Saturday, March 30, 2019

Postcards from America: Now museum now you don't

What a great idea. Moms--like the two above--
get together to discuss their havoc-creating sons.
My wife Helena and I just returned from a seven-day driving trip around a small part of northeastern United States. I have neither the energy nor the stamps to send out a bunch of postcards, so here--in lieu--I present:

Postcard Number One: The hotel we stayed in our first night in Cleveland might be the scuzziest place I've ever slept and that's going some. It was 10 storeys, brown brick, and otherwise unremarkable. Across the dusty hall from our room, a party was in overdrive at suppertime. Our room was dark, musty, there was no chair and the window looked over an industrial parking lot. The real killer?
Back issues of Pete's Blog&Grille
Between the bed and the bathroom door was a four-foot-by-four-foot patch of carpet that was actually--I'm warning you this part's gross-- moist! Wet. If you wanted to go to the bathroom but not get your feet wet--and who knows what the rug was wet with--you had to sort of run and leap the mooshy part. We booked two nights but stayed one. If you contact me in person I'll tell you the name but it's not a place you'd recognize. Next morning we moved to the Holiday Inn Express a mile north. The upside? From that first dive, there was only one direction this trip could take.

Postcard Number Two: And when I say up, I mean...the valet at the Holiday Inn Express told me that once a week at least, his very Catholic parents and he drive out to Amish country to a tiny crossroads called Windsor where somebody built a 50-foot statue of one of the many incarnations of Jesus’ mommy; specifically, "Our Lady of Guadeloupe." Miracles happen there, he said. Out we went. And he was right about the miracles. We witnessed two: The first? We actually decided to see the place and drove for an hour to get to it, without a map or GPS. The second? The guy who built the statue sold me a DVD so I could, when I got home,  watch the annual "Giant Statue of Our Lady in the Boonies Annual Fireworks Extravaganza." The guy's name is Ed.  

Meet ghost-hunting Marvin
Postcard Number Three: The first morning in Cleveland we headed out to the Rock&Roll Hall of Fame but stopped for coffee at a Dunkin' Donuts. Helena picked up a copy of the newspaper with the best name in the world, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and learned that that very afternoon, the Cleveland Area Paranormal Society was conducting a ghost hunt, complete with divining rods and electromagnetic field detectors, in a nearby graveyard. Admission to the tour was the same as that to the music place. $25. Rock&roll would have to wait.

Postcard Number Four: I honestly forget why we chose Baltimore as our next destination. What's in Baltimore? I mean, what else besides the National Museum of Dentistry where we learned that the average person produces six litres of saliva a day and that George Washington really didn’t have wooden teeth. Or the Baltimore Tattoo Museum where I learned that you're not allowed to take photos inside the museum proper but you can in the can? We also paid our respects at the grave of Elijah Bond, the guy who patented Ouija Boards. I really like Baltimore plus I just remembered why we went. We were going to visit a writer friend named David Kolman. And while we never actually managed to see each other--which doesn't matter between friends--I'm okay with that because David's way funnier than me and he's all I would have heard about on the drive home. 
for itself.

Postcard Number Five:  Now this next part's weird. When we were kids, we had several Ouija Boards around the house and for some eerie reason, I seem to recall that the one sibling who used them most effectively was my sister Norma. When Norma's fingers were on that little heart-shaped thing, it fairly leapt around the board.She also once lived in a haunted apartment in our hometown of  Sudbury.  

Postcard Number Six: True story. I was in high school. Norma and my other sister Bertholde shared a two-bedroom in the middle of  town and it was freakin' haunted. I'll go into more detail in another blog but the place was written up in no less than Canada's foremost women's magazine, Chatelaine, in a story by, well, okay, me. But still. Norma's and Bertholde's ghosts were also investigated by the late ghost detective and professor  Dr. Michael Persinger who didn't believe in ghosts and who died recently.

A LOO WITH A VIEW: Who had an
inkling there'd be a tattoo museum
much less one with this
 bathroom wallpaper?

Postcard Number Seven: And like I told the young man named Jonathan Lestat (honest!) who, with his colleague Marvin Kuzia was leading the ghost walk back in Cleveland, I guess ole Doc. Persinger sure knows now whether there's ghosts or not. Speaking of Docs, did you know that the famous gunslinger Doc Holiday was a dentist? His picture's on the wall in the museum in Baltimore.

Postcard Number Eight: Our last day on the road, we were headed north. We passed a sign advertising the upcoming Zippo Lighter Museum. I didn't say a word but then my wife of 30-odd years casually mentioned, "You want to stop there, don't you?" Turns out Norma's not the only psychic in my life. So stop there we did. And if you were to now say something like, "Geez Peter. Some of us have a life. How much more about this short strange trip of yours do you expect me to read?" I'm going to reply:  "Zippo!"

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Featuring Chatelaine recipes for loaves, fishes and other miracles

Some years ago, I was a Senior Editor of what was — at the time — Canada’s largest and best-known women’s magazine, Chatelaine.

During my time there, under the leadership of editor Rona Maynard, the 91-year-old Chatelaine underwent a very expensive (million bucks, I seem to recall) and radical (stories about sex toys!) makeover.  

After the redesign, not only did Chatelaine have a revitalized look and tone, so did its corporate stationery and stuff, including things like the staff’s business cards.  

At some point during the process, I learned the company would be getting rid of outdated branded materials; and what caught my attention was a bunch of Chatelaine notepads.

“Tossing them,” I thought, “would be a horrible waste.”

I salvaged two boxes. Each was about the size of a two-four.

I’m not sure how many notepads the boxes contained, but I know we shared the bounty with a few of our neighbours, who had children the same age as ours.

And I might check in with one or two of them to see if they still have any Chatelaine notepads left.  

Because we sure do. In fact we never seem to run out.

I just went to make a note to myself about getting our kitchen cupboards refinished and found myself writing it on a Chatelaine notepad. Twenty years in!  

The redesign was in 19-freaking-99.  

Our twin daughters Ev and Ria were eight; our son Michel Josef was seven and between then and now—believe it or not — notes in our house have been written.

Notes to teachers, saying why Ev, Ria or Michel had been away from school.

Notes to the same teachers explaining why Michel, Ria or Ev would be away from school at a later date.

Reminders from one of the adults in the house to the other adult in the house that a furnace repair guy would be showing up Thursday afternoon so could the other adult please work from home that day.

Scribbled doodles that were immediately — upon completion of the phone call to our sister that we were on while we were doodling — crumpled up and  thrown out.

Notes magnetically adhered to the fridge door. Innumerable messages of encouragement tucked into elementary school lunches. (P.S. They took. All three of ours sailed through grade eight!)
COLD HARD FACTS: Legend has it, fridges
have other functions beyond being used as
message boards.

Reminders of doctors’ appointments, including one memorable appointment when Ev and Ria were travelling to the Dominican Republic and had to visit a “tropical disease specialist” who, when the girls arrived in his office, consulted Wikipedia to see what vaccinations they needed. (Which reminds me, we took delivery of this batch of notepaper back before anybody except serious computer nerds had heard of something called Google, much less Wikipedia.)

Chatelaine notepads have served us, over the decades, miraculously.

Notes about minivan transmission repairs; notes pertaining to trips to the vet that would cost us way more money than we’d ever imagined we’d spend on a sick pet. (We once had a guinea pig diagnosed with a malignant growth and the vet suggested treatment. I was like, “It’s a guinea pig! Aren’t we SUPPOSED to do experiments on it?” I was voted down.)

Come to think of it, I’m mostly talking messages that would these days be delivered by text or Facebook—two other things that didn’t exist when we first took delivery of the notepads.  

More than one ever-so-carefully crafted note to one’s spouse explaining why one wasn’t coming home immediately after work, written in the hope that it sounded like I had official work to do, when in fact it was pretty transparent that I was going to a bar with pals.

These notepads have earned their keep. (I really should ask our neighbours if they still have any similarly storied Chatelaine notepads. We could produce a reality tv show.)

Our Chatelaine notepaper shows no signs of depleting. The pads are there whenever I need one. I think  the notepads, like the tribbles in Star Trek, are mysteriously reproducing, down in our basement. 

I'm thinking miracle. Like loaves and fishes. Maybe a shrine's in order.

After all, I’m talking notepads that have saved our marriage. 

I’m also resigned to having Chatelaine notepads around for the rest of my days. 

Indeed it has become a personal goal to hit the finish line before we run out. With luck, whoever pens my obit can do the first draft on a Chatelaine notepad.

I think I just realized another reason I like them so much.

They don’t age. The Chatelaine notepads look the very same as they did 20 years ago.  Just like me.