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.