Adolescent survivors of the 70s & 80s

strasky and hutchYou know who you are. We were the tweens and teenagers of the 70s & 80s. A time when mood rings and pet rocks were ‘in’ and 8-tracks ‘thunked’ into the player in a satisfying way right before Led Zeppelin blasted out of the speakers. Speakers that were oversized (pretty sure they were meant for the house) and wedged between the back window and the top of the back seat. Nothing like an unbolted 10-lb speaker waiting to rocket through the front seat if the brake was suddenly hit, decapitating everyone along the way.

Smoking – an activity for the whole family

And, in the 70s and 80s, everyone smoked in their cars, lots of times with the windows up and ‘hot-boxed’ their kids in the back seat. I still feel like a recovering 2-pack-a-day smoker even though I never really smoked.

If you complained that you were choking on cigarette smoke or that you were cold from the blast of wind from the open front windows, you got the cursory, “Shut up!” from older siblings who had to drive you somewhere against their will.

(Note: like any good teen of the 80s, I did sneak several cigarettes from my parents so my best friend and I could smoke in the alley. Remember Menthol cigs? Blech, why did we think that favour would make this gross habit any better?)

Driving in fast (or maybe not even so fast) cars

Recently I was reminiscing with friends about a few car moments that I remember from my childhood. One was sitting in the back seat (not wearing a seat belt, of course), leaning against the door while one of my brothers was driving down the alley by our house. I think I was about 9 or 10. The door suddenly opened and I was hanging onto the handle watching the gravel spin by underneath and knowing there was a telephone pole on a direct collision path with my door.

Being a scrawny kid, I did not have any upper body strength to pull the door shut. I started to screech and scream – okay, I’ll admit it, I was a screechy kid, but in my defense I grew up with four older brothers and sometimes you had to ESTROGEN-up to get heard – anyway, I got the usual, “Pull the fucking door closed and shut up!” The concern for my well-being was clearly secondary to being able to hear Led Zeppelin on the 8-track free from screechy baby sister noises. At the last second, before we arrived at the pole I managed to pull the door shut.

Then when I was about 15, one of my older brothers bought a TR6. Like all our cars, it was second hand and didn’t always work as expected. One hot summer day he says to me, “Wanna go for a ride in my new car?”

We’d only just backed out of the parking spot and moved about two feet forward when the loose wires that were dangling below the glove box on the passenger side connected, sparked and started to catch fire. Now, mind you it, it was probably only a small fire, maybe nothing more than the flame on a candle, but in my mind it was HUGE and everyone knows that fire + car = explosion.

If copious amounts of Magnum PI, Starsky & Hutch, CHiPS and TJ Hooker taught me nothing else it was that cars always explode …. unless the lead character is in it, that is.

So, I promptly jumped out of the car. Luckily the roof was down so I could make a clean Dukes of Hazzard exit. My brother is still laughing about that.

Playing outside

And by playing outside, I don’t me virtually outside or Pokémon Go-ing outside but outside as in touching nature and stuff.  And by playing, I mean unsupervised-play-until-someone-breaks-the-thing-we’re-playing-on-or breaks-a-bone-clear-off playing. If it’s only mostly broken, then you can keep going.

And, I also mean playing a game of hide-and-seek that traversed various parts of the neighbourhood. From peoples’ back yards, to parking lots, to quietly through unsuspecting neighbours’ basements to dark, creepy trails (more like suggestions of openings in bushes) in forests to the edge of the ocean (literally).

If you came home at night — usually in the dark after your Irish mother had been calling for you for ½ an hour and then threatened to ‘kill you’ for not answering her sooner – without sand in your shoes, blood on your elbows and knees, gum in your hair, part of someone’s tooth stuck in the back of your hand, well, you just weren’t doing it right.

What did you survive growing up in the 70s & 80s?





Esmeralda, Manny and the squirrel: a tale of a terrifying threesome

(This is based on a true story as told to me by Esmeralda at our MAV (mature athlete version) boot camp. I’ve loosely followed the chain of events, made up all of the dialogue as I saw fit and slipped in a wee bit of hyperbole, subtle sexual innuendo and some downright lies.)

The invitation

Well, Esmeralda was shocked when some of the neighbouhood kids knocked at the door and told her they saw a squirrel in her window, her bedroom window.

She headed upstairs and could see the squirrel’s shadow shifting in staccato movements behind the blinds.

“Manny!” she called over her shoulder, summoning her husband to come help with the situation. When he arrived, she said, “There’s a squirrel inside our room. See? It’s there behind the blinds.” Manny followed the line of her outstretched hand, finger pointing erectly toward the window.

Like most men, he didn’t truly believe his wife so he pulled the blinds up quickly to see for himself. The startled squirrel, channeling its flying squirrel cousins, leapt out towards Manny, who promptly screeched like a little girl who’s had her pigtails pulled.

The Chase

“Get it! Get it!” Esmeralda yelled as she jumped on the bed and assumed a defensive karate-like stance. She then snatched up a towel that was on the bed and held it outstretched in front of her. You might think she was going to use this to capture the squirrel, but she was really using it more like a shield. Hiding behind it, not so much like a demure damsel in an artsy French film but more like a Quentin Tarantino version of a demure damsel.

She could hear the squirrel skittering around the bedroom. At one point it landed on the bed, she eased the towel down slowly and looked at the end of the bed. Yup, there it was, beautiful thick hair, soft and sleek-looking and coming altogether at the end in an explosion of bushy tail.

Esmeralda dragged her eyes away from the creature’s body and looked into its face. Teeth bared in a sinister grin and eyes alight with panic and ferocity. Esmeralda emitted, not so much a screech like girly Manny had, but more of a guttural groan, and flash-danced her feet to expend the fearful energy that was rising. This in turn, quite fortuitously for Esmeralda, double-bounced the squirrel off the bed.

She had her eyes closed, breath held waiting for the next wave of frantic pawing and panting, but there was only silence.

The revelationsexy squirrel

“Manny?” she whispered. “Do you know where it went?”

There was a long pause, a slow exhalation of breath and then Manny finally spoke in a slow, dulcet tone, “Yes, I know where it is.”

When he said no more, Esmeralda opened her eyes. She wasn’t sure if she should scream or laugh for there was the squirrel hanging on for dear life to  Manny’s purple soccer shorts. Yes, people, claws to ass cheeks.

She glanced over to Manny’s face. He wore an expression of pain mixed with a bit of guilty pleasure. “Well,” she thought, “I knew he enjoyed 50 shades of Grey more than he let on. That’s it. I’m buying those damn handcuffs!”

The Climax

Just then the Squirrel saw its moment and flung itself at the window screen and made a noisy escape. Esmeralda and Manny rushed to the window to ensure it was gone and were met with applause from all the neighbours who quite enjoyed the show.



Running stairs & the art of cat love

(The names of my friends involved have been changed to protect their privacy.)

Esmerelda, Frau Frieda, Inga, and Shirley walk into a bar….no, wait, that doesn’t happen, at least not tonight. We walk to the bridge to run stairs. Yes, on purpose.


When they proposed this to me in the past, I thought they meant we would run up the stairs of the Cambie St. bridge and then across the bridge, down the stairs at that end, back up and across the bridge and repeat a few times. But, no, actually running stairs means running up the stairs, stop for a short gasping breath of air at the top and walk/trot down, turn around at bottom and run up the stairs, hack up parts of a lung at top, and walk/stumble down, turn around at bottom and …. you get the picture.

“How many are we doing again?” I foolishly ask. “12, it’s June now, so we need to do 12,” says Inga who is sprinting up the stairs ahead of me. “What? Why? Who made that up? This is only my third time, shouldn’t I only be doing three?”  I whine.

“You do 12. Be strong woman, but don’t smell like strong man,” Frau Frieda says as she passes me, placing a disconcertingly heavy hand on my shoulder and smelling a little Old Spicy, in my opinion.

The stairs seem okay at the start of each set, but when you get to the very last group your thighs seize and you have to convince them that there are in fact NO bear traps affixed to them. “Seriously, guys, you’re good, just run up these last batch of steep stairs for no apparent reason.”

Stopped ahead of me on the stairs I see Esmerelda talking to a man who is carrying a dog. Yes, it’s odd, we’ve seen a few people out “walking” their dogs this way. Esmerelda has had multiple knee surgeries in her life and wears two big, black braces in order to run. We joke that she often gets a lot of sympathy looks when we’re out running, or sometimes people just avert their eyes and walk at a safe distance. Maybe it’s because it looks like she should be in an episode of Dr. Who, or, more likely, Austen Powers. She’d be the villain called Legs E.

As we trot down the stairs she says, “See, you could meet single guys out here. People are always stopping me to ask about my braces and how the dial on the side works.”

“Um, so you think I should wear a fake leg brace and see if men will talk to me?” I say.

“What? I have extra brace for the leg,” says Frau Frieda from the stairs below us. “I bring for you next week, then maybe you run faster and talk less.”


We do some strength and stretching exercise after the stairs and Inga and Shirley talked about their last soccer game and heart rate recordings on their Fitbits. Most players hide their Fitbits under a sweatband when they play so the ref won’t make them take it off.

Shirley says she had to take it off once because of the ref, but she stuck it in-between her compression shorts (like bike shorts) and her soccer shorts – at the back, that is, near her butt. She animatedly demonstrated how she did this, well, as animated as a Brit can get.

“It totally still worked. Even recorded my heart rate!”

“What?!” I say, “You mean it actually recorded your heart rate from your ass crack?” Technology is truly amazing.

The art of cat love

On the walk back, we talk about the pug we just saw in a baby carriage, which led to a conversation about kids at Esmerelda’s school saving an injured squirrel and then to Esmerelda asking if any of us wants a kitten. She tells us that her friend has a bunch of kittens because people abandon them on her farm.

Frau Frieda notes that cats ignore the scratching posts, even if they’re laced with catnip and instead they scratch up the coffee table, the couch and even the drywall.

Esmerelda agrees and adds, “Terminator 3 can die any time now because I want new furniture.” (The cat’s name has been changed to protect privacy and keep Cativists off my case.)

“Ugh, why do people want animals that do that in their house?” I say.

Immediately Esmerelda responds, “Because of cat love. They provide love in your life.”

“Wait, you literally just said a minute ago ‘Terminator 3 can die any time now because I want new furniture.’ So does that mean you love your cat until it’s time to redecorate and then you pray for an early demise? “

Frau Frieda muses, “There are no need for prayers. Other methods work faster.”

(No cats came to their untimely death during the night, but several human stair-runners were precariously close to losing a limb to cramping.)

The dark side of paper

paperwork© Rofromyork | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Work has been insane for me lately, and, as a result, my less-than-stellar organizational skills and neatness have reached new lows.

With my mind going in all directions, and with none of my multiple personalities taking the lead, my work space looks like a Pinterest board displaying the many forms of paper terrorism.

All these tree exiles taunt me in their own ways:

  1. The company copies of the taxi vouchers proving I took a cab to some meeting at some location sit loosely clipped together and strategically placed on the edge of the desk as if in preparation for a suicide jump into the recycling bin below.
  2. A multi-page printout of some clever chart I created to show all the work that needs to be done hides in the wide abyss that is the back of my desk. The printout would probably prove very valuable if I ever remembered to consult it, or even remembered that it exists. If I don’t see it back there, does it really exist? Oh how I hate you my existential chart!
  3. Copious sticky notes that I fruitlessly try to stick to my monitors like some early warning system. They yell at me daily and sometimes swan dive off the monitor, affixing themselves to other stickies or printouts on my desk. This creates undue stress when I wonder why my technical requirements document has a bright yellow sticky attached to it proclaiming, “catastrophic results”. If that’s not bad enough, it’s punctuated with three question marks and one exclamation point, and I can’t stop wondering if it refers to something in my document or something else I was supposed to pay attention to.
  4. Random sized and shaped loose-leaf paper with detailed instructions or itemized to-dos that I scrawled out upon waking suddenly at 3 am to find my brain was still trying to nail down a work process, and, oddly, trying to solve a math equation from grade 9.
  5. Hard-cover notebooks bursting with psychotic, dancing letters loosely strung together giving the appearance of cursive writing. I can tell how stressful the meeting was by how often the blue parallel lines in the book can’t contain the letters and by how many sentences, and even words, just stop, hanging incompletely in space. Makes me wonder what brilliant thought could have followed, “Before launch make sure we”. Thank God the “catastrophic results” sticky didn’t land on that page!
  6. And, worst of all, the mysterious, and official looking, Excel printout filled with all sorts of, gasp, numbers – my most evil, dreaded nemeses! I spent a day and a half wondering why I had this document and what the hell I was supposed to do with it when suddenly a co-worker wandered in to my office and casually said, “Oh, that’s where I left my body mass index printout.” So. Not. Cool. Dude.




Back in Van, baby!

Well, I did it. I managed to survive buying a place in Vancouver in a stupid market. I looked for three full months and still ended up having to move all my stuff into storage while I couched surfed for three weeks before getting into my new place.

I’ve been here for about seven weeks and am still adjusting to the urban noises – having been in the burbs for the past 20 years; sirens wailing, garage doors to parkades opening and closing at all hours, upstairs neighbours testing out their tap shoes at midnight, motorcycles revving randomly and someone yelling, “Argh!  I don’t like when it oozes!” at top volume about 2 am while being chased down the street  by a women yelling, “Get back in the house!”.

But, with all that comes a 25 minute walking commute to work! Who-hoo! I just strap on my backpack and head out. Yes, I’m the geek who uses the hip and chest straps so the weight is evenly distributed. I look a little like a bondaged marshmallow, given my fair skin and hair. I like to think I give the people driving over the bridge a “WTF” moment when they see me.

I can also just step outside my door and within minutes be at all sorts of restaurants, and cool clothing and furniture shops. Of course, there’s also some sort of halfway treatment housing apartment at one end of my block and an odd church thing at the other. It’s not a church like I grew up going to, it looks more like an office building and I’m not sure what deity they worship — perhaps it’s the almighty Justin Trudeau or Bradley Cooper? I’d happily give up my Sunday morning for Bradley Cooper as long as I could confess about it later.

I’ve pretty much abandoned using my car since I moved here. My legs and my bike are my new best friends. Well, my bike less so since it’s a bit heavy and the spring-loaded security doors into the bike room make it difficult to get in. I spent 15 minutes trying to reenter the room the other day with a laden down bike. I had to flash my fob at the security panel then try to prop the weighty door open and simultaneously push my heavy bike through the door. My wheels kept turning every which way and the bike tipped catching me in between the door and bike. I imagine it is what it feels like trying to make it through the birth canal ass first.

Trying to get out of the parking lot is equally as goofy, well for me. I soon realized that, despite the extra weight I put on, my bike and I do not weigh as much as my car and I do. Together we can’t exert enough force on the rubber tubing on the ground to trigger the garage door to open. I have to stop on the tubing and jump up and down without falling off my bike. Then, when the door opens, I have to quickly jump on my bike and ride up a very steep hill. Twice I’ve had a late start on my bike and gotten 3/4 of the way up only to have the door close while I’m weaving around trying to get some momentum to get up the hill. Extremely good comedy for whomever reviews our security footage. I only hope my good ass cheek was pointing toward the camera.

All I need now is some furniture and to figure out how to fit everything that I need into such a small space. Well, since I once survived a very small womb with a large twin brother, I imagine that I’ll figure out how inhabit my new space without getting squished and losing a lot of oxygen, like I did then.




Buying a place in Vancouver


Now, along with overbidding on the listing price, going in with no subjects and with a deposit cheque in hand, apparently buyers are submitting heart-felt letters to their potential seller in order to sway them. Here’s my draft. What do you think? Will it give me the edge over the competition?

Dear seller,

By now you’ve probably poured yourself a large glass of wine (no judgement) and are sitting back sifting through the mountain of offers your realtor has sent you.

You’ve been looking forward to this moment all weekend. Anticipation mounting every time you received another text from your realtor telling you how everyone has been “oohing” and “aahing” about your place. You did get a bit concerned when she texted you to say there was a creepy dude there randomly yelling out dialogue from horror movies, although you were especially disconcerted to hear he had one extremely disturbing prediction: “Trump’s a shoe in!”

Now, back to your pile of offers. Some you’ll immediately toss aside with a disgusted sigh (hopefully not mine) as you gleefully move on to the others. Finally you’ll group the contenders into heaps based on the crazy-assed amount of money they’ve penciled in, crossed out, re-penciled in and smudged accidentally as their agent tugged the paper from their clammy hands.

Now, another big swig of wine and perhaps one of those fancy chocolates someone brought you from Paris, the ones with no expiration date … wonder what tomorrow will bring after you down a few of those….but, I digress.

All the piles have numbers to your liking. You check to see if any of them have tried to sneak in some pesky subjects on the contract, but you won’t find any because anybody with any skin in the game knows that the right to put subjects on the biggest purchase of their life is on par with the rights serfs had in the feudal system.

Next is to determine if the dates could work for you and then to just pick the biggest number. But wait! You could weigh in one more factor – the human factor. Who is the person behind the offer? Well, let me tell you about me.

For the past month, I’ve spent every Saturday and most Sundays looking in other people’s houses between the hours of two to four. Realtors follow me around telling me how the layout makes it seem bigger and that it has this great ‘flex space’, possibly even a ‘junior bedroom’! (Seriously, it’s 7 x 5 feet; it’s a large closest and nothing more. Can we all agree to stop kidding ourselves about this?!)

The private listings my realtor sends me are like some sick addiction. I scour them trying to imagine how close to real life the pictures are, or wonder what that odd railing thing is that I can just see through the bedroom window. I try to remember all the important details I’m supposed to look for: concrete building, avoid anything labelled ‘cozy’ etc. Like online dating, the pictures rarely are the same as the condo I see in person. That is until I walked into your apartment.

I’ve eaten twice my weight in carbs since I saw your place. I fell in love the minute I walked in the door and took in the open concept. The living space that would allow me to put more than one piece of furniture in it and the balcony that has room for three whole people on it! A bedroom that could actually be used. Unlike so many places I’ve seen in which the bedroom is just barely the size of an area rug, closed off behind blue, sliding glass doors; no space for a dresser or even a lamp.

But, you have to know that the feeling is mutual – this love of mine. I heard the kitchen call my name. I swear it sang, “Hey big spender, spend a little time with me.” I’ve never really thought of myself as a big spender, but this Vancouver housing market has sure changed that.

Half a mill for less than 600 square feet? Sure, that seems about right. What’s that you say? People in other parts of Canada can buy three houses on five acres of land for that? Well, yeah, but then they have to live in other parts of Canada. In places where they actually get Canadian winters instead of just mold behind their ears.

Oh, what’s that? You’ve finished your wine and are getting ready to speed dial your realtor? Okay, well, thanks for listening to my heartfelt letter begging you to accept my offer. Just one final word before you go:


What the HAF?

cheese 2

Well, it’s day two of the New Year and I spent part of it at an open house get-together with some friends. While chatting to a few of my soccer mates in the dining area, talk turned to one of my friend’s snug orange shirt and her very pronounced boobage.

Esmerelda (not her real name), fondled them proudly and said, “Yeah, I know, check it out, but, unfortunately they’re part of a matching set.” She looked down and patted her belly, “They came with what I’m calling my ‘baguette belly’. I picked that up from our extended trip to France.”

I said that I had put on about 10 or so pounds myself, someone else said they gained about eight and a third said she’d put on 20 lbs. We all agreed that it was a good thing that at least Esmeralda’s holiday-acquired fat (HAF) resulted in holiday-acquired hooters (HAH!).

A few of us decided that we needed to make a pact to drop our HAF and soon. Although, the person who gained the 20 lbs, let’s call her Audrey, said she couldn’t possible do that yet because she needed to have her knee surgery first, then work with a personal trainer that her ‘not-yet-husband’ gave her for Christmas.

She punctuated this thought by waving a large slice of cheese at me, all the while being careful not slop any red wine out of her goblet. Then Audrey took a bite out of the Giant-Assed Slice (GAS). I pointed out that she could start right now by handing over the wine. I made a grab for it but she bounced me away with her 20lb-heavier boob & belly combo and smacked me with her GAS.

We all decided that technically we were still in the holiday season so we didn’t have to start losing the weight now, which was a good thing since I suddenly found a glass of wine in my hand and half the wheel of double-cream Brie oozing through my teeth.

Now I’m back home and eating as much of the Christmas chocolate and cookies I can so that I don’t have any in the house when the holidays REALLY end. So, what are you looking at? Go peek in your fridge and see what you need to eat before Monday! Then you can buckle down, put your GAS aside, work off that HAF and say goodbye to the HAH!