I yelled at my husband on the street today. A stranger stopped and asked us for directions. I kept walking. Matthew, my husband, paused to help, standing less than six feet from the man. “Oh my God, stand back!” I shouted. I grabbed Matthew by the arm, pulled him away, and suggested to the stranger that if he was lost, he could use his smartphone. When I apologized to Matthew at home, I explained that everything is stressing me about Toronto these days: opening the door to our condo lobby, touching the buttons on the elevator, passing people in the halls. The virus could be anywhere. It’s a conversion we have had before, like after I called Matthew “reckless” for picking a stray nickel up off the sidewalk. “Try to relax,” he told me. I said, it’s hard. I feel nervous every time we go out and the scores of shuttered storefronts depress me. “I want to leave,” I said, referring to our vague plans of escaping to our cabin in the Laurentians. “We can’t,” he replied. A simple truth. Quebec has closed its border to Ontario. Fine. I will continue distracting myself the same way everyone is: eating too many carbs, watching too much Netflix.
Geof Ramsay is a modern Maritimes designer. He was raised in Moncton and lives in Halifax, but learned his craft in Detroit, Ottawa and Amsterdam before setting up his eponymous studio in 2009. His witty Steps seat reflects both his East Coast roots and international influences. The piece is a play on people’s tendency to sit where they’re supposed to step – something that happens on front stoops and in foyers around the world. The actual construction of his mini stair – which is proportioned to act as a bench, footstool and side table in one – was inspired by what you’d find under the carpet or tiling of a typical Canadian home. The treads and risers are made of construction-grade plywood and supported by a simple stringer. The only thing missing is a banister rail to toss a winter coat and hat over. From $1,350. Through geoframsay.com
This piece originally appeared in the Globe and Mail on Thursday, November 7, 2013.
Bunkie designed by Evan Bare, Nathan Buhler and Jorge Torres
There are many, perfectly rational, even admirable reasons why we should all eschew the quintessential, American-style dream of living in a honking big house on a honking big lot. On a basic level, larger houses are more expensive to build, buy and keep up. They also tend to be energy hogs. Then there’s the cleaning – the more rooms there are, the more dust there is to bust.
In the June 25, 2012 issue of The New Yorker, staff writer Adam Gopnik notes that “we are about to enter that period, which occurs every four years, when [we] become passionate about athletes we have never heard of participating in games we do not follow trying to please judges we cannot see according to rules we do no know.” He attributes our irrational infatuation with the Olympics to nationalism, or internationalism, or something else very brainy, yet he fails to underscore why most of us really tune in. Hot jocks! I don’t know a thing about rhythmic gymnastics or synchronized swimming, but I’m always willing to watching tight buns, and biceps and brawn. Here’s who I will be eying in London (and because I’m such a good nationalist, they are all from Canada’s team).
Is he really Canada’s Messiah? No, that’s insane. But the Thornhill native is the highest ranked singles tennis player in Canadian history (he’s currently no. 22 in the world), and, at the young age of 21, has already won over a $1 million in prize. Plus, he’s 6’5″ tall. Just saying.
While contemplating reforms to Canada’s Employment Insurance plan, finance minister Jim Flaherty — who makes $235,000 a year — remarked this week that “There is no bad job. The only bad job is not having a job.”
I beg to differ. Here’s three positions I would say no to:
Minister Bev Oda, Professional Orange Juice Sipper
1. Orange Juice Connoisseur: Sorry Bev Oda, but if I wanted to have millions of people mock, deride and resent me for my extravagance, I would sooner be a Kardashian or the star of a Real Housewives franchise (then at least I would have honestly earned the privilege).
Mavis Gallant at the Standard, Montréal, May 1946 (courtesy Library and Archives Canada/PA-11524).
I’ve never read a Mavis Gallant short story, something that, as I write this blog post, I’m ashamed to admit. But every so often I come across a mention of this escaped Cannuck — who has lived in Paris for over 60 of her 90 years — that re-asserts her importance in the world of writing. As a result, I have a certain sketchy understanding of her life through the Globe and Mail, the Walrus, the National Post and other media outlets. The first time I really took notice was in a charming 2008 radio interview on CBC’s Writers and Company, but it wasn’t until last week, when I listened to another CBC radio interview on Ideas, that her life strongly resonated with me. She seems to have achieved something that I find deeply admirable — independence — and I wish I knew how to do the same.
Last week Canada’s Federal Government, in its first majority budget, announced that it would cease funding Katimavik. I’m sad for all the future young people who will not be able to participate in this great, 35-year-old program—an invaluable volunteer-leadership initiative that enables Canadians between the ages of 18 and 21 to get hands-on work experience while traveling the country.
I did Katimavik between the winter and summer of 2004. Over seven months, I lived in Tweed, Ontario, St. Stephens, New Brunsick and Lorette, Manitoba. I volunteered at an elderly care facility, a charity second hand store, in a primary school and for a municipality. I learned, among other things, how to bake bread, tend a lawn, grow vegetables and organize a charity fashion show. I even published my first piece of paid writing. It was a short article for a Winnipeg magazine called Swerve (now OutWords), and was about coming out of the closet and marching in my first Pride parade, two of my biggest Katimavik firsts (next to my first piercing—my tongue!). My Katima-group, which consisted of 11 young people from across Canada, had three gay guys and two bisexuals. I couldn’t have come out in any better, more supportive circumstances. I (almost) had my first real sexual encounter too (if drunkenly molesting a housemate counts—sorry Cody).
I normally don’t find politicians hot. John Baird? Yikes. So scowly. And, let me be clear, I don’t think you’re hot because of your hunky, boy band good looks (seriously, were you ever in 98 Degrees?). And it’s definitely not because you’re father was Pierre Elliot Trudeau (although he was hot too), or because you can box (not that it hurts), or because you’re over 40 but still look good with your shirt off (although, again, that definitely doesn’t hurt).