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It’s late at night for most people but I am still sitting up and thinking. This is a quiet time of day (or night) when you can take stock. We are in the midst of a winter storm; it took me over two hours to get home tonight, nothing special but it the circumstances, something to be grateful for. I could have bunked-off but didn’t as usual. It would have made little difference if I had, but I didn’t and can take a small measure of satisfaction for my … what, Obedience? Dedication? Loyalty? Or, am I just so habitual?
It would appear that my lottery numbers did not win. It would also appear that since we are having the worst winter sales in 14 years, there will also be no raises this year, as last year and for the four before that. Money is, as it always was, foremost in my mind. “Money cannot buy happiness” is a sentiment that we are often reminded of. Which is true, but I can’t help but wonder how much unhappiness it can buy, and when it does, how much you have to pay someone else to deal with the trouble it brings?
At breakfast I pulled yet another “swifty” with my breakfast tea, over the arm of my favorite chair, adding another bit of unwanted camouflage over the original pattern, once so elegantly covering its handsome presence. I remember when the chair was new, I was so proud of it! I had just begun to work at the Tribunal d’appel des accidents du travail (The Tribunal) and saw my first chance at building a life for myself. Of course, life centered on
and in particular, replacing the cobbled-together pieces of junk with which I had been forced to moved from
I keep the wall calendar that marked the days of 1986. It reminds me of my emancipation from the incomprehensible mind-games of my stepmother (heroic) and all the nastiness this wrought (reality). I remember the fear in which I lived for what seemed like an age, as I struck out on my “own can” (as Dad described it), not knowing where the bottom lay just that it lay there somewhere out there and was very hard. I also knew that I worked alone, without a net or even a single, small cushion. Little wonder that furnishings should become so important.
I tell my story often as if to add some value to the accomplishment, about how I began life on my own with only $800 in the bank and a job that paid a mere $13,500. My audience usually pays polite attention while I recall how I learned the tasks associated with paying for life, all without benefit of a safety net. How this founded within me feelings of always being at the edge of the abyss that gave rise to my tired little obsession with money (and how, this obsession never pushed me into working any harder or smarter.)
Tonight I thought again about the old days and in particular the good fortune I once had to land a full-time job with the Ontario Government. The Publications Coordinator’s position was entry level and temporary at first, but was later made permanent. It raised my earnings each year by nearly $10,000 to start with. Better than this, since it was a government agency, movement from one ministry to another became possible. After years of uncertainty I saw stability and security in the present and advancement in the future. It was the summer of ’88 and my ship had come in.
I used to enjoy the first days of school. Each new school year brought a fresh start with fresh subjects, fresh faces and fresh opportunities to succeed where I’d failed the year before. Old habits, unfortunately, followed me around like a bad smell. Where ever I might hide they would seek me out. The erosion was swift and unrelenting. I found many years after leaving school, that jobs and school years had a lot in common for me. I enjoyed starting them and savored the hopefulness that newness brings. Unfortunately, that all too familiar entropy was never very far away.
It was during the Tribunal years that I bought most of the main bits of furniture. They were nice middle-range pieces, dating from the Depression. Made from mahogany veneered pine, they’d recently been restored to glossy perfection. They gave my second apartment class and substance, and left me with a sense of accomplishment into the bargain. Twenty years later, half a dozen moving days, one small cat and three years in storage, time has taken its toll every piece. They are scratched and looking much in need of freshening. Like their owner, have not aged as well as hoped for.
I am trying to learn how to redesign our website with program whose unlikely name is “Dreamweaver.” Doubtless someone thought the name was friendly and approachable. To some this software must be. To me, it would be more aptly named “Virtual Nightmare.” I’m sure when this program lies within the right hands, all the power and capability to create an infinite number of alternate worlds, comes forth. But, at the moment, my tenuous grasp of the internet in general makes this learning curve so steep, despite at first blush seeming so familiar, to one whose spent time in electronic publishing.
IKEA…Swedish for commonsense!
Twenty years ago, or so it was. Today, it stands for something a lot bigger. Bigger than God? Maybe not quite that big, but bigger than it was back then. I hang out at IKEA when the traffic is just too much to take. A little browsing, some dreaming, a plate of Gravlax and a bit of two-legged eye-candy. Then, it’s back on the highway headed for home in better time.
I look back over my words and the phrase
“I hang out at IKEA,”
stands out in lime green and turquoise blue relief. I escape to IKEA?!
I’ve lost the memory of the early store designs. At that time I was more likely to shop at The Bay than IKEA because I couldn’t take flat-pack FLAKU on the bus. Today, the store is “an experience” and quite a piece of work. The circuitous route you follow to reach that which you seek is nothing less than a labyrinthine world of trendy wares laid forth tastefully with never an Allen key or missing screw in sight. Even the most steadfast traveler of this Odyssey finds himself propelled through treacherous seas of unwanted riches surrounding which seductive sirens sing.
Mike mentioned once that he like IKEA because there were so many hot women walking through the place. He was right. There are lots of hot women … and hot men, and hot couples, and hot gay couples, and lots of couples with kids, and lots of new Canadians, and lots of new Canadians with kids...but no cats, or dogs but who’d want real dogs at IKEA when there are 50¢ hot dogs? IKEA has a small department for pets that features blankets and food bowls and weird shit like half-dogs you hang on the wall to use as hooks...huh?
I like dogs but usually wish they were more like cats, or smelled a bit more like cats, which is to say, smelled less. I don’t remember the first hot dog I ate but I know it was here in Canada and the truth be told, I was never a big fan of wieners. What exactly do you do to a questionable collection of meat byproducts to create such consistent taste, texture, form and lasting memory? With ketchup, the hot dog and its pulpy bun become palatable, especially if you can get two, plus a Diet Pepsi for a dollar-fifty.
There are many things at IKEA that irk me
as much as engage or attract me, not least of which are the little statements that talk about how a product is made. From renewable resources or forested resources or some other kind of “green” resource that somehow harms the environment less ... no mention is ever made about fabrication or transportation or... you get my drift. All the while there are also signs proclaiming that last year GUFUHGUG cost $7.99 that this year costs $3.99 (why not buy two!) IKEA may have started out as commonsense, but today, what?
The idea that because something is cheap it must be good, because a lot of people can therefore afford to buy it, is the keystone of Capitalism. IKEA demonstrates this philosophy in spades. This store has blossomed (or burgeoned) into something akin to a monster because it is no longer quite as unique, small or virtuous as the Public would like to believe. It brings modern design to the middle-class, who are eager to buy into its practicality and apparent innovation, who would otherwise we shut-out of this by price-point. IKEA did this beautifully more than 20 years ago, but...
There are many pitfalls to Capitalism that are not discussed at great length in the west, not least of which is that Capitalism promises more than it can ever deliver. Creating wealth based on continuous and increasing consumption is to even the stupidest observer absurd, because at some point input costs must increase that result in an increase in price that decreases demand. Today, keeping things cheap means simply closing your doors and moving to a cheaper market (say China or Mexico.) When this happens quality of goods appears to remain the same and we are all grateful, or diminish.
I may be wrong about IKEA but it seems a lot of the weight and substance of their products has decreased over the years. Keeping things cheap without diminishing their value is a challenge to the best of retailers. Most of us cannot but try to accomplish some sleight of hand that lets it appear as though have did, when we didn’t. The public mostly wants to buy “stuff” and will do so even though some small part of their brain realizes they’re getting less for more. I often wish product lines were not so diverse, instead a bit deeper.
What a bargain! I found a great little rug I thought I wanted for my hallway instead used in my kitchen, and you know what? It works! Best of all, it only cost me $9.99! Can you imagine finding a polypropylene rug, backed with a thin layer of latex (which makes your fingers smell like skunk), for less than ten dollars? Can you imagine? I don’t mean to seem glib, I really do like my little rug. It won’t stay nice for long, but it was less than a Ten. So the question becomes, will my enjoyment outlast the rug?
Dentists used to scare the innards out of me. Today, not so much, actually not at all. I booked my semi-annual cleaning six months ago and knew that the time was almost upon me – which often feels a bit like Faust awaiting the arrival of Mephistopheles. At any rate, Ellen from the clinic always calls the day before, and her call always arrives as a surprise (would that Christmas, or Easter or any other high-day could be so). For the first year in twenty, I arrived late. Imagine if Haley’s Comet or the sun chose to appear 20 minutes late?
My mouth hurts. It always does after “a cleaning.” The reward I receive for “good oral hygiene” is to receive copious praise from my the hygienist, who like all my hygienists praises my mouth to the hilt. My dentist of more than 20 years does so too, but she has a vested interest. It would seem my mouth ranks up there with the meadow over which Julie Andrews ran so enthusiastically in the
Sound of Music
. Yet, this never seems to absolve me of an apparently involved session of picking and scraping, and scouring and bleeding, nor a painful bill.
The Silly Season approaches. At work the cleanup and prep for the season ahead is ongoing. There is a subtle chill in the air that rivals the gales which blow through the empty nursery outside. The winter is a hellish time of want when you work seasonally, but to full-timers like me, you have a love-hate relationship with “the down season.” In theory you’ll have time to catch-up projects that were abandoned the previous spring. In theory you’ll have a chance to regenerate yourself and come at the new season with vim and vigour. In theory, that is, in theory.
The buds began to swell more than a week ago. I’ve looked forward to this time all winter long. Clivia isn’t a plant that will win prizes for its looks when out of bloom, but when in bloom, look-out! There isn’t much to growing this member of the amaryllis clan; subdued light for most of the year, dilute feedings with balanced fertilizer and a cold, dry winter rest. It’s this last part that is crucial. You see, the vestigial buds won’t become active until the plant has been dormant for eight- to ten-weeks, at temperatures of less than fifty Fahrenheit.
Last year my clivia (pronounced Clive-ee-ah by those in the know) didn’t flower very well. I had broken the old plant up the year before, an operation that was more than a couple of years overdue. Instead, the repotted specimen chose to put all its energy into growth, producing a remarkable set of new leaves with better colour, size and strength than any produced before. I took a chance, too, last summer in putting it outside on the balcony, since this shade-lover is very unforgiving when light levels are too high. It looks like my patience will be well rewarded.
My attachment to this plant is somewhat greater than most of my other plants. It came to step-mother years before she died, from a client of hers who had lost interest in trying to make it bloom. She was convinced anything
owned had to be pure gold even those the boring pot of green leaves that she brought home that year looked anything but. Diligently she watered it, not bothering to actually learn anything about its growing habits or requirements (much like the children she brought up), and sure enough even she give into despair of it ever blooming.
I have memories of the clivia growing in a the large, white plastic pot that Ward had given it to her in. It remained there for many years because the clivia never grew more than a single new leaf each year. What I remember in particular were the brown marks that began appearing around the edge of the pot. You see, it summered out on the balcony with my step-mother’s other plants, where she used to sun herself in the mornings. She also had the despicable habit of stubbing out her cigarettes into whatever was handy, usually my future clivia.
I’m searching my mind as I watch the flowers open – two big ball-shaped clusters of small, vivid orange trumpets, to recall when we acquired the clivia, and know only that it was before I moved out in 1986; it has been ours now for more than 20 years. It has been mine since my step-mother’s death in 1993. She came to a bad end, succumbing to a lifetime of smoking. I repotted it and being able to read, and liking plants, I learned how to help it grow. It thrives today and serves as a beautiful, if somewhat cautionary tale.
The weather is turning again from winter to spring and back to winter. This oscillation seems to serve as yet another harbinger of Global Warming. It would seem that that which was so eagerly dismissed only a few years ago is now so convincing the media would have you see a climatic disaster behind every sunny day or every shower of rain. I was one of the fools convinced early-on of climate change. Now, I wonder how long it will be before the public grows indifferent in the face of such an unrelenting storm of expert reports and media attention.
Whitby lolls about on the carpet at my feet, demanding attention and chirping away as he stares up at me plaintively. He can’t be hungry, because his food bowl is never empty (for long) besides, I always feed him when I get up each day. Yet, there he is rolling about, grunting and chirping, making that pleading meow he somehow manages to execute while barely making any sound at all. He is very cute, cute alright and knows how to pull my strings as I once more scratch at his belly and lift him into my lap. Works ever time...
The cat and I have been companions together for five years now, six in July. He was the only good thing to come from a bad set of circumstances that reached an unhappy crescendo when I actually quit a job during the Silly Season, leaving my employer unexpectedly in the lurch. The month that led up to this was the worst single work experience of my life and as the memory of the flaming swan-dive I took still burns brightly in my mind. As it does, however, I look upon Whitby with gratitude, as some kind of unusual worker’s compensation.
This week I’m on the dreaded closing shift at work. I try to sleep a little longer in the morning, which gives me a chance to indulge my dream-life a little. I noticed long ago that the most delightfully strange dreams are to be enjoyed late in the sleep cycle, especially after half-waking before falling over again. In some cases, very elaborate multi-scenario dreams unfold themselves in the time it takes for you to go from hitting the snooze button once to finding yourself suddenly late for work, naked and in a blind panic to get yourself out the door.
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