Most Improved

I have a student whose struggles learning English have been monumental. B. is one of the few students at my place of employment who is not here for two or three years to learn English. He’s emigrating here. This has been a source of stress for him because a) he doesn’t have a naturally good ear for learning languages, and b) he has a slight speech impediment.

He has been so valiant in his effort to learn to speak English clearly. Although he still has a very heavy accent that embarrasses him, this year’s classroom teacher had his class giving oral presentations at least once every two weeks. He’s getting more comfortable, and less frustrated, with his own ability to speak English.

Another thing he has going for him is that he wants to communicate. His book reports are detailed works of art in critical thought and precise vocabulary. His control of language is excellent, although word placement sometimes stumps him. Even before he felt comfortable speaking to me, he was handing me book reports that said things like, “The main character is diffident and standoffish because of his relationship to father, who has trouble to understand his son wants to practice being a good father. William is not effeminate, also, he can show his father how to be a father.”

This year at his school, he was awarded the “Most Improved English Speaker” award.

He deserves it. Way to go, B!


So the other day I was walking down Fourth in search of new-house stuff (Toilet paper holder, amazing storage solution for bathroom with no storage, etc.) and my eye chanced to light on one of the newest restaurants on the super-chichi strip between the Pick-Up Safeway and Burrard Street. It’s called ‘Gastropod’. Go on, Google it. It’s the first link, and since my cat’s ass is more technical than I am, obviously, I can’t link it.

Anyhow, the name got me thinking. Gastropods are snails and slugs, all marine snails, like whelks and periwinkles, one-shelled marine animals like abalones, and no-shelled marine animals like nudibranchs. ‘gastropod’ means ‘stomach foot’. How is that sexy for a restaurant name?

But I started thinking. There are so many things you could do with that restaurant:

-Cook only gastropoda species, or at least only molluscs.
-Make customers eat with their feet.
-Make customers donate to a program to revive wild abalone stocks.
-Make customers eat raw banana slugs before they could eat the restaurant food.
-Make customers forage for their own wild gastropods and bring them to be cooked.
Too bad they don’t let me run that place.

Touching Base.

It was so great to hang out with Sarah and Michael on Sunday.

One of the benefits of not making new friends too easily is that I keep the old ones for a long time. We know each others’ thoughts and memories and can rub along together easily. To each other, we are worn, flannel shirts: Comfortable and serviceable, but we’re not going to be on Vogue Runway anytime soon.

We still have new thoughts and discussions, and I love their insights. But those insights come from people whose stories I have watched happen, whose experiences I know very well.

Madly dashing for more wine, of course we were going to dance past the nightclub. Of course we would wolf-whistle. Of course I would laugh like a crazy fool. It was perfect.


I had a ton of things I wanted to blog about…and no internet access.

Baxter sat on my keyboard. result: No internet access. No networks in range. Nothing.

I know I am a technophobe, but when the cat’s ass can do more on the computer than me, I get a little irritated!

Blackberry Manor

In my great delight in having a hayuuge new garden to play in, I underestimated the work it would need to create the lush and verdant oasis I want.

We have serious blackberries. The runners poke out of the lawn and threaten to take over. If I leave them, I will have absolute thickets. No wonder my landlord doesn’t mow, he weed-whacks.

In order to have bare-feet-worthy lawn, I am going to have to dig up the whole thing. Maybe several times over.

Either that or start a blackberry farm.

Romance Should Be Dead By Now.

Over at Arwen’s she has a post-in-passing about romance movies and all the airport and chase scenes that are so prevalent in them. As she often does, though, she got me thinking.

What exactly is romance? It really seems to be one of the best-planned campaigns of all time. Built on deception, the lies engendered by romance have lasted for more than eight hundred years.

Here’s the thing, roughly speaking and taken directly from my brain, with no verifying facts in actual books: Eleanor of Aquitaine invented Romance to stop her ladies-in-waiting being summarily raped by knights. Perhaps she acted from compassion. Maybe it was only practicality. I’m not sure. But she and her daughter Marie encouraged minstels to sing about the love of a man for a woman who was untouchable to him. Too high, to far in the firmament. Women of their court used to vote on the ‘courtly’ behaviour of the men around them. Sort of like an uber-rich Medieval reality show, those knights got voted off the island if they looked to be lurkers.

All well and good, but what is romance today? Arwen protests that the “romance movies and airports and/or running scenes” must stop. And although these scenes are trite, the Hollywood Machine persists in giving them to us.

I wonder if maybe we have evolved beyond the chase as a metaphor.

Look at the evolution of romance novels between, say, the Sixties and now. Back in the day, the heroine was a passive secretary or nurse. These days, no one reading these novels will aceept a heroine who is passive in anything. She almost always is at odds with the hero in some way. Usually he must change to accept who she is, and often who she is is an active agent in her own destiny.

Strangely enough, the heroes in romantic movies and books are not generally men I, or any female I know, would settle down with. But real life romance does not translate well to The Grand Gesture. It’s all well and good to have the path of rose petals to the bed, but those buggers leave stains on cream wall-to-wall. Breakfast in bed? Nice, but I’m not hungry when I first wake up.

It makes me wonder if we are simply re-animating the husk of Romance, as a genre. Forcing it to dance a monkey dance for our decreasing sense of amusement.

Would You Like a Multinational Conglomerate With That?

With cable TV come the ads. They are insidious, annoying, and often appear to assume I have the IQ of flypaper.

Today’s pet hate is the McDonald’s ad about Egg McMuffins. You know, there’s the little piano ditty and people keep seeing other people eating Egg McMuffins so they go get them? The one where the last scene is the fabulous vista over some remote European village and hills (Tuscany? Provence?). The McAdExecs want me to think, “Oh, look. Egg McMuffins unite humanity in happiness and satiety. How fab. I think I’ll eat one.”

Do I think this? I do not. This ad rouses my inner Angry Pinko. First of all, I do not believe that humanity can be happily united by an overprocessed breakfast product. North Americans, maybe I could believe it, but I know a lot of people who won’t eat McDonald’s food. But you’re in a tiny town in the South of France or the rolling hills of Tuscany and you eschew local bakeries, cheeses and produce in favour of an Egg McMuffin? No fricking way. If you find yourself in Provence, eating McRalph’s, you don’t deserve to be there.

Second, the people in the ad bug me. They’re predominantly slender. McDonald’s food will not keep you slender. It will bloat you like an ocean-borne corpse. Whether you bought into Supersize Me or not, you have to admit Mickey Dee’s packs a caloric, sodium-and-sugar-laden punch.

The actors all look middle-income as well. McDicks is misrepresenting their demographic. I think of my brother telling me that, in impoverished West Philadelphia where he lives, people eat MacDonald’s three times a day. They know nothing of nutrition. The cycle of poverty keeps them eating crap. These are people who can only dream of being middle-income earners.

Here’s what’s missing from the ad: Displaced, bewildered Amazon Rainforest tribespeople, poking the McMuffins in an attempt to find out what they are. In the background: Bulldozers knocking down the rainforest so that farming corporations can raise beef for more Big Macs.

I’m Like a Drug-Sniffing Dog…But For Pregnant Ladies.

Morgan called tonight with lovely news: His wife, Tara, is expecting their first child in February.

I was delighted, but not surprised. I was at a party at their house a couple of weeks ago. When Tara opened the door to me, the first thing I thought was Hey! She’s pregnant!

Of course, I didn’t say anything. You don’t, really, unless you have an excess of poor manners. But it did make me think.

The same thing happened when Genevieve was pregnant. One day I looked at the back of her head and I knew she was upduffed.

In both cases, it didn’t seem like anything physical tipped me off. Both women looked as they always did. So why did I know? Am I now hyper-sensitive to Zygote Riding Along pheromones? Or is it the latent alleged psychic streak from my father’s side manifesting itself in a new and not-so-useful fashion?

I don’t know why it happens, but it’s kind of a cool trick.

Spider in the Classroom.

It was some time last week and my classroom was quiet. Kids were working, I was keeping an eye on them and thinking about dinner.

Suddenly Lydia shouts, “Spider!” She points to the floor.

Sure enough. There’s a medium-sized house spider, Tegeneria Domestica, scuttling across the floor by her chair.

I stare in horror for what feels like several seconds, but in reality, I am up out of my seat before the spider has gone much further. In the time to takes me to skirt the table and get near the spider, my mind has followed a long train of thought.

1) I hate spiders. Isn’t there someone else to do this?

2) The windows don’t open. How did it get in?

3) The windows don’t open. How can I get it out?

4) Not humanely. Shit.

And then I step on the spider. But my aim is off. I miss and have to get it again, cringing at the crunch.

After I dispose of the poor carcass, Richard asks if it was a Black Widow. We go to the map and I show him where Black Widows live, and explain that we don’t have them here.

“But if they came, what would they do?”

I think about how territorial the house spider is. “Actually, this kind of spider would probably eat them. These Tegeneria, that’s their scientific name, don’t like other spiders moving in. They attack them. Even Black Widows. So in a way, that little guy was on our side.”

“So why did you kill it?”

Oh, the guilt! “I don’t like spiders. it’s not reasonable, I know. They make me squirm.”

And then I start thinking about the deceased. It wasn’t running as fast as Tegeneria can. It was probably hungry, maybe starving. God only knows how long it had wandered the sterile halls of the second floor offices, looking for shelter or sustenance. And all it was trying to do was find shelter. And I squished it.

I still feel guilty.

Sweet, Sweet Cable TV.

Our new place came with free cable TV. It was the first electronic thing E hooked up, and we both went a little crazy for a while.

The night we moved in, I was up until 2am watching a movie on cable. It was Quicksliver, a truly cringeworthy eighties film featuring a very young-looking Kevin Bacon, an absolutely gamine Jami Gertz, and (I saw the credit but not the man), “Larry” Fishburn. Why was I up until 2 watching this drivel? I couldn’t turn it off. I was a hypnotized yokel who just wandered into Paree. Oh, the shiny! Oh, the channels! Oh, the eighties synthesizer music montages with Kevin Bacon slowly regaining his trust in himself!

The next few days, our routine was the same: Wake up, turn on TV, shower and make coffee and tea. The TV was the background to our lives. Even the commercials were so cool. OMG! They have ads for tiny vibrators you can wear like rings! Right there on TV! I turned to E. “It’s like we got stuck in a time warp where we totally didn’t know about the advancements in marital aids!”

The novelty is now wearing off. Commercials are tedious. Home-hunters in Maryland do not have my attention. E has already seen every show he wants to on the Space Channel. Now that my books are unpacked, I care a lot less about old movies and synth montages.

Oooh, speaking of my books, I am a genius. There wasn’t enough wall-space for me to put up enough feet of bookcase to display them all, and I was perplexed. I was also perplexed by how to deal with the two-foot-high rail on many of our walls. Epiphanic result: Books displayed on exposed rails. Hey, I like to live with my books, right? Then I’ll make them part of the decor.

If I keep ignoring cable, I’m going to have a fantastic house in no time.

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