Sunday, March 4, 2012

The New Guy

There is a new man in my life.  Well, actually I met him back in September.  He came highly recommended by one of my colleagues, and we’ve been seeing each other fairly regularly since then.

When I first met him, I was really nervous.  After all, I hadn’t been in THIS kind of a relationship in several years, especially since I found it hard to find someone I could really trust when I was living overseas. But he put me at ease immediately and helped me relax. He’s very warm and friendly and he likes to tell jokes.  Well, his jokes aren’t really that funny, but I laugh at them anyway, because I don’t want to hurt his feelings, and he’ll never know I’m faking it, right?

This guy does things for me that no one else can do.  I’m not a big believer in needing someone else to complete me, but he fills me in a way that is entirely unique to him.

Not much is required of me in this relationship.  I show up at his place according to plan, and then pretty much all I have to do is lie back and let him do his thing, moaning occasionally from time to time. I don’t even have to say much, because he talks all the time and rarely do I get a word in edgewise. When I do reply, I’m not convinced he understands what I’m saying.

This new guy is a bit heavy handed, but he’s such a nice guy I don’t have the heart to tell him I need a lighter touch.  We always do it with the lights on so he can see what he’s doing, soft jazz playing in the background. 

In spite of his heavy-handedness, he takes it slow and gets it right every time.  Sometimes, I have to admit, I get a bit tired and wish he could finish just a bit faster, but in the end I’m always glad he was so slow and thorough.

He really is a great guy, and I think everyone I know would like him.  Come to think of it, I don’t know why I’ve been keeping him such a secret.… after all, some of my friends might be looking for a good dentist, too! 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sai Arigala

The most wonderful thing about the time I spent living overseas was making friends with amazing people from all over the world.  The most difficult thing is having to say good-bye.  Last week, I learned of the untimely death of one of my dearest friends from India. 

Sai traveled all the time for work (and sometimes for pleasure), so we were seldom in the same country, let alone the same city at the same time.  This was true for all of Sai’s friends all over the world.  But Sai had the knack of friendship, and making the time he did have with people count.

He mixed easily with all different kinds of people, was generous to a fault, funny, and genuinely caring of all his many, many friends.  There was no pretence or fa├žade with Sai – he was thoroughly himself with everyone he met.  He didn’t suffer fools gladly, and he did have a temper that he lost on occasion too.  He was smart and curious about everything, not to mention a good talker, and listener. 

We traveled to Peru together in the summer of 2009.  Sai was great fun to travel with, being both easy-going and interested in people and places.  He struck up conversations with all kinds of people, learning quirky facts about frozen sacrificial Inca mummies, Peruvian hairless dogs, and he even got a group of strolling minstrels (wearing 16th century doublet and hose) to give us an impromptu, personal concert one night in the square in Arequipa. He laughed like Bevis and Butthead every time the name of Lake Titicaca came up. 

Sai packed a lot into his forty two years, and I’m glad I had the chance to be there for part of his journey.  Rest in peace, Sai.  I love you dearly and I will miss you more than words can say.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


Kerala Raven calmly not attacking anyone!
The other day on the way home from work, I had an Alfred Hitchcock moment. 

There I was on the Byron Pathway, minding my own business, listening to my iPod,  grooving along when suddenly – Whack!!! 

Someone whapped me upside the back of my head.

I turned around, half expecting to see one of my colleagues.  But no one was there. No one human, that is.  There was, however, a dizzy looking raven staggering to the lowest branch of a nearby tree. 

Apparently the bird had flown into the back of my head, nearly knocking both of us out. Call me Tippi Hedren.  It was like The Birds had come to Ottawa.

Was it an accident?  Was the bird old, disoriented or drunk? Is the back of my head transparent like a window? 

Or did the bird to it on purpose? Did I walk too close to its nest or get in between it and its dinner?  Or did I offend it in some mysterious way?  Was it trying to warn me about something in the manner of Poe’s immortal bird?

I will never know.

I have always thought birds were too smart and good at flying to bash into people.  But it seems that run-ins between humans and our fine feathered friends are not as uncommon as I had thought. 

My sister’s workplace has an annual problem with seagulls nesting on the roof and then dive-bombing people as they go to work.  Seagulls are notoriously swoopy birds, as anyone who has ever tried to eat French fries on the beach knows well. 

On the beaches in Goa and Kerala, there are no seagulls – but there are lots of crows racketing around, especially early in the morning.  Unlike their gull cousins, they seem to be satisfied with scavenging dead fish, and leave people alone.

In the UK a few years ago, flocks of ravens began attacking livestock in the same manner as Hitchcock’s avian thugs in The Birds.  No wonder the collective noun for these impressively aggressive birds is a “murder” or a “conspiracy.”

There are scads of superstitions about ravens from all over the world, with camps divided pretty equally on whether they are good luck or bad luck omens. 

I’m going with the camp that calls them tricksters – and agents of transformation or change because I believe that people are responsible for their own “luck”.  And aren't we all always in the process of change and transformation?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Gonna Catch Me Some Vermin

My sister, an avid gardener, went into her shed the other day and had the strangest sensation that she wasn’t alone. 

Turns out there was a Mama Racoon and five babies living under (or in?) the shed.  Since she already hosts quite the menagerie, Anne decided against letting her visitors make the backyard their permanent home, and she put in a call to the pest control folks.  They brought over a live trap which was baited with stinky fish and left overnight, much to the indignation of Anne’s cats who had to be kept in the house that night.

In the morning, the wild animal control crew discovered that the black and white critter they had successfully trapped was not, in fact, a raccoon, but a skunk.  And yes, there was some spraying involved. Peee-yew!  Oh what a fun job those guys must have!    

The raccoon family seems to have moved out voluntarily.  Whether it was the disturbing chaos of clanging traps, small yapping dogs and hunting cats, or the smelly neighbour sharing their shed, we may never know. 

There must be something in our family’s vibe that attracts pest.  The story of Anne’s unwanted furry friends brought back some all-too vivid memories from my life in Bangalore last year around this time. 

I didn’t know I had a rat at first.  For one thing, I didn’t leave any rat-buffets lying around, keeping all my food either in the fridge or in sealed containers.  And I didn’t see any evidence – i.e. rat poo anywhere. 

The first thing that happened was my washing machine stopped working one day.  (I know, it doesn’t sound very ratty, but stick with me.) I called the handyman/miracle worker from school to come and fix it and he discovered that some of the wires were mysteriously broken. 

A few days after he’d spliced the wires, I had to call Ranganath again because my washing machine was broken again.  And guess what he found – the wires were frayed again. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

"That's great, it starts with an earthquake, birds, snakes, an aeroplane - Lenny Bruce is not afraid!"

I can't find a picture of the end of the world,
but here's a nice Goan sunset.
I can’t believe I forgot to watch the end of the world. 

On Tuesday, when everyone at work is comparing notes on “Where were you during the Rapture?” I will have to sheepishly admit that I forgot all about it until it was over.  I think I was in the middle of a long walk along the canal, enjoying the sunshine, tulips, lilacs and blossoms, completely oblivious that Armageddon was creeping up on me. 

And a disappointing Armageddon it was too, after all.  I mean, Harold Camping promised Major Cataclysmic Events and Disasters didn’t he? 

I first became aware of the Impending Doom last summer when I was in Toronto.  Somewhere around St. Clair West or Dupont, a gaggle of people got on the subway all wearing the same t-shirts with the date May 21, 2011 written in big letters across the chest.  Most of the folks in the group were youngish, clean-cut, professional-looking, and they were all laughing and smiling and having a good time.  Rather than prophets of Doom, they looked like an office baseball team out to celebrate a win. 

My curiosity got the better of me somewhere around Osgoode Station, and I sidled over to ask what the date on their shirts meant.  I was handed a pamphlet explaining all about how I could be saved and zoom up to heaven on the express route on May 21, 2011 if I joined their group. 

The pamphlet went on to explain about all of the natural and unnatural disasters that would occur, and the chaos and anarchy that would reign.  Sounds pretty exciting, doesn’t it?  But so far, nothing has happened. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Discourse of Fools?

Have you ever noticed that Talking About The Weather gets a really bad rap?

Everyone talks about it, but when we talk about talking about it, we are so disparaging, as if talking about the weather is somehow demeaning or trivial. Why are we so mean about the idea of Talking About The Weather?

Is it really so different from discussing politics, the economy, religion or terrorism?

Politics affects all people in a given region. We individually can’t do much about it.  People have different preferences regarding it.  Some like to make predictions about it, or analyze what’s gone on after the fact.
Economy – ditto.
Religion – even more so!
Terrorism – same.
How is “Weather” any different from these big topics as a conversational gambit?

Some might say that it’s banal.  But I have to challenge that. The weather affects me much more personally than politics, the economy, religion and terrorism on a day to day basis – in that sense, it’s more real.  When you have to wake up half an hour early in January to shovel the driveway and clear snow off the car, it feels like a lot of things, but “banal” isn’t it. 

The weather has a bigger impact on my mood, my choice of clothing, how long it takes to get to work, what I want to eat….  I’ve never felt like singing out loud as I walk down the street just because the dollar has gone up a few cents.  But a sunny day in May will make me belt show tunes all the way down Bank Street.  The desire to curl up with a good book and a cup of tea will have more to do with rain or sleet pounding on the windows than anything that’s happening in Question Period. 

I have been metaphorically biting my lip, trying not to write (moan) about the weather but this morning I finally cracked.

I think it was the sight of the guy from the Coast Guard marching past me on Somerset that set me off. I mean, apparently we’ve had so much rain this spring, the Coast Guard now has a special detachment patrolling the streets of Ottawa. 

If ever there was a year for rain boots to become a fashion statement this has been the year! Though, I must admit, I am not convinced that galoshes with pink pandas or green froggies are equally fetching on 5 year olds and 50 year olds alike. 

We all know the old saw about April showers and May flowers etc. etc.  What about when the rain continues to dump down through out May, though?  With all the rain deluging us this month, those poor May flowers will soon be drowning.  Will they have to put teensy life jackets on the tulips for this year’s edition of the Ottawa Tulip Festival?

But wouldn’t you know it? No sooner had I decided that Talking About The Weather is perfectly valid, than the rain stopped, the sun came out, and everything in the garden was lovely.  Quite literally, by the way, thanks to all the rain!

It reminded me of the words of a small child spoken to me (about 963 years ago), when I was working at Centreville (an amusement park for small kids on Toronto’s Centre Island).  I was talking to one of the scads of 5-year old customers on the pony ride on a bright, sunny perfect July day in the middle of a long stretch of days just like it. 
            “How do you like the weather we’ve been having lately?” I asked. 
            The boy looked at me like I was a moron before saying, “But we haven’t HAD any weather lately!”

Monday, May 9, 2011


There be pirates in Lagos, Portugal!
Aaaaaaaaar!   I be needin’ to tie down the jib with a worthy buccaneer! (In English, that would be “I need to marry a pirate!”)

Just think of the life we could have together --  all the travel and adventure!  Think of all the tropical islands we could hide out on!  Think of all the rum-based drinks he would know how to whip up.  And think of all the ruffle-y shirts I could borrow from him! 

Pirates are just so sexy in that unwashed, swash-buckling way.  No other straight guys can carry off the lace, the puffy shirts and the thigh high boots.  Or lack of personal hygiene.

I admit that my fascination with pirates does have a tiny bit to do with my crush on Johnny Depp, but really, it started well before any of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies came out.  It dates back to early days of the century, when I was conducting some internet “research” into the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (i.e. surfing the net – undoubtedly while being paid to do something else entirely!) 

This research led to the subsequent discovery of the relationship between the rise in global temperature and the decrease in the number of pirates worldwide.  See graph.

Now, this begs the question, “Would an increase in the number of pirates slow or reverse global warming?”

Don’t we owe it to Science to at least try an experiment?  It wouldn’t do the world any harm if we all adopted a goofy accent, eye patches and some spectacular clothing to match.  At the very least, it would liven things up at the office.