Unexpected E-Mails

You know it’s the holidays when you get e-mails from people you haven’t heard from in months – perhaps even years.

I got two e-mails last Saturday.

The first was from a friend of mine who’s just gotten back from travelling around Southeast Asia for the last several months.

I used to have the hugest crush on him, and when I found out he didn’t feel the same way, it hurt. (The summer does strange things to my brain and my ego, seriously.) But it was for the best, as it always is, and I’m totally fine.

He’s in town for the next weeks until he takes off to his next destination: workin’ out west to earn some money for business school.

The other e-mail I received threw me for a bit of a loop.

In the early days of this blog, there was a dude whom I referred to only as Shakespeare. To me, he emanated weird vibes from the start.

As the story goes, the burgeoning acquaintanceship got way too weird for me, so I cut him off. I blocked him on my IM list, I didn’t e-mail him. Nothing. The last e-mail I got from him – which I responded to – was at least a year ago, I think.

Until today.

The e-mail was short and full of holiday greetings, along with the line, “I hope you still remember me.” (Unfortunately, I was thinking.)

It took a few days – plus some counsel from a friend of mine – before I brought myself to e-mail a reply, in the spirit of the season.

If I don’t sound sincere about it, it’s because part of me is extremely wary.

I mean, I pretty much eliminated contact with him for a reason.

And with everything I’m trying to straighten out career-wise and otherwise, and all the good friends I DO have – who DON’T make me feel weird – I don’t particularly feel charitable about expending time and energy on someone I found I couldn’t be myself around, who made me put my guard up because of the way he or she acted around me.   Know what I mean?

Perhaps I’m not being fair. But that’s just how I feel.

How do I know that what’s in the past, is simply that?

Oh, Holiday Cravings …

For a number of people, the holidays are the perfect excuse to pig out on all those things one might eat and then feel immediate shame at any other time of the year (with the possible exception of one’s birthday or a vacation at an all-inclusive resort somewhere).

As your slightly jiggly, thunder-thighed author, I can attest to this.

But in the last four weeks, I’ve noticed a change in my eating. Not in the amount I’m putting away – THAT continues to be ridiculous.

But I’ve been noting how I’ve run the entire gamut of tastes my tongue could possibly experience.

I mean, I’ve chomped on chocolates and candies; snacked on salty foods (and added salt to some of my meals); munched on meaty meats and crispy bacon; guzzled grease of many kinds; and consumed hot fudge ice cream sundaes (fulfilling the cold AND “kind of dairy” departments).

But in the last three days, I’ve been overcome by a sudden craving for hot sauce.

You’re thinking, “So what?”

So … I don’t normally pepper my meals with, well, pepper, on a daily basis.

The whole thing was completely innocent. My parents and I were out several days ago, doing last-weekend-before-Christmas shopping …

And as we were exiting the mall, there was this young guy by the doors with this canvas gym bag (NOT shady – it had a food-related logo), giving away sample packets of hot sauce.

And I’m not talking any old hot sauce. This stuff, as I found out upon later inspection, contains scotchbonnet peppers – comparable to chilli peppers in their intensity. Too little gives your mouth a burning sensation; too much could make your lips fall off.

At dinner, I decided give the sauce a try. I didn’t go nuts and douse my entire dinner. But the little I took did the trick.

So much so, I had hot sauce with my dinner for another two consecutive nights. Never mind whether or not they taste good with meatballs. It was hot sauce, dammit. It makes EVERYTHING taste good.

I’ve since calmed down and have taken a one-day hiatus from my hot pepper love affair. Moderation IS key, after all. Or so I’ve heard.

Although having some with my turkey dinner tomorrow night might not be completely out of the question …

Happy holidays, y’all. May your days be spicy and bright.

D’s 2008 Holiday Tally

gingerbread-menWhile I await more inspiration – and more social opportunities – to make themselves available to me dring the holiday season …

Here’s how my journey towards Christmas this year stacks up against last year’s:

3: Cards successfully mailed

21: Cards successfully written and ready to be mailed

0: Presents completed and wrapped

2: Presents partially completed

3: Presents I still need to buy

At least 2: Number of times I’ve been to the mall to browse for gifts and end up buying something for myself

2: Attempts at baking so far this season

6: Parties I’ve been to in the past week and a half

4 1/2: Parties that were Christmas-related

1: Number of parties crashed

1: Number of times I did the Crawl of Shame from a Christmas party

2: Number of gatherings at restaurants

5: Movies I want to see this holiday season

1: Movies I’ve seen so far

$13.00: the price of admission

Ten days until Christmas and counting … eep!

On The TTC …

Seeing as I just finished a late-night subway commute home after a Friday night dinner and a movie, I thought it fitting to post the following video.

I saw it for the first time yesterday. But no doubt that – if you’re from Toronto – you may have already seen this on local TV newscasts and the like.

All I have to say is that I relate to it completely and that it’s awesome.

So for all you fellow commuters – and bloggers like The Daily Commuter, who have linked here from time to time (I see you!) – this one’s for you:

Mad props, Randal and Syrus. It’s viral-worthy. For real.

The Nuances of Party Talk

ornaments‘Tis the season …

For neuroses.

That’s right kids, it’s holiday party season. A time when folks gather with family, friends and acquaintances … meet new people … or maybe finally get closer to people we want to get to know better, all in the spirit of fun and goodwill.

It can also be this time of year when, as the party circuit gains momentum, so does the potential to say or do something that might turn an interaction awkward …

And unleash that cold, sharp sting of emotional discomfort that can be hard to shake in the days that follow. 

Making conversation with people you may or may not know is a delicate art, even at the best of times. 

But around holiday time? The art of chatting during a time of merry-making can sometimes require the skill of a ninja.

And despite the best of intentions, you sometimes step right into it, without meaning to.

A case in point:

While kindly driving me home from work earlier this evening, a co-worker of mine and I were chatting about the work potluck we both attended the night before. It was great! Lots of good food, a chance to meet people and their spouses, or their friends.

But, she said, she thought she may have accidentally offended the wife of one of our other co-workers.

“Really?” I said. “Really? How so?”

Well, they’d gotten into a conversation about politics – specifically women in politics and powerful roles. The co-worker’s wife was making the point of saying that women should get a stab at high positions of office, such as President of the United States.

Essentially my co-worker’s point of view was that it shoudn’t matter – shouldn’t it just be the best person for the job? (There was a bit of pre-amble before that, so she just stopped short of saying this.)

My co-worker surmised she may not have gotten the drift of our  co-worker’s wife, because she got a weird vibe after that. And honestly, it wasn’t her intention to offend.

We probably won’t ever know what our co-worker’s wife was thinking. But it’s sometimes just one of those things.

And then there are situations that are, from the start, just friggin’ weird.

This past Saturday night, I went downtown for two shindigs. First stop was my friend’s birthday party at a bar.

I shed my layers, and saw one of my friends from work, in conversation with a few other women she knew. I asked if it was all right to join, to which they agreed.

After about five minutes or so, I introduced myself to each one. One of them I’d been hoping to introduce myself to for a while – the wife of another friend of mine.

Short story: This friend (the one with the wife, not the birthday) and I dated YEARS ago. So briefly in fact, it’s barely a wrinkle on the pleated slacks of Time. And by the time he met his now-wife, I’m pretty confident I was completely out of the picture and things were kosher.

And yet …

Have you ever been in a situation where you think you know in your head how something is going to play out, and it ends up unfolding in a completely different way?

I turned, and was ready to extend my hand when the woman said:

“We’ve met before. I’m ______’s wife.”

Huh.

Normally this wouldn’t have caused me to flinch. Except:

1) I’m 99.9 percent sure I’ve never formally met her. EVER. The closest I got to her was last year, when she was still engaged to my friend. I spent the wedding ceremony of a mutual friend of ours looking at the back of her head from my church pew. Our tables at the reception were on opposite ends of the room. I never even talked to her there, either.

2) While I wouldn’t say she was unfriendly, I’d say she was hovering around cordial. She didn’t even say her name.

I honestly don’t even remember whether I still dribbled out, “Nice to meet you”, or modified the response.

But at that moment, my brain flashed one big, neurotic, neon “WTF?”  

To her credit, she did talk to me a little later on – for about 25 seconds –  because we have friends in common, who happened to be old classmates of mine. Although come to think of it, I found that equally as awkward. 

Not to toot my own horn, but I’d like to THINK I’m kinda likeable? 

*sigh*

So kids, whether your tongue sets you up for a fa-la-la-faux-pas, or you end up being targeted for merry mayhem, some advice.

1) Keep your tongue in check. 

2) Always keep your poker face.

 3) Know when to duck.

And please – if you have any awkward party conversation stories, feel free to share. I won’t judge.

What’s Up With December 6th?

At a dinner party a couple weeks ago, I was conversing with a friend and new acquaintance, when my friend piped up,

“WHAT is the deal with December 6th?”

She asked, because she had not one, but THREE Christmas parties to attend.

I’m actually wondering about that myself, because (tonight) I have two parties to go to. (Mind you, only one is Christmas-related, but a party is a party.) And I’ve had to turn down two gracious invitations for other events …

Which leads me to the question: just what IS the deal with December 6th? Why does it seem like everyone and their dog is holding a party of some sort on THIS particular date?

I mean, if you think about it, you really have two other weekends you could feasibly have shindigs, before other commitments and obligations take over in preparation for the holiday period.

I even did an impromptu search online, but I couldn’t find anything to support my theory.

Maybe it’s all just one big, crazy coincidence.

But if anyone knows for a fact whether December 6th declaratively marks the beginning of the Christmas party season, lemme know. I’m curious.

War Child’s New Ad

Last year, War Child Canada released a controversial ad campaign – known as “Camp Okutta”, a fictional “war camp” – designed to get people to pay attention to the plight of child soldiers. 

And boy, did it ever. The campaign disturbed some folks, and enraged and upset others.

Well, they’re back, with a powerful new ad – one that could possibly top last year’s. Below is what could be hitting airwaves very shortly.

Someone close to me worked on this project, so please take a couple of minutes to watch, if you can.

(Warning: the material may be sensitive for some of you watching it.)

For more information, you can access the War Child Web site through this link.

The Coalition Conundrum

ianflettcoalitionSo this is what we get for complaining about how boring Canadian politics can be, uh?

While I was regaling you with the misguided tales of my latest trip …

The Canadian government has a constitutional crisis, 50-some-odd days AFTER the country had a federal election, and just as folks start breaking out their holiday pants (with elastic waistband) in preparation for the holidays.

So on Wednesday night, (current) Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a speech in a televised address to the nation.

And by the time you get around to reading this, he will have paid an visit to the governor-general (a.k.a. the Queen’s representative) to ask that the government be prorogued (suspended) to stop the opposition from toppling him and forming a coalition government.

And our governor-general, Michaëlle Jean (no relation to Wyclef) – who cut short a trip to Central Europe (popular destination!) to deal with the situation – will have probably given one of the following answers: 

(a) “Suspend this thing. This opposition coalition is pure bishop (inside joke – click link for reference).”

(b) “Hells NO. You’re on your own!”

OR … possibly (because I personally believe that providing an answer to an important, history-changing “yes” or “no” question should allow for some sort of stalling tactic):

(c) “Um, can I get back to you?”

I think she should opt for either (b) or (c), because I think that would be the rational thing to do.

(Although if I were doing her job, I would love to add (d) employ the “duck and cover” technique, since that’s how I approach many of life’s problems.)

All kidding aside, though. How effed up is this?

Some friends and colleagues of mine are dismayed and exasperated. Others are jumping on their chairs of choice, Tom Cruise-style, in wide-eyed, triumphant glee.

I don’t honestly know what to think.

I know I couldn’t possibly add anything to the existing discussion out there, that hasn’t already been covered by pundits, political science specialists, journalists and everyday people.

But let’s just put ourselves in the GG’s pumps for a moment. We’ve got:

(1) A government, just barely run by a party not a lot of constituents necessarily like (other than the people who voted for him)

VERSUS

(2) A smaller, angrier coalition of opposing parties, chomping at the bit to shove the Prime Minister and his posse out of the way and take over … a trio which consists of:

  •  a dude whose party mostly can’t stand him and are disposing of him in several months
  •  a dude who leads a party that’s SUPPOSED to be the left-of-centre alternative to the two main parties, and
  • a dude who’s just along for the ride (on paper only) even though his party’s ultimate goal is to get his province the hell out of Confederation so they can form their own country.

If you were the Governor-General of Canada, what would YOU have done?

Postscript: Looks like she chose (a). Well, then.

*Photo, courtesy of Ian Flett.

Farewell to Gotham

new-york-november-2008-089November 17th.

The last day of our trip and it’s NOT raining. In fact, aside from the air being colder and crisper than the previous three days, it’s sunny.

Figures. 

We’re a bit slow this morning, managing to get out of the apartment mid-morning. We check out this clothing store in the neighbourhood, which is boasting a sale. I snap up a t-shirt – not on sale, mind you. But I think it’s cute enough for the price.

The rest of the time spent in New York isn’t necessarily to go to specific places of interest. Our plan is to do a lot of walking – with the end goal of attempting to reach SoHo and Greenwich Village at the very least. We end up making stops for coffee, at Victoria’s Secret and Barnes and Noble, and more coffee (or in my case, a chai latte). 

We get as far down as the outer reaches of Greenwich Village – passing through Washington Square and the park near the NYU campus – before having to hop in a cab and hot-footing it back to the apartment.

Just as we start getting a feel for the city (and the pedestrian crossings) … it’s over. Like that.

I don’t think the realization it’s the end of the trip, sinks in when we arrive at the airport … nor while shoved in between between these uppity teachers and students from a frou-frou private school on our hour-long flight on the plane … nor even when we arrive back at new-york-november-2008-092C’s apartment back in Toronto to chill.

It’s when I’m back at my desk at work the following day, staring at my computer, wondering where the time went. No – it doesn’t feel like I never left. But I’m experiencing that pang of traveller’s melancholy I think a lot of people go through.

Ah, New York. I may not have gotten to see as much of you as I would have liked. But what I did see makes me regret not seeing you sooner. 

*sigh*

I’ll return one of these days. You’ll see. You are, after all, only a one-hour plane ride away. And you’re too flashy to resist.

Although next time, I’ll make a point of seeing the Brooklyn Bridge – during the day.

Curing The New York Hangover

November 16th.

It’s cold, overcast and rainy. Again. 

And I feel like death warmed over.

I feel like I’ve gotten a full night’s sleep. But I’ve only actually passed out for about five hours.

I stumble into the bedroom and mumble my thanks to my friends for taking care of me, as well as an apology for being the twit who couldn’t hold her liquor. No worries, they said. Besides, I think to myself, I have, after all, provided them with comic entertainment at my expense.

I’m as slow as molasses getting into the shower. But I feel incrementally better afterwards.

We head out into the wind and sporadic rain to the Tick Tock Diner at W 34th and 8th streets for breakfast before we get down to some serious business of the retail variety.

In the past, the sight of a diner breakfast usually erased all thoughts of hungover queasiness, and I was a new woman by the end of the meal. Of course, the past was when I was in my twenties and had a gastrointestinal system that was practically bionic.

Today is another story. The thought of toast comforts me. The thought of eggs and bacon, however, does not. I make the mistake of ordering scrambled eggs, Canadian bacon (which, by the way, I regret wholeheartedly) and potatoes … and I feel myself turn green when the waitress puts it in front of me.

Shortly after I start picking away at my plate, a wave of nausea hits me and I get up from my table, fast. I make a beeline for the back of the restaurant, only to come across what could only be a HUGE lineup for the bathroom.

This can’t be right, I think. I ask the nearest waitress – who happens to be our server – where the bathroom is. She tells me it’s in the corner … where the lineup is.

“Oh crap,” I mutter aloud, looking around for an alternative. The only thing I can do is go back to my seat, and silently resolve to myself to upchuck outside the restaurant (out of view of my friends) if things REALLY get bad.

But as quickly as it comes, the queasiness passes. Just like that. I start to chew on what I can. Somehow I manage to muster up enough of an appetite to eat most of the eggs and bacon on my plate, along with a second order of toast. (Ah, toast. Sweet buttery saviour …)

new-york-november-2008-078After breakfast, it’s on to the Rockerfeller Center – and shopping. We stop to check out the Rockerfeller Plaza skating rink.

(Can I just say it’s WAY smaller than it looks in pictures? How deceiving. I still dig the Prometheus statue, though.)

Our shopping extravanganza starts at J. Crew, where I manage to pick up a nice cable-knit sweater. Next, it’s to Anthropologie, which is a main point of interest for my friend C (who visits the Web site fairly regularly). I think we cover every square inch of that store. Neither of my friends really luck out, but I splurge on a pair of jeans (which, because of the price tag, I will be taking VERY good care of – like they’re the Crown Jewels).

Before we leave the area, we go into the main lobby of the Rockerfeller Center, where we gaze up at the ceiling mural. We’re actually noting out loud about the number of crotches seemingly painted in our direction when I hear a voice say, “Excuse me? Hello?”

It’s the security guard at the front desk, motioning us to come over.

I’m wondering what could we possibly have done wrong, and get C and P’s attention.

As it turns out, the guard gives us an impromptu history lesson, both about the mural painted behind him – Man’s Conquests by Jose Maria Sert – and the story on the ceiling mural (by artist Diego Rivera) , which “moves”, when we follow his instructions. Well … I kinda see what the guard’s talking about as I walk from side to side, but since I still feel hollowed out from the night before, I’m not really getting the full effect.

We leave the area and return to the apartment for a wardrobe change for the next activity on our list: Our big, fancy New York dinner.

We go to Buddakan, this upscale Asian fusion restaurant at 9th anew-york-november-2008-084nd W 15th. The outside doesn’t really give too much away, but the inside is fabulous. As I find out the next day, it’s one of a chain of different frou-frou restaurants run by this guy from Philadelphia, and was one of the restaurants used in the Sex and the City movie.

But forget the hype behind the restaurant – we’re there for the food. And – cool, aloof wait staff aside – it’s ridiculously good.

There was this salad … and sea bass wrapped in cabbage which was so good … and this edemame that blew my tastebuds away … and a sweet-and-sour chicken entree I order, which actually resembles a breaded loaf more so than actual chicken. It’s almost too much.

Then the waitress asks us if we want dessert. We’re stuffed, but decide to look at it anyway. I end up going the whole hog and ordering a small chocolate ganache cake, with a dollop of coffee ice cream perched atop some unsweetened cocoa.

new-york-november-2008-080The presentation of the plate is so perfect, I actually feel bad that we’re going to demolish it in a matter of minutes. But it was so warm and so rich, I probably would have left my body, had I not been weighed down with so much food.  

Following dinner, we look around for a bit longer, checking out the dining area below and snapping a few pictures before calling it a night.

It’s hard to believe but tomorrow is our last morning and afternoon in town before boarding a plane for home. It’s sad to realize that our four-day adventure is almost over.