Kicking Some Ice

At a glance, luge is sort of boring. Get on a sled, zoom down a track, try not to crash. Before Pyeongychang 2018, I always felt luge was the equivalent of getting into an inflatable tube and launching yourself down a frozen water slide. It was the kind of sport that made me scratch my head and wonder about the lengths very rich, very bored and very winter-bound people will go to enjoy a season that isn’t always kind to humans. But that was then, and this is now, thanks to CBC’s livestream of the Winter Olympics and my recent acquisition of a foldable, amplified, indoor antenna (Philips, $19.99 + tax. Cheap!).

I am neither rich nor very bored (this part is debatable), but I am definitely very winter-bound right now. My way of coping with the weather is the way almost everyone born in the tropics does it: pure avoidance. Oh sure, I’ll do an occasional bit of ice skating and maybe even do a little sidewalk shovelling, but actually playing in the snow day in and day out and going as far as saying I love winter? Nope. When forced to confront it, I will dress like the Michelin Man. Judge all you want, when it comes to snow, I’ve long since given up style over substance because I like having ten fingers and ten toes.

Anyway.

Thanks to the wonders of free TV channels and closed captions, I’ve been getting a crash course on winter sports for the past fortnight. Prior to this year, the most attention I’ve ever paid to the Winter Olympics is to watch figure skating, I’ve learned that the Dutch dominate long distance speed skating, the Germans are lugers par excellence, the Norwegians own skiing, and Canadians claim hockey as a matter of course (although the USA always begs to differ).

I also learned that lugers use their shoulders, calves and tightly controlled shifts of body weight to control a sled that’s speeding down a track going at least 120 km/h, a helmet their only protection from a tremendous amount of g-force, fast reflexes the only thing standing between success and total annihilation. I’ve been on the freeway, clutching my seat at a lesser speed than that, and that’s riding in a car with airbags. Definitely not like a waterslide. Luge is a badass discipline.

I’ve gotten emotional watching lugers lately. Hell, I’ve been getting emotional watching Olympians lately. There’s something about watching people get recognition for years of hard work and discipline, in an arena where only the best of the best get to compete. It’s hard not to get emotionally affected by their obvious pride and joy when they know they’ve done a good job, and represented themselves, their sport and their own countries as well as they ever could have in a sport that’s already difficult to master on its own, not to mention it being set in the harshest season of all.

Compared to the online Olympics we all live through these days, a steady onslaught of one-upmanship to see who has the most perfect life, Pyeongchang 2018 is something I can get behind a hundred percent. I like watching these athletes succeed. It’s great to see people overcoming the sheer adversity of winter. To turn a season that is at best uncomfortable and at worst, deadly, into an opportunity to have fun is something I find inspiring. And I don’t usually gush, but it’s been such a crappy winter, I think I needed to be reminded that fun can be had no matter how harsh the conditions, and that the harder the struggle, the sweeter the reward. That’s true #goals.

 

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Not Gonna Fly

Someone tried to fly United with a pet peacock. Just when I thought attempting to fly with a mini-pig couldn’t be topped, this lady buys a ticket for her pet peacock, goes to the airport with it and claims it’s an emotional support animal.

I get it, flying is stressful. The long lines, random spot checks, being treated like a potential terrorist, limited leg room, three hundred passengers and only four common toilets, turbulence. It’s usually a manageable sort of stress, but some need a lot more help coping. Mostly it’s Benadryl and an eye mask, but the really special cases need an emotional support animal (ESA) – not to be confused with a service animal – along for the ride.

To fly with an ESA in tow is not an easy process. There is paperwork involved, including a note from a licensed mental health professional and the ESA needs to be registered with the airline at least two days before the flight. The animal is expected to be calm and well-behaved and United Airlines had warned her three times  that she and her stupid peacock would, for obvious reasons, be denied boarding. She showed up at the airport anyway.

The peacock in question has its own Instagram account and is named Dexter. Its owner is an artist, who specializes in performative tableaus, mostly about beauty. Dexter is a pet, not an ESA, and this incident highlights cases of people abusing the system by pretending they have a mental or emotional disability just to get their pet to fly with them for free.

Is this what we get for encouraging our children to dream big by telling them they’re special beings who can be anything they want to be?  Because this kind of delusional jackassery is a load of hooey. Just because you can be anything you want to be does not give you license to bring a giant peacock on a plane, even if you went ahead and bought it a ticket. It’s a fucking bird. If it needs to fly, it has wings. Emotional support peacock, my ass. Emotional support poppycock is more like it.

When it comes to ESAs, reaction is mixed. Some don’t believe they’re necessary, while others say the animals do help with anxiety  and depression. I think it depends on the person, but I’m not going to have a lot of understanding for you if you claim to derive some sort of emotional stability from a peacock.  That is bullshit. Go hug puppies like the rest of us. Hell, get a cat if you’re secretly masochistic, just don’t be a showy little shit who refuses to follow instructions or heed warnings  because you’re different and special and the rules don’t apply to you.

Why does everyone seem to either come from the Planet of Woe is Me or the Galaxy of Here I Come these days? I could just be old(er) and a little less hip, but can we please stop indulging people who’ve jumped on the bandwagon marked Free Rides for Wannabe Unique People Who Love Being Extra? It’s indulgent and symptomatic of a culture that relies on too much validation to get through the day. Can’t we all just stiffen our upper lips, straighten our spines, pop a few pills and knock back some scotch like they did in the fifties? People may have been alcoholic and chemically dependent back then, but at least they kept their messiness in check.

Sometimes it feels like people have forgotten how to be considerate. Can you imagine what it would’ve been like if United Airlines hadn’t stuck to its guns? The clucking, the spontaneous showboating, the threat of  random bird poop. What a nightmare. I am so annoyed by this. It’s all a stunt and a bid for attention because this was clearly done by a fame whore with absolutely no shame, and I’m mad at myself for falling into the trap of talking about it.

Quotable Quotes

“You can’t beat death. It’s un-fucking-defeated. And if you fight it, it will humiliate you. It’ll chain you to a bed and make someone have to wipe your shitty ass. It’ll make you forget who your own fucking kids are. It takes your dignity and it whips its’ dick out and pisses on it. When you’re younger and it comes for you, it’s worth it to fight it and suffer through the humiliation. When you’re older, what the fuck does it get you to go through that?”

My Grandma’s been reminding me she’s ready every chance she gets, and has done so for the better part of the last fifteen years. She’d probably have put it this way if she was a grumpy old coot with a gutter mouth and absolutely no filter, but she’s a retired teacher and a dignified lady, so she settles for “I’m already eighty-six, you know.”

I think you need to be at least seventy to grasp the whole concept of dying, to settle down and accept the inevitable. Me, I’m still clinging tightly to life the way power bottoms cling to a well-hung top Kate clung to Leo in the middle of the Arctic. Beats the not knowing, if you ask me.

Shit someone’s dad says, in GQ.

The Darwin Awards

Forget about ghost peppers, it’s all about detergent these days. The Tide Pod Challenge is the latest in a long line of weird things humans do because they’re bored, enjoy putting strange things in their mouths, and have completely lost their minds.

Tide Pods are pillowy little sacs of ultra-concentrated detergent that are designed to be thrown in the wash. They’re pre-measured, so not only do they save time, they also save money – no more over-scooping laundry powder, or laundry liquid, which can affect the efficiency, and longevity, of your washing machine. It’s less garbage, too. The plastic that encases the detergent is completely dissolvable, so this can also be good for the environment.

One little sac, or pod, contains enough concentrate to clean a light-to-heavy load of laundry; some come with a little spurt of bleach for extra stain removal, some have a bit of fabric softener, some have both. The pods are cute, very colourful, and smell amazing, like a clean mountain breeze, or flowers after a spring rain.

And teenagers are eating them on a dare. Not babies attracted to bright colours, not mentally challenged children unable to distinguish between the edible and inedible, not senior citizens with poor eyesight. Teenagers. Even better, they’re documenting themselves eating said laundry pods for posterity and uploading the evidence online, all in the name of fame and clicks which, hopefully, gives them a sense of accomplishment and validation before they’re carted away to the ER and scheduled for a nice, cleansing stomach pump.

Side effects of ingesting laundry concentrate include burning of the throat and lungs, seizures, loss of consciousness, and yes, death. Procter & Gamble came out with a public service announcement, essentially begging  teenagers not to eat Tide Pods. If you have to be told via PSA that eating detergent is bad, it’s too late for you. We don’t want humans with poor life choices and faulty mental wiring to spread their genes, do we? This is a positive thing, people. It’s just human evolution at work, Mother Nature finding new ways and means to weed out the stupid.

Of course teenagers know when they’re doing something dumb. I say let them. Some things can’t be taught, and some people wouldn’t listen anyway. Lessons that have been learned as consequences of stupidity are usually lasting ones. You can bet they’re never going to undertake stupid eating challenges again, mostly because of the giant hole in their esophagus, but let’s just focus on the positive, shall we?

A huge part of  humanity is obviously not going to go all in and start scarfing up laundry pods like there’s no tomorrow, because I don’t know, most of us actually want to keep living.  But then you have the outsized reactions, people panicking, with the PSAs and the finger pointing and calls to “ban Tide pods.”

It’s not time to ban Tide pods. It’s time to rediscover the principle of common sense. Keep laundry detergent away from babies and toddlers. Help your child understand consequences. Stop buying your children Unicorn frappucinos. Explain that not everything bright and beautiful is meant to be put in one’s mouth. Inform them that once upon  a time, eating a soap bar was considered punishment, not a one-way ticket to internet stardom.

Nature isn’t safe. Nature isn’t harmless. It is a jungle out there, and we can’t just keep protecting our children from everything. Children need to be allowed to make mistakes. Children need to learn how to recognize warning signs, to know what’s dangerous and what isn’t. All we can do is try and ensure they grow up with good heads on their shoulders. The failure to parent is not a good enough reason  to deny the rest of us the convenience of concentrated laundry soap.  Why do we have to be suffer? We’re not the ones eating the damn things.

 

The Theory of Me Too

“I remember being sexualized by gardeners – gardeners are the construction workers of Long Island, you know. I’d walk past a gardening truck and I remember feeling like wow, I’m way too young to be getting this kind of sexual energy from these guys. I only wanted that attention when I wanted it. I guess that’s what every woman wants. No one wants unwanted sexual attention.”

– Amy Schumer to Judd Apatow, Sick in the Head (Random House, 2015)

 

Because 2017 was the year we lifted the rock and found a maggoty nest of perverts, it’s gotten to the point where we wake up in the morning utterly unsurprised to find another famous, powerful man outed for being a creep. Nothing new, no big deal, just adding a little more grist to the #MeToo mill.

I am not discounting the stories of women who were and are victims of sexual assault, rape and harassment. These are situations many of us hope never to experience. #MeToo is about women (and men) who were abused by men in power, who can no longer stay silent or tamp down their rage at being made to feel helpless. #MeToo was born out of victims forced to do or accept things they found abhorrent because the perpetrators held all the cards.

But say I piped up and said #MeToo because a motorcab driver wolf-whistled at me as he drove past? #MeToo because I’m having fun on the dance floor and some rando comes over uninvited and starts dancing suggestively with me? Or #MeToo because a neighbour was peeping over the fence into our kitchen while I was washing dishes, happy being completely unsexy in ratty house clothes not even worth donating to the Salvation Army?

Do I cower? Do I say I’m never going to dance again, Careless Whisper? Do I say I’m scarred for life, am emotionally unable to function and that my dreams are dead? Or do I stealthily grab one of my Dad’s very legit looking air rifles, haul ass over the kitchen sink, crouch down, wait for the guy’s head to appear again, then pop up and point the barrel of it at him like a vengeful harpy bent on bloodshed?

(Incidentally, I never saw that neighbour again.)

Take the pigeons outside of my building. All day, every day, males waddle after a chosen female, flapping their wings, ruffling their feathers, trying to get the female to mate. They only stop when someone throws them stale bread. It’s a biological imperative – male birds are programmed to mate, thereby ensuring their DNA doesn’t go to pot, while female birds are programmed to ensure the DNA they get is worth the hassle of gestation and subsequent baby pigeon rearing. While humans operate on a higher level than pigeons, you can’t deny the similarities when it comes to finding a mate.

Flirtation is one thing, out and out harassment another. There’s really no grey area when it comes to sexual harassment. It’s wrong. You know what makes it worse? Harassing people if you’re not gifted in the looks department. It’s just too risky. Females do not want unwanted sexual attention. And no one wants unwanted sexual attention from a dud.

I think a bit of the subtext behind #MeToo that no one wants to admit is that harassment is offensive because it cheapens the receiver by undermining their view of themselves. If we’re going to be hit on, we should be hit on by Mr. Right, not a corpulent gasbag with a bald patch. In other words: maot man ka, (you’re ugly), how dare you.

Put it this way: if I show up to audition for Tom Hardy in his hotel room and he greets me in a bathrobe and asks me to join him in the hot tub, then… I’ll purify my black soul later. If I show up to audition for Harvey Weinstein in his hotel room and he greets me in a bathrobe and asks me to join him in the hot tub, then… maot man ka, how dare you.

Every red-blooded female has had her fair share of eager males looking for a little something something. It happens, and I’m not saying it should be ignored, but crying about it is a waste of time. Let’s not be the girl who went on a date with Aziz Ansari and blabbed to a media outlet about how crappy it went because she didn’t get to pick the wine of her choice and he kept trying to get her to have sexy times and somehow “didn’t read her nonverbal cues,” therefore #MeToo. Her career wasn’t on the line. She had nothing invested. He held no cards. He didn’t force her to get naked.

We’re in danger of shooting ourselves in the foot if we trivialize the #MeToo movement by raking over every perceived sexual slight we’ve ever experienced, however trivial. Let’s not turn the #MeToo movement into a witch hunt.

Women are not powerless. Neither are we weak. There are some things that don’t need the intervention of the local militia. We can stand up and walk away. We can say, directly and unequivocally, to the offending party, that we don’t like what we’re seeing, hearing, or experiencing, without resorting to the public spectacle that is the internet. I won’t say it’s easy being a woman. I will, however, say it’s not as hard as we’re making it out to be. 

How my Grandma helped me jumpstart Christmas

I’ve finally gotten over my mental work/home torpor and kicked myself into high gear. When you’re in logistics, sometimes holidays stop having meaning beyond having to go through a bajillion things that Costco and Co need to keep consumers happy. Santa must have presents! Santa must have things! Santa needs the help of giant shipping containers filled with candy and random crap!

It starts with Halloween, of course. All that candy has to come from somewhere. And then Christmas, which bleeds into Valentine’s Day and then Easter and St. Patrick’s Day and somewhere along the lines I stopped seeing the meaning behind these days because all it meant to me was work. I couldn’t even get in the holiday frame of mind anymore, because come December, the powers that be (hi, Hershey’s!) are already working out what to ship for Valentine’s Day. That’s how far ahead they plan. It’s scary.

(Also, the amount of sweets people consume is staggering. No wonder diabetes is an industry.)

Last year, I trimmed the tree the day before Christmas. The year before that, we ended up in Dollarama because we were too lazy to haul everything out from storage. We should’ve done storage. We went a few days before Christmas eve and the shelves were bare. It was a Christmas of hastily cobbled together shit, featuring a truly sad plastic tablecloth that featured snowflakes and snowmen.*) This Christmas feels like more of the same, except we actually got the stuff out of storage, but now everything’s in disarray and my living room looks like a half-hearted Christmas explosion that started with a bang and ended with a whimper. There’s tinsel gathering dust in a corner.

I’ve even gotten to the point where I didn’t feel like sending out my usual Christmas cards. It’s an annual custom I started when I moved here, and I’ve been pretty faithful to it every year. But for the life of me I can’t remember if I sent anything out last year (damn you, logistics) and this year I had decided not to actually do it. Until I got a note from my Grandma for my birthday – she sent it late November, and I got it two days ago – and realized how meaningful things are when one actually takes the time.

Communication is cheap these days. A quick Happy Birthday on social media, a few sentences sent by e-mail. None of these compare to seeing my Grandma’s squiggly handwriting, and knowing that for a few moments on a particular day in November, I was all that she thought about, and took the time for. That means something.

So, a year without sending out Christmas cards? Preposterous! What’s Christmas for if not to send glittery notes with love and care to family and friends? I’ve just written my Grandma a long letter that I hope will not bore her to tears and now I’m off to see what I can score by way of Christmas cards (can’t be redundant, Christmas cards aren’t like Catherine Middleton’s favourite coats), and jumpstart the Christmas season. I am very firmly going to buy cards that say MERRY CHRISTMAS, and not that silly, politically correct, “Happy Holidays” bullshit. It’s freaking Christmas. If I find something that says MERRY F*CKING CHRISTMAS, all the better. Post office, here I come!

 

* Cobbled together decor, but truly awesome dinners.  I’m not big on decorating the space, but I will skimp on nothing when it comes to a Christmas/New Year’s Eve dinner. Nothing. Turkeys will cry.