Archive for November, 2009


Not Quite Schoolhouse Rock


Scene:  A large ballroom in a historic Ottawa hotel.


A:  Hey, Mr. Member of Parliament!  This sure is a fancy party, don’tcha think?


Mr. MP:  Well, hello there, little A!  Welcome to Ottawa!  This isn’t just any old party, this is a fundraiser.  If this were a real celebration, we would be having fine Alberta-raised beef instead of this rubbery chicken.


A:  I notice that it hasn’t stopped you from cleaning your plate, though!  It must be hard work being an MP.


Mr. MP:  If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my 12 months…no wait…13 months… in Ottawa, it’s that there’s always a free meal waiting for an MP.  Pancake breakfasts…power lunches…and look, you just paid for my dinner!  But we MPs do indeed work hard for our free meals.  This year alone, Parliament sat for 110 days – that’s way up from last year!


A:  It’s no wonder you’re all so cranky during Question Period – you must be exhausted!  Speaking of which, what did you think of Don Newman‘s* keynote speech this evening, about civility in Parliament and Canadians not wanting to see another election anytime soon?  He basically told all of you that you should learn to get along.


Mr. MP:  Oh that crazy Don Newman and his radical ideas…whoever heard of such a thing?


A:  So, it’s not possible for the parties on Parliament Hill to ever come to an agreement or work together on an issue?


Mr. MP:  Little A, it’s not that simple.  You see, Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition has only one goal to achieve.


A:  What’s that?


Mr. MP:  To remove my governing party from power, of course! 


A:  Oh. [pause]  I thought that all MPs were elected to serve the public and come to a reasonable consensus on issues to promote the common welfare of all Canadians.


Mr. MP:  [belly laugh] Only in your ideal world, Little A.  More wine?



Little A and her new MP friend celebrate one more day on Parliament Hill.



*  Have you ever noticed that a disproportionate number of famous Canadian journalists are named “Newman”?  There’s Don Newman, Peter C. Newman, Kevin Newman…weird, eh?


The Price of Catching a Butterfly

After suffering from brain fever and forgetting all about my tickets, I finally saw Madama Butterfly.

For those of you unfamiliar with the story, it’s about a young Japanese woman who falls in love with an American, marries him, bears his child*, and then waits three years for him to return to Japan. 

Of course, he does return…with his new wife.  Oh, and he wants to take the child back to America, too.

Everyone in the show knows that Pinkerton will break Butterfly’s heart. 

Everyone, of course, except for her.

The singing of Cio Cio San was exquisitely heartbreaking, but the line that will stay with me from the show belongs to Pinkerton:


“I am seized by a wild desire to pursue her, even though I should crush her fragile wings in doing so.”


When we are children, we chase innocently after butterflies, blissfully unaware that we are likely doing permanent damage to the object of our desire.

When we are adults, we chase with our eyes wide open, yet wilfully blind to the repercussions of our actions.

The caught butterfly trembles almost as much as the hand that encloses around it.

If you hold onto it, it will die.

If you let it go, it will never fly again, not as it did before.


* As if the little guy who played the son (named Sorrow, of course) wasn’t adorable enough, he clearly had the hiccups during last night’s performance.   Watching his little shoulders go up and down while the adults sang on stage was hilarious.


So, it turns out that Carole King was right

I know that all of my loyal chickens readers undoubtedly think that I live some kind of glamourous lifestyle.  It’s all about the drama, the friendly neighbourhood drug dealers, the shopping, and of course, the brunch.  Life in the big city, and all that.

Believe it or not, it’s not always so glamourous. 

Yes, that is my tongue, firmly planted in cheek.

This weekend, while en route to a fabulous brunch in a fabulous Mercedes with a fabulous friend, my old foe motion sickness decided to rear her ugly, nausea-inducing head.

She and I go back a long way.

After decades of dealing with, and mostly hiding, this affliction, I am acutely aware of every phase of nausea.  I have mastered the technique of deep breathing and the zen-like focus required to ensure that no accidents occur.  The goal is always to hide the affliction from others, largely because it causes others to react with panic.   The prospect of projectile vomiting  has a tendency to bring out strange responses in people.  Go figure.

I’ve vomited in cars, out the door of cars,  buses, (not boats, but hey, that could change), back alleyways, major city streets, into napkins, bags, towels, and well, probably my hand.

I cover up the shame I feel at receiving so much negative attention by laughing and waving it off. 

“I’m fine, I’ll be fine,” I protest meekly, as I die a little inside.  I remember telling jokes to an entire bus load of high school kids in the south of Spain, making them laugh in between throwing up into a hastily-obtained trash can.  Keep ’em laughing, I say, and maybe they won’t hate you quite as much for retching violently for an hour on the way to Morocco.

It is difficult to explain the shameful feeling.  The feeling of being a child again, feeling so incredibly sick, and then being antagonized for it.  For being the one who makes difficult, or completely ruins a family outing.  Always being the one child left standing with an adult at the theme park as the others run off to enjoy the latest barf-inducing ride.

Feeling nauseous makes me feel weak and vulnerable, and so I do my best to never mention it, and to hide it at every opportunity.  I would rather stop talking and stare out the window of the car for two hours, silently repressing sickness than admit to you that I am not well.

Yesterday, I somehow managed to make myself so ill that I had to physically leap out of the Mercedes at a stop sign, for fear of being sick, and needed almost an entire hour at my friend’s house to get rid of the sickly shakes and cold sweat, before I could even think of eating the beautifully prepared brunch.

I felt ridiculous and pathetic as my friends kept an eye on me with that look that I dread, the one I interpret as confusion and pity.  Eventually, I recovered, ate something and had a good time catching up.

On the way home, my driving companion and I decided that I was well enough to run a few errands. 

“I knew that something was wrong with you, I just didn’t know what it was.  You just weren’t acting like yourself.”

“I’m so, so sorry.  Really I am.  It’s so embarrassing.”

“Don’t be sorry!  We’re your friends and we care about you.  If you don’t tell us what’s wrong, we can’t help you.”

That may have been one of the best things that anyone has ever said to me.  It may have been one of the best moments of my life.