BY mj

10/01 Direct Link
I never met Steve’s Grandmother. Because we were not married my mother-in-law could not bring herself to tell this devout Christian woman her grandson was living in sin. His grandmother went to her deathbed not knowing that she had great-grandchildren. Even so, Steve’s mom bestowed on me a needlepoint handbag his grandmother had made. I guess because I sew, and would appreciate it. When I use that bag, I am touched by evidence of this phantom matriarch – a needle and thread in the lining – she was always at the ready to make a quick repair.
10/02 Direct Link
When Steve’s great-aunt had to be moved into a nursing home, Steve and I made the trip to Ottawa to help his mother clear out the old family abode. We were told we could have anything we wanted, but when we got there anything good had been labeled with his sister and brother’s names. I helped his mother clear out the nursing home room after the aunt died. Again I was told I could choose something. I liked a cranberry glass vase. “Oh, no, that has been in the family for generations.” I was put in my place.
10/03 Direct Link
Mrs. Miller’s hippy son got a monkey then took off to India, leaving his pet with her. She hired Ann and me to take care of it. You might think a small monkey would be little trouble. The cage stunk if you did not clean it twice a day and those monkeys mark territory by peeing on their paws to leave their scent on everything. As well it needed a lot of attention to keep it from going stir crazy and pulling its fur out. But we loved to take it for walks for the attention it got us.
10/04 Direct Link
Because we were known as animal lovers in town somebody brought us a baby raccoon they found beside her dead mother on the roadside. We raised her and she bonded with us so fully that we had no need of a leash. When we took her for walks she followed faithfully a few feet behind. People would tell us there was a raccoon following us and we would act surprised. It was a lot of fun until the vet refused to give her rabies shots. We had to release in the woods. I hope she had the skills to survive.
10/05 Direct Link
The dog was the deal breaker. Joan did not hate dogs, some day she thought she might get one, when she had time to give one the attention a dog needs. But not this dog. This dog stunk. And it had this skin condition that made it scratch and bite large patches of fur off. In those places the skin was scaly and creepy-looking. Not only that, but whenever she was at his place this dog would latch on to her leg and vigorously hump. “He just thinks you’re sexy,” Brian laughed. Joan was not going back there.
10/06 Direct Link
“You’re breaking off with me because of my dog?” he asked, incredulously. “That dog loves you!” Joan thought - that’s supposed to change my mind? What about Brian? Funny he did not mention anything about HIS love for her. Only the dog. And what kind of a guy would allow his dog to torture his girlfriend every time she came over? Was she supposed to find his devotion to his dog adorable? Was she supposed to feel guilty because she could not return the love of this scabrous curr? From now on she was dating only guys with cats.
10/07 Direct Link
Life was good in our little village, even if the gates always had to be closed. We had comfortable homes and the food was good and plentiful. All our needs were seen to daily. We snuggled together with our loved ones every night, secure in the knowledge that we were safe. Sometimes we saw the wild ones on the other side, and they sneered at our complacency, but we saw that they were scrawny and dirty, and always looking over their shoulders. Our Benefactors cared for us, but they seemed to abhor the wild ones and hunted them down mercilessly.
10/08 Direct Link
The Benefactors came and took one of us regularly. We never knew what became of them until Bright Eyes bolted through the gate one time when it was open. She had never been satisfied within the sheltered confines of the village. Later she came back to warn us how the Benefactors offered our loved ones to a Sky Demon in exchange for shiny adornments they wore on their fingers. The adornments brought great honour to the Benefactors, but our brothers and sisters died horribly, torn limb from limb. Then we realized the price we paid for our lives of comfort.
10/09 Direct Link
A baby iguana is a beautiful thing – bright green and delicate. They skurried around the courtyard of the hotel where we stayed in Costa Rica and Sophy had fun chasing them. She and the girl she befriended while on vacation also delighted in the orange and black crabs that sidled along the beach. Most of all they adored the hermit crabs. Sophy asked for a container to bring some home with her. Her friend’s parents were letting their child do that. How could I explain that I was not the cruel one, not allowing Sophy to do the same.
10/10 Direct Link
Sophy loved all living things. She had no problems with bugs, except perhaps for mosquitoes. So the display of insects at the Exhibition drew her attention immediately. You even got to take some of the bugs out and hold them. She cupped the hissing cockroach in her hand, studying it intently. I was looking at the stick bugs when I heard the woman gasp. “Ew!” she said, and I followed her gaze to see Sophy lifting the cockroach to her lips. “What?” exclaimed Sophy, “They’re kissing cockroaches, aren’t they?” A misunderstanding has now become a favourite family legend.
10/11 Direct Link
We took Highway 5 through Waterdown to Clappison’s corners in the hopes of seeing some bright fall foliage. And we did – off to one side of the highway. The road is like a dividing line between urban encroachment and the rich farmlands of Ontario. What was once a sleepy country road is now a thoroughfare between new building developments to the south. How could so much have gone up within a matter of months? To the north, the farmland will not be holding up for much longer. ‘For Sale’ signs and project signs for future developments dotted the roadside.
10/12 Direct Link
At least I live in a city where you do not have to go far to find a large enough tract of natural habitat that you can forget you are in an busy urban area. On Saturday Steve and I rode out on Leslie Spit – an arm of land that juts out into Lake Ontario to form one side of Toronto harbour. In one direction the presence of the city skyline is inescapable, but if you keep your eyes toward the lake, you might think you were on a trek along a country road. Mind you, we were not alone.
10/13 Direct Link
The thing about a big city is that it is pretty hard to find places that offer complete solitude. Out on Leslie Spit there were many hikers and bikers, mostly going about their own business. But there are always those who insist on intruding on those around, even if they are not interacting with them. Like the guy who was out for a jog, shouting angrily and repeatedly at the top of his voice – “Fuck’n Bitch! Who does she think she is?” I hope by the time he finished his run he had gotten that out of his system.
10/14 Direct Link
The Chilean miners are out! I think maybe if I had been one of them, I might possibly still be down there. I am not sure I would have been able to force myself into that little chamber to be dragged up through that narrow bore hole - for any length of time. Although after so many weeks suffering underground I may have agreed to do it in desperation – in which case I doubt I would have sprung from the capsule in joy, as the miners did. They would have probably had to shovel my limp, quivering body off the floor.
10/15 Direct Link
Am I being naive? I think a lone woman in a group of males is generally safe, providing she is one of them. In my experience most men behave in a civilized, protective way toward female members of their own tribe. So, if there had been a single female miner trapped underground with 'The 33' I believe she would have been treated with respect. There might have been trouble among the men if she had chosen a partner during that time, or worse, a couple of partners. However, things would be different for a woman from outside the mining 'family.'
10/16 Direct Link
I have to talk with the kids, yet again, about their keeping up with their assigned duties around the house. The other day I prompted my son to do the dishes and he answered, “I just did a double shift and none of those dishes were mine.” This was as I delivered his folded laundry to him after having worked a busy eight hour day. I do not know why it is so hard for kids to understand that we are all adults sharing the house and therefore we share the responsibility of maintaining its pleasant comforts for each other.
10/17 Direct Link
This weekend Steve and I had a good ride through another of Toronto’s idyllic naturalized parklands. The Humber River has miles and miles of trails running alongside it on which you can ride or walk through gorgeous wooded areas and landscaped recreational lands. It is lovely how the city has respected these ravines and kept them from encroaching development. Of course these areas are precious, but funny how we seem to value them over the farmland that provides our sustenance. It is being eaten up a mile a minute by oversized home properties and with big box shopping malls.
10/18 Direct Link
The thing about urban sprawl is that it is not only wasteful in itself but it is being done wastefully. I look at those rows of homes marching across the landscape and they are huge. With every progressive ring of suburban development circling a city, the buildings get larger. And yet, as the years go by families are getting smaller. Somehow people have convinced themselves that they need so much more than they ever did before. Heaven forbid if each bedroom did not have an ensuite and a walk-in closet. And how did we manage without them up until now?
10/19 Direct Link
Late October and the streets are still filled with bikes. This mostly makes me happy to see that more and more people have turned to serious bike commuting. Almost like the white shoes and linen rule, bikes used to ebb from the streets after Labour Day – really for no reason at all because the weather would still be fine. I have to admit part of me misses those days when I would have freedom on the bike routes to move unhindered. However, I will take the congestion, thankful for the strength in numbers. Even the young hotshots in racing gear.
10/20 Direct Link
In addition to their ridiculously expensive bicycles, they have the appropriate cool accessories and wear cycling shorts and jerseys, looking as if they are in the Tour de France. Behaving as if they are participating in a bike race, too – jumping queue at traffic lights (if they stop at all), buzzing past too close for safety, passing on the right, tailgating and bullying. And just plain going too fast. These are city streets, kids! They are not made for racing. Go find yourselves a racetrack and leave the streets for the considerate, law-abiding cyclists who use the roads responsibly.
10/21 Direct Link
The woman was ambling along in front of Joan smoking a cigarette in one hand, her other hand held up to her ear. Since she was talking loudly Joan assumed the woman was on a cellphone. However, since the hood on the woman’s parka was up, that could not be determined for certain. Joan kept trying to get to get by, but every time she made an attempt the woman would drift over to the side Joan chose. Finally Joan had to brush by, slightly jostling the woman, who then shot her a killing look for invading her personal space.
10/22 Direct Link
As Joan went through the door she noticed a woman coming up behind her, so Joan paused to hold the door. Another group of people came up on the heels of the woman and walked blithely through the door, assuming that Joan had been placed there to hold the door. And after that another couple came through from the other direction. It did not occur to any of these people to take over holding the door. Joan could not bring herself to let the door swing shut on them, even though none of them thought to acknowledge Joan with thanks.
10/23 Direct Link
The woman got on the bus ahead of Joan. After Joan put her fare in the box she turned to make her way down the aisle, but the woman had planted herself right at the front of the bus. She was not a narrow woman and she had huge bag over her shoulder. With some degree of difficulty Joan managed to squeeze by, but not without dirty looks from the woman. Joan thought maybe the woman had placed herself there because she needed to get off at the next stop. But she witnessed the same thing repeated stop after stop.
10/24 Direct Link
The woman got on the bus ahead of Joan. After Joan put her fare in the box she turned to make her way down the aisle, but the woman had planted herself right at the front of the bus. She was not a narrow woman and she had huge bag over her shoulder. With some degree of difficulty Joan managed to squeeze by, but not without dirty looks from the woman. Joan thought maybe the woman had placed herself there because she needed to get off at the next stop. But she witnessed the same thing repeated stop after stop.
10/25 Direct Link
The two women stood side by side on the escalator going down to the subway, Chatting with each other and ignoring the jam of people building up behind them. "Excuse me," said Joan, but they paid her no attention. Then at the bottom of the escalator they stepped from the mechanism and stopped, totally oblivious of the fact that the escalator would keep feeding people off the last moving step. There was nothing to do but push forward between them, at which point the women looked around with mystified expressions, as if to say "What has the world come to?"
10/26 Direct Link
Joan stood back to let the elderly man with the cane onto the subway car ahead of her. As she did so, she was nearly bowled over by a young student racing in front of her and pushing past the infirm senior as he made his way toward the last remaining seat on the car. The boy swooped in and claimed the seat, knocking the people on both side of him with his oversized backpack. A proud look of accomplishment spread across his face. He had managed to win the competition for the prize seat over the frail handicapped senior.
10/27 Direct Link
The car idled on the side of the road in front of the coffee shop. A woman sat inside clasping her cup with both hands to warm herself. I wondered why the woman had not simply stayed inside to drink her morning coffee. It was a red light, anyway, so I did not mind the fact that I could not get by the car. But I could not resist coming alongside and calling through the window, "Convenient parking spot, eh?" The woman sat with her eyes locked in front of her, refusing to acknowledge her transgression of the bike lane.
10/28 Direct Link
The building entrance did not provide protection from the elements. Maybe, if rain was falling straight down, the slightly protruding lintel above the door might have kept you half dry. All the same the group of smokers insisted on huddling close to opening. In order to go in or out one had to push through the group, running a gauntlet of choking smoke. Even when the smokers were not present, their unsightly mess persisted as evidence that none of them ever bothered to take the few steps over to the butt receptacle located where they were supposed to be smoking.
10/29 Direct Link
He rode my tail for several blocks, so close behind that it left no room for error. He had several chances to pass, but I think he was trying to demonstrate to me that I was an annoying impediment to his freedom to drive at high speeds on residential side streets. Finally he roared by me close enough that it might have freaked out less experienced bicyclists, causing them to fall. I watched the autumn leaves dancing behind him as he streaked ahead. When I pulled up beside him at the traffic light, I kept my eyes forward and smiled.
10/30 Direct Link
I have been writing on a theme of oblivious, inconsiderate, even downright rude behavior. Maybe I am just getting to be an old crank, but it seems to me that this kind of behavior is becoming more and more pronounced. As the world gets more crowded, people have gotten less courteous – when it should be the opposite. The more we are forced to deal with other people the greater the need to act with consideration for them. Instead, everybody seems to have retreated into little private bubbles in which they operate as if those around them do not even exist.
10/31 Direct Link
Some may assume that I am an old fogy complaining about youth in my tirade against inconsiderate behavior. Not so at all. I notice this ‘bubble’ mentality in people of all ages: the pleasant looking white haired lady who will reach in front of you and grab the last item on the shelf that you were obviously about to take; or the group of distinguished businessmen who will stand talking in a group on a street corner blocking traffic in four directions. The epidemic of rudeness spans all demographics. That is why it is such a pleasure to encounters courtesy.