Thursday, November 20, 2008

Air Canada: Sort of trying really hard to win you back.

I recently flew to Vancouver from Montreal. It's an arduous haul (almost 6 hours - longer than flying to the UK. I could be having my morning pint at Heathrow by the time the Vancouver-bound plane reaches the Rockies), but with the right distractions, correctly-timed snacks, and hydrating beverages (but not too many, especially if you're stuck in that dreaded middle seat), it's bearable. What makes it thus is Air Canada's "in-flight entertainment system", i.e.: those small LCD screens tucked neatly in the back of the seat in front of you. It's a rather nice perk. When it works. Which it didn't on this particular flight, or at least, not consistently, which seemed to tick a few people off, or at least, the flight crew anticipated it would, enough to offer every single passenger a redeemable coupon for 5% off their next booked flight. Call me unselfish, but that seems like an overly generous offer for an airline that was flirting with bankruptcy protection just a few years ago. Five percent of 650$ is $32.50. Multiply that by 200 people and that's $6,500 out of pocket just because a few people couldn't watch an Adam Sandler movie. And just when I thought Air Canada had changed its slogan to "We Hate You Too".
But luckily, though, there aren't just Adam Sandler movies on offer. They actually have a "Canadian Film" category, (wouldn't want to accidentally come upon an Atom Egoyan film as we flip our way through the usual Hollywood fare, now would we?) and last June I watched Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg on my way home to Winnipeg, and loved it all the more for it. I then watched an NFB documentary about how difficult it is for Canadian film makers to get distribution in Canada. Natch.

An unfortunate thing about the system though is that it's a rather delicate and temperamental beast. So much so that flight attendants are obliged to add the following warning to their safety procedures spiel: "PLEASE BE PATIENT WITH THE ON-FLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM. DO NOT TAP THE SCREEN REPEATEDLY OR IT WILL CRASH THE SYSTEM". I swear they actually used the word "crash" on an airplane. You'd think that would get the message across. But what do people do when technology doesn't immediately respond, spoiled as they are on high-speed instant-gratification? They hit it harder. Then they pound on it. Then the person sitting in front of them turns around and pounds them.
Where are my earplugs and Gravol when I need them?

Friday, August 22, 2008

exploding brain!

Dear Reader,

Please excuse my extended absence. It's been a crazy-busy summer, and will be an even nuttier fall. So much for terrible twos. I haven't forgotten about you though, and have a pile of fresh flotsam fermenting on the shelves inside my head. I will get to that mess and tease out a story or two in the near-to-mid-term-future, I promise. Eventually.

Image: (what IS it?!?) Some type of sea creature from the Natural History Museum, London. Ick!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Cultural Flotsam is 2 years old!

This is the best/most hideous cake I've ever seen. I hope it tasted as good/bad as it looks. I'm sure some eager pack of toddlers took no time to face plant that one.

So now that we've been around the block a couple times, here's what's in store for Cultural Flotsam this year:

"Laughing one minute, crying the next, often for no apparent reason. That's what you can expect from your emotionally fragile 2-year-old. These seemingly bizarre mood swings are simply the result of your toddler's struggle to take control of his actions, impulses and feelings.

Your toddler wants to learn how everything works. However, he still lacks many of the skills necessary to accomplish this task without inflicting harm on himself or others. As a result, the bulk of his exploration time is spent testing limits -- yours, his and the environment's.

Although it may not seem that way often, slowly but surely, your 2-year-old is learning self-control. But don't be surprised if he saves his worst outbursts for you. Your toddler doesn't trust other people the way he trusts you, so he waits until you arrive to push the envelope."


Cheers to all my regular readers and to all those who have posted comments. I love you all.


Friday, June 06, 2008


The world is a darker place today. This week, as I was cycling to work, I noticed an ad on a passing transit bus for the new Mariah Carey album, the dubiously titled E=MC2. The absolute gall of this astounds me. My first thought, however, was: I wonder who would come up first on a Google search for E=mc2, Einstein or Mariah?


I can barely grasp the complex formulations of the theory of relativity any more than I can stomach the overblown warblings of Mariah, but I can tell you what I think the E stands for in her version of the equation (think poo).

When the execs at her record label brainstormed over what to name the new album, I can imagine the conversation may have gone something like this: "Now let's see... if the Energy contained in any object is equal to the Mass times the Speed of Light squared, then naturally, the Music contained in Mariah is equal to Obscene Profits times Millions squared. Bingo!"

The optimist in me hopes that maybe somewhere in the universe some 14 year-old girl will look at that album and not think: Gee I wish I was that skinny and filthy rich, and instead think: Gee, I remember seeing that E=mc2 in a textbook somewhere. I'm going to Wiki that. And bang, a budding physicist is born.
It's not impossible.

Brush up on the real E=mc2 here

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Hendrick's Gin

I added Hendrick's Gin to my "Recently Discovered" list on the right, but I just feel like I have to dedicate a whole post to it seeing as it's THAT GOOD.

A friend who was recently in from Dawson City introduced me to Hendrick's Gin. He'd bought a bottle because it's (tragically) unavailable up there in the Yukon, (although I'm sure they've got a whole whack o' hooch of their own that's tragically unavailable down here, too). I was already a fan of gin (a trait I've inherited from my dear Ma), but my stock usually only featured the respectable but predictable Bombay Sapphire or Tanqueray. Fine with some tonic and lime on a hot summer's weeknight sitting on the back porch, but really, nothing to call mom about.

Hendrick's Gin was established in 1886 and is distilled and bottled in Glasgow (of all glorious places). Not the first bevvie that comes to mind when I think of Scotland, but I've now added it to the list of things to love about that place. Hendrick's stout, black bottle looks like something you'd pour into your car engine. It's got a cork-topper that screams 'moonshine', and an old fashioned label that's the perfect throwback to turn-of-the-century prohibition. Classy. Their website continues this 19th century theme, greeting you with bombastic music that instantly puts you in the mood for a tipple. 

Hendrick's is best taken straight so as to better enjoy its' distinct flavour. The back label lists ingredients such as juniper, coriander and citrus peel. Plus, "the 'unexpected' infusion of cucumber and rose petals results in a most iconoclastic gin. IT IS NOT FOR EVERYONE." True, and that's why it's so special.

And if you're the type whose self-control flies out the window in the presence of alcohol, you'll be pleased to know that the relatively low amounts of congeners in clear alcoholic beverages such as gin or vodka, make for less severe hangovers. You'll still feel like you've been run over, but at least your head will be relatively pain-free. Cheers to that!

CBC: Smells like 18-35 demographic

There's a bit of a rhubarb going on now about the proposed
changes (again?) to CBC Radio 2 programming coming this September. Radio 2, the classical music wing of the Mother ship, is fiercely guarded by its loyal core audience. As it should. Those who prefer Bach over Bublé have few other options when it comes to air play.
But this latest brouhaha is the same argument we've heard about making the CBC more 'accessible' to younger and/or more diverse audiences. What this means for Radio 2 is a reduction in programming hours devoted strictly to classical music (Radio 2 is currently about 85% classical). Now there will be a daily 5 hour afternoon slot, and a few weekend slots, such as Saturday Afternoon at the Opera. The rest of the airtime, namely the drive-in and drive-home shows, will be shared by an 'eclectic array' of jazz, folk, Joni Mitchell, world music, R & B, more Joni Mitchell, and probably a lot of Michael Bublé. This, apparently, is the end of civilization. Now scores of Radio 2 fans are whingeing about it, hugging their hi-fis like mother bears ready to slap the CBC management heads who keep messing things up. I don't blame them for complaining. Whenever the CBC decides to shake things up a bit (which seems to be, oh, about every 10 months or so), they move toward the same changes every time. It's frustrating. People get attached to their programs. You live with this stuff every day, then suddenly it's like someone you don't know is moving in and chucking out your favourite chair because they don't like it. In this case though, the change stings a lot more because classical music is already a marginalized and hyper-specialized form of music, only truly, fully and deeply appreciated by a slim portion of the population. Radio 2 is all they've got! I may not listen to it that much, but I like knowing it's there.
I feel their pain.

In the March 29 edition of the Globe and Mail, staff writer Jeffrey Simpson ("Mr. President, will you fight for a CBC of intelligence?" page A19) claims that these proposed changes signal yet another dumbing down of CBC content, as epitomized on the TV side by programs like The Hour (weeknights at 11pm): "The CBC has forgotten, or at least marginalized, its statutory mandate to 'inform, enlighten and entertain' by reversing the order of priorities, such that instead of appealing to intelligence, the cardinal rule for public broadcasting, it has insulted that intelligence on the television side with programs such as The Hour."

I can see how he would think this. It's hard to get past the Much Music-ness of the program. From the opening theme song (by Canada's own The New Pornographers - and they have NOTHING to do with skin mags, ma), to its seizure-inducing video graphics, to its just-a-bit-too-cool host, my boyfriend George Stombou (hang on...) Stroumboulopoulos, the show reeks of the 18-35 demographic, which Jeffrey Simpson seems to have rather little faith in. But does this mean it has no substance? Why do classical music and opera always trump all other forms when it comes to 'intelligent music'? Do all people who listen to classical music really have such narrow taste? Are they really completely intolerant of Joni Mitchell? (She paints, you know.)
But the point is, The Hour is not trying to be The National, or Ideas, or The Sunday Edition. It doesn't need to be. The Hour, however, is the CBC's 18-35 dream come true. Yes, it has stupid features that probably make more people cringe than they realize (i.e. "The Greatest Thing Ever" segment. NIX IT!), but it also has Desmond Tutu, Roméo Dallaire, Elizabeth May, Ricky Gervais, Debbie Harry, and hey - Peter Mansbridge! (They had a rollicking good time on that one. I've never seen Peter so relaxed. He even wore a black mock turtleneck for the occasion.) Plus hundreds of other interesting guests you've never heard of who are doing amazing things with their lives.
In all of my TV news-watching life, no matter how many times Peter tries to explain it to me, I can barely wrap my head around what's going on in Iraq. But 3 minutes with George and it all makes sense. Does this mean I can't understand complex warfare unless it's broken down into manageable bits of information? That after missing a few episodes of The National I've been left in the dust of ignorance? (just like what happened with Twin Peaks). Not really. But so what if The Hour is the Coles Notes of The National. Maybe people will accidentally learn something.

But TV is a whole other thing (and I have a whole lot to whinge about myself in that regard). When it comes to radio, though, I've long thought the CBC's preoccupation with that ever-elusive youth market was a misguided obsession. CBC radio is something you mature into. You grow to love it for precisely the same reasons you hated it when you were 14. Because your parents listen to it, because it reminds you of home, because it's good for you, because it goes down well with dinner, because it's familiar, intelligent, always there, and you can listen to it with your grandma.

So stop panicking. There's room for everyone on this Mother ship, even if we don't all get along.

P.S. (June 11/08) I've gone back to watch some more of The Hour in recent weeks, and I fear my tolerance for George has crashed. Aïe aïe aïe. I think his too-tight pants may be impeding the flow of blood to his head.

* * *

An informal poll with my friend Donna recently revealed who's hot and who's not on our CBC radio list of hosts. Voici la liste:

Jian Ghomeshi (Q. We were actually split on this one but since it's my blog he gets the HOT vote. I know I am alone on this one.)
Patti Schmidt (Inside the Music. AND she plays hockey)
Eleanor Wachtel (Writers and Company. Her liquid honey voice makes my guy friends weak in the knees)
Paul Kennedy (Ideas)
Jonathan Goldstein (Wiretap. Marry me.)
Tom Allen (Music & Company)
Rex "perspicacious" Murphy (Cross Country Checkup/catchup/ketchup)
Ian Brown (Talking Books. Marry me if Jonathan is unavailable.)

Shelagh Rogers (Sounds Like Canada. "how did you feel?" ad nauseam)
Stewart McLean (Vinyl Café. Drunk on the sound of his own voice, methinks)
Gregory Charles (In the Key of Charles. SHUT UP!)
Randy Bachman (Randy's Vinyl Tap. Drunk on the sound of his own guitar noodling. Forgive me for dissing a Canadian rock n' roll legend and fellow former 'Pegger)
Sook-Yin Lee (DNTO. "Celebrities on helium"?!? Come ON)
Brent Bambury (Go! The cool, sharp edge he'd honed on Brave New Waves was lost forever when he co-hosted CBC TV's Midday. Now he's just a butter-knife. /cry)

Ian Finkleman (Finkleman's 45s'irascible old crank)
Peter Gzowski (Morningside's irascible old crank. R.I.P.)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Breakfast of Champions

By request, here is my Aunt Dora's oatmeal-based cereal recipe. She's a health fanatic and prepared this for my mom while taking care of her after her triple-bypass surgery. Good for the ol' ticker, lowers your cholesterol, and your intestinal tract will thank you. I've been having this for breakfast every morning for the past 2 years and I'm still not sick of it. The beauty of it is you can switch it up to vary the flavour and texture. Plus it's cheap, especially if you buy the ingredients in bulk. Get creative.

1 part rolled oats (none of that 'minute-oats' stuff)
1 part natural oat bran
1/3 part natural wheat germ (keep in fridge)
1/3 part ground flax seeds (ground flax is better as more nutrients are released) 
2 T brown sugar (optional)
cinnamon & nutmeg as desired
any combination of dried fruits, seeds and nuts. I like dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chopped dried apricots, sliced almonds.

Keep the whole batch in the fridge as that natural wheat germ can go bad. 

Place 3/4 to 1 cup in small saucepan and add desired liquid (water, milk, soy milk, apple or grape juice) - enough to cover it well as the liquids get soaked up quickly. Cook over medium-low heat 5 min or until done. Chuck in some chopped apple for more fibre. Top with more milk or juice if desired.

Put 3/4 - 1 cup in bowl and add desired liquid. Nuke on high for 1:30. Add additional milk if desired.

Soak in juice overnight, add to yogurt and eat cold.
If you want a more gruel-like consistency, prepare 1/2 cup and add more liquid. You can also pass the oats through a coffee grinder to give you a finer texture (recommended for those with sensitive digestion).
Top with fresh seasonal fruit.
Sprinkle with psyllium husks for that extra cleanse.
Drizzle with maple syrup or honey.

You may never eat anything else for as long as you live.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Romancing the Peg

"Winnipeg. Winnipeg. Winnipeg.
Snowy, sleepwalking Winnipeg.
My home for my entire life.
My entire life.
I must leave it.
I must leave it.
I must leave it now."

So begins Guy Maddin's latest release, My Winnipeg, which premiered to much acclaim at the Toronto International Film Festival in the fall of 2007. In it, Maddin captures a version of Winnipeg that is equal parts pride and bile, which seems like a common enough sentiment for locals and ex-pats alike, and is possibly the result of knowing you live in a city whose time has come and gone. All that talk today about the booming prairies fails to mention that Winnipeg's boom happened a hundred years ago, just before the General Strike of 1919. The Chicago of the North, as it was then called, Winnipeg was set to be the major railway hub for the transportation of goods across the continent, given its geographic location at the longitudinal and latitudinal centre of North America. Then the Panama Canal opened, favouring trade via waterways over railways, thereby greatly affecting the city's economic growth.

You can marvel and revel in the impact this had by visiting one of many huge furniture warehouses in the Exchange District, just off Portage and Main, where floor after floor is packed to the rafters with antique furniture, frozen in time since the 1930s, where it was stored waiting to be shipped via rail to cities around the continent. In one particular warehouse, each floor has furniture from a different decade, from the 1880's to the 1960's. Much of it shockingly cheap. An entire house can be furnished, vintage style, for beans (well, Toronto or Vancouver beans, anyway).

Here now, as promised in an earlier post ("Wicked!", August 2006) are a few more examples of why dormant states can make a place pretty interesting, if urban history turns your cultural studies crank.

Portage and Main
The city's largest and most infamous intersection. Reviled by most citizens (yet still the instant referent) due to the asinine decision to block access to pedestrians. People have been forbidden to cross Portage and Main, on any corner, for as long as I can remember (early 1970s). If you are, say, at the TD Bank corner and need to get to Lombard Place directly across Main Street, you have to go underground and pass through, in a literally roundabout way, a shopping complex called Winnipeg Square, built expressly for the purpose of tricking pedestrians into purchasing things they don't need, and would never have bought in the first place, had they been allowed to cross the street like normal human beings instead of forcibly impersonating a colony of gophers. Such a detour will lengthen your journey by at least 5 minutes. It's maddening. It's only 8 lanes of traffic! They do it in all the other big cities! Ugh. Maybe some day this decision will be reversed and people will once again be free to cross, like the big adults that they are, in all safety and comfort.
And now I have just discovered that our own humble little Portage and Main has made New York City's Project for Public Spaces website's Hall of Shame. Way to go.

The Bay
Like in many Canadian cities, The Bay's flagship store is the Grande Dame of the downtown. And like any grande dame, the bloom is off the rose, and that's partly why I love it so. It pretty much hasn't changed a bit for the last couple decades, so going back is a wicked trip down memory lane. First stop, The Paddlwheel Restaurant. I remember coming here with my mom after my monthly visits to the orthodontist. Nothing soothes the throbbing pain of forcible dental re-alignment like a cool bowl of cubed Jell-O. They've spruced the place up a bit, in that kind of misguided, half-conscious way old businesses do when they feel they have to keep up with the times. Take the sign, for instance. It was probably made in China 'cause it's got nothing to do with the character of the place. Sigh. The dining room is brighter than I remember, but they've mercifully left the paddlewheel a-churnin' (although the water is long gone).

I treated myself to the roast beef dinner, complete with Yorkshire puddin', horseradish, over-cooked vegetable medley, mashed potatoes, gravy, tea and good old Jell-O, and took my seat amongst the afternoon crowd having their afternoon glucose/fructose snack, and taking a break from returning or exchanging the Christmas presents they didn't like.

Speaking of fading beauties, the bathrooms on the 5th floor are rife with pathos. Fake pink flowers nicely offsetting the grey and beige colour scheme, rows of half-lit vanities, a well-worn door handle... It's pretty clean, but it's also pretty sad.

I love how they readily admit their elevators are slower than frozen molasses. Those seniors haven't got all day you know, especially on Bay Days.

Winnipeg's first Salisbury House Restaurant opened on Fort Street in 1931. It's trademark red roof (legendarily painted with leftover barn paint) made them easy to spot, and soon Sal's could be seen sprouting all over the city. Sal's is famous for its 'Nip' burger, and to my delight, they even offer a kielbassa and perogy platter. Fans of the Guess Who will know that Burton Cummings wrote many songs while sitting at his local Sal's (worthy of another one of those 'Heritage Minute' commercials). When they redesigned the Provencher bridge (complete with that bizarro 'what is it?' giant spire) spanning between downtown and St. Boniface, Winnipeg's French quarter, the idea came about that a restaurant should be built at the half-way point on the pedestrian walkway. The choice to make it a Sal's, and not a classier, French-themed crêperie or four-star resto, put many of St. B's elite in a snit, given the general perception of Sal's as a bit of a low-brow diner. It is. But on opening weekend, people lined up for hours to get in, and business has been brisk since.

Rae & Jerry's
Oh boy - here it is - my all-time favourite lounge in the whole world, with its flashing neon arrow, calling me, beckoning. ENTER.

Yes, it's that red. And the lighting is low, so unfortunately, my pictures are blurry (this was before the martini, too). But suffice to say, the place is bathed in red and black. The lounge is pure '70s glam, with floor to ceiling black velvet curtains, red carpet, red vinyl chairs, a roaring fireplace, and mirrored ceiling. The drinks are cheap as borscht, ya. The Vodka Martini with a twist is $6.50. And, the place is completely void of obnoxious hipsters. Unreal!

Mitchell Fabrics
For the crafty sewing crowd, a visit to Mitchell Fabrics is a must. As I am rather fond of unusual (some might say horribly kitsch) prints, I scored myself a meter and a half of classic 'dogs playing poker' which I will soon turn into a skirt. I'm happy to see they've hired themselves a good web designer. Their on-line face is pretty slick, but first time visitors to the actual store may be surprised (or pleased) that it's a rather dusty, old-school kinda joint. Heavy users include the province's Hutterite community. Oh, and you may notice it's in the so-called 'bad' part of town. Free parking at the rear. Multiple public transit options. Walking distance from the Exchange (if you like to walk).

Hotel Fort Garry
Part of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway nation-wide hotel empire, the Fort Garry is a triple threat. In addition to being a beauty to behold on its own, it also houses the Palm Room (also known as the Palm Lounge or Oval Room, but not the Oval Palm), and the adjacent Royal Crown Revolving Restaurant and Lounge. On Sunday mornings, the hotel hosts the most orgiastic buffet I have ever seen. For $35, you can ingest all the crêpes, fruit, omelets, pig, salmon, toast and lobster you can eat. You can even pass your entire plate under the endless stream of the three-tiered chocolate fountain. It's obscene. I've only been to it once, the morning after my brother's wedding, but I'd go again. If your motto is I ain't leavin' til I'm heavin', this is the brunch for you, my friend.

The Palm Room
Well the martinis are definitely not $6.50, but the décor will make you feel like a million bucks. And for the love of God, please, dress up a little. There's nothing worse than having your 1920s fantasy come alive rudely killed by a dude in yellow Crocs and a baseball cap. Have a little class!

The Royal Crown Revolving Restaurant and Lounge
The Hotel Fort Garry may be synonymous with upper-class elegance, but its neighbour Royal Crown is for the bargain lover. If the fringy valance and chintz doesn't distract you from the view, and your stomach can handle the combination of booze, rich food, and the not-at-all-subtle turning motion, then add this to your list. The amenities are a little worse for wear, but so would you be if you'd been spinning on your axis for 25 years. I'd like to point out the questionable women's restroom sign below. Very odd. Highlights include the $4.50 vodka martini. Combined with the view and the added bonus spinning effect, it's a cheap drunk's ideal night out.

More on the Fort Garry Hotel here

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Leslie Hall: Large and In Charge

If you haven't seen or heard of Iowa artist and satirical rapper Leslie Hall, consider this your official introduction. Currently touring North America with her band Leslie and the Ly's, they stopped in for a show on February 8 at Montreal's funkiest fire-trap, ZooBizarre.
I first came across Leslie Hall through her photo series of self-portraits wearing hundreds of gem sweaters she's rescued from the thrift stores and landfills of mid-west America and beyond (now safely housed in her touring Gem Sweater Museum RV).  In these she transforms herself into the perfect '80s outcast with her oversized glasses, bouffant hair-do and gold spandex pants. Amazingly, she manages to convey dignity and poignancy while working with all the 'wrong' elements. The full effect of this series is best experienced on her MySpace page where the images cycle through in rapid-fire succession. Check that out here.

On the music side of things, Leslie and the Ly's are the perfect satirists - both paying homage to and taking the piss out of a musical genre with a notoriously narrow view of male/female relations, fashion and lyrical content.  This chick is hilarious. Her music should be compulsory listening for every teenage girl (and boy) in the land as a perfect antidote to that Spice Girls pre-fab, anti-flab, 'girl power' (retch!) vapid rhetoric which always sets my blood to an instant boil. This woman is the antithesis of all that. She is Large and in Charge! She's the new corn-fed feminist icon for the 21st century! 


Monday, February 11, 2008

V-Day: A True Story

A few years ago, in an unexpectedly bold move, my (ex) boyfriend Michael sprung a Valentine surprise on me: Pack your bags hon, we're going to spend the night in a posh hotel! Woo-hoo!!! He'd scored one of those all-inclusive packages geared to the Valentine's Day crowd, and as horrifically cheezy as we knew it would be, we also felt a certain thrill at this little adventure. We left my place around 10, tipsy and stuffed to the tonsils from our dinner of maple syrup and miso-marinated salmon, strawberry and spinach salad, loads of red wine, and chocolate-raspberry torte. It happened to be one of the coldest nights of the winter, so we decided to screw the old bus pass and call ourselves a cab. Start livin' large now, why don'tcha!

Our cab pulled up to the stately looking Hôtel St-Paul, a new boutique hotel in Old Montreal, which, in an earlier post-colonial incarnation, had probably been a bank, or a palace of some sort. Struggling out of the cab and up the stairs, a doorman ushered us into the vast, high ceiling lobby that smacked of Nordic über-cool chic and Wallpaper* Magazine. Fur and leather everywhere. Marble. Granite. Wood. Around a massive fireplace fit for a pig-roast, scads of beautiful people languidly reclined in their stylish ensembles, providing a harsh contrast to our Winnipeg-winter parkas, book-ended by Sorels and a toque. We clearly didn't fit the profile, and were loving every minute of it.
Upon checking in, the concierge, managing not to smirk, handed me a white rose (wrapped in cellophane with baby's breath, natch) and informed us that the porter would be up shortly to deliver our exotic fruit platter, complimentary champagne, and to RUN OUR BATH. Michael and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows. So this is what it’s like to be Really, Stinking, Rich, and helplessly dependant.

After some initial exploring of our suite, opening every cabinet door, light switch, faucet, knob, curtain and blind in a manner suggesting we'd just come off the boat into the New World, we admired the splendid view and reassured ourselves that we were still in Montreal and had not been transported into some sort of V-Day Twilight Zone. Testing the bed’s bounciness, we giggled at the sheer ridiculousness of it all. And by the way, where the heck was that bath-boy? We didn't have all night. As the minutes wore on, a slight queasiness began to grow in my stomach. At first I attributed it to the bed-bouncing and the general giddy anxiousness that accompanies any frivolous, completely out of character adventure. But these were no happy butterflies. These were dizzy, drunk, nauseated butterflies. My mind raced. Food poisoning! But Michael was fine. Fit as a fiddle, in fact. Good Lord, why now?

Finally, after an hour of waiting (and calling the front desk to inquire on the whereabouts of our bloody fruit platter), Bath-boy finally showed up. Michael was on the phone with the front desk again, this time asking if they had any Gravol (no), so I was left to answer the door. I would not want this poor guy's job. Imagine the humiliation of having to interrupt the romantic proceedings of dozens of randy couples, on this, the most over-hyped night of the year after New Year's Eve. This party-killer's tap-tap-tap at the door was eerily similar to a mother's tap-tap-tap on the bedroom door of her 11 year-old son, bringing his pre-teen self-explorations to a cruel, screeching halt.

Avoiding eye-contact at all times, he made quick business with the task at hand, hurrying past us to deposit the exotic fruit platter, champagne bucket, and scented candles on the table. I sat on the edge of the bed, trying to gauge where my stomach juices were at. Then, as if on cue, I entered the dry heaves as soon as he pulled out a bag of rose petals and began strewing them about the room. Before I knew it, the room looked like the worst romantic fantasy imaginable come alive, and I was in it. Finishing off the petals, Bath-boy quickly whisked by muttering "I'll just run your bath now."
That an awkward, pimple-faced teenage bellhop should be responsible for setting the scene for a romantic soak in the suds is the most surreal and un-erotic scenario ever. But there he was, kneeling over the tub-for-two, lighting more candles and strewing yet more of those blasted rose petals.
Palms sweating, bile rising, I stumbled to the bathroom and stopped in the doorway, blurting over the sound of rushing water: "Uh, sorry. I GOTTA GET IN HERE NOW!!!" I will never forget the look of shock on his face as he took in my greenish pallor, frozen with the look of those whose plans take an unexpected turn for the worse. He b-lined for the front door, leaving the water running full blast and a trail of rose petals in his wake.
Fiercely clutching the toilet bowl, I yakked like there was no tomorrow, thinking all the while "I can't believe this is happening!!! Tonight of all nights!!! I am CURSED!!!" Meanwhile, Michael was still on the phone trying to locate the nearest all-night drugstore. My only grace was the sound of rushing water thundering up a storm of bubbles in the tub, enough to mask the ungodly sound of me revisiting that night's dinner. After a few rounds, things settled down enough for me to get up, rinse myself off and eventually emerge to take on the night (and the exotic fruit platter).

Maple and miso-glazed Salmon
Sioux-Lookout Strawberry Spinach salad
chocolate raspberry torte