Tag Archives: Toms

To go or not to go…It’s a question

reunionPlease don’t get me wrong. I’m not insinuating that any of you are shallow just because you read this blog. I know that many of you (and by all accounts there are “many” now) just want to know how the other percentage (small as it may be) lives. You’re curious and that’s ok. I mean, from the very beginning it’s what this blog has been about. At least I’ve always thought of it as a little window into the life of a shallow person. Sometimes you can see your reflection in a window, sometimes not. I suppose it all  depends on how the light falls. Having said that, something has recently happened to me that I would bet my bottom dollar has also happened to you. Because, like me, I’m guessing that each and every one of you attended elementary school. And this comes as a result of that.

As usual, before I get to the crux there’s a little something I have to say. For the most part, I have spent the time since elementary school, and there has been a lot of it, pretty much minding my own business. It’s not that I don’t think about my preparatory alma mater once in awhile.  I’ve even been known to take a drive by when visiting the old neighborhood, just to see if, like me, it’s still standing. It’s just that in the intervening years I have moved from my hometown, not once but thrice, each time substantially further to the west. As a matter of fact, at this point I’m just about as west as one can get in this coast to coast to coast country of ours and with each of these moves the chances of casually bumping into someone from the “good ol’ days” has substantially diminished, along quite frankly, with my memory.

It’s not that I have completely divorced myself from my long ago past. Of course I’m on Facebook and, as one or two of you know, there have been a couple of “blast from the past” moments where me and my former clarinet band mates have had a chance to get together to share some notes. But those connections have been few and far between leaving me, for the most part, with little recollection of my first grade teacher or the popcorn man or even whether I was chastised by Mrs. Elder for not having my sneakers as white as they should have been for gym class. Ok, clearly that one I remember. So with this in mind, you will understand how surprised I was to find out that this year is the 75th anniversary of my elementary school. (No, not my 75th, just the school itself.) And to discover that yes, there is going to be a reunion.

I don’t know about you but as a shallow person my head starts to spin just a little as I consider the implications of this event. It might not surprise you that one of the first things that crossed my mind was my closet. I mean just what might I have in that closet of mine that I would want someone who hasn’t seen me for the better part of 50 years to see? Keep in mind that I was raised in a rather tony part of the big city where parents regaled at the thought of having their six to twelve year old children wear a uniform lest it inhibit their fashion sense.  Oh boy, it’s all coming back to me!  Apparently I didn’t have as much at stake as others may have as now, with most of my days spent working from my home office on this laid back little island of ours, it’s a bit of a stretch to find much beyond jeans and a tee on those hangers of mine. Hence the conundrum. Does one  “come as I am” and not betray thy inner self, or would a trip to the local boutique to drop a bundle on some designer duds which, might I add, are likely put together in the same precarious third world building as that tee of mine, be in order? Honestly, as a shallow person I can go either way with this one. But that’s just one of the many questions that have popped into my head upon learning of this impending get together.

Like who’s going to recognize me anyway? Not that I’ve done anything in particular to look different. There’s been no cuts and tucks, no needles and pins in this face of mine. Heck, I’m lucky to take the time to draw on a couple of eyebrows every morning. Astonishingly, my hair is the same colour as it was way back when, but even so, I’m pretty sure time, in and of itself has taken it’s toll and there will be those who must  inconspicuously glance down to my “Hi, My name is ________”  tag that no doubt we will be asked to don upon entry.  As will I to theirs. Bottom line, if neither one of us truly knows who we are talking to is there really a point to all of this? I mean if I really want to talk to strangers I might just as well amble on over to my fav Starbucks, sit down beside someone who appears to be around the same age as I am and start up a conversation about times past. I won’t even have to worry about making that trip to the boutique.

As you can see this whole thing has caused me much consternation. So now, if you don’t mind, could you put yourself in my Toms for a minute or two and help me as I struggle with making the decision that underlies everything else. To go or not to go? Because, it seems to me, this really is the most important question of all.

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Boots…Ugg!

bootsIf you have been reading the blog lately you know that I’ve been spending a bit of time at the beach where the temps are considerably warmer than those of the city in which I have for some unknown reason chosen to spend the last 35 years. Ok, I’ll admit there have been some very good reasons to reside in the far north but none of them include the weather during what is normally a long and unforgiving winter. Just like the shallow blog, my hometown has a mantra and, should you decide to visit during one of the six months of winter you will invariably hear someone reassure you that it’s a “dry cold” and the only thing you have to do to keep from freezing is “dress for it”. And dress for it we do with our hats and scarves and marshmallow down coats that make even a model figure appear somewhat rotund. Oh yes, and there are the boots. Never venture out into the icy winter without your boots lest you risk having your behind (or worse yet, your head) unceremoniously hit the pavement, or the even more horrific experience of being able to see but not feel any of your toes.

Now let’s be honest. There’s no denying that not every day in my southern paradise is quite as toasty as I might like it to be. I do however have to give my head a shake when I overhear declarations about it being “freezing” outside as technically that would be 32 degrees fahrenheit and in reality the mercury seldom dips below 50. And I chuckle just a little when I picture these same people venturing out into the -30 celsius world that I have come to know all too well. Having said that, there have been times while walking on the beach that my ears start to tingle and the cool breezes cause me to reach into my bag and pull out the fleecie I brought with me, “just in case”. But it is far from frosty. Which brings me to what’s been bugging me just a tad, so I’ll explain.

Understand please that one of the primary benefits of my journey to the south is the ability to rid myself of the bulky and less than flattering outerwear I am forced to don for the better part of 6 months. It’s the never ending “putting on and taking off “ that adds considerably to the time needed to journey out and I long for the days when I can step outside without the interminable search for the always misplaced left glove. So it is with some wonder that I question the clothing choices of my Southern California coastal neighbours.

Make no mistake, I’m no fashionista although I do my best to keep up with the trends and will admit not only to owning four pairs of Toms but also to a new found passion for J.Crew cardis which I believe elevates me somewhere in the vicinity of Mrs. Obama. As a shallow person however, I do on occasion find myself critiquing the fashion choices of others and let me tell you, there’s plenty of room for that here. Because it appears that no one has figured out that down vests and sheepskin boots have no place on the beach. To be fair, I’m thinking I should forgive the down vest thing because they probably got carried away while in the Patagonia store picking up some vibram water shoes and simply couldn’t resist the array of colourful puffy things hanging on the rack. And once in a blue moon it does cool down enough at night to slip one over a long-sleeve Tee.  But the woman wrapped in her sheepskin coat, wool scarf and knee high boots sporting a straw sun hat, well that is just wrong in so many ways.

It’s the Uggs though that are truly bothersome. I simply can’t find any good reason for anyone, at any time, to think that there is one single justification for wearing Uggs on the beach. For those of you who are not as fashion forward as I am and may not be familiar with this product, Uggs are an Australian creation, apparently acquired by the Americans of late, that have taken the North American continent by storm. They are short and frumpy looking and do nothing to elongate the leg. Most importantly, and this detail is not to be missed, they are lined with sheepskin which, they tell me, makes them incredibly warm and cozy. And that’s what makes Uggs, if you insist on wearing them at all, perfect for the cold and snow. But the day the snow melts and the ice goes away is the day the Uggs come off. Period. If they were a fashion statement it would be “don’t wear us on the beach, and especially not with shorts or leggings”.  And stop trying to convince me that they are great because they “breath”. Your feet breath too so why not let them revel in the warmth and comfort of the beautiful, soft sand.

You see, I have a theory that the reason Uggs are so expensive for those of us who need them is that those of you who don’t are buying them all up thereby escalating the price. So I’m imploring you to give us northerners, and your feet, a break and stop wearing Uggs on the beach. Honestly, I’m not saying this just because it’s a cruel reminder of what we face upon our return home. For us its just as much a safety issue because without our boots we’ll be slip sliding all over the place . Trust me, even if you should be so unlucky as to accidently stumble and hit your head on the sand, it’s not going to hurt all that much.

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Sleeping in Seattle

Seattle skylinePicture this. You’re in the shoe department of Nordstrom’s on Black Friday and, in most people’s books, it’s pretty frenetic. Not that there are shoes flying everywhere or anything like that. I mean this is *Nordstrom’s* where a live pianist replaces the drone of the mood-altering Musak and shoes range in price from “ok I can do that” to “maybe not, I’d still like to eat this year”. And everything considered you gotta know that they’ve done this before because things go like clockwork. I mean you nonchalantly pick up a shoe and before you know it there’s someone with a loud speaker summoning help on your behalf. Almost instantaneously they provide you with not only the “E.T.A.” but just about all of the information you need to become good friends with your “shoe consultant” (their term not mine) which, in my case of course, might just happen. All in all, given the circumstances, it’s not a half-bad experience and, as my Mother would say, worse things could happen to you. This however, is apparently a sentiment not shared by the woman I unfortunately came to know when paying for my purchases.

I should make something clear. The shoe consultants at Nordstrom’s all work on commission which explains the great service you get and the fact that you are bound to walk out with more than you had planned. But who can’t use an extra pair or two of Tom’s especially when the design is exclusive to Nordstrom’s so there is no way you are going to pick them up once you are north of the 49th and anyway, you’ve just bought yet another few pairs of shoes for children in need. (Note: excessive shoe purchase justified.) And for the most part, they are nice people just like you and me who simply want to do the best job they can even on days like Black Friday. Which is why I found the “woman from New York City”(WFNYC), as I have now come to know her, particularly heinous.

I’m not one to make generalizations about extremely large populations of people but, according to WFNYC, all people in New York move quite a lot more quickly than the rest of us. And by the rest of us I mean (and again, I defer to her judgement here) the people of Seattle. Now I am aware that there is a slight tendency for those who are partial to life on the Pacific to be a tad laid back but I am not certain there was evidence of this in the flurry of activity I was witnessing behind the cash desk at Nordstrom’s on this, the busiest shopping day of the year. And yet, her conversation went something like this:

Shoe Consultant: Let me ring this up for you. Was there someone helping you today?
WFNYC: I can’t believe how slow things are here. Just ring the f—— thing up! (Might I add here that this is the first time since the inception of this blog that any such language has been used or alluded to but in this case I am afraid it is germane to the telling of the story so please accept my apology on her behalf.)
WFNYC: I’m from New York! I’m not used to this! Everyone is so slow here!
WFNYC: I can’t believe how slow they are here! I’m from New York! This would never happen in New York!
WFNYC: It’s so slow here! WTF!!!! I’m not used to this!!!!

Well as you can see this was a rather one sided conversation but more importantly, and what should be noted, was that the WFNYC was not only speaking like this to those of us who had the misfortune of being able to hear her but also to whoever it was that she was simultaneously talking to on her phone which solidified for me just how busy a person she really was. And how a delay of even a few seconds was eating into her otherwise “chock full of important things to do” day.

But wait. Isn’t this Black Friday? Is this not a holiday in the U.S. of A? Are not all of the businesses, other than retail closed on this day? And didn’t she mention once or twice that she was from New York? Would it be reasonable then to assume that she was not on her lunch break from work where, if she was a minute late to return would risk being fired on the spot? So where exactly was she going? Now I can’t say this for sure but given the day and the circumstances I’m thinking she was going to do more shopping. Which leaves me to wonder why it was that she couldn’t take a second or two to let the cashier know who had helped her buy her multiple pairs of boots and shoes so that sales person could be appropriately rewarded for their time. Because it seems to me that if you are sleeping in Seattle you should at least take the time to be decent to the people who live and work there.

And then a rather frightening thought occurred to me. For one split second I realized that I may just have met the person who is better placed to write this blog than I am. Good thing she will never have the time to do it.

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Folk Fest Revisited (and a little “something for you” to boot)

I know, I know! There’s been a lull. You’re wondering where I have been. Last you knew I was making my yearly pilgrimage to the Folk Fest and next thing you know I have all but disappeared. Perhaps you’re thinking that after all those days and nights sitting on the hill under the stars, dancing and singing along to sometimes meaningful songs, eating primarily healthy food for four days and communing with my new “not on Facebook” friends, that I had abandoned my shallow ways.  Maybe while sitting in the shadow of downtown Edmonton, which from this very unique vantage point has buildings that appear almost doll-like, carefully placed one by one in an effort to create the quintessential city sky-scape, I might have turned over a new leaf and started to think about writing something a tad more profound. Nope, nothing of the sort. I will admit to feeling a small lump in my throat listening to Nathan Roger’s rendition of his Father’s immortal “North West Passage” but that’s the only concession I’m prepared to make. Last time I looked, I’m as shallow as ever. So why the delay?

To tell the truth the Folk Fest wears me out. Four days of rising early to get a prime tarp placement, standing in line for just about everything and trekking around a site that in colder climes is a ski hill, makes me tired. So as much as I wanted to get this “wrap-up” wrapped up, I just couldn’t do it primarily because each time I sat down in my favourite chair to write, I fell asleep. Oh yeah, and I had to get the pictures developed. (Just kidding…I know you don’t have to develop digital pictures). You see, while at the “fest” it occurred to me that there may have been some doubt as to the accuracy of my previously posted “Shallow Guide”, some question as to my use of literary exaggeration to make a point, and that it would serve me well to obtain enough evidence to convince my readers that there are no fictional accounts on this blog. Unfortunately I didn’t think about this until the third day so I did the best I could, with a little help from my friends (thanks to Marsha, Wade, Nicole and “the Kev”), in the limited time that remained. And rather than bore you with thousands of words, I thought for this post I would let the pics do most of the talking.

And then it came to me. Why not take this opportunity to engage my readership (that’s you) in a little interactivity, as we like to call it in the education biz. So here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to fill you in on the first few pictures and then you can do the rest of the work. In the final collage of pictures you will find evidence of all that I spoke about in the “guides” and all you have to do is figure out what’s what.

I’m not going to call this a “contest” lest there be some government regulation legally preventing me from doing so but there are prizes to be had, probably from the dollar store and likely made in China. In fact, there are two prizes; one for the first, most accurate answers and one for the funniest answers, the latter being subject to my own judgmental self. You can post your answers in the comments or send them to me privately, if you know my email address. Whatever you decide, at some point, if I don’t already know who you are, you’re going to have to come clean so I can send you your prize. If you are not already a follower on this blog, seems to me this might be a good time to start.

So let’s get to it.

As I suspected, the guys and gals were sporting their “Toms“.

Lots of "Toms"

And their funky Tees:

Funky Tees

They were hoppin’, boppin’ , glowin’  and holding candles to the wind:

Folk Fest crowd scenes

And fortunately for all of us, these guys weren’t sitting in this chair:

 Here’s where the fun begins! Now it’s your turn. Just match the pic to that valuable information contained in the “Guides” (one, two and three) and you’re in.

Various Folk Fest pics

How about we make Friday, August 24th the deadline just so this thing doesn’t go on for too long.  That will also give me time to figure out what to write about next.  Did I mention there is no fiction on this blog?

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A Shallow Person’s Guide to the Folk Fest (Part 3 of 3)

What to Wear

It appears that I am not the only one who understands that thought must be put into acquiring an appropriate couture for this event. On my usual Saturday stop at the local Starbucks, I happened to pick up the most recent issue of “Avenue” magazine only to discover a full-page spread on what to wear to the Folk Fest. My first thought was what a lovely coincidence and a wonderful way for me to save some time writing the blog. Unfortunately, a quick tally of their suggested duds clocks in at around $1450.00 for the gals and just over a “C” note for you fellas. I’m pretty sure this mission can be accomplished for less, so here are some more frugal ways to make your fashion statement.

The “Zip-Off pant”: Time to forage to the back of your closet to find those zip-off pants you bought for your impending trip to Machu Picchu…you know, the one you have on your bucket list. This is the perfect event for those and no one will ever know you haven’t made the trip. Couple of things here. Make sure you remove all of the tags (sometimes they hide them in the oddest places) and, if you can, go for a trail walk before the big day just to make them look a little less pristine. After all, you don’t want anyone to think you went out and bought something special for the fest. But the real benefit you will accrue from wearing this undeniably fashionable garb is that you won’t have to use the bathroom (honestly, that’s what they call those things) to change from shorts to long pants in the cool of the evening. Trust me, that is worth more than you know.

The Skinny Jean: Please note: The above suggestion is for folks of my era. Here to help my younger readers avoid a fashion faux-pas, is guest blogger Wader (you’ve seen his comments on the blog.) This year coloured skinny denim is in, in a very big way for both men and women. As this is folk fest you’ll need to jazz up the off the shelf pair in one or more ways. Try getting a jiffy marker (washable if you intend on wearing these in the outside world) and writing political messages on the thighs (note: you’re preaching to the choir, but it’ll still feel good). Roll or cuff the pants until your calves are so constricted they begin to turn light blue. If this doesn’t happen then your pants aren’t skinny enough! Wear a belt if you must but ensure it has been made by a local artisan out of ethically obtained vegan leather (even that confuses me, but go with it). Finally, you can preserve the integrity – structural or otherwise – of your pants for future use by adorning them with buttons. Recommended causes include the pro-choice movement, the NDP, bands/artists that aren’t performing, bands that are terribly obscure (eg. Brady Bunch Lawnmower Massacre, Freud Chicken, Pope John Paul Quartet with Friends, etc.), a particularly unique “pride” symbol (the rainbow Star of David works here), ironic sayings (eg. “I’m only here for the hotdogs” or “I heart hula”), the CKUA logo (CBC will work if you don’t live in Alberta), or pretty much anything that would annoy someone like Sarah Palin.

The Shoes: Take off those Birks ‘cause while they might look great with your “zip-offs” you’re going to have to stop and ask yourself what good they are doing for the third world. No my friends, without a doubt, the one and only choice to cover your feet at this year’s fest are “Toms”. For those of you who still think this is simply a short form of a guys name, it’s time to get yourself down to your local shoe boutique for an update. The “buy one, give one” mantra has taken the world by storm and if you don’t know it yet, you will by the end of the first day. “Toms” are funny though, not really comfortable, not really well-made and relatively expensive for what you get. Doesn’t matter, you’re helping to provide shoes for a child in Africa (although not very comfortable or well-made) so on they go. (I know this all sounds a little irreverent so I should disclose here that I am currently rockin’ my fourth pair of “Toms” and you have some serious catching up to do.) Your immediate problem is that you have to buy “Toms” a size too small because they stretch out so much over time. Given we are now so close to the start line and you won’t have time to break them in, your feet are going to hurt for the first day or two. Better get over it because form really is more important than function and looking cool and benevolent at the same time should be all the motivation you need to tough this one out.

Something on Top: Tie-dye works. So does anything “flowy”, madras, or that looks like you made it from fabric you picked up at the market on your last trip to India. Tees that have been reconstructed in some unusual way. Denim shirts and jackets, but the latter really ought to be vintage Levi or you’re not fooling anyone. Tees from concerts you (or someone you know) have attended, preferably before 1980. Could be time for a trip to Value Village, or your parents’ closet. Tees with sayings (lean to the left on this one, see the “skinny jeans” segment). If you’re really adventurous you may want to join the “Free Hugs” t-shirt gang. Just remember that it gets hot, people get sweaty and they will take you up on your offer. I’ll leave that decision to you. Avoid anything with a logo, collar or “polo” as a descriptor. I’m not sure this is explicitly stated in the rule book but the peer pressure alone will make you want to go home and change.

The Hair: Put away all those hair products and appliances you use. These are the four days of the year when your hair gets a chance to breathe and make an appearance in its natural state. This one is particularly hard for me but, from what I can see, not for many other people. Bonus: You get a chance to remember what your hair really looks like and you will no longer regret all of the time and money you spend making it not look that way. Guys, if there is a way you can coax whatever hair you have left into a ponytail, do it. This advice may have come too late for this year’s fest but you’ll want to keep it in mind for next summer. I’d go out on a limb (I do that sometimes) and say make-up is optional but given the aging demographic of the “party-goers” it might not be. Something tasteful in face-painting might be a good compromise here.

Rain Gear: I’m not as familiar as I should be with this category but for those of you who decide that a little water falling from the sky only makes the day more fun, you’re going to want some protection. We’re not talking little umbrellas and trench coats here but rather industrial style, head to toe cover-ups in various shades of yellow. Fortunately there are many “made in Canada” options in this category and I strongly suggest this as a first choice. They are a little expensive but you’ll be able to put them to good use the next time you go out to sea. That’s about all of the advice I can give on this one because, well I just go home at the first hint of inclement weather.

That’s about it. I know this has been much longer and more involved than usual but these type of get togethers are so just so compelling for a shallow person. And while this advice may seem to be rather specific to our locale I am pretty sure that much of it is transferable to other events of this ilk. And now I must take some of my own advice and get ready to go. If only I could remember where I put my zip-offs.

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