Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Poor Papa

I told my daughter Tess, who is now nearly 4 by god, that after dance class we’d trudge over to Caffe Napoli for hot chocolate. What I like best about 4 year-olds is that they notice things. Things like bulldozers. Tess was, at that moment, guiding me around one.

“But do you have any money, Papa?”


“No you don’t,” Tess said.

Sometimes she knows more about my life than I do, so who was I to argue. Maybe I didn’t have hot chocolate money.

“Why don’t you think I have money, Punkin?”

Her little voice began to crack. A nerve, I’d hit a nerve.

“Because Mommy always takes money from your wallet,” she said, “so now you don’t have any.”

It was an observation based on a scene from a few minutes earlier. Tracy had, indeed, taken money from my wallet. I’d probably said something to the effect that what she found was all I had. So I guess little Tess had deduced that wallets came with money, and when emptied, they were done. For fifteen minutes now, the time it takes to get to dance class and dodge a parked bulldozer, she’d imagined us being whatever broke looks like to a 4 year old.

She’d be stuck watching Shrek DVDs for the rest of her life because mommy took our last dime for a haircut.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

In The Air

What can I say? I was never very good with pets. Yes, I forget to feed the blog.

But I have an excuse. I’ve been away too much. In the past two months, my sister got married, I had a birthday, I’ve been to Vancouver Island twice, and I’ve made two separate trips to Italy. Sucks to be me? Hell no. Writing a travel book was a very good idea. Well, I nearly lost my fingers and nearly drowned, but that could happen to me in my kitchen. Note that the above traumas were not occasioned by the wedding or my birthday.

I’ve spent a lot of time in airports recently, and on planes. I’ve two things I want to say on the subject.

First, never fly business class unless you’ll never return to coach. The Rome film festival brought me from Vancouver and very generously put me in the fancy class, and now I’ve experienced what they get up there and I’m telling you, it’s gonna hurt even more going back to the seats where I shove my knees in my ears and bang my forehead on the seat in front of me. It’s a secret society up there. It would take me days to explain half the buttons on my chair, and I bet that I missed a few. Heard a rumour that one of them would start my own private puppet show, and that another would do my taxes.

So stay away, unless you plan to stay.

The second thing I wanted to note is a new trend in air mutiny. Upon landing in Rome, some kid was so relieved by our touchdown that he pulled out a smoke and lit up. Not even in the bathroom. Right there, in his seat. I was sort of proud of him, too, until we were told we had to wait on the plane for the police to come and smack him or whatever. The smokers who had held off hated him even more, now, because he’d deferred their own chance to light up by a half an hour.

The question is, did he know he wasn’t supposed to? Is there somebody in this age who doesn’t know the rules?

The question is even harder for me to answer because on my return flight to Vancouver the same thing happened. Only difference was that the smoker lit up while we were over Iceland. His impulse was prompted by the completion of a meal, not our landing. Our flight attendant even made an announcement, incredibly weary in tone, as if he’d said this ten times that day, “Can we remind you that we’re serious when we say no smoking? Please. Please don’t smoke.”

It’s mutiny out there. Strange times. You know there’s pressure when the skies are ablaze with tobacco. So here I am. Best feed the blog before it bites back.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Gong Show

Summer’s almost over, yet I carry on. Yes, I haven’t posted in over two months. Let’s just say I’m noodling about summer jobs, not making it one.

Now, a last one for you.

Each of my stupid summer jobs taught me something. For instance, nail guns are fun. I learned their potential the summer I turned 16. Deploy one liberally into the washroom door next time someone deserving is inside. But of every possible permanence my collection of summer jobs has imprinted on my character, nothing has stuck with me more than one experience that I will take to my grave. It didn’t even come from a nail gun.

The summer I graduated high school I took a job at a factory where they made ultralight airplanes. Motorized kites, really. They’ve got enough lift to carry people who want to mutually experience a death wish.

My job was in the shipping and receiving department. We shelved parts, retrieved parts, and lost parts. My main duty was operating the forklift. I fetched and misplaced the big stuff.

One day my boss asked me to bring a palette of sheeting down from the top shelf of our warehouse racking. That’s like reaching up to the attic of a ridiculously tall house. Palettes, for those unfamiliar with the term, are those wooden platforms we shipper receivers pile all our crap on. They’ve slots for our forklifts so we can easily lift the works. In this case, the palette had about 50 lengths of aeronautical-grade metal sheeting on it. Think lasagna noodles the size of a table, and made of NASA approved aluminum.

I got my forks up there, tucked them under the palette, and inched them forward until they touched the wall. Then I lifted and pulled the palette out. Perfect industrial ballet.

That’s when I saw I’d grabbed the metal sheeting, but no palette. When my boss had said to bring one down, he’d meant lift one up there and slide the sheeting on to it first. Got to be clear about these things. Today I’m an English professor.

The instant I backed up and recognized the misunderstanding, all the metal bent - no, draped -- like a towel over my forks, then slid off one by one, raining down on the concrete floor.

I can still hear it. Dozens of expensive metallic explosions that tapered off into an exotic crunch. It was terrific. Nobody could hear me say wow.

It was also the sound of me getting fired. Think of it as a kind of tolling bell. The bell that closed the day of my last summer job. These are the things we take with us. I don’t know where any of my job skills went. I just have a ringing in my ears.

A few months later I ran into my boss on the bus. She was looking for work. A month after my gaff, the company leased a new building. Movers showed up on a Friday with just two days to transfer all the machinery and inventory across town. They managed to move it all by Monday. Only they kept going. They took it, an entire factory. Not a word, not a trace. Just gone.

What quiet work. Nothing but the occasional, “Shhh”.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010



The summer I turned 17 I scored a job that required my father’s steel-toed boots. How I coveted their worn, greasy look. His boots said, “These feet belong to a man of muscle and know-how, a man who likely owns a drill press”. I wanted those feet.

But his boots didn’t fit me. They were painfully small. Too bad. I wore them anyway.

Sunrise, my first day on the job, I stood in the middle of a concrete yard with my new boss. A dump truck backed towards us. The specifics of my duties weren’t clear yet. We repaired the chains that hold log booms together in the water. That’s all I knew.

The dump truck tipped its load. Thousands of chains heaped themselves in front of us. Imagine a knotted lump of steel wool the size of a boxcar. Each chain weighed about a hundred pounds. The links were as thick as my arm. The hooks on either end were the size of my hands.

“Sort these,” my boss said. “They’re either good, bad or so-so condition.”

I stared at the pile, hoping it would go away.

“Uh, sort like how?” I said.

He tossed a few chains as if he was throwing spaghetti. A new pile began behind us.

“Good and good and good, see? Get it? It ain’t hard.”

My look seemed to say something different.

“What are you waiting for?” he said. “You want an invitation in the mail?”

I pulled at my first chain. It was like trying to pry a brick from a wall. My boss watched me as if studying an alien. I must have tried a dozen or two before I finally found a chain that had some give. To unhook and lift it took all my strength. Then I slowly humped it over to the good pile and dropped it on my feet when my arms gave out. There would be no tossing today.

“Lucky I’ve got these boots,” I said.

“What’re you doing? That chain’s no good. Move it for chrissake.”

I got it halfway to a new spot before I needed a break.

“And after this what do I do?” I panted.

”What do you mean? This is what you do. Lunch is at noon.”

He wandered back inside the warehouse, shaking his head.

I could barely hold my steering wheel when I drove home that afternoon. What strength I had left I devoted to composing arguments. I needed one that would convince my parents that I should, for some greater purpose or ethical reasoning, quit this job. “My arms are sore” didn’t have that edge.

Fortunately my boss phoned that night and fired me. After one day, no less. I was so happy. I thanked him profusely. Sweet relief. I couldn’t wait to tell my parents. I’d just swap “fired” for “laid off”. Presto, instant absolution.

Only later would it occur to me what this really meant. I’d been hired to make three piles. I’d been fired for an inability to make three piles. Or…nope, that was it. My future didn’t look good.

Long story short, this was the summer job that taught me how to read Charles Dickens.

Pip, the hero of Dickens’ Great Expectations, was proud of his boots. They were practical for the kind of work he did with his beloved Uncle Joe at the forge. Then, one day, a young woman commented to Pip about how rough his boots looked. She mocked them. Pip grew self-conscious, even embarrassed by them. He’d never considered what boots “meant” before. That’s when they ceased to be boots. They just became code.

For my money, this is what Great Expectations is about. A lifetime of ambition and scheming, of desire and failure, when Pip really just wanted his boots back.

Think I know what he means.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Commute


The summer I turned 15 my best friend and I landed a weekend gig cleaning a planing mill under the knight Street Bridge, on the north bank of the Fraser river. That’s about a 45 minute drive from Langley, BC, where I grew up.

Only problem was that my best friend and I were too young to drive to work. Not to worry. We could car pool with three other guys, our new boss said. They were a bit older, they lived near us, and they also had weekend duties around the mill.

We were to meet these guys at the 7-11 store parking lot at 5:30 on Saturday morning. Be prompt, our boss warned. My best friend’s mom drove us there and we waited until nearly 6:30. Just as we were about to give up, a wheezing white van sped into the empty stall beside our car and rolled down its driver’s window.

“You the new grunts?” a young man in his 20’s grunted.

We climbed out of my friend’s mom’s car and into the van with our new co-workers. I was the only one with a lunch box. I quickly tucked it behind my legs, stashing it under the van’s bench seat. Heavy metal guitar screamed from the dashboard speakers.

I slid the van’s door shut as my friend’s mom waved goodbye to us through the window of her car.

“That your mom?” our driver grunted at my friend.

“Uh huh.”

Our driver rolled his window down again and motioned for my friend’s mom to do the same. She did.

“Hey, like, bye mom!” he shouted, punched the van into gear, and stomped the gas pedal to the floor.

The van launched forward out of its parking stall, ground over a car stop, humped over the sidewalk and peeled diagonally across the intersection through a red light.

We looked back through the window. My friend’s mom’s car didn’t move. It shrank awfully fast.

We zigzagged down the street, and sometimes down the sidewalk, putting all lanes to good use. ,

The driver looked back at my friend again. “hey,” he said into the mirror, “how come you didn’t say bye to your mom,”

Neither my friend nor I said anything. We just knew it was going to be a long day. A long summer. Or a very short one. Or a short life.

“Fresh meat!” the guy in the passenger seat cheered. “We got some fresh meat!”

Monday, June 14, 2010

Dressing Up

If you missed my rash of recent scribblings, over the next few days I’ll post various pieces that ran online elsewhere. I think of this as bringing them home.

First, the National Post kindly invited me to blog for them last week, which explains my own blog’s silent indifference to its readers. Sorry about that. Nothing personal.

The Post editors let me pen a handful of pieces about summer jobs I’ve had. True tales. Below is the first of five to come in a series. You might want to cue up Eddie Cochrane’s “Summertime Blues” for accompanyment.


Here at the university where I teach, the cycle of student fashion is about to finish. Initially students show up for classes spiffy and hopeful in their best new duds. Then by mid term everybody just wanders around in their depression uniforms. You know, those alternating yoga and sweat pant combos. Hair scrunchies bloom.

But finally we are at year’s end, when many students are gearing up to swap their studies for summer employment. And how do they dress for the occasion? Many resurrect those fave first-week -of-classes getups. Guess who has a job interview today? I call it “the exit look”.

My first summer job was stuffing flyers into the local newspaper two nights a week from midnight until eight in the morning. I think I made $3.65 an hour. I was 14. Truth be told, I probably would have worked for any wage just this side of spare change. Yes, the job sucked – open a newspaper to the middle, put in the flyer, repeat tens of thousands of times - but I was on the graveyard shift. Not one of my peers could claim the same. And let me tell you, to be 14 and to leave a party at midnight telling anybody who’ll listen that you’re late for work, well, you can’t buy that kind of cool.

Not unless you’ve got $3.65 an hour and a monotonous task that needs doing.

Like my students, I put a lot of thought into what I should wear. My father had steel-toed boots. Should I borrow them? Was my Skinny Puppy concert t-shirt a smidge too arty? I wanted to strike the right balance of “I’m on my way to greater things” and “Please don’t fire me”. A subtle first impression.

An outfit was elected. I also decided that I would sport my contact lenses. Most important of all, though, I would take my coffee black if they offered some. I’d never tried coffee before. I couldn’t wait to show them what I was all about.

Yes, well.

Minutes into my first night, my carefully chosen white shirt and faded jeans were pocked with fingerprints. My hands had morphed into ink pads. I also discovered that the newspaper fibres that choke the air can make a fella quite itchy. Itchy enough that, two hours into my first shift, I couldn’t rub my eyes hard or fast enough.

And so I spent the rest of the night looking like an inky raccoon. Worse, I’d rubbed my right contact lens somewhere behind my eyeball.

“Knighton, you okay?” my boss said, thumping several hundred newspapers down on my bench.

“Fine,” I said, yarding at my black eyelid and cornea.

I dug after it for the next hour. Didn’t matter. My contact lens remained stuck way back there, pressed against my brain, until I got home the next morning. My father had to tweeze it out.

The next night I arrived a different young man. Tempered. Resigned. I wore something ugly and dark from the bottom of my dresser drawer. My boss didn’t notice the defeat of my fashion sense, nor my extinguished love for the graveyard shift. She just said, “Hey, I didn’t know you wear glasses.”

With veteran grace I opened THE first of several thousand newspapers that night. What’s to tell? I did my job. It’s not a fashion show, you know.

And this time I was careful, at least for a few hours, not to lick my fingers before flipping the pages.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Campus Life

Nothing but Spring and sun since my return from launching C’mon Papa on the east coast. Having been lost in one block of New York’s lower east side for several hours, it’s a wonder I made it home.

So I’m back in my office and teaching again. Fresh students, fresh semester and, as Spring always brings, fresh construction sites trying to kill me.

The building next to mine is undergoing surgery of some kind. I know this because I tapped across campus into a chain link fence where a door should have been.. Then, like a rat, I followed its perimeter. Then, unlike a rat, I got lost.

I could hear a lot of loud crashing. Things, heavy things, fell from the building’s roof. Men tossed down debris, or maybe flung it at me, the moving target.

Until someone grabbed my elbow. “Here,” he said, “let me guide you around all this.”

As we walked, he narrated what we passed.

“And here’s the stairs, and here’s the ramp, and here’s the lawn...”

And there, on the central lawn, was a class.

“And now we’re passing the first aid students,” my guide said.

You see where this is going? First aid students, a class of them, right there.

Let’s do the math. Blind man wandering through falling debris in a construction pit equals very hopeful first aid students. This explains why they were so quiet. They were busy watching me for their big chance.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Upcoming Toronto and Vancouver Events for C'mon Papa

My new book, C’mon Papa: Dispatches from a Dad in the Dark, is about to arrive. Below are some launch events that will take place in Vancouver and Toronto over the next two weeks. Come if you can.

Hell, come if you can’t.

Wednesday, May 5, Toronto. 7:30 PM.
Harbourfront Centre, the Brigantine Room.
235 Queen’s Quay West
Phone: 416.973.4760 for tickets.
A reading from C’mon Papa to be followed by an onstage interview with Erica Ehm. Yes, that Erica Ehm. I’m not even in a band.

Sunday, May 9, North Vancouver. 7:30 PM.
Capilano University, Capilano Performing Arts Theatre.
2055 Purcell Way.
A reading from C’mon Papa, some anecdotes, and an onstage interview. Guest tomfoolery to be provided by George Bowering. Apologies to moms for launching a fatherhood memoir on Mother’s Day. Then again, may 9 is also the 50th anniversary of the FDA’s approval of the birth control pill. Ironies abound.

Wednesday, May 12, Vancouver. 7:00 PM.
Shebeen Whisk(e)y Bar, back of The Irish Heather.
210 Carrall Street.
Free, no tickets necessary.
A reception for C’mon Papa. All invited. Cash bar, rockabilly tunes. Come hang out. Book your babysitter now.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Writing Life

I don’t play my old guitar well enough to deserve it.

Wait. Is that even a sentence? Looks right but sounds off. Maybe I don’t make my own sentences well enough to deserve them, either. Yes, I’m blind, but that doesn’t mean I can play the guitar or write about not playing it well. I ever told you how tinny my ear is?

Anyways, I have an old guitar, despite my shitty technique, and it was a gift – my guitar, not my shitty technique (jeez, who’s keyboard is this?) – from my wife, Tracy. It’s an acoustic, a 1962 Gibson LGO. Smells like the church my grandparents frequent. Oh, how it fits in my hands.

Tracy ordered it off EBay for my birthday last year. A secret gift sourced in New Mexico, and picked by her in consultation with my friend Paul Pigat, who is, yes, that guy on YouTube who plays rockabilly faster than I can type my windy run on off into the horizon sentences bloated with too many wandering prepositions.

Tracy had the guitar shipped to the post office in our neighbourhood. When it arrived, she snuck out with Tess when I was at the gym. The two of them carried it home in a large cardboard box, one that looked an awful lot like a guitar, I’m told.

At the end of our street is a small grassy hill that edges the corner lot. Tess, at that time, considered it the only spot in town to play. She always insisted on running up and down the hill a few dozen times before passing by. Sort of the way we insist on chatting with people we know on the street. Civility buds in the oddest places.

So, on the way back from the post office with my guitar, Tracy had to stop at the corner with Tess. She – Tracy, not Tess – stood my guitar on the grass just a few feet from the sidewalk and let Tess run up and down her BFF landscape a few times.

And that’s when I came blindly trundling home, heading straight for them.

What to do? Tracy panicked, but quickly realized that I had no clue there was a guitar shaped box standing on the grass. She was right. I recognized the sound of Tess on the hill and that was all I saw. I stopped on the sidewalk to listen and hang out with my family. Tracy said they’d been out to the post office. Bills to pay, that sort of stuff. I called Tess for a hug and she ignored me. There’s no competing with the friendship of hills.

The whole time I was standing beside my birthday present.

Finally I said I was going to head inside to grab a shower, and left, shuffling down the sidewalk.

Tracy had done it. She’d pulled it off. Hell, she proven that, in the future, she could even keep my birthday presents on the kitchen table or next to the TV until she felt like wrapping them.

Thing is, I hadn’t quite gotten my aim right. I started to shuffle off, but My feet immediately left the concrete and wandered along the grass a few steps until I bulled into something, and knocked it over. Then it rang against the ground. Exactly like the sound of an acoustic guitar in a cardboard box. Sometimes I have impeccable hearing.
“Is that – ?“

“It’s, no, it’s -- nevermind, happy birthday,” Tracy said.

Her tone was that of hands being thrown up in defeat. Of everything in our neighbourhood I could have walked into, I chose the one obscure point that held my gift.

Even when I’m lost I find stuff, it seems.

And all this story was just meant as a preamble to something else, but I can’t recall where I was going with it.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Notes From The Animal Kingdom

Been blog quiet because I’ve been mostly on the road. I’d tell you about my experiences hunting rattlesnakes in Sweetwater, Texas, but you’ll just have to wait for my travel book for those tales. Suffice to say, this post gives away at least part of the ending, which is, yes, I survived.

Then I was in LA pitching a movie to be based on my fatherhood memoir, C’mon Papa, which will be published next month. I’ll leave you to make the requisite jokes about LA and further snake hunting. Surprisingly enough, I found the 3 days of chronic storytelling sort of refreshing, in an exhausting, pitch-oriented kinda way. At least I got to tell some folks about my misadventures in Texas, even if it was for purely business purposes.

And it just occurred to me: could I be the first person in history who will use snake hunting expenses as a tax write off? Well, me and Bo, my guide. If he’s still alive. He’d another 2 days to go. According to the usual math, that’s about 100 snakes. If you’re with the IRS, don’t fuck with Bo. That’s my accounting advice to you.

While I didn’t encounter any snakes in LA, I did encounter several animals.

“Why,” I asked the development executive at a very nice production office, “why do you have a 7 foot tall plush giraffe?”

I was sort of disappointed when he didn’t ask, “Which one?”

“Oh,” he said. “Well, everything in this room is designed to be a talking point.”

It was true. We were talking. The giraffe caused it. But now I was trying to imagine what else as a blind guy I was missing in this conference room full of talking points. My assistant had put my hand only on the giraffe when we arrived. How much more could there be? What could there be?

“Beside you,” the executive added, “there are 3 dogs, as well. Stuffed ones.”

I stared at the blindness beside me and slightly recoiled in horror.

“Stuffed stuffed?” I said. “Or, you know, just…stuffed?”

“Oh, just stuffed. They’re props. They were the dogs that stood in for the corpses of the 3 assassinated dogs in A Fish Called Wanda.”

And my heart filled with awe. A true celebrity moment. Here I was within reaching distance of the funniest subplot ever written. It was a talking point that left me speechless. Speechless and stupid, it seems, because what did I do next?

I did my pitch and left without touching the damned dogs.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Play It Again

As a parent you inevitably fantasize about the pastoral scenes of child’s play that will engulf your life. In soft focus and pastel hues I saw Tess in a sun-bathed playhouse. I was reaching up to help her down the ladder. I envisioned elaborate tea parties, soccer on the front lawn, and elaborate tea parties. I saw a bike. She’d be jumping at the door, antsy to get her coat on. I saw her bolting outside for a ride in the sun that bathes her playhouse. Her bike would have streamers. They’d catch the sun.

Sure there’s some of all the above, though it’s always raining in fungal Vancouver. But no activity occupies as much of Tess’ play time as one game, or her custom variations of that one game. Her favorite game.

"C’mon Papa,” she says. “Let’s play sleeping.”

Over the course of a Saturday I’ll hear this a half dozen times. The first occasion is usually around 6:30 AM. That would be fine, but the game called Sleeping doesn’t actually involve sleeping. Let it be said that at 6:30 AM every Saturday morning, this duplicitous game is a mild form of father abuse.

Here’s how you play sleeping.

You, the father, are now “the kid”. You “the kid” lay in the toddler bed and go to sleep, but you don’t’ really go to sleep. Keep your eyes close, lest you catch shit, but you must stay alert under those lids, whatever you do.

“Updates” are about to come at you. They will come from “the mommy” who sleeps beside you, but who doesn’t actually close her own eyes. Her job is to monitor, in part, your commitment to the game, so her pretense to sleeping is somewhat compromised. Do not note this weakness in her performance. Just pretend you’re asleep, if it helps.

Now you’re ready to play. And here’s how it goes.

You lay there.

“Updates” are descriptions you will receive about whatever the mommy has to do while you, the kid, do nothing. That is, Tess will get up every thirty seconds or so to attend to something within the purview of a mommy, something that interrupts her sleep, but leaves my sleep, as “the kid”, intact, and boring as all get out.

“The phone is ringing,” she says. “The baby is crying. Now I have to sew and turn the light off and...”

The light is already off, so she’ll have to turn it on, then off, to complete her task.

“Now I have to shut the door. The phone is ringing! Hello? No, we’re sleeping..”

All of this causes the baby to cry again, so Tess will declare that she has to get out of bed – although she hasn’t touched the bed in ten minutes now – and off she’ll go, to soothe her imaginary baby, the one sleeping on the floor, where Tess will soon do some “yoga” while I – you guessed it – sleep.

And by this point I am falling asleep for lack of any exertion of any kind.

“Papa!” she shouts. “Pa-pa wake up!”


“Don’t do that. Now go to sleep!"

The paradox will hurt your brain. It will pass.

"Hey,” I might try. “The sunshine came out! Let’s go -- surfing!”

Random verbs are my only hope. They tempt her imagination sometimes.

But Tess’s reaction is typically swift and pointed. She just drops whatever yoga pose she’s doing and turns the light on again.

“No! Stay in your bed -- kid!”

Off goes the light.

With that she’ll lay down beside me and ask the most confusing question of all. It’s an inevitable part of the game known as Sleeping.

“Papa,” she’ll whisper.

“Uh huh,” I’ll whisper back, careful not to open my eyes ever again.

“Can we play sleeping?”

Friday, March 5, 2010

As She Likes

Here’s today’s news from fatherhood:

Tess doesn’t like much.

I’d like to believe I just figured out something about 3 year-olds, or at least my 3 year-old, so if you have any evidence to the contrary, please keep it to yourself until I’ve moved on to other convictions about child development.

But I’m pretty sure Tess doesn’t like much.

This isn’t to say she doesn’t like anything, nor is it to say she’s bored or unhappy or already weary of what this world has to offer. I think she likes just as much as she’s supposed to like, and what she does feel affection towards, or lends her interest towards, well, that stuff gets some serious Tess-time..

And that just turns out to be a few things.

For instance, I used to think she loved Fraggle Rock. Who doesn’t? It’s a little more hippie than I remember, and the songs really privilege that 70’s soft country sound, but all in all it holds up. Boober, The Trash Heap, the Doozers, the whole package.

Tess seemed to love it. But something about the way she watches makes me think she’s actually interested in less than the whole . She doesn’t exactly watch. She waits. She waits and occasionally watches whatever she’s been waiting for, then she waits all over again, which sort of resembles watching.

I started to think it was just certain episodes, or sequences. Then I got to thinking she actually just likes certain characters. Maybe just Gobo’s hair. She perches on the couch ready to pounce on a flash of it.

But my suspicion these days is that it’s all about Sprocket, the muppet dog. Who knows. Most likely, though, it’s just that one moment on episode 3 when Sprocket roller skates. Tess laughs at that. Then I guess she just resumes her waiting to see if he’ll ever do it again.

Must make for disappointing television if an entire season only delivers the one moment you like, er, once.

But I didn’t arrive at this sense of Tess only through her viewing habits. It’s all in keeping with her relationship to food, too. Again, she likes food, but she doesn’t like much.

Consider, she doesn’t like yogurt. She likes vanilla yogurt. And not any vanilla yogurt. You can fly that watery stuff off the nearest dock. And she wants it with her pink spoon. The one we bring to restaurants so she’ll actually eat. Got a big fancy spoon? Good for you. She’ll starve before she uses it. A little O.C. of her? Maybe. But she does insist on referring to pink as “her colour”, so the spoon issue is really more a matter of fidelity than compulsion.

Last night she suggested we go out for sushi, so she could eat her cheese pizza. Note that she doesn’t eat the crusts. Those are crusts. Crusts are not pizza. That’s why they have their own name. So what if a little cheese and sauce gets on the crust. That’s cheesy crust, not pizza. Keep your semantics to yourself, and just get me a high chair. No booster seats, thank you, unless their pink.

When she finished her dinner last night, she stuck her crusts in my tempura and declared she was done, ready to go. She looked around the sushi restaurant, probably hoping to catch a glimpse of a roller-skating dog before we left. That’s how you know she’s waiting.

“Do you have any money, punkin?” I asked.

I was teasing, of course, but also sort of half-wondering. The kid spends nothing and collects change like nobody’s business. I swear her piggy banks (plural) sport a smug expression known as “mockery”.

“no, papa,” she lied. “I don’t have money.”

“”Well, how will you pay, then?”

A slight worry in her voice emerged.

“Do you have money, Papa?”

“Me? No. Oh no! We have no money!”

She got down from the table, totally disinterested in this story, its crisis and characters.

“I want to go home and watch a show.”

“But we can’t pay! What will we do?”

She put her sweater on.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Crowd Control and Other Olympic Sports

My pals and readers who live beyond the 4 square blocks I tend to restrict myself to, they’ve been asking how It all went, life in the Olympic city. To them I can only say this.

The Olympics were here?

Wouldn’t have known it it in my neighbourhood. For that I’m grateful. Last thing I wanted to suffer was all the guidance. I can just see it. Crowds of red mittens grabbing at my elbows, trying to exercise some patriotic do-gooderness on the local blind guy.

But I did venture downtown once. Once. That was enough. Almost didn’t make it home.

One afternoon I took the Skytrain to Granville Station. Wanted to pick up a fancy mixer at the Bay for Tracy for Valentine’s Day.

Before you scoff, before you denounce my dippy choice of romantic gifts – yeah, yeah, nothing says love like a muffin production gadget – let me say Tracy has had it on her wish list for some time now. It ain’t just a mixer. This thing is a GPS, editing suite and a mobile surgical facility in a box.

And my plan was to get it for my gal, all those winter sports hooligans be damned.

The numbers weren't on my side, though. Sure were a lot of those folks around. Enough so that they packed the Skytrain like never before. So when we arrived at the Granville station, getting off wasn’t the usual breeze. The crowd slowly spilled out. Toothpaste-like.

Except me.

I was that last guy, the one who the doors close on. Only the doors didn’t close on me exactly, they closed on my white cane. Think of two teeth biting down on a toothpick, but sideways.

I wrenched and yanked, but couldn’t get my mobility aid out. The handle remained inside the car with me, but about 3 feet stuck outside, pointing in the direction I’d meant to go.

And then the train took off.

“Hey, that thing stuck?” an Olympic enthusiast asked, tapping me on the shoulder with his red mitten.

I gave up yanking and instead tried to lever the cane like an oar. No give.

"Well whaddya know,” I said, and wrenched again. “Who’d of thought.”

Three feet of cane continued to jut from our car’s door and greet the tunnel we were about to enter.

“Do you think it’ll clear the wall?” I asked.

“Uh oh,” said the red mittens.

We both stepped back from the cane’s handle, and waited to see what would happen. It was sort of like observing a feral animal that might be dead, or could be ready to pounce.

But the handle just hung there. The outside half didn’t seem to graze anything, or spark, or snap off. Not yet.

“Think you’re okay,” the mittens finally said.

As we pulled into the next station I imagined what it must have looked like to folks waiting on the platform, this cane sticking out of the door, cutting along like a scythe.

But no decapitations followed. Not that I know of.

Finally the car stopped, the doors opened, the cane fell into my hand, and what had been a scythe now returned to its gentler nature.

Now I could cheerfully be pissed off, about being lost at the wrong station and all that. Bloody crowds, bloody cane. Wait’ll I’m carrying an industrial-grade food processor, I thought.