Thursday, October 21, 2004

when reality goes awry

Call it strong will, a case of how lousy the boob tube is these days, or laziness.

Mid-summer, Amy came down to visit. This meant unplugging and moving my over-the-air TV, so that should could pull out the futon in the living room. The TV has remained unplugged. Considering all I watched on it was news and hockey (since that was all I could get), it hasn't been a great loss. I've still got the VCR/DVD TV to keep me entertained.

(Explanation: When I moved down here, I brought along an ancient portable TV. Soon discovered you couldn't hook anything up to it, so I bought a new set. Tried to find a good set of bunny ears, which ended up in half-a-dozen going back to the store. In the end, settled for dueling TV sets).

On CBC Radio this evening, As It Happens asked for listeners ideas for how low reality TV could go, in the wake of new shows like The Biggest Loser (overweight people trying to slim down, but taunted with food).

The Great Escape - 76 people who have never seen or heard of the movie The Great Escape or the historical event it was based on will be given an opportunity to see if they are more successful than the original breakout. They will be given the plans for the tunnels and all the supplies for the escape, but once they're out of the tunnels...they're on their own.

POW - Contestants are forced to endure conditions similar to those in a Japanese World War II POW camp. Highlight is reconstruction of the bridge on the River Kwai. The winner is the last person to either survive malnourishment or not go insane.

Big Time! - 12 skinny contestants compete to see who can gain 100 lbs the fastest. They tour the country, eating only at the greasiest of greasy spoons, the most bountiful of buffets. Watch contestant suffer through the joy of heartburn!

Beat The Reaper - adapted from an old Firesign Theatre album, contestants are infected with a mystery infectious disease. Last to survive or die wins.

Eat The Weak - 12 people locked in a white soundproof room with no windows, markings or food. Who will go crazy first? Who will succumb to cannibalism first? Who will be the last survivor?

random notes

Making A Move
I've just made a decision that is going to make a lot of folks happy.

Come spring, I will no longer be a cellar dweller. The bunker will become of the past. Yes folks, I'm plunging into the wonderful world of apartment hunting.

I've been in my current digs for five years and accumulated a lot. The apartment is rebelling against me, setting booby traps everywhere. There's less room for guests at dinner parties. The place has been good to me, with no complaints about the landlords.

There comes a time when change is necessary.

Picked up a copy of Renters News to start getting a feel for what's out there. It has shown possible options and firmed up what I'm looking for:

* full one-bedroom apartment (two if affordable)
* rent of $1,000/month or less
* utilities included in the rent
* reduced or free parking incentive
* within walking distance of work - for me, those boundaries would be St. Clair/Bathurst/Lawrence/Bayview

The following incentives wouldn't hurt:
* moving allowance (friends are willing to help pack and load furniture, but not carry boxes of books and music)
* gigantic kitchen area
* perks like cable or Metropass

I'll look around at what's available over the next few months, then decide when the snow melts. I've long thought about using my profit sharing and stocks to fund a condo or house, but unless I fall into a steady relationship, that's a pipe dream. Besides, I don't really want to own a tiny box in the sky or worry about extras like condo fees.

If anybody has advice, leave a comment!

Turkey Trottin'
Thanksgiving weekend was a nice break from the city.

Spent Saturday in the Motor City, filling the car with everything from Mexican cookies to Xmas gifts to feign amnesia over. Started off with lunch at Armando's, with their steal of a lunch buffet. No fish soup (fave dish of my Dad and Uncle Roy - it was a stew with hearty chunks of fish and potatoes that only the three of us ever touched), but there were excellent chicken enchilladas in flour wrappers, bursting with breast meat. Gradually headed north, through construction along Woodward downtown. Great to see signs of
improvement - my fingers are crossed that more businesses locate along there. Made our usual stops in Ferndale and Southfield, took an unintended yet beautiful sidetrip through Beverly Hills and Birmingham, then hit the malls.

(That wasn't a typo - Detroit has a suburb called Beverly Hills, which is home to one of our favourite used record stores, Street Corner Music).

Sunday was pig-out-on-turkey-and-ham day. Went on a drive with Amy through Windsor to see what was new. Still insane home-building going on in Lasalle and the east end. Walker Rd is turning into big box city, apparently to the consternation of a nearby Christian fellowship (a Hooters is going in close to their building). Even more bars along Ouellette, a far cry from the days when I'd go with Dad to pick up the Sunday NY Times and pass one vacancy after another.

Monday, headed out to an orchard near Harrow with Gavin and Amy to pick from the trees and stock up on cider. This year was a bad batch for the latter - feel sheepish for not trying any before buying some for friends. The apples are still good, so it wasn't a
write-off. Gavin played soccer with the mush on the ground, while Amy and I fussed over which apples deserved to be thrown in our bags.

Hit a pile of roadside stands between Harrow and Blenheim, loading up on peppers, squash and the tiniest watermelon I'd ever seen, ideal as a single serving or substitute football. Paging Gallagher...

Caught a quick bite in London, which soon proved a mistake...

Before heading down to A'burg, I'd e-mailed friends to see if they wanted anything while I was in the US. Dayna sent me a list of Halloween cereals to pick up, either variants on standards (spooky Lucky Charms) or childhood classics we hadn't seen for years revived for the season (Boo Berry). I brought back a pile, as (a) they were all available at Kroger and (b) were ridiculously cheap.

Dayna's eyes bulged when she saw the ghoul's booty.

I arrived just as she and her family started Thanksgiving dinner. I intended to drop and run. Instead, it was turkey dinner #2, a near-rerun in items and quality of Mom's feast. Also saw her brother Mike's son for the first time - cute little guy who seemed a little spooked by some of the ghoulish statues in the dining room. Intended to stay two minutes, ended up hanging around for a pleasant two-hour visit.

Made one more stop in Guelph, dropping off a bottle of Faygo Rock n' Rye for Brad Walker. Good thing I caught him - he would soon be off to Pennsylvania for work.

Next stop: North York, to drop cider at Kiersten & Ken's. Flew across 401 and the DVP down to the Danforth for the last stop of the trip. Nearly fell asleep when I sacked out in Elizabeth's gigantic new lounging chair. It took a supreme force of evil to get myself out of it. Made mental note for new digs.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

one fine wedding in september

Cat Stevens dance parties and solicitations for the Rent-A-Monkey fund.

As I prepared for J.D.'s wedding, memories of the old days went through my mind. Here it was, the first wedding I would attend for any of the old gang from AH. J.D. and Brad, the two roomies, now groom and best man. Another sign I was an adult after all. Fussed a bit with my shirt and tie in the mirror, more from nerves about how I'd handle the sound system later on.

The ceremony was held in a small church at the top of the hill leading into Eden Mills. It went smoothly, with most of the party on the verge of laughter or tears. Rather than the typical wedding style to lead the couple out of the church, the sweet strains of the theme from Rocky filled the chapel. Everyone flowed out to snap pictures, most with the fenced-off ruins next door as a backdrop.

In between the ceremony and reception, I hopped in the car and wandered the countryside, ending up in Elora. Bright reds highlighted most of the backroads, another festive touch for the day.

Arrived at the reception hall just after 5:30. Brad gave me a quick briefing on the sound system. Went back out, discovered I had emcee added to my duties. Cue butterflies in stomach.

After dinner and speeches, it was time to run back behind the panels onstage to crank up the music. The first two dances (bride/groom, bride/father) went smoothly. Looked for the next track, for the groom/mother dance. Went to the slow songs disc, did an eeny-meeny-miny-moe and picked You Only Live Twice. Took the disc out, popped it in the player and waited to hit play.

Instead of a string flourish, the audience heard a fast onrush of guitars.

This may be the only wedding on record where the groom and his mother shimmied to the subtle strains of the Amboy Dukes' Journey To The Center Of The Mind.

Everyone had a good laugh, so much so that (in a stunned, slightly panicked state), I let it play out. After a few more of the standard starter dances, threw on a song specifically for the groom and best man, a tune often blasted from their radios back in the day. It was time to go back and throw on some Jon Spencer Blues Explosion...

Bellbottoms! Bellbottoms!

The evening carried on. The panels in front of me were taken down, making it much cooler behind the controls and easier to gauge the floor. Sweat had been rolling out of me, leading to many downed bottles of water. The heat may have also made me tense, as I appeared on edge to others. It may have also been a combination of nerves, wanting to make everyone happy and seeing what would get them on the floor.

I relaxed and everyone appear to be enjoying themselves, even if we couldn't get the old folks up and dancing.

Modest Mouse...The Strokes...Outkast...Otis Redding...Ray Charles...The Muppets...White Stripes...Guns n' Roses...Bonnie Tyler...

Yup, Bonnie Tyler. Total Eclipse Of The Heart. The epitome of overblown 80s power ballads. Received it as a suggestion during the stag n' doe. Burned it and brought it along. Smash hit. Soon learned I should have looked for more hair band power ballads - at least two requests for Whitesnake!

Soon, time for the garter tosses...Raquel won among the girls, after the garter boomeranged off the white sheet at the top of the picture. I tied among the guys. Maybe a pussycat will fall from the sky before I know it. Then, time for cake - instead of the standard multi-level monstrosity, it was three mousse-based cakes - mango, raspberry and chocolate.

By 1, clean-up began. I continued with tunes until the sound guys came to pack up. Best man and bar staff chatted it up. Bridesmaids couldn't wait to get out of high heels. Bride and groom still glowed.

I drove Brad and Raquel back into Guelph, then collapsed in a heap when I got back to the hotel. Next day, after spending the morning/early afternoon in K-W, I went over to the happy couple's house for the day-after recovery, aka gift-opening time.

Simple, sweet, just a bunch of family and friends having a good night. No bridezilla madness. A good model for Amy & Gavin's vows next year...though we'll think about the Nuge. - JB, RA