Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Hairy Jewish Men of Polish Descent Should NEVER Wear a Kilt!!

The husband has an obsession. Ok, he has more than one, but none of his other obsessions equals his love, fascination and true passion for scotch whisky. (Please note the spelling, as I have been lambasted in the past for incorrectly placing an "e" where most think it belongs, but actually doesn't! If you require further explanation on this grammatical anomaly, please forward all inquiries to the husband and I know that he will be happy to answer your questions and concerns!) Husband's obsession has grown over the years of our marriage. There used to be one or two bottles of the cheap shit cluttering our cupboards, but today, nothing but the best and finest for the husband. There are upwards of one hundred different bottles of whisky stuffed in our bar, and that is a conservative estimate. And what is scotch without proper scotch glasses? It can't be just any glass. It needs to have the right size, mouth, opening and weight! I have wanted to crawl under more than a few restaurant tables when the husband and his twin son of a different mother have actually quizzed wait staff on what kind of glass they serve their scotch in! That said, I have to hand it to both guys in that they have turned their obsession into business. They have persevered over these past three years and developed their own scotch company. Being a total ignoramus on the subject, I will not even attempt to describe the nature of said business and will leave that up to the experts. I will say that both of them are having a blast doing what they love. But every so often, by virtue of my wifely status, I get dragged into a world so foreign to me, it tests all of my long buried neuroses!! Last night was one of those occasions. The twin son, his better half, the husband and I made our way into the city to attend the monthly meeting of a local scotch club. (Yes, it is true! There really is such an animal as a scotch tasting club!) The guys were featuring some of their latest and greatest and hoping to make some inroads into a totalitarian province, controlled by a many-headed government bureaucracy! (read LCBO!) We found ourselves in a many leveled, oak paneled club on King Street that my ancestors would NEVER EVER have been invited to unless they were cooking the meals or scrubbing the toilets. As the husband quite astutely pointed out, I had two strikes against me and the other one was that I don't seem to have a penis! This is the kind of club where Sir John A was a past president and his portraits grace ever floor. This is the kind of club that had paintings of Victorian era gentlemen with mutton chops adorning it's walls. This is the kind of club that had photographs everywhere of all of the movers and shakers that were and currently are members and their faces lacked certain hues of ethnicity! This club smelled of port and oak and if you smelled really hard, you might just get a whiff of old stogies! In short, it was slightly intimidating for a short, dumpy Jewish girl of Polish descent currently residing in Thornhill! This is a world that I have never been a part of and I am quite certain that without the husband's foray into the scotch world, I never would have been. But there we were, being piped into dinner by a cute young guy in full Scottish regalia! (An aside--I loathe the bagpipes!!! As a musician (?) I am usually open to all kinds of music irrespective of the instruments that are used, but the bagpipes are another story altogether! How can one warm to "music" that is extruded through the bladder of a sheep! It truly sounds as though said ovine is continually being slaughtered every time the instrument is played!!) Being the centre of attention for the evening, we were placed up close and personal with the piper. So close in fact that the reddish blond hairs on his legs were clearly visible! I think that I now know what indeed a Scotsmen wears under his kilt and keeps in his sporran. The room was filled with so many WASPS that it was a veritable hive of activity! (pun intended) And the piece de resistance was the pork tenderloin for dinner. (Thank God for whitefish!) Of course, what we were really there for was to taste scotch. Given my unsophisticated palate, (it all tastes like isopropyl to me) I kept pushing my drams onto the husband. He finished his, mine and then some. Needless to say, I was the DD for the evening, although he says that one can never get drunk on scotch. In fairness, the host of the evening was a lovely Scottish gentlemen with an affinity for internet jokes, and our table mates were a charming gay couple, who made for delightful company. But I found myself feeling very much the whitefish out of water. There are just certain things that are truly cultural and inbred, and no matter how much the husband feels this affinity for whisky and the Scottish culture, he and his twin son need to understand that they are, in no uncertain terms, JEWS!! Polish Jews!! Hairy Jews!! Dark and Hairy Jews! And that both of them, no matter how much they would like to think otherwise, would look really stupid in a kilt. Gentlemen, you just don't have the legs for it!!!

A quick update on Shithole the outside contractor. He showed up yesterday and was forced to admit that his construction of the deck really sucked! He is due back tomorrow to redo the project. We shall see!!!

Monday, 28 April 2008

Define Essential!!!

As I have previously noted, I am a resident of the northern ghetto and as such I have an intense relationship with my car. Any resident of the GTA who does not reside within the 416, can recount tales of transit woe! Subway? Ma Zeh Subway? Buses are a horrible mish mash of regional services that demand extra fares whenever one crosses territorial boundaries. (An aside-The VIVA transit system that came to York Region over the past couple of years has been a God-send in many ways and seems to be thriving by using a mix of cleanliness and customer service--what a unique business plan!!) As such, we 905ers have a built in umbilical cord with our automobiles. Without personal vehicles, basic trips such as getting to work, medical appointments, and grocery shopping would require several hours out of our days. Would I like to be more transit friendly? This goes without saying, but transit needs to be economically feasible and convenient for it's users in order to encourage more people to ride, something that the mess of services in the 905 is certainly not. (Think New York, Chicago or London and you will understand what real public transit is and should be!) But, the TTC does impact and affect my life in a discernible and meaningful way. Younger son attends school in midtown and is a regular weekday rider. Older son, lives in within the approved city limits and is a Metropass holder, as public transit is his sole means of traversing the roads, given the fact that his parents are mean, cruel and horrible (not to mention cheap!) people who will not foot the bill for a car!! More people on public transit, means less people in cars and on the roads and therefore the daily horror that has become driving is somewhat lessened. (I said that I lived in the ghetto. I didn't say I was cloistered or stayed in the ghetto all the time!!) When the strike was first threatened over a week ago, younger son, diligent student that he is, made arrangements to spend a couple of nights at his grandparents house. The idea was that he would walk the rest of the way to school-an hour each way! Over 1 million rides are taken daily on the TTC! 1 million people trying to get to work! 1 million people trying to see their doctors and dentists! 1 million people hoping to help the economy and spend money in the city! 1 million people trying to save money on gasoline and help the environment! Isn't that essential? Isn't it essential that your nurse or local firefighter (who are deemed essential, by the way!) makes it to work to help your ailing parent or saves your neighbour's life? Isn't it essential that the minimum wage worker gets to his job so that missing a day's wage will not put his rent or daily meal in danger? Isn't it essential that a university student makes it to her exams on time so that her entire year is not put in jeopardy? Carpooling, cycling, walking, cabbing or simply driving is not the option for most people that it is for me. When a civil service can paralyze a city of millions, literally shutting it down and causing panic, danger and economic nightmares, it seems to me that is the very definition of essential. I truly believe in the power of collective bargaining and workers rights, but this is where I stop drinking the Kool-Aid!!! Essential? Absolutely!!!! Get to work Dalt and Dave and make it happen!!

An update on some leftover kitchen stuff. Now that spring has arrived, the outside deck and painting needs to be completed. No surprise that Outside Shithole of a Contractor is not returning ours or Overall Contractor's calls. There are some problems with the deck that need to be rectified before it can be stripped and stained and used this summer. Nothing major that couldn't be solved with a half a days worth of work! We have this new and wonderful exit into our backyard that we cannot access and the kicker in all of this is that the pool is due to open next week! A word to the wise--Hunky does not mean cool!!!! What a Putz!! Keep you all posted.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Matzah Bagel is an Oxymoron!!!

It is that time of year again. Spring has finally made it's long-delayed appearance and the snowbirds have headed north because the thoughts of all Jews naturally turn to those of Pesach. (Passover for the uninitiated!) Ask any member of the tribe, no matter how extraneous their religious connection, and you will hear tales of woe describing seder preparations. (We Jews are just not happy unless we are miserable!) "Oy! I can't believe that we have to do the seder this year at Uncle Moishe's! He is Shomer Shabbas and refuses to begin until long after Shabbas has ended. That means that we won't be eating until midnight!!!! My insides can't take matzah at midnight!" How about this one! "Does anyone have a haggadah that sort of hits the highlights? I figure Four Questions, plagues, horseradish, Dayenu and dinner should suffice!" Or-"Pesach gets more complicated every year. Now we had to add the Macatunim!" (in-laws!!) Here is a personal favorite that seems to make the rounds in Jewville north. "Peasdikah ketchup? Who the hell ever heard of Pesadikah ketchup?" I will not pretend that Pesach is not stressful. The preparations, the cooking, the cleaning, the family, the cooking, the shopping, the cooking, the constipation and, did I mention the cooking? While I am not personally hosting either seder this year (thank you to the wonderful souls that have taken pity on us-you know who you are!) cooking and cleaning began in earnest here last week. Before anyone prejudges, please understand that every family and every person should do what feels right for them and in no way would I ever presume to advise on matters of personal religious observance. In this house, we do not eat the five forbidden grains or any product derived from those grains. (OK! I know that matzah is derived from those grains and if anyone wants to have a discussion on why one can consume said cardboard at Passover, you know where to find me!) This has lead to tremendous anxiety on the part of the husband, as scotch whisky is derived from grain and thus becomes verboten at Passover. We tend to have the same argument every year, but so far he has accepted the ban although not without a considerable amount of angst. We also have adopted the "kitniyot", (the grains such as rice and corn that, while not banned outright in the Torah, have been on the no-no list for Ashkenazi Jews for hundreds of years) thanks to cousin/sister marrying into the Sephardic community. Once there was one Separd, we ALL became Sephard!!! (Our Ashkenazi ancestors from Eastern Europe and Poland didn't eat rice and corn, because they never knew rice and corn existed! They knew from carrots and potatoes so, naturally we got stuck with tzimmes and kugels.) I don't turn over my dishes, although I know and love many that do. I don't walk around the house with a feather searching for crumbs, although I find the idea oddly appealing to my neurotic clean-obsessed mind. I don't look for the "hechsher" (kosher for pesach sticker) that means that some rebbe examined the Coca Cola factory and made it all right for consumption at Passover. I observe the spirit and emotion of the holiday. Which is why I believe that I take such great exception to a "matzah bagel". As a kid growing up in fairly Jewish Toronto, choices of Pesach foods were rather limited to what Mom and Bubby made and the odd sponge cake at the bakery. I believe that matzah bagels damage the intent of the meaning of Passover. While fully legal under the law, they are a bastardization of the intent of the law. There is a reason that for 7 days you are supposed to eat unleavened bread, not bread that looks and tastes (?) like the original, but really isn't. As stated previously, one's belief and practice is very personal. My belief and my Passover does not and never will include matzah bagels., Lots of eggs and some dried fruit perhaps, but never a matzah bagel.
Chag sameach to all who observe and may your seders be lovely and stress free. L'shanah Haba-ah B'Yerushalyim. Next year in Jerusalem!!!

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Has Spring Finally Sprung?

Can it be true? Might we actually be witnessing a thaw in the land of the Blue Jays? The temperature, while certainly not warm, has managed to push the mercury above 0 for the past couple of days. The mounds of grey that were truly several metres in height, have started to dissipate, but given the enormous volume, still have quite a way to go. I know that I have less to complain about than my neighbours do. I managed to evade and escape large chunks of the misery with my migration to the land of the Marlins. (you can tell that spring is here when baseball imagery starts invading my thoughts and I have put my annual Leafs misery back where it belongs!) Still, in the time that I did spend here during the past several months, it managed to snow, sleet, freezing rain, or other such horror, so many times that I lost count. It was truly a winter worthy of the urban legends that I am certain will follow. But, while we are probably not out of the woods yet, (there have only been 2 Aprils on record without discernible snow-insert whimpering here!!) we can certainly see the golden sun beyond the horizon. Spring--and hopefully right behind it, a long, hot and sweltering summer! The hotter the better as far as I am concerned, but that is a debate for a different day. Instead, today I thought that I would share with you the signs of spring and how I am so certain that we are finally over the hump!

1. I know that spring is coming because the rancid snow on my pool cover has finally melted into a rancid pond. While it is far too early to worry about West Nile and mosquitoes, it is not too early to anticipate the annual arrival of our mallard and his mates. (Several years ago he started showing up with 2 girls. Maybe he migrated from a polygamist community?) It is a very Tony Soprano moment around here when the ducks come for their annual swim.

2. I know that spring is coming because all conversations turn to Pesach. Every grocery store is stocked with the Kosher L'Pesach foods and supplies, and the little plaza at the corner (frum north) is a veritable hive of activity. Seder thoughts are on everybody's minds and the ideas of cleaning, cooking and how to survive the week without feeling like a drainpipe clogged with bubble gum are pervasive.

3. I know that spring is coming because while the evenings may not be warmer, they are certainly longer thanks to an earlier start to Daylight Savings Time. The extra daylight coincides with an increased restlessness from the young men in my life. Their concentration seems to wane just a bit as the weather improves. This is especially true this spring as younger son seems to be suffering from a mild case of "senioritis". With acceptances to various programs for next year already secure, he seems to have developed a "laissez-faire" attitude that is wholly uncharacteristic. To his credit, he is still doing great in spite of his malady.

4. I know that spring is coming because I am back on my semi-annual strict diet and exercise program. No carbs, no sugar and very little taste for the foreseeable future, and workouts every single day!! This time I have taken it one step further in that I have given up my precious Diet Coke with lime. I LOVE Diet Coke with lime. It is my one true vice. I don't smoke, drink alcohol or coffee nor do I indulge in "recreational partying". I do Diet Coke with lime. Sad? Perhaps, but I truly enjoy it. Plain water just doesn't have the same cache, but the caffeine was really starting to affect me and I figured if I was giving up everything else that I enjoy, I might as well go whole hog. Believe me, I would rather have my Diet Coke than peanut M & M's, Junior Mints or even sushi, so this is serious.

5. I know that spring is coming because the Blue Jays, who have yet to play a game in anger, are already suffering from the injury bug. I am a true fan and will follow this team all season, but losing your third basemen to a broken finger incurred while fielding a harmless grounder, does not bode well. Last week I watched a replay on TSN Classic of the final game of the 1993 World Series. Joe Carter rounding those bases was just as exciting 15 years later as it was on that October evening. Toronto needs to feel that kind of passion again. This is a team that can make some noise this season, but only if they stay healthy. Not a good start.

6. I know that spring is coming because the NHL playoffs begin next week and the Leafs are playing golf. Enough said!

7. I know that spring is coming because the silly concert tour season is beginning. This year we here in TO will have the opportunity to see Eric Clapton, Emmy-Lou Harris, James Taylor, Sheryl Crow, Robert Plant, Tom Paxton, Melissa Etheridge, Dave Matthews and many more 40, 50 and 60 somethings. I realize the boomers drive the concert going experience and that the money to be made is huge, but really! While I would pay to see most, if not all on that list, when were any of these performers truly in their prime. I am certain that most will put on great shows, but the money involved for the tickets is nothing short of obscene!!

8. I know that spring is coming because I look around the house, both inside and out, and notice all of the repairs and cleaning that needs to be done. The gutters need replacing as does some the brick facing near the front of the garage. The deck needs to be sanded and stained to match the extension that was built for the kitchen reno. I would love to paint our bedroom, but that might have to wait. The whole house could use a thorough cleaning, especially the storage areas that haven't been touched since I was in my 30's. I would also love to get rid of the white elephant in the basement also known as the pool table. Any takers?

9. I know that spring is coming because I feel better about the food that I am eating. The produce looks and smells better. The preparations for meals don't seem quite so onerous and variety has re-entered our diets. Enough with the comfort food and back to lighter and healthier.

10. I know that spring is coming because every road I drive in the city is an obstacle course of potholes. This year seems particularly bad. Yonge Street south of Steeles is a true danger to life and car. There are complete divots in the asphalt. It feels as though one is on a ride at Wonderland. Truly frightening!

11. I know that spring is coming because my allergies and asthma are acting up. I still would rather have a few sleepless nights wheezing and coughing, than have to deal with snow.

12. Finally, I know that spring is coming because the birds are back and waking me up every morning before 6. Welcome back friends! We have all missed you.

Fit or Fat?

Yesterday, while watching Oprah (yes-I do have occasion to watch Oprah! Snicker if you must!) I had occasion to see Martina Navratilova. Now Martina, at age 51 has a better body than I did at 20. While she readily admits to still being obsessive about her workout regime, she also acknowledged that she is, and always has been a natural athlete. If she hadn't excelled at tennis, she probably would have been a world class runner, swimmer, biker or some such other athletic pursuit afforded to women of her day. Most of us are not so fortunate. High school memories are filled with stories of phys. ed. class horrors. (rompers not excluded!!!) Some sado-masochistic teacher who felt it was his or her duty to watch klutz after sad sack klutz try to vault or high jump. For those of you out there who have never experienced the humiliation of never being picked for sports teams or have never understood that track and field day was a nightmare, given the fact that you have always consistently finished first in the relay as opposed to last, please know that it wasn't because we were lazy, we simply couldn't keep up with the Navratilovas of the world. That was supposed to change with new ideas in child rearing and education. It didn't matter if you could do 60 crunches in a minute, what mattered was individual levels and marked improvement. As a society, we started understanding that it was more important to be fit on our own levels. And then..... governments got involved. Please understand, that this is not a railing against a particular party or level of government. This is for every single politician who, over the past 25-30 years, has tampered with kid's fitness. This is for the feds that decided to offer tax breaks and credits for parents of kids in organized hockey, (God forbid that anyone should every criticize at the altar of hockey in Canada!!) but refuse to offer the same tax incentives for parents of kids in soccer, gymnastics, dance or martial arts. This is for the provinces that have introduced legislation banning trans-fats, soda pop in schools and food advertising aimed at children, while, all the while eroding school physical education programs so much so that elementary kids only have gym 3 times a week maximum. (In some places, it is decidedly less than that!!) This is for the municipal politicians that search for funds to renovate old ice rinks, because there are so many hockey programs that they have to fight for ice time, (again-be warned to the politico that goes against the hockey god!) while all the while closing public pools. This is for the school trustees that while existing and subsisting in a bloated bureaucracy that costs taxpayers millions of dollars a year, and continually refusing entreaties to realign said bureaucracy, is closing high school swimming pools that would only save about 4 million bucks!!! This is for those who want to cut community centres and house leagues. How are we expected to instill in our kids that it is okay to love and participate in athletics without being an athlete if our leaders refuse to send the same message. We are constantly hearing how our kids are fatter and less active than ever before, yet we continually place obstacles in their access to phys. ed. We are telling our kids that "sure you can play hockey--if you can afford it!" Or--"if you need to learn to swim kid, there is a pay for play program at the Y!" I didn't start regular workouts until several years after the younger son was born. As I huffed and puffed my way through my thirties and forties, I always wondered how much easier all of this would have been if I was raised in a culture of physical fitness? If I wasn't constantly told in gym class that I didn't measure up. It is soooooooo hard to start at 30, let alone 40 or 50!!! (Oy-my knees, and back, and shoulders and every other *&%$ body part that is talking to me right now!!!) Should we be attempting to raise a generation of Martinas (not that there is anything wrong with the elite athlete-let's just understand that they are the anomaly!) or should we be trying to raise a generation of healthy and fit young people? Let's go people! Move!!!