North of the border

So as you may have gathered, I made a quick trip to Canada last weekend. There was a “weekend getaway” aspect to the trip and I did get to hang out with my friend Sarah in Toronto. There was also a business aspect. All in all, it was a great long weekend–if a bit exhausting from all the driving. I always feel so peaceful and calm in Canada. An added bonus was that it was rather chilly so I was able to extend the winter I never really had by a few days.

I stopped in Pittsburgh on the way up, my last visit there since we sold the house. Frankly, I was a little nervous about that. There’s a lot of “breakup baggage” associated with Pittsburgh. But I love Pittsburgh and I’ve decided not to let negative associations ruin it for me (a decision I’m trying to make on a regular basis lately) so I drove into town, had my Italian sub at Tom’s Diner in Dormont and then drove up to Mount Washington to look down on the gorgeousness. And it was good.

On Saturday I made the drive to Niagara Falls with a brief stop in Erie. The border crossing was relatively uneventful, all things considered, and I made my way into Fort Erie for cash before driving the 30 km to Niagara Falls. It was at about this point that I realized it was starting to get cold and rainy and I had somehow neglected to pack a jacket. So it was off to Value Village. I checked into my ridiculously cheap room ($29) at the Super 8 and eventually headed back out in search of dinner. I found said dinner at a wonderful place called The Flying Saucer Restaurant, which was kind of like eating inside an episode of Space:1999, decked out as it was in that beautiful late 1970s vision of the future. I also walked around the Clinton Hill tourist zone for a few minutes.

Sunday morning brought breakfast at a most wonderful diner that was way off the beaten (tourist) path and was dirt cheap–particularly by Canadian standards. I explored Niagara a bit before meeting Sarah at the new Walmart (it was right off the QEW and had a big parking lot, making it perfect for said rendezvous) so we could make a day trip to Toronto. It was great seeing Sarah; we had lunch and roamed about The Annex a bit before popping in to the new Loblaws at Maple Leaf Gardens and then heading home. After sending her back across the border, I explored a bit more.

On Monday morning, I packed up, checked out got gas, had breakfast at Bassell’s, and did my necessary grocery shopping and other final errands. I shot a few photos downtown and managed to locate the building that served as the morgue in Niagara (I’d scouted a couple of other locations the day before). Then it was back to the USA, appropriately entering through the hellhole known as Niagara Falls, New York. I stopped by Wegman’s, detoured through Buffalo, and got on the Thruway.

After my late start, I couldn’t quite make it home in one day, so I spent Monday night in one of the newly-renovated Motel 6 locations outside Charleston WV. My room was sort of a half-assed version with mostly new paint and a new (but yet still cigarette-burned) bedspread and no actual new furniture.

After a quick breakfast and an unproductive stop by the Charleston Department Store, I came home.


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I’ll be damned…

Finally, after four years. My lingering and oft-expressed distaste for the actual streets of San Francisco notwithstanding, I’m still a very big fan of the TV version. In fact, I think it was one of the best cop shows ever. When it arrives, this might turn out to be the first actual DVD set I’ll have bought in more than a year.

Canada, urbanism, etc.

Several years ago, shortly after my 2009 trip to Toronto and several months before I got my current position, Mark and I applied for Canadian residence. This is not a simple process; it consumes significant amounts of time and money and it takes forever. Mark did most of the work, but I participated as well, and when our number came up, I decided that I would not let the events of the past eighteen months or so spoil my chance to establish residency and make Canada a future option. To do so after all that effort and expense seemed a colossal waste. So that’s the “super secret” reason why I had to make a quick trip across the border last week. It was for purposes of “landing” as a Canadian immigrant. Which I have now successfully done.

Does this mean I’m moving to Canada? Probably not, at least for now. I basically have nearly three years to decide, and I imagine that my ultimate decision will be that my job prospects are insufficiently promising north of the border. Of course, if I don’t make reappointment next year (the first step toward tenure) my perspective may be somewhat different and I may find myself packing lots of warm clothes.

All things being equal and employment not being a factor, I think I’d enjoy living in Toronto. It’s a city that I love every much in a country that in many ways makes more sense than the U.S. Seven years after fleeing San Francisco, I’ve realized that I probably would enjoy a slightly more urban setting than the one I landed in. Sarah and I discussed this last week; she commented that her last few years in San Francisco turned her against urban living in general. I used to think that was the case for me too, but I’ve come to realize that it mainly just put me off ever wanting to live in San Francisco again.

But it helps to keep the following in mind:

  • I’ve never spent any time in Toronto in the winter. Or commuting.
  • I’m only willing to trade off so much quality of life in order to be there (read “I won’t live in a hovel”).
  • I have a very good and relatively secure job here that I love very much.

Honestly, I don’t dislike where I’m living right now although I’ll allow that it might not be my first choice if I were given carte blanche. I need to keep in mind that my depression has made me very much inclined toward escapism of late. Family issues are likely to make the next few years here rather unpleasant for me and that makes just about anyplace else seem appealing on some level. But I’ve got some personal stuff to deal with before a big geographic shift would be a wise move–assuming it ever would.

Anyhow, I’m not moving anytime soon, if ever. But the big bonus is that I can if I choose to. Which will give me some ammunition to shut up the whiny people who will be threatening to do so (but wouldn’t really ever even consider it) after the November election.

Thirty years ago today…

I was drinking a beer and smoking a cigarette. As I was only 17, there were some legal problems with all this.

I was going through some photos earlier today looking for things to print for redecorating purposes and I got stuck in my high school years. More discoveries below:

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I was almost cute as a teenager. I maybe could’ve gotten laid more if I’d realized this. As George Bernard Shaw said, it is indeed a pity that youth is wasted on the young.

Tuesday night

A busy week:

  • On Thursday or Friday, I become the sole owner of my house and mortgage. You’ll please pardon my ambivalence about this.
  • I was hoping to be starting another…ummm…new adventure in life this week, but a flaky “professional” has put that on hold, which really sucks.
  • On Monday, a book I contributed a chapter to (one that contained no sentence-ending prepositions) comes out. You are not required to buy it. In fact, it’s not even suggested.
  • I’m currently planning work-related trips to Columbus (with potential non-work detours to other Midwestern or Canadian locales) and Anaheim (with potential non-work detours to LA or San Diego). It’s important to attach one’s vacations to preexisting trips that one is not paying for. Just sayin’.
  • For fun, I’m also working on a massive update to “Safeway in the 1950s” for Groceteria.
  • And then there’s that “Farewell Rick Santorum” party this weekend…


Take what is already an incredibly stressful–and moderately emotional–situation, multiply it by a factor of five, and hand it to me on a silver platter soggy paper plate. Now you have the definition of my Friday night courtesy of the fine folks at Bank of America.

You’d think that after three and a half fucking months they could have gotten a simple mortgage right. You’d be mistaken.

R.I.P. Barnabas

I somehow managed to miss this last week, what with mom being in the hospital and work being crazy and all, but it makes me very sad.

I was a little too young for the original run of Dark Shadows. In fact I started out with the comic books instead. I watched the series in reruns during the late 1970s, though, and I really loved it as a 13-year-old who–oddly enough–may have had a longer attention span than I do now. But a few years ago, when Mark and I started watching it from episode one, I found the slow pace to be a little excruciating. When we split up, I gave up on the show.

Barnabas has always been a big part of my life, though, and I’ll rather miss the elegant Canadian who originated the role.

Update: Apparently the New York Times didn’t clue in till today either so I don’t feel quite so bad.

Traditional, biblical marriage

As we are so often reminded, God’s definition of marriage does not change over time and it’s helpful for us to go back and examine the biblical source material. One of the most heartwarming accounts of traditional marriage is the very special love story of Jacob and his wives Rachel and Leah. Jacob, later called Israel, was the (literal) father of the “twelve tribes” and can be seen in many ways as the founder of the Judeo-Christian tradition. This is his story as I learned it in Sunday School as a child:

Jacob, having recently deceived his elderly, blind father in a successful attempt to steal his brother’s inheritance, fled to his Uncle Laban’s place many miles away. Upon arrival, he fell in love with Rachel, his first cousin, and decided that they must be married. So he agreed to work for Laban for seven years in order to buy her.

Unfortunately, at the end of the seven years, Uncle Laban pulled a switch and sold Jacob his older, less attractive daughter Leah instead. Jacob, having been tricked into marrying Leah, was forced to work another seven years in order to purchase Rachel and marry her as well.

Jacob did not care much for Leah (although he evidently had sex with her often enough to produce ten sons) and very much preferred Rachel. God, who apparently does not appreciate his creations playing favorites among their collections of wives, punished Rachel (rather than Jacob) by refusing for many years to let her bear children.

Eventually, however, Rachel had two sons of her own, one of whom led the family to Egypt, where they became slaves for four hundred years.

And they all lived happily ever after.

Thank God for an unchanging definition of traditional, biblical marriage that we can all appreciate and understand.

All the best programming

Cablevision of Greensboro, ca. 1976. The exciting options included two ABC affiliates, two NBC affiliates, one CBS affiliate, one PBS affiliate, and three independents (two from Washington DC, and the third Ted Turner’s “other” station in Charlotte NC). The lineup was rounded out with rotating weather gauges on one channel and a news teletype on another, both backed with audio from local radio stations.

In the next year or two, things would get more complicated with the addition of HBO and Ted Turner’s Atlanta superstation (pre-capitalization and then sporting the call letters WTCG). I think the two Charlotte stations got dumped for those additions.

One wonders…

…if there’s a volume discount for having both parents in the same hospital.

Mom was admitted last week with a low heart rate, apparently the result of medication interactions, and this morning my dad fell and hit his head. Mom gets out tomorrow. I’m currently in the emergency room with Dad. I don’t think they’ll admit him but I’m not sure yet.

Not to make this all about me but I’m about to tear my fucking hair out. And I don’t have a lot of hair to begin with.

I don’t want to whine but…

This week is starting to invite whole new definitions of the term “suck.”

Wednesday: Mom gets rushed to emergency room when she blacks out momentarily in her room at the assisted living facility. It’s ultimately diagnosed as a low heart rate, probably brought on by her Alzheimer’s medication and a blood pressure drug. Ultimately, she’s in for four nights.

Thursday through Saturday: Mom is fairly low-maintenance. Things are surprisingly peaceful. I even spend most of Saturday being geeky in the basement.

Sunday: Mom still in hospital. Dad has a nasty fall outside his favorite breakfast spot. The ambulance comes and patches him up (“we can see clean through to you skull’) but he opts against going to the emergency room. I happen to call him about an hour afterward, hear about what happened, and decide that I probably need to drive over to Greensboro and see what’s going on. By the time I get there he agrees that maybe he should go to the emergency room. Turns out he has a small skull fracture in the area of his cheek bone (not as serious as it sounds) and bleeding behind one of his eyes. He’s admitted, too.

Monday: Mom is released. Dad remains in the hospital being considerably higher maintenance than Mom. I miss much work at a time I can ill afford to, sitting with him while he complains. A lot. Using theĀ  same words over and over again.

Tuesday: More complaints, but at least I got a little work done. I’m starting to worry that Dad will need a sitter for a few days after he’s released and that he will likely be very difficult about the prospect. His head injuries are no longer the big concern; now, it’s his heart rate and the fact that his leg is really sore from the fall and walking is difficult.

Wednesday: Dad is not released but no one tells me until 4PM. I get in six hours at work. And then they call from Mom’s assisted living. Apparently she has had a really bad night, going a bit berserk, threatening to blow up the place, accusing them of killing babies, bothering other residents, etc. They say they can no longer handle her and she needs to go to the emergency room. I say “fine” as everyone in the emergency room now knows me so I get preferential treatment as a loyal repeat customer. Mom’s issues are apparently related to the medications she switched to after last week…or a urinary tract infection. The assisted living facility will not allow her back in until she’s been examined to their satisfaction so she’s admitted to the hospital for the night.

Coming tomorrow: I probably get to bail both of them out of their respective hospitals and figure out what to do with them since the healthcare system has no real clue. And I miss another day or two from work, even though I really need to get ready for the rather important presentation I have to make in Ohio next week (but that I’m increasingly scared I won’t be able to make). I now feel completely and totally held hostage by all my parents’ assorted health issues and am wondering if this is all I (or my parents) have to look forward to in life over the next few years. The prospect does not make me happy.

Randomly Sunday evening

Miscellaneous stuff from a Sunday evening spent somewhere other than a hospital or a nursing home:

I think I had more to say but I’m just too fucking tired to care.

Insanity versus stupidity

If insanity can be defined as doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results, maybe stupidity can be defined as continuing to do things when you know they make you feel like crap and aren’t good for you. Just a thought.

A completely unrelated thought: I’ll be traveling to Dublin, Ohio (the home of Dublin Core) later this week to do a conference presentation. The tricky thing will be actually writing that presentation since I pretty much lost the whole past week, which was the time I had budgeted for that. I think I’ll be okay, though. I may make a side trip after the conference, either to Cleveland, to Detroit and Windsor, or to Pittsburgh. Any suggestions?

Videolog: Should I See

Frozen Ghost
Should I See (1987)

I don’t think I ever paid much attention to how much of a Fixx knockoff this band was. Nor did I realize until recently just how many “forgotten” 1980s bands are still very much remembered in their home country of Canada.