Monday, February 28, 2005

Saturday's little trials

I made arrangements to get together with Tan and Roc on Saturday down at Tan's place. Tan's planned Friday night trip with his friend Simon to a coin show because Saturday's trip instead. So he made plans to meet me at The Phoenix at 6. That's a little hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant on the corner of his street. Nice food, cheap prices. About what you'd expect.

The remote for my new DVD player quit working Friday night... don't know why. Anyway, I bundled the whole thing up and took it back to Wal-mart. They replaced the remote, no trouble. So I headed downtown after that. I guess I got down to Parkdale about 5:20 or so, and I wandered around. Went into Blockbuster and actually found a movie I've been looking for for a long time, George C. Scott in The Last Days of Patton. It cost $8 and was sure worth picking up. It's really well-acted. I haven't seen it in years and years, but I remember being impressed by it, and now I know why. I also went into the local Sally Ann, but I didn't find anything worth buying, so I wanded back to The Phoenix and got a table just before 6, and I started waiting for Tan. In the meantime, I ordered won ton soup with pork slices. It was really good, but whoa, a week's worth of salt, I bet. 6:45 rolls around and still no Tan. So I get out the cell and call him. I reminded him we were due to meet at the restaurant, not his place. "Oh, I forgot that detail," he says. So just before 7, he comes in. He's broke. He's got four bucks. Can I float him the rest? Sure, whatever. Kind of grating when he starts talking about hundred-dollar antique coins he's picked up, but we were talking about just a few bucks after all. Simon's supposed to come by with "cat food" money for him later, and he'll settle up.

Anyway, we both had the curried chicken. It was great too. Like the food there. Not sure how healthy it is, but I don't suppose it's really all that bad, either. Roc, as it turned out, had family issues that, not uncharacteristically, tied him down for the evening, and so didn't join us. Simon was due sometime between 8-8:30 so we left just before 8 and went back to Tan's place.

On the way up in the elevator, we shared the ride with a young black girl and a scruffy little white guy in his 30s. There was a strong note of alcohol in the air. Tan was going on about the cost of something... I forget what now... and it apparently elicited enough interest in the scruff little guy for him to pipe up and politely enquire as to what Tan was talking about. Tan laughed and said, "Not drugs." I couldn't believe he said it. I don't think the guy knew quite how to react. He was a little cowed, and he said, "Well, I'm not after drugs. I'm an alcoholic, but I don't have that problem." About then the door opened, and he exited, sheepishly. I said to Tan, "Do you know that guy?" I thought it might have been understandable if he knew the guy and his habits at least. But no, Tan didn't know him. He just saw an opening for a cheap shot and took it. I really wanted to go back down and apologize to that guy, but it wasn't my place, and what difference would it have made? An apology from me would have been worthless; it wasn't me who said it. But it was just one more example of how oblivious Tan is where other people and their feelings are concerned. There was no reason in the world for him to say that. I really like Tan's company, but sometimes I have this real urge to lay into him. But what good would it do? He's 52 or 53 years old. If he didn't learn by grade four that he shouldn't hurt other people's feelings if he doesn't like having his hurt, is he going to learn it now? So I decided there was nothing to be gained by spoiling the evening and I kept my trap shut.

Tan and I traded some movies... I gave him my copy of Roger & Me on tape and he gave me a copy of Shrek 2. I haven't seen it since it was in theatres so it was nice to get a copy. We did a lot of talking about politics and stuff. He gave me a few photocopies of some of his recent work. Eventually Simon did come by, but wanted Tan to come down for the money. He gave Tan a wad of 20s, but since I didn't have a ten, I was out of luck to get re-embursed. I hung around till about 1:30, which was unusually late for me.

Sunday I got up and inked a couple of his drawings; one of an orcamorph boy and one of Lola Bunny. I coloured them in Illustrator and sent them off to him and P-Doug. For once, Tan actually deigned to respond favourably, though, as usual, with reservations. I don't know why he can't just acknowledge the tribute without feeling compelled to put in his two cents. And I can't remember him ever commenting on anything I've sent completely of my own, much less him working from something I drew. It's just enough that if I ever do it again, I think I'll keep it to myself, and do it just for the sake of practice. Sketching's the hard part; inking a finished sketch is easier, and it's bringing it to life in colour that I like best anyway.

I got drunk on Mom's white wine yesterday and, typically, I listened to the little devil on my shoulder. I ordered from Double Double for the first time in years... large pizza, eight pieces of chicken, twenty potato wedges, four pieces of garlic bread. I didn't need it, and really couldn't afford it at this time of the month, but went with it anyway. Man, it was really good. Not that I ate it all! I did polish off the bread and spuds, but I have most of the chicken and half the pizza left, bundled up in the freezer for next weekend (hopefully I'll make it that far without touching it), and what I did eat was lunch and supper. Still, $35, I didn't need to blow that. But, all told, that was a good Sunday. Sittin' around skyclad, drawing and colouring, getting drunk, and doing the comfort food thing. If only I had more money and didn't lard on the pounds, that's how I'd spend every Sunday. As it is, I'm back on the lemon juice and maple syrup bit. I mean to make it last all week, like the first time, but I haven't managed it since. Well, let's just see if I can stick it out and pay back yesterday's deficit at least. :)

Friday, February 25, 2005

Kirk to Enterprise... beam down some Charmin

I have to wonder if this is what Gene Roddenberry had in mind when he envisioned the communicator.

So what kind of an age are we living in?  Why, it's the age of the cell phone!  Nevermind those geniuses you see on the road, gazing off into space as if to envision the face of the loved one miles away to whom they speak while using one hand in an attempt to keep the car moving more or less in a straight line, no...  No, we've moved into whole new territory.

I've just returned from a quick trip to relieve myself of a couple of cups of marginal coffee.  I walk in, sidle up, and notice that someone in one of the stalls is holding a rather lively, seemingly one-sided conversation in one Asian language or another.  Having been born well before the advent of cellular technology, my first instinct was that this fellow was indulging in some private time with his multiple personalities.  But then, no! I have to wonder if this is what Gene Roddenberry had in mind when he envisioned the communicator.

So what kind of an age are we living in? Why, it's the age of the cell phone! Nevermind those geniuses you see on the road, gazing off into space as if to envision the face of the loved one miles away to whom they speak while using one hand in an attempt to keep the car moving more or less in a straight line, no... No, we've moved into whole new territory.

I've just returned from a quick trip to relieve myself of a couple of cups of marginal coffee. I walk in, sidle up, and notice that someone in one of the stalls is holding a rather lively, seemingly one-sided conversation in one Asian language or another. Having been born well before the advent of cellular technology, my first instinct was that this fellow was indulging in some private time with his multiple personalities. But then, no! The answer came to me! He was on a cell phone. Yes, that's right. Apparently, something was too important to wait the three or four minutes it would take him to squeeze out last night's chow mein to discuss. In essence, he took whomever it was on the other end in there with him, making him or her the beneficiary of whatever gruntings, strainings, explosive outventings, and splashes might result. How very charming. As a person with only a solid command of English, and a very very basic acquaintance with French, I have no idea just what had this fellow so excited. But I can imagine it went something like this...

"I'm telling you, Wei, these mmnnnnnFOURTH QUARter earnings are jjjjuuuSSST uhhhhphenomenal.You should nnnnnffffRRREALLY FREE UP... a few... DOLLARS... erf... ...leverage an asset or two, and take advantage of errrrrfff! this golden opportunity... Why don't we talk about it over lunch?"

...It plays something like that in my puerile imagination. Anyway, whatever. It's none of my business, not really. But then, the guy stands up, and exits the stall. Well... he's got a cell phone in his hand. This is an important call! What to do? Can't put the phone down, can't end the conversation... that'd be rude. Nope, nothing for it but to leave without washing his hands. Which he did. Ten seconds after wiping his ass, he's turning the knob. A few seconds later, there I am, washing my own hands. Looking at the doorknob. Wondering what's the fucking point.

There's a line in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, written way before the rise of the cell phone, about an entire world being wiped out by a virus contracted from a dirty telephone. I can't help thinking that Douglas Adams must be getting a big laugh out of this if he happened to be looking down on me taking a leak this morning. Ha! Don't put it past him.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

I take P-Doug to bed

Oh, yeah, I also forgot to mention my adventure with P-Doug, fixing my broken box frame. This one's kind of fun. :) No, not that way. Listen...

I have a computer beside my bed... yes, I know how sad that sounds... and I'm in the habit of sitting on the right side of my bed (queen size; no obviously jokes, please), surfing and working and pirat— errrr, backing up my collection on it (yeah, that's it). Anyway, one afternoon last summer, that corner just separated, and BANG!!! dropped, about 18", and hit the floor, with me on it. Shit! There was nothing I could do but prop it up on books.

I didn't really know what to do about it, so it's been that way ever since. Till a couple of weekends ago. I know P-Doug's had a fair amount of building experience... he's one of these guys from up north, so what else was there to do growing up? So I knew he'd be the one to know better ways to go about fixing it than I'd come up with. That was sure true. He suggested not just fixing that corner, which would have been my plan, but strengthening all four corners. He pointed out that the screws hadn't pulled out, they'd sheared off at the base of the thread. They were only 1/8" thick, four to each post. So on each corner, a half an inch of cheap steel was all that was holding up the frame, the box spring, the mattress, and me, with a weight that's varied from a high of 310 lbs, to a low of 185 lbs, and a current weight of 205.

We went out to Home Depot down at Ellesmere and Warden — the worst intersection in the city — and bought some 1/4" thick screws. We drilled new holes and put the screws in. Problem was, the 1/4" screws had heads too big to countersink properly. We couldn't get the frame back together. Luckily, we only did one post before trying the connection. So we knew we needed other screws. This time we went over to the new Canadian Tire store on Sheppard, just up the street. We got 3/16" width screws with the right countersink size. It took us ages, though, to find screwdrivers and the right sized bits for using my drill as a power screwdriver. We did finally manage it, and drilled new holes. This time, it all came together pretty quickly; probably 15-20 minutes for the whole job. The screws are longer, thicker (ahem), and new, and the bed's pretty sturdy. I think it will be a few more years before it's unsound again. Sure is nice.

I'm not going to pay a lot for this muffler... but this monitor? Ehhhn...

Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention my little adventure with the monitor earlier this month. Because of the weird way I paid for it, I wound up paying for it twice.

The monitor was $149.49 with tax. I didn't think I had $150 Canadian left on the gift card the company sent me, but I was pretty sure I could cover $140. So I paid $140 with the gift card, and asked to pay the other $9.49 with my debit card. That's how we did it. Or so I thought.

I don't know why, but a few days later, I just spontaneously decided to check my chequing account. It was like WAAAAY down. And I'm like, WTF? Then I see it. The monitor charge. $149.49. The full price of the monitor. Luckily I still had the gift card on me, so I check the printing on it, and see the website to check transactions. I find the $140 one (denominated in US dollars; $109 or something; I forget now). I print both statements, zoom home, find the receipt in the waste paper basket in my bedroom, and zip down to the store on Kennedy. It took me about five minutes to get it all straightened out, but thank God I did. They refunded the $140 difference to my chequing account, and I zoomed back to work. Took about an hour. Whew, what a lucky break I checked, then had all the proof, and then that they weren't assholes about it.

The New Brew

I was invited a couple of weeks ago to this sort of quasi-business dinner last night. A couple of our guys were up from Atlanta, dealing with the Bank of Montreal. One of our BAs here got reservations at a place called The Milestone. It's an upscale bar and restaurant in the mall where Lablaw's is at Yonge and Empress. Nice place. I got there ahead of the others. The Brick brews a set of beers just for them called Palamino; I had the honey red. It was really something! And I sat there for about half an hour, watching yuppie types come and go, looking at TV talking heads going on about the federal budget, drinking a house beer on Yonge Street. I got this really weird feeling, a moment of self-realization, and I was surprised to find myself who I was, where I was. I realized it was a pretty good place to be in. I mean, people tend to make the best of things wherever and whenever they are, but not all that many in history or even now can consider that sort of thing just casual.

The guys from Atlanta were pretty cool... you know, just guys. A white guy, Ron, and an Asian guy, Jay. You could tell Jay was not originally from the South, though he did say he'd lived there 20 years. He had a Northern accent (he sounded like the three Canadians there more than a Georgian...). The talk was about BBQ (the real thing, pulled pork and all that; got me thinking about that festival every summer on Front), the SWIFT wire protocol, how people working at Canadian banks hmmm and haw and don't want to commit to anything (expressed by one of the Canadians)... it was a nice place and good company.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Bang Zoom

This morning it's snowing out there. Big, slow flakes, the kind that fall when the temperature is just slightly below freezing. Heavy, dry, packing snow. The best kind for walking or driving in, it seems to me. It was just gorgeous. I took out that little video cam I bought and filmed it from time to time on the drive in. I know, I know, irresponsible. But how often do you see something so lovely when you have the means to capture it? The incidental loveliness of life that often escapes us. I had some music on by Simon and Garfunkel, too. It was just wonderful.

Well, till I got to the runway to Hwy 7 (that's how I've been thinking of it... the long run up to the exit). Some guy in the fast lane, furthest left, just suddenly turned 90 degrees, and zipped right across all five lanes, and hit the barrier about 100 yards ahead of me. Not near enough to really frighten me, more like shock. It must have been brown-trousers time for guys three or four cars ahead of me. As I passed him, he'd managed to straighten out, and was creeping sheepishly along the shoulder. His trunk was buckled open, and his car had a number of dents and wrinkles in the bodywork. But at least he was okay, and the car was obviously still operational. Man, he got off so lucky. So did the rest of us behind him, I suppose. I turned the camera on and filmed him as I passed. I'll have to review that and see if any of it came out.

Monday, February 07, 2005

The onward march

It's eight months today since Jody passed away. This, too, is a Monday. Like then, it's overcast. It's quite a bit colder, though.

Last night I had a dream about Jody. He was with me on a Greyhound bus, or something of the kind, roaming up and down southern Ontario. In real life, Jody never made it to Canada, but we mused on occasion about him visiting. He was talking about doing so, tentatively, in the summer of 2004, when he would have been well for a year. As it turned out, he died that summer instead.

In the dream, we were riding the highways under threatening skies. I remember us stopping at some sort of restaurant or hotel. It was built completely of wood, in some sort of faux cabin style; the wood stained a deep red-brown... very dark inside. I remember another scene in which we stopped at a gas station. The gas pumps gave change, like a vending machine. Dollars and dollars worth of coins that people had just walked away from. Jody and I went from pump to pump, scooping up change. I don't remember too much more of the dream. In fact, when I woke up, it took me a moment to even remember it was Jody who'd accompanied me in the dream. Jody and I never got together face to face in life, though we spent the equivalent of months, maybe even a solid year, together online. Last night's dream is the very first I can explicitly remember being about us being together. Naturally, I don't have a very well-formed idea of what that would be like. Jody was quite a bit shier on the phone with me than he was on ICQ or online. I suspect our initial face-to-face would have been an awkward adjustment.

It's the first monthly anniversary of his passing that doesn't make me feel really down. It's because of this dream. I can't explain it. I know he's gone. I do understand that. But somehow, I feel like we... I... accomplished something in our relationship last night. Does it have to make sense for me to be happy? Well, no... happy's the wrong word. Soothed, maybe. Eased, somehow.

On other matters, last night, I slammed my DVD remote down in frustration. Now it's not working. The DVD player is, just fine. But since there's no way to control it, it's now essentially a three-pound perfectly-functional piece of garbage. I can't afford to replace it for a couple of weeks, but when I can, I'm going to look for something that's got at least basic selection controls right on the unit.

On Saturday, P-Doug and I wound up buying the same 19" monitor... HP 91. They were $129 each, and in really good shape. Unfortunately for me, my digitizer card doesn't seem to like monitor settings higher than 1024x768, so I have to keep changing the settings when I want to record anything. I also picked up a couple of cheap speaker sets, powered by my USB 1.1 ports (oh, which I superseded with 2.0 ports a few days ago). The don't have much chug... in fact, they suck... but they do allow me to modulate the signal leaving the digitizer and entering the sound card, so I can finally (I think) tape stuff without ever spoken "s" sound bursting my speakers.

Friday night I went out with Alan for the first time in over a year. He looks thinner than he did. He works in Vaughn now... long drive... close to that new mall, Vaughn Mills. Ha ha. How clever (it's a rip off of fifty-year-old Don Mills, if you're not from around here). It's a huge mall, stuffed to the gills with yuppie clothing stores. He and I ended up eating in a bowling theme bar. No kidding. Lucky Strike, I think it was called. We had a couple beers and — shame on me — burgers and fries. Man, that was a good burger. First I've had in ages. Before that, we wandered into Cinema One, a movie store that used to be in the mall near me, but left. Now I know where it went! I got the 3rd season of King of the Hill for $38, and an old tape of cartoons of The Inspector for $4.

Sunday... jumping around here a bit, aren't I?... I went to Wal-Mart and bought a water purification system for the 10-day purge I'm trying out. Maple syrup, lemon juice, cayenne, and water. Stuff's hard to get down. We'll see how it goes.