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Ringtones, Podcasts & Cupcakes

Today my phone chimed in with the famous ringtone I used to assign to men worthy of the term, ‘lover‘,  Let’s Get it On. Yes, I’ve a twisted sense of humour and I’m a phone screener extraordinaire. This ringtone used to either inspire my laughter or disgust, and based on my reaction, I knew whether I wanted to pick up or not.

 

What are old lovers if not opportunistic? Having known my preferences for well over a decade, he was fulfilling his annual happy-new-year-can-I-get-up-your-skirt-check-in-requirement, that quite frankly, had served him  well throughout the years.

Despite my hands-off status, it was interesting to hear from him. You see, besides his jack-of-all-boudoir-trades skills, he was quite a companion of intellect as well.

Which got me to thinking about thinking.

plato-s-symposium-anselm-feuerbach-1873Intellect and thoughtful conversation have always been a huge turn on for me. In our fast-paced lives of distracted-attention-deficit-afflicted-engagement with our loved ones and contemporaries, who has time to think? Like, really take time to put an idea on its’ axis and examine it from all sides? More importantly, who even realizes that we don’t do that? Most importantly, who takes time to set aside a few hours to have meandering discussions about ideas or the creative process, or how we found ourselves at the bottom of the political wheel again? Very few people even have the time, attention or inclination to actually read books (yes, plural) with fully expounded upon ideas, let alone form any original thoughts all on their own. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not scolding anyone, I’m as guilty as the next cog.

Tonight, the noise from the television was right up with there with the noise from a leaf blower (a contraption I believe proves our culture has lost it’s collective fucking mind). With dramatic music playing in the background, and a black and neon blue-lit set to match, celebrity couples were  being pimped on one of those disgustingly pretentious cooking shows.  Le sigh….

Has the world seriously come down to this? Really? We’re judging other people’s fondant and cupcakes with more earnest than our national leaders? Buh. Arf. Do something worthwhile for crying out loud! Sit at the table and eat wieners and beans, but for the love of all that’s holy, try to have an intelligent, engaged conversation.

The poop on the television was in direct contrast to the entertainment I chose on a short road-trip this afternoon. A phone call from a previous lover inspired me to take  time to indulge in some exercise for my intellect. It was refreshing to step away from the madness and listen to someone who has taken the time to do some thinking for us.

 

In a world filled with entertainment that at best can be a terrific study in dramatic background music (queue the chocolate cupcakes ), podcasts can offer us  something more substantial.

Trust me, I understand the value of small talk to safely test the waters of new acquaintances. For every discussion about philosophy, spirituality, art, or global justice, there is also a place for sports and fashion, but now, more than ever, we need to nurture our collective spirituality in order to hang on to not-so-long-ago-hard-won-social-justice.

Set the table and I’ll bring the cupcakes.

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Canadian NOT American

Surprisingly delicious and as addictive as any illegal drug.
Surprisingly delicious and as addictive as any illegal drug.

Chicken’N Waffles flavoured potato chips, two dollar and fifty cent wine, and state troopers who look like Smokey the Bear. What are; things you can only see in America.

As a tourist in the Caribbean and Europe, Canadians are sometimes confused with Americans. But not often, and not for long.

Living within an hour or so of the U.S. border, Canadians often like to make the trip south for a little break, and to shop.

We get a kick out of seeing alcohol on grocery store shelves, and an even bigger kick out of bringing a bottle or two of otherwise high-priced hooch across the border.

If you’re familiar with Michael Adams’ studies on the sociological differences between Canada and the U.S.A, which argues we are becoming more and more divergent when it comes to the values we espouse as nations, you will have some idea of the subtle differences that give these two North American countries decidedly distinct identities.

If you haven’t read the books, or thought much about it, let me give you my non-political, purely biased perspective.

U.S.A. vs Canada

1) Size matters in the U.S.  Meals are served on platter sized plates, drinks are served in gallon pail sized glasses, and the result is that the folks south of the border like their elastic waist bands way more than we do in the Great White North.

2) Food is a chemical and caloric shit-storm. If it’s palatable, it’s ok to eat. Welcome to the U.S.A.  Admittedly I did not seek out any ‘organic’ specialty stores, however, there were none visible during two days of driving to, through and around a major city.

3) The accent. First of all, in Canada, you’re out of luck in 99.9% of cases if you’re looking for grits. In the U.S., it’s pronounced ‘gree-its’, and they’re everywhere.

4) Americans love booze, but hate weed. Canada regulates booze like it’s crack-cocaine, and treats marijuana like it’s alcohol’s adorable little sister.

5) State troopers seem to have a permanent presence at convenience stores. They seem to be in a constant state of dehydration, lingering at the counter holding some giant beverage from the cooler. In Canada cops like coffee and donuts – they hang out at Tim Hortons.

6) American men all seem to have a hang-dog face and some terrible nasal condition which causes them to breath out of their half-open mouths. Canadian men are adorable, rugged lumberjacks underneath all of their please’s and thank you’s.

7) Brand names are big. If you don’t have at least one tagged on your body in the U.S., you’re an outcast. Canadians are slightly less attached to the thought of being walking billboards.

8) Salespeople in the U.S. are more aggressive, and smile while doing it. I’ve never seen so many over-the-hill women in heavy make-up and veneers this side of drag-night on Church Street as I did at the Macy’s cosmetic and fragrance counters.  I kept expecting the saleslady at  Estee Lauder to say, “All the better to eat you with my dear“.  She also happened to love every shade of lipstick I tried on, and held my chin firmly in her hands while applying it. Run. For. Your. Life.

9) Pizza. The US border cities definitely do it better. Crust that tastes like dough not cardboard, real cheese, and fresh herbs. Mom and pop shops always do pizza better.

10) Canadian highways, although aging and in a dismal state, are almost always more clean and maintained than U.S. interstates. “Tired”, was an adjective recently used to describe the infrastructure in New York state, and I would have to agree.

Each time a Canadian customs agent hands me back my passport and waves me through, I breath a deep sigh of relief. Canada is home, and I’m glad of it. Now, if we could just get our politicians to see the light…

 

 

 

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Friends With Benefits – I Don’t Think So

The flags of Canada and the United States of A...
The flags of Canada and the United States of America, flying side-by-side outside PGE Park in Portland, Oregon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Canada and the United States have flirted, used, abused, supported and stabbed one another in the back throughout the years.

We have a love/hate relationship. Americans like having neighbours who spell properly, and smile a lot.

Canadians like the sunny south and football. Perhaps we could also throw in the Rose Bowl parade, you know, just to make our American neighbours feel good.

It’s nice being neighbourly with the big guy on the block. Well, it used to be. The other global-guys are hitting their growth spurt, and the big guy isn’t so big any more. In fact, his fat-cat ways are catching  up, and, I hate to mention it, but he’s grown quite an economic disaster of a muffin-top.  A grand example of a sugar-daddy whose looks have slipped, and whose wallet isn’t fat enough.

This week, Diane Francis’s Merger of the Century was reviewed in the Toronto Star.  She argues, apparently pretty convincingly too, that should Canada and the United States jump the broom, both nations would stand to benefit.

To summarize, should this little marriage of two socially opposite neighbours happen, it would create an economy larger than the combined economic sway of China, Japan, France and Germany.

Francis describes our Canadian resources as, ‘mindboggling’. Trillions and trillions of dollars worth actually. I don’t think the average Canadian needs to read her book to understand just how rich we are. We may have to point out that our resources are in great, imminent danger of being destroyed by greedy BIG BUSINESS.  The very same big business that almost bankrupted North America in 2008. Yes, the very same big business that gobbled up the bail-out and learned absolutely nothing about innovation, or the fall-out of greed.

Beyond our  plethora of resources, Francis also sings the praises of our banking system, sophisticated social values, educations system (If ours is good, I shudder to think about the American system), and ‘law-abiding people’.

I would like to point out, that these are also precisely the reasons that intelligent Canadians would never wish to be more economically tangled with the United States than we are already obliged to be by virtue of our proximity.  Should a merger happen, it would leave the social, political and economic landscape of Canada a no-man’s land.

Much like the cover of the book that has our Canadian Maple Leaf gobbled up in the design of the famous stars and stripes, our social identity would be lost to the machine of capitalist greed, minus our so hard-won social system. In short, the big guy needs us now that the folly of his ways has seen the light of day.  The tough guy is looking to someone to clean up his mess.

Go ahead, take Francis’s argument for a ride, but be sure to read the other sides of the argument; Fire and Ice, and Death of the Liberal Class.  After all, you want a clear picture of just how very different our cultures are.

The reading may also inspire you to articulate our distinctly Canadian values in the face of the political shit-show that will surely be our next federal election.

Fracking? Pipelines? Bureaucratic Elitism? GMO farming and antibiotic infused livestock? Yes, we do have some rather overwhelming issues to tend to in our very own maple-syrup rich backyard, but we’d have a heck of a lot more problems if we get distracted by a  big, shiny, diamond engagement ring from the USA.

 

 

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Canadian Thanksgiving

bagpipersThere’s nothing like a fall day in Canada to make you appreciate everything that’s good about life.

Last night, as we stepped out onto a quiet street, the streets and sidewalks littered with dry fallen leaves, the strong scent of autumn’s riches reminded me of all of the blessings in my life for which to be thankful. City living dulls the splendor of the changing seasons.

After rolling with the bumper-to-bumper traffic that defines the GTA during long weekend commutes, we finally found the open road, serenaded by Dr. Hook and our own voices raised in silly song.

As much as I love the night time lights of the city, especially on cold nights, when the lights shine more brightly, and the darkness is more intense, there’s something about simple, small town living that takes you back to yourself.

As I nestle in at a centuries old Bed & Breakfast, tour the town, and stroll along the St. Lawrence river, the stress of every day escapes my body. The sunlight, the changing colour of the leaves, and the clear chime of church bells that mark the hour to the clouds help to quiet my busy thoughts.

Three quarters of the year have passed. My 2013 wishlist is well on the way to being complete, thanks to hard work, and the determination to look to the future and not to the past.

In the garden, beside the pond, we sipped Moscato perched on comfy lounge chairs that rest on a stone path. We watched the water fountain trickle onto the happy tongue of Chloe the Great Dane, while her partner Roxy the Jack Russell wagged her tail on the cobblestone wall, and barked at wild things unseen.

Yes, these are moments that call for full presence (and more wine). For letting go, deep breathing, and looking to the future.

On the moonlit dock, a piper piped us into the sweet story of Saltwater Moon. How can a woman not be hopeful that perhaps love is just around the corner? The theatre entrance wound us down and around a wooden building until we were on the docks where sailboats were moored and moonlight glistened on the water.  The piper piped the perimeter of the building, walking the length of the darkened dock, letting the wail of the pipes echo across the water, until the sound slipped away entirely, leaving small crowd in silence and then gathered us together in applause.

We strolled home, up the hill, with old stone churches and the swift St. Lawrence at our back.

You can’t help but romanticize what living here must be like. That is until you find out that the “Coolest Place In Town” turns out to be closed down, and you remember how wonderful it is to have access to arts and culture from around the world within a half an hour of home.

The night-time streets, but for a few dog walkers and late theater goers, were empty, and the evening mild enough to leave the door open as we settled down to read.  A good friend, a good book, a beautifully decorated inn, and the windows open for fresh, night-time air….

Indeed I have much to be thankful for.