Thursday, July 31, 2008

Book Review - The Penelopiad

Although not very familiar with the works of Atwood, I was attracted to this piece of her work because I love the book (and the myths) that the story is drawn from. Homer’s iconic poem The Odyssey is the basis for Atwood’s version of events told from the perspective of Penelope, wife of Odysseus. The book is part of the internationally acclaimed Myths Series that groups some of the finest present day writers as they provide a contemporary take on some of the oldest, most enduring stories in history.

When Odysseus went off to fight in the Trojan War, he left behind his wife Penelope and their newborn son to rule the island of Ithica. While Homer’s tale focuses on Odysseus and his trials on his journey back from the War, Atwood shifts the focus to Penelope. What was she really up to those 20 long years? Did she truly remain faithful to her king? As the narration in the book shifts from Penelope herself to the 12 maids that were cruelly executed by Odysseus on his return, Atwood opens our eyes and minds to the possibilities of what might have happened back home while the hero was away. Keeping with the ancient Greek art of storytelling, Atwood weaves this tale through prose, speech, musing, song and poetry - and even through modern day courtroom transcripts! The result is a modern day day time drama - set in ancient Greece! After all, the 20 years that the book spans is plenty of time for a soap opera run!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Highlight Reel

Quiet Please!
Thanks to a pair of comp tickets from one of our Board members, I was able to go see my very first pro tennis match at the Rogers Cup on Wednesday. Even more exciting when I realized that I would be seeing the World Number ONE seeded player Roger Federer take on Giles Simon of France (and a total cutie as well). I found the whole tennis scene rather interesting. Normally, I'm used to the rowdy baseball stadiums where one can holler and heckle till the cows come home, and there's not a damn thing anyone can do about it (as long as you're not being profane). Here, I was almost uncomfortable with the imposed silence during the tennis match though the unnatural hush over the crowd causes a kind of electricity in the air which of course the players just feed off. Even during the most exciting rally, (of which there were a few) the tennis audience keeps their lips firmly shut taking in all of the action with the rest of their senses. I couldn't but help letting out a little squeak of excitement every now and then, much to the amusement of the fella besides me. He kept regarding me like I was this quaint little being or something.
Federer didn't win. In fact, when I came down to Match Point, half the crowd was still in shock over how the game had played out. Still, it was a great experience made even better by the fact that I didn't have to pay a cent!

Beer & Chili Fest '08

Every summer, my friend The Lady Killer and his girlfriend, Ms. Pink host a summer party. The year before it was a BBQ fest. Last year it was a luau (complete with grass skirts and coconut shell bras for some folk). This year, TLK went a little further and planned a Chili Contest coupled with a mini beer tasting event. The premise was really quite simple.

1. Anyone who wanted could make chili and enter into the Chilly Contest.

2. Folks who attended were asked to bring (at least) a 6 pack of a fairly uncommon beer.

3. Everyone would eat chili and sample beer. Merriment would follow.

The result. 4 kinds of Chili for us to feast on - The Classic. The Hot Stuff. The Turkey Chili. And, the Baconator Chili. And over 15 *new* kinds of beer for us to sample including some from as far away as Vancouver and the Scottish Isles!


Just found out that tonight is the last nite of WCS open dancing until September. Will miss my Westie pals, but thankfully will be able to supplement my need-to-dance with extra doses of Latin/Ballroom at Friday night dances and Sunday afternoon workshops over the next 3 weeks.

Wedding Woes

Before you jump to conclusions (I'm looking at you Jo) - not mine. Am referring to VBF's wedding that's slated for September 9 in Glasgow. It seems like this wedding has been in the planning stages since the dawn of time (well, April last year) and we're finally just a few weeks away from D Day.* I still don't have a dress - well not quite. But I figured that's OK because the bride still doesn't have her visa - without which she cannot travel back to Glasgow! In the whole scheme of things, the bride is more important than my dress. On the other hand, if the bride does get her butt to the church on time, she is going to be mighty pissed off if I'm not suitably adorned, right? And I would be VERY remiss in my Maid of Honour duties if I caused the bride to be pissed off on her wedding day. That is usually reserved for someone from the groom's side.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Book Review - The Tree Bride

Back in December, I picked up this book only because I needed one more book to get in on a 4 for $20 deal. I tucked it away in the basement and forgot all about it. Some weeks ago, a coworker who is also an avid reader – and is very interested in Indian novels and literature – happened to mention this book, and I remembered that I actually owned it. Went looking for it in the basement and spied it jammed between an Enid Blyton mystery and Jim Herriot’s Tales of a Country Vet.

Reading the book’s jacket synopsis, might lead you to believe that The Tree Bride is just another book about a person of Indian origin, now living somewhere in the US trying to figure out that fine balance between being true to where they come from and merging with where they now belong. To my surprise, it was more.

Not unlike many other Indians living abroad, Mukherjee’s protagonist Tara is searching for her roots. Her search is focused on a very interesting ancestor and her namesake; a woman who, as a young girl was married to a tree. What is unlike other such stories is that this book is not just about Tara and her quest, but also a look into one of the most interesting times in Indian history – the last days of the Raj. As the story swings between modern day San Francisco, Calcutta of the late 1800s and North Britain in the early/mid 1950s Mukherjee’s novel draws the reader into Tara’s journey of self discovery into her past and the amazing coincidence of connections that form her present life.
When researching the author, I found out that The Tree Bride is actually book two of a trilogy and having read this one I am quite eager to read more of Mukherjee's work. Most interesting would be the book that she co authored with her husband Clarke Blaise on the terrorist bombing of Air India flight 182 - The Sorrow and the Terror: The Haunting Legacy of the Air India Tragedy. Known as Canada's largest mass murder and the worst flight disaster until the September 11 attacks, the bombing of flight 182 killed all 329 passengers on board. 20 years later, families of the victims are still waiting to see justice.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


As my gentle readers know, I've been dancing for some years now. Started out with exploring Salsa back in 2003, then moved on to a bit of Lindy and 20s Charleston before settling down with Latin/Ballroom in fall of last year. Still, it wasn't until I began with West Coast Swing that I truly found my "groove". After a hiatus from the dance for about a year, I went back to it in May when my teacher had a weekend of WCS dances, workshops and events in celebration of her 50th birthday. After 3 days straight on the dance floor - I was back in love with the dance style.

Then, a few weeks ago at one of the regular Friday night dances, one of my "Westie" friends persuaded me to sign up for the Toronto Swing Dancing Championships that were taking place in the city for the very first time. Before I quite knew what was happening I found that I had forked over $$ for the entire weekend's registration AND signed myself up to compete in the newcomer Jack & Jill* competitions! I figured, there were so many people in the newcomer category that no one would have the time to stare at just me during the competition. Later I found out who my "competition" was and seeing that there were some folk who had been dancing for way longer than I had (but had never before competed), I was even more reassured knowing that there was no pressure at all!

I was lucky enough to draw a good partner, and we went out on the Saturday afternoon and had a good time during the competition. When people asked me how I thought I'd done, honestly, I considered not nervously hurling all over the dance floor an accomplishment in itself! Even during the award ceremonies on the Saturday night, I was so sure that nothing would come of the competition that at one point I even considered skipping it and going to dance in the Salsa room next door!

It's time for the Newcomer category and they call out the 3rd place winners. And we know the guy! Cheers and clapping and hooting......
.....they call out the 2nd place winners. Another couple from our dance group!!!! But wait, everyone thought that she would win first place FOR SURE. I turn to the person next to me and indignantly vent about how I feel that S and L should TOTALLY have won, and how she's so good... yada yada. I'm so busy being indignant that I totally miss the fact that 
MY name is being called - as FIRST PLACE WINNER!!!!! Many hands yank me out of my chair and push me towards the podium where I stagger (in a very UN dance-like manner) to collect my plaque. My partner is giving me a huge hug (huum, he smells good) and everyone is shouting and cheering and all I can manage is a generally goofy smile and a "thank you" before I stumble back to my seat. As the realization of actually placing, let alone WINNING sinks in, I find myself literally trembling with happiness and OMG, I think I'm now actually going to barf!!!!

Yes, I forced the judges to stare at my ass!!! Brilliant move I thought!

Other than my frequent urges to barf on the dance floor, the weekend was absolutely filled with fun times whether it was trying out some new moves during the workshops, or dancing till 5am each night (morning?) or just hanging out with the "Westies" who I might add are some of the nicest people in the dancing circuit. I must have learned about a hundred new moves on the dance floor from people from all over Canada and the US; many of who I hope to see at subsequent events.

What was most special for me was that I finally felt that I "belonged" to the dance community; that I wasn't just a stranger who showed up for a dance every now and then. People knew who I was (not only because of the win) and knew my name and best of all, I knew who THEY were and was able to smile and nod and greet them back.

I've enjoyed dancing for as long as I can remember. This weekend just made me realize why I love it so much.

*For the non dance savvy readers - a Jack & Jill is a popular form of competition where participants sign up as individual competitors and partners are determined through random selection or a draw. The couple is judged as a unit with points for leading, following, music syncopation etc.

Monday, July 14, 2008


In anticipation of this weekend’s big Swing Dancing event, I went off to an open practice session last night. At the end of the night I went out to grab a quick bite with two fellow dancers I’d just met. In the course of conversation over giros and pita, I found out that the one had once been arrested for attempting to illegally enter the US hidden away in on a freight ship and the other has an uncle who is currently in prison for war crimes.

All I could talk about was the time I got entangled in a ski rope at Lake Tahoe and consequently shut down the entire hill. Somehow it wasn’t in the same category of life stories.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

A Walk in the Park - NYC Day 2

My second day in the Big Apple was spent in the relative bliss in the bustling city that is known as Central Park. Other than the quick peek in on my last trip, I'd never really taken time to fully appreciate the wonder that is this Oasis of Calm smack dab in the middle of this crazy busy city. Armed with my camera, my mp3 player and my thoughts - I walked into Central Park West at 81st street just opposite from the Museum of Natural History. Four hours later, I emerged at the intersection of 59th and Broadway, tired, hot and rather dirty..... but also very happy with how my afternoon had been spent.

Along the way, I saw:

The Bethseda Fountain

Hundreds of signs - pointing every which way!

Constant reminders that I was in the U S of A

Couples enjoying a leisurely row on the Lake

Amazing photo opps

A 50 year old Carousel that played old old show tunes

Beautiful, funny, devoted and always touching memorials

Kids enjoying the simple joys of a glorious summer afternoon

Budding photographers everywhere!

Some local residents

Fun pass times

Beauty everywhere; You just have to be still and enjoy it

Friday, July 04, 2008

NYC - Day 1

Caught the morning flight out to Newark, NJ early on Sunday morning from the Island airport in downtown T Dot. Judging by the heavy clouds hanging over the city, there was a bunch of rain in store and I was please to be heading out.

NJ Daddy and NJ Baby met me at the airport train station, and we headed right over to Shea Stadium - home of the NY Mets. Well until the end of this season anyway!
The last time I saw NJ Baby was when the family was over during Christmas and he's grown so big! Almost 9 months old now, he's full of life with a charming personality and easy smile (like his Mummy) and the tendency to doze off at the drop off a hat (like his Daddy).Our tickets were at the very top of the stadium, and though at first that proved to be a challenge seeing as both NJ Daddy and I are terrified of heights, as the game went on, we discovered that we actually had some of the best seats in the house! We had the wind in our backs (and boy was it a hot hot day) and when it began to rain mid way though the game - we had the overhang to protect us! Perfect!Of course, when you're at the ballpark 3 things are a must - beer, hot dogs and peanuts. As I cooled off on with a chilled bottle,And NJ Baby followed my example with one - er, make that two - of his own!
Very refreshed by his chilled drinks, NJ Baby sat up and began to take note of his surroundings. After all, this was his very first Major League Baseball game!

He saw the plane take off from La Guardia airport just behind the stadium.

He saw the Flushing Meadows tennis stadiums where the US Open Championships are held.

And he did the 7th inning stretch with Mr. Met the mascot.

Basically, NJ Baby decided that hanging out with Daddy and Auntie Pixy at the ball game was a great way to spend an afternoon!
After the game (which the Mets won) we had to battle our way through a hoard of people back to Highland Park, NJ

NJ Baby decided that he's going to be a good baseball fan (and only ever cheer for the Mets - NEVER the Yankees). After all, he wants to be just like his Daddy!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Mountain out of a Molehill

On Tuesday evening, as I was stepping off the Ellis Island ferry I felt a little sting on my right hand. I gave it an absent minded swat and continued on my way. Overnight on the bus, I could feel my right hand itching, and my left as well, but didn't pay too much attention to it. By yesterday afternoon, as I was typing at my desk at work, I began to feel my right hand cramp up. There was a huge red bump on my arm just below my wrist and I was experiencing sharp shooting pain in my arm and in my elbow, wrist and fingers. My left hand was also rapidly swelling below my little finger and the rash was spreading to the back of my hand as well.

Going to a hospital emergency room was no good. I'd be there until midnight - unless I went into shock before that - and I really didn't want to resort to that! So I decided to head off to my GP's clinic near my house. An hour later, as I walked into the clinic, my forearm was 3 times its normal size with a huge red welt running from my wrist to mid way up my arm. The rest of the arm had cramped up and I could barely move my fingers. When I approached the check in desk, and indicated that I was experiencing some sort of allergic reaction and showed them my arm, the nurse looked a little worried. She asked me, "Are you experiencing any trouble breathing?" to which I replied "no". BIG mistake. I was waiting for the next 45 minutes, all the while my hand getting more numb and the itching driving me to near craziness!

Finally when I got to see the Doctor, she prescribed a bunch of pills to get the inflammation down, deal with any possible infection and a cream for the rash. And oh yeah, because I have a preexisting gastric condition, she then has to prescribe another pill so counter the effects that all the first pills will have on my stomach!

Woke up this morning after a night of tossing and turning (thanks to the rash) only to find that the arm is just as swollen as the night before. Back to the clinic it is; this time I'm looked at right away and given a shot. Thankfully that works and in about half an hour I see a vast improvement.

And now, just about 24 hours after all the drama began my arm seems to be back to its normal size with most of the rash gone as well.

Moral of the story: The next time something bites me, I'm going to bite back. And if that's not possible, always mention "trouble breathing" at the clinic - you'll get seen to quicker!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Counting Down.....

Just 10 am, and already I have been at work 3 hours! This day is just craaaaaawwwwling by. Took the overnight bus back to the T Dot from NYC and except for the incessantly fidget-fart in the seat behind me, the journey was quite good. Passing through Customs at 4am is an experience. Thankfully all the questions I got asked required only "yes" or "no" answers and the officer was quite satisfied to have me nod or shake my head. I'm thinking my tousled hair, crumpled Tee and barely open eyes might have had something to do with it!

The bus dropped me off literally across the road from work (nice), and I was able to grab a quick shower and change at my gym - also across the road from work. (double nice).

3 hours and 4 cups of coffee later I'm hanging in there..... but I do have to pee quite a lot!

Stay tuned for a detailed post on the trip.... but for right now - is it 5 pm yet?

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