Friday, May 28, 2010

Re-entry. Not to be confused with rear entry.

Astronauts say it takes approximately three days to adapt to weightlessness. I find, one flight attendant deft with a drink trolley and I can feel the weight slide off my weary shoulders before the in-flight movie cranks up.

Post-holiday re-entry is another matter all together.

There should be a quarantine room, or decompression area with drinks and calming music for people returning from holidays. A buffer zone between the lofty pleasure of carefree abandonment and the grim reality that awaits when the airport express plops your broke, travel-weary ass at the curb.

No maid service. No Dungeness crab Eggs Benedict. No Napa red on the bedside table.

I came home to rotten milk, foot-high dandelions, a stack of bills, not one cheque, anxious clients, and a filthy house that reeked of cat piss.

We don't have a cat.

What's worse, my truck bed was full of crap, having been used as the neighbourhood spring clean up recycling bin while parked in my driveway. One minute I was window shopping on Rodeo Drive, the next I'm waist deep at the local dump, pitching rotten picket fences and gout weed into the never never.

So why forsake feet on the ground (and RRSPs) to fly to the moon? Is lying on the back lawn staring at the stars not good enough? Why bend over and take the side effects of post-exploration re-entry when one can simply read about it in a book.


Because teaching your child that the world is neither flat, nor safe, nor sane, nor the same everywhere – is part of my job here on Earth. Because wonder is wonderful.

And because Donnie MacInnes, a local father of two, died suddenly while biking to work a few weeks ago. Donnie was 39. I didn't know him, but from all accounts he was one hell of a good guy. A family guy. A hockey coach. A man who loved his wife and his kids, and his life – even the really crappy days.

In true Havenot fashion, a dance and silent auction has been organized to help raise funds for Donnie's family. Kick up your heels to The Corvettes on Friday, June 11th from 8:30 until 11:30 at Gorsebrook Lounge, Saint Mary's University. The cost is ten bucks, with proceeds going to the Donnie MacInnes Memorial Fund. If you don't feel like dancing, because let's face it, some days you can barely get your feet out from under the covers – donations can be made to the Seamus and Molly MacInnes Education Fund at RBC Branch, 6390 Quinpool Road, Halifax (03303) or any other RBC branch for that matter.

Slamming back down to Earth after being away from my dreary ol' routine is a harsh reality – but placed in context – I really have nothing to whine about. We had a great time. So what if I had to mow the lawn, do a few loads of laundry, snarl at a few clients, take a trip to the dump, and crank up the dehumidifier a notch or two.

I bet you ten bucks Donnie MacInnes would give anything to be feeling the weight of the world on his wonderful shoulders.

Now where's that fucking flight attendant. I need a coffee.

For advance tickets, to give, or to donate an item to the silent auction email Kerri LaFond at or call 902. 490.5816.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Batting a thousand.

It is with mixed emotions, and severe garlic breath, that I face my last day of this so-called vacation.

Traveling with someone you have little in common with, aside from DNA, is a challenge – but after ten days on the road with the little bastard I can honestly say, aside from my choice of restaurant last night, "The Stinking Rose", it's been pretty congenial.

So, the kid hates garlic – but I'm not all that keen on basketball, endless shopping, or dining at places called "In and Out Burger" or "Bubba Gumps". So we're even.

Give and take. With a slight emphasis on give.

True, I dragged his ass through the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art yesterday, but let him spend extra time drooling over the iPads in the Apple store. And I made him climb a mountain trail in Big Sur, and the steps at Telegraph Hill. Twice. But I endured another round of popcorn shrimp. Okay, so that wasn't really torture.

This was always meant to be his vacation, otherwise my fat ass would be lying on a beach sipping sangria in the Costa del Sol. But he hates sitting still for 5 seconds unless there's a ball, puck or wallet being tossed about. So here we are.

I have learned the secret to happy travels with teenagers is to avoid that dreaded boredom stage where they morph into psychopaths and start checking their text messages every 30 seconds. Keep them busy (and a nice bottle of Napa Valley Cabernet close at hand).

So you sacrifice sitting and staring at the scenery – but sitting and staring at your happy kid watching Kobe Bryant is worth it. But wait a minute, isn't that Dustin Hoffman?!... and David Spade... and Danny DeVito... and Jack fucking Nicholson!? All of a sudden I like basketball.

The little bastard has a choice to make soon. Go away to prep school, or stay at home. The choice is his. Either way he wins. Either way, I will hang on to these memories and this last full day of dancing to the beat of his moody teenage drum.

If I suddenly burst into tears at tonight's Giants game, it will have little to do with Willie Mays, the cost of tickets, resisting the garlic fries, foul $12 beer, or the fact that the Giants suck.

It'll be all about loving him. And the moment.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Rooting for the home team.

According to the dream interpreter dictionary – to dream of rooting for truffles, as I did last night, indicates: "someone will confess, or you will say something sincerely."

I think it has more to do with having spent a fair chunk of yesterday at the mall, rooting through stacks of shorts designed for an anorexic broom handle, in an attempt to find a pair that didn't make me look like I should be playing fucking bocce down in Boca Raton.

I need shorts that fit at the top, the porcine middle, and the bottom. A pair that: A. Doesn't have a swoosh. Or, B. An elastic waist and a label that says TABI. Or, C. A food stain.

I need "walking" shorts because the little bastard and I are going on a vacation. A real vacation. Our first real vacation since the recession grabbed me by the balls and squeezed. Although, this is not really my vacation – it's his – and the way it's stacking up, it's not really sounding like a vacation at all. The planning stages went something like this:

Me: What about backpacking in Spain?

LB: No.

Me: What about Spain, with a little walk on the wild side in Morrocco.

LB: No.

Me: What about Barcelona (throwing in a curve ball)... I've always wanted to see Gaudi's La Sagrada Família while under the influence of cheap Rioja, because clearly the man was intoxicated when he slapped that thing together.

LB: Blank stare, followed by: "Mom, my idea of a vacation would be going to LA and seeing a Lakers play-off game" as he headed out the door to school.

I'll show him, I thought, and I did what I love to do more than almost anything, and that's play Travel Agent. Within minutes I found a one-way trip to LA for $169 dollars, and without hesitation or further thought as to how we were going to pay for it, or how we were going to get home – I booked it.

My thought was this. The little bastard won't be wanting to hang around with me much longer, so this is his trip. Besides, I love people watching and what better place to watch people than in Los Angeles at a Dodgers game, followed by a Lakers game. If I take binoculars I may even see the top of Jack's head. Not my Jack. LA's Jack. Nicholson.

The next hurdle was getting my hands on the forementioned Lakers tickets – which according to all sources, would be harder than finding a Catholic priest on a school bus, or a pair of shorts that don't make my knees look like two loaves of balled up Wonder bread. This explains why I haven't been spewing my innermost thoughts on this blog, because I spent a good portion of this week on the phone with Ticketmaster, or on the Ticketmaster website listening to mall music and hitting the refresh button. Over and over and over.

No luck in the Wednesday American Express pre-sale. Unless I was willing to pay $320USD for one ticket.

Thursday, the tickets went on sale to the general public at 10am LA time. At 1:53 I started stalking Ticketmaster simultaneously by phone and online. Pig-headed perseverance paid off. By roughly 3:45 Atlantic time, I had landed not one – but two of the worst tickets for the LA Lakers vs some other team – for more money than I spent on my first car. I confess to being so excited I almost peed my pants. And I hate basketball.

I want to ride bikes on Santa Monica beach and hike up to the Hollywood sign. The little bastard wants to shop. It'll be perfect. What's even more perfect is Nadine Hartnett at Maritime Travel in Park Lane put my travel agent wannabe skills to shame by performing miracles – landing us a great deal on a 5-star hotel near the Staples Centre, pre-paid in Canadian funds for waaay less than I was finding online. Nadine also sold us travel medical insurance just in case I fall off my bike, or the bleachers after too many warm beers in Mannywood.

So, as my life goes, we are off in the opposite direction than I had originally intended, but I can always do an old lady bus trip through Spain later. This will be the little bastard's vacation – aside from that side-trip drive up the coastal road to San Francisco and the pit stop at a crappy motel around Big Sur, where I'll sit on a picnic table and sip California wine from a plastic cup and admire the heartstopping beauty of it all, while he complains about not getting cell service and the lack of outlet malls in the Redwood forests.

Yep, this is his vacation.

Sincerely, For clever hotel solutions try Nadine Hartnett at Park Lane Mariritme Travel (902) 429-7885. Email:

Glenda at CAA Travel was a bit of a wizard as well:

Friday, May 7, 2010

The pickle jar.

No wonder Sylvia Plath stuck her head in the oven.

Two kids with annoying British accents, prick of a husband, and a writing career that floundered and flopped like a dying goldfish.

At least she didn't resort to public announcements.

Or maybe, just maybe, the morning she decided to crank the gas, she got a call from the neighbour, wondering if she could pen a potentially Pulitzer-winning poster for a lost dog.

Sylvia probably muttered something like, "who am I, the town fucking crier?" before putting pen to paper and dutifully writing the words: missing. followed by, dog.

Or, maybe, just maybe, in the seconds before Sylvia got down on the linoleum and rested her blonde head on the grill, she agreed to write about a Flea Market happening that very same day over at the local schoolyard. LeMarchant schoolyard. From 4-6. In support of some underfunded school trip going somewhere with pissed-stained bunk beds and potential for a head lice outbreak.

Did they not know she was a published writer. An author?

Poor Sylvia. I think it was an accident. I think she was changing the light bulb in her oven and she just succumbed to the soul-crushing fatigue most mothers feel, some days.

Poor bitch.

She had actually planned to attend the flea market to sift through other people's baggage, costume jewelry, jars of jams and pickled cauliflower in mustard sauce, and re-gifted tokens of affliction. Sylvia loved flea markets. She was hoping to find a baked goods table, and maybe pick up some soft, white dinner rolls she could pass off as homemade. And some date squares to have with her tea.

Because her own oven light was on the blink.

Just in case you are scratching your head, saying what the fuck?, there's a Flea Market at LeMerchant school today from 4 until 6, rain or shine. The usual crap. For a wonderful cause.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

And into the ire.

The frying pan narrowly missed the dog, napping outside in the early morning sun. "In the future, should you desire pancakes – go to fucking Smitty's."

With that, I scraped the remaining blueberry banana mixture into the garburator and tossed the little bastard a box of Cheerios.

The kitchen is closed.

I had one frying pan – well two – if you count the rusty, cast iron one, last used during the Gold Rush. The non-stick variety that crashed and burned this morning was no longer non-stick – in fact quite the opposite. It was the original T-Fal non-stick pan, which – when I inherited it – was already past its prime.

Add to this, my stove is apartment-size, despite sitting in a full-size hole waiting to be replaced, someday, by a full-size, stainless steel range and matching hood. My pint-size stove has two settings: hot, and really fucking hot. I blame my stove for why I burn everything, including toast. And bridges. My stove also has an automatic timer, which means it basically shuts off whenever it bloody well feels like it, as it did this morning, several times, mid pancake.

Living here is like Little House on the fucking Prairie, minus the constant sex with Charles.

At least I could feed the dog I nearly decapitated moments ago. It was then that I realized the can opener no longer opens anything – it just whirls around making little hair-like ribbons of aluminum that fall to the floor like tinsel amidst the disappointment of Christmas morning. Consequently, the can opener went out the back door where it landed with a soft "ping", bouncing off the frying pan before settling next to the fresh hole in the lawn, dug by the other dog, now waiting nervously for breakfast. I poured the remaining Cheerios into the dog bowls and went back to bed.

Bed, as it turned out, was now my laundry room with a mammoth pile of clean laundry lying where I wanted to be – so I opted instead for a hot shower. The shampoo bottle I use to prop the window open so the steam doesn't peel the wallpaper off, fell out the window and into the neighbour's yard which left me with just conditioner, or the little bastard's Old Spice Hair & Body wash that smells like insecticide and the armpits of teenage boys. I shaved my legs even though I ask myself every morning, why bother?, then pulled a pair of men's elastic-waist gym shorts and a Wrigley Field t-shirt out of the pile and headed to the computer.

There's gotta be more to life than this.

Cousin Sarah left for Toronto yesterday after several, stressful days of making a five-bedroom house fit into one large U-Haul and a Toyota Sequoia. Add to that; 2 dogs, 3 cats, 3 children, 3 ponies, a bunny, and a fish and I was just about out of mind. Cousin Sarah was fine. I was the crazy one.

It wasn't so much that Sarah was leaving, it was that she was leaving me behind. Me, who lives like a nomad, with scaled-down possessions that have nothing to do with the minimalist movement. Just movement. I want to be ready to go, when someone yells "go!". To this end, I quite often find myself standing near the cashier at a store, holding on to a lovely throw pillow or a functioning appliance, when I ask myself, "do I really need this?". The answer is usually, a resounding "no".

As a result, I may as well be cooking beans over a campfire in my backyard, wearing the little bastard's hand me downs, smelling like a 14-year old with a perpetual boner.

But I'm going to Italy again. Maybe. Soon. Who needs a frying pan and a can opener when they're holding on to the winning ticket for a trip to Italy? CAA have recently launched A Big Taste of Italy in Support of the Littlest Patients – a month-long fundraising campaign in support of the IWK Health Centre and Janeway Children’s Hospital foundations. All net proceeds from this campaign will go towards these two wonderful organizations that have stitched up my little bastard on several occasions. To purchase a ticket, head into your local CAA office or call 1-800-561-8807. Tickets are $10 and include an instant $10 coupon to East Side Mario's. Buda-bing. There's dinner taken care of.

I wonder if they make pancakes.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Arrivals and departures.

I met up with some old friends last night. Mr. Pretzel. Mr. Booze. And Mrs. Self-pity.

This was one of those weeks where nothing – absolutely fucking nothing – went the way it is supposed to when you only live once. I'm not sure what set if off, because it was a myriad of disasters and disappointments from start to finish. Perhaps it was Cousin Sarah's move back to Ontario, and my several trips to, and through, the Havenot airport – but at one point I asked myself, why?.

That's it. Just why?

'Funny then, that "wonder" was the number one Virtue sent in by so many lovely, funny, and fantastically fucked-up readers. (I am so not alone.) Was that because Wonder was Barb Stegemann's first listed Virtue and y'all are just lazy asses – or, is wonder something we all frantically search for to replace that ol' dickhead, doubt, who lounges on the sofa saying things like "No. Don't be silly. You? No, you can't."

So, there I was at Havenot Stanfield Underpants airport mid-shitty week, anxiously awaiting Sarah's arrival, when the woman twitching nervously next to me said something like, "Would you know where these folks were at?" in the thickest Newfoundland accent I have ever heard.

If you've never heard a Newfoundland accent, it is a wool blanket on a chilly day. A shot of whiskey in hot chocolate. And under most circumstances, it is funny as hell.

But not this week. This week, even a charming Newfie accent was twinged with fear and doubt.

"I can't find my daughter." she said. "She was s'posed to be here an hour ago from Edmonton. She could be here... lost."

I looked around and thought, Christ ya, there's gotta be 15 lobster fishermen and a cab driver here by the 3 baggage carousels. Easy to see how you could lose someone. But I mustered up some kindness and asked her if she'd checked the Arrivals board.

"Arrivals board? I've never done this before", she said wide eyed.

I was about to say "Did you just come down off Walton's fucking mountain, or what?" when I saw a look in her eyes. Here was naive wonder, colliding head on with serious fear and doubt.

I wandered over to the Information Desk where Angus MacMinimumwage expressed disinterest as I enquired about a flight from Edmonton. A flight that wasn't on the Arrivals board. He rolled his eyes and said the flight was late, arriving soon from Toronto and dismissed me like I was dog shit on his Wallabees. It took every fibre of my being not to reach over and grab him by the Nova Scotia tartan vest and beat him to death with the Doers and Dreamers guide.

I went back and explained to the woman, that her daughter should be coming through that door any time now. The door Cousin Sarah was walking though – all aglow with hope spiked with courage, wisdom, and a new Toronto haircut.

I am happy to say the Newfoundland mom was reunited with her daughter, and it's time to announce the winner of the 7 Virtues perfume and book giveaway. Everyone deserves to win, well, maybe except for the person who wrote in humility which, while technically a virtue, isn't one of Barb's virtues.

The winner is Shelly Webb.

Shelly chose Courage, and something in her email resonated with me. I think it was the part where she said, "Today’s virtue is definitely COURAGE; the courage just to get out of bed and do it all over again. It’s a funny world we live in when the most momentous part of the day is just finding a pair of pants that doesn’t cut off the circulation to your lower extremities."

We hear ya, Shelly.

Back in the company of my ol' buddies Mr. Pretzel, Mr. Booze and Mrs. Self-pity, I was sad to find them repetitive and boring. I've moved on. I'd gathered them together to whine about my crappy week but then I remembered something, and called it an early night.

I remembered that May 1st is the fourth anniversary of the death of a friend. Sheelagh Nolan could have been the poster girl for 7 Virtues. She had them all – beauty, courage, justice, wonder, truth, wisdom, and with the exception of the occasional Friday night – moderation.

Sheelagh also possessed grace, humour, forgiveness, wit, mischief, joy, kindness, selfless love – and a laugh that could brighten the darkest sky. Or the shittiest week.

May 1st is the day I wake up and thank my lucky fucking stars – for knowing her, and for being alive.

Oh... that's why.