loading

Largely the Truth

Articles

Articles (75)

Friday, 12 November 2010 01:17

Remember, Remember, the Reason For Movember

Written by

 

Let's get this out of the way now: I cannot grow a proper mustache to save my life. So does that mean craven envy is what drives me to say Movember is a monthlong reminder that we have lost the ability to be honest with ourselves? Not at all. What drives me is the notion that some people have decided that neglecting to shave for 30 days somehow makes them noble.

Like most things that confound me, Movember began in Australia. From the Movember website: "The plan was simple – to bring the moustache back as a bit of a joke and do something for men’s health." Since then it's spread worldwide, again much like Australians. Last year over 35,000 people in Canada participated to raise over $7-million for prostate cancer research, so the event has a purpose and does accomplish something worthwhile. And that's why my problem isn't with "Movember" itself. My problem is with the armchair activists who have adopted Movember as comfortably as they have every other way of expressing social concern without having to do anything.

G20 aside, we've come a long way from the fist-pumping, sign-waving activism of times past. Now, tender hearted college students who want to prove how concerned they are with civil rights or the plight of women in the Congo can do so from the comfort of home by joining Facebook groups, signing online petitions and yes, growing a mustache.

Allowing hair to sprout on your upper lip does not make you Jonas Salk. Unless you are actively canvassing for donations or starting conversations with strangers about the benefits of a regular prostate exam you are accomplishing exactly nothing. There's nothing wrong with that - I accomplish exactly nothing on a daily basis and sleep quite well for it. But pretending that you are "going full Burt Reynolds" for any reason other breaking the ice when meeting pretty young women is doing a disservice to the people out there actually working for the cause of prostate cancer.

It also makes about as much sense as me fondling myself in a roadside lawn chair and telling the arresting officer to back off because I'm supporting the troops.

Update, June 2015:  After an inexplicable menu change that focused on overpriced French-inspired cuisine, the West Coast Taphouse closed its doors.  It was then replaced by the Inferno Chophouse, which was itself replaced by the Metropolitan Bar & Grill.  So far as I know, the Met is still there in the Sheraton Four Points but I have no idea as to its quality.

It’s a sad fact that at this point in my life I prefer coffee shops to bars. Not because I suddenly crave the company of self-important anorectics hardwired into their MacBook pros, but because in a coffee shop one may enjoy a drink in relative peace. The loudest thing you’re likely to hear is light jazz and the soft tap of a keyboard as someone in a turtleneck writes bad poetry about the pale, distant girl who left them when their sweater went out of style

In contrast, for relaxation, most pubs are on par with the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The walls are lined with televisions, each displaying a different channel and they compete for your attention with the Keno machine and Sirius satellite radio. In the evening, a band comprised of the bartender's cousins sets up in the corner with their amplifiers set to "Crush, Kill, Destroy" and commence to playing "Sweet Home Alabama" with all the melody of two planets crashing into one another.

The West Coast Tap House, in Langford’s Sheraton Four Points Hotel, certainly didn’t change my mind on the subject. Oh, it’s clean, and the food is very good, but it suffers from the same level of television fetishism found only in modern bars and David Cronenberg’s Videodrome.

My wife Nicky & I arrived shortly after two o’clock and the place was nearly empty. We took a bench seat near the wall and when a server found us ordered a soda for her and a coffee for me. Being that this was a bar, a “tap house” no less, a beer would have been preferable but I was driving and recent changes to B.C.’s drunk driving laws make it possible to have your vehicle seized if you get into your car after so much as reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

When it came time to order we decided to jump in at the deep end with the "Barn Door Wings" ($12), peanut butter and honey style. Yes, I know how it sounds and believe me, it looks worse, but by God they were good. They were more bone-in chunks of chicken than wings but the skin was crispy and somehow the thick, creamy peanut butter coating complemented it rather than making me ill.

Afterward our waitress came to collect the plate and a funny thing happened – when she asked how our meal was, she actually seemed interested in what we had to say. Certainly the place wasn't busy, but in most restaurants that kind of question is asked on autopilot regardless of how many customers are waiting. You could answer "It tasted like the night we drove old Dixie down" and the only response you'd get would be a vacant smile as Robyn or Jeff mentally composed their next tweet. Our waitress at the Tap House was a pleasant exception and worth mentioning.

While the service was friendly, each meal seemed to take far longer than necessary to come out of the kitchen and since there were only two other tables occupied, the delay was hard to justify. At the very least our waitress kept us in coffee and soda.

Eventually my burger arrived. I had chosen “JJ’s Hot Jalapeno Bacon Burger” ($15), an eight-ounce patty “infused with hickory bacon, loose chorizo, pancetta and fresh jalapenos”. The price included “The Red”, one of the Tap House’s signature “Scoop” toppings, normally a $3 extra. “The Red” has Monterey Jack, Mozzarella, Jalapeno and house made red chili sauce. For a side the Tap House offers not only the usual suspects like fries and salad, but edamame as well. Granted, it’s a $2.50 addition, bringing the whole package to $17.50, but given the size of the burger it was nice to have a lighter option as a side.

The bun was piled high with lettuce, tomato and onion. It all looked like a mess waiting to happen and sure enough, once I put the package together enough vegetation tumbled out to keep a family of vegans supplied with self-satisfaction for an entire week. Suddenly I knew why the meal had taken so long to reach the table – the chef had been busily denuding every farmer’s field within 60 miles. After being pruned, it was still an impressive work, filling and spicy, but not worth $15.

Infusing the patty with goodies like pancetta and chorizo seems like a grand idea but I’d rather have them placed on top. It could help to avoid unpleasant things such as biting into a hard chunk of ground fat roughly the size of a pea. My only complaint against the edamame was that the spent husks started to get in the way after a while, and a bowl to place them in would have been convenient.

The West Coast Tap House is a decent pub that happens to have the misfortune of being in Langford, a suburb so devoid of soul that James Brown records refuse to play. It’s worth stopping by if you happen to be in the neighbourhood but I don’t know that there’s enough to draw residents of downtown on a regular basis. Except the peanut butter wings. Stop looking at me like that and try them.

Until this August it had been seven years since I’d driven an automobile. In some circles this declaration would be cause for games of celebratory hacky-sack and lengthy speeches about how everything cruel and savage in this world is powered by the internal combustion engine.

I’d like to say that my reasons were ideological. That I abstained because of some objection to the way Mother Earth has been viciously subjugated by the demoniac heralds of that brutal warlord Henry Ford. This would be a craven lie. In actual fact, for years I have simply been too lazy to take a driver’s test.

When I was younger, the process of getting into BC’s graduated licensing system seemed far too complex, like university or sexual politics. Also, I was living in Revelstoke, a town smaller than some American tourists. If it wasn’t walking distance, it wasn’t worth the time.

My outlook didn’t change after moving to the coast. Between B.C. Transit and the power of my own two feet, I was always able to arrive at places with more than enough time for everyone else to shuffle in 30 minutes late, adjusting their scarves and talking about “island time.”

Recently, however, the realization crept upon me that over the years I had traveled, offended honest, god-fearing people on several continents and yet could not drive to the Bird of Paradise for a plate of wings.

After plunging headlong into the graduated licensing system I am at the “N” stage. This means that I am allowed to drive alone so long as I do not wear a racing scarf or drive under the influence of The Fast & the Furious. While I am enjoying my newfound freedom to be caught in the Colwood Crawl some frustrations have made themselves known.

I was required to pass both a written and practical test in order to get this far. I was not the only person at the test centre, in actual fact there were a great number of people there. So, imagine my surprise when I learned that while I’m busy shoulder-checking, everyone else is apparently re-living the more exciting parts of Bullitt.

Last week, after following a truck for several blocks and watching it change lanes numerous times without any indication, I went home and googled “turn signals” to see if perhaps they were some kind of secret. On too many occasions I’ve nearly collided with pedestrians who confuse “crossing a busy street” with “stepping across their lounge to pick up the remote control.”

And as for the cyclists – I worry about them. I worry that all the fresh air and self-satisfaction is impairing their survival instinct. I say this because not a day goes by when, from nowhere, a bicycle shoots past me at a red light and blows the intersection as though a reduced carbon footprint was a free pass from God himself. I admire their commitment to their health and Mountain Equipment Co-Op, but the cold reality is that an inflamed sense of moral superiority will not save you from a speeding bumper.

It's only been six months since I've received my license, so really I've only seen a fraction of the road's horrors. What next? Sudden breakers? Texters? Giant seagulls with an overabundance of bran in their diets? Maybe I should just ask Santa for a bus pass.

Thursday, 30 December 2010 01:07

Ringing in the New Year, Victoria-style

Written by

We are in the twilight of another year, that brief break in the ryhthmic breath of the universe when we pause to consider the mistakes we made in the last 12 months and prepare to repeat them. As always, everyone will ring in the new year in their own way. Some will already be in bed when the big moment comes, some will be off their face on Jack Daniels and glue, some will be hurriedly packing their mountain caves with ammunition and tinned ham in preparation for the big showdown in 2012, when everyone's favorite feathery serpent will rain down the kind of destruction we haven't seen since Y2K.

If you hadn't planned on sleeping, playing the Kiefer Sutherland home game or preparing to shamefacedly greet the dawn on December 22, 2012, chances are you're looking for something to do. Maybe you're looking for a party, or looking to plan one of your own. Since my invitations to social functions keep getting lost in the mail I won't be much help with the former, but if you want to plan a successful New Year's Eve extravaganza then you're in the right place.

Here is the Largely the Truth guide to planning a successful Victoria-style New Years Eve party, sure to attract many important people wearing scarves:

1 - Theme: You may be surprised that a New Year's Eve Party requires a theme, but everyone in the know understands that it is surpassingly gauche to celebrate something as banal as the successful revolution of one celestial body around another. First and foremost, you must identify a theme that easily lends itself to costumes. The city's cultural elite love nothing more than crawling over top one another in Value Village to find the accessory that best compliments their Post-Existentialist, Pre-Raphaelite Chimney Sweep outfit.

2 - What to Serve: No doubt you foolishly thought you could feed your guests microwaved morsels from M&M Meats, or a tray of deli meats from Thrifty's. This would be an insult to the delicate palate of those who live in a Capital City. Do you think the refined citizenry of other Capital Cities like Carson City, Nevada, or Springfield, Illinois would lower themselves to the level of jalapeno peppers filled with cream cheese? I think not. Instead consider something like fondue, with fair-trade cheese made from the milk of cows who have a keen sense of irony.

3 - Cultural Sensitivity: Remember that not everyone celebrates the New Year in the same way. For the Chinese, new year begins in February. For Boston Red Sox fans New Year ceased to be important after winning the 2007 World Series. Including aspects of these disparate celebrations into your own, for example by handing out small red envelopes filled with money or burning pictures of Bill Buckner, will impress your guests.

4 - Guest List: First you must remember that the number of people who show up will be inversely proportional to the number of people you invite. Just as Groucho Marx refused to join any club that would have him as a member, so too will Victoria's glitterati spurn events so accessible as to issue invitations. Exclusivity is the key to popularity, and so for maximum turnout follow this one simple step: do not invite anyone. This may seem counter-productive to a properly functioning social event but I assure you that the air of mystery will draw more guests than a seminar on social media.

If you truly want to go the extra mile, send out "unvitations" - small note cards expressing regret that the recipient is not welcome at your planned soirée. Employ this tactic sparingly, however, as it will likely cause such things as a lineup at the door, television coverage and an appearance by Gwyneth Paltrow.

So there you have it, four tips on hosting the ultimate Victoria New Year's Eve party. I look forward to my having my unvitation lost in the mail.

I miss God. Not in that aching, “We used to ride bikes every day until her parents moved back to Waukegan and the next time I saw her she was grinding onstage at a bar in The Dalles with singles tucked into her underpants” kind of way, no. I miss the sense of scale that the idea of God brought to the world, and the Old Testament sabre-rattling that used to keep in line a people which comedian Lewis Black once described as “ten hairs away from being baboons.”

When I was younger and rounder my very Catholic grandmother decided that I needed to be placed in Catechism so as to begin honing my sense of guilt. For the uninitiated, Catechism is Catholic religious school, usually held on sunny weekends so as to prepare you for a lifetime of the church ruining things you enjoy.

There, Sister Cecelia would instruct us on prayers, scripture and how to wield a disapproving frown like a loaded gun. The boredom was almost painful – kids, imagine having to ride the bus without your iPod – and the only saving grace, at least for me, was the Old Testament.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a particularly religious person, but I appreciate a good story as much as anyone and there was something to be said for an antihero running around the desert kicking ass and burning down bushes. I didn’t particularly believe in God but I liked the sense of balance He lent to the world: Pharaoh wanted to be a hard-on? He got ten plagues and busloads of fat American tourists tramping all over his grave for eternity. God may have gone off the rails a few times, in my opinion the people of Sodom & Gomorrah just liked to rock n’ roll, but I felt that He and the people had an understanding: piss me off and you’ll know it.

Then, of course, science came along and we figured out that thunderstorm, or a disaster like an earthquake was just the planetary equivalent of Parkinson’s. Once, disasters made us problem solvers – the ground moved, so the old bearded man in the clouds must be unhappy about something and we should probably work up a flow-chart and figure out what we’ve done wrong.

The brilliant part about this idea was that, being human, everyone was up to something underhanded and this kind of thing provided a swift, corrective, kick in the ethics. Most folks quietly removed their hands from their pants and/or their neighbour’s pocket and got on with their lives in a slightly more righteous fashion all the while casting nervous glances upward. Sure, they relapsed again from time to time but there was always another famine or drought for them to interpret as a rap on the nose with a newspaper.

Now that we know all about weather patterns, fault lines and tectonic plates, so long as the shaking doesn’t rattle our soda can off the coffee table we change channels and get on with it. Just last week in the Victoria area we registered a morning temblor at 2.9 on the Richter Scale and you know what? I slept through the damn thing.

The earth shifted beneath our feet and I continued snoring for another hour. Many people in the city didn’t even notice and the few who did couldn’t wangle a day off work out of the whole thing and so it was, at most, water cooler conversation. Imagine, for a second, that God is real –how pissed must He be:

“Tectonic nothing – it was Me, you assholes! I’m angry! Pay attention to me! Look at me when I’m talking to you!”

To be clear, I’m not talking about the God that half of America was convinced wanted them to elect an illiterate warmonger as their president 8 years running. Nor am I thinking of the neurotic micromanager who cares whether or not you find your keys or who wins the Superbowl. I’m thinking more of that angry, defiant God who issues cosmic bitch slaps when we get too big for our britches - that grand authoritarian who is gruff but loving in his way and ever so slightly clueless. The God who one day stepped away from his desk to make a sandwich and discovered upon his return that we had figured out oral sex: “What are they doing now? I leave for five minutes...that’s the wrong end, stupid!”

He may or may not be there but I can pretend all the same - it amounts to the same thing. And besides, there’s something appealing about the idea of disaster making us better people.

Monday, 21 February 2011 06:02

Why You're Still Single (For the Ladies)

Written by

Love can be as austere and permanent as the spaces between stars or as beautiful and short-lived as the promises made between children. From within, love can seem as easy as breathing and from without, as impenetrable as Dutch math - entire industries have sprung up around helping the lovelorn unravel the mysteries of the tender trap. I have decided to use my unique position as restaurant reviewer, humorist, philosopher and the final word in masculinity to help bridge the gulf between lovers and the loveless.

What follows is the Largely the Truth Guide to Why You’re Still Single (For the Ladies)

You refer to your cats (because they will be cats) as your children/dress them up in baby’s clothes:

You think this is cute and that someday a man will come along who too appreciates fluffy-wuffy and his bonnet. If this man does manifest he is probably a serial murderer and you will pass your next birthday in his crawlspace.

You describe your dream man to a date even though they look nothing alike:

Shape-shifters are far less common than fantasy novels and comics books would have us believe. In fact, there have been no documented case of human beings instantaneously changing shape. There are, however, a number of documented cases where eligible bachelors climbed out the bathroom window of a a restaurant before dessert because their date spent 15 minutes telling them about the man, taller and more handsome than they, who will one day sweep her off her feet. This also applies to anything more than passing references to ex-boyfriends.

You think having a menstrual cycle means never having to say you're sorry:

If you find yourself thinking that, for seven to ten days, you are excused from the rules of behaviour which govern the rest of humanity and are free to spread fear and cruelty like a hemorrhagic Rasputin then you are wrong. And though you may firmly believe that "if you can't handle me at my worst then you don't deserve me at my best", if your worst necessitates locking you in a root cellar like the Wolfman then you have work to do.

You have unusual religious beliefs that you insist on sharing with every new person you meet:

Your faith is part of who you are but you need to recognize that if you drop the phrase “past-life regression” on the first date you could be spending a lot of Friday nights at home watching “The ‘L’ Word”. Ease potential partners into your belief system – make a passing mention of “chakras” on the second date and gauge reaction. Do not mention the word “kundalini” until at least date number three.

“He has to be over six feet, muscular and have a great head of hair”:

If you have taken to assessing men's dating potential the way you would shop for produce then you will end up dating vegetables. If you think he is the pinnacle of human evolution then chances are he does too.

You tell anyone who will listen that you want "a real man, not a boy":

This is commonly heard from unpleasant women as a way to rationalize why the opposite sex treats them like lepers. If you can ask yourself, "exactly what do I mean by a 'real man' and, if he exists, what interest would he have in a woman with the personality of a garbage disposal" then you are on the right track.

You tell prospective partners things like, “In five years I see myself living in an ashram/cabin in the mountains/abandoned oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico”:

You’ll notice that these statements don’t lend much wiggle room to your future. Men appreciate challenges – being told “you’ll never climb to the top of that mountain” makes us harden our resolve to prove that nothing is impossible. These statements, however, are the equivalent of saying, “You’ll never climb to the top of that mountain, and if you do a gorilla will be waiting for you at the top to box your ears and poop in your hat.” This is all quite apart from the fact that in five years you’ll still be reading self-help books in an overstuffed coffee shop easy chair.

You often find yourself thinking, "All the good ones are married, taken or gay!":

There is a third option - they are hiding from you.

Check this space in two weeks time for “Largely the Truth: Why You’re Still Single (For the Guys)”. An abbreviated version of this article appears in the Wednesday, February 23rd edition of the newspaper Diversity Reporter.

Saturday, 05 March 2011 06:01

Why You're Still Single (For the Guys)

Written by

It’s been two weeks since I posted “Largely the Truth…about Why You’re Still Single (For the Ladies)". While a few readers have weighed in via e-mail with comments that range from “That was sexist” to “You’re a big jerk” to “Sleep with one eye open” (thanks, mom), I’ve paid them little heed. I have been too busy having rose petals thrown at my feet and throngs of adoring women shyly asking if they can touch my biceps (you may). Having brought harmony to the fairer sex it is time that I spread the fairy dust of my wisdom to Mars and usher in a new age of understanding between the sexes – the Age of Brenquarius.

What follows is Largely the Truth…about Why You’re Still Single (For the Guys):

Your idea of physical fitness stops at “lifting my legs so mom can vacuum under the sofa”:

No one asks that you be able to zest lemons on your abdominals but if you bought an XBOX Kinect “because it’s just as good as a gym membership” then you’re doing it wrong.

You think your hobbies are interesting to everyone:

While many women enjoy painting, they have little to no interest in swabbing "bloodthirsty red" model paint on the many robotic protuberances of a Warhammer miniature. In fact, most potential mates are going to be put off by any conversation which references the thousands of dollars you have spent on what amount to militarized Precious Moments figurines or distant lands which exist only in your computer.

You are looking for a woman to "take care of you":

You already had one of these - she was called your mother and she kicked you out too. Unless, of course, you are Italian, in which case your mother is reading this to you right now. If you cannot take care of yourself then you have more immediate concerns than finding a mate.

You try to get out of household chores by pretending you are helpless:

No one actually enjoys washing dishes or taking out the trash but if you've managed to put a plate back in the cupboard with half a chicken still on it or cut off your own hand trying to tie up a Hefty bag then you should take a long hard look in the mirror. Helplessness is only sexy if you are Faye Wray. You are not Faye Wray.

Your romantic aspirations revolve around your buddies' girlfriends:

Stepping outside your comfort zone to establish new connections is scary but even scarier is becoming known in your circle of friends as "The Creeper". It is no crime to befriend a buddy's significant other, after all if they are part of his life then they are, by association, part of yours, but using that friendship to subtly try and convince them you are the better option makes you a bastard of the highest order. Persisting in this behavior will ensure you remain not only single but eventually friendless as well.

You refuse to dress like a grown up:

There is a world outside full of women eager to meet men who already know that board shorts are not formal wear. Buy some shirts that button up in the front, retire the baseball cap and seek out a pair of shoes that don't look like they were stolen from a recently deceased vagrant. You could even try shining them.

You think that pornography is an accurate depiction of human sexual relations:

Female adult performers are paid to pretend that they are furniture with conveniently placed holes; in real life women get upset if you treat them like talking masturbatory aids. You may have noticed that, in pornography, the fun is over after Johnny Hung makes a mess of someone's makeup. In a shocking revelation, real life women have needs and desires that extend beyond your own gratification.

You say that all you need to be happy is a cabin in the woods far away from the world:

There are very few women who relish the idea of pursuing the rustic life once enjoyed by Henry David Thoreau and the Unabomber. Having generally more common sense than men, they are fond of such luxuries as indoor plumbing and not having to worry about being eaten by bears. Finally, you are just as much a child of the modern world as anyone - after one week of Walden you will miss SpikeTV and after three you will be attempting to fashion twigs, pitch and apricot stones into a pistol so that you may shoot yourself.

You believe women are only interested in tycoons and underwear models:

This is an excuse. Most good, honest gals respond to simple things: confidence, kindness and enough ambition to see you periodically part ways with the sofa. There is nothing sexy about you putting on the long face in the hopes that someone will choose you like a puppy at the pound. Likewise, no modern gal worth her salt has any use for a man whose only visible means of support is the chair in which he is currently napping.

You are indecisive:

You are a man – act like one. It is not necessary that you run around town lifting weights and punching waiters but, for God’s sake, assert yourself. It is one thing to “float like a leaf on the river of life” and quite another to be “bent over staring at the floor tiles of life’s shower room.”

And so ends the Largely the Truth…about Why You're Still Single. What do you think dear reader? Have I missed anything? Would YOU like to touch my biceps? The comments section beckons.

Saturday, 19 March 2011 06:55

That Don't Make It Junk - Freecycling & You

Written by

The world has finite resources. I know this because for the last decade Al Gore & Michael Moore have been living in my television making frantic, bearded love while David Suzuki teaches them about “the nature of things”.

I know because of the lingering sense of guilt I feel every time I drive the car to work or throw away an empty jar of peanut butter rather than take the time to wash and toss it in the blue bin. I know that every time I throw away a Cola can a village in the Congo is burned to the ground while white hunters chase aluminum wildebeests through the embers, taking their hide for foil wrap and their organs for pie plates.

I know all this so I separate my plastic and my glass; I compost my kitchen waste & only watch television programs with recycled jokes. And when I have a household item that is of no particular use to me I have learned to “freecycle” rather than throw it away.

What is freecycling? It is the practice of taking things you no longer need and leaving them at the curb because they will take up too much room in your trash. There is also a website, www.freecycling.org, where you can advertise your surplus of hemp sweaters to penniless Australian snowboarders. After first contact you agree on a time for either pickup or delivery then hand your unneeded endtable/sofa/bongs over to Bogan & Bru and hope they don’t pick up any silverware on their way out.

Back home when we no longer had any use for a household item it was donated to Uncle Troy’s raccoon habitat. Of course it was more a sprawling kingdom of rusted-out appliances kept on his property ’for parts' than it was actual animal refuge. Still, we all humoured Troy, mostly because being able to send our half-working toasters and microwave ovens his way meant no one in our family had to buy extra garbage tags.

 

And this was after he cleaned it up.

The city bylaw inspector finally put an end to the practice when his son Jude was attacked by a raccoon in Troy’s yard. No charges were filed, mostly because Jude had been sent by the inspector himself to drop off an unused bread maker.

Freecycling is a far more elegant solution, I’ll grant you, but it too is not without problems. For example, every box of free cookware I see out on the street corner has a mouldering sofa somewhere in the vicinity to keep it company. This says to me that some people do not understand the distinction between “freecycling” and “littering”.

Yes.


If you have purchased a new set of crockery and your old set is still useable, leaving it in a box marked “free” is “freecycling.” If your sofa is so decrepit that it has taken on the odour of dead men then chances are no one else wants it either and leaving it at the curb because “it’s better than throwing it away” is “littering”.

Sharing the things we no longer need without compensation is a wonderful thing. If more people did it the world would be a better place. However we must do it the right way.

No.


First you must realize that it is sometimes okay to throw things away. Recycling is great and we should try to do so whenever possible but certain things are single use only and others are meant to be junked once bits have begun falling off. Next you must actually dispose of the item in a way that ensures no one else is forced to clean up after you.

Small items can be thrown by hand into the dumpster. Larger items need to be brought to the town dump. If you don’t own a truck, that’s fine, make friends with someone who does and have them help you.

 

Still no.


If they own an enormous Ford Compensator that they drive only to and from hair appointments then lose their phone number shortly after the deed is done. Don’t worry about hurting their feelings – they don’t have any.

If you are unable to find someone with a truck then there are a number of services in every major city that employ thick-necked men named Otis who specialize in moving heavy things from one place to another. They will charge for the privilege, of course, but it’s a small price to pay for the peace of mind which comes from knowing you helped save your neighbourhood from looking like Uncle Troy’s yard.

If you’ve ever been bitten by a raccoon you’ll know how valuable that really is.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Chery DeWolfe, author of Frugal Victoria among other things, has a great Flickr account cataloging botched freecycling efforts: Click here to check it out (will open a new window)

Friday, 01 April 2011 06:53

A Bullet for Dumbo

Written by

Recently, Bob Parsons, founder & CEO of GoDaddy.com shot an elephant in the village of Labola, Zimbabwe and then posted a video of the kill online. Now the interwebs are afire with cries of "1-2-3-4! When our domain comes up for renewal we won't renew with you...anymore!" Animal rights group PETA have branded Parsons "Scummiest CEO of the Year", canceled their GoDaddy account and said they won't be his friend anymore. All over the world groups of white-collar workers have emerged from their fallout shelter to find themselves shocked at the possible existence of a morally bankrupt CEO.

The idea that Bob Parsons is the sleaziest CEO of the year seems a bit of a stretch, too. Far be it for me to accuse PETA (motto “It’s not fair, man”) of naiveté but I thought that the 2008 economic crash put to bed any lingering notions we had that corporate executives are anything but avatars of Satan who devour innocent children while watching Mad Men.

Parsons has tried to explain the context of the video, which shows his hunting party laying in wait for, firing on and eventually killing one of the elephants which had been ravaging a farmer's sorghum field. The next day villagers butcher the animal and dispense the meat. Says Parsons, "The people there have very little, many die each year from starvation and one of the problems they have is the elephants...that trash many of their fields destroying the crops." He forgets to add that he was also doing the elephants a favor by saving them from a life lived in constant fear of mice and being cast in Robert Pattinson films.

PETA countered by saying, "Instead of coming up with flimsy excuses for killing these highly intelligent and social animals, Parsons should use his wealth to fund humane solutions to human/elephant conflicts,". They conveniently sidestep the question of who tells a starving farmer that the issue of his ruined livelihood is being looked into by an advisory committee. They also miss the real point of this or any hunt, which is to allow soft western men like Bob Parsons to act out scenes from "White Hunter, Black Heart".

Said one outraged Twitter user: "People in power need to remember they don't have carte blanche to behave...in this way. Not in this day & age." People in power? He is the CEO of a popular web hosting service, not the chairman of the Bilderberg Group. In fact, if he were a regular at Davos this story would never have broken in the first place. Old money knows that the only way they can continue to spend their vacations hunting the homeless on tropical islands is if the hoi polloi remain ignorant.

My real problem with this issue is that big-game hunting and poaching are every day occurrences in Africa and other parts of the world where prosperity is in short supply yet cries of outrage are few and far between. Why? Because poachers are frightening men, usually armed and unreceptive to criticism. Bob Parsons on the other hand is a computer geek who looks a bit like Chunk from The Goonies launched into middle age, making him a soft target for the furious mouse clicks and Facebook groups of armchair activists. With their stores of self-satisfaction running low and Movember still eight months away these people will huff and puff about animal rights until they get bored and retreat back into their cubicles.

 

The small neighborhoods, or villages, that dot Victoria are one of the city's hidden charms. Some are more interesting than others, James Bay Village in particular feels like an open air home for the elderly and the boring, but with a range of independent businesses and often unique architecture they all have their own appeal. Fernwood Village always seems peaceful, rather than boring and at midday that's a welcome change from downtown and the rush of Blackberry-wielding power suits who pull down six figures but have all the social graces of water buffalo.

The Fernwood Inn sits right at the corner of Fernwood and Gladstone, one-time terminus for the BCER streetcar line. That was, of course, in the days before municipal planners everywhere got a hard-on for buses and started tearing up streetcar tracks like they were parking tickets. The Fernwood Inn is a big place and with its pleasant yellow paint job and half-timbered exterior it’s hard to miss. From the look of it I gather that the architect wanted “mock Tudor” but decided mocking was altogether too much effort and settled for “bathroom-wall sketch of Tudor making it with a horse.” While that statement implies I don’t like the building nothing could be further from the truth – I think it’s one of the nicer-looking places around town. It is a difficult thing, to be loved by me.

The restaurant was quiet when Nicky & I arrived, the lunch rush had passed and only a few tables were full. The sign told us to seat ourselves and so we found a booth on the right side of the restaurant. The interior of the Fernwood Inn is cheerful and bright, owed in equal measures to a colour palette chosen by someone on Prozac’s good side and an abundance of large windows. Shortly after we were seated a waiter, Callum, stopped by to bring us menus and take our drink order. A glance at said menu showed the prices to be about standard for Victoria pubs, with burgers in the $11-15 range. For an appetizer we chose the “Proper Poutine” ($10), described as “local fresh cheese curds, melted with our rich, roasted duck and chicken gravy all on a pile of crisp fries.”

Poutine is a larded-up wallop to your stomach whose salty allure overruns your taste buds like the Catholics at Montsegur; the best poutine will render you bloated and immobile, your blood-pressure so high that tinnitus makes your eardrums sing with the mosquito whine of Hell’s choir. Fernwood Inn’s “Proper Poutine” was entirely too proper - rather than overrunning Montsegur it was content to leave a flaming bag at the doorstep. The chicken & duck gravy was thin and though Nicky said she liked the “subtle flavour” I found it so subtle as to be nonexistent. In its defense the cheese curds were quite good and the dish was hot enough that they began to melt around the fries, making the thing a big cheesy mess, which worked in its favour. Not a poor first course but not something I care to order again.

The “Polenta & Prawn Skillet with chorizo sausage & fresh goat cheese with watercress & tomato” ($13) was another story - it made an impression from the moment it landed at the table, so hot I think it burned the fingerprints off Callum’s hand. I don’t often eat polenta, mostly because it actually takes effort to prepare, and this skillet, with a firm, but still fluffy square of polenta in the center surrounded by creamy goat cheese, made me realize I have been missing out. There was more prawn & chorizo than expected and the tomatoes were grilled, which was a nice touch.

My one quibble is that the chef chose not to remove the tails of the prawns before cooking and serving them. This may pitifully minor but try removing the tail from shrimp so hot it could have been fished from the seas of the sun and you will understand. I know absolutely nothing about watercress other than it looks like the lean, hard George to broccoli’s hulking simpleton Lenny and its presence at the table failed to enlighten me. It sat on top of the skillet looking, for all the world, like an upended bag of lawn clippings, and though I ate every stalk, or frond, or whatever, I am hard pressed to tell you anything significant about the experience. Of the skillet itself I can say that it was a rich, filling dish I would gladly order again.

I can’t quite pin down why I want to go back to the Fernwood Inn. Don’t get me wrong, our table service, courtesy of Callum, was first-rate and the food was well-made but those are not the things that seem to draw me back. Maybe it’s the cheeriness of the decor or the vast windows that allow me to keep an eye out for both parking wardens and that most irrefutable proof of God’s love – women in yoga pants, I don’t know. Whatever it is, it makes the Fernwood Inn seem like a comfortable place to enjoy a beer and a bite as the world strolls past.

There are a lot of things that make Victoria special – the beauty of the Inner Harbour on a summer’s night, the way Mayor Fortin & his staff are patiently waiting for the Rapture to thin out the Colwood Crawl so they don’t have to admit to being wrong about the railroad. You can add afternoons at the Fernwood Inn to that list.

Page 3 of 6