Saturday, July 26, 2008

Summer Daze - Flippin' Goodtimes

Posted by Picasa

Back when I was a kid, my absolute favourite family vacation was at Paignton House, one of the old Muskoka lodges on Lake Rosseau. My sisters and I (my brother wouldn't be on the scene until years later) would clamber into the back of the family station wagon, play I-Spy and sing Ninety-Nine Bottles of Beer until my mother reached her breaking point and swatted us into silence. That was the cue to stretch out as best we could, legs entwined, and count telephone poles. “Wire, wire, wire, wire, pole, wire, wire, wire, pole, wire, wire……sky, sky, sky, sky, sky….” Another swat. Silence. “Wire, wire….” and on it went. Inevitably, one of us would vomit just as we arrived. We’d stumble out into the parking lot, newly released from our four-wheeled prison, grateful to gulp the pine-scented air.

The guests were a mix of Canadians and Americans, evenly divided. This resulted in a friendly rivalry probably dating back to the War of 1812. We’d stage Canucks versus Yanks volleyball games. The winning team was awarded bragging rights, and the privilege of pitching the hapless ref into the lake. Of course, by the end of each stay, we were all best friends - the American kids now drank pop, and the Canadian kids, sodas.

Drew, the ref, was also our bus boy. A tall, wiry kid with Buddy Holly glasses, he was habitually late and exhausted and always arrived barefoot. He left his loafers outside the kitchen so he could slide into them and smoothly enter the dining room. One morning, someone put a couple of raw eggs into the toe of each shoe, but Drew took it in stride with a shrug and a smile. He was always rewarded with the biggest tips.

We thought Drew was the coolest boy ever. Every evening, he donned a formal jacket and marched through the grounds swinging a brass bell to announce dinner. The gaggle of children trailing him grew with every step, until he resembled the Pied Piper. The kids clamored as loudly as the bell, begging for a turn, but it wasn’t as easy as it looked. The bell was heavy, you had to get the rhythm right, and the clanging made your eardrums dull with pain.

Posted by Picasa

For many of the other young staffers, it was their first time away from home. They boarded in a few cabins behind the main lodge, and empty liquor bottles and scattered girlie magazines gave away their secrets. We found one of the magazines in the woods, featuring a large-breasted woman with thighs the size of the prime rib they carved up on Sundays. We giggled over it and held it up in front of our flat chests until our mothers caught us and dragged us off by the ears. The offensive magazine was turned in to the front desk manager with stern warnings about the corruption of minors. If anything, it drew us closer to those cabins, where those insouciant boys would lounge against the clapboards and draw lazy pulls on cigarettes between cupped fingers, and stare at us, daring us to say hello.

Posted by Picasa

Second-storey rooms in the main lodge were used mostly by couples, since the cabins were reserved for families. The hallway was long and good for races if you didn’t get caught by the housekeeping staff. Big, old-fashioned locks and iron keys in the doors meant it was easy to spy on the occupants. Once, a group of boys gathered around one door were giggling, and they called me over. I remember a large naked woman with pale skin and violent red hair who had been willingly thrown on the bed by an equally large and naked man. I had no clue why they were wrestling like heathens, but judging from her squeals, she really loved to wrestle. The boys shoved each other and laughed beside me. Suddenly the naked man turned and fixed a beady eye on the keyhole. We fell on the floor in a knot then ran screaming down the hallway, out the side door and down to the dock where we leapt, fully dressed, into the water.

It was a heady time of canoe races, shuffleboard, and tennis during the day, bingo games and starlit dances on sultry summer nights. Dads got silly and played ‘strip golf’ dressed in layers of aprons, frilly skirts and shower caps, and moms sipped martinis, smoked, and gossiped. We kids ate on our own at the early sitting in the dining room, and we pretended we were grownups. That’s how I met Fred Beasley, the love of my twelve-year-old life. While I sipped my Shirley Temple and batted my eyes, he picked up a Cornish game hen with two forks and made it dance. You just don’t meet a guy that suave every day.

Paignton House is long gone - it burned down years ago and was replaced by a giant timeshare resort. But sometimes, if I concentrate, I can almost smell the pines, and hear that brass bell ringing through the woods, announcing one more dinner.

Have a great summer!
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Woodpile Fit for a Dentist

I love to photograph patterns and textures, like stones in the river or rust on the side of an old barrel, or the undulating lines of a newly constructed stone wall. I find these types of photos soothing to look at and sometimes, as in the case of the rust photo, I can use them to add texture to another photo.

Posted by Picasa

Posted by Picasa

Posted by Picasa

Then I spied my woodpile on the backporch and I thought it be interesting, all those nondescript logs stacked up like that.

Posted by Picasa

Hold the phone. Nondescript? I took a closer look at this woodpile.

Posted by Picasa

By Jiminy, was that a face grinning back at me? Not just any face, either. A creepy clown face with a big, toothy grin.

Posted by Picasa

Who else but a dentist would have a creepy, clown-face, toothy-grinned log in his woodpile?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Ah, Danny Bhoy

Last night, Doug and I were invited to the all-star Gala evening at the Just for Laughs festival and what a blast. My face ached and my makeup (so carefully applied) was all over my face, I laughed so hard.

The lineup was a humour dream team - Danny Bhoy, Paula Poundstone, Ron James, Larry Miller, Jeremy Hotz, Ron White, George Wallace.... Danny Bhoy alone was worth the price of admission, and not just because he had some kind of sparkly button things on his fly that made us wonder if he'd left it open on purpose. (He hadn't. We checked.) His take on a gecko in an Australian motel room had us on the floor.

Danny, calling the manager: "Ah, there's a dinosaur on the wall."

Aussie manager: "No worries, mate, that's a gecko." And he hangs up.

Danny, calling back: "Um, that wasn't a trivia question."

Karen, he really IS that handsome in person. And he just floats and hops around the stage, casual and giggly, like he's just dropped by to say hello. (le sigh) Ron White made my husband uncomfortable, but I thought he was a riot. He mocked his wife's Cosmo magazine, looking at the title "Men's 40 Pleasure Zones!" He said, "Ladies, we only have one 'pleasure zone'. Just touch it 40 times."

Then we enjoyed a fantastic dinner under a tent (these little Mojito freezie thingies in a shot glass to cleanse the palette were seriously good, and I would have happily cleansed my palette for hours) and I won stereo speakers as a door prize (with Kathy's help).

What a night...thank you Kathy and Dave!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

David Sedaris

David Sedaris, one of my favourite authors, came to town for a booksigning last weekend.

I decided to go to Montreal on Sunday afternoon, with Youngest in tow (also a fan) but what I hadn't counted on was the torrential rain. No big deal. It was the perfect time to leave a cottage and be inside a bookstore, no?

Youngest and I carefully did our hair and makeup and clothes for our Big City Excursion. I hate the humidity, as my hair does this half-curl thing, and my bangs end up sticking out the sides like musk ox horns. So I spent some time smoothing it out into a straight pageboy a la Katie Holmes.

Using my trusty GPS "Synthia" as my guide (thanks Marsha!) we headed off with little time to spare. Then the skies opened up. I freaked out a bit, as it was like driving in a carwash, only on Montreal highways, cars never ever slow down, not for nothin' or nobody. We took the shortcut recommended by my husband, ignoring Sythia's "recalculating" drone, and actually added another five minutes to our ETA.

We finally reached downtown Montreal to discover a street fair in progress and the main drags closed off. We zigged and zagged and finally pulled into underground parking across the street from Indigo just as the reading was scheduled to begin. Instead of using the underground tunnel, we decided to just run across the street.

Big mistake.

As we left the building with one umbrella between us, the rain came off the entrance to the building like one of those flat waterfalls decorating a resort pool. As we dashed across the street and tried to open the door, we saw a teensy tiny sign that said "Use Main Entrance" which was a good half block down the street. At this point, I was soaked anyway, so I left my daughter with the umbrella and ran for it. Just as I rounded the corner, one of the street vendors - his souvenirs and teeshirts covered with a clear plastic tarp - chose to tap the top of his tent with a pole, thus releasing a flood of water down my back. I stepped into Indigo looking as though someone had dropped me into a lake and pulled me up by the hair. I could tell people hovered by the door were looking at me, but I couldn't really see much as my glasses were also fogged up and wet. My linen shirt was plastered to my body (thank all the gods I chose black and not white) and the water dripped down my back, my legs and pooled at my feet.

Never mind. David was somewhere in the building.

We crept upstairs, my flip flops squelching at every step, and I heard his very distinctive voice reciting one of his stories (I remember it involved a barber, a towel and the smell of poo. Ah yes, vintage Sedaris.)

There were hundreds of people lined up, so we took our place and waited two hours to meet him. He is unfailingly polite, silly, sweet and kind to everyone. He was late for a flight to New York, and when we got to the front of the line, I was afraid we might miss him as the cut-off time was approaching. I told the security guard, a young French guy, that we'd travelled two hours to see David. He looked shocked, asked "vraiment?!" then let us under the rope.

Now, I promised my good friend k.c. dyer a signed book. And when I asked her what she'd like, I meant did she want "k.c." or "karen" or "karen dyer" on her copy.

She said, "k.c. dyer and something about placenta."

You see, k.c. met David in Vancouver and told him about her friend (me) who wrote a humour piece on placentaphagia or the art of eating placenta. This was short-listed for a non-fiction competition but didn't win. In a cruel twist of fate, I sent my story to a judge who had had a tragic placenta accident, one that haunted her still, some thirty years later. (It remains unpublished (shocking!) along with the Tragic Foreskin Accident story. Out of thirty or so essays published, that's not a bad record, but I'm determined to get those two out there. Surely there's a venue for placenta and foreskin stories?)

My daughter and I finally got to David's table, and when he looked at the sticky note afixed to the book, it said, "k.c. dyer placenta". I mentioned my friend in Vancouver and he said, "Oh YES, I remember her." He might have been lying, but something tells me there aren't many women who mention placenta.

How to explain what I meant without sounding like a babbling idiot? Well, it's not possible, I discovered, as he nodded and moved his chair back as I tried to make myself sound reasonable.

My daughter, young and impossibly beautiful, did better. She got a turtle doodle for her efforts.

I invited David to the SIWC, the best writers' conference around, but he said he tours in October. I explained if Diana Gabaldon can fly in from Arizona, and Anne Perry from Scotland, why can't he make it from France? The publicist then said "Oh, Diana Gabaldon is so gracious and good to her fans, and a pleasure to work with." To which David replied, "Who is she?"

The publicist said she writes about men in kilts, which piqued his interest.

And with that, we were off. The rain was no more, and I had my books safely tucked in my bag.

And if you haven't read any of David's books, get thee to a bookstore.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Women throughout the ages

My friend and writer extraordinaire, ms kc dyer, posted this on her blog (go to leftwriter on list at right) and I loved it so much, I'm posting it here.

I could watch this for hours, as it's akin to meditation for me. The haunting score is by YoYo Ma, and the animation is by Phillip Scott Johnson. Prepare to be amazed.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Some Random Pet Photos

I've spent the last few weeks at the cottage renovating my buns off, so before I post some photos of the semi-finished chalet, I thought I'd put up a few of the Budster and friends.

Sometimes Buddy, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a dog of kings, looks quite regal:

Posted by Picasa

Other times, he looks like a bug-eyed alien:

Posted by Picasa

But this is how I usually find him:

Posted by Picasa

Here's Kicia, caught in the act.

Posted by Picasa

And then there's The Boris, who defies description and convention:

Posted by Picasa

And the "best behaved subject" award goes to Belle, my friend and neighbour's dog:

Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 4, 2008

Ah, I couldn't stay away for long

Here are a few shots from the cottage. I call them "Shots From The Cottage" because I'm a writer and I have a robust and extensive vocabulary and imagination galore. Literally, galores of it.

The honeysuckle is blooming. I have an orange vine on the east side of the house and a pinkish purple vine on the south side. The hummingbirds love them and hover around them all day, so I'm determined to get a few mid-flight photos this summer, even if it means using Superglue on their itty bitty feet.

Posted by Picasa

Posted by Picasa

I also have a mock orange in full bloom right now, just outside my bedroom window.

The heavy scent wakes me in the morning.

I think I might dig it up and move it.

Posted by Picasa

However, on the days when I am up early, I like to wander outside and gather up some of these babies for breakfast. They may be small, but boy are they sweet and bursting with flavour, especially when they're warm from the sun. Definitely worth the effort of crouching and swatting Buddy out of the way. (He's an expert strawberry hunter, thinking nothing of muscling in and pulling the berries off the vine between his tiny front teeth, his tail making circles in doggie ecstasy.)

Posted by Picasa

This has popped up alongside the raspberry patch. I think it's a blackberry bush, but I'm not sure. Anyone? I'll have to wait and see what develops.

Posted by Picasa

The wild geraniums are blooming. Aren't they darling? So subtle and delicate. Like me.

Posted by Picasa

Ah, the peonies finally opened at the lake, much later than their city cousins:

Posted by Picasa

And I didn't get to my rhubarb before it went to seed. I seem to recall this is bad for some reason. Does anyone know about this? Can I do anything with these seeds? There are LOTS of them.

Posted by Picasa

Well, that's it for now. Have a great weekend!

Posted by Picasa