Sunday, November 22, 2009

Renovating the Winter's Hut

The Five Constipated Men in the Bible

Rob is in a strange place between heaven and hell. Heaven is the place straight in front of us in the outskirts of Toronto where you can find stores that house huge sheets of granite which we are currently the market for. Hell is the place behind us—downtown Toronto where Rob is chained by his BlackBerry. Right now, we are somewhere in the middle: sitting with the kids in Tim Hortons eating Timbits and drinking French Vanilla cappuccino.

I need to say something first about French Vanilla cappuccino. When I was a sophomore at Sarah Lawrence College, I would buy these tins of French Vanilla cappuccino powder that when mixed with hot water would create a most delicious beverage of sugar and caffeine. I would drink at least four of them before my first class and about 20 over the course of the day. By dinnertime, I had caffeine induced Tourette’s Syndrome and no one would eat dinner with me...I was wired yet peaceful in my solitude...

“Nat, I gotta deal with this call. It’s my client out in Flin Flon."
“Are you fucking serious? I thought we were here to look at granite for Scarajevo?”
“I gotta go. Sorry. This deal is worth millions of dollars.” Rob goes outside and gets on his BlackBerry. I am inside the Tim Hortons with two kids.
“Mama..I don’t feel well. I think I have swine flu.” Says Raffi.
I take a swig of the French Vanilla cappuccino.
“You don’t have swine flu.”
“I do have swine flu...I really do, Mom, really. I am fucking serious.”
“I am fucking serious too.” Chimes in my 2.5 year old daughter, Olivia.
I take another swig and motion to the Tim Bitch behind the counter to make me another.
“Guys. We don’t swear in public.”
“But you just did, Mom. You just swore at Daddy.”
“I know, I know. I shouldn’t have. I’m sorry.”
“If you can swear, I can swear.” Six year olds are beyond aggravating.
“Well, you can’t swear and neither can I.”
Olivia is up on the chair. “I am fucking serious.” She announces.
I down the remnants of the first cup of coffee and then proceed to the second. My vision has turned double and I now see four kids in front of me.
At moments like these, a mother has two choices. You can either put your head down on the table and wait for the moment to pass or you can channel other moments in your life when you have been in similar positions. I chose the latter.
“OK, you guys, ready.” I stood up on my chair with Raffi on one side and Olivia on the other and began to sing:
Me: "There were five."
Olivia: "Five"
Me: "Constipated Men in the Bible."
Raffi: "In the Bible."
Me: "Well, there were five, five, constipated men in the Five Books of Moses."
Raffi: "Well the first."
Olivia: "First"
Me: "Constipated Man was Cain"
Raffi: "He wasn’t Abel."
Me: "And the second"
Olivia: "Second"
Me: "Constipated Man was Noah"
Raffi: "He had an arkful."
Me: "And the Third"
Olivia: "Third"
Me: "Constipated Man was Moses"
RAffi: "He took two tablets."
Me: "And the fourth"
Olivia: "Fourth."
Me: "Constipated Man was Samson"
Raffi: "He brought the House down."
Me: "And the fifth"
Everyone in Tim Hortons: "FIFTH"
Me: "Constipated Man was Baal"
Raffi was confused. “Whose Baal?”
Another mother stood up on her chair:
“He had a Movement!” she sang.
And then me, the unknown mother, and the rest of Tim Horton’s stood on our chairs to sing the finale
There were Five, Five Constipated Men in the Bible, in the Bible
Yes, there were Five, Five Constipated Men in the
We all clapped for each other and sat down.
Rob came back into the Tim Hortons.
“You guys OK?”
“Fine.” I said
“I’m sorry Nat. I am really sorry about this.”
I gave him a kiss. “Don’t worry. We’re cool. Seriously, don’t even think about it anymore.”
“But are you fucking serious?” asked Raffi.
“RAFFI!!” said Raffi’s parents.
“I AM FUCKING SERIOUS!” said Olivia.
The Tim Bitch came over.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “Some of the other customers are getting upset with all the profanity. You need to leave.”
I decided not to argue thinking that my family getting kicked out of Tim Hortons for profanity was the perfect Facebook status update. Which indeed, it was.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Renovating the Winter's Hut


I do not microwave.
I do not microwave because I think it is unsafe.
I do not microwave because I think it is unsafe and causes cancer.
Prior to this morning, I was the only person in the whole world who believed this to be the truth.
After this morning, there are now three people in the whole world who believe this to be the truth.


Every Thursday morning, Le Bruce, Rob and I meet in Scarajevo for a status meeting. This is when we are meant to bring out the SmartBuild spreadsheet and make sure that we are on time and on budget. Since we don’t have a SmartBuild spreadsheet, this exercise is moot. However, Rob prepares a list of items that he wants to raise with Le Bruce and this is how we spend an hour. An hour that once passed can never be retrieved. It is gone forever...

“It is gone forever, I guess. My dream of having a French door fridge.” Rob is trying to reconcile the fact that we don’t have space for a French door fridge. Apparently, we are about 4 inches short.
“Well not really.” Le Bruce said. “I have a French Door fridge at my place and we are a few inches short as well. All that happens is that you can’t open the bottom door all the way.”
“It seems a bit strange that for all this money that we are spending, we won’t have a functional fridge.” Rob and I said in unison.
“It will be functional. It just means you can’t keep a BBQ chicken in the bottom drawer.”
Oh my God. I’m starving.
Didn’t I just watch you eat an entire bowl of granola and yogurt?
“It’s low fat. My personal trainer....”
Le Bruce stops me mid-thought: “Oh, Princess Pee Pee has her own personal trainer now, does she?”
“Princess Pee Pee works full time and has two kids. Princess Pee Pee has no time to go to Spin Classes like you and your little slice of non-Kosher pie.”
“Her name is Tovah...she’s Israeli. And my mother raised four boys and has the Order of Canada for her contribution to medicine.”
“Really...that is interesting. What did she research?”
“The impact of microwaves on people’s health.”

I looked at Bruce. “Really?” I mouthed.
“Yes, you can’t keep a BBQ chicken in the bottom drawer.” Bruce answered and winked at me.
Not that, you beefcake, I mean the microwave.”
Oh that...well, she was investigating whether microwaves cause cancer.”
Oh my God. I believe that too. Rob thinks I’m nuts. What did your mom conclude?
She died before she could prove it definitively. But not of cancer, lupus.
“Well, I would like the flexibility of putting a BBQ chicken in the fridge.” Said Rob.
“You can, Rob, you can.” Le Bruce was getting edgy. “Just not in the bottom drawer.”
“What happens if we lose the microwave and give that space to the fridge?” I offered.
Rob looked at me. “Natalie, we have talked about this a billion times. We are getting a microwave. We have not had one in a decade. It is ridiculous. Everyone has a microwave. They are fantastic. Think about when we visit my mom in Winnipeg and we microwave hotdogs for the kids. They have lunch in 30 seconds. It’s a total time saver.
“And you don’t have any time, right Princess Pee Pee. So what’s it going to be: a microwave so you can attend Spin Class like the rest of us plebs?”
“It’s a plebe, you moron. From “plebeian” meaning “common people.”
“Why don’t you run up to your so-called office where you do your so-called work and check on your fancy lap top that your husband bought you so you could spend your days on Facebook with the friends that you met at your fancy Jewish day school and your fancy Jewish camp?”
I whipped out my iPhone and googled “Plebs.”
“What are you doing, Nat. We need to solve the problem of the fridge. We are short about 4 inches and I don’t know where they are going to come from?”
“Sorry, I’m just checking the standard sizing of a French Door Fridge to confirm the measurement.” I said without understanding a word of what I had just uttered.
Told you.
Ok. Plebs. Fine.
“Natalie. I know the measurement of the fridge. We have to find 4 inches. It’s that simple.” Said Rob.
“Well, I think we should forget about the microwave and use the extra space for the fridge.”
“Not happening.” Said Rob.
“Then I don’t know what to tell you. If you aren’t willing to trade off a cancer-causing instrument of death for fridge flexibility then we have a problem.”
We both looked at Le Bruce. Le Bruce looked at us. He opened his mouth to speak but just before a word came out, You owe me Princess Pee Pee drifted over.
“You know, Rob, she’s right. I don’t have a microwave and I raised a kid without one. My mother raised 4 kids and had the Order of Canada for medicine and didn’t have a microwave. She actually did research on the effects of microwaves on people’s health.”
“And what did she conclude?” asked Rob.
“She died before she could determine anything conclusive. But not of cancer, lupus.”
Rob sat down on the pumpkin that we had bought for Halloween and thought.
Can you hear what he is thinking?” Le Bruce asked.
“Nah. Sometime I think I can tell what Rob is thinking like right now, he is about to ask you what you think we should do.”
“So what would you do, Bruce. You’ve been doing this for a long time. You have seen plenty of kitchens.”
“I’d lose the microwave, Rob. Really I would. Food tastes like shit when its been microwaved. Those hotdogs turn into shrivelled mystery meat when they have been in the microwave and I always find that microwaved milk tastes metallic.....
Rob put his head in his hands: metallic milk....flexible fridge...metallic milk...flexible fridge.
Is he OK?”
Yeah, he’s fine. He just needs to say it a few more times and then he’ll agree with you.”
“OK. OK. Lose the microwave.” Rob said sadly.
YES!!! I jumped up. Bruce gave me a warning look.
“That was not an appropriate response.”

What you so excited about?” asked Rob.
“Oh nothing. Nothing at all. I’m just glad that we solved the problem and can return to marital bliss.”
You really need to get better at keeping your thoughts to yourself. Chided Le Bruce.
Rob, Le Bruce, and I left Scarajevo together with a fragile truce between us.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Renovating the Winter's Hut-a saga in 16 week parts

I have to go Pee

“The plumber is turning off the water, Natalie. If you have to go to the bathroom, go now.” Said Le Bruce two weeks into the renovation.
“No problem. Thanks for letting me know.” I am trying to be more civil toward Le Bruce.
I go back to reading about the history of technology. A minute passes. Another minute passes.
I have to go Pee.

Women who have never gone through the human rights violation known as childbirth cannot relate to the following but those who have will completely understand. It’s called incontinence and it is gross and vile and unbecoming of hip 40-somethings who can still wear low-rise jeans.

I go downstairs. Le Bruce is talking to the plumber about moving the drain pipe.
“The copper pipe is the pipe that brings you water; the black pipe is the pipe that drains the water.” Bruce explained to me.
“That is really interesting.” I said meaning it. “Where does the water come from?”
“What do you mean where does it come from?”
“Where do we get the water from?”
“The ground.” How can she know where Pyongyang is but not know where she gets her water from?
“Yah, I know it comes from the ground, but where does the ground get it from?”
“There is a lake due south of here called Lake Ontario. Perhaps you have heard of it.”
“Right, of course, Lake Ontario. Interesting. See, I’m learning something here.”
“Glad I could be of help.” Said Le Bruce.
“Actually, Bruce, I have a real problem. I need to go to the bathroom.”
“Well, now is not a good time. We are moving a pipe and turned off the water. Didn’t I mention that about 5 minutes ago?
“Yeah, I know. I’m really sorry. But I have to go the can.”
Le Bruce thought for a moment. He does this by putting his arms over his washboard stomach.
“I have a solution.” He said. “There is a Port O Potty outside. You can use that.” Take that Princess. He looked deep into my eyes.
I am not a princess. I looked back into his eyes.
Then use the outhouse. C’mon. You can do it. Think of all those workers’ hairy asses that have been squatting on it for the last week.
Trying to keep a straight face while not retching is harder than you think.
The electrician is cute and looks like he practices basic hygiene...the carpenter washes once a week...
The Demo crew, Natalie. Think Demo crew. I can tell you that at least one of them recently got out of jail and the other lives in a halfway house. Bruce returns my stare.
“To the outhouse.” I sang. “Thanks for the suggestion.” I walk out my front door and gingerly open the turquoise door of the Port o Potty.
The smell knocks me out and it is only by the hand of God that I am prevented from falling into the hole to certain death or at the very least, succumbing to a sonic shower at the nearby hospital. I tumble out of the outhouse. Le Bruce is watching me and giggling. I give him the thumbs up and go in again, but again I am rendered unconscious and fall back against the door and out into the fresh air.
Le Bruce holds his nose and points back to the Port O Potty. Clearly, he is enjoying himself. I go back in and hold my nose. But I don’t sit down. Instead, I stand there with my nose plugged for 2 minutes hoping that this a male’s perception of how long it takes a woman to urinate.
When I come out, and take a deep breath, the parting scent of the outhouse drifts out of my olfactory nerve. I have not vomited and for this I am grateful.
Le Bruce opens my front door and claps. “See, not so bad. Princess.”
“Yup. No biggie. Just had to get used to it.” I go back up to my office. I am in pain. For the umpteenth time, I wish I was a male. A male who had no compunction about pissing into a bottle. My roommate Greg Hite did this when we lived together at Oxford. He would pee in Coke bottles and line them up under his bed. Once a week, he would empty them and start over. My mother turned visibly green when she visited me and saw the bottles under the bed. Today, I yearned for such bottles and for the physical component that would allow me to fill them.

“Oh well,” I thought to myself knowing that Le Bruce was too far away to hear my thoughts.” I guess I’ll have to go up to the Korean Pork Bone soup joint and use their can.
I went back downstairs. “See ya Bruce.” I called. “Want me to get you some pork bone soup?”
“Nope. Kosher. My mother would roll over in her grave if I ate pork soup.”
"Pork BONE soup." I corrected him.
Whatever. Its not good for you. It will give you the shits and then you will have to use the Port o Potty again....” Le Bruce crossed his arms over his washboard stomach.
Are you patronizing me? I inquired politely.
Well, someone needs to look after you. Clearly, you are not very good at it. Le Bruce thought smugly.
“OK. Just thought I’d ask. Trying to be polite and all.”
“Enjoy, Enjoy.” Le Bruce turned to walk back into Scarajevo.
I grabbed my keys and then I had a Eureka moment. The same kind that Hugh Laurie has on every single episode of House and yet after 5 years, it still does not bore me.
I ran down Bloor Street clutching my mom’s housekeys. Dufferin, Gladstone, Havelock, that street after Havelock that I never remember...Ossington. Thank God you are only 5 streets away!!
I ran down Ossington to number 119 ½ (I’m not really is 119 ½), opened the door, felt the first sad little tinkle down my leg, ripped the zipper on my only pair of jeans, and relieved myself. I sat there for a minute letting the pain of the experience slowly ebb. Then I stood up, flushed, washed my hands, and came outside.
“Hello, Hello, whose there. Is there a burgler there. Who is in the house. I have a baseball bat you know.” My mother, who is known to all simply as Bev, flew down the stairs in her mauve bathrobe carrying a child’s baseball bat.
“Oh its you, Natalie. Come in, come in. Would you like some tea, I have some organic toast and soy milk.”
“Thanks Mom. Thank you so much. But I am actually en route to get some Pork Bone soup. I just needed to use your can.”
“Why can’t you use your bathroom? Oy, its that renovation again. So hard on you, sweetie.” She pats my hair. I’m 40 years old and yet I appreciate the gesture.
“It is really hard on me, Bev. I have to tell you. I thought I could handle it being a former camper and all, but I’m too old for this.”
“I know I know. Can I tell you something, I am 67 and I still can’t shit in other people’s toilets.”
“So what do you can’t hold it in forever.”
“I take Imodium.”
“Seriously. Imodium? Wow. I never thought of that.”
“It’s great. If you take one, you won’t shit for a week.”
“Oh my God. What a relief. Do you have some kicking around.”
“Of course. I have a closet full.” And she did. Literally. One one side was her Imodium. On the other, ExLax. I helped myself to a few packets.
“So now, what you do is, take an Imodium, then get the Pork Bone Soup and you won’t shit it out until this time next week. You can then plan to come here and use the bathroom. It’s terrific for organizing your time.”
“Oh Bev. You are a saint among women. Now answer me this: what about when you need to make a Number One.”
“Oh that’s easy. She showed me under her burgundy bed skirt. There, lined up were several Coke bottles. “Your roommate from Oxford taught me this trick.” If I am going somewhere, I just slip one of these into my handbag. I often take the Prada in such a circumstance so as not to arouse suspicions."
“But how do you do it? How do you pee though the small opening?”
She produced an adorable pink funnel. "Its called a Urinelle. I picked one up in Paris. The French are so functional, n’est-ce pas? Here. Take it. You can use it for the renovation.”
“Thanks Bev. You are the best!” I gave her a big hug and went back home. So excited was I to try my Urinelle that I forgot about the Pork Bone Soup.
“Where’s the Pork Soup?” Asked Le Bruce as he peered at me through Scarajevo.
“Uhhhh...I forgot it.” I said skipping up the stairs to the third floor bathroom where I would be far away to think and pee in private.
Ah Hah....Princess Pee Pee...I saw your Urinelle!! do you know about Urinelles?
I make it my personal business to know how the female body all its miraculous ways....
But I was out of range and his thinking never reached me. I went into the bathroom on the third floor and put the Urinelle in a safe place between two packages of Stayfree Maxi Pads. I went back downstairs, popped an Imodium, and set back out to get my Pork Bone soup.
Princess Pee Pee. I looked at him. Really, can’t you do better than that. My 6 year old is more creative.I slammed the door before he could think of a response.