Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Christmas to remember

It’s been a while since I bothered to decorate my place for Christmas.
I never really saw much point. I’m not really the best hostess in the world, so a lot of people don’t drop by for a visit. And, in the past, I’ve never really spent a lot of time around the house, always going to others’ homes and enjoying their decorations.
This year, I made a decision. Christmas is going to be the way I want it to be.
So I went to Wal-Mart to shop for a tree. I saw one for 30 bucks. Three-feet tall. Figured that would be about perfect for my cozy little apartment.
I got it home and pulled it out of the box. I laughed, supposing I should have read the box before I dragged it around the store and then home. The end of each branch has fibre optic strands, so I plug it in and voila, instant lights! Oh and it also has its own glass balls scattered around the branches.
I thought, ‘man, Mom would love this tree!’
I’ve grown quite used to it … although the white star I bought back in Newfoundland seems a little big, maybe too top-heavy. Kinda like me.
And I’ve taken my mini lights and strung them around my windows and a stocking is hung from the window sill with a modicum of care.
So I’ve done it for me to enjoy … not for anyone else. It feels good that way.
I think, however, Shep’s jury is still out on the decision:


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Gotcha? Or keep your trap shut?

There is no such thing as 'gotcha' journalism.

There are only tough questions that people get caught answering in a ridiculous manner.

The Republicans have accused Katie Couric of 'gotcha' journalism against Sarah Palin.

Horseshit.

The woman is so beyond vapid that even a vacuum can't exist between those ears.

More importantly, Conservative MP Lee Richardson was caught during the recent campaign, saying immigrants were to blame for the rise in crime in Calgary.

OK ... not entirely false ... you check the police roster for criminal activity and you don't exactly see a lot of MacDonalds, Smiths, and Woods caught up in the fray.

And certainly a lot of newcomers to Canada haven't disagreed with Richardson.

But he sure got caught with his pants down, making it sound like all immigrants are the downfall of Calgary.

Panic! Fear-monger!

So there I stood, listening to Richardson at a recent event leading up to tonight's election.

And then he started bleating against the media.

"It's their fault! I was taken out of context! It's gotcha journalism!"

His words fell on confused ears. Without question, he failed to appreciate his audience ... all newcomers to Canada, who seek one thing: the opportunity to participate in the Calgary labour force.

These were people who escaped political oppression in their native countries and who read government-controlled media sources.

And thus, I seethed with anger.

Not only because of Richardson's blatant lack of respect for his audience, but also for his inability to accept responsibility for the words that fell out of his mouth.

He's only indicative of the burgeoning epidemic that has spread throughout North America -- in its politicans, its pro athletes, and its stars and starlets.

'Was that what I said? No, it wasn't! It's not my fault!'

Instead, I'd have far more respect for the politician that said, 'Yes, said it. And I was wrong.'

Hell, even Fonzie said it once.

Give me the Sean Averys of the world. The ones who will say what they need to say, look dead in the camera two days later, and say, 'Yeah, I said it. What?'

Admit you were wrong or stand by your words.

Give me someone to believe in.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Is love all around?

Love Actually is one of my all-time favourite movies. It's the one that made me fall for Hugh Grant. It's the one that -- even though I've seen it almost 50 times in three years -- never fails to make me cry.

From the opening scene even.

Cue the lobby at Heathrow Airport. People are hugging, smiling, and laughing.

And Hugh Grant's voice:

Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaking suspision love actually is all around.

Then they switch to some doddering old wanker covering his own song, Love is all around, for Christmas. (Little did I know that song was also featured in Grant's Four Weddings and a Funeral, which I saw for the first time only last weekend but ... SIDEBAR!)

Anyhow ... I've been in a few airports in my day. In terms of frequency, I've probably seen the inside of Halifax International the most, then Vancouver, Kamloops, maybe Calgary.

Only once have I ever had someone greet at the airport with a hug. It was 1996 and my father had just died. His funeral was on a Saturday and my flight to Vancouver left that Monday.

I was living in Newfoundland then and my mother had given me the Christmas present of a plane ticket to Vancouver to visit my then boyfriend, to whom we shall refer as Dopehead (seriously ... I know ... I pick the winners ... I do).

I hadn't seen Dopehead in five months. I wondered if the sparks would still fly.

I don't remember very well that day 12 years ago but I know he couldn't pick me up at the airport without the boys with him, his posse, his crew ...

I'm pretty sure I got a hug and a kiss but it really was nothing remarkable.

Since then, my airport experiences have been relegated to hauling my luggage off the carousel and out to the parkade where the boyfriend du jour was patiently waiting and avoiding the dreaded $10 parking fee. Given the year of Dopehead or Useless, they probably burned more gas circling the airport than it would have cost to park.

Oh and the lovely thing about Dopehead? He would have been driving my car and burning my gas anyway ...

Other airport experiences include snarling in the general direction of happy people, whilst I attempted to manage luggage, purse, wallet and cellphone on the way to the car rental desk ... where I would sign over several hundred dollars before a two-hour drive to my final destination, my home town.

There have been times when family members have picked me up at the airport ... probably my eldest brother, to the best of my memory.

But never once have I had that moment of sheer joy ... that 'Oh my God, it's so good to see you!'

And every time I watch that scene in Love Actually, I feel like I'm missing out on something ... like there's a moment waiting for me, if I could just find the right person to share it with.

Will I ever be the Natalie-type who leaps into Hugh Grant's arms and wraps her legs his waist? (Friggin' happy rights I would be if it was Hugh Grant waiting for me, dammit ...)

Probably not. But it sure would be nice to have the opportunity.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Off with her head!

"He's not the one for you."

"He's not good for you."

"I don't think he's treating you well enough."

C'mon, ladies ... we've all heard this from our friends before. We're all sitting around the bar/living-room/ballpark having a beer/lemonade/tea.

All of a sudden, the topic of conversation turns to your relationship. You start looking around for the cameras ... what is this? Friggin' A&E's Intervention for Losers in Love?

Yes, yes, it is. Just minus the cameras and fame. More like it comes with infamy ... the infamy of once again finding out your friends can't stand the man in your life.

Oh sure, they'll be nice to him. They'll smile and nod ... let him think he's entertaining them (yeah, yeah, I always date the class clown, too ... who ultimately gets upstaged by my own class-clownedness and then gets pissed off and .... SIDEBAR!).

Ah yes, me the class clown. Enough time has passed that now I can look at my friends, say 'why didn't you warn me about him' and take off into a sprint, laughing my ass off, as they miss another opportunity to pummel me physically instead of verbally.

But picture it if you will ... the boy is out for a night with the boys doing boy things, likely talking about how miserable they are with their women, and the girls are hanging out, talking about the boys.

1943 Berlin.

"Eva, he's just not right for you."

"My darling Eva, he's going to be the death of you."

"Why are you digging yourself into this hole in the ground, Eva?"

Better yet, Paris 1792 ...

"Marie, sweetie, he isn't worth all the cake in France!"

"Ma cherie, don't lose your head over this guy!"

You see? Hooking up with the wrong guy isn't exactly new.

We've been doing it for centuries.

And we've been not listening to our friends for just as long. So don't be surprised when we do it again. We love you and we love you for your advice.

But we also have a very female predisposition not to listen.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Excuse me, was that a name you dropped?

Oh yes, there was a time when I was a closet wannabe star-fucker.

I hid it well ... as I do with all nervous emotions. Straight face, calm voice ... but meanwhile, my brain is screaming.

Like the time I was interviewing Jarome Iginla. It wasn't just his first professional hockey game in B.C. It was my first time in an NHL locker room.

Holeeeeeeeeeeeee ... did Theron Fleury just walk in front of me naked?

I turned to Iginla, stone-faced and said something completely incomprehensible.

'Gallafreebaballah?'

Iginla shook his head, widened his eyes and said, 'Excuse me?'

'Oh, gosh, I'm so sorry. I guess I'm just nervous.'

'Well, don't worry. So am I. I never thought anyone would drive all the way down from Kamloops just to interview me.'

He flashed that boyish grin, gave me one of those 'aw shucks' shoulder shrugs and we went on with our interview. And 10 years later, one of the biggest stars in the NHL still wears that grin and lets everyone know he's just the boy next door.

Iginla belongs to my list of Favourite People to Interview, along such illustrious company as Bobby Orr and Johnny Bower.

But there was the day, I bumped into the Names I Never Interviewed.

Bumped being the operative.

A decade ago, the NHL sent the all-star game to Vancouver. It was a banner event for the Kamloops Blazers. Former head coach Ken Hitchcock was on the World Bench, while the North American roster boasted Scott Niedermayer, Darryl Sydor and Mark Recchi.

Sydor, of course, was there as an injury replacement -- can't quite remember for whom.

With a little glimmer of hope, I placed the call to NHL head office. Somehow, someone at the end of the phone line deemed me worthy of a press pass. And yes, I still have that pass hanging from my bedroom doorknob. I'll keep it forever ... no matter how bad my hair looks in it.

Another drive down to Vancouver. Another stay with friends in Richmond.

The press seats -- the overflow from the gondola high above the ice surface -- were terrible. There was no reason to be jealous of this pass.

Oh wait, yes there was. It does, after all, say 'full dressing room access' on it.

I uncomfortably stand off to the side, while the media throng clamours around the post-game press conference. Where do I go? What do I do?

Aha! There's Hitchcock!

'Hitch! How's it going?'

'Hey, what are you doing all the way down here?'

(Really, people ... I know you only ever did that drive on the Iron Lung, but it really isn't that far from Kamloops to Vancouver.)

We chat. We interview. I get my quotes. It's already been a helluva day.

'Hey, Hitch, great game. It's too bad we can't do stuff like this more often.'

We're interrupted. It's OK. I stand and stare. I'm sure I ate a few flies in the few seconds the exchange lasted.

He turns to me, sticks out his hand for a shake and says:

'Hi. I'm Wayne.'

Well no shit. It's not like His Grace really needs to introduce himself to anyone. But that's just how the best and most famous players in the NHL are. They're humble, they're gracious, they're friendly and they're grateful.

The day can't get much better than that. Can it?

I bid my goodbyes and head for the North America dressing room. I just met Wayne Gretzky ... most famous fellow in the NHL. Never had a lot of respect for him as a player, but dammit, I met the man.

I'm still revelling in the moment, I see a sign for the dressing room, I take a turn and I ... BAM!

Ow, son of a bitch, that hurt! The only thing I can see is my hand in front of my nose, checking to make sure it isn't broken. I didn't see the brick wall I just ran into it.

Two huge hands of my shoulders and a giant bends down to ask me if I'm OK. I'm fine. Really, I'm fine. Are you sure? Yes, I'm sure but it was really nice of your nipple to dent my nose, Mr. Lindros. Thank you.

I give the guy credit, though. It's not like he could see me coming. I'm only 5-foot-6, after all.

OK ... one all-star game, check. One interview done, check. One star-fucking moment of a lifetime with Wayne Gretzky, check. One bruised proboscis, courtesy of Eric Lindros, check.

One shoulder damn near torn off by the Moose, check.

Yes, the next turn I take, I slam into another wall, otherwise known as Mark Messier.

Ow, son of a bitch that hurt! Except this one didn't ask me if I was OK. He just kind of sniffed in my general direction, mumbled a 'sorry' and hulked off.

Pffft. Whatever.

Niedermayer interview, check. Sydor interview, check. Fleury naked in the corner again, check.

All right, it's getting late and I have a long -- but not really that long -- drive back to Kamloops tonight. Where the hell is Recchi? Has anyone seen Recchi? Where is that asshole anyway?

'ANG!'

He's standing in the middle of another room, signing sticks and cards and hats and T-shirts. Wearing nothing but a towel.

That drops the second he yells out my name.

'What the hell are you doing here?'

In all my wildest dreams, I never thought I'd be there. But I was.

And I revelled in the moment and still laugh when I tell the story.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

What colour is the smoke you're blowing up my ass?

I'll take pink with a shaker of purple, please.

Sometimes, I can be surprised.

Rarely have I been surprised by the worst of what people can do to each other ... or what Mother Nature can do to us. It comes from standing outside one too many murder scenes, attending one too many funerals and reading one too many wire stories about this, that or the other natural disaster/war scene/motor vehicle accident.

I have this lovely switch in my brain that turns me into a reporter. Facts first, emotions later. My shrink, two years ago, called it 'vicarious trauma.'

Fun ... it means I have an 'inability to tolerate strong emotions' and a 'diminished interest in or capacity to enjoy significant activities.'

I'm a bystander. I like to watch people. I enjoy observing their interactions with each other ... rarely ever taking the risk of immersing myself in such interactions. The phone rings and I let it go to voice mail.

Now, come on ... that doesn't mean I'm some kind of agoraphobic reclusive, hiding in my apartment away from the world.

In fact, I have wonderful friends. They are people who understand me. Those who appreciate we don't need to spend a lot of time together ... that quantity is better than quality.

And sometimes I outgrow people ... they start to bore me, or frustrate me, or darken the skies over my head. They attempt to control under the guise of 'help' -- a desperate attempt to wrest control of their own lives.

Yet, others grow on me. Time spent many years ago may not have been quality but they remain tied to my life forever.

Out of the blue, I gained such quality time this weekend. A funny, outspoken, cheerful, caring woman is a bigger part of my life today than she was three years ago and I am grateful.

I hope that as a part of my life, she will bring with her two other young women. And bring back one very special man.

The smoke she's blowin' comes from a peace pipe.

And my heart rests happy tonight.