Adjusting — The Blackbirds Know

The red winged blackbirds are back.

They were late this year and it seemed as if they knew the current state of affairs and just decided to bypass Southern Ontario for safer places up north. But then the first “ocaleeee” rang through the trees of the Victorian neighbourhood near us, from a high branch or the peak of a gingerbread-trimmed rooftop, flashes of red catching the eye as they moved about. And then there were more, and more again, like incidents of this virus, multiplying exponentially, so the cacophony is now almost deafening on certain blocks. Turns out, the blackbirds don’t care about current affairs. They return every March, regardless of whatever is going on with the humans they encounter, here to scream their fool heads off, decimate bird feeders, terrorize local cats, and generally welcome spring, pandemic be damned.

Despite the freakishly empty streets, this is heartening. Likewise the songs of the bluejays, chickadees and the laser blast of the male northern cardinal looking for love. Snowdrops and early crocuses are appearing in front yards, buds are close to bursting on various varietals of trees. The tips of privet hedge branches are a greener shade of grey than they were a week ago. The raggedy green leaves of the first dandelion burst from a crack in the soil against a sunny, south-facing wall.

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When This Is All Over

What are you calling it? Post-pandemic? In the future? When this damn mess is done? You know what I mean, that ephemeral, non-specific point in the future when we get back to normal. Or whatever normal will mean at that point. When we all peek out, tentatively, like shy forest creatures, from the nests we’ve created for ourselves, our warm, safe places, and shuffle through the dew-laced leaves to look up to the bright sky with optimism and hope.

Is it even wise to think this far ahead? Or just safer and more practical to think of the day-to-day, getting the outside things done and then scurrying back in to the safety of our own homes like the governments and health officials tell us to?

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Book Review — The Book of Eating: Adventures in Professional Gluttony

The Book of Eating: Adventures in Professional Gluttony
Adam Platt, 2019

Adam Platt has been the restaurant critic at New York Magazine since 2000, when he took over from Gael Green. His own food background skews heavily to Asian cuisine as he spent his formative years in Japan and China, so while he has no formal cooking background, he has a deep understanding of the current food scene.

The early chapters of The Book of Eating read more like a very tasty auto-biography, detailing Platt’s childhood eating experiences in the US and abroad. These are engaging as part of the bigger story and especially for anyone interested in regional Asian cuisine, but I can see where and why some readers on Goodreads gave up near the beginning as Platt doesn’t really dish a lot of dirt on the NYC food scene, and he can tend to be repetitive with phrases that he presumes are witty (the term “boiled owl” appears far too often).

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Got Blog? Yes, Some People Still Read Blogs

It’s a weird old world we’re living in these days, especially online where traditional forms of media are falling behind in favour of social media, and the news sites that still exist care more about clicks and views than producing interesting content.

I realized recently that much of what I read on an average day is often a rehash of another story or article from a different site, likely posted a couple of days before. And even then, a lot of what I’m coming across (aside from local, breaking news) is just variations on the same theme. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of truly original content out there.

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No Talking

There’s a popular philosophy that silence can equal strength. Saying nothing often says more than any words. But what about when you’ve been silenced involuntarily?

Like many people this month, I’ve found myself flattened by a cold. This is not rare or unusual except that at the exact same time the virus hit me, I experienced an allergic reaction to the massive amounts of Christmas tree debris that some of my neighbours left strewn about the elevators and hallways of our building as they took their dead trees to the garbage. Even though building staff seemed to be vacuuming continuously, we were finding needles in the rugs in our (tree-free) apartment.

I’m allergic to evergreens but the worst I usually get is itchy ears in the spring when the conifers pollinate. So when I woke one night unable to breathe, my throat swollen near closed from inflammation and likely a bit of anaphylaxis plus the typical cold-related mucus gluing it all together, I was terrified and really shaken.

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The Girls

This took place a few years ago, but continues to plague me in an odd, unresolvable way…

The scene: I’m in the disabled washroom at a live performance space called the Theatre Centre because my herniated discs occasionally make it incredibly painful to go up and down the stairs to the regular washrooms and the elevator must be run by a staff member. The disabled washroom is accessed through a storage area off the lobby and the door has one of those open slatted sections on the lower half, either for ventilation or communication in emergencies or both.

While I’m in there I hear people enter the storage room. It sounds like they’re gathering some extra chairs. There are two female voices and what sounds like an older man. There was an older man working the door as a volunteer when I came in so I assume it’s the same guy.

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We Be Jammin’ — How to Make No-fail, 3-ingredient Jam With Any Quantity of Fruit

Do you ever watch an episode of Bake-Off and boggle when the contestants make jam — in a frying pan? Just because their recipe calls for a small amount of jam for a layer of a cake? How do they do that? Jam must be made in huge quantities, in a gargantuan pot, from flats of berries or massive big baskets of peaches… doesn’t it?

And what happens if you get your fruit home and there’s not enough to make Grandma’s beloved recipe because it calls for 11 pounds of peaches and you’ve only got 7? The recipe will get messed up and jam is already a hot, scary, time-consuming task. Better to just buy a jar and forget about making your own, right?

Hang on, ya’ll, I’m about to rock your world.

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Ramalamamammogram

“So you just turned 40, I want you to go have a mammogram,” says my doctor at my annual physical just after my 40th birthday.

“That’s not necessary is it?” I scrunch up my face.

“What, it doesn’t hurt, don’t be a wimp,” she replies.

“Oh, you’ve had one?”

“Well, nooo…”

Fucking doctors. Who’s with me on the idea that every general practitioner should, during their medical training, have to experience every test they could potentially send a patient for? Not the actual mammogram with the scan, but everything up to that point, including the boob sandwich (male doctors too), as well as a colonoscopy, and a partial toenail removal.

“So how do you know it doesn’t hurt?”

She sighs. “I don’t, but you have a family history of breast cancer from your grandmother, so let’s be safe.”

I can’t honestly remember now if my grandmother had breast cancer or not. I think she did, but she had so many other cancers, along with pneumonia, diabetes, and tuberculosis at one point, that, sure, better to be safe than sorry. And it can’t be that bad, right?

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How to Go to Concerts When You’re Middle-Aged

Let’s face it, middle-aged folks don’t go to many concerts. We’re busy doing other stuff. Or we can’t afford it. Bands we like, that are still around with some semblance of the original line-up, are pretty rare. Mostly we take a pass more often than not. Bands also tend to go on stage well past our bedtime.

I am mostly fortunate to not fall into those parameters (except maybe for the late set times and early bed times, those kill me) and probably go to more concerts than the average 50-year-old. I’m lucky enough to live in a major city, and have a household income that allows for such extravagances. I spent part of my twenties and thirties as a concert promoter and ran a small record label for a few years, so those connections still come up occasionally to lure me out to see bands, in addition to checking out bands from my youth that I missed back in the day because I grew up in a city that few bands bothered to travel to.

The concert-going experience has changed a great deal, though, and it’s important to keep that in mind if your most favouritest band from when you were twenty reforms and comes to town. Especially if every concert you’ve seen in the last decade has involved children dressed as angels or shepherds. It’s not 1987 anymore, people.

Some tips for your middle-aged GenX concert experience…

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