Monday, 21 February 2011

All Holidays are Made Up

I had a typically enlightening conversation with Older Son early this afternoon. I inquired of him if he was feeling lonely on this Family Day given that our family was scattered across the continent. In a response that was very much in keeping with his pragmatic yet sarcastic nature, he stated that it was difficult to get emotional about a holiday that was barely three years old, an invention of our provincial government to bless us with downtime during the miserable month of February, and-as he correctly reminded me-we have yet to be together as family on this day. It set off a discussion between us that began with the basic premise that all holidays are works of fiction no matter how engrained they have become in our culture. They are either remembrance days formed out of religious mythology, anniversaries of great events or birth dates, or simply an excuse to stay in pyjamas, watch DVDs, and eat junk food all day. (As I am currently in the southern home I must state that holidays down here seem more inclined to be celebrated by pushing me to buy bed linens, cars, or electronics all in the name of dead presidents.) Whatever the excuse, I can find less worthy things to commemorate than family. That said, I do offer up a few alternatives that I do believe are long overdue in being labelled statutory holidays. Apologies in advance to my Yankee friends and readers in that I can only go by what I know, and most of that is Canadian.

  • I believe, my fellow Canucks, that the time has finally come to celebrate the birthday of our first Prime Minister, Sir John A MacDonald. We Canadians are often accused of our complacency and derided for our lack of patriotism. How can we debate such mendacities when we can't even claim a national holiday for our Father of Confederation? Good old John A even had the decency to be born in January, a month sorely in need of a long weekend. Rally 'round the history books folks and strike a blow for our founding father.
  • While Family Day is becoming a nice and most welcome diversion in February, perhaps a more fitting day to celebrate might be Flag Day. Our distinctive red maple leaf was officially adopted our country's flag on February 15th, 1965. Doesn't Flag Day have a nicer and more logical ring to it than Family Day? Once again patriotism should win out.
  • Queen's Birthday. For 150 years we have been marking the May 24th birthday of Queen Victoria. Victoria was our reigning monarch for an astounding 64 years. Our current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II has reigned for an almost nearly astounding 59 years. She was born in April, but observes her official birthday in May. Why not call it Queens Day and honour both of these impressive women.
  • Tax Freedom Day!!! Last year, Tax Freedom Day arrived in Canada on June 5th-a full three days later than the previous year. For the uninitiated, Tax Freedom Day is the day when most people stop working in order to pay their taxes and start working to pocket whatever they earn for themselves. An auspicious occasion to be certain. Shouldn't we do a happy dance for a long weekend in June and celebrate by spending our new found wealth on ourselves?
  • Thanksgiving in Canada is observed in October. I take no issue with this harvest festival except to note that it does leave November, a dreary month to be certain, curiously lacking a long weekend. Maybe we could have American Thanksgiving as well? Many of us stay home to watch the parade and football games now as it is, we might as well have the tofurkey too. 
Those are a few of my ideas. Add your own if you wish. Otherwise, I hope you all had a Happy President's Family Day. 

Monday, 7 February 2011

The Chihuahua That Destroyed Hallandale Beach

I have a dog problem. I realize that this sounds strange coming from somebody who last had a canine in residence five years ago, (Wow-can it really be that long?) but I really do. I have spent the better part of my life in the company of furry four-legged friends, and believe there are some dogs with whom I would much rather spend an afternoon than some people. Dogs are loyal, trustworthy, and love unconditionally. Yes, they can be sloppy, drooling, shedding, needy, and many times overwhelming creatures, (all of this is a shout-out to The Husband and a means to pacify his somewhat ill-conceived logic as to why we do not currently share our lives with a dog) but to call me anything other than a dog person with a deep seated love and longing for all things canine is to deny a huge part of my psyche. I am not usually the person in the room who complains about dogs, and I have zero fear when it comes to even the most surly of animals, but I think that I have finally found my Achilles heel.

We live a pretty quiet and unassuming life when we are down in the Southern Home. It is true that condo life is not for the faint of heart or the politically squeamish, but we avoid most of the huge pitfalls and for the most part fly under the condo bullshit radar. We have had a mostly peaceful co-existence with our neighbours and, truth be told are not even certain as to some of their identities-even those on our own floor. Our little corner of the 5th has been for the most part all about exchanging morning pleasantries and inquiries as to weather and daily health. That all changed this year, when our neighbour across the hall, who had been previously renting out her unit, decided to move in full time and bring along her obnoxious Chihuahua. Ay Caramba!!

It should be noted that chihuahuas are amongst my least favourite of all breeds. They tend to be miserably tempered, oversized rats with stupid looking satellite-sized ears. And this was before bored women with too much time and money on their hands decided that it would be cute fashion to dress the poor creatures up like a Barbie and carry them around in expensive Coach bags! They are ankle biters and barkers because, really what else do they have? Their entire defence mechanism revolves around making a great deal of noise and hoping against hope that the perceived threat won't discover that the squeaky series of yelps and growls is actually emanating from a three pound misery on four legs. I have such a nightmare living across the hall from me, and as I type this post she is creating yet another in a winter-long series of commotions about absolutely nothing. The Husband has told me that when we Skype or speak on the phone, he can actually hear the wretched thing coming through the doors and walls. Various house guests over the past couple of months have remarked on the gigantic lungs on the creature, and how her barks awakened them in our second bedroom.

She attacks when I open my front door to remove garbage, and she starts up when the elevator arrives at our floor. She is worse when her people are away, and she can actually be heard by residents a floor below. I tried to enlist the opinions of another neighbour thinking that there might be safety in numbers, but I was accused of not being "a dog person". That one hit hard. I know that I should register a complaint with the building management, but I just cannot seem to do it. I really like my anonymous existence here and the last thing I want to do is start a war with my neighbour. I tend not to be all that confrontational with issues like this one, and as we all know people can be pretty sensitive when it comes to criticizing their dogs or their kids. I am at a bit of loose ends.

I know what I must do, but I am really not looking forward to it. I have come to realize one thing, though. Big dogs have it all over their pint-sized cousins. I will take the sloppy, drooling, shedding, neediness any day over the Napoleonic complex miniature anything. I am thinking a chocolate lab this time instead of vanilla. Husband?

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Born to Hand Job-I Mean Jive

I am once again sitting in the peaceful confines of the Southern Home, after barely escaping the latest "snowmageddon" yesterday morning. No gloating from this girl. I know that I got out just in time. But I still cannot help but chuckle at the latest in a string of airport travel experiences that seems to lump me together with others of like skin tone. What, you say? That would be racial profiling and we do no such thing in North America! Bullshit, says I although I know that I could never conclusively prove it. How is it then, that I am ALWAYS (and I mean, ALWAYS) singled out and targeted for full on inspections at every airport from which and into which I fly? A Facebook friend yesterday reminded me of my somewhat swarthy appearance-smooth dark hair, olive skin and eyebrows that need to be tamed, lest I resemble Bert from Sesame Street-but c'mon. Enough already. On to yesterday's up close and personal account.

I was travelling alone. Probably my first mistake. Suspicious people always travel alone, don't they? I didn't have any luggage except for a backpack. Mistake number two, although in today's day of luggage fees most people are attempting to cram two weeks worth of personal belongings into oversized carry-ons. I used my NEXUS card to skirt the customs and immigration lines. Not a mistake. I still highly recommend this. Shaved at least 1/2 hour-forty minutes off of my experience. I walked towards the security lines when a turbaned gentleman in an official looking CATSA uniform approached me and pulled me over. He was quite a lovely man, very soft spoken and almost apologetic in his tone that he had to inconvenience me in such a manner. My question still remains. Why me? Why not the guy with multiple tattoos and piercings following directly behind me? Why not the briefcase-toting, frazzled-looking businessman? Why not the entire Asian family that had trouble locating their travel documents? WHY ME? He asked me to hold out my hands while he scanned them for traces of explosives. He grinned as he did it and then smiled as he told me that I popped positive. WHAT?? Me? The leftist, pinko socialist (or so The Li'l Bro believes!) that thinks weapons should be banned for the collective good. Me! The girl who needed tutoring in Grade 13 chemistry, and can't remember the difference between a mole, a compound, or an ester. Oh my God!! The nice turbaned guy told me that I shouldn't worry. I was the third woman in the last hour that blew the machine and it was probably a compound (?) in my makeup or lotion that was setting off his sensors. Isn't it nice to know that Western civilization is being kept safe from Estee Lauder and Oil of Olay? He needed to get a supervisor and I could then be on my way.

It took fifteen minutes for Claudia to arrive. Another lovely person working for CATSA who seems to know that there are major flaws in their systems. She informed me that she would have to take me into a separate room and ask me some questions, but not to worry-it was all very routine. Claudia asks me for my name, birthdate and finally for my profession. I tell her that I am a cantorial soloist and she immediately looks at me quizzically. I start to explain, but she stops me. "I know you", she says. "Are you at Temple ......?" "You play the guitar, right?" I am about to answer, but she excitedly tells me that she is at our sister congregation on the other side of Yonge Street, that she knows my colleagues there and she begins to play Toronto Jewish geography with me. She immediately apologizes for the hassles that I am currently undergoing, and she promises that she will have me out in 5 minutes. I still undergo the full body strip search, with special emphasis on feeling me up and around my lady parts, and they ripped apart all of my carry-on baggage-checking each and every item for explosive residue-but sure enough Claudia was true to her word. I was on my way in 5 minutes. She came over to me, shook my hand, and promised to come and visit us on an upcoming Shabbat.

I am still uncertain why it is that I am forced to undergo these procedures each and every trip, when my blond haired, blue-eyed friend simply saunters right through. Racial profiling is indeed a fact of our travel lives, even though every single official will deny it exists. I am a living, breathing example of the treatment. But for one brief moment of clarity and karma I had a landsman friend in the right place and at the right time. Claudia was right. It IS all about who you know.

Stay warm and dry my friends.