Posts Tagged ‘ christmas ’
…the great white north. And when I mean north, I mean, like, way the hell north. The north where rocks are extracted from big bouldery hills and where bodies are easy to dispose of.
This is not Toronto – a rarity, so don’t get used to it!
It is a sort of sub-alpine town (if the hills were only bigger), situated somewhere in that vast swath of land called Northern Ontario.
Nothing like a whack of indoor flakes to take your mind of the stuff outside, eh?
Ah, but I kid. This is actually a serious problem for Toronto retailers. Last year we lost 12 people in an avalanche at the lower-level Starbucks…
I tried to warn my sis. I referred her to last year’s experience. I told her this was no place for impressionable young kids. Did she listen? Did she do the responsible thing and not accept my invitation to the Santa Claus Parade? Am I wallowing in rhetoric just to fill up a few sentences?
Last day of vacation; regret upon regret. I was supposed to do all sorts of things before the arbitrary tick of the annum clock (I’m very annal about some things). But I did manage to clean my place in time for the folks’ visit — I was up until the unholy hours, but I did it! And my parents expressed surprise that it wasn’t as dystopian and shelled-out as I had led them to believe.
In the process, incidentally, I had another break in the missing underwear case — possibly the break.
Two breaks, actually. Number one, my whities. So that’s one less to worry about. And a margarine container?
NO … FREAKIN’ … WAY!!
Okay, back story here. I had found similar containers, many caked with mud and (seemingly) dried saliva, in a variety of nooks and crannies around the place. Gotta tell ya, I didn’t remember absconding with any margarine containers from, really, anywhere recently. I don’t even eat margarine – I’m a real creamery butter kinda guy. So I was initially mystified as to how they had all ended up in my flat.
One day, while sitting on my couch watching something pleasantly dull, a black squirrel hopped onto the sill just behind the monitor — Ollie uses that window to get out onto the overhang and lord over his domain one storey below. I always kept the possibility of something getting into the flat at the back of my head. There are some overfed raccoons that like to hang around at the jumping-distance tree in the front yard. And the wires that hang from the street to the house make jumping mostly unnecessary for anything smaller. Not for Ollie – he’s too comfortable, but squirrels and chipmunks, no problem.
Whatever would get in, I thought, would likely ransack the kitchen for something to nibble on. There would be ample evidence that I’d finally been broken into by wildlife and that I was right not to trust them all along. Especially raccoons – they already look like criminals for God’s sake!
But when I spotted that squirrel on the sill, and what was that in it’s mouth? A margarine container?
The squirrel had been storing its margarine surreptitiously at my place for the winter – basically using it as a food cupboard. That, I had not expected. I’d also expected Ollie to be a little more vigilant with guarding the flat against invading rodents with chaseably bushy tails. But he literally picked up his head, glanced at the squirrel, gave me a glazed-over look, and dropped his head right back down to sleep. Ollie and old Blackie, it seems, are old buddies. What other explanation is there?
The squirrel leapt, almost imperceptibly, to the side table that holds my monitor, margarine container in full view. I thought that the act of standing up suddenly would be enough to spook the squirrel back out into the night. Nope. Little fucker stood there, didn’t even flinch. Just kinda side-glanced me like he was dissing me. I could’ve sworn I heard him kiss his teeth.
I took two steps forward – the full width of my living room – only then did the squirrel finally mosey back over to the sill. This was in late November, I knew I’d be keeping the windows closed for the next half decade-ish, so I was really more curious to look into the eyes of such an audacious creature than to try to scare it from entering again. Perhaps promise that I would eat its heart for courage if I ever caught it and killed it it in a death match or found its frozen carcass out in the snow – in true urban warrior spirit, and out of respect for its brave little soul.
I would cry a little when I ate that squirrel.
Luckily I don’t have to do that. The squirrel finally walked off and has only flitted by my window on rare occasions. I’m still finding the random margarine container wedged between the sofa cushions or stuck in behind the bookcase, but the mountain of rags reeking with the repellent scent of man is no longer available, and the window is closed now anyway. I saw the squirrel a couple of weeks ago as I was trying to squeeze open-window season to its limit – he eyed me from the sill, margarine container firmly in his grasp, but the fight will have to wait until spring – he retreated and I haven’t seen him since. He’s now probably nestled into a hole in a tree or in some sucker’s comfortable drywall, family cozied up for warmth, my missing underwear at the entrance keeping predators at bay with a chemical-scent shield. If the little ones have the constitution of their dad, the odour won’t faze them. Impressive.
So, yeah, no freakin’ way. It must be the squirrel. And I accused Ollie of the undergarment thefts already; I feel like a heel. He pretended not to understand what I was saying. I could tell he was hurt though; he had that dejected look on his face and stopped eating for, like, 300 seconds. It seemed like an eternity. Now I may owe him a huge apology. Then I’ll cuss him out for letting the squirrel in here.
But other than the case, of course, I’ve been busy with Christmas.
I spent a good amount of my life on GO trains, heading west to see my sister, twice, and then east to gather some documents. The documents ended up being the one gift I’d been hoping for this season – both some evidence that the ex is entangled in some untoward business (at my expense :( ), and the fact that finally, I can say with authority … I was right. Oooh. Plus, I learned a couple of new pieces of information — stocking stuffers. Sent a shiver up my spine. Maybe I watch too much Poirot, but I definitely felt a private investigator vibe – and I liked it.
A real post is in the works (as soon as the turkey is done with and I’m back at my place), but I didn’t want you to feel like I forgot about you, dear reader. Hope you’re having a wonderful holiday!
When the gentle snow begins to fall outside my icy window, dear reader, my thoughts turn to a snifter of some fine, aromatic liqueur, and to your delightful company by the side of a crackling fire. I do so love this season. :)
The urban sphere is no less magical at this time of year; festively festooned store windows hold visions of the wonders to come, with children looking on clinging to their mothers, promising all manner of rehabilitated behaviour if only they could get exactly that. And luckily, toys are a relatively inexpensive way to motivate them toward adopting good manners. It’s a terrible shame that the same can’t be said of the adult populace at large. It would certainly make shopping for gifts much more enjoyable, don’t you think?
Insolence at this time of year is most un-Christmas-like, yet during any average shopping expedition one may expect to encounter it at regular intervals. While previous installments of The Guide have dealt with successfully navigating crowds or dealing with queue jumpers, we have thus far not discussed the techniques for ensuring that the last item on the shelf ends up in your possession instead of the aggressive gentleman’s who just pushed you aside for it. The natural inclination may be to bare one’s knuckles and prepare for fisticuffs, but there are many variables to this approach that simply cannot be accounted for. Besides this, it is ungentlemanly. The timeless question must once again be raised; what’s the practical gentleman to do?
Luckily, dear reader, we have a few avenues open to us that ensure that we escape both unscathed, and with the gift we had wanted under our arm. And as my special gift to you, I have taken great pains to research two excellent approaches that are both entirely preemptive and self-maintaining. The gifts that you select will be ready for you when you’re ready to make your purchase; you won’t need to fend anyone off, thus entirely preventing insolence, as it were.
A great deal of wisdom has been scribbled hastily within convenience store greeting cards on the way to the relatives’ as regards these matters, but please allow me to at least get the ball rolling.
Chocolate, who doesn’t love it? The insolent, that’s who. But not me, dear reader, and I believe you will love it too once this scenario unfolds in its entirety.
Clearly, for this technique we will be needing chocolate. I prefer dark, but melted milk chocolate also has a certain appeal. The idea is to use something that approaches the colour and consistency of feces, and cocoa is a wonderful medium to work in anyway.
Enjoy a corner of your favourite chocolate treat, allowing it to melt in your mouth until soft. Then, simply rub it onto a visibly obvious section of the gift you have selected, replacing it on the shelf from whence it came. Anyone who encounters it will see the “fecal” smear and will steer well clear. You hear? :)
The nice aspect of this strategy is that it allows you to shop with hands free while marking, and reserving, potential gifts you may want to return to later. Clearly there wouldn’t be much advantage to marking gifts weeks in advance, unless you’re short of cash at that time, so the approach is a day-of sort of thing.
It would be remiss not to complete the thought and ask what happens when the besmeared gift is unwrapped. “I was eating chocolate, as I am wont to do when wrapping gifts, and some of it dripped there. I had the receipt but they wouldn’t let me return it and mall security chased me out. I have no idea why. But it’s what’s on the inside of the box that counts anyway, right?”
Bingo bango, you’re done.
When something absolutely must be reserved, the idea here is to make the object simply unattainable … except for yourself ;) As with the previous option, this may also be a day-of sort of thing or an advanced-planning sort of thing. But you must prepare.
The essence of the thing is to create our own price tags, of varying degrees of outrageousness, that we will apply to reserved items. Access to a printer is great, but if you write carefully (paying attention to size and spacing), you can produce credible tags by hand. A fine felt tip marker and some self-adhesive envelope labels – the kind that come on sheets – should serve you well. We’ll be cutting these into price-tag-sized pieces, so we really don’t need many.
It’s a good idea to produce them in incremental values of ten dollars. And ninety-nine cents, of course (that adds to the authenticity). Start at $10.99, then $20.99, $30.99, and so on. These are good psychological thresholds, hurdles for their penny-pinching minds. How high are they willing to jump?
Of course, you’ll know something they don’t; that the real price is just beneath the reserved tag.
To absolutely ensure that a certain item is held until your return, consider marking up a number of the same items in increasing sums. This adds to the confusion should someone decide to double-check the price. As the items leave the shelf, the price will most certainly climb – that $150.99 (what?!) Transformer is sure to be yours. Teehee … can you hear their outraged outbursts at the toy store’s audacity? Maybe if they weren’t so rude.
During the holidays it’s nice to clean up a bit. Get that haircut, brush those teeth, put on the top hat, pop on the monocle, strike the cane and get out there! As the Marquis, or Duke, or V.I.P.of one sort or another, you are to be afforded various privileges, and if your wealthy industrialist father taught you anything it was that any problem can be bought.
“Sir? Sir? I wonder if you’d be willing to part with that game for a profit. Name your price. Well, now, that’s quite a tidy sum. Luckily for you, I made that while standing here. Hang on, I’ll write you a cheque; I don’t carry that much cash on me.”
Fancy duds, presumptuous, quick to pay you off – yeah, thanks for the money, Mister Sucker. Yoink! Didn’t really want the game anyway.
A well-dressed lady interacting with members of the opposite sex is more likely to accomplish this without any complications. Ladies will have an advantage over the gentlemen here, I’m afraid. Sorry fellas, we can’t win ‘em all.
At this point, you contact your bank to put a block on the cheque. You can also use expired cheques such as result from switching accounts to avoid possible fraud — “Oh no! My bank card is missing!” (But not really :) )
We must absolutely not reward insolent behaviour, and moochiness is no exception. By using this method, the gift is given by someone truly deserving, and contrary to ending in raised fists, the situation results in a handshake. Is that not in the spirit of Christmas? I happen to think so.
Well, dear reader, this is the final edition of 2009. It’s been a tumultuous year, to be sure, but it is my most sincere wish that The Guide has thus far provided a modicum of guidance through it. I will continue to work hard to bring you real, practical solutions to modern urban insolence.
Wishing you and your loved ones the ho-ho-ho-iest Christmas and Auld-Lang-Syne-iest new year. Until next time!
Oh God, it’s that time again … gift season. I believe this adds a great deal of stress to anyone’s holiday schedule. You have to be both a creatively gifted person and have your finger on the pulse of commerce to both avoid getting the same presents year over year, and to know where / how / when / for how much your idea may be fulfilled.
Add to that the challenge of crowded parking lots, shoppers wired on their kids’ Ritalin and ready to pounce on anyone who gets in their way, and the simple challenge of just getting around in the seasonal conditions – and you’ve got yourself some war planning to do. Old Man Winter’s pretty much made himself at home and he’s, well, he’s not always at his sexiest. Because he’s so ubiquitous, I couldn’t take a photo of him, so instead here’s a Titanic-style rendering:
I never feel like shopping after walking in on that.
Well, since most of my shopping will probably consist of gift cards and video games (nephews are the perfect age!), there really won’t be anything interesting to document this year. Unless the store at which I’m purchasing said gift card or video game is being held up, but I usually never get the camera out in time so I wouldn’t bank on it.
Due to this, I decided instead to compile some (hopefully) unique and original gift ideas – for you and your loved one. Of course, they may no suit everyone’s tastes, but that’s why there’s more than one thing on the list :)
The Toronto City Life 2009 Gift Guide
If you live with one of those snooty sonsabitches who wishes for world peace, you’re probably thinking what a miserable, selfish asshole! I mean, how the hell are you supposed to pull that one off in time for Christmas? You can either tell them to go to hell, or if they’re that important to you, you can do the next best thing and get them a world piece. Maybe lop a desk globe in half (or smaller), and gift wrap. Couldn’t be simpler, more affordable, and practically the same thing.
If your recipient just wants cold, hard cash like all normal people, you can exotify the gift by sticking it into a decorative red envelope and calling it a Han Bau. This is the traditional gift in China. Typically it’s given during the Lunar New Year and most often to kids, but I don’t know about you, but I ain’t Chinese so to hell with tradition. For the ultimate in authenticity, get the envelopes with some Chinese characters on them (do you really care what they say?), and hand the wad over with a gong-shi gong-shi ni-a! (that’s the traditional way of congratulating someone for surviving another year)
In the olden days, a lump of coal was seen as one of the worst things that anyone could receive. Of course, back in them ignorant times people had no clue how versatile coal really is. We now know that it’s the raw material for producing diamonds (this year, giver her a lump), and as energy prices continue to skyrocket, something to help heat the home is indeed a terrific gift!
And shit, if you’re giving coal, you may as well include a canary. If the coal decides to get any bad ideas, the canary will die (an old miner trick), saving you the embarrassment of having to drag the gassed-out carcass of your significant other onto the front lawn.
But I know that ladies aren’t always into practical things so something that appeals to their aesthetic sense is a great alternative. I thought about this one for a while and came to the conclusion that a pair of front teeth is a swell and inexpensive gift. I believe there was even a song written about it.
Ladies, in my experience, also just enjoy extensively hugging things – cuddling, I believe they call it. Doesn’t the Cuddle Fish sound like the perfect gift for the woman in your life? If you’re having trouble finding one, try the alternate spelling of Cuttlefish — the pronunciation is the same. Even sounds cute!
For your man, nothing says “I put effort into this bitch” more than a city sewer grate. To begin with, there’s gotta be at least five bucks’ worth of raw material in there so there’s that, and once he realizes the effort required to lift it (let alone gift wrap it), he’ll fall in love all over again. On top of all this, you’re out zilch and now have an amazing conversation piece in your living room! Not a world piece, mind you, but almost as good.
If you’re trying to avoid theft this Christmas, and you happen to be environmentally conscious, a year’s worth of natural gas can apparently be had entirely for free. I know, it’s practical, but for free you can make it a stocking stuffer! I’m not sure how the process works but it involves something called a Dutch oven and fine Egyptian cotton sheets.
A packet of farm-fresh Anthrax is, I’m told, also a well-received gift. It’s incumbent on you to ensure that the receiver knows it’s Anthrax. Of course, if they don’t believe you, they deserve what they get – untrusting louts. Otherwise, it’s theirs to dispense with as they please. The youth I’ve given it to in the past all assure me it was a “sick” gift. That means cool ;)
Finally, I was tossing around the possibility of getting someone an Ewok. You know, from the forest moon of Endor. They’re cute, anthropomorphic as all get out, and pretty damn rare in North America. Imagine the surprise when one pops out of a box with a ribbon on its head. I won’t recommend this one until I can figure out where to obtain a pet Ewok, but I thought I’d throw that out in case you happen to know of a reliable supplier. In which case, can you hook me up?
In previous years I experimented with food and standard pets, but they either start to mold pretty severely or their body begins decomposing well before the box is opened (even if you put them in alive). And I always seal the boxes really well, so air leaking in is not the cause. Guess they just don’t make good gifts. It doesn’t make for a nice Christmas eve (our family opens gifts on the 24th); kids cry, maggots get all over the carpet, smell ruins the hell out of the Carp dinner. Besides, why not do something different this time?
(this was the best I could come up with — St. Lawrence market is really distracting!)
Today, of course, I heard all the stories. In the back of a cab on the way to the club with the boss; that was a good one. Certain alcohol-fueled flirtations upon arrival at said club. Good, good. Keep it coming :)
Unfortunately, I bailed from the office Christmas party at close to two in the morning. Technically, the party was over, but it usually just disperses to another locale. Took me some time to convince my cubicle buddy that we didn’t split at midnight as he kept insisting we did. I may have been sloshed, but if I can stand, I’m usually pretty with it. The service stopped at midnight … ah, that’s why it seemed like we left at that time. Right, right.
I felt like it was a pretty full night. We closed the doors on The Academy of Spherical Arts, a bar and restaurant with swanky pool tables and plush couches. You put your beer down anywhere and they leap out from behind the counter with a machete and cut you down like the savage animal you are.
Despite the plethora of criticisms I have for the company, their ability to throw a good party is without reproach. In the summer we gather at the top boss’ house (top boss in our office, anyway), get shitfaced and play baseball and other wholesome sports until the sun goes down. Then the hot tub cover comes off, someone gets naked (never anyone you want to see naked), and someone does a face plant on the lawn (because it’s so dark, of course).
But the Christmas party is the king of office parties, in my opinion. It’s the one where you’re supposed to tux around and act all grown-up, but that usually goes out the window at the sixth pint. It’s when people tell each other what they really think of each other, and it’s sometimes … less than flattering.
That’s probably why they chose some place with pool tables, it gives us a chance to settle scores like civilized drunkards: a bracing game of billiards. Here I am crossing swords with K.K., the marketing design whiz. Note she’s doing the rock horns while I’m saluting our dark overlord. That’s how the argument always begins. The gentleman in the back is the one who will administer the final coup de grâce once one of us lies gasping for breath and begging for mercy. None shall be given, of course.
Jeans in a sea of dress pants and dresses. I could’ve come to work all dolled up in the morning but that’s no way to get through the day – I sit near the rads and in the winter, stuff melts. The alternative is to run home, throw the getup on, and get back before the buffet gets cold. Unless they schedule the party right after the office closes. Some people actually still work at the end of the day, you know?
There’s been more than one occasion when someone’s asked me, “Does anyone actually go to these things? Like, stand out there in the cold?” This is the most common response to my initial, “I’m going to (an outdoor winter event).”
I then typically follow up by popping open a browser (this is usually at work), hitting TCL, and showing them last year’s thing. “Wow, you’d never catch me out there freezing my ass off”, is typically the next statement. “Well, you keep warm by virtue of shared body heat. That’s what makes the evening so magical; improper touching”, I try to sell it. But that’s usually not enough. After revelations that there’s no booze and that the place is swarming with kids, the conversation just peters off into other subjects, “So … Toronto City Life … what is that, a government website?” “Yup.” “Not very interesting.” “Yeah.” ”Have lunch yet?” “Nope.”
People are too jaded. Perhaps because they’re hungry. The Cavalcade of Lights, with this year’s record lack of snow, didn’t really classify as a winter event, so all that hoopla about buttocks falling of in the cold were for naught. The kids were there, but you couldn’t hear them over the din of the show and any ones caught underfoot were pretty much fair game so that problem wasn’t overly daunting. I managed to get up to the front of the crowd with barely any resistance:
The alcohol prohibition thing is also a bit of a moot point. I was not once searched even though I carried a bag big enough to conceal a small keg. A mickey stolen away in a coat pocket would most certainly have gone unnoticed, or you could do as any self-respecting adult would and simply go already lubricated. Essentially, sobriety is for children, the infirm, and stupid people.
But I don’t want to get hung up on methods of smuggling drinks in because with the kind of cover you get in both the scenery and the crowd, you can pretty much set up a temporary shelter where you and your junkie friends can shoot up in complete privacy. Drinking? Please, the cops have bigger things to worry about. Like heroin addicts. Or those guys that sell all that light-up crap that the kids use once before it explodes toxically in the car on the way home. Domestic-quality Chinese products are always hit-and-miss:
The best way to avoid these shuckers of mens’ wallets is to simply avoid them. Look for the guys with the craziest head gear — dead giveaway — and beeline it in the other direction. If you have children with you, a) Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Hehe! Hahaha! *wipe tear* Oh man. Why would you do something like that? and b) Avert their gaze from crazy hat guy. If nothing else, at least save yourself some cash.