Saturday, December 18, 2010

You've Got to Believe to Receive

That is the sentiment that I share with my boys, in regards to the age old question, 'Is Santa real?' My oldest son who is nine, has been questioning Santa's existence for a few years now, and though I don't want to really tell him the truth, I don't want to outright lie to him either. He'll ask me, 'do you believe in Santa?' I can honestly reply, 'yes'. I then continue, I believe in what he represents, which is the magic of giving, and the overall warm feeling of the Christmas season. And let's face it, the month of December usually starts out with that euphoric feeling that comes with the holidays. That initial excitement of putting the tree up, seeing the neighbourhoods all aglow with lights, the smell of holiday baking fills the air and the anticipation of planning the perfect gift for the ones you love. Granted as the month goes on, the patience wears a little thin, the Christmas joy you had a couple weeks prior that had you smiling at strangers has now been replaced by giving people your best stink eye as they take the parking spot that you swear you spotted first, the first, and second batch of baking has long been consumed and your version of the perfect gift now is defined by a bulk pack of tube socks for everyone on your list. I mean, everyone wears socks right?
I hang on tight to the faith that once the last thing on our to-do list has been marked off, we'll all return back to that euphoric feeling that kicked off at the beginning of the month. So because of that, yes, I do believe in Santa. This is a big statement from a woman who doesn't even have any recollection of believing in Santa as a girl. I am the youngest of four kids and the only girl, so I'm sure by the time I came along, my brothers were bored with the whole charade of Santa. Before I even really had a chance to think through the issue, my brother who is three years older than me basically said, 'look, there's no Santa – mom and dad give us the stuff.' My brother was always pretty streetwise and I think he just wanted me to be up to speed on the whole thing. Probably didn't want me to embarrass myself, we were a fairly savvy group of kids and nobody needed a little sister who was the equivalent of Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin. I know there was a guy dressed up as Santa at Woodward’s but I was a pretty shy kid so it wasn't like I was going to get anywhere close to him to further inspect the possibility of if he was genuine. I did however, let my Mom go in line to 'represent' me and get me the Santa button and candy cane. Besides, I thought the entire setup was a bit shifty. I was a shy kid, and a suspicious one too.
Despite those early memories of being told, 'forget it kid, it's a sham', I still believe. I believe that, we do become kinder to one another, and we, for a moment at least, really reflect on what's important in our life. That we do stop and wonder how other people will manage and also how we can help those who may struggle more than ourselves. So that is what Santa is to me, hope dressed up in a red suit. I do believe and I do receive, and what I most like to get is the feeling that indeed we can extend that kindness to the rest of the year. The best thing about the gift of kindness is that it fits everyone and it's something we all need. It is also the best gift for the recipient to return, without the hassle of standing in long customer service lines in January! You've got to believe to receive, sort of the same idea as, 'if you build it, they will come'. That is what Santa is to me. Merry Christmas everyone!

Secret Agent Mel – Writer and Santa believer

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

One of the Boys

Nope, this isn't some big statement where I now announce that I want to become the man that I always felt that I was, but merely an ode to boys, and the role that they've played in my life.
Don't get me wrong, I am a girl, I have all the bits and pieces to prove it, but I've always felt more comfortable around males.
For me it goes back to my childhood, I am the youngest in my family and the only girl, and with 3 older brothers. Let me tell you, that dynamic became the building blocks to who I would become. I mean, no matter what your situation, to some extent you adapt to your environment, must go back to caveman days I'm thinking.
So I learnt very early on, not only how to survive amongst this tribe, but also how their brains worked, or often, didn't work.
In general, guys call it like they see it and for the most part, I love that. There is no time wasted in guessing, 'what do they really think?' If they think you look stupid in something, they'll tell you - and usually without any of that ol' female softening of the blow. I mean I've never been a girly-girl, I was always happiest wearing jeans and a t.shirt, but there were those occasions when my mum would ask/force me to wear a dress. Already feeling completely out of sync with the whole look, I'd make an appearance in the living room, wearing some lame dress, and my brother's reaction would be....'haaaa, Mel's wearing a dress,you look hilarious!'
A fact that frankly, I already knew.
My poor mum, she was so happy to have a girl after having 3 sons, someone she could dress up all pretty, and she gets a girl who was much happier in jeans and climbing trees! Thinking of it, she did collect dolls for awhile when I was a kid - maybe she was compensating for my lack of doll-like qualities?
The thing that I do admire about boy's frankness is how they deal with their other male friends. Only guys can greet each other by saying things like, 'you f**ker, where have you been?' and really mean that as a sentimental statement of 'I've missed you.' Love that!
Men are great at the whole, 'cut to the chase' thing.
So living with, and having the opportunity to observe these creatures up close for years, I've come to understand how to converse with them on a level that often has them forgetting that I actually am a female!

Even my play habits were shaped by having brothers. I hung out mostly with the youngest of my brothers, who was 3 years older than me. My mum always said, it was like having 2 separate families, because of the age difference - my other brothers are 7 and 9 years older than me, so it's not exactly like they were going to hang out with me as a kid. I'm sure most of the time, David, the youngest of my brothers didn't want to hang out with me either.
Personality wise, David and I are about as opposite as 2 people can get - he fears nothing - and I'd fear and analyze almost everything! I had to adapt to him as much as I could though, otherwise I would've been without a playmate. So I climbed trees and roofs!, rode mini bikes, built go-carts, set-up bike ramps so he could pretend that he was Evil Knievel, jumped from stairs(complete with sound effects)in Six Million Dollar Man fashion, assembled model cars and many other boy activities. On occasion, I did stuff with my middle brother as well, most likely when none of his friends were able to hang out. From him I learnt how to play crib and black jack and how to properly shuffle a deck of cards. I remember at one point he was taking Tae Kwan Do and when he came home from class one night, he said to me, 'Mel, stand right there'....then he proceeded to practice kicks, using my head as a height marker - oh, brother/sister bonding, there's nothing quite like it! I also was allowed to play soccer with my brothers, well kinda play....actually, it was more of a 'Mel, you stand in goal while we kick balls at you.' At least they wanted to play with me, right? We played basketball almost daily at times, 21 being the game of choice, quite funny really, considering we're a miniature sized family! This was the only time that any exception was made to the fact that I was a girl - though not much of an exception! I was allowed to take my free throws from the front of the flowerbed as opposed to from the back, where they'd free throw from - big woop! That gave me about a 16" advantage, but no matter where I got a rebound from, that's where I had to shoot from!! Sometimes, it'd hit the rim and rebound 40 feet away!! Too bad for you, you're playing with the boys now! Good lesson to learn really, no exceptions meant that I worked harder.
I mean, you take what you can get. It's not like any of them were going to volunteer to play Barbies with me. It even affected my alone Barbie time, while other girls were dressing their Barbie's in wedding dresses and princess get-ups, my Barbies were in riding gear and behind the wheel of this awesome pick-up truck/horse trailer combo that I had - now that was sweet. No pink Corvette and no lazy Barbie! Even my Barbie was a tomboy! She had a cool ride and did stuff. She wasn't sitting around the pool with Ken and his molded hair, no siree, my Barbie was attached to the washing line with clothes pegs, right beside my brother's G.I. Joe and his real hair/beard as I reeled them back and forth across the entire backyard!

My TV time was filled with Spiderman, Batman, The Hulk, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Fantastic Four and other equally cool shows.
The result of all of this boy-ness was that I've always had males as friends, even when I was a little girl. I can remember in elementary school I'd go to my friend Steven's house and we'd sit in his room looking at Mad magazines and then head to the alley to kick a soccer ball back and forth. Being able to get along with boys so well did pose one problem though - I think sometimes they forgot that I was a girl! Sheesh, I had a crush on Steven for years - not that he'd ever clue into that fact, to him, I was just one of the boys.

I actually feel very grateful to have had this insider's view to men. It has always served me well in my relationships, it has made me more understanding and able to view things from both sides. I've been very lucky to have many close friendships with men and they have trusted me with their thoughts and feelings in a way that women often aren't privy to.
Ha, I'm not sure if I give off some kind of dude vibe, but they seem to know that they can open up to me.
I am a girl, make no mistake about it - I'm scared of spiders, I love chocolate, and although I'm still not a girly-girl, I do love clothes - but my fashion choices always lean more towards menswear inspired/fitted cuts. Clothes with a sexy edge I can do, but I can't pull off the super girly look - no bows, or ruffles or pink - no pink!
Not knocking those who love that, I just happen to know it's not for me. If I saw myself in a pink flouncy number even I'd say, 'Mel, you look hilarious!'

So this is my ode to boys. Your influence has greatly contributed to the person that I am today, quirky as heck, goofy as can be, straight forward, and with a very low tolerance for head games and BS. I thank each and everyone of you that have shared your friendship with me, I really do feel in many ways, like one of the boys. Now I need to figure out women - I think that's going to be much tougher for me, but I'm starting to learn. I can tell you this one difference right now, though your male friends may dig it, women are not impressed that men can burp the entire alphabet. A tough lesson for my brother to learn back in the day - I mean, sure if you could burp all the letters with the same burp strength that might be impressive, but if your letters start to weaken mid-alphabet....meh. Not to worry boys, I still think you're f**king great! See, I am one of the boys!!

Friday, October 22, 2010

More Strangers

OK, well here's another batch of my photographs of strangers. From my previous 'stranger' posts you should all know by now that this is a hobby of mine.
Just to make it clear though, when I take these photos, it's strictly to capture a moment in time, a little slice of life that may otherwise go undocumented. There is never any ill intent or malicious thought to them, I'm not looking to shoot people at their worse. And although in this group there is one of a child, I don't photograph children very often, only because I don't want to creep out the parents and for the fact that the parents are usually already documenting what I see. I couldn't resist with the little girl at the beach though, I love how the colours looked and how she seemed to discovering the wonders of the beach for the first time. Also bear in mind, I have a pretty decent zoom lens so it's not like I'm in people's faces, they usually don't even know that their photo has been taken. Though this batch also includes a few exceptions to that too, as I believe that I was spotted taking the photo in 2 from this grouping. First one being the guy on the balcony talking on the phone, it appears that he's looking right at me, might be kind of hard to see in this posting though.
I actually took that photo while sat in the passenger seat of a car that was stopped at a red light, so I didn't have much time to capture it, as is the case with many of my stranger photos. None the less, it looks like I may've been spotted. Second one being rather obvious from the photo, is the man with the tie on that reads, 'I'm Perfect'. I was standing alone waiting for the kids to get onto the roller coaster at the PNE when I spotted Mr.Perfect, it just struck me so funny that someone would wear that tie, I really admired his chutzpah. By the time he was close enough for me to read what his tie said, it was pretty close to impossible to pretend that I was capturing something else, so I just took my shot. Luckily for me, he didn't seem to mind, he just smiled at me as I lowered my camera. I'm sure when you're perfect you get that kind of thing happening to you all the time.
So hopefully that'll clear up any concerns in regards to my love of photographing strangers. My oldest son, who is very sensitive (just like me) started to seem bothered when I would take such photos. He said to me, 'I don't understand why you like to take photo's of people that you don't know'. He said it in a suspicious and protective way, like he thought I was maybe in some way making fun of them.
Now he, and anyone else who knows me should know better, that simply is not me.
So I assured him that in no way was I taking these photos to be mean, further adding that I'm sure if the strangers that I have photographed saw the photos, I would like to think that they'd like to have a copy for themselves.
Many of the photos are taken of people on their own, so if I didn't capture these moments, they wouldn't be documented. Even if they did have a friend with them, they still wouldn't capture the honesty that my photos reveal, simply because it's not quite the same to say to a friend, 'hey go take a photo of me quietly reading on my own', sure you'd still have a nice photo, but what you'd be capturing would be a set up moment. I love to capture the moment as it is naturally occurring.
OK, so I've already describe a few of this latest batch, onto the rest.
The couple on the bench, happened to be sitting on the same bench where I captured my 'On Golden Pond' man...see my February 5, 2010 post for that photo. This couple looked so happy, they were laughing and looked like they were in the midst of a great catch up. They just warmed my heart so much.
The other three beach shots were taken on pretty cold days, it's a rare occasion to find me on a beach in the summer, but any other season, I just love it.
The lone gentlemen was a lovely sight, I'm sure this is a walk he probably does daily. What a great way to clear your mind. The two girls in the tent, was taken on the same (freezing) day and I loved their enthusiasm despite the cold, they were going to enjoy the view from their little shelter. These shots were taken at Centennial Beach in Tsawassen, a fantastic place with so many beautiful rocks, I'm pretty sure I have at least 5 pounds of them at my house. I kept saying to the kids, 'OK, last one, don't bring anymore home'....then I'd spot another one that I couldn't resist. Not to worry though, there must be millions there, still lots for everyone. The lady with yellow boots was spotted at Stanley Park, and I just loved how her boots gave a great shot of colour to her outfit.
Still at Stanley Park, we have the lady peacefully reading against the tree, despite the fact that the park was fairly busy, she still found her own little escape.
Which brings me to the photo of the man facing the water, also enjoying an escape.
The same escape that I was enjoying when I took his photo, because what you don't get from this photo, is the fact that only about 100 yards from where he is standing, thousands of people are filing past en route to the roller coaster or maybe to grab some mini doughnuts, yup, this one was taken at the PNE too! I can only handle heat and crowds for so long before I need a break from it to recharge my batteries and this little tucked away oasis was just what I needed.
The last photo in this batch was taken in Steveson. The man riding the bike reminded of the character, Holling from Northern Exposure - one of my favourite shows.
I thought, you never know, maybe Holling was heading back to his birthplace in the Yukon or biking back up to Alaska to see his love Shelly? Either way, it was nice to see him.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Knock, Knock.....who's there??

That's what I wonder whenever I see an interesting door. I mean, let's face it, it's one of the most used parts of a building, OK maybe with the odd exception of someone sneaking in via a window, but other than that everyone who has entered that particular building has got in the same way. I always found this especially interesting when visiting various castles and cathedrals throughout the UK, when you're in a building that may be 500 years old, it's hard not to be intrigued at the thought of all of those who have entered the door before you. This is just a small selection of some of the many door photos that I've taken, here we cover 3 countries and several different types of buildings. In a way, I think we take a door for granted, the assumption may be that it is only a thing of necessity, but I think they hold great value. Think of how many people you've welcomed through your door, how many times it may have been slammed in anger, but mostly how many times, you've felt that great sense of comfort as you've walked through it and knew you were home....home sweet home.
I leave you with this quote from Helen Keller - “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”

Monday, August 16, 2010

Strange Situations

Here we are with another installment of photos that I've taken of random strangers.
Well the first shot isn't a stranger at all, but yours truly, though agreed, I may indeed be stranger than the strangers. Taken by my son Gavyn, I had no idea he was taking my photograph because as you can see, I'm busy doing my own thing. Looks like we might have another secret agent on our hands?! Again for me though, this type of photography has become something that I really love. Those little vignettes of life, scattered all around us, unfolding at a moments notice. Often they may go unnoticed, but for me when I not only get to witness, but also capture these moments, well, it brings me a lot of joy. A little visual documentation of some of life's simple pleasures.
People are always aware of wanting to freeze life's big moments in time, a wedding of course, as one always hopes it will be a once in a lifetime event. And who hasn't turned into a full fledged paparazzi member once they have kids....especially with the first born and their first few years, we can't get enough of recording each milestone that they reach. All absolutely valid reasons to become a little camera crazy!!
Granted these are big moments that you want to capture with photographs that usually speak loud and clear to what the image is trying to convey.
For me, a large appeal of photographing strangers, aside from being at the right place and the right time, I love not knowing the whole story behind the image.
To some degree, the image will tell part of that tale, but there are also so many variables that it keeps it interesting for me. I guess, that's why I'm a writer as well. I like to imagine the story behind the image. To me, capturing these simple little moments are just as important and I think more often than not, they give you a better visual record of that person's life. Ever since I was a kid, this type of photograph has intrigued me. It was always cool to see a perfectly lit, staged promo shot of someone famous, but I found I was even more drawn to the casual image that showed a glimpse into what this person may really be like. Here are my thoughts on these images that I have taken.

This photo was taken in Tofino last fall, and I swear I've never seen two people so excited to see the water as these two women. It was pure joy to witness their excitement as they raced towards the waves. Maybe they came here as kids, and hadn't returned in years, or perhaps best friends reunited again after years apart. No way of knowing for sure, but the joy that they shared in that moment, was without question.

This next image was taken in Vancouver during the Olympic Games. I took my older son down for the day to take in some of the atmosphere, and with hopes of taking some good photos while we were there. As luck would have it, weather wise, we picked the worst day. At a time when we'd been having almost summer-like weather, we go on the one day that it rained. No, I can't really say poured!!
So much so that my winter jacket was soaked right through. It was so grey and dull that you couldn't even see the mountains. I said to Gavyn, 'OK, so this will be a challenge for me to get good shots, but we are going to have a great time today'. It was so much fun, Vancouver normally offers such spectacular scenic views, so this time I enjoyed finding something other than the natural scenery to photograph. When you're not distracted by it's obvious beauty, you may also find yourself dazzled by it's simple beauty. Interesting shop displays, public art, people and just objects in general. I loved how this guy was going to wave his flag, despite the weather. He rode back and forth several times along Coal Harbour, and it seems each time he did, I'd have my back to him shooting something else. Finally, on his last lap before disappearing into the sunset?, I quickly turned and got this shot!

I found this scene very amusing. Many times over the years, I've seen various tour buses pull into Stanley Park near the totem poles and let it's occupants out for a photo op. Never though, have I seen so many get into pose or shoot mode so quickly!!
It was so cute, bus doors open....oodles of people appear and within about 2 minutes, half go and pose, while the other half stand back to capture!! Nobody seemingly, not sure of their position, it looked as if each one knew exactly where they were going. Almost like a graceful choreographed dance!

Off to Bear Creek Park now and I see this very familiar scene. I wanted to capture this image because I've always admired the sense of community. I love how all of these men have gathered at one table, to play games, get caught up with friends or just shoot the breeze. I like how some are doing their own separate things, but yet everyone still looks welcomed as part of a group. I thought it was a sweet scene, especially as you'll notice the one man has his arm around another.
The whole scene to me is very inclusive, which is lovely.

Still at Bear Creek Park, I spot this lone man on a bench, again for me, I'm always amazed at how relaxed people can be reading in public. I've tried this on more than one occasion, mostly when I've travelled on my own. I get too distracted by my surroundings and find myself daydreaming more than reading....I tend to have to read a paragraph over several times before I really take it in. I think I'll stick to reading in bed, as peaceful as park reading looks, I fear it would take me a year of daily visits to finish a book!

This last image was taken a couple of weeks ago, on top of Burnaby Mountain. It was one of those nights that we'd been having where the sun glowed an incredible vivid red, a beautiful, albeit unfortunate result of the forest fires in various parts of the province. Again it was just a sense of community that struck me. These men were all happily hanging out together staring with amazement, like everyone else on the mountain, and this spectacular glowing red ball. A simple gathering to share in this natural delight. Each time the kids and I passed them, they would all smile and nod at us, as if to acknowledge that yes, we are all part of this together. I've been up the mountain many times over the years, and usually people come and go, doing there own thing, but this glowing red sun had this odd force to it. It was obvious that we were all up here for the same thing, everyone chatted with each other and marvelled in awe and the sight before our eyes. Incredibly peaceful to watch that sun go down.
But as my stories often seem to peace went away about fifteen minutes after the sun when down....I had asked the kids to take their ice-cream wrappers to the garbage that was located about 10 feet behind us. As I chat away to my mum, we hear this loud sound...the *ping* of heavy metal being hit!! Before I can even turn my head I hear Owen screaming and then as I turn, I see the metal post, that moments ago was in the ground, is now lying on the ground!! As he runs to me crying, I'm trying to piece together what has just happened....I thought he must have run into it on the return...10 foot trip!!
Turns out, he grabbed onto it to spin around as he passed it and it came off it's support he quickly tried to put it back in before we could see, he clunked himself in the head with it!!! The serenity I had felt from the gorgeous sunset now seeming like a distant memory and I'm snapped right back to my regular crazy life!!
Ha, speaking of snapped.....yes, before we left, I also took a picture of Owen standing next to the offending post!! Sometimes being a hard head can be good, so I wanted the visual evidence!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Interesting Combo?

I guess some people don't like chips with their fish....or alternatively, maybe some women don't like flowers with their gifts and would prefer some halibut??
Personally, I like chips, but not fish. So that would mean, if you're getting me a gift, I'd also prefer flowers. Which also would mean, if you're shopping for me, you might want to shop at your local 'Gift and Chips and Flowers' shop.
And to further help, CD's and books are always great. Chips, small order, dash of salt, hold the vinegar. Flowers, peonies and tulips are 2 of my faves. Hope that helps....OK, what are you waiting for....go me my pressies!!!


Man, some people sure know how to ruin a good time!!

Animal Self-Esteem - A 'Growing' Problem

This sign is posted on the grizzly bear enclosure on Grouse Mountain.

It seems that even the animal community suffer from self-esteem issues.
Not sure why they're feeling the pressure - do they have fashion magazines too??
And if human models wear fur coats, does that mean that bears are wearing human coats??
* see previous post....maybe this could be a possible side business for the 'Human' Restaurant?! Eeeeewwww!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What's Your Sign??

OK, I think they should have picked a different font for their sign....I doubt that I'm the only one who thought this read, 'Human Chinese Restaurant'. Not really the best advertising.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Storm!!

Okay so we've covered the calm portion of the story, now let's get to the storm.
For some reason I had the feeling of pending doom when I went to bed, I just got the situation wrong. I thought I was going to sleep in, that episode of Seinfeld went through my head, you know the one where Jerry is responsible for waking up that guy for the marathon. So with that on my mind I did all I could do to avoid that happening...I brought my travel alarm clock, though failed to check the batteries dead. So I attempted to set the iPod dock/alarm clock, though it seemed a bit tricky I think I mastered it. Then I phoned down for a wake-up call. And then just to be safe I also set the alarm on my phone too, it was the first time I had used that function, but as I had a couple of other back ups I felt ok. So maybe I was wrong?? Ring, ring, wake up called happened, and both my alarms went off. I felt like a master of technology! Happy, in my zen-like state of mind, I head to the shower. Now I don't know about you, but for me, the shower is where I do a lot of my thinking, most likely because it's one of the few times in a day that I'm on my own. Often many of my stories take shape there, it's kind of like my office with a lake view, work with me on this one. This particular morning I'm going over in my head, the next few steps in my day and start planning them out time wise.
*Blip*'ve now entered my thought bubble - don't worry, it's fairly safe - this time. Thoughts went like this...ok, so I'll finish my shower, do my make-up, then I'll....make-up?!! MAKE-UP???!!!! HOLY CRAP!!! I didn't pack my flippin make-up!!!! You must be freakin' kidding me!! Can it be true?!
Indeed it was true. Now I've travelled a fair bit in my life and never, ever have I forgotten to pack my make-up!! Normally it's the last thing to get packed, as you can't pack it the night before because you need it in the morning. What I hadn't done before though, is spent the night before my trip in a hotel - and that's what's to blame. We headed to the hotel in the late afternoon the day before, so I didn't have that normal routine of doing my make-up and packing it as I'd make-up had be applied hours earlier. For some reason the thought of my make-up never even entered my head, I was so busy making sure I had all my cables, chargers, batteries etc for 2 cameras, 1 cell phone and 1 laptop and I must say, I give myself full marks for getting that right at least.
But no make-up...ugh, that really sucked. Now don't get me wrong, I'm far from a high maintenance gal, but make-up is pretty basic and essential for most women and add to that, I would be heading to a big party the next night to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Canada. A bash that was to have almost 800 guests, a bash that I bought a new dress and shoes for!! So yeah, I'd like to have some make-up too!
So I try not to panic...I remember that the hotel had some stores surrounding it, so I look out the window....hmmm....the closest thing to a store selling make-up is McDonalds, and yes I do consider that as an option! Mustard could work as an eye shadow, it would bring out my blue eyes quite nicely, ketchup could easily serve as both lip gloss and blush....if applied with a light touch....OK, maybe not my best idea but it was about 5 am and I wasn't thinking straight!!
I calm myself with the realization that I'll be at the airport in plenty of time to do some shopping, I'll just pick up some stuff there. Though I must admit that while on the shuttle bus to the airport, my mind does begin to wander again as we pass Costco. Maybe I should hop off there, and then I have to remind myself that I don't really need a 16 pack of mascara, and I'm pretty sure that a keg of face cream will put my suitcase well over the weight limit! Right Mel, sit'll be at the airport soon, lots of shops there, this whole nightmare will soon be over.
I get my bag checked and I'm all ready to shop. Ok...lets see, bookstore, luggage store, souvenir store, ahhh, then I spot it...the multi-purpose/we sell everything store. In I go, magazines, chocolate bars, toys, combs, toothbrushes, hairspray, Pepto Bismol o' make-up - nothing?!! As I weave in and out of every shop desperate to get this sorted, I notice that the luggage shop has a Burt's Bees display and I'm thrilled to have at least found a tube of lip gloss, not thrilled at having to pay $12.99 for it, but it's a start at least. I discover later when I applied it, that is had a questionable smell....I don't know who to blame Burt or his damn bees, but I block out the odd aroma just to feel like I'm a wee bit less naked in the face department. I ask the sales clerk there, - after explaining my sad story, if she knew where I could get some cosmetics.
She in turn shouts across the way to the lady at the information booth, who tells me, 'oh yes, go downstairs to 7-Eleven'. I think to myself two things, 1) there's a 7-Eleven in the airport?? and 2) they sell make-up??....I guess they've branched out since my last visit, when their top sellers were Slurpees the size of my head and frightening hamburger/hot dog offerings...hmm cool! She's the info lady, she would know so that is where my journey takes me next.
I bounce in the store with an optimistic spring in my the visual scan. Seeing me in full search mode, the friendly clerk asks me if he could help me find something, I tell him I'm on the hunt for some make-up. He gives a little chuckle and replies to me, 'I'm just a black man with a blonde afro, what do I know about make-up'.
Ok fair enough, though I wasn't looking for any tips as such, just the goods, but at least he's not wasted my time. The search continues, I head to the washroom remembering that they have dispensers in there selling various products. I spot it from afar, and I can read the type on the reads, 'Essentials'....finally, of course that would include make-up right? Wrong!!! No make-up, however one thing that does seem to fall under that category of essentials, is temporary 'Canadian' tattoos?!! Cute sure, but essential??! Once again, my irrational side takes over and I do ponder applying a maple leaf to each cheek, thought I could go for a sort of Raggedy Ann thing, kind of a cute doll like look? Then I remind myself that I'm 43 and heading to a big corporate bash!! I will be meeting all of the head office staff for the first time, I'm starting to envision myself doing the introductions like this....'hi, I'm Melanie, the troll from BC'. They're going to notice the fact immediately anyways, so why not put a comical spin on it? It seems that the only place in the airport selling make-up won't be opened until I'm already 30 odd thousand feet in the air. I resign myself to the fact that it isn't going to get sorted until I'm in Toronto.

Fast forward to Pearson International in Toronto, where I meet up with, for the first time 2 ladies from the Calgary office, we are to share a cab to the Hotel. I tell them my sad tale and being women they assure me not to worry as we are staying at a large hotel that will sell pretty much everything in their gift shop. I feel a great sense of relief and sit back in the comfy limo/taxi and take in the sights of the city passing by. Oh, big hotels with all your amenities, how I love thee.
As we check in, I ask the girl to point me in the direction of the gift shop and do a quick (but obviously unnecessary) double check with her....'and they sell make-up right?' Now it seems it's time for the girl with the far too tight ponytail to deliver my next sucker punch...'oh make-up, no they don't sell any of that'. I reply with, 'are you flippin' kidding me?' Apparently not. I am able to get out of her that there is a Shoppers Drug Mart about a 15 minute walk away. Problem being, I haven't even been up to my room yet to changed for a dinner that I'm told I need to be ready for in a half hour or so. I head up to my room to meet my room-mate from Kelowna and share with her my nightmare. Within 5 minutes of meeting this woman for the first time, she tells me that's she's rented a car as she is originally from Toronto and would I like her to drive me to Shopper's before we have to go down for dinner? At this point, Joan has become bathed in light and has transformed from fellow Merchandiser to St. Joan - solver of all problems!! Despite being extremely short on time, we decide to go for around the city like 2 crazy women looking for Shoppers, Joan knows her way around pretty well, so the mission is accomplished fairly quick. I run in the store with Joan and proceed to buy make-up at the speed of light!! We hop in the car again, and Joan puts the pedal to the metal, back at the hotel we race up to our room where I quickly throw on a new outfit for dinner and I do a very quick application of my war paint.
We race back down to the lobby where the BC group is waiting for us. The two guys that I work with, ask me where I was, apparently they were phoning our room looking for Joan and I.
I quickly tell them my story of no make-up and their reaction - nothing! I give them a look a disgust and explain again, NO make-up packed!! Still nothing. Every woman that I've shared my story with gave me a *gasp* at least.
All I can say to the men reading this story is just imagine what it would be like to have to spend a whole day without your TV channel surfing, having to physically get up to change the channel or alter the volume....NO remote for any of it! I do believe that I just heard a massive intake of air from my male readers!! Now you know how I felt.
Thank you all for sharing my pain - I don't think this is a mistake I'll ever repeat, but fear not, mishaps and adventures just seem to find me no matter where I am. I'm sure I'll have another tale to share very soon!!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Calm Before the Storm

The night before my trip, I checked myself into the Holiday Inn Express near the airport - it's where all the rock stars stay. The plan was to make things a little more easy going for my 8am flight the next morning. I would enjoy my alone time, by doing a 'few of my favourite things'. Writing being one of those things, so I brought my new boyfriend Jack, as in 'Apple Jack' with me and took advantage of this time to bang out a few words. See I really am a writer, I know this image doesn't evoke the same kind of Hemingway in Cuba writer vibe, but hey, baby steps people, baby steps. True, my drink of choice is very different too, and the stories told after I've had a few bottles of water, well, they wouldn't be any different from the ones I would tell after one bottle of water, sure there'd be more bathroom breaks, but other than that, the writing would be the same. I was heading to Toronto though and Hemingway did write for the Toronto Star, so obviously we have that tight connection!
After my writing, I decide it's music time. I was thrilled that the room had an iPod dock, this would allow me the freedom to dance around the room and flail my arms wildly about without the worry of getting caught up in my earphone cord. OK, so I never danced around the room while I was there, but you do see that kind of thing in movies, so I thought I'd throw it in for good measure.
So, to re-cap, no booze and no dancing and as you can see from the time on my iPod, no late night shenanigans either. Please don't prejudge me though, I was saving my energy for when I was to meet up with my friend Sande days later. Or did I have a crazy night on my own and trash the room ala Townshend, only moments after these photos were taken? Am I covering up the truth, terrified that the details will come out later down the road in my writing career?! So am I spinning you a story to make myself look good?
Hmmm...Anybody who knows me, knows I'd never trash a hotel room!! Sure I've done some slightly crazy things at times, but I'd hardly put walking around in the fountain of the Vancouver Art Gallery on par with destroying furniture in some mad 'creative' frenzy!! Besides, the money that I would owe from doing such an outlandish thing, would seriously cut into my clothing budget, yeah, so not going to happen!
Nope, a quite night in with the sweet sounds of Ron Sexsmith to keep me company, while I put my feet up and had a well deserved break.
Yes, that kind of sweet solitude is hard to come by these days, so I treasure such moments when they do come my way.
So this would be the calm portion of my story.
Stay tuned for the storm portion, available on news stands soon, or more accurately, here on my blog within the next week.
I know, look at me with all of this edge of your seat kind of story a cliff hanger on a soap opera!
Hello? Anyone still here??
I bet you've all just dashed away and marked your calendars with a reminder to check back...yes, that's it, I thought I heard the sounds of crowds running.
To Be Continued.....

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Q: Why Did the Ice Cream Cone Cross the Road?

It seems just like the chicken, he needed to get to the other side, but why?

Well from this shot it appears that he's about to be plowed down by a car...I guess that's one way to get to the 'other side'?!

Now we see him making his way across the road....

He sizes up the competition...

And he starts to bust a move, clearly to the annoyance of Mr. Little Caesars!

He's now in full, 'you can't compete with my wicked outfit mode'!
So it appears that he crossed the road for that old adage, 'location, location, location'! He knew a good marketing opportunity when he saw one.
He came, he saw and he conquered!!
It seems that Caesar has been stabbed in the back, yet again!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Deep Thoughts

Do mishaps happen to me because I'm a writer, or am I a writer because mishaps happen to me. Hmmm....must ponder this one further.

Photo comes by way of the mirror in the loo at the hotel in Toronto. A paparazzi moment and lost in thought combo. The mirror is the perfect tool to look beyond yourself, I've done this since I was a kid. Maybe most people see what's in the mirror but I'm always looking to see what's beyond that image. Yup, I've been an odd ball for years!!

Clean as a Whistle

On my recent trip to Toronto, I noticed that the city was very clean - and I think I know why. May I present exhibit A....a duster, lying there waiting to be picked up and put to use. I'm betting if I had more time to wander the city, I would've noticed more of these little pink puppies. I think it must be some Toronto law that, when you spot one, you must pick it up and do a little dusting before dropping it off at a new home, maybe a few blocks from where you found it. I'm thinking this is a very smart idea and one that I may put into practice in my home. If I scatter cleaning products through out my house, a duster here, a Magic Eraser there, perhaps guests would feel compelled to pick them up and do a few minutes of work. Worth a shot, right?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Blame it on Ernie...(he's the one)

OK, I think many of you already know, I love taking bubble baths. This activity has become my little moment of solitude. A time to reflect on the passing day, think about future writings and plot evil deeds. Ooops, did I just let my dark side show?!
Actually, I rarely plot evil deeds in the bath, it would be too hard to hold onto a set of blueprints in the tub, which for some reason are always a part of evil deed plotting, or maybe that's just in cartoons? I'm also not one of those who can read while soaking in the suds...I really don't get how that works, how do you flip the pages with wet hands?!! I suppose one could hire a Jeeves type of person to handle such tasks, but I'm a slow reader and it would just get uncomfortable, me trying to read quickly, skipping lines to speed up the process and Jeeves using his mental stopwatch to time me, all the while thinking, 'seriously, how long does it take to read 1 page!'
The pressure would be far too great for me, my moment of relaxation would be lost, as would the plot of the story.
Then of course there would be the worry of the bubbles disappearing, my once full tub o'suds would eventually become just a few bubbles floating flat on the surface....embarrassing both me and Jeeves. So, reading is out as part of the ritual, but I haven't completely thrown out the idea of having some company with me.
In walks, (or waddles) RD into my life. RD aka Rubber Duckie is now apart of my ritual. I spotted him at the store a couple of months ago, and I couldn't resist his charms, granted he drove a red sports car - a clear sign of a mid-life crisis,(though I can't say that I'm familiar with the life span of a duck) but he did sport some cool goggles and had a jaunty way about him, I knew we were meant to be together. Since then me and RD have become fast friends, and the fact that he can't turn pages is of little concern to me, because he brings a smile to my face each time I step in the tub.
Oh and there is no worry about RD seeing me naked as the bubbles fade, he assures me that his goggles are of the very outdated prescription variety. RD wouldn't lie, would he? Though I have noticed that he always has a smile on his face.....hmmm....

Monday, April 26, 2010

Reading the Signs

Polite words by Lennon and McCartney

Reading the Signs

Isn't this taking the whole CSI thing a little far?! I would be very leary of ordering a meat dish here....eeewwwww!!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Reading the Signs

Coal Harbour - Vancouver
Fish and chics...would you like any vinegar with that me darlin'? Hmmm....I wonder if they wrap themselves in newspaper to keep warm?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I'm a Big Kid Now!

Drum roll please.......cue the music, have the dude ready to jump out of the cake....balloons in place. Crustless sandwiches chilled - check. Tiny cakes stacked on that 'I only use for special occasions' plate - check. Good quality, non-bending paper plates on the table, next to the 'look pretty, but feel stiff' napkins, right along side the acrylic, yet classy, goblets and of course the plastic, but heavy feeling utensils to finish off the scene. Oh it does seem like we have something to celebrate doesn't it?!
Well indeed we do! We are now at the year two mark of the releasing of Secret Agent Mel out of her cage!! Two years since I let the secret out, the secret that I write.
Now I have to admit, in the past year it may've seemed like I've been on a bit of a sabbatical from my secret agent duties because I haven't been blogging as often, and in some ways I guess I have. The picture is a little bigger than just a leave from my blog, I think it would be accurate to say that I've been on a sabbatical from life in general, well life as I knew it anyways.
I've been riding on a hell of a bumpy road these past twelve months, but I've held on tight throughout and I've arrived at my new destination. To me, it feels like weathering a great storm, and then being rewarded with a beautiful rainbow at the end.
Well my rainbow comes in the form of my decision to write a book. You heard right, a book!! Only two years ago, I barely had the courage to tell a select group of friends that I started a blog and now I'm announcing that I plan to write a book and attempt to get it published!! So far nobody has called me crazy - so far. Mind you, being call such a thing would never stop me anyways, where's the fun in being normal and predictable I ask? Exactly!

Many of my friends knew that I wrote poetry, but the fact that I wanted to actually write a book someday, well that I kind of kept to myself. Only recently did I let it be known that I was planning on writing a book, and I should also mention that it was only recently that I informed myself too. The thought of becoming a writer has probably crossed my mind hundreds of times since my first book attempt at about age 9. It never really left my mind, just faded into the background a bit, mostly because I just never thought it was possible for me to do such a thing. I've recently come to the conclusion that one of the biggest things holding me back was knowing that I couldn't write the types of books that I'd read in the past, nor did I really want to either. I don't think I have the patience or interest that it would take to develop a plot, a cast of characters. interesting locations etc, and be able to keep all of that straight. I'm afraid that's just not how my brain works at all, lets just say my noggin's a bit more free-form! I admire people who can write that way, it must take a great deal of concentration and although my mind is a little scattered, I am smart enough to know that, that's just not my schtick! Trouble was, I didn't ever entertain the thought that my schtick, as is, could also be something that people wanted to read. To be honest, I never really even clued in to what was housed in the 'humour' section at the book store. I just knew it as the place to pick up copies of books that were compiled collections of comic strips, I never thought of that section as also containing 'story' type books.
Back in the day when I rode the SkyTrain everyday, it seemed that the commuters were reading either a romance novel or one of those 'whodunit'/medical/law novels. Just the thought of a romance novel makes me shudder, I can't even get past the cover - sorry Fabio. To write a mystery, medical or law novel, well I'm thinking you might need to know a thing or two about those areas.
So why now you may ask, after all of this time have I finally decided to make my 'official' attempt at hammering out a book. The first part of the answer I would attribute to my Sally Field, Oscar moment, 'I can't deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me'.
For the past 2 years friends and strangers alike have read my words and given me praise. Through your notes of encouragement, I have discovered that you have felt a connection to my thoughts, giggled at my madness, dug my quirkiness and not once did you question my sanity - at least not publicly. Even when I revealed that in the intro of my book, I have a dream-like sequence with Frank Sinatra singing my resume, followed by references to Willy Wonka, Charlie Brown, calculus, and binary fission, still nobody flinched!!
Well if that doesn't scare you off, there's no stopping me.
The second part of the answer to 'why now' is the fact that, as I've mentioned, the past 12 months have been probably the most difficult that I've ever been through.

~lower the porch scene, turn the fans on low and insert the crickets chirping sound you need to picture me in a rocking chair, sipping my mint julep, and as you read this next bit, please do so with a heavy southern accent in your head...
'I have neither the time, nor the inclination to rehash of all that nastiness', 'I simply will say, what doesn't kill you, might just push you towards your dreams'.
....Southern Belle (aka me), turns her head towards the screen door and says, 'Charles, be a dear won't you and fetch me another mint julep', 'I do declare this heat makes a lady mighty thirsty'.

So yeah, the other reason is basically when much of your world as you know it crumbles and falls, you have one of two choices, either lie down in the rubble until someone rescues you, or get up, shake the dust off and start working towards rebuilding your world. I chose to do the latter, what better opportunity to redesign things a little.

I hope you will join me in the celebration of my second birthday. Starting this blog two years ago, has given me a place to release some of the gazillion thoughts that whirl in my head. I need to give a special shout out to my dear and lovely friend Sande, who was the one that first suggested that I should start a blog. Spurned on at the time, by the fact that she found my emails amusing and basically said, 'you should write a blog'. I of course thought she was mad, but there you have, she was pretty sane after all. As soon as I started this blog, I realized quickly that even if no one ever laid eyes on it, it didn't really matter. What mattered most, was I had somewhere 'official' to write my words....paper napkins took a backseat - though I still use them!
The second shout out has to go the sweet and kind Editor of the Langley Advance, Bob Groeneveld, who was the first one to put in type, 'you are a writer'!!! Upon first reading those words I did wonder if he had a drinking problem, but I have since learned to embrace that fact, that I really have felt since I was a child, 'I WAS a writer'. I contacted Mr. Groeneveld about a year ago, with an email that had the subject title 'I CAN'T TAP DANCE!' went on to explain a few other things that I can't do, along with a few links to my blog.
I asked him, if he'd be so kind to sometime, have a look at my work and give me his opinion. I explained to him that I knew I needed to work on the 'technical' side of things, and I'm still working on that, but I wanted his honest opinion regarding if I had any real talent as a writer, stylistically. I pressed the 'send' button on that email, then I had a bit of a neurotic Woody Allen moment, the feeling of 'what did I do that for!' I was in full Charlie Brown loser mode! I didn't tell anyone what I had done, I just assumed they'd all see the Langley Advance headline soon enough....
Enter : Dickens era, young capped newsboy -
...Extra! Extra! Read all about it, local Langley woman thinks she's a writer - Editor injures himself from laughing so hard!
The crowds would gather around the newsboy and soon he would disappear in a sea of people desperate to read the tale of such a fool. Oh the horror!!
So I was more than pleasantly surprised when I got Bob's first email, and there wasn't a mention of personal injury anywhere, now that's what I call a victory!
The rest as they say, is history. So I shall continue to write, but my writing time will be divided between this blog and my attempt to compile a collection of short stories, to hopefully be transformed into a book by years end. Fingers and toes crossed.
A sincere thank you to each and every one of you who have taken the time to read my words, and to the many of you who have also taken the time to send me your thoughts about them. You're a big ol' bunch o' sweet peaches, and it's very much appreciated.
I hope you will continue with me on my journey, best to fasten your seat belts though, you never know what the road ahead has in store for you!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Strangers in the Night....

...exchanging glances. Well actually none of these photos were taken at night and rarely were glances exchanged. These kinds of images have become some of my favourite style of photos to take. I love the idea of having pretty much no control over what I will happen upon or how the final result will look. With each of these photos, I probably had no more than 5 seconds from the time I spotted the scene until the time the image you see was captured. If you so much as took the time to recite the alphabet it would've been an opportunity missed - not that I normally just pick random moments to recite the alphabet, but I think you get the point. Thinking about that, on occasion I do find the need to recite the alphabet, it seems to be the only way that I can remember the correct order of the last quarter of it...I do believe the ABC portion gets more than it's fair share of promotion, I think I should start a campaign for XYZ to get some compensation for being so neglected!
I digress...back to my love of strangers. There is something somewhat sinister sounding to the last bit of that sentence. Never mind, I learnt long ago to accept that strangers and strange situations, play a big part in my life - sometimes for better and sometimes for worse, but it always keeps life interesting! In fact, just recently I was sharing my love for strangers with someone who, up until recently, was a stranger to me - until one day when 'Man' from Montreal commented via Myspace on one of these very such SAM blogs and since then we have kept in regular contact. Man and I are now friends, so indeed strangers can be very good, we share a similar 'odd to most' way of thinking and we also share the joy of watching strangers in their natural habitat. As I like to capture these creatures through photographs, I have the proof to show their existence.
Here's my thoughts on the images shown.

The first image was taken on a smokin' hot day in Bellingham, this woman just looked so serene, I pretended to be taking a shot of the islands in the distance before pointing my lens (quickly) at her...literally 2 seconds later she got up. I wish I knew who she was, I think it would be a nice photograph for her to have - it could put her in a Zen-like state when life isn't offering a Zen-like day.

Next we have, a fella that I lovingly refer to as, 'Mop Man', taken on the ferry en route to Tofino. Normally we'd take the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo, but I had a hankering to leave from Tsawwassen instead...strictly because, those are the kind of hankerings I get, some folks may get a 'hankering for a hunk o' cheese', but I tend to get the non calcium kind of hankerings. As it turns out, this crossing is the XYZ of crossings...hence the lack of cars and the chance for Mop Man to make his appearance - I thought he cut a rather striking silhouette!
Moving onto man reading in park, Bear Creek park to be exact and although he needn't really worry about a bear attacking him whilst he reads his book, he may want to consider, teen jumping out of bush and mugging him! This is why he got my attention, I could never just chill like that alone in those kind of surroundings, I would need to be aware and alert. He seemed to be lost in the words before him.
I remember years back I was travelling on my own, and while in Germany, I was sitting along the bank of the Rhine River writing poetry and every now and then I'd think...'if I went missing right now, would anybody notice?', then I further pondered the chances of me being 'young adult-napped' and just continued writing. That day I wrote about 3 poems, which was good considering the amount of time I also pondered things like, 'I wonder if Hitler ate here, bought shoes there, plotted evil deeds here'. I know, I know, I've watched way too many WWII documentaries!

Back to Bellingham for the next shot, same smokin' hot day. This poor guy must have lost 20lbs in sweat by the end of the day, he was like a pack mule. I took his photo to remind myself to pack light...a lesson I know well, yet still seem to break, despite being well travelled...check out my June 2008 post 'Can You Give Me a Hand', for a glaring example of my stupidity. It will make you laugh, it will make you being repeated in select cities, check your local listings.

Next, we have a fine example of how the wrong camera settings can make the right image, that is the reason I love this one so much. Taken at the Abbotsford Airshow, inside a bomber plane. You had to enter at one end by ducking down, or in my case, just bending my head slightly. After I straightened up, this lovely lady at the end was the first thing I saw. I quickly popped my lens cap off, turned on my camera and had just enough time for this quick chance to adjust any settings at all. I'm glad in happened that way, as to me, there is something ethereal about this photo, especially in contrast with the subject matter. The top of the bomber is fairly sharp while near the bottom of the photo it is quite blown out and hazy, like she's fading. It represents for me how the bomber takes away lives, maybe no one else will see it this way, but I always think of life and death when I look at this photo.

Leaving somber behind, we're back at the park. I just loved how this gentlemen looked, very 'On Golden Pond', This was a tough one to get. I needed an accomplice - enter in oldest son, who is more than used to the mad ways of his mother. We were on the next bench over, only about 10 feet from this man and I was trying not be obvious, so in my spy-worthy manner, I called Gavyn (aka Agent Red)over. I told him to sit beside me so I could point the camera in the direction of 'Henry Fonda', then I told him when I say 'now' move back quick!! Nice shot of self esteem for my son - sit nice for me, and then get the h-e-double hockey sticks out of my way while I photograph a stranger....ah not to worry, I took loads of photos of him later, and gave him a five bucks to keep quiet if he was ever to find himself under the heat of the interrogation light. Nothing a little therapy won't sort out later in life.

Nearing the end we have Don Corleone, who looked incredibly fabulous, and out of place up in Whistler this summer. He had to be European, a dead give away is the fact that despite the heat that day, he was thumbing his nose to comfort and going for complete that! Very much a man of that generation, similar to how, in photos from the 1950's my male relatives in Britain, would remove their suit jackets at the beach to show they were 'kickin' back', the wilder ones would sometimes even unbutton their shirt sleeves and roll them up - a sure sign of rebellion.

The last of my strangers is Goose from Top Gun, again at the airshow. I'm pretty sure I heard someone ask him where the washrooms were and as you can see by his pose, he's giving them the 411. Again, maybe it's just me, but I prefer to think he has just spotted the Luftwaffe in the distance, and is telling me, Secret Agent Mel that danger is near. Anyone with me on that one? With that, I do start to wonder, who is stranger?, me or the strangers?? I think I'll just leave that one alone.