Sunday, February 26, 2012

Smoke and Incense

Throughout my life, I’ve always had a heightened sense of smell--sometimes I’m grateful for it, and sometimes not, depending on the situation. I’ve also always had an aptitude for adventure, or rather some might say adventure finds me, depending on the situation.

I bought my top-floor condo brand new almost 11 years ago, and have had the same stupid smoke alarms ever since. You know the kind, the ones that go off at even a hint of something being over-cooked in the oven or on the stove and then you’ve got to grab a kitchen towel and start fanning and waving it like crazy to make it stop. Many-a-time have I had to silence the damn things, only to end up taking them off the ceiling so I could cook in peace. I also love to burn incense but hadn’t done so for many years simply because the smoke alarms just couldn’t take it--they would freak out immediately. Now to be fair to them, they have done their duty, especially in this situation...

Three Christmas’ ago, when I was still in the stage of having a 10 foot real Christmas tree in my home (I have vaulted ceilings), there was a major incident that scared the crap out of me. I had a bunch of candles lit during my big Christmas Party, and I had gone to bed that night forgetting to extinguish one of them. Unbeknownst to me, and thanks to all the old wicks in the bottom of the holder, it burned all day Sunday and at 3am Monday morning I awoke from my sleep to the deafening sound of my smoke alarm. I jumped out of bed, tripped over the cat (what a surprise), and ran into my living room to find a 3 foot flame shooting out of this candle holder, right next to my gigantic tree. I tried to use water to put it out, but the holder had melted and the oil-based varnish reacted to the water and the flame shot even higher. I was able to smother it eventually, and I’m pretty sure I lost a few days off my life that night. The next day I was in Canadian Tire buying replacement fire extinguishers for my expired ones--it also gave me an excuse to stop by the local fire station just I could make sure I was buying the right ones (wink wink).

Then there have been times where I was well aware (eventually) that there was smoke in my home, and I didn’t need the incessant sound of the alarm blaring to determine that. For example...

I enjoy my baths--a time for relaxation, yes? I had the spa music going, the scented oils were permeating the air amongst the bath water, and of course, the candles were lit. I have a giant mirror in my guest bathroom (which is where the tub is) so when had my foot up on the toilet seat cover to begin removing the nail polish from my toes and I started to smell something burning along with hearing a weird crackling sound, I was grateful to have the giant mirror there. Why might you ask--because as I looked up, I noticed the hair piled on top of my head with a clip was on fire--I had tilted my head into one of the flames. I was quickly able to put it out but of course within seconds the smoke alarm outside the bathroom went off--that, coupled with the trauma of almost burning my hair off while using flammable nail polish remover and attempting to silence the damn alarm without ripping it from the ceiling, it is fair to say that any potential relaxation was long gone. I still went through with the bath, even though the smell of scented oils were nullified by the lingering stink of burnt hair, my iPod shuffled into heavy metal, and I was swearing up a storm--yeah, real relaxing. I also began to think that maybe my cat Dexter and I are more alike then I thought (see blog on Dexter).

After hearing some of these stories, you know your friends love you when they are suggesting, through their gifts, that perhaps you should reconsider lighting things on fire in your home, like candles, for example. My good friend Sheral gave me a beautiful candle holder one Christmas with what I thought was a used candle in it--turns out, it was one of those fake candles. Thanks Sheral.

After much deliberation, I finally decided to replace my old smoke alarms with new, photoelectric ones that were less sensitive to cooking, etc. and save myself the potential heart attack every time I was in the kitchen. It was very exciting at first--I could cook to my little heart’s desire with no alarms going off--I even spilt something all over the bottom of my oven, and it still didn’t go off.

Naturally, I felt it was time to start burning incense again. What can I say, I like the smoke of incense--and not the “stick” kind--I need the real stuff--the resin. My two amazing friends who live on Galiano Island also contributed to the cause by getting me some cedar rope that I could burn, and after a visit there and a trip to Banyan Books, I was loaded up on all things that smoked and ready to really test the limits of my new smoke alarms.

I was quite surprised that for months and months I really let it rip, and still the smoke alarms would not go off. I even managed to convince myself that my new alarms were special, and that they could tell the difference between incense smoke and real fire smoke (in retrospect, I do realize that was quite stupid to believe that smoke alarms were that advanced). Now all the while, all I could think of is maybe these things aren’t working--what if there was an incident like that Christmas where I almost burnt down my home? So with that in mind, I really pushed it--I closed my doors so they were only open a crack and lit as much incense as I could at once. When I could barely see my hand in front of my face and when I was sure my neighbours were going to file a complaint against me, the sweet sound of the smoke alarm was in the air. I never thought I would be so happy to hear the alarm go off. Once I passed that euphoric stage (it also might have been the incense), I realized that these alarms were 10 times as loud and I had a bit of work to do! As I ran around opening doors and turning on fans, relief washed over me as I knew that my smoke alarms were on my side, and that I could enjoy the incense I love so much, in moderation of course. So what if my hearing is now slightly impaired and Dexter was seriously traumatized by the noise and smoke alarms and I can now live cohesively under one roof.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Walk Down the Wrong Aisle

I happened to be in London Drugs on my way home late tonight, only to find myself embroiled in a teenage conversation about the birds and the bees. Everyone that knows me well knows that I am always happy to talk to anyone, anytime, anyplace. As you can imagine, that philosophy can do wonders for creating adventures and some seriously funny stories, or, as I like to call them, “incidents”. And sometimes, you can’t just help but overhear something that makes you snicker or smirk, unbeknownst to the group it’s referenced to.

In this case, I was waiting at the pharmacy to pick a prescription for my daughter, when four teenagers (three girls and a guy) came over with bountiful presence (as teenagers normally do) to the cold medicine section. One of them quickly picked out what was needed and then they just couldn’t help themselves as they found their way to the pregnancy tests. Not two seconds later did I feel absolutely sorry for the guy that was with them, as there was no way he could keep up with the conversation around all the “feminine products” that were so openly displayed on the shelf in front of them. They heard me give a little laugh, and that just exasperated the situation given they loved the attention. I watched them move on and I paid my bill and started to head down one of the aisles.

Of course, it was the aisle where not only the teenagers were hanging out but it was also the condom aisle. All I was going to do was walk by, but I just “couldn’t help myself” (that phrase is for my friend Todd who says that about me all the time). They were engrossed in a conversation about the g-spot, and were seriously misinformed from the sounds of it. I’m not sure why I felt the need to stop and correct what I heard. And I’m not sure why 15 minutes later we were still all talking, but for a split second, I felt that I could most certainly teach some kind of sex education class, and so did they for that matter. They seemed pretty stoked about this new information...that was a bit concerning to me upon reflection. I must say though, that I was quite impressed with my knowledge level, and coupled with my public speaking skills, I started to attract the attention of other shoppers that seemed interested in the subject matter.

When the announcement came on that the store was closing, I tried to bid them farewell, only to be invited to a house party on the weekend...yikes. Now it was getting a little uncomfortable, so I wished them well, reiterated a few key points before we parted, and got the hell out of there before the undercover police showed up.

Did I just help shape the potential sex lives of these four young people for the better...or did I just create a disaster for their parents? You might be wondering if this incident will deter me in the future from talking to a group of teenagers looking at condoms in a drug store--absolutely not. Will it make me think if I should be looking at a new career choice--most definitely.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dexter the Cat

They say all cats have nine lives...I think it may be possible that my cat has a few extra. Why would I suggest that notion, you may ask?

It was just after my divorce, and having grown up with cats, I felt the need to have a cat by my side during that difficult time. So off to the animal shelter I went--incidentally, it was right around Halloween, so there was an inordinate amount of black cats available which I thought was a little strange, yet how perfect because that’s exactly what I was looking for. I found him in amongst all the weirded-out, fur-missing, eye-scratching bunch--a somewhat docile, one and a half year old black rag-doll who immediately head-butted me with affection. His tag said his name was Shadow and that he was chatty--but he didn’t make a sound. After a bit of paperwork and a payment on VISA, I packed him into the car--where he “chatted” all the way home. Fortunately for him, the chattiness stopped when we arrived at my place, and he was known as Dexter thereafter.

I’ve always thought Dexter was very special from the start, and he has managed to prove it over and over. One of the first “incidents” was him thinking that the metal rail on the deck of my 4th floor condo was wood--so one day, over he went, and thankfully landed on my first floor neighbour’s patio table, with a barking dog next to it. She brought him upstairs and he was as stiff as a board, with a kind of Pet Semetary look in his eye, but still all in one piece. You can still see the scratch marks on my railing. Being a rag-doll, he tends to have many dog-like qualities, such as hiding and burying things (like my Betsey Johnson rings)--I can’t imagine what I will find when I sell my place some day. He learned how to pull the leaver door handles in my place--this was discovered one night when he was banished to my bedroom due to a friend’s allergy, and we all freaked out when we saw the door being opened from the inside.

His insatiable appetite has been the cause of a many laughs. My friend and her teenage troop came over one night to watch scary movies. It was a particularly quiet part in the movie, and no one was moving, yet we could hear crunching sounds--it wasn’t Freddy coming to get us, rather it was Dexter with his head in a bowl of chips. He has lit himself on fire many times without even realizing it--apparently his hope of gaining food somehow far outweighs keeping the fur on his body. He has tried numerous times to catch birds on my deck, but feels that just looking at them obsessively from a distance will do the trick. I have literally, to no avail, tried to show him the fish in my pond so he can see the potential food swimming around in there but he continues to not recognize them as such, perhaps seeing that the effort to catch them is just too great.

In an attempt to prove me wrong that he is a bit on the not-so-bright side, Dexter actually was successful in learning how to use the toilet like a human (see photo insert). Three months of training, along with my friends and family having to put up with, in disgust I might add, removing a stainless bowl full of cat litter in the toilet between the bowl and the seat whenever they came over, and it was done. I always stare at people in disbelief when they ask “That’s great that he uses the toilet, but does he flush?” I also find it awkward when I accidentally walk in on him using the facilities--I feel the need to apologize and then slowly back away and close the door so he can have a little privacy as he gives me a very weird, embarrassed sort of look. There are also clear signs that he is trying to get things moving, so to speak, when he starts tearing around my condo at lightening speed--then

I hear him get up on the toilet, and it all makes sense.

I still maintain that he is trying to kill me each and every day--the weaving between my legs as I walk, the evil staring, and sitting over my air passageways as I sleep at night--it’s all to get rid of me so he can have the place to himself. I have a friend in Kelowna who expects that Dexter has his poker-playing cat buddies over during the day while I’m at work. You can actually see the look of disgust on his face if I’m home unexpectedly--it’s as if his plans have been thwarted and he has the right to revenge.

All in all, I love my little furry buddy. Ok, he’s not so little and furry is an understatement. I still say that everyone who has ever eaten at my home has ingested at least a small amount of Dexter’s fur--it’s even come on trips with me. Just to give you an idea of Dexter’s size, the veterinarian's office has a chart from 1 to 10, from light to heavy. Three years ago, Dexter was a 7--”Some jiggling when walking”. Two years ago, he was an 8--”Noticeable folds that sway to and fro while moving.” I’m pretty sure we’re holding at an 8 still.

Dexter will be 12 in May, and not one day goes by where I have any regrets taking him home on that fateful day. He has been a true source of comfort, enjoyment, and unconditional love to me. The question is, what would he say about me?