I will often get a quiet 'yes' or 'I guess so'.  But as we cycled the 16.5 miles under the HOT sun to 'Sconset, it was the Engineer who was the first to say 'we are buying a house here'.  Much to my delight.  Now we just need a minimum of $1.6 million for a vacation home . . . .

The moment you step off the ferry into Nantucket Town, you are literally greeted with adorable-ness at each turn.  Cobblestones, gaslights, Colonial houses and buildings.  Oh, and boutiques filled with pricey knick knacks.  And Lilly Pulitzer.

As we cycled, under the hot sun with our bums aching and vowing to never do that again, past glorious homes built with the traditional grey cedar we fell more in more in love.   By the by, the homes are so rich here that on the side of the road we would pass a mailbox for the house, and a mailbox for the guest cottage!!!!!

Then we got to 'Sconset.

Oh 'Sconset.  How I love thee.  Grey homes, flower boxes, white curtains blowing in the summer breeze.  Shell lined streets, tiny yards with Adirondack chairs perfect for star-gazing and tea drinking, and even more hydrangea.  Like I said, Disneyland except real.  

Even the beach was superior to anything we've seen.  Soft sand that was like laying in a recliner chair and the water was so warm that we played for a good part of an hour.  This is something I never do.

I love love love this place.  I don't see myself coming back anytime soon however, it's definitely a place on my list to come with my kids for weeks in the summer.  

Who am I kidding?  I'm going to throw it all in and move here tomorrow.  And eat chowder for the rest of my life.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lobster or Leave It

The Engineer and I have never traveled anywhere together where we must make important daily decisions. For example:  what to do today?  Where to go today?  And most importantly, what to eat today?  (for the record, we always seem to travel to weddings together that happen in tropical all-inclusive resorts or Disneyland).


They say that to really know a person you must travel with them.  You see all their annoying quirks and habits.  I must now face the music, the Engineer is about to see my odd vacation habit.

It’s not so much a habit as much as a picky, annoying, anal retentive quirk.  And it rears its ugly head when it’s time to eat.

I will eat pretty much anything.  I will, however, not eat pretty much anywhere.

It’s as if I get these ideas in my head about what food I should be eating whilst on vacation and will not let it rest until I am satisfied.  Food is very important to me, and my travels.  I think the way to really experience the world is through food.  What’s Osaka without okonomiyaki?  Or Seville without tapas?  Nothing, that’s what.

We’re in Cape Cod.  To me that equals delicious, fresh seafood and bowls of clam chowder.  But now that we’re here, I have discovered something about Cape Cod.  It’s made for families.  And with families come big, cheesy restaurants with food to suit the everyday appetite.  IE. Pub grub.

Don’t get me wrong!  I am not against the family eatery/chain restaurant.  Okay, fine, maybe I am.  But let’s face it.  When you are in your very very late twenties (I only have a few more weeks of having the privilege of saying that) and you are with you romantic partner, it isn’t exactly fun to sit amidst screaming children and their parents begging them to eat one more chicken strip.

 The other night we drove up and down the main street (and only street with food) looking for my lobster.  We stopped first at a famous Cape Cod chain that serves lobster bisque AND broiled lobster.  It was fluorescent lit, counter service, and full of children/old people  Ick.

 So I made us go to another establishment.  This one was ridiculously expensive without lobster bisque (which was now on my brain).  Then I dashed across the street to another restaurant (see the annoying pattern here?) which was worse than a Red Lobster.  It was decorated with large red lobsters, smelled of Lysol and was empty.  No go.

Everywhere else?  Closed.  It’s a family destination and 8pm is bedtime.

Back to the first restaurant because I was having my damn bisque.  It wasn’t so bad.  It smelled good.  And we could sit outside. 

After eating though, the only good thing about this place was the red lobster pager that lit up when my food was ready.

The platter itself was enticing (note the colour – we are the ONLY people to order broiled seafood, everyone else is all about the fried) but it lacked, well flavor.  The bisque?  It had hearty chunks of lobster (which were yummy) but had the consistency of mayonnaise.  Ummmm.  Wrong.  I think I ate a pound of butter in my four bites.  Bites and lobster bisque do not belong in the same sentence.

The Engineer and I agreed to eat our next meal at the Vietnamese place in town.  Sure Pho isn’t exactly Cape Cod but it is going to be delicious.

 But was it open?  No.  So I made us drive to the Thai place.  Closed.  Then we did a repeat of the night before.  Except we covered two towns.  TWO!  We passed several large eateries touting the lobster but they all looked . . . pedestrian. 

See?  There it is.  My horrible, annoying habit.  I am a food SNOB.  SNOB!  I just can’t stand run of the mill restaurants with food prepared by cooks getting paid $8/hour.  I am not a fan of plastic booths and paper place mats.  I’m just not.  What is the point of eating the calories and spending the money on bad food? 

I will search out for hours or not eat at all.  We did end up at another Thai restaurant and it was the first meal in Cape Cod that made me feel satisfied, not like I was going to die with too much cream and fried fat. By the way, I like cream and fried fat, if done well.

We topped it off with a round of mini-golf and some incredible ice cream.  At least the Cape does that well. 

 The Engineer?  He told me that my annoying habit didn’t annoy him.  And he was happy to find somewhere to eat that would make me happy. 

 Am I lucky or what?

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Dog Traveller

Traveling from Vancouver to New York has now made me an expert with how to prepare dogs for the plane.

If you have been reading my blog, you know that it has taken some practice. Well, now I got it right.  Almost.

First:  don't give your dogs gravol bought off the shelf at the pharmacy.  That stuff is the NON DROWSY gravol.  So for the past year, I have been feeding my dogs pills that don't do a thing to put them out.  Whoops.  I finally discovered that for the knock-out drugs, you've got to ask the pharmacist.  Feed them half a tablet each in cheese

Second:  walk them plenty before flight.  Best thing to do?  Off-leash of course and let them go crazy.

What is the result?  Mr. Mop was so tranquil going through security I had to WAKE HIM UP!  That never happens. Usually he pants and whines.  This time?  His eyes would barely open when they shoved the 'probe' into the kennel to make sure I wasn't smuggling cocaine.  

Then you will get off at other end, and your dog will still be asleep.  In fact, he will be so drowsy it takes him two days to get the gravol out of his system.  

Lesson here?  Don't feed your 15LB dog the same amount of gravol as you would an 80LB child.  Yup, dogs only get a quarter of a tablet.  Again, whoops.

I'm almost there though, just a few more flights and we will all be pros!

And FYI, West Jet really is superior to flying pets.  Go with them if you can.

Princess Dog Walker

I live between two cities.  Between two coasts.  And I am really trying hard to see the light in each city, and appreciate their differences and qualities, rather than wish I were in the other while I was in one.

 I bring my dogs with me everywhere I go, and if there is one big difference between New York and Vancouver, it’s what you can do with your dogs.

 The boys love New York.  What dog wouldn’t?  The streets of Brooklyn are lined with innumerable smelly ‘treats’ putting this concrete jungle on the map of doggie wonders.  On our walk the other day, Mr. Mop ate a soggy napkin (the whole thing, I looked down and there he was, strutting and munching away), a chicken bone (of course, these are everywhere, I am now adept at wrestling them out of his clenched jaws), a wet nap (what soggy napkin meal isn’t complete without a wet nap?), and an unidentifiable object I would rather not think about.

 The hard part about New York – obvious chicken bone dodging aside – is that we aren’t super close to a big park.  And the parks here are only off-leash before 9 am and after 9 pm.  It’s a fair walk to the park, so by the time we walk there, the boys are too tired to wrestle the other dogs.  I could take the subway, but it’s too hard holding both of them as they FREAK out over the loud noise that is the F train.  And I don’t have a car.

 Which is what gives Vancouver a nice A++.  I have a car, and off-leash parks are in abundance (both walking distance and driving), and there are no ‘hour limitations’ to letting the hounds off-leash. 

 I love off-leash.  I just love unclipping their leashes and that moment of freedom when they motor as fast as their little legs will let them.  Brooklyn is especially cute because he is so little it sort of looks like a bunny mixed with a galloping mouse.

 But here is where I have a hard time mixing New York and Vancouver:  the clothing.  New York is, well, New York.  I fit right in this summer with my selection of dresses.  Vancouver is a much more casual affair.  Where you can wear yoga clothes all day long, and to the opera if you so choose.

So what happens when I walk my dogs in a Vancouver park in New York clothes?  Princess Dog Walker.

 I especially love going to Lighthouse Park.  Even if the parking lot is full, you rarely run into people on the trails (something that never happens in NYC where the population is roughly equivalent to that of BC).  I go often.  And usually I am in my runners, yoga pants and puffy vest.  But this last time, I happened to be in a sundress and flip-flops.

I was ridiculous.

It’s ridiculous enough that everyone who walks at this park have big dogs, like Labs, Retrievers, and Border Collies.  I show up with a 9LB Yorkie and Mr. Mop. 

 So there we are, wandering through BC’s rainforest coast, minding our own business, when the worst thing happens:  we get lost.  I thought I was following a path, but low and behold, the path was suddenly gone.  I let Mr. Mop lead me (big pack leader mistake) hoping he can sniff out the trail.  And by the way he was strutting, I felt like he knew where he was going. 

 But he didn’t.

 Brooklyn was trying his best to hop over logs and I was traipsing through a forest wearing flip flops, a little sundress and holding my iPhone above my head trying to get a signal.  Mr. Mop turned back and looked at me hopefully. 

 Finally, we break out of the overgrowth back to the main path.  I literally have cobwebs stuck to me and bugs all over my hair.  Of course, this would be the perfect time to meet up with one of those people that we never see in the park.  And we do.  What did those two rugged hikers think of the girl who flew out of the trees, in a pink dress, yanking bugs out of her blonde hair with her two tiny dogs? 

 I looked like an idiot.  Like a Princess dog walker.  They looked at me with raised eyebrows.  Well, whatever, if I can hike in flip-flops through a forest, clearly I am tougher than I look.

 This doesn’t happen in New York.  Then again, Lululemon is brand new here.  Give it time.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Hot Sarah in the City

I am back on the Big Apple side of North America.

And boy oh boy is it hot here.  I mean HOT.  Not Vancouver heat wave hot.  This hot is like a whole other hot I've never experienced before.  The Engineer states that it's like being behind the exhaust pipe of a bus, ALL THE TIME.

Heat induces laziness, hence the lack of blog entries of late.  I have just about enough energy to drag the bed directly in front of the air conditioning and then type three words.  The rest of the time is spent asleep.

What does one do for fun in such a hot city?  There are no pools, no nearby lakes, no beaches I would feel comfortable swimming off of.  What have we been doing?

Watching movies outside.

Clearly this is the new 'it' thing to hit cities across the continent.  Every one loves to watch an old movie from the comfort of a beach blanket in the great outdoors.  In New York, it's an art.

Bryant Park is the birthplace of the outdoor movie.  Thank goodness for reviews on Yelp, otherwise I would have had no idea what to do.  The grass is available at 5 pm.  The movie starts at 8:22 pm.  And people start camping around the grass at 3:45pm.  We opted for 4:20.  It was enough time to grab some iced coffees then claim two chairs on the border around the grass.

At 4:48 pm, the border around the grass was full and everyone was standing up.  I started to get nervous.  At 4:52 pm, everyone was shaking out their blankets to make sure they could 'run and drop'.  My heart was doing flips.  Like when I was a kid at track and field, waiting for the gun to go off.  At 4:58 people were stepping onto the grass and getting yelled at by police and the loudspeaker lady who was eerily like Big Brother.

The Engineer and I had a plan.  I would run with the blanket and claim some grass - but I would aim for center field.  He would attempt to go straight, diving between the hoards of crazy movie-goers and throw himself into a starfish on the ground if he found a good spot.  We would then see who got the better deal.

At exactly 5pm, the lady called 'enjoy the show' and MASSES of people ran into the grass.  I was practically hyperventilating.  I dropped as soon as the people in front of me did.  I literally had to drape myself over my blanket with my whole body so that other people did not try to crowd me out.

And for the next three and a half hours we read, ate, and ordered pizza.  It was fun.  It was crowded.  I was two inches from the person next to me.

I have to laugh at people who are idiots in these types of situations.  Clearly, hundreds of New Yorkers know to get there early and come prepared.  But there is always that one loser who shows up at 8:20 and asks the girls next to us if he could sit on the corner of their blanket where their shoes are.  They tell him no.  He moves over a few blankets, to FRONT ROW CENTRE, shoves himself between two men and then is joined by two girls, one of which is carrying 6 shopping bags.  RUDE!  And stupid.  I was glad that the people around them didn't give them any space and they were forced to sit hugging their knees.

Those are the same people who show up late to a movie on opening weekend, like Harry Potter, and then ask if the three seats next to you (in prime viewing space) are available when the rest of the theatre is full and the only seats left are the front row.  Yeah right, wank-head, these prime seats that I got here early for draped with sweaters are definitely free for your lame-ass, clearly, as the rest of the theatre is full, you numb-butt.  

Wow, I get really mad at that.

Anyways, we watched "Close Encounters of the Third Kind".  It was fun.  Central Park had a movie last night, it was great.  Not at all crowded and I was able to watch George Clooney AND the lightning bugs darting in the trees.  How awesome is that?

It's no Brohme Lake, but New York in the summer ain't so bad.

Friday, August 14, 2009

What is it you do again?

I have a terrible habit, or problem, of not knowing exactly what my friends do for a living.  Granted, in this day and age it isn't so simple to say:  my friend makes horseshoes, or my friend owns a brothel.  You know, it's not 1885.

I have a couple of friends that are easy.  They are teachers.  We all know what they do because we have all experienced their work.  I have a friend who is a doctor.  Easy peasy.  But then I must delve into more difficult territory.  For example, I never really knew what the Engineer did before he was a student.  

I know it involved spreadsheets, and making power lines talk to substations. Exactly how he did that I never knew.  Maybe he told me once but I probably stopped listening when Friends got back from commercial.  Currently he works at a big investment bank.  I know that the bank is really famous and gets positive nods from people when I proudly tell them where he works.  But what does he do?  Umm, I think it involves calling people in Brazil.  And something to do with money.

One day my friend was visiting from Hong Kong.  She asked me if I knew what she did.  I said, "you convince big companies to use your bank".  She burst out that 'she was not a teller who stamped bankbooks!'.  I know that!  I said that!  She gets bigs companies to use her bank and works in marketing.  T repeated what she did.  I still think what I said sounds like what she does.

Another friend is a geologist.  I know that means she likes rocks.  She digs wells.  She digs in rocks for oil.  Pretty easy to understand right?  Somehow I don't think so.

It isn't that I don't listen.  It's just that I don't really understand.  But do I need to know more than what company you work for?

What I do is easy.  Well, to me at least.  

Once at a family gathering of the Engineer's, his uncle and patriarch of the family was speaking to me.  I must premise this with the fact that the Engineer is Chinese and comes from a large, traditional Chinese family.  By traditional I mean, highly ambitious, highly intelligent, highly hard-working DOCTORS.  The Engineer is an oddball.  So anyways, Uncle Patriarch (and doctor) asked if I was also an Engineer.  Oh no, I quipped, I am an actress.

Uncle took in a deep breath of excitement and said how wonderful.  I felt this was an odd reaction for a 70-year old Chinese uber-successful doctor.  And then he asked:  what insurance company did I work for?

Oh. Oooops

I had to correct him:  not an actuary, an actress.  But I am in an Aviva commercial if that helps?

He quickly ended the conversation and walked away.  Soon to be replaced by another uncle who was fascinated by my field.  Thrilled to know a real-life actress (you can insert freak here), he wanted to know what it exactly was that I did.

Me:  Have you ever watched TV?
Uncle:  Yes
Me:  You know those people on TV?
Uncle:  Yes
Me:  That's what I do.

Simple simple.  He was still quite perplexed though.  Understandably.  Why on earth would anyone want to face daily rejection, instability, and long periods of unemployment when one could be a doctor?  

Really, why would we do that?

Anyways, friends, I do know what you do.  I just know what you do in Sarah's terms.

They're Not All Bad

I must make an amendment to yesterdays rant.

As much as the customer service in New York stinks to high heaven, I am surprised on a daily basis how nice the non-having-to-sell-stamps population is.  There is always a New Yorker willing to help out a tourist  - I've seen it with my own eyes.  Often scary looking men will approach the map bearers and point them in the right direction.  Cute because the map bearers think he is going to mug them.  In dealing with the people of NYC, they are always lovely and do smile.  Even more than those in Rainy City.  No comparison to the likes of the friendly Prairies but I want my New York readers to know that I think you're nice.  Just don't go to anyplace selling or serving wares and you might even mistake this place for Oz.  

And then you'll step in garbage or urine . . . 

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Would You Like Fries With That . . . Bitch?

This is my second rant on this subject - forgive me.  I just can't help myself . . . 

I am back in the good old US of A. The land of apple pie and burgers.  Of liberty and the first amendment.  And of the WORST CUSTOMER SERVICE in the world (well, up there with the UK).

Wait, didn't the Americans invent customer service?  Wasn't that what Mr. Wal brought to Wal Mart?  Weren't the Americans the cornerstone of 'service with a smile' and 'the customer is always right'?  I mean I worked at the Gap where they taught us it was wrong to let someone walk into the store without being greeted by a friendly, and oh-so-preppy 'Hello'.

But no.  

Maybe in Ohio or Kansas or California.  But most definitely NOT in New York City.  I have been here less than 24 hours and already I have been the victim of horrific customer service.

As an ex-customer service person, I know we all had our bad days. Possibly more than we cared for (there is a reason I don't do it anymore, I just don't like people that much) but I always tried to smile.  Or fix a problem.  Or at least say 'thank you'.


It's like you're an asshole intruding on their special time.  The time of which they are paid a minimum of $8/hour to be nice to us.  Okay, that alone would make be bitchy, but still, I feel if you are the one sitting at a post office selling stamps and mailing letters, you can't get mad at the people who are there to buy the stamps right?

Example #1  Brooklyn Post Office
The Engineer and I wait in line for about 20 minutes to mail a small parcel to Canada.  Get to the lady.  We didn't fill out the customs form right.  So she shoved the package at us and waved the next person in line.  Wait a minute here, I am confused.  Couldn't she have said, in a nice way, you filled this out wrong (and perhaps with a 'Sorry, you did this wrong' tone as opposed to a 'You are a stupid idiot' tone).  Why don't you get your girlfriend to grab a new label (or better yet, why don't I reach for one under the counter myself) and fill it out while I calculate how much this will be to send to Canada.  Seems easy to me.  But no.  She told us to get to the back of the line in her rude, nasally voice.  The line which was now double in size because some brilliant postal employee decided to stack the envelopes behind the glass as opposed to helping customers.  I didn't understand why the Engineer just walked away.  I would of put up a fight I tells ya.

Example #2  Brooklyn Library
Go to take out books.  Realize have forgotten library card - so I use my handy dandy iPhone cardstar application.  The librarian looks at the barcode and says, "Look you, next time you want to take out books bring in the actual card.  I don't know if this is a real card.  Do you understand me?  I want the card, not the barcode.  Jesus.  begin muttering under breath and shaking head  (then back to) I don't know if this is a real card."  F*&ck lady, I get it.  Bring in the real card next time.  How 'bout asking or saying it nicely bitch?

Example #3 Newark Airport Shuttle Service
Go up to counter and ask for a shuttle to Brooklyn, please. The woman looks at me with a sneer as if I just interrupted the most important moment of her life.  Looks to me like she was just sitting there passing gas.  She tells me they 'don't no take no dogs'.  I inform her that I spoke to the shuttle company yesterday who assured me I could take a shuttle with the boys as long as they stayed in their crate.  She huffs.  Then goes on to say some drivers don't like it  I retort that perhaps she could ask the driver then.  She rolls her eyes and calls the shuttle.  Sure, they say, no problem.  She shoves a paper at me and tells me to wait over in the corner.  After ten minutes, she calls me back.  'They ain't gonna take your dogs.  You gotta take a private shuttle for $100".  I feel she could have said, "I really do apologize but we can't fit the crate in with the luggage.  The only shuttle we have available for you will cost $100 but will be private.  Does that work?".  But no.  She just huffed again and pursed her lips and I think probably passed wind again.  Fine bitch, I'll take a cab.

Canadians are constantly teased for being over polite.  But you know what?  At least we aren't complete kumquats when it comes to dealing with people.  At least we make everyone feel nice even when we can't give them what they want.  We try to help the situation and a smile always makes a person feel better.  

Read these examples and see what happens to me?  I get enraged all over again.  I want to punch people.  That's what happens when you act like a bitch to someone, they act like a bitch back.  Maybe that should be a lesson here.  Perhaps if I start using my wonderful Canadian manners in this big city, customer service workers will start being nicer.  One bitch at a time.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Mathematics anyone?

I am terrible at math.  Terrible.  Clearly.  The Engineer just pointed out my mistake in the previous entry.  If my math is correct, Canada is home to 36 wonderful citizens.  Whooops.  Okay fine, we each get a million to spend?  Half a billion?  

I still don't know.

The other day I was calculating gas mileage to figure out how much I would spend on gas depending on what car I rented while tooting around Europe. And by 'tooting' I do mean driving.  This is a pretty complex problem if you ask me.  Somewhere in the depths of Grade 11 math and Grade 6 problem solving, I managed to figure out that if I rented a diesel Golf and drove from France to Slovakia and everywhere in between I would need about $800.  

I was unsure.  This number seemed low. I was practically kicked out of Grade 12 - oh, I'm so bad I forget what that math is called - geometry?  No.  That really hard one.  Anyways, I wasn't allowed to take it even though I was a straight 'A' student.  Also, high school math is a really really really long time ago.  

So I called the dad.  I talked him through the problem slowly (he's getting old and apparently I talk fast).  I walked him through how I solved the problem (I even converted the math into miles and gallons!) and then he said it:  yeah, that's right.  



You can't imagine my glee.  I mean pure glee.  It was like that time in Grade 11 when Mr. Kingerski handed back our first algebra test in groups of percentages, as in he would say '60's' and proceed to hand out the tests telling the class our marks.  Mean, I know.  But effective?  Yes.  He passed out the 60's, I started to sweat, then the 70's, my heart was palpitating, and then went into the 80's. I hadn't got my test back yet. I had either failed or gotten an 'A'.  I never got an 'A' in math before.  It was 84%.  I practically fainted.  

I felt the same way.  I solved a math problem.  ALL BY MYSELF.  I mean, sure I did end up rounding that number up to make up for city driving etc, but here I am, almost thirty and capable of doing math!

Go Manitoba school system!

Then I went and screwed up $75 billion by trying to divide it between Canadians.  I'll let you figure that out.  If you have 30 million people and $75 Billion, how much does each Canadian get to spend on their wedding?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Oh No They Didn't

Did you know that the US wedding industry is a 72 BILLION dollar industry?!

SEVENTY TWO BILLION!?  Do you know how much money that is?  That's like each Canadian getting $2 billion to spend on something.  Like a wedding.

The average wedding cost is $22 000 but the average annual income of a couple is $62 000.  Ummmmm.  I don't even know what to say about that.

I have some friends who were wonderfully frugal and don't regret a dime spent on their wedding.  I have others who look back and think they overspent and could have done things differently.  

The word 'wedding' seems to give permission for businesses to charge you/rape you in the butt.  Example?  A purple bridesmaid dress costs $300 at one retailer.  If you want it in white, the EXACT same dress, will cost you $980!  That's $680 more!  You could buy two more dresses for that!

What is my point?  The point is: that this is acceptable in our society.  And why?  WHY?

Because they start on us when we are barely old enough to read.  That's right.  Those marketing assholes get to us before we can even say, 'I don't believe in marriage, it's sexist'.  There is a game on sale right now for girls between the ages of 5 and 20 (ummm, oddly wide range) called 'Brighter Minds Wedding Dash'.

That's right, there is a video game out there designed for girls to play 'wedding planner' before they can write their own name.  

Is this a problem?  Is it?  Have weddings become more about the dollar than about the love?  Are we teaching girls at a young age that they should have all their dreams come true AND cocktail weenies served on wedding dress toothpicks too?  


The Married Club

It all started a few years back when one girlfriend congratulated another girlfriend on her upcoming nuptials by saying 'I'm glad to have another member in the married club'.

I am sure she didn't mean it to sound quite so, well, sorority girl meets bridezilla.  In fact I know she didn't.  But it definitely got me to thinking about the fact that there is a 'married club'.

My friends all now read this blog so of course I have to be careful - and most of them are members of the 'oh so elite' married club.  But just know that I love you all and that you make me feel like a true honorary member.  By making me be a bridesmaid.  HA!

Anyways, there is a club.  There is no matching t-shirt with cool slogan (I was in a sorority and we did have those) or pendant.  But there is a ring (everyone's is unique of course), there is a signing initiation (the registry and the ceremony), and there is this definite sense that members of the club are privy to something the rest of us un-smug-marrieds are not.

It's weird and it always surprises me.  Girls that I least expected to be true active members of the 'club' do in fact shift to the side of slightly 'better than thou' status.  The thing is, I don't think they do it on purpose.  

I am sure it is that euphoria of the newly wededdness that makes them appear as if the answer to world peace is to simply have a wedding.  Middle East?  War in Iraq?  You would all be sooooo much better off if you just wore some ivory and did a chicken dance.

I definitely don't want this particular entry to seem bitchy/catty/jealous/bitter.  I'm just pointing out the fact that my most well-intended brides do cross that invisible barrier between the married woman and the eternal fear of being a spinster.  It's like those girls who know they can eat cheesecake for breakfast everyday and not gain an ounce.  Something about their inner-confidence regarding (a) being single or (b) cellulite - they know they don't ever have to deal with those issues EVER AGAIN.

I am fairly certain that I act like I am in the 'sucks to be single' club.  The one that listens as my single friends lament the lack of available bachelors while I sit knowing I have a loyal man waiting for me at home (or Brooklyn).  The 'I totally empathize but thank goodness I got myself a man' club.  

It's just interesting as we climb the ladder of life and move from one rung to another we watch those ahead and behind us with the musings of 'thank heavens I am not there' or 'I wish I was on that rung' each thinking we are better off where we are.

But I swear, if I hear the 'you're next' or 'do you think he'll propose soon' one more time, I might smack someone.  I haven't been invited to join your club yet, so shut it.  

Meh, I have the 'I am in a major motion picture starring some of Hollywood's hottest men' club membership.  I think that buys me some time . . . 

The Naked Truth

I am not a naked person.

I do not come from a naked family.

It isn't that I am ashamed of my body or feel the human body is disgusting.  I just feel that being naked in public is weird and uncomfortable.  

I've tried the nude/topless thing.  Once in Portugal when I was 19.  My girlfriends and I were frolicking in the sea when we decided to do as the locals.  We whipped off our bikini tops and one of us carried them back to our towels on the beach.  It felt nice.  But then it was time to get out of the water.  I waited in that sea  holding my bare breasts until my friend went and got my bikini top for me.  

I feel my nudity and bare nipples are for me alone.

I do like to skinny dip.  So long as it is super dark and you cover your bits with your hands.  In Cuba, all my friends skinny dipped each night.  Including the Engineer.  I walked into that ocean fully dressed and told everyone to cover up.  

Tonight was a random affair.  It started with me watching reruns of the Golden Girls and ended with me saying, "This would be an enchanting experience if not for the disgusting water and smell of garbage".

So much happened from those two things:  going over to Little K's for a dip in her pool, walking to the beach to watch the sunset, convincing three random guys to play Frisbee with us, playing Frisbee, swimming (clothed), eating gelato, dancing at Aub's, back to beach, skinny dipping  . . . 

Needless to say, my friends and our three random guys who are in town for a physics conference (clearly they must be nice if they are Harvard PhD candidates) had a bit to drink to think skinny dipping at 4:30 in the Pacific was a good idea.  I did not want to miss out.  I also did not want to take my clothes off.

As they frolicked, Miss Prude (Miss Sober Prude) took off her dress and pranced into the ocean in her bikini.  But seriously, it was disgusting.  The ocean in Rainy City is never particularly lovely.  It certainly isn't after a night of fireworks in which 100 000 people attend and then a day of Pride parade and festivities.  The idea that I was swimming in garbage with mysterious floaties around my ankles grossed me out. How my friends were naked is beyond me.  After all, floaty bits could go into open body bits.  Ick.

I got out. 

I was the only dressed person on the beach.  Apparently my friends inspired those around us and suddenly this nice English Bay beach turned into a nude frenzy.  To add insult to too many naked bodies, the horrid smell of garbage lingered in the air from the crazy weekend tinged with heat wave.

I immediately went home, showered, SCRUBBED and can still sort of smell rotting banana peels in my hair.

I just have to face facts. When my friends think going for a middle-of-the-night swim in their birthday suits to the local beach is a good idea, me going home to a soft and warm bed is definitely not missing out on any fun.  

Clothed or unclothed.