Category Archives: Change

Loose Facts

The Facts are These:

1. William Lyon Mackenzie King (not to be confused with William Lyon Mackenzie), Canada’s 10th Prime Minister, had three dogs named Pat. Not at the same time: he had one dog (named Pat), the dog (Pat) died, and then he got another dog and named it Pat. He did this three times: Pat I, Pat II, Pat III.


Three Kings.

Rumour had it that Mackenzie King had at least one of the Pats stuffed and mounted after its death, but this is untrue. The rumour, however, is so close to what appears to be the truth that it is often repeated as if true. A difference that makes no difference.

Three Irish Terriers. Three dogs named Pat. No taxidermy involved whatsoever. Séances to commune with the dead, however, were involved, including Mackenzie King’s desire to speak with Pat (the dead one) as well as the likes of his long-dead mother and Wilfrid Laurier, Canada’s 7th Prime Minister.


2. Barbara Streisand revealed last week that she had her Coton de Tulear, Samantha, cloned. She named her new, clone(d) dogs Miss Scarlet and Miss Violet (they wear red and purple ribbons, respectively, so that you can tell them apart). Streisand also has another dog, another Coton de Tulear, named Miss Fanny.

Miss Fanny is a distant cousin of the first dog, Samantha.

The more things change.

Three Coton de Tulears. One dog (Samantha), two clones of dog (Miss Scarlet, Miss Violet), another a cousin or some such relation (Miss Fanny).

Actually, four dogs were cloned from the first, Samantha. The runt of the litter died, the other clones – not Miss Scarlet and Miss Violet – were given away (five dogs, according to Streisand, would have been too much to handle and Miss Fanny was there to stay). Cloning costs a lot, it certainly does, but Streisand certainly has it.


3. Lisa Simpson’s first cat, Snowball, was hit by a car (a Chrysler driven by the mayor’s druken brother, Clovis). She named her second cat Snowball II. When Snowball II was hit by a car (in this case, Dr. Hibbert’s SUV) and killed, Lisa adopted a new cat, Snowball III, who promptly drowned in a fish tank, and led her to get another cat, Coltrane, who jumped out a window and died. Springfield’s Crazy Cat Lady (Dr. Eleanor Abernathy) eventually threw a cat at Lisa, who decided to keep it. She also decided to name it Snowball II to save money on a new collar and cat dish.


Five cats, four named Snowball.

Now. We know that Snowball II (the first one, a black cat) did not look like Snowball I (a white cat, although he sometimes appears as if grey), and that Snowball III did not look like Snowball I or either of the Snowballs II – was, in fact, an entirely different (looking) cat (brown/orange with medium rather than short hair). We also know that Snowball II (the second one) looks identical to Snowball II (the first one).

Coltrane should have been Snowball IV (at least, he could have been), but wasn’t.

Snowball II (the second one) is and is not Snowball IV, which is and is not Snowball II (the first one).

Lisa once tried to resurrect Snowball I via the dark arts. It didn’t work: instead, she and her brother, Bart, ended up unleashing a veritable army of undead upon Springfield, including the likes of Zombie George Washington, Zombie Einstein and Zombie Shakespeare. Too bad. It should have worked.

Try, and try again.


To Conclude:

An Irish Terrier, a Coton de Tulear and a shorthair Cat walk into a bar.

“Give us the usual,” they say.

“You don’t have to tell me,” says the bartender. “You’ve been around here before. But are you sure just the usual this time?”

The Irish Terrier looks away, the Coton de Tulear cocks its head, the Cat narrows its eyes but does not blink.

“Make it a double,” it says.









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Filed under Animals, Celebrity, Change, Dogs, People, Pets, Philosophy

Teeth (Part 1)

We found ourselves across the street from the famed Peters’ Drive-In, just off of 16th Ave, NE, Calgary, Alberta.

Peters’, “The Drive-In You Can’t Drive By.” Peter’s, the with its thick, custom-made shakes and flame-broiled burgers and “Family-Sized” fries that could easily satisfy a small battle-worn army. Peters’, a virtual institution (established 1962, though under new ownership as of 2015) – politicians eat here (on campaign stops), weddings (plural, yes) have been photographed here, birthdays (children’s, even) happen in its adjacent parking lot – Peters’, in short, THE go-to place to go to if you happen to be on that particular side of Calgary at any particular moment.

Or not.


(Debit since 1990)

Peters’, unfortunately, only had outdoor seating and it was cold, a blustery, grey day in the city turned cold, unfriendly evening, and this place, a bubble tea bar with à la carte snacks (fish cakes and yam fries and wings and fried dumplings) thus seemed warmer, more welcoming.

Staying at Peters’ would have meant having to eat in the car, a tiny, overpacked Corolla that would not have comfortably seated four adults let alone a box of Family-Sized fries, a couple of shakes, a burger a piece. Staying at Peters’, institution or no, meant fighting what appeared to be a mostly teenaged crowd (and a scraggly one at that) for position and territory (seating was available, but limited). Staying at Peters’ made us feel exposed.

This is not a story about Peters’.

Yet, I wonder what would have happened if we had stayed there instead of going to the bubble tea place.


It had been a long day in a series of long days during which time our plans to take a road trip through the province had finally been made. In a day or so, we’d be off.

Terry[1] was in a mood. He’d come out West to see if he and his girlfriend, Mae, [2] could make a go of it; try and start a new life, etc. Easier said than done and even then, the dream was difficult to articulate.

Why out West? Opportunity, maybe, but wasn’t that years ago? What was it, anyway, to “start a new life?” Was he so completely over, and done with, his last one? Was Mae? 

When does this one life end and another, the other, begin?

Terry and Mae found temporary housing renting a unit at the nearby college (it was summer, the students were long gone from that place). Just was well, since the plumbing was busted and the electricity was spotty, at best, due to construction. Terry had a couple of leads but nothing confirmed, nothing solid, in terms of work. Mae was having a harder time even finding places to interview for. The city was indifferent to their plight; the people seemed strangely withdrawn (at least compared to their counterparts out East); the moon (Terry swears it) scowled at them from above, looming large, inescapable. It had been weeks.

So, when we visited and then agreed to join them on the road trip, Terry was in a mood. He was animated as he always was, with that look about his eyes that could only be described as “dogged”; he was even amiable (for Terry), but worn around the edges, slumped, a little, at the shoulders. Frayed, picked-over Terry.

Our server set our order – a smattering of snacks and four custom made bubble teas – on the table. I think mine was Strawberry Something. Stephen had something with mango in it. Mae’s was purple (very purple). Terry brightened at the sight of our glorious repast. He reached past Mae and speared a dumpling with a chopstick, popped it into his month, and screamed.

“My tooth! My fucking tooth!”

Terry had chipped his tooth, and badly (or to hear him tell it, the fucking dumpling chipped his tooth and so very badly).

This is a story about Terry’s teeth.






[1] Not real name, though he really could be a “Terry” if he wanted. Alas, “Terry” wants for nothing.

[2] Not real name. No sense veiling “Terry” if I’m going to out “Mae,” is there?





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Filed under Change, City Life, Food, Friends, Holiday, Interruptions, People, Places, THE PAST

Browbeaten (Black & Blue)

I don’t know when my dad started losing his hair, but it was early on in both our lives.

He tried many things to stymie this most unfathomable loss, but in the end had little recourse but to stop cutting it, to just let it grow and then to start, kind of, creatively sweeping it across the great expanse of his head, precious resource as it was.

He also started dyeing it the instant he found his first grey hair, to a shade I think would be rightly called “Permanent Marker Black.” Or perhaps “Sharpie Gardens” (“Bic Dreams” also works rather well).

I am not making fun: it was actually refreshing to see my dad colouring his hair as we came home from school or work; there was no furtive shutting of bathroom doors or nervous sleight-of-hand over a splotched-over kitchen sink when it came to my dad deciding on that day to annihilate his greys.

He just did it.


(I always thought mustaches were cool because of my dad. His was both proud and stately. Now everybody thinks mustaches are cool, but my dad had nothing to do with it.)


My mom despised my dad’s comb-over – how it splayed, was mucked-over his scalp – a hatred which intensified in direct proportion to the comb-over’s sheer magnificence over the years. It was an on-going Thing with them; a continual war in which battles were attained by each side, but never quite won.

A witty retort here, a scathing comment there, some handwringing, a lot of empty threats and many unmet challenges: nothing ever decisive, nothing that would bring about a lasting, peaceful co-existence. Only a kind of peace, a tepid cease-fire that freed up at least some of the day for errands and housecleaning and maybe an hour or so of prime-time TV.

That is. Until.

Until the day my dad came home from my aunt’s salon with not one hair on his head.

Not. One.

No comb-over, no mustache. No eyebrows.

I have no memory or idea about what could have precipitated this. All I remember, all I know, is that one day my dad had hair on his head, and the next, he didn’t.

And something else: “How about now?” he asked my mom on that day. That fateful day.

My mom shot him that look, a look that over time was so perfected as to be drawn on.

In fact, it was drawn on.


Mom came home from my aunt’s salon with her eyebrows tattooed in place one day and so long ago they have since turned blue.

Over time, black tattoos will go blue, unless you get them re-done.

But why? The tattoos, I mean, not the fact of their fading to blue.

“Because,” Mom said. Makeup costs money and this also saved time. We didn’t have much of either, in our house. It made a lot of sense, and aligned perfectly with my mom’s brutal practicality.

She did it for us.

If my dad had something to say about that, we never heard it.


(I always thought Mom’s eyebrows were fearsome because of my mom. I’ve not seen many people with them done, though I suspect on some level that my mom may have something to do with it. She is just that capable.)


The time my dad shaved off all his hair (including his mustache, including his eyebrows).

It was either shortly after or shortly before.

In fact, it was both.


My mom was in the ICU, recuperating, drugged. The surgery was long, but the prognosis was good. We stood there, my sister and I, hovering by her bedside, not sure of what to say. Finally, I said the I only thing that seemed worth saying in that moment: “They’ve gone so blue.”

The way her eyebrows rested on her face, the sheer blueness of them…her expression before us was one of severe, unmitigated reproach. It was as if she could hear us talking; it seemed that even in sleep she was aware, alert and admonishing.


“Yeah. She looks super pissed off. And very blue, actually,” replied Dolly. Mom’s natural pallor, whether it was from the ordeal of the surgery or because of the weird off-color lighting of the ICU, had gone decidedly indigo. Her arched blue brows did nothing to dispel the illusion. “It’s like two sharks colliding,” Dolly remarked, matter-of-factly, and we were both reassured.

Everything would be OK.

(Dolly is excellent with the facts of matters great and small.)

The ICU nurse overheard us and said nothing. It’s not hard to wonder what she probably thought of the scene playing out in front of her. It’s not difficult to surmise that she likely kept quiet not for our benefit, but for hers. Why risk that look herself? Why ruin what, by our standards, was a perfectly good reunion? No need to impose, to interrupt.

How dare she?

My dad’s eyebrows had grown back by then, as did some of the hair on his head, but he didn’t regrow the mustache, which I think my mom always hated anyway.

The night before the surgery, in her hospital room, he bought her a flower from his garden, which she also hated (it also being rather overgrown and quite unmanaged). But she accepted the flower.

My aunt was there too, but no one mentioned the salon.






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Filed under Change, Family, Health, Relationships, THE PAST

Book B-I-N-G-O (Part 1)

My interest in doing anything diminished by something like 98% whenever I’m specifically asked or told to do it.

Perhaps I am a contrarian, but I doubt it.

This tendency, this character trait, this human flaw, whatever you want to call it, thankfully does not interfere with my work life, which makes me a Good Employee. For all intents and purposes.

Maybe not a contrarian then, but simply a pragmatist.

Whatever it takes.

Look. I tried to get along with my office mates (I try to get along with everyone!) but it isn’t always easy or convenient (or wise) to do so. Offices especially can be strange environments – few resources (promotions, photocopying privileges, pens & paper) makes for some intense competition and, in my case, produced some rather toxic rivalries. Everyone seemed to know this, but that isn’t the same as saying it was acknowledged, openly or otherwise.

Or is it just me?

(It’s not just me.)


There are things people did to ease the tension: some brought in cookies and candy, others organized office potlucks, a few nominated themselves (or were nominated) as to go-to people to for those wishing to celebrate their birthdays at the office (after work hours, and we all had to chip in for the cake).

There were few birthdays at the office.

For a while we were allowed, encouraged even, to bring dogs in to work (“Pet dogs,” reminded our boss, Tucson,* pale, immaculate finger wagging in the air, adding his usual linguistic garnish as a way to stay at the head of the decision, though it may have been a directive rather than description, it was hard to tell with him).

But the dogs quickly became bored, then destructive, then somewhat belligerent (they could sense it too, the tension, and were getting spoiled from the cupcakes people fed them under their desks).

A NO DOGS policy was instituted.

For a while after that, there was nothing, save the baked goods and the potlucks and birthdays as rare as black, winged unicorns (or promotions).

Then came BOOK BINGO.


Phoenix came up with the idea, and it seemed a good one. It seemed inventive and sound and, most of all, harmless. We were, after all, a group of smart, educated people, who often professed our love of books in the narrow, sagging hallways of the ramshackle building that housed our cubicles, on the tacky carpeting that ran beneath our shared workspaces like an oil slick; in the upstairs kitchenette with the broken microwave. Some of us were even in book clubs.

Book clubs, even!


The categories listed on the BOOK BINGO sheets that Phoenix printed out for us seemed interesting and (dare I say it?), fun:








“Where’s the harm?” I said.

And Phoenix smiled.


In the end, five of us (it was a small office, despite everything), signed on for what was already being hailed (by Phoenix, ever the ringmaster, ever the MC) as The Great BOOK BINGO Challenge of 2015 (pronounced “twenty-fifteen”).

Because not only had we agreed to play, we would play big: no rows or columns of B or I, or the like or that ilk. Not even impressive diagonals would do. The winner would be declared the first to complete the entire BOOK BINGO sheet (all twenty-five squares, minus the star in the middle that marked the free space). The good space.

The prize would be bragging rights (or cake if we all wanted to chip in for it).


Bragging rights I wanted.

Bragging rights I understood. Bragging rights were how you got around a place like the place where I worked, how you carved out a space for yourself and kept it that way.

I got books out from the library. I took gathered books that I had purchased from second-hand stores and garage sales and had always meant to read, sometime IN THE FUTURE, when the time was right. I made piles and lists. Books towered on my nightstand. They littered the floor, crept onto the bed and invaded my dreams.

I consulted BOOK BINGO sheet, and took a closer look at the categories carefully picked out by Phoenix:







And it hit me.

Each category – it asked a lot. Each would give the people I saw every day – and really only because I was paid to be there (seeing them was, in a way, incidental to being there) – a little something of myself.

It hit me hard.


(Was this a bad thing? Was it bad? It didn’t seem good. Not like it mattered at that point. I was in, do you understand? I was making progress, even.)


I remember thinking: I am a Good Employee. I can do this. This is good.

Besides, I reasoned, maybe I was being silly. Perhaps I was overreacting in order to compensate for the state of things. Seeing ulterior motives and indulging in paranoid fantasies where there was only collegiate goodwill and a genuine, concentrated desire to connect. I was seeing entitlements where there were only efforts to create a more open, friendly, happy place to work.


But then there was never enough pens & paper.


There was never enough to go around, if certain people needed it.


And I was not certain people.




* Not real name. All names, and possibly genders, have been changed to obscure the identities of the very real people that lurk just behind those identities.

* This required a special category???









Filed under Books, Change, Dogs, Employment, Jobs, People, Pets, Places, Politics, Relationships, THE FUTURE

House Haunting

I like to walk around in other people’s houses when they are not there. It thrills me.

I like to open kitchen cabinets and refrigerator doors and I like to peer under beds and parse paint choices and peruse bookshelves.

I like to straighten pictures and nudge knick-knacks just a touch to the left, just a touch to the right.

I walk, I look, and I wonder about the people.

Would they notice the planter askew, where I had moved it with my finger? Would they mind that I used to bathroom? I startled the cat on my way to the bedroom, poor thing. I creaked the floorboards going up and down the hallway.

Tee-hee! Ha, ha, ha!!

I think about how fun it is to haunt people, and then how ultimately pointless.


And then we gave notice on our apartment, and for a while I wondered about my own paint choices, the books lining the shelves in my living room, the contents of my refrigerator. My plants, my furniture, the crusty dishes I left in the sink.

And I thought about being haunted.

Do I want to live somewhere where the people before had painted the walls a deep, insistent mauve? Where the kitty litter had been kept, of all places, in the kitchen? Where Anne Rice enjoyed such an undeniable presence?

And which Anne Rice? Anne Rice, Queen of the Damned? Anne Rice, The Pious? The Once and Future Anne Rice?

Does it matter?

There were hand smudges on the walls of my new place. I painted over them but sometimes when I pass along the hallway, I can almost just see them.

And I admit that for now I will avoid looking directly into the dirty mirrors strewn around this place, I will throw away the greasy microwave that was left here, I will sprinkle “Nature’s Miracle Just for Cats Urine Destroyer Intense Urine Stain & Odor Remover” around this godforsaken place like freakin’ holy water.

I think that would be best, don’t you?

Ha, ha, ha.


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Filed under Books, Change, People, Places