Category Archives: personal relationships

A Forest.

It’s been a tumultuous few months here at the new Singledad Towers. I picked up a job at a real estate office, but was told just a couple of months in that I “wasn’t a good fit” for the job, whatever the fuck that is supposed to mean. This left me scrambling for some way to pay the rent, and for no other reason than I found it, I applied for a seasonal job at my local supermarket selling Christmas trees. I got an invitation to an interview which went well and returned home to find a voicemail on my phone. Could I come back in for a drug screening? The interviewers had called me pretty much as soon as the door closed and had hoped to catch me before I left the store, but seeing as I saw no point in bringing my phone with me, the call was waiting for me at home, so I did an about face and returned immediately.

The popular image of drug screening involves peeing into a cup, but hold on. Now it involves holding a sponge against the side of your mouth for a couple of minutes and then placing said swab in a tube. Phew! If you are anything like me, then Shankly help you. No, seriously, peeing in public is not my thing, nor yours, I hope. This happened because they offered me the job.  My sweetie and I had a Thanksgiving trip planned, and so the Tuesday after the holiday I reported for work, went through the initiation period and started the next day. To be clear, I’m the only person working trees 8/5, with other staff being assigned to the post on a daily basis, which means I’m the only constant. Yeah, the new guy is the only person who’s always there. Actually, many people at the store have worked in trees over the years, so it’s not as if no one has ever done the job before. I’m outside for eight hours a day in the PNW winter, which can be a bit nippy at times, but the donning of my patented Bronko Nagurski  long underwear meant that I was proofed against the morning and evening chills, and truth be told, I was often sweating due to the exertions involved.

We receive trees by the truckload which are dumped in the parking lot and then have to be sorted by size and species into a coherent stack. Imagine dragging 250+ trees ranging from five to nine feet tall into organised piles and then moving them over to the sales area. Then imagine helping customers by carrying their tree to the place where we give he trunk a fresh cut and then loading it onto their vehicle. A lot of people have trucks, which makes life easy, but imagine lifting a nine foot tree onto the roof of a Suburban and then tying it down. It takes a while, and involves quite a bit of effort, especially if you are a fat, lazy, unfit bastard like me. Imagine doing that 30 times a day as well as sweeping up loose needles and branches, dragging over fresh stock to fill the gaps and answering a multitude of questions.  To say that I was knackered by the end of the day is an understatement. I know how unfit I am, and this has driven it home to me. My legs and arms ache by the end of the day and only the  prospect of a very hot bath with lots of lavender Epsom Salts and a very large vodka and tonic at the end of the day have kept me going.

The above bitchfest notwithstanding, I’ve really enjoyed myself. My coworkers are all great people who have made me feel very welcome and part of the team. The store has a lot of  long term employees, and I can see why: we are treated very well, get an employee discount and are treated as human beings with feelings. How many companies nowadays do that?  The customers have all been very friendly and understanding, and I’ve had quite a few enjoyable chats with people as I’ve tied trees onto the roofs of their cars.  I admit that I wake up in the night due to the numbness in my right hand, and that I ache all over, but to be honest, being outside all day has been good for me. I’ve had the opportunity to work in a team that actually cares and meet some truly nice people.

I really hope this turns into a permanent thing. the store manager told me one lunchtime that he wants to chat with me about what happens “after trees”, which sounds promising, as does the fact that my department manager has been sounding me out about which departments in which I would like to work. Fingers crossed.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Christmas, personal relationships

Darkness On The Edge Of Gastown

I consider myself lucky in that I’ve never gone too long without some kind of vacation, be it for a week or a long weekend. However, with kids, even a vacation doesn’t automatically mean much downtime. The kids still have to be organised, fed and entertained or at least taken to the ski school early in the morning, getting away for the evening is impossible and one always has  to figure in their ability to remain engaged in anything that the adults want to do.

Lest you think this is a major gripefest, I can honestly say I’ve had some great vacations whether they were in Whistler, the Bay Area or Disneyland, but still, there is much to be said for a trip sans offspring. My sweetie and I have had a couple of opportunities this summer – Portland for a school friends’ birthday, San Francisco so I could meet her friends and so she could meet some of mine, and while these were great, we had limited opportunities to spend time alone.

This changed recently when I decided to take her to Vancouver for her birthday. This was no surprise, but I decided that the schedule for the trip would be up to her.  Her main agenda items were a trip to the Museum of Anthropology and dinner on her birthday at her favourite Lebanese restaurant.  Of  course, things didn’t go as planned. Not long after arrival I explained that I saw the trip as being her present and there would be no big reveal later, should she be expecting some special gift at some point.  Picture Roald Amundsen looking out across the Antarctic wastes and you will get some idea of how this was received.  I guess there was some confusion over the phrase “For your birthday”. However not all was lost as my failure to pack socks and shorts as a result of my severe mental confusion resulting from my recent moving meant I needed to go on a mission of mercy      (  See “The Boxer”).  I found a charming if somewhat pricey First Nations art and jewelry store in Yaletown and all was saved. Phew! I will admit that I was sweating profusely during this dash although most of it can be accounted for by the 85 degree heat and 95 percent humidity. Oh, the joy of returning to a fully air conditioned room.

I hadn’t been in Vancouver since before my son was born, and boy, have things changed! Robson Street, which had been a rather charming collection of boutique stores and restaurants seemed to have gone decidedly downhill and  become hobo central in the intervening 12 years, which I found rather a shame, as seediness is not something I at least, associate with Canada. Whilst on the topic of our northern cousins, I have to ask one question: Are you really going out dressed like that? Maybe I missed an email about the fancy dress party taking place that weekend, but oh boy! What the hell did they think they looked like? I can’t honestly believe that some of the people I saw dressed the way they did without some extenuating circumstances.  Or maybe it was the result of them all having one  Molson too many.

That aside, the Museum of Anthropology was a true revelation. So much indigenous culture has been co-opted that it truly puts thing in perspective  to see objects displayed in a way that explains their true socio-cultural significance and treats them as art in their own right and not as a design on a tee shirt in a souvenir store window.

Of course, the birthday dinner was a big deal. We had some trouble finding the restaurant as it is in a basement in  Gastown  and the only signage is above the doorway and seen from the street is at approximately waist height. However, we found it on the second pass and found parking nearby, so we at least were able to enjoy a wonderful dinner in my sweeties’ favourite restaurant.

One thing that has always fascinated me about Vancouver is how it seems to want to be somewhere else. Let me explain: We took a trip to Granville Island as neither of us had ever been there, and what we found was a destination designed purely for tourists that felt like a cross between Fisherman’s Wharf and Pike Place Market but with the unique feel of neither. To be honest it felt a bit like Disneyland. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but it felt less than genuine, and in fact it could have been anywhere. I found this to be a real shame as Vancouver has a lot of history and a culture all its’ own, so why does it feel the need to manufacture something like this? I hope it is not just for the sake of revenue, but then again….

The one thing that stands out about this trip is that it was just for our benefit. We had no agenda, no schedule to keep, no need to do anything other than what struck our fancy at any particular moment, so I guess it was a true vacation.

Leave a comment

Filed under personal relationships, travel, vacation

Father And Son

Shocking revelation number 873. Fatherhood is a hard job. Really.Fucking.Hard. Furthermore, it is a job without much gratitude or even acknowledgement. I heard recently on NPR’s “Science Friday” that researchers studying parenting don’t even consider fathers. This I know to be true. We used to get “Parenting” magazine, which may as well be called “Mothering” magazine for all the attention it pays to those of us with external genitalia. When it does deign to grace us with it’s attention, fathers are portrayed either as hapless boobs unable to remember which end gets diapered or slavering beasts whose thoughts return to boobs five minutes after returning from the Maternity Ward.

Truth is, fatherhood is a lifetime commitment. This was brought home to me recently when my father arrived for a five week vacation, his first in two years. Medical issues kept him in Blighty last year, so he had been anticipating this trip for quite some time and was ready to kick back and spread his favour far and wide. Let me state up front that I love my dad and now that I am a father too, I have developed a deep appreciation for all that he and my mum did for me over the years.  I didn’t realise fully  at the time, but he sacrificed a lot for us and made darn sure we were financially secure and well provided for materially.

He manages pretty well on his retirement income and was able to put aside enough funds to cover his expenses while visiting  and made no bones about his desire to “Take care of things”.

This is where it got weird. We all remember our youth when our parents took care of all our financial needs and had their hands in their pockets more often than not, but imagine how it feels to be fifty and be in that situation. Dad made no bones about paying for everything and anything as his way of balancing out the financial support he extended to my brother over the last two years, but still, it felt weird to be in Costco buying food and beer for my birthday party (see “Happy Birthday”) and have my dad hand me  a wallet that was more than capable of choking any donkey within 20 miles.

In fact, I didn’t need to take any money out of the bank for the entire five weeks of his visit and the only time I was allowed to pay for anything was the trip to see his first ever MLS game and his last night when my sweetie and I took him to a restaurant for a farewell meal, and only then because I had made it quite clear to him that those events were non-negotiable.

Some things just don’t change. He still sees me as a teenager, despite the fact that I’m most clearly not, and I know how he feels. My son just turned 12 and is one of the most intelligent and caring people I have ever met, yet I still see him as a wide eyed two year old fascinated by his first sight of falling snow and  can’t believe that the tiny bundle of pink we brought home from the hospital nine years ago is already turning into a young woman.

Damn, but that last paragraph made me tear up, and I can feel the years slipping away from me. I only hope that no matter how old we are, that my kids stay my kids and that I can be as good a dad to them as mine has been to me.

Leave a comment

Filed under family, personal relationships

Girlfriend Is Better.

There comes a point in any relationship that lasts beyond the first morning when you meet each others’ friends. With luck, this will happen in an inviting environment and will involve everyone having a drink in their hand and probably a plate in front of them.  This serves two purposes: It proves to your sweetie that you aren’t some sad, pathetic loser, and it proves to your friends that your girlfriend isn’t imaginary. The operative phrase here is “With luck”. Alas, things do not always go as planned.

Just before Halloween, my sweetie convinced me to attend the haunted house at the old mortuary in Georgetown. I will admit that this is most definitely not my thing, not that I’m easily scared, it’s just that confined spaces are not my thing, and I don’t respond well to strobe lights. That being said, we had a good time and returned to her house for a relaxing end to the evening.  No sooner had I removed my shoes and sat down than I was summoned by a rather frantic cry. Water ( and thankfully it was only water) was pouring out of the toilet and shower stall onto the bathroom floor. Long story short: I spent 45 minutes mopping the floor with a variety of towels, putting them down as a barrier at the threshold and then wringing them in turn into the teacup sized sink. Very little water made it into the bedroom, and the emergency plumber discovered the root cause – the guest of an upstairs resident had disposed of some feminine hygiene products by flushing them! Ugh! It under these circumstances  that I was introduced to two of the neighbours,- standing in half an inch of thankfully clean water, wringing out towels like a washerwoman on speed. Not the best way to meet people, but it could have been worse.

It was worse. We had arranged to get together the following Monday,  me picking her up from work and heading to her place for a quiet evening. Alas, this was the same Monday when we learned of the sudden death of our friend ( see “Tango Funebre”).  An impromptu gathering had been organised, and as I could hardly take her home and head off to the gathering, we both attended. She knew some of the dozen people there by name and through stories, but had met none of them. Not the best of social occasions to meet new people, but she could see and understand  the depth of our grief and bewilderment, and the group accepted her as one of our own. I can’t imagine how she felt, surrounded by strangers numbed by shock and trying to make some sort of sense of the news. I’m sure that at first we must have seemed like zombies, but as the evening progressed, we all took comfort from each others’ presence and a kind of balance was achieved.

Needless to say, alcohol played a part in evening, replacing one kind of numbness with another, and I was grateful for the fact that she maintained a level of sobriety that was far beyond my ability. I had warned her in advance that I probably wouldn’t be in a fit state to drive, and for once, I proved Yogi Berra wrong.  I dread to imagine what she thought as I stumbled to bed, falling into a deep, dreamless unconsciousness within minutes of arriving home, but I do appreciate her for having the decency not to pass judgement or say anything about it the next day.

As if that wasn’t enough, we had planned to spend that weekend at my place,  relaxing, watching a movie or two, generally enjoying each others’ company, but  instead found ourselves attending the memorial service. I felt terrible telling her that she would have to fend for herself at lunchtime due to the fact that those of us acting as ushers would be meeting at the pub and had decided that we needed time alone as a group in order to process the weeks’ events and reconnect. She took the news with equanimity, understanding that at times like this, the circle needs to draw tighter and that there is a need to express emotion without restraint or the need for explanation. At both the formal reception and the informal gathering afterwards she understood my need to catch up with people, some of whom I hadn’t seen in over a year, and was accepting of my sometimes brief and jargon laden explanations.  Again, I felt guilt over leaving her to fend for herself for so much of the day in a veritable ocean of strange faces and unfamiliar terms, especially under such emotion laden conditions, but again, she accepted the circumstances and at least now has a deeper understanding of just what a special place my school is, and how it breeds a sense of community like no other.  Additionally, I got to see how she responds to extreme circumstances at short notice, how she deals with other peoples’ grief and how much she is willing to put up with from me. I only hope that I can do the same if the tables are ever reversed.

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under dating, friends, personal relationships