Ain’t Youth Grand?

It’s a humid evening in June of 2001, when I, and my friend, Jayne, join the throngs of parents taking their children to the big NSync concert at Skydome in downtown Toronto. Our teen daughters, best friends, generate enough electricity between them to power ten city blocks of concert halls.

My own enthusiasm pales in comparison since, elected to be the evening’s chauffeur, I dread the thought of battling freeway congestion after an already long day fighting deadlines at work. I also feel rather petulant at the thought of having to fork over a sinful amount of cash for a parking spot that will no doubt still be a long hike away from our final destination.

Since the plan is to deliver the girls to their gate at Skydome and then meet up with them after the concert at a pre-selected spot outside the gate, I also wonder how Jayne and I are going to kill the next four hours without having to spend a week’s pay on designer coffees (or something stronger) in exchange for an air-conditioned place to rest our laurels.

Imagine our relief when we discover that Skydome’s Windows Restaurant has been converted into a “Parents’ Lounge” for the evening, complete with loads of couches and club chairs, a large-screen television playing music videos at one end, and overhead monitors at the other end broadcasting a variety of sporting events. It’s spacious yet cozy enough to allow tired moms and dads to deflate for the next couple of hours.

The relieved facial expressions around the room tell me that I’m not the only one here who is über-grateful. To boot, there is a refreshment station set up with an unlimited flow of complimentary coffee! Suddenly, life is just one big ol’ box of chocolates (Hershey’s rather than Lindt, mind you—but plenty good enough).

The boom-boom-booming bass vibrations that pound from the stage area beside us, and the eardrum-shattering screams of thousands of teenaged girls (proof that our kids are at least getting our money’s worth) is a small price to pay for the luxury of having a relatively comfortable place of our own to inhabit.

Of course, the stage itself is obscured from our view with a number of strategically placed tarpaulins. I suppose this is only fair, since the ninety-buck admission we were forced to pay for our kids did not extend to the ones who actually toiled for it, so I suppose it’s understandable that we should be banned from goggling at the mighty NSync through a wall of warped Plexiglas.

Securing a spot at a table that overlooks the equipment area behind the stage, Jayne and I pass the time watching a parade of roadies scuttling back and forth, back and forth. I’m aware that roadies travel and work with the band, but I’m still not sure what it is that they do exactly. For four hours, we entertain ourselves watching them pace from one corner to another. And here I thought that politicians were the only ones who’d mastered the art of appearing to do something while doing a whole lot of nothing.

I am also now convinced that roadies are mass-produced from one original roadie-mould. No matter what era we’re in, roadies never, ever change. And I mean that literally.

I think that the roadies working for NSync were somehow teleported into the present day straight from a 1970s Black Sabbath/Led Zeppelin/whatever concert. They all look identical: long hair, either big and bushy or straight and stringy; stubbled chins or unkempt beards; scruffy denim jeans tight enough to emphasize the roach-clips in their pockets; sweat-stained tee shirts emblazoned with either obscenities or dumb platitudes; and frozen grins that say, “We’re cool ‘cause we’re with the band…and you’re not.”

The high point of Jayne’s and my evening arrives not a moment too soon. The tarpaulins block the front of the stage, but not the back. Our eyebrows rise at the sight of three members of NSync racing offstage and down a backstage ramp between sets! As they bound into view, roadies scatter like bowling pins and hover around the sidelines like seagulls circling a pack of French fries. The boys in the band huddle behind a stack of equipment, attempting to perform a lightning-quick costume change. I know it’s “them”— the flash and glimmer of their elaborate costumes draws our attention like lips to chocolate.

Later, Jayne and I brag to our daughters about the fact that we got to see NSync “take it all off” backstage (nah nah nah nah nah). The girls respond with “you-are-soooooo-pathetic” eye rolls, until I offer up a detailed description of the costumes we saw. There is a wide-eyed moment of silence, followed by screams. Lots of screams.

Basking in my newly acquired limelight, I proceed to boast that, although my view was somewhat obstructed, I had actually glimpsed the tighty whities of one of the four high-priced bottoms as it struggled into a very snug pair of jeans. The face hadn’t been visible, but I’d had the pleasure of observing some real-live NSync butt! This revelation elevates me to about as close as I’ll ever get to achieving celebrity status in the eyes of my daughter and her friend.

By ten-forty-five, you would be able to hear a pin drop in the lounge, if it weren’t for the continuous boom-boom-boom-screeeeeaaaaaam-boom-boom-boom-screeeeeaaaaaam. Parents from wall to wall are slumped in their chairs, limp as overcooked noodles, chins propped up on knuckles, eyes half shut. We are all beyond fatigued.

Suddenly, without warning, an explosion of sonic magnitude rocks the lounge. As my daughter later explained, “…they do the most awesome fireworks displays.” Awesome, indeed. It is quite a sight to see 300-odd exhausted men and women awaken instantly. Jayne and I come this close to experiencing the first of many teen-induced myocardial infarctions (I’ve learned a lot from watching Grey’s Anatomy). I wouldn’t have been surprised to see ambulance attendants flooding the place with gurneys.

With my heart still skipping double-double-dutch, I have quietly resumed praying for the show to “just end now, dammit,” when those nasty little NStinkers do it again. I swear my feet actually lift from the ground for a split second. The second blast is our cue to haul it out of there and begin the trek toward our designated meeting spot.

The number of parents waiting around for their children is impressive. There are hundreds. Such a sight, you would never have seen during my childhood years. Back then, if we weren’t old enough to drive to an event on our own, our “concert experience” consisted of staring at our idol in a teen magazine while listening to his latest 45.

Finally! At eleven-thirty, our rosy-cheeked, laryngitised, starry-eyed daughters race up, shrieking with excitement. Throughout the entire ride home, their ongoing description of the show comprises only those words you’ll find in a thesaurus under “awesome.” The girls thank us over and over again. Jayne and I grin at each other. For this one night, we are their heroes. We have successfully granted the wishes of two very grateful teenaged girls. And we have also received a rare and unexpected treat in return.

The evening’s adventures have taken both of us on an emotional trip of our own, back in years, back to a long-faded time when the bigger-than-life rock stars of our dreams left us overwhelmed and suffused with such giddy excitement that we, too, screamed until we could do no more than whisper.

When my weary body finally folds itself into the welcome embrace of my bed, well past the witching hour, I can’t contain my smile as I drift off.

Ain’t youth grand?

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Otis’s social whirlwind of a day

As the song goes: “We’re here for a good time, not a long time…”

 

I am on watch at my sliding glass doors.
It’s dead out there today.
A leaf flutters by.
A dumb fly slams into the window,
then falls into a crack in the deck. Awesome!

All’s quiet, when, suddenly…

A recent acquaintance, Bunnykins, hops by, googling me with her big, round eyes. Mmm mmm!

Then, my long-time pal, Chippie, stops in briefly to show off his latest finds.
As if a couple of bird seeds are enough to impress me??

Last, but not least, Squirt the Squirrel pops up to say, “Whazzup?”
I don’t know what his deal is.
He’s gone before I even have time to bat the glass with my paw. So rude!

Enough socializing—time to move to the front porch and
kick off the weekend with some chillaxin’. TGIF!

Happy Friday! Meows & hisses,
Otis

Our Trip to Antigua

We’ve been to a lot of tropical places over the years, but this was our first time to Antigua. It’s a small island in the Caribbean, in the same area as Montserrat, Guadaloupe, St. Kitts, St. Barts and St. Martin.
The island boasts 365 beaches—one for each day of the year—and I have to say, if you’re a beach person, the beaches are truly to die for. We stayed at Jolly Beach, which was a mile of soft, white sand and sea water that was so turquoise, it looked as if somebody had painted it.
The people of Antigua that I met were super nice and very friendly to tourists. Because I have a torn tendon in my foot, I couldn’t do any day trips that involved a lot of walking, so this vacation was basically just a week to relax on the beach.
It’s a long flight from Toronto to Antigua—5 hours. I sure wish there was a way to get there other than flying. The worst part of the trip was having to go through Toronto Pearson airport. It’s like being tortured. Your flight leaves at 6 am, so you have to be there at 3 am. You’re half-asleep, dragging luggage behind you, and they make you line up for ages to type in your information at kiosks (that are absolutely mind-boggling) so then they no longer have to pay agents to help book you in for your flight. They’re the winners, we’re the losers. Then you have to mind-wrestle with another set of kiosks to register your luggage. I’ve never witnessed so many pissed off people all in one place. It was a nightmare of bedlamic* proportions.
*No, you won’t find this word in any regular dictionaries. It comes from the Dictionary of Donna.
The airport in Antigua was the polar opposite—efficient, with actual agents waiting to sign you in. Bam bam bam and you’re done and relaxing in the lounge. What a difference. The Antiguan agent that I dealt with was quite delighted to hear that their tiny airport was 150% more efficient than the big-city teched-out Pearson.
I’ve been travelling for 30 years, but after this one week of travel, I have arrived at a few conclusions:
1. Travelling for one week is bloody exhausting. Especially when you’re working full-time and have to return to your job when you get back. It’s the preparation leading up to the trip, the whole airport experience, the squished-together-like-sardines-in-a-can plane experience, the getting yourself oriented once you arrive at your destination. Then, repeat in reverse only 6 days later. I was more tired when I got home than when I left. To top it off, they deluge you with work on your first day back. It’s just not worth it.
2. The travel industry is nothing but a complete and total rip off. By the time you reach my age of wisdom, you realize that people crooks running the travel industry are far smarter than the rest of us; they’ve discovered multitudinous ways to soak people for their hard-earned money.
It’s like this when you’re dealing with the travel industry: first, withdraw a massive chunk of money from your bank account; lug it all to the top of a windy hill; fling every last dollar into the air; watch it all blow away forever. That’s basically what happens when you travel to a resort for a week.
It’s rare to find true last-minute “deals” anymore, unless you’re looking to go to a 2-star resort where you’ll be sitting on a toilet with the runs all week. It used to be that you could book a last-minute great-value all-inclusive trip at a 4+ star resort during the off-season for under $1,000 each. Not anymore.
Ok, so you’ve booked your trip. Next, you have to pay for insurance (which, fortunately, I get through work) and cancellation insurance. Then they want you to pay extra to reserve your preferred seat ahead of time on the plane (the unreserved window seats we ended up with were perfectly fine), then they warn you that if your luggage measures and weighs more than XYZ, you’ll have to pay extra. Then they tell you how much more luxurious your trip will be if you pay extra to upgrade to the premium lounge at the airport, where you can eat and drink free while you wait for your plane (sure, I want to get bombed at 5 am in the morning!). Then they bombard you with emails for pricey day excursions that you should book ahead of time to get the most out of your trip.
Next, if you don’t have someone to drive you to and from the airport, you can either pay upwards of 50 bucks a day to park your car at a lot near the airport ($100+ a day to park right at the airport), or you can pay a limo/taxi to take you there. It was $65 plus $10 tip to go there. When you get back, they know they have you by the balls, so they charge you $100 to drive you home.
On the plane, the cheap bastards no longer give you anything to eat; you have to pay for airplane meals now even though you’ve already paid hundreds and hundreds for your seat. So I brought sandwiches and apples in my carry-on. They do still serve you a gulp or two of coffee or pop, but that’s it. Hand over more moolah if you want anything else.
Of course, once you’re at the resort, you’d better have lots of cash on hand because hotel staff expect to be tipped if they so much as blink at you. I understand that they don’t make the best wages… but hell, I ain’t Howard Hughes either!
3. I get really, really sick of people really, really quickly. When I’m at home, it’s nice and quiet. Nobody can invade my space unless I invite them to. So, what do I do? I go on a trip (to relax!) where swarms of people are in my face around the clock, everywhere I go, for 7 full days.

First, there’s the airport, where everyone’s pissed off and glaring at each other; and people run over your toes with their luggage on wheels; and airport staff are so fed up with everyone’s bitching that they actually tell you that they’re already sick to death of people and they’ve only just started their shift (I actually heard the carry-on scanning guy say that); and the boarding call, where people rush to nosedive ahead of you so they can get in line first, as if the plane’s going to take off unless we all get on there RIGHT NOW.
Then there’s being trapped on the plane beside a stranger with rancid breath who hogs the armrest for the entire flight, and you have to scrunch yourself to one side so their body and yours don’t become one; and you have to climb over people to go to the bathroom; and the person behind you continuously knees the back of your seat; and the baby 2 rows ahead is screaming bloody murder; and they give you customs forms to fill out while the plane is bumping up and down in turbulence; and the woman behind you with the grating voice never shuts the f–k up.
Then at the resort, there are 600 people and 100 beach huts. You do the math. If you don’t drag your ass out of bed by 4 in the morning to claim a beach hut by leaving your towels there (and then drag your ass back to bed to try to get in a few more hours of sleep), you will have absolutely no shade for the rest of the day. The sun down there is brutal—shade is a valuable commodity. I’ve never had to get up that early to go to work. But on vacation? I must be awake every day before sunrise so I don’t turn into a walking melanoma blister.
And later, once you’re finally ensconced in your lounge chair under your priceless hut, ready to zone out while you gaze at the picturesque sea and listen to the soothing sound of waves rolling up onto sand, that’s when all hell breaks loose. That’s when the masses of your fellow-vacationers are ready to gather at the huts that surround yours. But they’re not there to zone out—they’re there to party! There’s the boozed-up, raucous gang of 6 under the hut beside you, blabbing and shrieking non-stop… then there’s the teenager a few over blasting hip hop through a full stereo system that he has on his iPhone… then there are the peddlars wandering up every five minutes trying to initiate chit chat so they can sell you a condo or a coconut or some damn thing. Just try reading the book you’ve been longing to dive into. Just try hearing those waves.
Then there are people elbowing you out of their way at the buffet… and screaming kids running up and down the dining area because their parents are too ignorant to teach them that they’re supposed to remain seated at a table when they’re dining out… and the sweet sounds of construction from the resort next door.

I escape as often as I can into the sea, and that’s where I find Heaven on earth.
4. I really hate leaving my pet. My beloved cat, Otis, spent our week away at my mother’s house. It was the first time we’d left him with her, and it will probably be the last because he was enraged and did nothing but hiss at her the entire week. He spent every day huddled behind a chair in the basement, going upstairs only to eat, drink and use his litter box, then back downstairs. If she dared approach him, he would hiss fire at her. I made the mistake of emailing her on our first night away to find out how he was doing, and ended up worrying about him for the rest of the week. I couldn’t help it. He’s my cat and I love him to death, and I felt really bad imagining that he probably thought we’d abandoned him and that he’d never see us again. We had barely arrived home before we were in the car, driving over to pick him up. You’ve never seen a cat so happy to see two people. He couldn’t resist shooting one last hiss at my poor mother before he left with us to go back to his own home. What can I say. He’s not a fan of travel.
5. There’s no place like home. Don’t get me wrong; Antigua was a lovely island. The weather was heavenly—not too hot, no humidity, constant cooling trade winds. The beaches—perfect. The people—warm and friendly. I can see myself someday renting a private house or condo there for a month or two, and living in short-term bliss. But there really is nothing better than your own bed. And your own people-free space.
So I’ve decided that, from here on, unless I’m travelling to a place where I’ll be staying put for a month or two, I won’t be travelling at all. Until I retire, the remainder of my vacations will consist of a combination of day trips and lazing around at home. At this point in my life, there’s nothing that sounds more relaxing to me than that.

Then again… when I look at pictures of that beach…
Here are pics of some of the gorgeous shells and coral I collected during my many walks along the beach in order to escape the hut-people. They are definitely God’s artwork.

The good and bad of being an old fart

Ah, the joys of aging! With each birthday that passes, you climb one more rung on the ladder to old-fartdom.

Some of you still have a good distance to go, some are midway along, and some of you have stopped a moment to sit down on a rung near the top because the climb is killing your back.

Regardless of your current position on the ladder, the fact of the matter is that we all start climbing the day we are born.

As someone who’s done her fair share of climbing, I’ve got some good news and some bad news to share about what you can look forward to once you’re well past the halfway mark on your ladder:

First, the bad news…

“Remember when your knees could bend
without that cracking sound?

And the frown lines on your face were there
ONLY when you frowned?

Remember when sensible shoes
were the style old grannies wore,

And you never imagined stairs
could be a mountain-climbing chore.

Remember when you’d drop your keys
and swoop to pick them up,

Without needing a hand from passersby
to help you stand back up?

Remember when you’d grease the wheels
by having another drink?

Now your grease is a tube of Voltaren
used to soothe a new neck kink.

Remember when the scent you trailed
was Chanel Number Five?

What you now save on chic perfumes
you spend on A535.

Remember when you could remember
what you’d been about to say?

When thoughts remained inside your brain
instead of drifting away?

Remember when missing “the pill”
could make your blood run cold?

Instead of nightmares filled with storks,
now it means your cholesterol’s up tenfold.

Remember when a “home” was
what you paid a mortgage on?

Now it’s where you’ll someday be dumped
by your scheming, evil spawn.”

And now, the good news…

“Remember when you used to give a crap
what other people thought?

And believed you had to practice
all the etiquette you were taught?

Remember your shocked concern
if you saw a hair turn grey?

And how you actually worried about your weight
after bingeing at a buffet?

Remember when you’d actually listen
if some young punk said you were wrong?

Now, you answer:
“Bite me, you knuckleheaded schlong!”

And all those senior discounts
couldn’t have come at a better time,

Since you’re sick of being reamed by shops
for every single dime.

Remember when you had to keep
a polished résumé?

Now who cares? You get to sleep in
every single day!

And isn’t it fitting that now the government
must pay your way?

Since they sure cleaned up when you worked full-time
by stealing half your pay.

Yep, growing old has its good days
along with some days we dread,

But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again,
It’s better to be old than dead!”

Otis wishes everyone a Happy Friday!

“Does this fur coat make me look fat?
…Be
verrrrry careful how you answer that question.”

When all else fails, take a nap

It’s cold and miserable out today. Otis has the right idea.

Happy New Year to all!

Otis and his human look forward to a productive year ahead: lots of crafty projects for the human, and lots of new toys to play with for Otis!

Merry Christmas to all

And the best of wishes to all of you
for a happy and healthy new year ahead.

Otis the cat meets Robo Fish

Otis—My little Paper Bag Prince

Why bother sleeping in the comfort of a bed
when you can snooze on paper bags?That’s my Otis.If it makes a crinkling noise,
then it’s the perfect place to curl up and relax.

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