Going To Oz

Canadians know that when it’s been hot and humid for days, a tornado is probably in our future.  Sometimes we dodge it, sometimes we don’t. This was one of those times that we didn’t. A couple of days ago, Alberta had a nasty one touch down in a farming community near its southern edge.  (Miraculously, a dog that was scooped up as the tornado passed managed to land somewhere safely, and find her way home.) On the same day London, Ontario had its flirt with disaster. The photos below show the beast as it rolled in around 1:00 in the afternoon.   Some people said it looked like the mothership in Independence Day, and I kind of think so too.


Tornatic funnel cloud,  July 19, 2019. (Image courtesy of Michael Wismer)



Tornadic funnel cloud, July 19, 2019. (Image courtesy of Ontario Storms.com)

When the warning came over my cell phone I went outside on the terrace to have a look.  Tornado clouds are scary-looking things and it didn’t take me long to boot it back inside. I left Clancy and Buddy sound asleep in the apartment and took the stairs to the lobby to see several residents standing at the building’s entrance, looking skyward. A few moments later, the word came that it was moving east and more or less missed us–but not before a lightening bolt struck a tree in the south end, felling the tree and sending wood schrapnel flying in every direction. A near-miss for us, but not for the tree.


Moments That Feed the Soul


On Sunday a friend and I went to Toronto to see Come From Away, a musical about how the people of Gander, Newfoundland took care of the folks who were displaced when their planes were diverted to Canada during 9/11.  It’s a story that, prior to the musical, only Canadians seemed to know about; I can still remember our collective disappointment (and anger) when George Bush gave his State of the Union address soon after the attack and thanked EVERY SINGLE COUNTRY except Canada.  That the U.S. closed its airspace but Canada allowed the planes in–not knowing if any more terrorists were on board–was worthy of a wee mention, in our view. (We found out, years later, that the speech writers made the gaff and tried to alert Bush to the error–but he was not inclined to change his speech after he had already rehearsed it. It was Colin Powell who stepped up and tried to make amends in the press, god bless `em.)

Anyhow: better late than never. If you haven’t seen the musical, GO SEE IT!  The music is awesome, the story-telling is riveting, and I swear you’ll laugh, cry, and want to get up and dance in the aisles.

It’s food for the soul, and these days we could all use a healthy dose of that.

Things You Miss

Last month I sprained one of my toes.  I’ve never given a thought about that toe; it did its duty quietly and faithfully for over 60 years until its owner thanked it by nailing it on an open pantry door.  For the past month I’ve been reminded of that toe every time I try to wear certain shoes or bend my foot a certain way.  Now I have a new appreciation for that toe (and pray to it every day to heal the hell up; I miss those shoes.)

For the last week I’ve had a cold and my first ever case of total laryngitis. I went to bed one night with my voice in tact and woke up the next morning without it. Just like that. Like my toe, I took advantage of my voice, never full appreciating how useful it could be until it decided to flunk out. It’s amazing, in this day of technology, how much you still need your voice. Today was a discovery.

This morning I went on-line to cancel a service but I found out that I had to phone the merchant directly–which I can’t do, of course, because the only thing the merchant would hear is a breathy, raspy sound and I would sound like a pervert making an obscene phone call. (I’ve had those and they’re not fun.)

This afternoon I went grocery shopping and thought I was in the clear because the store has self-checkout. Unfortunately the deli does not. The moment the deli lady said “can I help you?” I realized my mistake. I whispered “I have laryngitits” and “Can I have a bit of that salad please?”, looking sheepish. The lady was sweet and accomodating, even giving me a home remedy for my missing voice (Apple Cider Vinegar diluted with water.)  I mouthed a thank you and went on my way.

After that I went to the pet store to get some pill pockets. (Pill pockets are treats you can stuff pills in to give your dog. I’ve been faking Buddy out with this method for 5 years.)  I figured I’d grab a pack, pay for it wordlessly, and leave. But no. I couldn’t find the damn pockets and needed to ask the sales girl, explaining (again) my weird voice. The sales girl listened sympathetically and walked me over the the pill pockets.  Walked. Me. Over. To. Them.  My lack of voice has apparently rendered me an invalid who can’t follow simple directions.  I thanked her and left with my purchase, surprisingly able to locate my car. (I think the salesgirl was impressed.)

There were other incidences of missing my voice today too, like how I wanted to tell my  neighbour something but couldn’t email him because he doesn’t have the internet, but also couldn’t phone him for obvious reasons, although I’m sure he would find my pervert/obscene phone call impersonation amusing.

But the worse incident of all regarding my absentee voice was not being able to yell at a bunch of kids who were screaming and hollering outside.  Had I had my voice, I would have barrelled out there full throttle and sent them packing.  As it was, I could hardly have been a commanding presence with a ghostly whisper that I’m sure they wouldn’t have heard. This, I discovered, was the worse part of voicelessness:  I need my voice so I can give annoying people shit.

I knew I was put on earth for a reason.

1940s Portrait Of Woman Holding Her Sore Throat With Expression Of Discomfort And Pain

Me, as I contemplate how to give people shit sotto voce.



Delayed Gratification

I admit it:  when it comes to cars, I am not a fan of delayed gratification.  I want one NOW.

My current vehicle is an 8-year-old Subaru Forester.  Foresters are bullet-proof, but not without their quirks.  My Forester has a minor oil leak, which would be a nothing burger to fix in any other car that doesn’t have a boxer engine.  The Forester’s boxer engine makes the leak impossible to reach without hauling the entire engine out, a costly fix. I’ve been stop-gapping the drip by adding thickeners to the oil at every oil change, but this doesn’t stop the oil from intermittently dripping on to hot spots in the engine and stinking to high heaven.

So a new car it is.

It might seem like a contradiction to say that I am also a bullheaded car shopper, a veritable Nazi with car salesmen–especially the kind who think they can trick you into buying a car using lame tactics, like talking up the vanity mirrors. (For some reason, car salesmen think this is a great selling feature for women.)  My father taught his daughters well.

Imagine my surprise and delight, then, when I walked into a Ford dealership and got none of that. One of the reasons, I think, was that I was purchasing the car on a discount plan Ford gives current and retired employees and their families. When I told the salesman my brother-in-law was a former employee and I would be accessing his discount, buying the car was as straightforward as buying a loaf of bread–well, a fully loaded loaf of bread with a moon roof, leather interior, and a nav system.

I can’t wait to get my new car and enhale that new car smell.  Ain’t it awesome?


2019 Ford Edge, SEL

Gentleman Jim, RIP. ( 1920-2019)

In so many ways, my father was a study in contrasts.

He was a conservative man with liberal sensibilities; a man of refinement who proudly boughts suits at discount bazaars; a lover of fine automobiles who would never buy one unless he negotiated the very best deal–and I mean, the VERY best deal.

He wasn’t a man inclined toward effusive displays of affection, but his love and devotion to family was beyond question.

He was calmly analytical and quietly thoughtful, taking several minutes to articulate a point or make a decision because everything you did ought to be done correctly. I have so many memories of him starting to speak, then stop to light his pipe, then puff on it for an indeterminable amount of time, while you waited impatiently to hear what he would say next.

My father’s exacting standards were sometimes hard to live up to–even for him.  He would labour FOREVER over the smallest detail of a task, impervious to everyone, until he got whatever he was working on just right.

He had four daughters whose strong will and tenacity matched his own. This made for some tense moments growing up, but also for some great conversation. I have so many memories of whiling way the hours with him, sitting by the fire in our old house, chatting until the wee hours of the morning to the steady, reassuring tick of the grandfather clock in the living room.

My father loved to tease his daughters and found our misadventures particularly hilarious (even if we didn’t).  He saw humour in most things and most of all, in his own foibles. He never took himself too seriously, although he was whipsmart and most often right.

As much as my father’s high standards and pursuit of excellence tried our patience at times, we knew that any broken thing we owned, or any car problem we had, would be fixed better than new. We knew that he would never like us settling for second best, not in the things we possessed, the careers we pursued, the relationships we had, or in the lives we chose. That’s a valuable lesson to teach your children, but an especially valuable lesson to teach your daughters.

He was a man of integrity, who by his example taught us lessons about equality and fairness. He was a man of patience and intelligence, who taught us about forbearance and tolerance. He was a man of great wit, who demonstrated the importance of humour, especially in the face of hardship.

If I possess any of these qualities, just a little, I owe that to him.

I will love him and miss him forever.


Jim, at his 95th birthday party.