I love my RTV (with apologies to Dire Straits)

Ok. I’m just going to come out and say it. I still love reality TV. Surprised? I didn’t think so. And I get it. Must not seem like much of a stretch for a self-proclaimed shallow person to confess to whiling away her time watching real people, in the best case scenarios sing and dance, and in the worst, lie and cheat to their perhaps worthy, perhaps not, opponents. I mean what could be more relaxing than sitting in your warm and comfy den, munching on a bowl of low-fat, organic, non-gmo, gluten free, and I’m guessing kosher, Boom Chicka Pop (with real butter) while watching 16 people share a rather meagre bowl of rice topped with a protein that just moments ago was crawling beneath their feet? Or tagging along in Costa Rica as Mike and Henry amicably manage to reconcile their very different expectations and settle upon, what turns out to be the winter home of their dreams.

But make no mistake. Even I have to admit that not all reality TV is created equal. I long ago gave up on what is now known as the “Bachelor Franchise” when I tired of the rather poor outcomes, not to mention the not so questionable morality of the whole thing. After all, the break-up rate of made for TV couples compares only to that of those “forever” junior high romances that last until your “one and only” shows up at school wearing a terribly mismatched ensemble and you realize you could never have children with someone who mistakenly thought orange and red was a “thing”. And honestly, I never watched the Kardashians or any of the Housewives because, well really, who cares? After all, not a one of those people have “outplayed, outwitted or outlasted” anyone. And none of them have ever been winners.

Now I know the world isn’t made up entirely of shallow people but I must not be the only fish in this sea. These reality shows are a lot like my family. They have longevity. Take Survivor. Now starting it’s 40th season we first found ourselves watching a naked guy inappropriately prance around in front of some rather shocked and dismayed teammates, not to mention millions of viewers, over 20 years ago. I’m guessing a lot has happened to you, I know it has to me, over the past 20 years but not a lot has happened to Survivor. Other than the addition of a few twists and a hidden idol or two, Survivor has pretty much stayed the same. People come to an Island, walk around in their underwear, play a few games, make some plans that work and some that don’t, most get voted off the Island, miraculously having found the rest of their clothes, and depart with a few bitter or less frequently, encouraging words for their remaining tribe mates. The last guy standing gets a million bucks. And this happens over and over again. Aside from that money thing, if I called you up and you told me your life was as boring as this sounds, I’d suggest you go get yourself a hobby. So the question that comes to my mind is why the heck do people (including me) continue to watch? You can only imagine that trying to answer this question has required more than a little introspection on my part. And let me tell you, your guess is very probably as good as mine. But because I’m rather invested in this dilemma at the moment and you are most likely not, I’ll give it my best shot. 

Let me just say that the talent (or not) related shows are the low hanging fruit on this quest. First of all, for those who don’t know, there’s nothing new under this sun. These shows have been around forever. I mean who doesn’t remember watching Frank Augustyn make his television debut on Tiny Talent Time? And I’m pretty sure just about everyone can name at least one celeb whose first step on the ladder to fame and fortune was made on the Star Search stage. Still, over these many years, we seem to be captivated by the prospect of watching seemingly ordinary people’s lives transformed overnight. Perhaps there’s that little niggle that makes us think if they can do it, well why can’t we? Of course in my case I can’t sing or dance, I’m certainly no acrobat, have never performed a magic trick or been shot out of a cannon, so you won’t find me on that stage anytime soon. But I can watch others take the plunge. So I do. And apparently many of you do too. 

It might also be reasonable to surmise that viewers get some sort of satisfaction from figuring out which new house, beach bungalow, private island or “I just won the lottery” mansion that heretofore complete strangers will finally decide upon, having completed an exhaustive search of three, or at the most, four potential properties. I suppose the premise is that if I can’t buy a bargain island somewhere in the South Pacific I can, at the very least, live vicariously through those who do. And I am quite sure that most of us believe if we just watch enough people make incredible cupcake creations, that somehow, through osmosis, we too will soon be using our home kitchens to churn out these tasty delights by the dozens. Enough to keep us glued to the tube? So it would seem.

Admittedly I’m a bit more flummoxed as to why people continue to tune in as 16 or so complete strangers enter a house and agree to have millions of viewers watch as they eat, sleep, shower, fight, lie, cheat, cry and do who knows what else. Well we do know but we would never admit to watching. Honestly. Seems to me that most of us could just attend a family reunion for that kind of entertainment. Minus the “who knows what else” stuff of course. At any rate, not only is big brother watching us but clearly we have been watching Big Brother as it is now in its 20th year. Which brings us full circle to the people stranded on those islands. This time around Survivor has brought back 20 of its previous winners. But here’s the thing. At the end of what has been billed as a groundbreaking season there will be only one winner. And that means all of the other 19 winners will now be losers. Hmmmm. What time does that Kardashian show come on? 

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Misery Loves Miserable Company – Or Does It?

This might not be a shallow blog. I’ll let you decide. 

Those of you who have stuck with me over the many, many years of this blog will know that I don’t indulge in what has become a yearly tradition of making promises that are, unfortunately, most often destined to be broken. Even so, I have always resolved to be as honest as possible (although it’s not always possible) with my readers so here’s something you might not have imagined about me. Hard as it might be to believe, I wasn’t always at the top of my alma mater class which, I confess, is putting it mildly. It’s not that I didn’t like university. It’s just that I liked other things better. Like sleeping. Or spending ridiculous amounts of time in the cafeteria drinking coffee. Both of which may have been the result of having an extra draft or two (afterall, they were only two bits) the night before. Admittedly, things picked up in my later years, but those first year courses. Well let’s just say I’m a little short on the details. Except for one. 

If I had to guess, and the odds are not that great given I’m about 48 more years down this road of mine, I would say that the reason I found myself sitting in a lecture theatre surrounded by 400 budding psychologists was that it was the only available course that fit my schedule, meaning I didn’t have to be “up and at ‘em” before noon. Also I had heard the professor had a wicked, dry sense of humour and a guy who thinks brain stuff is funny can’t be all bad. Beyond that, I must refrain from making any judgements about the course because I can’t honestly say I remember much. Not much, but I do remember one thing which has stuck with me through the years. What our professor explained to us, and what I remember like it was just yesterday, was that while it is common knowledge that “misery loves company” what we might be surprised to find out is that misery actually loves miserable company. At the time it was quite a revelation. One which I have come to think about more than I perhaps would like over the past few months.

Let me backtrack just a tad. If you’ve been reading lately, (and granted I haven’t been writing much lately) you’ll know that 2019 has not been a stellar year for me and my family. There was the passing of my Mother in August, the Cat in September and my Aunt in October. And just when we thought we were out of the woods, because we all know that good/bad things happen in threes, we discovered, much to our chagrin, they actually don’t. Nope. Without getting into too much detail, that husband of mine decided to bring a little more excitement into our lives, and suffice to say, I spent much of the first week in December travelling to and fro from my home to the hospital. While things are now looking up I learned almost as much from this experience as I did from that old prof of mine. About people. And their miseries.

So we’re sitting in the rather sterile basement of the “other” hospital in this little city of ours, waiting for what I think is the third CT scan of the week. Knowing how these things can go I’m ready for a longish wait, having plugged a couple of extra hours into the meter and packed my Mother’s very well stocked Kobo which, I might add, I have made quite a dent in over the past few months. I’m pretty much minding my own business when in walks another couple who, I surmise, are there for the very same reason we are. Now I’m not really one to make idle conversation with complete strangers, especially in a rather uninviting environment, but I’m not so callous as to ignore their presence altogether. With that in mind I raise my eyes from my book (which btw, I’m quite enjoying) long enough to flash a welcoming smile and toss out a polite hello. One hour later I have been apprised of not only her husband’s current unfortunate health situation, but also of her own, those of her daughter, her grandson, her son-in-law and I’m pretty sure the neighbour who lived beside her before the neighbour who lives beside her now. 

But here’s the thing. Call me shallow but the truth of the matter is I really don’t want to hear about other people’s problems simply because I have some of my own. Honestly, I would rather talk about something wonderful going on in your life. A lovely trip you have taken. Perhaps a good meal you shared with someone you love. I’ll even listen to stories about your grand kids and their rather dubious accomplishments. I promise when things get back to normal in my life I will be glad to talk about your mother-in-law’s persistent bladder infection or your sister’s upcoming knee operation. You can tell me all about the adverse reaction you had to some plant-based supplement you decided to take on the recommendation of your herbalist. I’ll be happy to listen to any and all of the problems you have. Just not right now. Because now is not a good time for that.

Later in her life my Mother who I know loved me very much, would say this, in the nicest way, whenever I called to complain to her about an ache in my shoulder or a pain in my back. She’d say: “I have enough of my own aches and pains, I don’t really need to hear about yours”.  I didn’t always get it then but I get it now. She was right. Misery actually doesn’t love miserable company. And if you ask me, that professor of mine could have learned quite a lot from my Mom.

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Next Please!

It occurred to me the other night as I stood outside waiting to get in to see one of my fav singer/songwriters that I spend a lot of time standing in lines. Some times for an hour. Sometimes more. Which made me think. If everybody just agreed to show up 45 minutes later we would all be standing here for much less time. And then I just started thinking about lines.

We’ve all been in them. Some short. Some long. Some excruciating. At the grocery store, the movie theatre, the bank, restaurants. And it’s not just the being there. It’s the getting there too.. There’s a pretty good chance you’ll spend an inordinate amount of time in a traffic line trying to get to wherever it is you are going only to find a throng of people waiting to do the very same thing you want to do. Most often you wait. Outwardly calm, inwardly seething, until you hear someone say “next please” and realize that the mother with the rather exuberant toddler you mercifully let in front of you an eternity ago, is no longer there and it is, in fact, your turn to finally move forward and do whatever it is you came to do. And you hope against hope you can remember what that is.

Like you, I’ve been in my share of lines. All kinds of them. Anyone who knows anything knows there are lines that are well worth the wait and others that are not. There are lines that are fun and others that are not. And there are lines we want to be in and others that we would rather not. 

Like the line I stand in to pay my property taxes. Once a year, every year, I trapse down to City Hall, papers in hand, signed and ready to submit, imagining that I’ll be in and out having paid my dues (literally) in no time. And every year I arrive to find multitudes of like-minded citizens lined up to do the very same thing that I have decided to do. I mean what are the chances? It’s not like we called each other up and made a plan. How could we? Until this very moment I can honestly say that I didn’t even know these people existed, nor they I. So how is it that with all of us strangers heading to the same place at the same time, two of three cashiers have decided they no longer want to be where we are, leaving one lonely soul to work her way through, what at this point has become by anyone’s standards, a very long line. And to what end do we stand patiently waiting our turn? To hand over some very hard earned cash to a group of people who may, or may not, do with it what we think is reasonable to do. There’s no fun, no frivolity in this line. No friends to be made. It’s just a line one has to be, but doesn’t really want to be, in. But trust me. Not all lines are alike.

I’ve honed my line skills at some of the best. Like boxing day. What could be better than waking up long before the sun, piling on all (and I mean ALL) of your warmest clothing, jumping into your best friend’s car and plowing (again, literally) through the snow and ice to your nearest electronics store where you join what by this time is a very long line of people waiting in anticipation for the doors to open so they can possibly (depending on how close to those doors they managed to get) snag a deal on an item or two they failed to find under their tree. Did I mention that it’s also -30 degrees celsius? In case you don’t know, that’s the kind of cold that makes you forget you have fingers and toes. If you still do.  Surprisingly, this is a line-up you want to be in. People joking with each other, laughing (mostly at themselves for being there), sharing their hopes and dreams (as in “I’ve always dreamed of having an 40” TV (Come on! It was the 90s.) and I sure hope I”m close enough to get one”). Coffee and donuts being bought and shared among people who were complete strangers only moments ago. Stories told and retold. It truly is a wonderful bonding experience. Just thinking about it makes my toes start to tingle.

But even that pales beside the Mother of all lines. The one that will remain burned in my memory until I no longer have one. The Edmonton Folk Music Festival. Talk about lines. Honestly. I have taken trips that are shorter than the lines for the EFMF. Not only will you find yourself in an extraordinary line just to get tickets, you will also find yourself in a line that gets you a spot in another line. That’s right. You’re going to line-up to line-up. Now you would think this would be one of those laid back, folksy kind of lines, not unlike that one on boxing day, what with all the peace signs, tie-dye and flowers in the hair. Don’t kid yourself. There will be some bantering and bonding over your shared love of music. Maybe the sharing of a little something that makes the time seem to fly by. But after waiting 5 hours in the scorching sun for those gates to open nothing will stop your new found “friends” from bulldozing over everything in sight (including you) to secure their coveted spot on the hill. This line is not for the faint of heart. 

Now I know. Many of you are thinking “what decade is she from”? Who doesn’t pay their taxes online? And who in their right mind would line up to buy something? And what exactly were you sharing in that line anyway? More importantly, why would anyone line-up for anything? So the other day, finding myself in need of some assistance with my household electronics, I decided that rather than make my way to the bricks and mortar where I knew I would become one among many technically inept folks, I would ditch the line and give my service provider a call. A very nice lady with a rather calming voice answered and let me know a technician would be with me as soon as possible. To reassure me, she kindly mentioned that I was 57th in line and the wait would be a little more or less than 60 minutes. Just one question. Anyone got a little something to help me pass the time?

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Born this Way…Again*

You’re right. I’ve been gone for quite some time. And if you were me, which you’re not, or if you think like me, which I am pretty sure most of you don’t, you would by this time have come to the one and only conclusion I would have come to. You would have concluded that the only possible reason I could have been gone this long is that I am, in fact, dead. And rightly so. I mean what other plausible explanation could be made for a more than two month absence from my blog? It would just be silly to think that I have been travelling. At least not at this time of year. Or that in my retirement I found myself consumed by some otherwise undiscovered talent/interest that subsumed all of my time leaving me little room for previously embraced activities. Not very likely. Or that somehow at this advanced age of mine I had determined that living the life of a shallow person was no longer a viable option and I had abandoned this entire operation. Not even remotely possible. So while none of these scenarios are the case, as you can plainly see, I am not dead. Unfortunately, there are a couple of other people who are (well not all are exactly “people”) which is why I have taken a self-imposed hiatus over the past few months. 

Many of you who know me also know that in August my Mother passed away and while she lived a very good and long life, we all miss her very, very much. What many of you don’t know is that exactly one month after her death our dear little Bandit, who also lived a very good and long life, at least for her feline species, crossed the rainbow bridge and needless to say, we miss her very, very much as well. So as you can well imagine, it has been a little difficult for me to get back at it, as they say. But at it I am. And what I now know for sure is there’s a lot to learn from the sadness that death brings. Not only about other people but about oneself. And let me tell you I have spent more than an hour or two over the past months thinking about just that. 

First let me say that my Mother was a wonderful human being. She was a loving Mother to all of us kids and a very smart business woman who truly cared about each and every one of her clients. She was a voracious reader and could talk intelligently about almost everything. She wasn’t much of a drinker (I could tell the story about the night she had a few too many and ended up face down in a plate of spaghetti, but I won’t) which isn’t really a bad thing if you ask me. She was beautiful and funny and, as my Auntie Fanny so eloquently described her, “a real lady”. And how lucky would any of us be to have inherited even one of these traits that my Mother possessed? Oh yeah. There is one other thing that I might have forgotten to mention. Just ask Rich. He’ll tell you in the most wonderful way that my Mother, along with all of these marvelous qualities, was a Worrier. That’s with a capital “w” because there was nothing and no one that my Mother didn’t worry about. All of the time. 

Which is interesting because, while I would never presume to have inherited any of my Mom’s other wonderful characteristics, I can say without any hesitation that this apple didn’t fall far from that tree. Let me explain how this revelation came about. At the shiva for my Mother it was brought to my attention more than a few times that there was some similarity between her and I. Not everyone, but at least some people, most of whom I hadn’t seen since the first year of my life which is, at this point, a very long time ago, commented on how they knew exactly who I was because I looked so much like my Mother. It surprised me a little, primarily since my Mother never mentioned that complete strangers stopped her in the street to tell her she looked liked Babs and I’m quite sure she would have had they done so, but I appreciated the compliment nonetheless. However it occurred to me that if I look like my Mom it isn’t much of a stretch to think that I might think like my Mom as well. And if I think like my Mom I shouldn’t be terribly surprised that I too worry about everybody pretty much all of the time.  The fact is, if nothing else, I inherited her worry gene. And let me tell you, coming to this realization took quite a load off my shoulders. 

You see, I now have a perfectly good excuse for all the times I drove myself and my family a little crazy with my worrying. I now know there’s a really good reason that I used to text the kid at 3:00 am (no, that’s not a typo) just to see where he was and when he might decide to come home. I can now justify the multiple follow-up phone calls that are a result of a text not being answered within 60 seconds of being sent. And I know why when someone isn’t where they said they would be at exactly the moment they said they would be there my first inclination is to concoct 20 of the most dastardly, although admittedly unlikely, scenarios to explain their absence. After all, no one is just late. Something terrible must have happened. Well the truth is it’s just part of my DNA. I was, quite simply, born this way. And there’s no reason to apologize for that. Quite frankly, if it was good enough for my Mom, it’s good enough for me. 

Well that’s about it for today. Now I understand that some of you are going to be moved to send me your condolences (and many of you already have) for the loss of my Mother and for the cat too. You can if you like and your warm thoughts are very much appreciated but please don’t feel that you have to. No pressure at all. Of course if I don’t hear from you in the relatively near future, I’ll be pretty darn sure you’re dead.
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*To clarify. Early in the life of this blog I penned another post titled “Born this Way” hence the need for the descriptor. It is not my intent to suggest that I have in any way been born again.

 

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Planning…It’s a Trip.

Who would have thought that this shallow gal would spend not hours, not days, not even weeks, but months planning for a trip that won’t take place for quite some time.  Better yet, who would have thought she would revert to her ‘60s vernacular, using “trip” as in “Hey Man. That far out tie dye caftan you’re wearing is a real trip! I’d pick up some threads like that if only I had the bread.” Well you wouldn’t think so but here I am doing both. Mostly planning though since honestly, I don’t really talk like that. Anymore. The thing is, of late, most of the trips we take require a rather minimal amount of planning and organization primarily because we have returned to the same place for the past 8, 9, or could it be 10 years. And when you do that, once the first year is under your belt, the rest is gravy really. Pretty much a slam dunk. You book, you pay, you pack, you fly (or foolishly decide to take a road trip) and in the twinkle of an eye you’re making your way along the beach to your favourite Starbucks where you sit, sip, sun and watch a very familiar world go by. Simple. So you would think there’s no real reason to mess with a good thing. And there isn’t. Until there is.

So here’s what happened. A very old friend (he’s actually not any older than I am but I have known him for a very long time) and I got talking about where we go and what we do when we get there. Seems he and his wife have a grand ol’ time in the south of France where the croissants are buttery and the coffee rich and dark. One thing led to another and before I knew it, I somehow started thinking about doing what we usually do somewhere else. I mean, why not? And that’s how we got to where we are now. Planning a trip that’s entirely different from the trip we usually take. Now you would think that would be a “good thing” which of course it is, but it’s also just so freakin’ hard. (Oops, those ‘60s are rearing their ugly head again.)  Which is why I have been spending oodles of time planning. I know. You’re wondering what could possibly take so long and be so complicated? Well thanks for asking ‘cause I was just about to tell you. 

First things first. That big, old, red workhorse of a suitcase of mine has seen better days so I’m thinking if I’m going to venture into the fashion capital of the entire world I better get myself something a little more stylish. And practical of course. Who knew that shopping for a suitcase these days means more than deciding on black or red? Drop down to your local luggage provider and you will be shocked, like I was, when you see how much there is to figure out. Hard or soft. Big or small. Two wheels or four. Lightweight, extra lightweight or “won’t be able to lift it off the carousel” weight. To make matters even worse, there is definitely potential for me to pick up a little number that could pretty much double the budget for the entire trip. Back home to do some research only to find out that no matter what, there’s a pretty good chance at some point on this journey of mine I’m going to end up dragging my case “sans une roue” along those ancient cobblestone streets. Gotta tell you. The jury’s still out on this one. 

Should I ever find just the right suitcase I’m pretty sure I’m going to need a place to park it. The thing is, there are just so many of them out there. The last time I embarked on an adventure like this, finding a place to stay was easy peasy. (Not sure where that came from. Trust me. I have never said “easy peasy“. Never in the 60s; never now). But it was. Since there was no real way of knowing what was out there, the best one could do was find some hotel chain with a 1-800 number and give them a dingle. Room booked. Maybe there was something better. Maybe not. How would you ever know? But now. Now the world is your oyster and all it takes is a keystroke or two to have access to thousands of possible places to rest your head, what with everyone and their brother renting out spaces. Not only that, “the google” lets you walk around all of the surrounding blocks which truly is the next best thing to being there. Possibly better. And just in case you’re still not sure, there are several hundred people who will let you know exactly what they think about your potential home away from home. The problem is, with all this choice it’s hard to make a choice. Which is why it seems to be taking so long to do so.

Ok. We might also be a “little” picky.  But who would argue that location is really, really important? No one. It goes without saying that if you are going to be somewhere for an extended period of time you need a full kitchen, preferably with four burners. Give us a break. We cook!. Which is why we also need a dining room table with reasonably comfy chairs. Washer and dryer. How else will we stay neat and tidy?  You’ve got to agree there’s nothing like enjoying your morning coffee on a sun filled terrace. Bedside tables and lamps. Where else will you put your glasses at night? A walk-in shower is simply accident prevention at its finest.  And is it asking too much to have a cushy couch for relaxing after a full day of sightseeing? I don’t think so. Clearly you now understand why this endeavour is taking up so much of my time. Of course you do. 

Well I better split. But before I go there’s one more thing. If I have to say so myself, this is gonna be one outta sight trip.

 

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