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Christmas in New York: Part 1

Trish Taking Pic of Tree

That’s a picture of me taking a picture of ‘THE TREE’.  Photo credit to my friend Bobby who made his way from Queens for a visit in Bryant Park, and then hung in for a walking tour which pitched us down the heralding-angeled-chute of Rockafeller Centre toward the big tree.

My sweetie referred to the crowd gathered as a cult, and almost went into full drowning-panic mode trying to get the hell out of our North American Christmas mecca.

As I write this, I’m watching, “Extreme Christmas Trees”. My gifts are already wrapped, and I’m feeling full-on-merry.  I think that visiting New York City last week has a lot to do with it.

Our first stop was at Bryant Park to meet up with friends. It was also adjacent to the New York City Library where our evening tour of the famous store windows would start.   I ‘do‘ Christmas every year. Always have, always will.

The Macy’s windows this year brought tears to my eyes. On one side of the building, they told the story of Virginia O’Hanlon. I’m named after Virginia O’Hanlonwho wrote the famed response from the editor of the New York Sun that, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”.  Be prepared for a story if you ask me why then, is my name not Virginia…it’s a long story that involves genetics predisposed to alcoholism and shenanigans.

The Sak’s light display was breathtaking, and the Bergdorf Windows were over-the-top.  We visited the plaza hotel, had a carriage ride through Central Park,and made it (unwittingly) in to the middle of the memorial of the 39th anniversary of John Lennon’s death in the Strawberry Fields at Central Park, across from the Dakota hotel. I tried to spot Yoko, but it ‘was dark,and everyone was bundled up.

We ate at Rolf’s, walked our asses off and got the requisite photos at Radio City Music Hall and in front of the giant, red balls in the Chase fountain.  We shopped on Canal street. It really is the giant, dirty heart of the consumer beast that has ruined our civilization…I managed to score a few bargains, and question my own ethics as a consumer.  I bought a knock-off, got my aura photographed and read (dead on by the way, and totally worth the thirty bucks. Magic Jewelry is truly a ‘hidden’ gem and a bastion of tranquility within the hustle and bustle of NYC).

Mulberry Street in Little Italy is a pocket of lights and merriment. Street vendors offer mouth-watering roasted nuts, fresh nougat, and cannoli. And by the time you make to all of these places, your immune system will be either fortified or completely destroyed by the subway system, and your feet will be wrecked.

But it’s all worth it.  At least once.

Let me tell you about Rolf’s.

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Air Travel for the Commoner

AirTravel CaribbeanThere are few things better than being cramped in a flying-death-trap with a gaggle of strangers who lack common sense and manners.  A PAP test and  mammogram are much less uncomfortable, and take a fraction of the time.

Most recently I witnessed an individual wearing a, “WORK IS FOR PEOPLE WHO DON’T DIVE”, shirt waltz down the aisle of a package-vacation aircraft with every imaginable piece of kitchen survival clipped to their camo-pants. There was a phone, a travel mug, travel pillow and an assortment of acoutrements jangling. We were all coming from a beach vacation for crying out loud. Chill out MacGyver. Another person followed, travel pillow, purse, iPad, hat and carry on in tow. As she swung around looking for space in the overhead, she clobbered someone in the head with her purse.

This delicate ballet continued as people kept boarding. I was fascinated by the lack of decorum, and complete disregard for other passengers. This has become a typical experience when it comes to package vacation carriers.

As a teenager sitting in my boyfriend’s living room, his very proper Irish father reacted to a belch or some other such masculine roar by calmly telling us that as we aged, we would appreciate small manners that added up to civilized society. I’ve aged. I appreciate it.

During my last experience with a trans-atlantic flight, I experienced the most absurd rushing to board I have ever seen, with a line-up forming an hour prior to boarding. What resulted was an irritated mob of unorganized boarding-a lovely way to begin an eight hour forced confinement. I’m convinced it was because people were vying for overhead compartment space.

airplaneMy most recent experience with air travel have been interesting to say the least. No, I cannot boast surviving a terrifying emergency landing like a friend and colleague.  I have never been privileged enough to witness a mid-flight take down of an irate passenger, and on the other end of the spectrum, I have also have never been graciously upgraded because I’m an obedient, no fuss traveller.

I did however witness the trio of women who swung their luggage around like a cat by the tail, spill red wine on themselves and the passengers behind them while laughing loud enough to keep everyone awake on the plane. Combined with the guy behind us who coughed up snot throughout the entire journey, it was a five hour exercise in patience.

Alas, I have been around long enough to witness the complete decline in etiquette and common sense when it comes to air travel. Perhaps it’s because the real estate inside aircraft has become more valuable. Overhead bins have become kind of like the condo market in Toronto – you know, people throwing money at 400 square feet like it’s an estate home on five acres. It’s all getting smaller and demand is exponentially rising.

Please, I beg of you, the next time you arrive at the gate, leave your ego behind, get in, sit down, and don’t be an asshole.

 

 

 

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Cafe Culture & Being Anti-Social

“A single conversation across the table with a wise person is worth a month's study of books”
“A single conversation across the table with a wise person is worth a month’s study of books”
~Chinese Proverb~

Perhaps I shouldn’t say ‘anti-social’. Perhaps I should say…ok, let’s just go with anti-social.

I like to strike out daily as a little bit of fabulous, a little bit of intriguing intellectual, and a little bit curious cutie. I also like to think that I’m successful at some of these things.

None of these little quirks is an invitation to interruption, small talk, or other people who don’t have enough confidence to entertain themselves for the duration of a cup of coffee.

Today, I ventured into a coffee shop that, on a scale of one to ten, ranks at about an 8. That’s pretty good since I’ve yet to experience a 10. Even my favourite haunt in the city only ranks at 7. 7.5 on a good day when the nose-picking newspaper bin diver is absent.

With a seasonal menu that offered both pumpkin spice latte, pumpkin spice tea and apple pie tea latte as well as the standard Americano and espresso, I was overjoyed to find a table to myself.

The establishment, ‘The Socialist Pig’ is adjacent to a restaurant boasting simple yet gourmand fair. I opted for an apple pie tea latte and a glazed/fried tofu burger with spicy condiment, homemade roll, and grated carrots with a side of over-dressed salad.

Despite being rudely interrupted by an over-dressed housewife who could not entertain herself while her twin companion excused herself to the ‘powder room’, I had a lovely time.

This woman interrupted me mid-bite, pointing, with her bony finger within inches of my meal, “Do you mind me asking what it is you’re eating?”

I hope my eyes said it all, ” Yes. Yes I do you annoying social skin tag.”

Instead, I answered, “Tofu.” After all, she only had to look at a menu to deduce what it was that I’d filled my mouth with just as she felt the uncomfortable feeling of being alone. Poor darling.

She looked, and sounded like a previous colleague of mine who likely wouldn’t have touched a place like The Socialist Pig with a ‘barge-pole’. If only because the last known barge-pole was hung in the Antiquated and Annoying Sayings Hall of Fame three-freaking-centuries ago.

Mrs. Uncomfortable-in-her-own-skin then proceededto ask in her too-loud voice about where ‘you get your delicious coffee. “Concord,” was the answer. Mrs. Uncomfortable’s response made me choke on my pretentious, but oh-so-freaking-delicious burger-sandwich; “Oh, so it’s locally grown.”

Are you serious?! Yes, I imagine you glorious twit, that the coffee beans were grown right in the middle of corn, beans and squash on the local reserve. Sweet love of Jesus, where do these people come from?

After a very long stretch of days on end working a job that I really do love, I crave the company of one of two types of people; the introvert, or the intellectual of carefully chosen vocabulary. Today I shared the company of neither, which is a lovey third option, minus the universal hiccup of she-who-thinks coffee grows in the Eastern Ontario wild.

If you ever have the good fortune to travel to Gananoque, I do suggest a visit to The Socialist PIg. Try the coffee, try the tea, but if you see a woman with dark-rimmed glasses sipping her tea quietly while reading the Globe and Mail, keep your socially-anxiety-provoked-silly questions to yourself. Unless….

You’re a single male between the ages of whatever and whatever with something interesting to talk about, and a sailboat moored at the end of the street on the St. Lawrence.

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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.

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May “Two-Four” For Grown-Ups

English: Petunias Petunias with trumpet like f...
English: Petunias Petunias with trumpet like flowers that come in many different colours. These can be found in the conservatory in Thornes Park formal gardens. Ref. 969164 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I grew up on the lake. We had beaches, freedom, youth and fearlessness on our side. The Victoria Day weekend was the first real celebration of Canadian summer, and it was aptly nicknamed May “Two-Four” for the numerous cases of beer that were consumed.

Everyone needed at least one ‘Two-Four’ for the weekend. In my tiny little Canadian town, the firemen held a pancake breakfast, and the Provincial park was full of the first wave of campers that would take over for the hot, summer months.

Fishermen came in droves, and the locals let it all hang out, with partying as their top  priority. It was a ritual celebration to welcome summer.

And then there were the adults. The gardeners. As a rule of thumb in my neck of the woods, you didn’t plant anything until the May ‘Two-Four’ weekend, as that was the magic date that made the risk of frost a mere pip-squeak on the list of natural threats.

Although life has changed and I’m a city girl in every way possible, I still like having my own small patch of dirt to call my own. I have a guerrilla-garden in the city, and this May ‘Two-Four’, I’m looking forward to getting some earth under my nails.

I hear the basil, mint, cilantro, tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini calling to me. My petunias are waving at me from their little plastic shell packs to let them out.

Ah yes, the May ‘Two-Four’ weekend, the ceremonial ribbon-cutting for gardeners across the country is upon us.

Rest assured, I will also be indulging in the Canadian tradition of cold brewskies as well darlings. After all, when you’re this fabulous you must celebrate daily.

Happy first-long-weekend-of-the-summer my friends. Enjoy!