Chi-Chi’s Fight Club

abandonedchichis2.jpgAt a potluck dinner almost a couple of weeks ago, a bunch of us were just sitting around afterwards, yakkin’ and snackin’ on cookies, fruit and other goodies, when for some reason the topic came up, of restaurants people went to for birthday parties as kids.

And for some reason, it reminded me of Chi’s-Chi’s Mexican restaurant. You remember Chi-Chi’s, right? “A Celebration of Food” (cha-cha-cha)? Fried ice cream?

Well, I do – kind of. 

I mean, we had a huu-uge one in Scarborough – just a six-minute drive away from my house – when I was a kid.

For fourteen years of my life, I was six gas-fueled minutes away from fried ice cream. But we never went. 

My dad just ended up occasionally taking my brother and I to the McDonald’s down the street instead. Usually all thoughts of Mexican food were silenced with a greasy, slimy cheeseburger or – as I got older and could handle it – a Big Mac.

But damn, how I secretly wanted some fried ice cream. So the mere mention of anyone saying how they remembered going to Chi-Chi’s as a kid, always makes me a little bitter.

So at the party, my friend, said, “Oh yeah, I remember Chi-Chi’s …”

And the 10-year-old in me immediately blurted out, “What? You went to Chi-Chi’s?! That’s it. I can’t talk to you anymore.”

He just looked at me like he’d caught me eating Elmer’s school glue. And really, I don’t blame him, ’cause honestly, I don’t know where that came from. Wait – I take that back. I do.

But I always counter my bitterness by recalling a story my friend Patty told me a while ago.  

Back in the day, when her older brother was in high school – and probably about the time I’d yearn for fried ice cream – he and some of his high-school football buds used to work in the kitchen at Chi-Chi’s. 

And how horrible they were! I’d have to double-check for sure, but I’m pretty sure she’d tell me about how one of his friends sometimes spit in the food.

And the fights! Oh, how they fought. It would be, like, one guy would have a beef with another, and then on meal break, it would be score-settlin’ time. I’m sure by the end of it, someone had lost a tooth or gained a shiner.

It was almost like they were members of Fight Club, Chi-Chi’s Scarborough Chapter. I can imagine it being a bit like cock-fighting, only minus the spurs and fight-to-the-death factor, ’cause they’re high-school football players. ‘And you know the boss would notice if someone was missing.

But I’m sure in recalling this, I was mentally exaggerating what my friend told me actually happened. But it always makes me feel better about not going there.

Since those Chi-Chi’s days, my family moved out of the area and that location, I believe, is now an enormous Chinese buffet restaurant. But I always wondered what happened to Chi-Chi’s. So one day I did a Google search.

And when I read the second sentence of this Wikipedia entry, I was like, “So that’s what happened … huh.” Maybe it’s a good thing I never ate there. I could have been a “citation needed” footnote in Wikipedia.

But at least I now know where to go, if ever I feel the need to combine my love of European travel with my quest to eat fried ice cream.

I just hope Belgian kids have Tektonic dance-offs on their meal breaks instead of sparring , when they want to settle scores.

(God, I love You Tube.)

The Monthly Date Quota

black-book.jpgSo, while out last night with friends, two of my friends declared that this year would be the one in which they were going to date more – or just go out on dates, period.

And then they turned on me.

One of my friends – a blonde who, in my opinion, doesn’ t have a problem with guys, period – said, “I challenge you to go on ONE date a month.”

She extended her hand as if to seal a bet.

“What?” I replied, half-laughing. “You DO know that I’m lucky if I fill my one-date quota for the year, right? That’s impossible.”

“Oh, you’ll do it!” my dark-haired friend chimed in. “Just get online!”

“Pssssssp!” I scoffed.  

“Just think of them as practice dates,” she replied.

I still wasn’t convinced, but I ended up shaking hands with them anyway.

“All riii-iight,” I said in a sing-song voice. “But I still say it’s not gonna happen.”

After a moment, I asked, “So what happens if I don’t fill my date quota for the month?”

My friends looked at each other, and then Friend #2 replied with a grin, “Then we find a date for you.”

Honestly, I’m tempted NOT to even try this month. Chances are who they cough up would probably end up being way better than whomever I end up choosing – or not choosing, as might be more likely.

Meh. Maybe I’ll sign up with Lavalife in March.

Or not.

The Brown Snowsuit

It’s on cold days like these when I remember the days of my childhood …

And that time my mom decided to get me a snowsuit.

snowsuit.jpgPicture it: Scarborough, 1981.

My mom went shopping around for a durable, decently-priced snowsuit in which to clothe me during the harsh winter months.

And she found one which fit all her criteria. So much so, she didn’t even blink twice at the colour.

It was brown. Not reddish-brown. Not dark brown. Just. Brown.

Looking back, I can completely understand the adult’s point of view. I mean, if you get a really good snowsuit built to last, why care what colour it is?

Well, if you’re a four-year-old boy, no biggie. Slap that bad boy on and you’re ready for some play in the snow.

But if you’re a four-year-old girl, well … it kind of causes problems.

Once I was at the supermarket grocery shopping with my mom, in the brown snowsuit. We were in the produce section, and I guess I’d wandered too close to one of the fruit or veggie displays.

The next thing I know, the produce guy says to me, “Buster, be careful. You don’t want to knock over the display.”

According to my mom, I didn’t say anything. I just looked at him. And I was probably frowning.

Another time, I was with my mom at the doctor’s for an appointment. It was Christmas time, and there was a huge tree set up in one corner of the waiting room. The place was full of patients waiting their turn.

According to what my mom told me, I’d wandered over to the tree to take a look at the decorations.

The receptionist apparently turned and said to me, “Sonny, don’t touch the tree. You might break the ornaments.”

That did it. She had gone too far for this pre-schooler. 

“My name is not Sonny,” I replied. “My name is Diane.”

The receptionist just ignored me. Me being four, I figured she just didn’t hear me. So I repeated myself.

Still, nothing. She didn’t even look my way.

According to my mom, I continued to try and correct her … getting up on my tiptoes to get her attention over the big desk. And still, the woman ignored me.

But everyone else in the waiting room was paying full attention at the scene I was making.

My mom – seeing my plight and how rude the woman was being – said, “Honey, why don’t you show her your pretty braids?”

And that was all the ammunition I needed.

I apparently clomped over to the receptionist’s desk, ripped off my toque and yelled in a shrill, four-year-old voice:

“MY NAME IS NOT SONNY!” I squealed, my tiny, multi-coloured, barretted plaits shaking. “MY NAME IS DIANE!”

Apparently my mom nearly lost it and was trying so hard not to laugh.

And the receptionist finally noticed.

“Okay, Diane,” she replied sheepishly. “Don’t touch the tree.”

It’s memories like these that make me miss that sassy little four-year-old who didn’t take shit from anyone.

I should try and summon her up one of these days.

Sniffing at Courtesy?

About this time last winter, I remember sitting on the subway one morning – part of my routine commute to work.

I know I was sniffing, either because it was really cold that morning, or I had a cold – I can’t remember which.

I suppose I’d been sniffing excessively, because the passenger sitting next to me – a young man about my age – handed me a tissue to blow my nose.

I’d never had anyone do that for me before. He probably did it partially out of courtesy, but probably also because he just wanted my sniffing to cease. Looking back on it now, I honestly don’t blame him.

But reflecting upon it now, I appreciate the gesture. In fact, after it happened, I appreciated it so much that I wanted to extend the gesture to other people. 

A few days after that, I was sitting on the subway as per usual, when I noticed the female passenger next to me was sniffing.

I was hesitant, because the TTC is strange – cold and unfeeling, even – in that you very rarely come across people who don’t act all weird when you say something or make a gesture out of courtesy. I just didn’t want to start off my morning with cut-eye from a complete stranger.

And so, as the man did for me a few days earlier, I reached into my bag, pulled out tissue and offered it to her. She kindly accepted, thanking me. I was kind of shocked, actually.

Fast forward to last Wednesday. For whatever reason, I now find that people sniffing does kind of get on my nerves, as it was on this particular morning. As I was sitting in one of the single seats on the busy, trying to read, this high school student was standing over me, sniffing … and sniffing.

So, deciding to extend some goodwill and a Kleenex, I took my time and then turned, looked upward at him and said, “Would you like a tissue?”

The kid looked at me blankly, as if I started speaking to him in a man’s voice, in Czech.

I added, “I noticed you were sniffing.”

Nothing but the same blank stare.

“So you don’t want a tissue?”

He shook his head.

“Okay, then,” I replied, quickly muttering to myself, “So stop sniffing.”

I dunno if he heard the last part, because between the time I stopped speaking and the time he got off the bus a few minutes later, it seemed like he miraculously stopped sniffing.

Maybe I had the wrong approach. Maybe my offering wasn’t with the sincerest of intentions as it had been last year. Or maybe what works on a subway on its way downtown, just doesn’t roll on a bus driving through Scarborough.   


I’m SO getting an iPod.

The Cross-Country Experience

I’m not gonna lie. I hate winter. I haaaate it. Despite having a January birthday, and being Canadian-born and bred. 

For years I’ve been convinced I’m not genetically predisposed to this sort of climate. (Yes, even though I live in Toronto, where it isn’t nearly as cold as some other parts of the country, it’s still too cold for me.)

I complain about the cold, whinge about the wind, and lament about having to wear layers on a regular basis. If I can help it, I try to stay out of it for as long as I can.

One blogger I like to read, No Pasa Nada, shares this hatred of all things snowy and cold (but south of the border).

Or, at least, she did.

A couple of weeks ago, she recently discovered an outdoor winter activity she actually likes. Now her hatred of winter is more of a mild dislike because of it.

I read her post and at the time I thought, more power to her. I, on the other hand, didn’t think I’d find something – other than skating – which would bring me out of the house for prolonged periods of time.

After this past weekend, I’m almost willing to reconsider.

Last weekend, a small group of friends and I drove an hour up north, to go cross-country skiing.

Part of me still thinks I was nuts. A sista on skis? Not that it’s unheard of … but the last time I was on skis of any kind was during a downhill ski trip in eighth grade.

But the other part was, why not? The friend in charge of organizing the trip used to be a kids’ ski instructor at Cypress Mountain. If she was going to help me learn, who was I to say no, right?

Several days before the trip during an evening out with friends, the friend was trying to convince me that it wouldn’t be that bad, while I was trying to convince her of the exact opposite.

“Let’s put it this way,” I said. “I have a feeling that my skating is probably better than my skiing.”

Her eyes widened a bit. “Um, that’s not good.”

Before we all knew it, Saturday morning had arrived. We got to the ski centre at just minutes to noon, in two cars. We all changed into our warm woolies, grabbed some food while watching the learn-to-ski DVD playing on the TV above our heads, then got the boots, skis and poles. Not at the same time, of course. It took a while for all of us to regroup.

My friend Cara and I waited outside the chalet for the others to emerge. While we waited, I noticed Cara clicking on her skis.

That’s when I learned the first thing about cross-country skis: the tip of the snow boot is actually the only part secured to the ski.

(Hello? Black girl from Scarborough? Like I would’ve known that.)

So, not feeling particularly eager to start gliding away without being able to stop, I thought I’d wait a few more minutes.

Cara turned to me and said, “C’mon – put on your skis.”

Not that I knew how, but she eventually helped me out.

Then she started moving around the general area on her skis, while I did my best impression of a child learning to walk – but on two pieces of fibreglass – while actual kids whizzed by me.

Eventually the rest of the gang emerged, got on their gear, and off we went, on the nearest trail.

Luckily for me I was one of two first-time skiiers, so it made the discomfort of not knowing what I was doing a bit easier.

Before I knew it, I was starting to get the hang of things. Apparently I was doing pretty well for someone who’d never cross-country skiied before.

First off, I have to say how winded I got. Man, was that ever a workout! I wasn’t wheezing or anything, but I was panting slightly, and I could feel all that cold air I was inhaling, in my chest.

And with all the movement, I didn’t really feel cold at all, other than on my face. I was sweating.

And as moved, I was taking in the beautiful winter scenery. Yes, I said “beautiful” and “winter” in the same sentence.

The other thing that I still haven’t grasped yet: how to get down hills (which, to British Columbians, would be slight inclines in land, not actual hills). I tried to “snowplough”, as my friend instructed, but a few times I ended up wiping out. Which wouldn’t have been bad, except that the hardest part was trying to get back up into a standing position.

By the end of the day, I – tired, sweaty and a bit sore – had a whole different opinion of cross-country skiing. I may not be as obsessed as No Pasa Nada is about snowshoeing, but I’m willing to give it another go sometime this winter.

I just have to get some of my stiff-legged skating in first.

The “Gotta Be Frugal” Blues


Sorry that I haven’t been posting as of late. Besides having had a very busy schedule over the last week and a bit, I’ve had quite a bit on my mind.

As you may know (if you read my first post from earlier this month), I composed a list of things I would like to see happen this year. Among the items on my wishlist was my desire to move out of my parents’ home and find a place of my own.

It’s all I’ve been thinking about for the past couple of years. And lately, more so than ever.

But I think I may have already bitten off more than I can chew.

On New Year’s Eve while out with friends – all of whom live downtown – the question (in between gulps of alcoholic beverages) came up yet again. And silly me, what did I say?

“I am moving out THIS YEAR. I don’t know how. I don’t know when. But it WILL happen.”

I think I pretty much based this declarative, alcoholic-laced statement on a previous response to someone at work about a year ago, when she asked me, “When are you moving out?” and I said, “Probably 2008.” (Of course, that time, I was sober.)

So fast forward to this month. With the exception of the last few days, all I’ve been doing is surfing the MLS listings in Toronto. And when I haven’t been doing that, I’ve been surfing the View It rental Web site … 

Which has then led me to asking myself the dreaded question – or questions – over and over:

Do I suck it up and rent? Or do I dig in my heels and save as much as I can until I can buy something?

Compound this with the fact that talking to a few of my friends hasn’t made my quest to find the answer any clearer.

After a night out with some people I knew, my friend – who works at a bank – was very graciously driving me home, and I was lamenting to him about my situation.

Of course, he’s a renter and is in a situation where – in his own quest to advance his career – he’s not looking to buy or even upgrade his living situation anytime soon … or at least until he can improve upon his current income bracket. So he was kind of extolling the merits of renting.

A couple days later on the subway with a really good friend I work with, I was talking about the same thing. He understood my inner struggle on another level, since he used to live even farther away from work than I do. He made the decision several years ago to leave the nest and move in with friends.

Fast forward a few years. He since moved in with his then-girlfriend, got married last summer, and is still currently renting … and trying to figure out how on EARTH they’ll afford a place to live – and where. His advice to me? Stay home and save as much as possible.

Last weekend at a friend’s birthday party, I was talking to a work-mate who is simultaneously working and going to school – and has bought a condo in his end of town.

We got into a bit of a life-philosophy-type of discussion, but the gist of what he was saying was: you don’t want to have your independence, at the expense of your economic freedom. You’ll end up having less social freedom in the end. Stay home for as long as you can.

To one half of my brain, what friends # 2 and 3 have said, rings true with me. But the other half is tired of spending upwards of 15 hours commuting to work weekly – she would just rather find a place which would allow her to get to sleep earlier and to get more things done in the time usually spent commuting.

But another question that’s getting to me the most is: can I afford it?

I thought there might be an outside chance. Then I talked to my mother.

I’ve realized the money I’ve furiously been saving would’ve been great for a downpayment – about four years ago. I’m not close to what I thought I would have. And if I were to successfully save what I need, what would the mortgage payments be like? All that comes to mind is the image of a bank worker pinching me really hard. In the ass. With a huge pair of pliers.

On top of which, the rental situation seems bleak, too. Depending on my expenses, if I rented, I couldn’t even put anything away for retirement, never mind putting money towards a downpayment.

The only true way to find out for sure is to come up with a budget.

So right now, I’m taking things one day at a time. I’m trying to make a record of what I buy so I can figure out my spending habits.

At the end of this month, what I’ll have to do is add everything up, and then go over what items I’m spending money on, so I can either cut down or cut out those things I should really do without.

It already depresses me a bit to think about it, because I’m afraid to see what the grand total is going to be. But, more importantly, I’m not looking forward to trying to figure out what I’m going to have to go without, especially with the type of social life I’m used to having.

I know it’s probably the best thing I can do for myself, especially given what my end goal is.

But man, is it EVER going to suck.

So to my friends who happen to read this … if, for whatever reason, you don’t see me out as much during the next couple of months, you’ll know why.

I Loves Me Some Aussie Slang

Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe …

Looks like words and phrases Aussies might use, are duking it out for a place in Australia’s top dictionary, according to this article I read a few days ago:

A cyberathlete might not suffer boomeritis as he or she is probably a digital native, but could be at risk of globesity, according to Australia’s top dictionary.

The Macquarie dictionary this week asked readers to vote for their favourite new word in the latest annually updated online volume, offering a total of 85 words or phrases in 17 categories.

Most of the words are not specifically Australian, but reflect global trends in fields such as technology, health and what the dictionary calls the social scene.

A cyberathlete is defined as “a professional player of computer games” while boomeritis covers a range of sports-related injuries incurred by baby boomers as they pursue physical fitness programmes into their old age.

A digital native is “a person who grows up using digital media and communications systems, and thus has complete familiarity with them,” while globesity sums up the worldwide fat phenomenon.

At risk of globesity are salad dodgers — overweight people — and slummy mummies — mothers of young children who have abandoned all care for their personal appearance, as opposed to yummy mummies.

A slummy mummy might also use a floordrobe, “a floor littered with discarded clothes, viewed ironically as a clothing storage system.”

She could also possibly, but not necessarily, have arse antlers — “a tattoo just above the buttocks, having a central section and curving extensions on each side.”

The overworked mother is unlikely, however, to suffer from tanorexia — “an obsessive desire to have tanned skin, placing the sufferer at risk of skin cancer.”

Someone who might succumb would be a practitioner of manscaping — “a grooming procedure in which hair is shaved or trimmed from a man’s body, as from the back, legs, chest, genitals, etc.”

Many of the new words have been generated by the inexorable march of new technology, with password fatigue being “a level of frustration reached by having too many different passwords to remember”.

Overcoming password fatigue, however, has its own dangers, exposing the computer slave to data smog — “electronic information as by emails, internet searches, etc., which, by its volume, impairs performance and increases stress.”

Votes for a favourite word take place over the next few weeks, with the “word of the year” being announced next month.

It should be interesting to see what wins out. I think “salad dodgers” and “slummy mummies” are tied, in my personal opinion. Brilliant!

But, I gotta be honest:

I still think the best Aussie slang phrase I’ve heard to date is budgie smugglers. Hands down … er, figuratively speaking.

Words I Can’t Say (This Year)

For those of you who thought that the people at the Pantone Institute – who go around picking the colour of the year – had a lot of time of their hands …

The word critics over at Lake Superior State University were hard at work a couple weeks ago, and it looks like they could give the Pantone posse a run for their money:

DETROIT – Resist the urge to say you will “wordsmith” your list of New Year’s resolutions rather than write one.

It’s one of the 19 words or phrases that appear in Lake Superior State University’s annual List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness.

The school in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula released its 33rd list Monday, selecting from about 2,000 nominations. Among this year’s picks are “surge,” the term for the troop buildup in Iraq.

“Give me the old days, when it referenced storms and electrical power,” Michael Raczko of Swanton, Ohio, said in nominating the word.

The list also included “waterboarding,” “perfect storm,” “under the bus” and “organic.”Sadly for grammar’s guardians, the lighthearted list isn’t binding, as evidenced by the continued use of past banned words and phrases such as “erectile dysfunction,” “i-anything” and “awesome.”

Still, university spokesman Tom Pink, part of a committee that evaluates submissions, takes his syntactic success where he can find it. His office once received a letter from an Arizona Supreme Court justice who said he posted that year’s list on a bulletin board and prohibited all attorneys from using those words.

Considering how many times I’ve used the word “awesome” so far this year, it’s a wonder the word police aren’t already writing up a warrant for my arrest.

But I won’t let the word fuzz put me under the bus, yo. So what if I use an outdated word, or a made-up one or two? It’ll just be the perfect storm for some organic wordsmithing.

Back in the day, words like sweet or random didn’t decimate the English language. Why should I let a word like Webinar get in the way of my written expression? It’s not as if it’s Black Friday or anything. And if I feel a surge of creativity, shouldn’t I try and find ways make my words pop?  I just want to give back.

I’m not becoming emotional, Lake Superior State University.  This is the new reality. It is what it is.

Um, Neti WHAT?

Again, forgive me if I’m late to the party, but I only read about this earlier this week …

neti_pot_blue2.jpgSo while checking my e-mail at work for the umpteenth time, I came across this article about a small object which has been around for years, but I guess you could say has undergone a resurgence of sorts.

I’m talkin’ ’bout the neti pot.

Those of you who know what I’m talkin about have just flipped off onto another site, ’cause I’m so out of touch. But for those of you who don’t know, basically it looks like a cross between a small, stylized teapot and a watering can, and you use it – along with a non-iodized-salt-and-water solution – to flush out whatever’s up in your sinus cavities.

That’s right. It’s a bidet for your nose. And apparently it helps reduce symptoms of allergies, colds, etc.

This article here pretty much talks about the renaissance of the neti pot within the last year, complete with the standard ringing endorsement from Oprah.

My mom claims that she told me about it months ago. If she did, then I’m having the longest delayed reaction ever. She apparently even told my cousin about it … but I don’t know if she ever got one or not.

Sure, I have allergies. Lord knows they’ve been getting progressively worse every summer. And maybe one of these days I might try it.

But right now, the idea of sticking a spout up one nostril and pouring liquid out of the other?

To give you an idea of how this thing works, here’s a little video from one guy – a cartoonist – on how to irrigate one’s nasal passages.

(Note: only the first minute and a half of this is useful. The rest is just crazy.)

One word: Nuh-uh.

Loquacious High Five, Mark Malkoff!

I’m not going to lie, but sometimes I’ve wondered what it would be like to have a bedroom or living room furnished right out of the pages of the IKEA catalogue (page 171 or page 103, respectively).

 Well, this morning I read about this one guy from New York who is living the dream – for ikea-set.jpgfree!

His name’s Mark Malkoff, and he’s a comedian and filmmaker who unfortunately is having his tiny apartment fumigated for cockroaches.

He ruled out staying with friends – who have equally tiny apartments – or staying in a hotel (which would cost an arm and a leg).

So he thought up a creative third option: three weeks ago, he called up the IKEA in suburban New Jersey and asked if he could crash at their store for the week (since, well, most of the stuff in his apartment is IKEA, anyway).

And they – being fans of some previous work he did – said yes.

All reservations about free corporate advertising aside: How awesome IS that?

So yesterday morning, he moved into IKEA with two suitcases of personal belongings into one of the bedroom sets, where he’ll stay until Saturday at midnight.

And he’s got lots of activities planned, which is being documented by a film crew and uploaded onto his Web site in episodes.

So, despite what his wife – embarrassed and staying with relatives in upstate New York -thinks about all this, I’m giving Mark Malkoff my first Loquacious High Five of the week, nay, of the year

‘Cause anyone who not only can move into a furniture store for a week, but can score a gift basket when he shows up, is my hero.


And if you want to see how Mark lives the good life at Ikea this week, you can check it here.