Tuesday, July 31, 2007

THe last day of the month

As I was putting on my shoes today getting ready for work, weather guy Rob Marciano tossed the screen to CNN's ex-pat John Roberts who remarked on the fact that this was the last day of July, and asked his co-anchor, "where did July go?", to which she replied, "where did June go?" Ah, the passage of time. I remember visiting my grandfather in a nursing home many years ago; he was a little slow getting around, so I found myself holding the elevator door open for him. A senior female resident boarded the elevator car, and I apologized for the wait, to which she scowled; "Time - it's the only thing I've got left." I imagine she is in a better place now. When I was a child, summer seemed to go on forever. A day of playing in the clay banks of the Humber River in what seemed at the time to be a huge valley bordered by lush forests on our farm in Nashville, would slowly flow into a nighttime of stories around a campfire. Going back there today, the farm seems so much smaller, partly because it has been populated with monster homes, but mostly because I don't take the time to explore and discover. Back then, summer seemed endless, and in fact, those first 10 or even 20 years seemed to be a lifetime in themselves. Back then though everything was interesting, my curiosity was boundless. I could play for hours, get lost in a lilac bush, my imagination transforming it into a secret lair. Now as an adult, I would pass that same lilac bush with nary a mention. Maybe that's where the expression "take time to smell the flowers" comes into play. As "productive adults", with budgets, fiscal periods and daytimers ruling our lives, the days, the months, the years seem to flip by at a breakneck pace, like a freight train picking up momentum. Even when we first moved to Ste. Anne's 26 years ago, there seemed to be more time to lay by the pool, go to the beach, antique hunt, and wait for deals at country auctions. Mind you, this was all before the internet, facebook and blogs. While flipping channels the other night (another great time waster), I watched part of a program about child stars, and what has become of them. I think the one that resonated with me the most was Tabatha (Erin Murphy) - the daughter of Bewitched, now all grown up with a real family of her own! Hard to believe, but then time marches on. When I stop and I look back over the past 48 years, and take advantage of one of the many perks of my job as I stop and talk to a bank VP in a bathrobe who has just awakened from a nap on one of our gazebo hammocks still a little blurry from his massage induced trance, I start to catalogue all the experiences, all the people who have come and in some cases gone, and I can better appreciate the 1,513,728,000 seconds that have passed and look forward to the day ahead.

Monday, July 23, 2007

That karma gets you every time

Recent Hollywood releases haven't really stirred me to make the trip to the big screen. However, the allure of a meal at her favourite seafood restaurant got my mom in the mood for dinner and a movie in downtown Peterborough, so off we went. (Our last big outing - the opening of the new Home Depot in Cobourg, was a bit of a letdown for mom. After about half an hour of aisle cruising she commented that it was quite stuffy, and pretty much the same as all the other Home Depots, so we left). Based on the viewer ratings on http://www.tribute.ca/, I narrowed our movie choices down to "Hairspray" or "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry". I was leaning towards Chuck and Larry, but mom had read a review about Hairspray that suggested that it was not just a comedy, and a chance to see John Travolta in his first drag role, but more of a social commentary on the deep divisions between the blacks and the whites in Baltimore, a city we had just visited in June, making it all the more poignant. Turns out it was filmed in Toronto and Vancouver, but it really did seem like Baltimore! It was a fun flick, lots of laughs and of course lots of message about tolerance and acceptance. About 2/3 of the way through the show my cell phone started to vibrate, which it always does in this particular theatre. I ignored it the first time around, but 10 minutes later on the second round of vibrating, I thought I better answer it, as I give this number out to all the guests at the spa in case of a customer satisfaction emergency. Funny thing is, it never rings unless I'm in a movie theatre. Must be some kind of payback for something I did in a previous life. In this case it was a call about a couple who wanted to light a real wood fire in one of our fireplaces, instead of the standard 3 hour logs that we supply. They were looking to get the full romantic benefit of a real wood fire on this hot and humid July evening. I explained that the only problem with wood fires is that they cause other wood fires, especially when they spawn a mischievous little spark that makes its way onto the very dry cedar shakes bringing about a full blown roof fire. Oh well, so much for romance. It was ixnay on the romantic wood fire and back to the movie for me. I must say, John Travolta makes a convincingly good woman, reminiscent of Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire. The movie made for good Sunday afternoon entertainment, but I think I could have waited for it to come out on the movie channel. The moral lesson for me: I guess eating large portions isn't such a bad thing - shame on me. I still want to see Chuck and Larry!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Human Dinosaurs

Sometimes crazy thoughts come into my head. I was in a restaurant just off the interstate highway - a place called the Cracker Barrel - in upper New York State. Very nice place with a huge menu, and lots of very happy, but noticeably large customers. Up until recently, I've counted myself as one of the lucky ones. My weight has been around 170 lbs. since high school. Over the past couple of years though, as I approach middle age (oops, I might already be there), I have taken supplements to help with the growing bulge around my middle, and to try to push the scale back below 185 lbs.. However, most of the supplements I've tried (most recently yohimbe) seem to work by increasing your rate of metabolism with the unpleasant side effects of rapid or irregular heart beat, excessive sweating and anxiety. I got to the point where I was oblivious to the side effects, until I ran out of my supplements and tried to go on them again. At this point, I am taking CLA, which seems to be a little less "speedy", and it seems to curb my appetite. Back to the story. As I was sitting in this restaurant trying to decide what I would have to eat, (leaning towards the turkey dinner, but tempted by the strawberry waffles), I couldn't help but notice the huge portions being served at the tables next to us. Waffles, turkey dinners, hamburgers, even salads - all excessively huge. For an instant, I had a vision of this same group of humans without the civilized setting, polite serving staff, sophisticated utensils and dinnerware in a rain forest pillaging and munching and tearing food apart with their hands and their incisors. Then I came back to my senses and snapped back into wonderful modern civilization. Note to self: me thinks we eat too much - and presentation really doesn't disguise it very well. It seems to me that we North Americans have become a truly gluttonous society. You know, I don't remember seeing too many images of anorexic dinosaurs. Have we really evolved in the past few million years? Last night David and I had dinner at Ste. Anne's, something we rarely treat ourselves too. Chef Christopher has just launched a new dinner menu - he continues to find ways to please the palate without pushing the calories. Chef has just celebrated his 7th year with us - for this I am truly thankful.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A unique relationship

Through the birthright of my parents, I earned a right to be a dual citizen of Canada and the United States. When I was 10 my father was transferred to White Plains, New York, and our family lived in Connecticut where my oldest sister Anne, (who was instrumental in establishing the spa at Ste. Anne's) continues to live with her husband Paul. The two years we spent living in Connecticut were good years, full of great experiences and memories. As such the relationship between these two great, but very different nations has always been a source of fascination for me. This past weekend, I went to see Mike Moore's latest rant - "Sicko". The week before, I rented a copy of "The Shooter", starring my body double, Mark Wahlberg (You may know that I was slated to pose for the Calvin Klein underwear ad that made him famous - I just couldn't make it to the studio on that particular day). Both of these movies paint a somewhat disturbing picture of our friends to the south. One of course is a documentary, while the other is pure fiction. However, there is rarely a story told that doesn't have some basis in fact, or someone's perception of factual events. I guess the real question we have to ask our selves as Canadians is how we insulate ourselves from the tremendous influence of a nation that is so close to us, and so similar to us in many ways. Don't get me wrong, there are many things I love about America, and I know lots of wonderful Americans, but there are some things about the world's only "super power" that give me cause for concern. It's hard not to draw some parallels to the course taken by some other great world powers. One interesting thing about "Sicko" is that it spends a fair bit of time talking about Canada and our universal health care system- something that is rare in a U.S. made blockbuster. In one scene Moore is interviewing a British fellow who talks about the roots of democracy as it relates to the origins of universal health care; I found his thoughts to be particularly insightful. I thought Moore would make more of his statement "As a democratic nation, if we can find the money to kill people (war), we should be able to find the money to take care of people when they're not well". Just imagine what kind of world we would live in if we could find a way to direct all the money spent on war and hatred towards cures and acts of kindness. I would encourage you to see both of these films, and would be interested in your thoughts. Blog me back!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Ontario festivals

Over the years, I've heard about and from time to time attended "festivals" in Ontario. Growing up in Nashville, Ontario, one of my earliest childhood memories was of the Woodbridge Fair, and later, the Kleinburg Bindertwine Festival, both great old fashioned country fairs. Since moving east, I've attended the Cobourg Waterfront Festival from time to time, but I can't say that it really leaves me wanting more; I'm just not sure what the point of it is. Sometime in the spring of this year, I got a call from an old friend looking for a silent auction prize for a fundraiser for the Westben Music Festival. (Funny how old friends tend to think of you at silent auction time). I have to say, if I had heard about Westben, I certainly wasn't consciously aware of exactly what it was. I had definitely heard of the 4th Line Theatre, and may have confused the two, as they are both set in rural venues, but for one reason or another, I just hadn't found the time or the motivation to check either of them out. In any case, we ended up contributing a prize to the silent auction, and although we weren't able to attend the fundraising dinner, a couple of weeks after the fact we received 4 tickets to "Chopin & Champagne" at the Westben. They sat on my desk for several months until, this past Saturday night, a hastily arranged group of Graftonites set out for Campbellford, not quite sure what we were in for. It was incredible. In fact I think it was better than anything I've experienced in Toronto. I just kept closing my eyes to take in the talent of these passionate musicians. If you haven't been, you must check it out. You can always combine it with a couple of nights at the spa. Ste. Anne's to Westben is an easy 40 minute drive through the rolling Northumberland Hills. Besides the quality of the performance at Westben, the other great thing is that it is good value. You don't feel like the event is being staged for the sake of money, as you do with some "tourist targeted" events. Even the snacks offered at intermission were reasonably priced and cheerfully served. We came away feeling enriched and very lucky to have discovered another spectacular gem in your own backyard. I can hardly wait to go again - hope to see you there!