Parked dog at Timportance

The kids used to call Tim Hortons “Timportance”. I’ve always like that.

Being the unemployed recipient of a Tim’s card for Christmas and owing to the fact that I got up at 9:15, I got take-out coffee and a breakfast sandwich to punctuate the dog’s walk this morning. Can I just add a shout out to my small dog’s bladder? Way to adapt to changing definitions of “morning walk.”

There were five tables occupied at the Timmys. The staff were super quick throwing together the food so I didn’t get a good look at the table occupants. And it’s impolite to stare they say, yadayada.

Table one: a man and a woman in animated discussion. Papers strewn on tabletop being shuffled and referred to. Some with letterhead, some without. Some appeared to be reports. She’s smiling; I can’t see his face. Maybe numbers are up? Maybe they’re in the planning stages of their Big Idea? Maybe these are the papers they stole to finally bring down the Company, after a quick coffee break?

Table two: a woman sitting alone, reading. She has a hot beverage cup – maybe it’s a coffee, maybe it’s a Caramel Fudge Hot Chocolate – and is eating a Timbit. She gazes out the window at my parked dog, scans the room and then smiles kindly at me. Her book is called “Stop Eating Your Feelings.”

Table Three: a man by the fire. There are four comfortable looking chairs by the fire-feature and he is by himself in one of them. His phone is held aloft as he is immersed in a video chat. I don’t see earphones but I can’t hear the person on the phone, either. Maybe there are Bluetooth earphones under the man’s hat. I can’t hear him really either so maybe he’s using those earphones that turn your jaw movements into sound. Whatever silent thing is said makes him scowl and he pauses to stretch and to look around but not see anyone. It’s like he’s not really there at all.

Table Four: a man in dirty, worn-out clothes. He’s in layers, mismatched, rumpled, with greasy, hat-head hair. His coffee is done or forgotten. He’s playing a scratch ticket with enviable intensity.

Table Five: two older men. No phones on this table. Two disposable hot beverage cups and two sets of old hands. They hold eye contact while they talk. There doesn’t seem to be any tension between them, but also no expansive, heavily-gestured, shoot-the-shit energy. Two older men in companionable conversation. Past co-workers? Old friends? Ex-husband and widower of the same long gone woman?

And me. Me at the counter at 10AM getting breakfast to go. With my warm winter coat and cute pink hat to hide my bed-head. My adorable little dog waiting patiently outside. Smiling, looking at my phone, saying thank-you. Does the woman with the book wonder if I feel bad to be eating breakfast so late? Because I do, I feel guilty for sleeping in until 9:15. I have no routine and it’s overcast so I slept. Does she wonder if I eat out all the time? I don’t – I’m not working and eating out makes me feel guilty apart from this because I have a Tim’s card. I think I must look confident and put together on the outside most of the time but really I’m at a loss.

I didn’t go to Europe to find myself. I did go in part because I got married during University so I never did the run away to Europe thing. I did it like a middle-aged person – I went to lose myself. And I was famously successful. But now I need to pay bills and I can’t look for a career-type job because I want to start my Masters in the Autumn. And having been weightlessly nothing for an extended period of time, I don’t really want to stop. But “Sleeps in if it’s Cloudy” is not a title that pays the bills.

What self am I creating? Big ideas self? Lonely self-improvement self? Not really there at all self? Fervent scratch ticket self? Comfortable chat self?

For now I guess I’ll focus on becoming “makes enough to pay the bills” self and take it from there.

If on a winter’s night a traveler

In September, in the car of a friend, I first met the book If on a winter’s night a traveler. It was in the original Italian, the language of the author Italo Calvino which was a language my friend was learning via memorising this book. As a test of his progress, he recited the first few pages in Italian, with great expression and flourishing gestures – missing the same turn three times while doing so. I would never have told him when to turn because I wanted the recitation to continue. Every few lines he would translate what he had said; even so roughly translated I determined I must read the book (in English) and so made a note of the title.

Later in September Continue reading “If on a winter’s night a traveler”

Piri Piri Tourtiere Debate

I’m sitting in my car watching the snow fall in Victoria Park. When I was in Portugal I regarded Christmas displays depicting pine trees and snow-covered hills. It’s strange to be in a foreign country and realise that their images of Christmas are your home country’s reality. We live in a Christmas card; why is this the dominant Christmas picture?

I’m drinking coffee and eating a nata tart. I don’t think I liked nata before I went to Portugal and now I find myself daydreaming about them. At  Farm Boy there were four tarts in the bakery. The smiling staff member put them in a box for me – it seemed a lucky omen; four tarts, four kids coming for Christmas! But as I took a couple of steps away and sampled a chocolate croissant, it occurred to me that I hadn’t purchased myself a tart.  There were no more in the display but luckily two steps further there packages of six. One extra tart is a much more easily solved problem.

I had been to Fairview Mall, Kitchener to set up WiFi for my apartment now that I’m moving back there. The staff member who sold me my cell phone plan at Virgin Mobile had offered to let me know when WiFi deals came up, which she did a few days ago. I ran it by my son just to make sure, and then told her I’d be there Christmas Eve in the morning to set it up. It went smoothly and it’s a great deal – if you’re looking for a cell phone package or wireless plan I totally recommend Lisa at the Fairview Mall Virgin Mobile kiosk. Now I’ve got to think of a witty name for my WiFi network. Previously it was called folkiekitten, but things have changed. Things have shifted. I just don’t identify with that network name anymore. If you have any suggestions let me know.

So I found myself down by Fairview Mall which is kitty-corner to Farm Boy. Last night I had looked unsuccessfully for two different food items in three different stores: brussel sprouts and a cottage roll. There’s a good chance that cottage roll just doesn’t exist in Southern Ontario. I picked up a piri-piri chicken last night though, thinking it might be a nice Christmas Eve dinner tie in to my time in Portugal. So anyway after signing for the WiFi, I drove my sleigh over to the Farm Boy to see if they had either cottage roll or brussel sprouts. This was overall a Christmas spending tactical error. I really like Farm Boy and want everything they sell (apart from the seafood, gross, sea-bugs). I didn’t need that hot chocolate. I definitely don’t need eggnog fudge for dessert. I’m just not very good at resisting things that please me. The brussel sprouts were terribly expensive. I stood there in the bright light of Farm Boy googling “brussel sprouts shortage 2018”, and sure enough it’s the reality. I quickly posted about this telling the kids that they’ll be having kale. It’s okay. They like kale. Wandering along to the deli area I was transfixed by their homemade tourtiere. Tourtieres are Christmas food. I picked one up to ascertain the heft of it, and then stood there amongst all the happy Farm Boy customers just pondering tourtiere. It would be delicious; you could tell because they also had half-pies sealed in plastic where you could see the meaty insides. Maybe we should have tourtiere for Christmas Eve dinner. But I already have piri-piri chicken. On the other hand, sweet potato casserole would go much better with tourtiere, though kale could go with either. And if we’re going to have tourtiere and go with a Canadian Christmas, why do I have nata tarts for dessert? Will we just have eggnog fudge for dessert without the tarts? Why do I even have tarts, fudge, a tourtiere AND a chicken? That’s a lot of food, I already spent over $100 last night and now I’m going to spend another $50? It’s a luxury to even consider the possibility of having two Christmas dinners available. It’s a luxury to be indecisive as to what to eat this evening. Trying to decide between two expensive proteins for a whimsical dinner on the holidays it’s definitely a sign of privilege. I’m really lucky that I can afford this. On second thought, CAN I afford this? I have no income at the moment – I can’t really afford anything. My sense of abundance, my sense of being able to afford tourtiere or piri-piri chicken or tarts or fudge – it’s all an illusion. Mind you, when I felt I could afford nothing and so I tried to do without anything – that was also an illusion. Scarcity is an illusion. Abundance is an illusion. All things are allusion but arguably  also very, very real. Is our reality an illusion? These are heavy thoughts, heavier even than the tourtiere I was still holding standing motionless in the deli section.

I watched a happy couple experience a Christmas miracle. The Farm Boy employee (all the Farm Boy employees are always smiling what is with this place) was presenting to them their Christmas dinner in a box. I cannot begin to describe the pure joy and delight on the faces of this man and this woman as the box containing turkey dinner complete with every trimming including directions for assembly was revealed. I decided right then and there that regardless of what this year’s Christmas dinner was going to be, next year I was giving myself the gift of a Christmas dinner box from Farm Boy – providing I’ve worked out the conundrum of abundance and scarcity, or maybe just found a job.

Tristao do Lemos

Short one act play written in Portugal as part of the “Write or Flight” 22 hours writing challenge in the “Unhinged Festival of Disturbed Theatre” 
Cast of Characters

Gloria, in her 30s or 40s – bank employee who wants to be a writer

Kathy, age approximate to Gloria – her friend and co-worker

Tristao, man in his mid 40s

The play takes place in one afternoon in a room in an old European castle. There is one entrance to the room off-stage where Kathy and Gloria enter. When the door to the room is opened, this is indicated by light flooding into the room from the direction of the off stage door. Likewise it is indicated to be closing by similar lighting effect. Tristao enters through a hidden opening in the back wall. There is a table, a chair, and a bench.

Continue reading “Tristao do Lemos”

Gathering moss

Sitting at McCabe’s waiting on Improv friends. It’s $8 beef dip, baby. Where’s the beef? Here, dripping hot and cheap like ya like it.

This blog post has no purpose apart from to ooomph me some momentum. I’m talking to real people a bunch now and the voices in my head are getting antsy.

How would the rolling stone translate? A scribbling writer gathers no… tedious inertia? I dunno, that’s awful, tell me what it should be. But the point is if I’m blogging then I’m more likely to post but when I stop for a week, like if I’m unexpectedly slammed by jetlag and wander about concussed for a week, then I don’t blog. I write “blog” on my to-do list and then I don’t ever scratch it off and I feel guilty and like I’m unworthy and all those thoughts that were dealt with in therapy, weren’t they?

OK the first friend is here for our pre Theatre on the Edge beef dips!

Blog, crossed off!

A Glass of Port

NYC Midnight flash fiction, round three
genre: action / adventure location: the middle of the ocean object: gavel

A Glass of Port

On her fifth Porto night, Sylvie is at a bar called The Auction House overlooking the river Douro. Every table is fitted with granite gavels and wooden blocks for attracting the servers’ attention. Well into the evening, Sylvie hammers the block, “More port! A round for my friends!” Liz, a fellow Canadian, shakes her head. “C’mon Liz! Just say yes! It’s an adventure!” When the waiter brings the wine, Sylvie decides to buy a replica gavel for thirty euro. She holds her weighty souvenir aloft to be admired.
The table hosts tourists from America, Holland, Australia and some locals. Using Google Maps, they measure the distance between their homes though Google won’t measure across water. The American hollers, “Show me by boat for godssake! Show me the miles walking – I’m gonna walk on water!” and they all laugh.
Damari says with only a hint of Portuguese accent, “I don’t use this Google for my wayfinding. I need only the stars.”
“Stars?” blurts Sylvie. “I don’t remember what stars look like. In London, Dublin, Madrid and now Porto. The sky is lit, all night.”
Damari assures her, “The stars are there, beautiful. Come down river to the ocean in my boat. I’ll show you the stars.”
“Tonight?” breathes Sylvie.
“If you dare.”
Overhearing, Liz objects but Sylvie crows, “Say yes to life Liz! We’re adventuring!”
“To adventure!” calls Damari, pounding Sylvie’s gavel and ordering another round. After the final toasts, the group departs and Damari walks the women to their hotel, then waits outside.
While Sylvie changes shoes, Liz insists she share her location on Google Maps. “Download the map of Porto and the whole damned ocean. You have five hours Sylvie, then I’m sending help. I’m serious.” Liz and Sylvie both work with addicts. They understand risk prevention.
“Maps won’t work on the ocean!” protests Sylvie.
“GPS will. It’s all you need,” answers Liz, setting it up.
Sylvie takes Damari’s arm to traverse the slick, cobblestone decline past centuries-old churches and decoratively tiled, derelict houses. At the Douro, past the Rabelo boats with their barrels lies Damari’s cabin cruiser; he assists her aboard. Taking out sherry glasses, he decants the port.
Making small talk with flirtatious glances, Damari deftly manoeuvres the boat downriver. Sylvie notes the stern is covered with cushions and blankets. “Do you sleep out here?” she asks.
“Occasionally,” Damari replies. “There’s a cabin, but it’s mostly storage.” Sylvie moves to look. “No, stay here with me,” insists Damari. “It’s a mess under there.”
Once they reach the ocean, away from the lights of Porto, Damari kills the motor and they behold the stars – all the heavens revealed to them. Overwhelmed, Sylvie shivers; Damari wraps his arms around her.
Breaking their embrace too soon, Damari offers a refreshment. “More port,” he suggests, “or if you’d rather, perhaps cocaine?”
“What?!” she exclaims. “Damari. I’m an addictions counsellor. I’ve seen what drugs do. I would never risk that.”
“I had no idea of your noble profession,” he refills their glasses. “Please forgive my oversight.” He kisses her, instantly forgiven, and leads her to the comfortable warmth of the blankets. Their kisses intensify. Sylvie sighs thinking, “It’s an adventure” and succumbs to his seduction.
Some time later she is tracing waves on his chest, breathing his scent intermingled with that of the sea. He kisses her forehead, saying he needs to attend to the navigation. He rises, strides across the deck and returns with more wine. She thanks him and looks overboard. Ocean spray mists her face and she pulls back laughing, losing her grasp on her glass. It disappears into the waves.
Not wanting to disturb Damari, she quietly pours herself a fresh glass then reclines, regarding the constellations. Soon the rocking boat lulls her to sleep.
She’s awakened by his voice; he’s on the radio, “… few hours from the drop, fully loaded. Short ton of the purest shit you’ve never tried! Yeah, alone – I have this tourist for company but she won’t know. I gave her a sleeping concoction.” His laugh holds none of the charm she’d admired at The Auction House.
Sylvie figures if she pretends to be asleep she’ll be safe. But what if this cocaine is enroute to Canadian streets? Does it even matter? If it leaves this boat, it will destroy lives. She pulls out her phone and opens Google Maps. The screen is all ocean blue; her GPS dot in the middle.
Feigning drowsiness she murmurs, “It’s been almost five hours! Are we headed back?”
He turns quickly, obviously surprised to see her awake. Into the radio he says, “I have an issue, await my signal.” Then he turns to her, all charm. “Feeling rested, sleepyhead?” He crosses to the bed and kisses her. He’s attempted to drug her. He has a boatload of cocaine. Yet his lips are soft and warm. She sighs, yielding to his kiss; he chuckles. Pulling away with a shy smile, she returns her phone to her purse. Content, Damari turns to stand, “I better make sure this barge is headed for home.”
She forces a giggle in reply and pulls the gavel from her purse while his back is turned. Swinging it hard she makes contact with his head. The granite bounces off his skull, vibrating in her hand. Damari grunts, lurches forward and spins to see her kneeling naked on the cushions, brandishing the gavel. He lunges at her and Sylvie swings again, this time clocking his temple with all her might. The sound of bone and flesh giving way sickens her. The weapon slides from her hand and she watches Damari crumple to the ground, his eyes astonished, then angry, then finally closed.
Sylvie shakily pulls on her clothes, averting her eyes from the pooling blood. Sitting waiting, she ponders adventure. Sometimes saying yes to life, she realizes, means saying no to risk. Dawn breaks with welcome brilliance. Seeing a police boat’s flashing lights approach, Sylvie gives thanks for cautious girlfriends and GPS.

Logistical Fail

It’s 8:30 pm and they just brought me a Super Bock stout. They’re gonna pair it up with some olives, because olives. I took a selfie to attach to this post but I couldn’t recognize myself so I’ll take a picture of olives. Ah maybe the selfie too. We’ll see.

I didn’t go out this morning because I discovered how nice the sunroom can be with the windows open wide. I wrote out there with my morning coffee. I meditated in the sun. Naked even. I watched a neighbour watch their cat.

I made breakfast for lunch and spent an hour or so trying to figure out places and events for my remaining ten days here. Mostly just ended up with a list of places to eat. I’m sure a lot happens here but to an outsider it looks mainly like lots of haircuts, cafes and cerveza.

The next X unit of time, I applied for a Ontario Arts Council grant. That sounds so casual. I wrestled with my will and self-doubt and forced myself to apply for an Ontario Arts Council grant.

I lost time in some conversations and in trying to decide if I can see the Fantastic Beasts movie here now and then it was 7:30 and I hadn’t dressed yet and low blood sugar was making me dumb and clumsy.

So I exchanged my comfy clothes for only slightly more acceptable comfy clothes and put on a hat to cover my day old bed head. Threw my Visa card in one pocket and two bags in the other and I was off to the local grocery shop. They know me there now. I thought they’d be proud I finally remembered to bring bags.

They were closed.

I can’t keep track of when places open and close here; though, I am also losing track of what day it is.

(just realized this artisanal burger joint is streaming an english jazz station)

Anyway so I can’t get food to eat at home and I’m dressed like a middle-aged, too lazy to bother, tourist hipster. I lurch down the street, past the understated whore house, around a corner that houses a restaurant I want to try but they’re full and find this burger place that has English on their menu with the Portuguese which is good because by now my eyes are getting blurry from hunger.

Luckily there’s no real way a tourist should look. I don’t take my hat off. Feels rude but it’s for the best all round. And anyway, my hat matches my hair.

The burger is one of the best I’ve ever had. Probably they eat all the time here because the food is so damn good.

Anyway, I could have planned that day a whole lot better. But I didn’t and it didn’t really matter and I got to bask in the sun and I beat the grant demon and I look bizarre but noone cares and that dinner was amazing. The only real downside is I have no cash so I can’t tip.

I don’t even remember why I started telling you all this. This jazz is smooooth. I think it’s Friday. Oh right. The olives. And the selfie. Maybe you’ll figure out who I am now.