Category Archives: Favorite

George Foreman, My Master

Favorite, Personal Bits

Xmas parties and a wedding loom, so I decide to drag Sharkboy along to Sears to look for fun and flip shirts to wear to these festive events.

“I want a green shirt and a red tie!” I announce.

“My co-worker just threw up in her mouth just a little at that suggestion,” Sharkboy replies.

Through the crowds at The Eaton Centre Sears (Oh bite the bullet and change the g-d name…EATONS IS DEAD!) we make our way into the men’s shirts. After much debate as to what colour to get, I suggest that we measure my neck before going off and getting a shirt that doesnt fit. The zombie clerk, who is visibly unimpressed that she has to actually serve someone, pulls out her tape measure and wraps it around my neck.

“18… 18 1/2… 19… 20,” she says.

I am in shock. Its been a while since Ive bought a dress shirt. I wonder if her chant is actually one big number. Sharkboy looks like he’s going to say something when Zombie clerk cuts him off and pulls me out of my stunned silence:

“You need to go over there,” she points and dismisses me.

Over there is the “Casual Wear” section, subtitled “Big and Tall”

Good lord.

The “fun and flip” concept of a dress shirt/tie combo just flew out the window. At this point I am willing to wear paisley with a striped tie, just dont make me shop in the Big and Tall section!! Sharkboy is light and airy and upbeat as he jokes with the clerk. Easy for him. His neck isnt 1818andahalf1920. Bless him for pointing out that all the posters had humpy Daddy Bears modeling the latest large fashions.

The clerk (who by the way was the best salesperson I have had in years: clever, funny and helpful with the strangest Downunder accent ever–go see her) takes a proper neck and arm measurement and with a flourish, picks out a black shirt from George Foreman. Yes. The punch-drunk boxer has his own line of clothes for the men who, despite grilling the crap out of cheese sandwiches on his bright iMac-esque cookers, cant get their weight under control.

I am ready to race out of there with that shirt (any shirt!), waving my debit card in the clerk’s face while shooting sideway glances to see if anyone I know can see me buying a George Foreman shirt, when Sharkboy says “Try it on!”

Good lord x 2.

I am so eager to get this over with I toss off my sweater right at the cash. Oh no, there are change rooms, sir. The clerk removes all the pins and plastic and scoots me into the first stall. Sharkboy jumps up on the chair in the next and looks over the stall as I try on this shirt.

At a 19-20 collar with 35-36 arm, the shirt came down to just below my knees. And as an added surprise, the button at the collar was attached to an elastic band that allowed the collar to expand.


I looked like a priest in his robes, ready to preach from the pulpit. All that was missing was the white collar. I had images in my head of gliding serenely into the Xmas party, hands folded, calm smile on my face and blessing the punch.

Thank god for Sharkboy. I would have got home, tried it on, cried like a girl who just found her pic on fatgirlsinpartyhats dot com (dont go there. its no longer the mean spirited parody site) and had to returned the shirt. Eventually we found a shirt that fit my arms and neck.

So. Who’s up for McDonalds for lunch?

London, 1987

England, Favorite, Personal Bits, Queer stuff

Someone on GAB posted a thread of what they were doing 17 years ago. That got me thinking…

In 1987 I was 22 years old and living in central London (England). I was the first man to be hired on front desk reception at the Royal Automobile Club, a posh gentlemen’s club mid-way down Pall Mall. Since I was the only man in a sea of female receptionists, I was always thought the manager and would get complaints, compliments and the odd weird request. One day I got to serve a palace guard in full uniform, his tall black buffalo hat in his accompanying valet’s hands. Bucks Palace was a 10 min walk away and palace guards were not allowed to leave the grounds in uniform unless accompanied by a valet. He wanted to know about the history of one of the trophies in the great hall. There was me, the middle class white kid from Canada doing his best not to stammer at the duo. When he left I kicked myself for not asking if he thought the whole “no laughing” thing was annoying.

The bar scene soundtrack was provided by Stock, Aitkins and Waterman: Rick Ashley (who surprised everyone by being white) and Donna Summer (who suprised everyone by being alive) were never going to give us up. One night in a late night club in Earl’s Court, my friend Liam and I came to be sitting beside a stylish group of gays all decked out in children’s play dress up clothes. The cowboy of the group, sitting nearest to us dressed up in a small cowboy hat, chaps and vest, announced that he “hadda go pee pee” That became our washroom call for years and got more and more exaggerated in reverse English-to-Texas accent as time went on.

That Xmas, my dad came across the pond and we ventured out to The Colherne (or the Cold Hole, as the natives called it), London’s only leather/fetish bar at the time. There I showed him one of the midgets from the movie Time Bandits who would go to the bar wearing his tiny leather wear. As we drank at the bar, a guy tried to pick me up. I quickly introduced my Dad and he tore off in the opposite direction. Dad’s major complaint about London was that when he picked his nose at the end of the day after all his sightseeing, the boogers were black.

It was in London that I discovered my love for short, art-house animated films when I discovered the Brothers Quay. Upon accompanying me to one showing, my friend Liam thought I was on residual acid from my high school days and questioned my movie suggestions from that day onward.

I was dating a 32 yr old man named Nigel. He was living with a guy his own age who was a CEO of some shipping company. I was the other woman. Nigel would let me drive his Mini (’87, remember? A real one!) around London where I would get a real-life lesson in inertia and just how long it took a light small car full of people to stop on wet streets. Once he let me drive the rich boyfriend’s Alfa Romeo Spyder, which lasted only 4 blocks because I was going way too fast and laughing way to hard. The last I heard of Nigel was a 45 record in the mail 6 months after I moved back to Canada: Pet Shop Boys with Dusty Springfield What Have I Done To Deserve This?. The lyrics were shockingly apt.

Twirling Matters

Favorite, General

Welcome to Weston Road and Eglinton, in the greater city of Toronto. Depressed coffee shops and boutiques that sell those oh-so-classy rims that spin in different directions line the grey dirty streets. I was born here 4 decades ago when it was predominantly working class Irish/Italian. Now its a real mix. We park the truck in front of an apartment building that Michael Moore should have used as his Bowling for Columbine example of Canadian slums.

Westin Xmas Parade is stark contrast to the Aurora parade we did the night before where Sharkboy swears he could smell Havana cigars and fresh fur coat.

I’m not in love with this winter routine: its sophomoric and unchallenging. It was created so that it would only take us 5 weeks to practice with two new people who had never marched before in their lives. At the time we felt we had no option but to do something that was going to be easy to learn and adaptable from the summer routine. Okay listen to me whine like I was doing this all my life. But I do have to say that after watching The Drum Corps International Competition for the first time, I felt kind of jealous I wasnt born American in a semi-rich school. I would be all over that colour guard marching band stuff. Their routines were tight, creative and engaging. They were in step. The costumes were tacky but they had real costumes. It basically made me want more discipline for our dwindling group.

The truck is ready. The band in front of us is doing a wicked warm up of Xmas music in a Latin American-style. Big drums almost South American in scope. I feel so incredibly white-bread with our twinky swing flags and piddly routine that I expect I was sweating mayo. In fact I heard one of the kids off to the side complaining that we “weren’t doing anything” with our routine. At that part we have Xmas bells cascading over a Macarana beat, but all we do is a simple drill of twirling around each other.

We start. The wind is terrific. The routine, especially near tall building and intersections, is reduced to 9 people waving oversized Q-tips because the flags are all wrapped around the poles. Wee!

In the lull, I glance to my right and see in a lowrise apartment block doorway, a frail old woman sitting on a kitchen chair she had obviously dragged from her apartment to the inside foyer, out of the cold. Her hands are folded calmly on her lap and she is kind of glassy eyed as the parade is going by. I risk messing up my concentration to smile wide and wave quickly at her.

She brightens up like she’s 20 years younger. She waves.

Right at that moment I connected with her, making this stupid routine worth every second.

Teach me ABBA

Favorite, Personal Bits

When I was a kid, we had a series of maids parade through our house while Dad and Mum were with their respective boyfriends. At this point in our family history, the two oldest sibs were living in Toronto and the youngest, three teens are doing their own thing, racing through the house unsupervised, were starved of some kind of parental unit. So our parents provided us with someone to cook, clean (light duties…dont touch the kid’s rooms) and laundry. Loads of laundry. I think one of them left because of the stinky pile of cotton that awaited her every other day.

There was Olga. That wasnt really her name but she was Scandinavian for sure. She would take a moment out of her vacuuming to give us kids a back rub while we mushed our faces down on the “good” couch in the living room. She wasnt much of a cook, as far as I can remember, despite her size. Massive. Man hands too. She didnt talk much but I think she genuinely liked her work, but hated kids.

Frau Fraubissenau was tight. She was skinny, high strung and didnt last long. I remember she got into a fight with my Mum about how to feed us. Mum was happy to have her make meals and freeze the next day’s dinner so that we could heat it up in the tiny toaster oven (precursor to a microwave, you under 30somethings). Frau didnt want to freeze her dinners, Mum didnt want to pay her for being at the house more than 3 days. Bye Frau.

Then there was Alice. She stayed on the longest. The same age as my long-moved-out sister, she was gaining extra cash before her university departure. I would come home and sit and watch her in the kitchen, in which she had no skill whatso ever. Many was the meatloaf, coached by my Dad. But she worked hard and put up with my millions of questions: Do you have a boyfriend? Why do you wear your hair like that? Whats for dinner? Can you find my Yoda t-shirt? What are you making? That again? What’s a tampon?

One day I came home from school and there she was doing dishes, her butt swaying side to side in time with the music that was coming out of the speakers (we were a progressive techy family, we had a sound system in the living room with satellite speakers in the kitchen. The wires were loose somewhere and the pressboard speakers would crackle and die every so often and a quick punch to the front of them would reset them). She couldnt sing too but that didnt stop her:

“take it easy
Take it easy!
try to cool it girl
take it nice and slow,
does your mother know”

The music was… disco and it was melodic and it had a beat…! The beat snagged my logic gland and I fell in love with the simplistic yet metred timing.

Big deal, you say, a closeted kid discovers disco. Tell us another, Armistead Maupin!

Well I can say that it was a life defining moment, however I went on to listen to New Wave and Punk. But it was Alice’s record that made me dance about and laugh and experience myself in a different way. A week or two later she brought me a 45rpm (thats a small record, to you 20somethings) of “Does Your Mother Know?” which my brother promptly snapped in half upon my 1000th playing of it.

Alice started to bring in all her ABBA records to work. I demanded it. We would talk ABBA and she told me the secrets of the anagram name and talked of their concerts and fans (a new concept to me… many people liking one group? Fame?) and where they were from (“Norway? Where the hell is that?” Alice didnt know, bless her heart.) Her last purchase was Arrival and she handled the record like it was made of snowflake and ricepaper.

Her final summer, Alice accompanied the family to the cottage for an overnight once a week so she could do laundry there, I guess. I never knew what she was doing for us at the cottage other than dishes. But Mum thought she was smoking pot out behind the sailboat/garbage pile (I suspect it was either Dan or John, my older brothers) and she was let go promptly. I remember Michele trying to reason with Mum that she was crazy and it might have been American cigarettes.

So I say thank you for the music, Alice.