Friday, December 19, 2014

My Cataract Adventures - Part 6

The countdown began this week.  On Monday,  I started the three day pre-op regimen of eye drops, two kinds four times a day, and lid care towelettes twice a day.
 Thursday arrived. Nothing to eat or drink after midnight prior to surgery. Check. Use one drop of one of the eye medicines. Check. Wear a button down shirt. Check.

It was dark as we drove for half an hour and crossed the Bowmanville hospital parking lot at about 6:45 a.m. ($8 flat parking fate - not bad) We took the B-wing elevator to the reception area where I waited my turn, then registered. I found the room to be extremely loud...very nice, polite and helpful nurses speaking with super high volume voices and other sounds reverberating off the walls. I looked around realizing that they seemed to think that nobody had functional hearing.

I was sent on my way further down the hallway where I waited in a room full of potential cataract candidates. My name was the first called.  I followed into another space where people were already wheeled out in gurneys. I was not amongst the first surgeries that day. Next came the check and double check of name tags, names and birthdate. A dot was painted on my forehead above my left eye. I appreciated the colour...purple. After some eye drops, some more eye drops (this time feeling like a hot poker stuck into my eye),a blood sugar test and an IV,  a friendly volunteer brought us all warm blankets. Then the quizzing began...artificial limbs, hair pieces, replacement parts, dentures, partial dentures, nuts, bolts, hearing aids, heart attacks, strokes and so on and so on. Glad to say I was able to answer no to all the questions.

I was then invited onto a gurney where I had pillows placed behind my knees. Comfortable. Must do this at home. I received a lovely little green beret to wear over my hair. Then I scootshed to the top of the bed making sure my head was secure in the curved pillow. After being quizzed by several more people about who I was, which eye, which ailments, allergies etc.,  I was off down the hall to one of the surgical rooms. I was told that my doctor was occupying both rooms on this particular day...quite a feat for a woman of her teeny tiny stature. The bright lights in the operating room made my eyes squint. The doctor arrived and asked my name yet again. " Open your eyes and don`t blink,"  she said. Easier said than done.

Before I knew it, my face was covered and my eye was somehow snapped open revealing the bright overhead lights yet again. Many people told me   you won`t remember the surgery“. I think I kind of do. I don`t know at what point I received the relaxing drug, but I recall a kaleidoscope of lights, constantly changing in front of me. It was those toys we had as kids with all the shapes inside.

I was soon wheeled back out of the room and discovered a plastic cap over my eye and tape in my hair...oh joy.
Apple juice or cranberry?" was the first question I was asked. Apparently, neither was not an option even though I don`t normally consume juice. After being given a series of instructions involving eye drops and my pirate patch, I was escorted into a wheelchair and removed from the premises. Unfortunately, I had to use the washroom where I stared in horror at the sight in the mirror. I looked like a cross between Medusa, Morgan the Pirate and Polkaroo (more on that later). Suddenly, everything was clear.

The whole process, beginning to end lasted about two and a half hours.

Late that same day, I visited the doctor`s office where to their amazement, I was already healing nicely, had no pressure behind my eye, and I now had 20-20 vision. I also managed to save some astigmatism correction needed. My left eye cost me only $285 for some non essential extras not covered by OHIP. The highlight of my day came when the doctor told me I`d need a bit of in-office laser treatment in three months. There would be minor correction because I`m a YOUNGER PATIENT.

My new vision is phenomenal. I can`t believe how vivid and bright everything is. I thought my right eye was pretty good but now that I see the difference, it`s like having a crystal clear window compared to a really smudgy, dirty window. No wonder I didn`t see much.

There are a few problems with my new found excellent left eye vision. First of all, I instantly saw all the dirt in my house...disgusting. Once I get the other eye operated, I`ll probably see twice as much. Secondly, everything`s so bright that I thought the outside Christmas lights were on this afternoon when they weren`t.  Looking in the mirror after all this time is particularly frightening...under eye bags and age spots galore. Oh, but here`s the fun part. I was out walking today and was slightly off balance. Just like a person rowing with one oar on the same side of the boat, I was starting to walk in odd circular directions...not always straight. I actually had to compensate.

Looking forward to having the other eye corrected in January. I`m already feeling like my old self again. Now, if only I could get rid of the bags and the age spots.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Afternoon Tea - The Experience

Sunday finally arrived. Our tea time reservation at the Fairmont Royal York was for 12:30. Because of all the street and train station construction, it was a bit of a challenge negotiating my way across to the hotel. I entered to see this magnificent display.
I arrived quite early, so I decided to check out the shopping underground tunnels. Unfortunately, they were closed, as were all the stores and coffee shops on the lower hotel level. Construction, I was told. I ventured upstairs where I first passed sculptures based on the story "A Christmas Carol", carved entirely from tallow.  As I stood and admired this creation, depicting one of the ghosts, I heard a fellow say to his friend, "Who's that supposed to be, Jesus?"
Although I had dressed in a presentable manner, I decided to forgo the fascinator. I was glad I did when I saw this Christmas tree sporting the exact same hat. That could have been embarassing!
After sipping a martini and gulping a few glasses of water I went to check out the reservation. "Nobody's here yet from that party," I was told, so I hung up my coat and took a few timer photos with the large lobby tree.

When I returned to the library lounge ten minutes later, everyone had arrived...well, except for me. I took my place at the head of the table and attempted to read the menu. It didn't really matter that I couldn't see because except for the tea, we all received the same food items. Our specified flavour of tea arrived first, then the sandwiches. My teapot had a minor issue which caused me, in my handicapped state to pour tea all over the tablecloth. Oh well, it smelled and tasted a great loss.

Meanwhile, we were all having a wonderful time meeting with each other, chatting and laughing a lot. We nibbled our very filling sandwich triangles. When my friend decided to explore the depths of her teapot, she came up with this rather disturbing discovery...another huge source of amusement.
 Next came the dessert tray, containing a variety of items including scones, macarons, tarts, cake and cream puff swans. Goodies not consumed were packed up in a lovely Fairmont doggy bag.


As we got ready to leave, I noticed the source of our entertainment. It wasn't a recording at all. Rather there was a guitarist sitting directly behind my chair. Gave new meaning to the words, background music.
  We hated to disperse after such a lovely time, so all of us went to take individual and group photos by the huge lobby tree. What a lovely memory and good times with nice people.
I'd consider doing this again some day. It would have to be in the summer, when the cost is lower and there's the opportunity to tour the hives and herb gardens on the roof of the hotel. I think that opportunity would add a nice dimension to the tea time experience. Oh...and just to add another dimension, I'd seek out a place where I could afford to have two martinis prior to tea time.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Fruit Cocktail Made Me Who I Am Today

I don't often eat bananas. Although I have no real hate for them, I definitely don't have any urgency to consume the world's most commonly eaten fruit. To me, bananas are a tasteless stem of carbs.  If you give most people a banana, they won't even know how to open it properly. Bananas should be opened on the flat dark dot side, not where the little stem sticks up. I know this. I learned from banana masters of the tropics. In fact, I spent many years trying to impress upon small children that turning the banana the right way around, then opening it, prevents all the pulling, tugging, wiggling and appendage bending  which often results in half a mashed or rotted inedible banana.

When I was a child. I suppose the many varied fruits that we are now fortunate to enjoy weren`t as readily available. I only remember eating bananas, fruit cocktail or peaches. The fruit cocktail was canned in some type of sweet slime as were the peaches. The peaches were either in halves or sliced and labelled as being in heavy syrup. I never could identify any of the fruit in the tins of fruit cocktail. After all, what kind of thing grows in small white cubes? Then there were those mystery marbles. Were they grapes? Were they berries? Did it even matter? Everything in the can tasted the same. The only identifiable shapes in the whole tin were also the most coveted...the cherries. Yum. The cherries actually had a flavour. They looked and tasted red. Unfortunately, they were a challenge to find. If you were very lucky, there might have been three halves in the can. The rest were all fruit cubes and assorted ovoids floating in murky liquid.

For a special treat, mom used to make a flan. It consisted of a delicious baked biscuit shell. She painstakingly lined up the drained fruit cocktail in a pattern in the middle of the flan. First came the cubes, then the marbles, then peach halves or slices from a different can. Finally she`d place a cherry, the most coveted prize in the can in the very centre. She added as many rings of bananas around the outside as necessary to fill up the space, and covered the entire flan with some kind of gelatin. It looked lovely. We sometimes had that when company came and I suppose it was better than no cake.

So what does any of this have to do with me in my adult life? Some things are just difficult to explain to people. This is one of them. I do not enjoy, nor do I eat certain foods. For example, I don`t like fruit salad. Even though it might contain some lovely varieties of berries, pineapple and other types of fruit which I enjoy, the mixture reminds me of fruit cocktail. I don`t want my fruit mushed together. The tastes need to be appreciated and savoured...separately...all except for the bananas. Bananas can be mushed and hidden in other foods. I need the potassium. I don't need to see the source.

I think most of our food preferences are fasshioned from early experiences. I will probably have many more stories to share.  Stay tuned for "Wurst is the Worst". 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Toy Mountain in Song

There are only a handful of people who know this. The information cannot be found on google. I couldn't locate anything on youtube. Perhaps, I'll create my own youtube entry in the new year and put a link on here.

At the end of November, the charitable organization which collects toys for needy children , "Toy Mountain" celebrated an anniversary. It has been in existence for over twenty years. I know this because my children and a few others played a small role in its inception. Let me explain.

I had directed a choir in the early 90's that auditioned for the musical "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat". They made it to the finals, and had it not been for an error in judgement on the part of this choir director, they would most likely have been part of the live Toronto show.

Nonetheless, opportunities arose from the experience. The children participated in a Santa Claus parade and several live performances prior to receiving an interesting invitation. Someone from a Toronto radio station CISS FM asked for a dozen or so of our singers to come to Toronto. They were to sing backup to two country singers one male and one female and record the song "Toy Mountain". We were sent words and music to practice in advance of the trip into the city. There would be a studio recording made and it was to be the theme song for a new Christmas toy drive called "Toy Mountain".

The day finally came. We travelled by GO train, two adults and a dozen or so young people who were known as, "The Duffin's Bay Chorus". The children were welcomed by personnel and toured the facility. The studio was an amazing experience for kids from the 'burbs. Then they sang. I was stressed because even after all our practice, it took three or four or five takes for their portion of the recording.

We were treated well, given drinks, treats and souvenir radio station mugs along with copies of their work on a cassette tape.
We were all thrilled when we first heard the song on a television promotion for the toy drive. The radio station also played it frequently.

 I have not heard the song used in Toy Mountain ads for many years now. As I said, I couldn't find any evidence of its existence through any search engines.  From time to time, I listen to my copy of the cassette. What a lovely song and beautiful children's voices. The memories, the voices and the song bring tears to my eyes.

When I remembered the name of the female vocalist, a Canadian country singer, Patricia Conroy,  I contacted her on the source of all the world's  essential info...facebook, where she has a fan page. My query was as follows:

I have a rather strange question. About 20 years ago, I directed a children's vocal group that recorded a portion of the song "Toy Mountain" at a Toronto radio station/studio. I believe you were the female singer involved in that. If so, do you know who the male singer was? I'm digging through some memories and found a cassette recording which we were given at the time. Thanks...Hilde

I was thrilled to receive a response in which she confirmed her participation in this recording. Unfortunately, she couldn't recall who the male singer was. Perhaps that too will come back to me one day.

So for now, I'll share some words from the song with you. Perhaps in the future, I can add an audio clip or my youtube effort on here. In the meantime, why not drop off a toy at your nearest participating mall to help build a little toy mountain?

Let's help to build toy mountain,
Let's make the children smile.
Toy mountain makes it possible.
A simple gift, for a child.
Great things are going to happen.
Great things will come to pass.
Look inside you one already has...


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

My Cataract Adventures - Part 5

The screen in front of me no longer exists. All I see is whiteness and a few coloured rectangles. It's a good thing I learned touch typing in high school. I'm trying my best and although I have a number of  blogs and adventures in the works, I'm currently obsessed with one vision.

Yesterday, I went to have my eyes measured. As I walked into the office, the receptionist said, "I've had a cancellation."

"Yes," I announced before she could finish her statement. She grinned clearly sensing my desparation.

I am now getting my first and worst eye done next Thursday the 18th, My second on January 6.

Will this mean no more inside out clothes, mismatched socks and senior behaviours? Probably not, but I'm hoping it will make life in general easier and less stressful.

I opted for the laser measurement at an extra $200 per eye. It consisted of putting my chin on a rest and staring at some red dots and flickering lights. Then, there was a bright light that looked like an eyeball. It was no big deal and I was able to avoid blinking most of the time. This was done for each eye and then the printer spewed out the results. eye had to be remeasured.

After that, I was given some gooey drops and an ultrasound was used for some further testing. I have a slight astigmatism which will apparently worsen with this surgery. Would I like a procedure to correct this or would I prefer to wear stronger glasses?

Since I currently don't need distance glasses, I decided, "Sure, why not?" OK....another $275 per eye. Oh well, I'm not planning a vacation this year anyhow and eyes are more important.

Finally, came lenses. OHIP used to cover a certain lens but then found cheaper ones. If I want the better lenses formerly covered it will cost.... $85 per eye.  Total for the two eyes...well worth it at $1120, I think...unless my mental math is as off as my vision.

The procedure was explained to me. "Start using the prescriptions on Monday. There'll be no hospital gown so wear a shirt that opens at the front (yayyy, shopping since I don't own one). Call the hospital with your credit card number for lenses with night vision. Phone the family doctor and make sure you have the form filled out before next Thursday. Call the optometrist and make an appointment for a week after surgery (Um...Christmas Day?). Do not take diabetic medication. Do take any other drugs on the day of the procedure. Do not eat or drink after midnight aforementioned drugs excepted".....and so on and so on.

"Wow...lots to remember. Glad I'm not any older". I said. She chuckled. I appreciated it since nobody laughs at my jokes anymore (another sure sign of old age).

"If you're not a candidate for the astigmitism procedure, the doctor will tell you."

"OK...Do I then get a refund or at least some air miles?" I asked...another chuckle.

"Yes", she responded. Handed me a huge envelope full of info to attempt to read before next Thursday and wished me good luck.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

High Tea, Low Tea or Afternoon Tea?

A friend sent me this youtube link ( )and invited several people to go to the Fairmont Royal York afternoon tea. I was excited. Although it's not inexpensive, it's an experience that I don't want to miss. To me, particularly at this stage in my life, experiences are worth much more than money.

I had seen an episode of The Marilyn Denis Show where Charles the Butler explained the difference between High Tea and Afternoon Tea. I had no idea prior to this time that Afternoon Tea is the more formal of the two. Let me explain.

In ye jolly olde British Isles, high tea was dinner. It was the large meal shared by working class people late in the day. They ate and drank from a high table and consumed everything from meat and fish to cheese, potatoes, casseroles and beans. It was quite a heavy meal after a day of work.

Afternoon tea, or low tea as it's sometimes called occurs earlier in the afternoon. It takes place in a sitting area and employs lower tables similar to coffee tables. It originated during the time of Queen Victoria and was credited to her friend the Dutchess of Bedford. Since the evening meal among the wealthy was served quite late, the Dutchess decided to have tea and assorted cakes, biscuits and scones available between noon and dinner. She invited friends who enjoyed this so much that word spread and it became a tradition.

I have studied the menu for the Royal York tea.

It all looks good and the additional offering of champagne is tempting  Now I'm planning my wardrobe. I suggested to my friend that considering the cost of the function, I might have to wear a low cut dress and smuggle home extra crumpets which might mysteriously drop into the cleavage. She said we needed to purchase some wear to this event. At any rate, we're having fun with it. Not nearly as much fun, however as we'll have when we finally enjoy this special afternoon in December.
***Added potential bonus - I've often written about stalking Donny Osmond. Since he and Marie will be in Toronto for the first three weeks of December, wouldn't it be a fortunate coincidence if they were staying at the Royal York? Odds are favourable. After all, this hotel was once good enough for royalty, politicians and John and Yoko.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

My Cataract Adventures - Part 4

The blogs are becoming fewer and farther between. All I see is a white screen and if I squint, I can kind of make out the words. Friends have told me that it wasn't this bad for them. Guess I'm just lucky. Either that, or I always took my outstanding vision for granted and thus am finding it more challenging to see now.

I am beginning to notice things. It's amazing how often people say, "Look at this." or "Did you see that?" or "Watch and I'll show you how....."  and so on I never know or see what they're talking about but I quietly nod my head in agreement. I often wonder if this is what it's like for some children in school when they just don't understand something. There's a definite level of defeat and lowering of one's self worth.

There's a word that has rarely been used when referring to me. This isn't vanity or bragging and I didn't say never, just rarely, This week when I was standing in Costco squinting at something on a shelf in an effort to see it, someone said, " rude....rudeness". I turned to look and discovered a woman who was nodding her head and glancing at me. I have no idea what it was all about. I was briefly upset before I realized that this stranger knows nothing about me or my circumstance. The way I see it, she was the one being rude.

So, early this past week, I received a call left on the answering machine that surgery was being scheduled for January to March. "Call us back so that we might schedule you" was the message. I panicked hoping to get the earliest possible dates. I called back. In fact, over the course of the next three days, I phoned more than twenty times. All I got was an answering machine. I finally left a message early Thursday morning suggesting someone return my call since I'd be staying home all day. No calls.

Friday morning, I dared to leave the house. Of course, when I got home, there was a message saying I should call them back prior to their closing time at noon,. The message had been recorded five minutes after I left the house. It was now twelve forty five. More frustration.

We actually planned to drive to the office seventy kilometres away on Monday morning if I didn't get a response by phoning. I called when they opened and heard a real voice. "I'll call you back after I clear the crowd that's checking in" the receptionist promised. She did. I now have my hospital appointments for January.

My next office visit will be in December when I get measured for eye inserts....lenses or whatever gets put in there with a tiny straw like implement for future better vision. I hope I'll  still be able to see enough to write part 5 of this continuing experience.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Cereal: What is it good for?

"Now I know what cereal is actually good for", I loudly announced to hubby as he was engrossed in tv one night. I wanted to share my insight even though it was 8 p.m., prime sports viewing time.

I'm not a fan of cold cereal. Porridge, aka oatmeal, yes. Cereal, no. I suppose there are a lot of reasons for my thinking. Cereal to me is for the lazy. It's for people who don't have time or can't be bothered making a real breakfast. Cereal is for those who aren't really that conscious or aware of nutrition. I realize that there are some better than others, however, the protein content is usually minimal to none, the sodium and sugar are excessive. Don't even get me started on food colourings or unpronounceable chemicals. Besides, I find the ever shrinking boxes of cereal to be ever increasing in price.

Cereal is something you feed your infants, one little donut shaped nugget at a time. They gum it, drool on it and hopefully swallow it prior to putting their soggy little hands into their tiny tupperware dish to retrieve more.

You can give cereal to the birds in the depths of winter when you can't make it to the grocery store. At least, you can try to negotiate a deal with them. After all, you'd probably rather have the stale bread. So would they, but that's beside the point. If the birds don't want the cereal, let them eat cake.

Cereal is what children (specifically a boy and a girl) gather and use to mark a path through the deep dark woods when they haven't had enough time to find sparkly rocks. They hope that the cereal will guide their way out of the forest so that they might find their home and reunite with family members who are preferably not witches.

Cereal is what you use to make treats. You mix it with marshmallows or something else delicious to create quick,kid friendly snacks. You make bits and bites with it, although I might suggest that the bulk of the mix be pretzels and nuts. I'm not certain why you would create Malibu rum goodies. I could definitely find better uses for the rum than dumping it into colourful fruity cereal. It's even possible to make candy sushi using a variety of cereal. So this begs these questions. If you like sushi, why would you want it to be made out of cereal and candy? If you don't like sushi, why would you want candy that looks like it?

Ah many thoughts about cereal.  So what did I decide it was actually good for? The other night, I hadn't eaten appetite. I did have to take an evening drug as so many seniors do and it needed to be swallowed with food of some description. Cereal, can be considered food of some description. I also admit, I was lazy. I poured the small woven squares into a bowl, added milk, grabbed my pill and headed to the family room to watch hubby, watch the Raptors while I shared my insight.

"Now I know what cereal is actually good for." I announced. " It's good for an evening snack so that you can take pills."

Since my pronouncement was met with a distracted "Uh huh" I decided that I can probably use this conversation starter and profound discovery a few more times in the future.

Monday, November 17, 2014

My Cataract Adventures - Part 3

I'm tired. I'm frustrated. I'm headachy and I'm dysfunctional. I feel very, very old. It takes me two to three times as long to do anything than in the past. I cannot distinguish some colours. I wear my clothes inside out because I can't tell the difference.My closet is a black hole. Although I still try not to stink, I don't care if my hair is combed or if I have makeup on. I can't see it anyhow. The computer screen is too bright for me to look at most of the time. I have to write with one eye shut during those moments when I can actually see the contrast. When they're standing near a window,  peoples' faces are silhouettes, like negatives from the old style of camera film. This morning, I was wrapping Christmas presents because I don't know if I'll be able to perform this task at a later date. Yes, I'm feeling sorry for myself. On the other hand, I've developed even more empathy and much admiration for anyone with any sort of handicap.

I have to wonder, because nobody's ever told me details, whether everyone gets this bad prior to cataract surgery. I get annoyed when I think about my cancelled appointment back in September. Perhaps it would have gotten me in for surgery sooner. Right now, it can't come quickly enough. My desperation is superceding my fear.

A huge part of my problem is that I've always been a visual kinesthetic type of person. Seeing and doing are my strengths. When I can't see, it's hard to do. I am currently unable to multitask. If someone tells me something while I'm performing another chore  I don't hear it. If the radio or tv is on and someone speaks to me, I don't hear it. Thankfully, there's nothing wrong with my hearing. It's just never been a strength for me to listen and comprehend everything. My concentration level on singular tasks has escalated beyond the norm. The headaches and fatigue are caused by eye strain. I'd just as soon close them than try to use them.

I don't proofread my blogs so they are what they are. It's just too challenging.

That's my current situation. I have just called the eye doctor's office because I have not yet been given a surgery date. It was promised for January.

What comes to mind frequently these days is a Confucius saying which is a favourite of educators.

                   I hear. I forget. I see. I remember. I do. I understand.

I'll be overjoyed when I can see and remember, do and understand once again.  

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Mission Accomplished...Well, Almost

In a blog entitled, "My Mission", written on January 7, 2014, I ended with these words.

It's going to become my mission....chairs and also last year's mission of perfecting macarons. This will be the year. Once I accomplish these menial goals, I can move on with my life. Perhaps I should create one of those "possibilities" boards. Is that even possible at my age? Yes...that's what I'll do. Then I can visualize my goals and achieve them more clearly. Then I'll quit procrastinating. I'll definitely make one of those boards....tomorrow or next week, when I'm not so busy.

I have finally been successful at macaron making. It took more than a year, from August 2, 2013 until October 20, 2014 to be exact.
 This year, there was an additional goal. I had been searching for chairs, two chairs, specifically. 50's style chrome chairs to match an older table which we are using in the kitchen..
I had lots of close calls. Some chair possibilities were too worn to take home, others were too costly or the wrong colour. I searched online. I phoned to follow up on leads. I went to junk and antique stores and I looked longingly at the exact chairs in an old closed up diner in Michigan. So near and yet so far. I was not satisfied.
 Friends announced that they actually have chairs for us. I was ecstatic. Realistically however, I wasn't certain when a  U-haul and I would be travelling to points far north to collect said very kind offer. For many reasons, I still want their chairs should they continue to be available, however, in the meantime, I have kept looking closer to home.

Hubby and I went to an auction house this past week, where we saw chairs that we thought might fit the bill. They weren't exactly what I had in mind, but they were chrome, vintage and would pass in a pinch. We thought we might go to the auction, but I later changed my mind. I really didn't want clear vinyl seats and fold up chrome chairs.

On Friday, we went for a car ride and had lunch at a lovely farmhouse. On the way home, I asked that we might stop at a nearby town, Orono, which I knew was rife with antique stores. The shops were huge. One had a 50's chrome table but no chairs. I remember going into another once before and being rerouted to Oshawa for chairs that just weren't quite right. When I entered the second shop, hubby found me and announced that he had located chairs. I followed him excitedly and yes, at long last, there they were. They were close enough in style and colour to satisfy me. They were also in fantastic condition. The price was definitely right. We loaded them into the car, and off we went.
Lighting is deceptive. They are greenish/gray
Looking good with the table

So now what? I still have some time left this year. Perhaps I'll give that possibilities board a try after all. Besides, I'm obviously going to have to set my goals a lot higher for next year.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Hilde's Day Out...Trains, Trains and Trains - 4

My frustration level reached an all time high last week when I completed Part 4 of this blog, clicked on publish and immediately lost same...poof, gone, disappeared as if by some kind of evil residual Halloween magic. I had enjoyed writing it and laughed all the while at my own silliness which is now impossible to recreate. Besides that, I've lost interest so I'll just go with a basic description of this event before moving on to a new blog.

Toronto is the only Canadian city which will be hosting the Stanley Kubrick display of movie mementos, props, scripts, screenplays, and assorted memorabilia. There are many extensive and detailed newspaper articles, blogs, excellent photos, and reviews available of this exhibit. My intention is not to duplicate any of those but rather describe my personal experience and enjoyment of what I saw.

I walked along King St. W. clinging to my blowing umbrella for about ten kilometres. (Mapquest says, one, just one kilometre. They are clearly mistaken.) As I mentioned previously, I happened to be photographing a pub, that advertised martini madness Wednesdays. Drat, it wasn`t Wednesday. Fortunately, I glanced across the street and saw the TIFF building, After backtracking so that I might cross at the light as all fine Canadians do,  I entered the TIFF Bell Lightbox and sought out a cashier. I requested a ticket. "For what time?" she asked. I must have looked baffled since I didn't realize that there were timed entries.

"Now?" I responded in my best city girl upspeak. I noted a surprised look on the cashier's face as she studied the fatigued, droopy haired, physically mature, soggy woman that stood in front of her. I suppose she thought I`d linger in the TIFF bar for a while first, while enjoying one of the Kubrick inspired cocktails. Had I known about them at the time, that might have been the case.

She looked me up and down appearing to check out my girth before deciding that they had room for me. Then, she asked whether I was a student. My very tired synapses connected just long enough to appreciate her subtlety and announce, "senior" thereby getting a discount.  She smiled that I got the hint and granted my request...a bargain at $10.
The seven thousand square foot exhibit was divided into room-like sections covering each decade of Kubrick's career. It began with one of his 1950's black and white films and ended with Eyes Wide Shut, a movie which was released in 1999, the year of his death. Several areas included good sized film clips projected onto walls.

I perused the early work with little interest. I did not believe that this exhibition would take me the projected hour to go through. Then came in leather, tunics, tall boots, and chain maille. I was fascinated. From the colour illustrations of the scenes, works of art in their own right, to the costuming and elaborate staging. Fantastic !

I became aware of all the people taking pictures with giant expensive cameras and also with giant expensive cell phones. Hmmm...didn`t I remember hearing something prior to entering that sounded like "no photos" ? Since I too wanted a few pictures I decided to go with the childlike excuse, " but everyone else is doing it". Even with my senior ticket, I didn`t think I could get away with "oh I forgot" should I be confronted. Since I felt guilty and was trying to be sneaky about my picture taking, my photos are sadly of a lesser quality than I would have liked.
Illustrated Scenes

The battlefield warriors were numbered
All work was intricate and detailed. Kubrick was indeed a perfectionist. I couldn`t help but think how the task of film making must now be somewhat easier with the use of computers. On the other hand I suppose, with technology comes a whole new set of expectations and problems.

The next room contained scenes from the 1962 movie, Lolita. What was most interesting to me were the typed letters...on a typewriter no less,  that were received from clergy and church officials denouncing the film. It was based on a novel by Vladamir Nobokov and the story was about a mature man obsessed with a young girl. Although I have never seen it, I remember and understand the fuss.

As I approached the 2001: A Space Odyssey monolith, the music and drums reverberated in my head. I had seen the film when I was a teen and the memory of the music, specifically Gregory Ligeti's 'Requiem', was particularly strong. No wonder the soundtrack won an oscar.

2001 was considered a sci fi masterpiece of its time based on a book by Arthur C. Clarke. I was disappointed when I saw HAL, the artificial intelligence that took over the space craft. To me, it looked like nothing more than a giant camera lens not even worthy of the photo which nobody was allowed to take. (I have one, but don`t tell...besides, they`re all over the internet anyhow).

I couldn`t resist getting into the picture with the space suit worn by actor Keir Dullea...a sneaky selfie of sorts. I do remember the astronaut`s oft terrified steely blue eyes, peering from the suit as he sparred with HAL, in an attempt to save his own life. I would have preferred to have a picture with the ape, but alas...

***Aside...a mental aberration as it were. Has anyone else seen the t.v.commercial which attempts to emulate the monolith and ape scene?  I can only wonder what percentage of the population actually gets this commercial. Perhaps it doesn`t even matter. It`s clearly not well done or even that memorable since I don`t recall what the commercial is for.

I had also seen A Clockwork Orange. Although many of my friends hated the movie, I found it intriguing at that point in my life. Yes, it was filled with disturbing behaviour as well as disgusting acts of violence. On the other hand, I remember imagining that society was closer to some of that than we cared to admit. And that was in 1971. There were scenes of graffiti, deserted buildings, and blowing trash. There was a home invasion. Behaviour modification akin to torture was tried to rehabilitate the criminal element. Once again, there was a classical music soundtrack and the film was based on a book. This is the only photo which I took of this display. It`s a mannequin from the Korovian Milk Bar Scene. 

I learned from some later reviews that there were many details of the movie included in the room representing The Shining. Again,  not having seen the film I knew nothing of the carpeting, the typewriter, the maze, and so on. All were on display.  I do recall seeing movie previews with two little girls in blue dresses. I`m not certain whether it was part of the exhibit or if it was simply Halloween costuming on that day, but two young women showed up. They were actually extremely creepy, holding hands and walking with frozen expressions. When they reached for a door marked REDRUM while staring straight at me, I took a couple of fast pictures and hid my camera lest they be the TIFF exhibit photography police. They continued to follow as I quickened my pace through Eyes Wide Shut and exited the building.
I learned a lot from the Stanley Kubrick exhibit. Not only did I get educated in the complexities of movies and film making but I realized how much I would have missed had I avoided this display thinking that it wasn't "my cup of tea".

After a wonderful time in the city, I took yet another train, the GO train and met a friend for dinner.  During the trip, I reflected on my busy and productive albeit hectic day which I imagined would result in several blogs. It has.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Hilde's Day Out...Trains, Trains and Trains - 3

It wasn't something I would have planned. It wasn't anything on my bucket list. It wasn't even a display which I'd normally seek out. It was an opportunity...nothing more, just an opportunity. The exhibit began the day I was going to be in the city. This suggested to me that it was something of which I should take advantage. I've missed too many opportunities in the past. I was going to see the Stanley Kurbrick exhibit on opening day, at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

In my head, I determined that it couldn't be a far walk from the Yonge St. subway station to 350 King St. W. After all, each one of those huge skyscrapers took up a city block. I got off the subway and began heading west, keeping my eyes peeled for the TIFF building. It was not one with which I was familiar. I walked and I walked realizing that there are people who would complain that their day was ruined simply because of downpour and their wet feet. I didn't see it that way. I appreciated my surroundings and I pondered. I imagined the poor soldiers during the wars who suffered from trenchfoot. Odd thought, I realized, but I also knew that I had nothing to complain about. I saw the first structure with a number...55. Uh oh.

Then I passed the old Imperial Bank of Canada building, now Commerce Court CIBC at the corner of King and Bay. I knew exactly where I was since I had spent some time there, where my mom worked, when I was a child.
Next I viewed some gorgeous fall planters with colourful flowers and kale, shining brightly through the cloudburst. I stopped to admire them as others rushed to get out of the rain and back to work. Were these blooms ever appreciated? Were they passed each day and yet never really seen?
 My trek went on. I saw University Avenue and realized the error of my ways. Had I taken the subway down to Union and back up the University line, I could have saved myself some steps. On the other hand, I would have missed things along the way

The Princess of Wales Theatre came up on my right. It boasted the final weeks of "The Book of Mormon". Was this a show I should have gone to see I wondered? Perhaps, but even more so, I thought that I would like to see Blithe Spirit with Angela Lansbury,  mid February to mid March. I made a mental note to get tickets. ( *** Further note to self - Find out more about this Noel Coward comedy. All I know now is that it has a spirit in it. Perhaps I should get it from the library.) As I stopped to take yet another photo, I realized I was standing on the Walk of Fame. Many names were covered in leaves or puddles, obscuring the names  from view. I did make out that of Farley Mowat,  Port Hope's most well known citizen.

One kilometre later (it felt like much more after all the earlier walking), I arrived. There it was right across the street. TIFF Bell Lightbox  I almost missed the nondescript building. I was too busy taking a picture of a cute small restaurant called "Hey Lucy" which boasted of their famous martini specials. If only I had more time!

At last, I had arrived at my destination. All the excitement...all the buildup...all the anticipation...all the walking, and I was here. After purchasing my ticket and giving up my wet coat, umbrella and heavy bag at the coat check, my squishy shoes and I entered the world of Stanley Kubrick.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Hilde's Day Out...Trains, Trains and Trains - 2

I purchased tokens....eeeek $3 for one ride. I made my way to the northbound train, a miracle really through all the construction. I was excited when a newer looking train arrived almost immediately. I was no longer impressed when I saw that there were very few seats and that they were suited to the size of a tinier than average population. Nonetheless, I wedged one cheek onto a spot and started thinking. Where shall I get off? The options were limitless or should I say linear?

We passed, King St. where I later planned to see the Stanley Kubrick exhibit. We passed Dundas, home of the Eaton Centre. I briefly thought of leaving and heading east or west on the Bloor line, but changed my mind when I noted that throngs of people were exiting here. I daydreamed until we got to Davisville where I had once worked in the TTC offices. Then I had an idea.

I remembered that there used to be unique shops and cafes north of Eglinton. I got off and made my way up stairs, down stairs and through lengths of tunnels. As I found the outdoors, I opened my umbrella and began to walk while taking photos. Some places advertised entertainment. Other signs were just amusing. This area of town seemed to be a happening place in the evenings. Oh to be a little bit younger and more energetic late in the day!

 Then there were those shops which one might call educational.
 After I had wandered a few blocks, I discovered a designer clothing store...not in my budget but with outfits that I'd remembered seeing on the internet. The fashions intrigued me. I imagined how wonderful it would look on someone tall and svelte. I was neither, but nonetheless, I was curious. Feeling like a fish of its element (I was in fact quite rain soaked at this time),  I peered in the windows. I wandered back and forth daring myself to enter the shop. The clerks were starting to look a bit concerned by my actions.

Then I observed their outlet store next door. After pacing back and forth several more times, I took a deep breath and went in. I was surprised that I didn't feel totally awkward as I tried on a few super discounted items. As you can see, I didn't leave empty handed...well, except for my umbrella which I ran back to retrieve.
My feet were getting tired and wet so I determined that it was time to go back toward the subway. But first, another stop. For some reason, I thought it was time. I had never tasted poutine. I had never even been interested in tasting it. How could I call myself a Canadian? Today, it seemed like a good idea...a part of the overall experience of my adventure. I found a corner grill that claimed to have superb poutine. I ordered a small portion and got ready to indulge. It tasted exactly as I had imagined. Is poutine the French word for clogged arteries? I have no need to ever have it again, but nonetheless, I'm glad that I can at least say tried it.
  My French connection continued when I saw a patisserie advertising genuine macarons. Since I have a personal history with macarons, I had to go in. I was concerned that the macarons might be a tad stale if they came all the way from France. I seemed to offend the saleslady by suggesting such. I noted that she was tall and slim with a lovely French accent. I'll bet she'd look great in those Kaliyana clothes I thought to myself. Then I saw the cookie prices. One macaron was $2.25, not outrageous considering they swam all the way across the ocean, so I ordered one. I was going to suggest they change the signage since I was unable to tell the difference. False advertising. For a change,  I managed some restraint.
 I checked my watch, shocked at how quickly the day was going. Now, it was pressing. I had to get back to King St. lest I run out of time. It was the first day of the Kubrick exhibit and I planned to be there.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Hilde's Day Out...Trains, Trains and Trains

I have been spring cleaning. Yes, you heard me correctly. Whoever coined the term "spring cleaning" obviously doesn't live in Canada. After all, who wants to do housework when weather is just starting to get sunny and warm? My philosophy is that as long as most of it is done before the snow flies, it can still be called spring cleaning. As a reward for my efforts, I planned a trip into Toronto. I purchased a train ticket for yesterday, grabbed an umbrella, and off I went.

About a dozen people got on the Via train ahead of me. I searched for my seat only to discover that it was occupied. Although it looked rather comfortable, I did not think I should sit on anyone's lap so I sought out the train employee. He was instantly recognizable by his uniform and his greeting of "Bonjour madam, may I 'elp you wit something?" So began part of the day's French connection.

After determining that my cheap seat was indeed occupied and obviously given to me in error, the attendant announced loudly that I'd be going to first class or as the French say, la première classe. Obviously, he could tell that I was of royal lineage. He told me to seat myself wherever I wished. So many spacious and comfortable spots...where to sit? I enjoyed the rest of the trip sipping my coffee and eating breakfast in the quiet comfort of my huge seat (the train seat, not my personal appendage).
I arrived at my first stop, Union Station. What a fabulous structure. I marvelled at the architecture. How can any tourist not admire the majesty of this magnificent building and its inviting entrance?
I wandered through the station until I found an exit at the Air Canada Centre where I spotted evidence of the ever hopeful, regularly disappointed Leafs Nation.
It was pouring rain but I didn't care as I found a tribute to my childhood hero when the Leafs actually used to win. He was bronzed and immortalized in front of the building. With the sweep of my sleeve, I removed the water from a  pillar and plunked down my camera on auto timer.

Realizing that I had no idea where to begin my adventure   I headed back inside the station and gave myself a puppy like shake to remove excess water. I wandered through the hallways of the train station until I found myself face to face with a token machine. The subway seemed like the next obvious choice. My adventure would begin here and go... somewhere.