Archive for October, 2007

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The Full Vermonty

24 October 2007

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Five days. Six relatives. Four states. Over thirty hours in the car. Too little time to see or enjoy nearly enough. It must have been what is called a vacation. Can it be a vacation when it is amidst unemployment? Let’s say it was a break from our lives, a getaway from recent sad events and a chance to fill our eyes with the best nature has to offer.

Potsdam: my college town. Hadn’t seen it in over 25 years. Adirondack State Park: glorious. Vermont: my favourite place, especially in autumn (and I am not one who likes the limitions of picking favourites). Did you know there are no billboards in the entire state? Not even for Ben & Jerry’s. Onward to Lowell, Mass: can art restore an industrial city? The Massachusetts Turnpike and New York’s I-88: beautifully scenic. New York’s Southern Tier: not bad, but when up against what we’d seen thus far, paled somewhat.

Ontario parts of the drive were, unfortunately, the ugliest. And the border wait back into Canada added 90 minutes to our return home. Bleah.

In addition to my family, from whom I had been too long apart, Katharine and I got to meet a few friends and five cats, enjoy generous hospitalities, and spend a lot of time together just before the loooooooooooooooong time we will be apart. Bad weather muted the Vermont colours and prevented both a mountain visit and any chance of seeing the Milky Way, both sights I have yearned for since last seen a decade ago or more. And we were simply too rushed most of the time.

Still, the good outweighed the disappointing. I hope everyone else involved feels the same.

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How Does the World See You?

7 October 2007

“Isn’t it lovely how artists can capture us?” – Stephen Sondheim, Sunday in the Park with George

Ever pose for something besides the family Christmas card, the corporate team photo or glamour shots? Ever sat for a bona fide artist and have your portrait done? Been preserved in charcoal, oils or bronze?

Digging through my archives, I realized I have been represented at least four times. Twice in sketches done of characters I portrayed at a certain theatrical nightclub in the Land of Swamps and Tourists. Those enduring works of art (one is a colour Xerox and the other drawn with ballpoint pen on a bar napkin) are somewhere in the vault. But I have pictures of two others.

One is a long-ago painting by Robert W. Brunelle Jr., an artist who creates both fine art and comics (also fine), and who teaches art in northern Vermont. Behold my past:

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The other is more recent. A Chicago artist—and massage therapist, actor, singer and trombonist, as well as former flight attendant, tech writer and inventor of the peanut butter and mayonaisse sandwich, and one of my oldest and bestest friends, with the unlikely name of Richard Bennett—titled this “15 Years at Disney.”

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The scary thing is, that’s me on a good day.

My father has also been made semi-immortal, although I have no details for this terrific piece of work:

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Was there ever any doubt whence came my good looks? The only surprise is that more artists have not sought us out for such media as murals, statues and real estate calendars.

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Juniper 2000-2007

5 October 2007

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June 2000. After a rather uninspiring beginning to the Year of Many Zeros, mid-year became a landmark in my life when, while standing in my carport, I heard a little mew and discovered a beautiful kitten had come to visit. Getting no response to inquiries or handbills I posted around the neighbourhood, I adopted the six-month old, had her examined, vaccinated and spayed. I considered many names, but finally had to settle on a pretty one, because she was so pretty herself. I named her Juniper.

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Juniper quickly and easily became the most important friend in my lonely world. The joy she brought, from affection to funny kitten behaviour, was a life-saver. We had rituals of mutual affection. Every night, when I got home from work, we would spend five or ten minutes on the bed bonking foreheads. Only my developing relationship with my girlfriend, Katharine, would eventually surpass the bond I had with my all-time favourite cat.

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Her wonderful face was matched by her personality. She liked to balance on my shoulders and in other odd places: on the back of a chair, on a tall scratching post, on the top of an open door. We used to play hide and seek. I would run through the house and hide. She’d follow, looking for me. I’d say, “Boo!” and she’d run to some other room. I was expected to follow her and start the game again. She liked to drink from the faucet in the guest bathroom. I bought her a guinea pig’s water bottle, and for a few months she liked to get her water from that, too.

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Juniper usually liked other people (except veterinarians) but I was her person. As much as I loved her, I could not protect her from a few stressful challenges. Her affection for Katharine grew after Kat and I moved in together, but even after two years she was just starting to tolerate the two other cats that moved in, too. We moved 1300 miles/2100 kilometers to a new home with less room and something called winter. Still, she never stopped liking to find a place on my lap (if I was sitting) or on my chest (if I was lying down). She made me feel special.

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September 2007. Our first visit to a vet in Toronto was traumatic for Juniper. But worse than that, it began two weeks of seeing her health fail. We naturally suspected a bad reaction to a vaccination.

October 2007. Eventually she had to go to an emergency clinic, where the neurologist thought the blame more likely to be either a viral infection or a tumor in her brain or on her brain stem. Steroidal medicine revived Juniper to the point of a nurse calling her a miracle cat. Getting an MRI could rule out tumors, so we took her to an imaging centre. We hoped for a diagnosis of some non-fatal infection that we could work on curing.

October 5, 2007. The MRI revealed a golfball-sized tumor at Juniper’s olfactory frontal lobe. Options included high-risk surgery and/or radiation, but neither was recommended. She would not last the month. So rather than watch her lose the sense of well-being she had recovered temporarily, we made the difficult choice to put her to sleep before she began to suffer again. After half an hour of snuggling and goodbyes, we let her go.

It’s been a miserable two weeks. So what? They cannot overshadow the seven-plus years of love, play and felicity Juniper and I shared.

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Truth or Dairy

3 October 2007

The Dairy Farmers of Canada have a new campaign: All You Need is Cheese. Besides television ads, they’ve got an interactive website, www.allyouneedischeese.ca. I was cast for this internet-based part of the promotion as the boss of a game show contestant in the section called “Dinner With Destiny.”

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Just after filming, I was sure my work would look embarrassing. Now, although I prefer others’ performances to my own, I suppose I wasn’t all that bad. And at least I got to film in a soundstage on the top floor of the CBC.

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See my cheesy acting for yourself, if you’re not lactose (or ham) intolerant.

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Festival Restival

1 October 2007

My, oh my, Toronto has events! Ethnic food festivals, art festivals, music festivals, literary gatherings, parades, charity runs or climbs (up the CN Tower, now the second-tallest freestanding structure in the world), and mega-events like The Ex, Caribana, and Nuit Blanche. We’ve seen a few and missed many more. They are often exhausting.

Yesterday, we found a change of pace at the High Park Harvest Festival. After all the biggies and their rowdydow, this felt like someone’s backyard party. A few crafts (jewelry, jams, honey and t-shirts), kids’ activities (carve a small pumpkin, bob for apples but hanging by strings from a tree rather than floating in a tub), horse and wagon rides, and a bit of live music.

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The simplicity and lack of pretension, set to another lovely day in High Park, made for a little serenity; at least as much as can be expected with the adversities we are dealing with at present.