Guest Post on Ten Things I’ve Learned

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Signs of the Apocalypse

Is it asking too much for “PORT” to burn out next?


Let’s just file this one under What the Fuck.


Located at Queen and Shaw, Shaw We Go hooked me with its intriguing blend of pun and non sequitur.

The subtly-applied duct tape is a nice touch. (Tip for restaurateurs: Don’t put prices on your sign unless you plan on going out of business soon.)

But my favourite part is the address. Just in case you thought this sign was for their other location.

I Saw Him Standing There

I’d make a terrible paparazzo.

For some reason whenever I see a celebrity, my knee-jerk response is denial.

“That can’t be (Famous Person),” my brain snorts. “Why the hell would (Famous Person) be (shopping for shoes/eating a burger/walking instead of using jet propulsion)? As if.”

Even if I do think I recognize someone famous, I have an almost pathological desire to avoid them.

Maybe I think I’ll do something stupid, like compliment their latest divorce. Or perhaps I’m afraid they’ll smile and nod while I babble like an idiot till I realise they’re wearing a Bluetooth.

Thankfully, Cameron is used to my anti-stalking.

A few years ago we visited Montreal and had lunch at a vegan café. We were just about to chow down on our faux BLTs when Cameron nodded.

“Hey, isn’t that Heath Ledger?”

I squinted at a stringy-haired figure.


“I’m pretty sure that’s Heath Ledger.”

I looked again. Ignoring the physical evidence in front of me, I did a quick mental equation:

Heath Ledger = Australian = Meat-eater

This is a vegan restaurant. Ergo, it can’t be Heath Ledger.

“The Toronto Film Festival’s on right now,” I argued. “Why would he be here in Montreal?”

Cameron shrugged and went to the washroom. Just then a tiny, porcelain-skinned woman appeared from behind a pillar. The stringy-haired guy stood behind her while Michelle Williams’ doppelganger paid the bill.

By the time Cameron returned, they’d donned their dark sunglasses and left.

Later I found out that Ledger filmed I’m Not There in Montreal. He did make a day-trip to Toronto for the film festival, so I guess we’ll never really know for sure if it was him.

Martin Sheen, on the other hand, is ummistakable.

Cameron and I were standing in the subway when a train pulled in with a familiar face in the window.

“That’s Martin Sheen,” my brain said helpfully. “We’d better not get on that car.”

I started heading for the train car beside his.

“That’s Martin Sheen!” Cameron yanked me towards the other car.

We sat across from him for four stops. I stared at the floor the whole way. Just because he’s one of my favourite actors, in my favourite film of all time (Apocalypse Now), I didn’t want to ruin his day by saying so.

Besides, he probably wanted to be left alone. Why else would he take the subway?

A few years later I was walking down Yonge Street when I saw Barry Humphries (aka Dame Edna), standing in the middle of the sidewalk.

He was wearing a tweed hat, waistcoat and breeches – BREECHES for chrissake – and peering up at a gargoyle.

“That looks like Barry Humphries,” I mused. The eccentric, iconoclastic, tweed-wearing Aussie comedian.

I reprimanded myself for gawking as I walked around what was obviously not him.

An hour later I passed a theatre plastered with Dame Edna posters.

OK, so my brain is stupid.

In a way, it actually helped my first brush with greatness. When I was 18, I went on a “Beatles tour” of England with a guy named Mark.

For five weeks we travelled the country, from Abbey Road and Apple headquarters to the Cavern Club in Liverpool. We even rode the Magical Mystery Tour bus. (Yes, we were geeks.)

On our last day, we decided to visit Abbey Road one more time. Some American tourists – four guys from Boston – asked if we knew where Paul’s house was.

Cavendish Avenue is surprisingly tricky to find. Fans remove street signs as souvenirs, which is pretty impressive considering they’re bolted to concrete. When Paul moved there in ’66, the neighbours were horrified to learn who’d bought number 7. Screaming girls held vigil outside for years until he got hitched.

It was one of the first places we’d visited. I read somewhere that Paul no longer lived there, but wanted to get some photos anyway.

Crossing our fingers the new owners weren’t home, Mark gave me a leg up over the wall. I unlatched the gate and giggled as we took turns posing at the front door.

“That’s it. The one with the green gate.”

As I pointed it out to the Americans, the gate opened up and an old woman stuck her head out. Probably the wife of the stockbrocker who lived there. She waved us over.

“He’s not here,” she said in a low voice.



No one breathed.

“If you come back after six, he’ll be here.”

She turned and shut the gate.

“Yeah, right. Paul McCartney still lives here. And his maid told us his schedule.”

We all had a good laugh and went our separate ways. But not before we agreed to meet again that evening.

Sure enough, at five after six the gate opened, and this time Paul motioned us over. He signed autographs, posed for photos, and chatted with each of us. Then he was gone.

One of the guys had rented a car, and we piled inside. When we got to the end of the street, we all started screaming.

Yeah, that’s me under all that hair.

Top Ten Songs for Improvisers

A purely personal list of improvisation-inspired genius.

10. The Party – Godley & Crème

For the young ‘uns, these guys were funny and eccentric long before funny and eccentric was cool. They also elevated music videos to an art form in the ’80s. This song paints such a vivid picture in my head every time I hear it.

9. Gimme Some Money – Spinal Tap

A classic. You only see a snippet in the film, but the video is a brilliant recreation of live TV performances circa ’64. Nirvana probably nicked it for their “In Bloom” video. Note the “Beatles bow” at the end.

8. Chatroulette Jam – Merton

True improvisation in music. Love the people’s reactions.

7. You Know My Name, Look Up The Number – The Beatles

The real Fab Four f*cking around in studio. Brian Jones (ex-The Rolling Stones) is on sax.

6. Jizz in my Pants – Lonely Island

This is funny shit. Or jizz. Whatever.

5. Weird Al – White and Nerdy

Yeah, he’s got a million parodies, but this one’s pretty damn funny.

4. Triangle Man – They Might Be Giants

To quote Robin Archer, this just might be a perfect album. If you don’t own it, do yourself a favour and buy “Flood.”

3. Tribute – Tenacious D

Before Conchords, there was Tenacious D. They still rock.

2. Regular Everyday Normal Guy – Jon LaJoie

Yeah, Canada. Represent!

1. Business Time – Flight of the Conchords

These guys are pretty effing hilarious. A special shout-out to Murray.

Things I Think About When I’m Lying Awake At Night

Wonder what time it is? I’d check, but I’d have to turn on my cell phone. Still pretty dark out, so it can’t be too early. Or late. Whatever. An iPhone would be nice, but I worry about radiation. It’s supposed to be one of the worst mobile devices for that. Can’t believe I just said “mobile devices.” Been working on Rogers too long. Like when I used to work on Chrysler, and I cringed whenever people said “Chryzler,” even though I pronounced it that way for years before someone corrected me. The pillow’s hot. Stupid pillow. Can’t turn it over, because it’s only contoured on one side. If I turn it over I’ll wake up with a crick in my neck. Think cool thoughts. Maybe I should meditate. Get my mind to settle down. Let’s try a little breath awareness. Inhale four counts…exhale four counts…inhale four counts…are my eyes still open? Man, those drapes must be filthy. It’s been what, two years? Two-and-a-half? I’d vacuum them, but I’m afraid of falling out the window. Why do I get vertigo on a step-stool, but not when I’m on the 85th floor of a skyscraper? An iPhone would be nice, though. I don’t really care about the apps and shit. I just want it for the microphone. That way I could dictate stuff when it popped in my head at night, instead of having to scribble notes in the dark. It’s like writing when you’re high. You think you’ll be able to read those squiggly lines, but when you finally come down you realize there aren’t any vowels. Or consonants. There’s an app now that lets you X-ray your body. If that doesn’t sound alarm bells about the radiation that thing gives off, nothing will. The last time I had an X-ray, the nurse covered me with a lead apron and left the room. Neither move particularly filled me with confidence. Still, now that I think about I could X-ray my toe to see if it’s broken, or only sprained. The Mayans were probably right. By 2012 we’ll all be bombarded with so much radiation from wi-fi and cell phones and LED TVs and laptops and cordless phones and microwaved burritos that the aliens won’t need to kill anyone. They’ll just pick their way through our cancer-riddled corpses and start colonizing. Or maybe they won’t. Maybe they’ll say, “You know what, KraaaVssnii? Let’s give this cesspool a pass. It needs a few millennia to recover from human ‘progress.’ Oh look, an iPhone.”

Is that an owl? It sounds too stereotypical. Hoot, hoot-hoot. Hoot, hoot-hoot. Hoot, hoot-hoot. OK, now it’s getting annoying. Hoot, hoot-hoot. That’s your whole repertoire? Listen to the other birds: they’re all chirpy and melodic. At least throw some beatboxing in there. You’re a bird, dammit. Surely you can scratch? Oh crap. Birds. Must be later than I thought. Or earlier. Whatever.

What time is it?

Because “Saw V” Was Already Taken

A few years ago I bought an epilator. That’s a fancy French word for a thing that rips hair out by the roots.

The first time I used it I nearly passed out from the pain. It felt like a thousand soldier ants biting my calves and leaving red welts in their wake.

Like Secret anti-perspirant, pantyhose, or the photocopier, I can only assume it was designed by a man, but made for a woman.  A sadistic man and a very masochistic woman. How else to explain the name stamped in lilac letters: Gently Caress Gold.

(Did I mention the bruises?)