Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How to Swim with a Hot Dog

No, I'm not talking about juicy delicious frankfurters, although if someone would like to invent a way to swim in a twenty-feet-deep lake while eating said frankfurter without using a floatation device or getting the hot dog wet, I'd be alllll ears.

I'm talking about weinerdogs.

The only pet dog I've ever owned is a weinerdog. My family bought him in the spring of 2002 as a suprise father's day present for my dad, who's always wanted a dog, despite our family being more of a family of cat-people. My mom decided she would finally bow to my dad's wishes, and sent my brother and I to pick one out at a pet store as a surprise. (I know, I know, the pet store industry is terrible, I promise I'll never buy a dog from one again.) The only rule was that it be a small dog. We already had three cats at home, so we couldn't deal with a big horselike animal joining our flock.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A simple goodbye to a far-from-simple man

I was going to post a silly fluff piece about my dog this week. And that will come. But today, I'm writing something a little more serious.

I am sad today. I am sad, because Canada has just learned of the loss of one of its most prominent politicians, a few short months after he succeeded in bringing his party a level of electoral success that many had believed the NDP could never achieve. I am sad, because Jack Layton's most recent Facebook post declared that he was determined to come back to politics, and he would fight his battle with cancer and win. I am sad, because regardless of one's politics, it would be hard to deny that Jack Layton was a man who really, truly believed in his party's platform. He was a man who cared about Canada and its people. He had many detractors, and although they may have come to different conclusions from him about what Canada needs, even they would have to admit that Layton was a man who cared. He never had the appearance of a power-hungry sellout; he was a man who believed every word he ever spoke. He was a man with passion.

About a month ago, the idea came to me to write a three-part series on my experiences meeting various celebrities. One of those celebrities was indeed Jack Layton. And I had set the idea aside for a later date. But then, a tired-looking Layton made the announcement that he was stepping down from government to focus on his health. No one could blame this clearly ill man for taking that decision. I decided to post my three-part series earlier than I had planned, with the intention of prefacing Part 2 with a note about my concern for Layton's health.

In my initial introduction to that piece, I was going to say that I was writing it to demonstrate what a powerful presence Layton carried, and to say that people like me needed him to fight so he could return to politics healthier and stronger. Although the piece wasn't about his politics or even, really, him - it was instead about my own girlish bashfulness in meeting him at a work function a couple of years ago - I thought describing the sheer excitement I felt in meeting him was maybe a way of lighteheartedly declaring my support for him without saying as much. I wanted to try and lay all of those complicated emotions out in writing at the start of the story.

It felt ominous, though. After reading my intro to that blog piece, I realized that I didn't want to preface it that way. I thought the words in the body of the post spoke volumes all by themselves about the way I feel about Jack Layton, and I decided to keep the tone of the post silly and fun, because sometimes humour is the easiest way to deal with sadness. I didn't think of it consciously at the time, but seeing the images of Layton at his July 25 press conference scared the shit out of me. Maybe, in the end, I couldn't face the very real possibility that Jack Layton was a very sick man who might not survive. I didn't have the honour of knowing him personally, but his death has upset me more than I think I could have anticipated. I feel like a mess right now, like I've lost a friend.

Jack Layton will be greatly missed. I was barely interested in politics until my early 20's, but his passion and dynamism drew me straight to the NDP as soon as I was preparing to cast my first ballot in a federal election. There are some things that I don't like about the NDP. I don't agree wholeheartedly with all of their policies. But the one thing I've always known about the NDP is that they had a leader who really fucking gave a shit about Canada, and who would work hard, and faithfully, to restore the progressive social democracy that we used to stand for. I don't know what the future holds for the NDP, or how Nycole Turmel is going to work out as their new leader (if she does indeed keep that title). But I know that their future accomplishments, however great or small they may be, are going to owe a lot to Jack Layton and his astounding success in mainstreaming the party.

I might be a lowly humour blogger who never knew the man personnally. But from what I could tell, Jack Layton loved people. He loved Canada. And Canada loved him back.

I don't think I can write any more on this, because I'm too upset right now. I can scarcely even edit this piece without crying. But I am going to post it anyway, and I hope it will serve as a sufficient send-off, however poorly structured it may be. This is not the first, and will hardly be the last, of heartfelt goodbyes. I'm sure that many will say it much more eloquently than I'm currently capable of doing.

Thank you, Jack Layton, for all you've done for Canada. My thoughts are with your loved ones during this difficult time. Rest in peace, and know that Canada will never forget you.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Meeting Celebrities Part 3: The Celebrity Who's Not That Famous

Part 1 here.

Part 2 here.

Now you're caught up. Good.

The Celebrity Who's Not That Famous

I know you've all been waiting in anticipation for the last couple of weeks for me to tell you what the fuck I mean by "not that famous." I also know some of you will yell at me and tell me I'm everything that's wrong with my generation for not recognizing Lou Diamond Phillips.

First of all, he's pretty handsome. Look at this guy. What a handsome man! I can see that there's a reason you've sort of succeeded in Hollwood, Mr. Phillips.

Second of all, he had a lead role in one big movie. However, you'll have to forgive me, readers, because I haven't seen that movie. And that is the reason why I didn't recognize him when he and I were patrons at the same bar: I have yet to see La Bamba.

"Lou Diamond Phillips" is, I would wager, one of those names than many of my fellow Generation Y-ers (or are we Generation X? I think we're like X.5) have heard but can't quite put a face to. Like that person at your high school who sort of hung out with some of your friends back before you were really a part of that social group and so they talk about them from time to time but you're totally incapable of drawing up a coherent image of the person. We know the name Lou Diamond Phillips, and although I imagine there's a whole lot of us know who he is, there's still a whole lot of us who don't. I think it looks something like this:

I'm pretty sure that I don't know how to do math like this....
So if you do know who Lou Diamond Phillips is and you think I'm ignorant for putting him in the "not that famous" category, then congratulations. You win a cookie.

But I am placing him in the category of "not that famous," because he's obviously not at the Brangelina level of hiding-from-the-public-eye fame. He's the kind of guy that could walk to the grocery store and do his shopping and he would almost be guaranteed to be recognized, but he probably wouldn't be harrassed and he definitely wouldn't be ambushed with his hair ripped out of his skull and traded on Ebay for someone's firstborn son.

A couple of years ago, Lou Diamond Phillips (who my friends have now lovingly nicknamed LDP) was in Ottawa filming a movie. I don't know what movie it was or why they were shooting it here or anything else about the project, but there was some quiet buzzing around town that a movie was being filmed here, because we don't get that too often in Ottawa. My friends and I went to a little pub in the downtown area, and some of the group I was with knew our bartender, so we were sitting along the bar and she was telling us about how LDP and some other movie people had been in the pub lately and it was pretty exciting. I was a little left out of the conversation, because I didn't know who LDP was. Everyone was saying "ELLL DEEEE PEEEE!" and laughing about Ottawa's temporary local celebrity. I wanted to take part in the joy, but I couldn't for the life of me picture who LDP was.

Then, out of nowhere, he showed up again. At the same bar! While we were sitting there! He and his little entourage grabbed a table behind our backs, right by the door. The bartender shushed us and mouthed that he was there, and we all tried to look without being completely and lamely obvious. My friends got even more excited and started giggling about it and we were all whispering at each other. I was growing frustrated that I still had no idea who this LDP character was. I asked my friends to try and discreetly point him out to me, and to tell me which movies he had been in to help me figure out why it was awesome that he was there.

The problem was, like I said, we were sitting along the bar. If you've ever tried to sit along the bar in a row with a group of four or five people, you know that proper socializing is kind of out of the question. Add to this the fact that I was sitting at the left of the group, and I'm extremely hard of hearing in my right ear, and I could barely hear a word anyone was saying to me.

This pub was also on the smaller side, and LDP's group was sitting right behind us. So craning my neck around to get a good look at the Famous Table was diminishing my subtlety even further. I'm pretty sure that this is the scene LDP saw from his table, in plain sight - and earshot - of the row of twentysomethings who couldn't keep their voices down enough:

Deaf girl on the left: Who's here?? Who's famous??

Friend #1: Shh! It's Lou Diamond Phillips!

DGOTL: Who the fuck is that?

Friend #2: The guy from La Bamba! He's over there!

*Friend #2 starts to glance over his shoulder, realizes there is no way to do so discreetly, and tries to gesture with his eyebrows*

DGOTL: The guy in the black shirt over there? 

*Friend #3 sneaks a daring glance*

Friend #3: No! Beside him! In the toque!

*DGOTL looks over her shoulder, pretending to care about some beer company

DGOTL: That guy's famous? What else has he been in? I never saw La Bamba.


Friend #1: Wasn't he in...that movie? With whatshername? About the things? And stuff happens?

Friend #4: No, no, that was the other guy. With the face.

Friend #2: I think he was also in that show about the people.  

DGOTL: Seriously, I have no idea who this person is.


So as you can imagine, our attempts at discretion were not working out. After a few minutes, during which time I imagine LDP and his entourage were snickering behind our lowly commoner backs, my friends gave up trying to educate me in 1980's B-movie pop culture and we went on to discuss other things.

Some time after our conversation had drifted from that topic, however, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I twisted around on my bar stool. My friends all looked up.

Lou Diamond Phillips smiled down at me, stuck his hand out, and said, in the friendliest voice imaginable, "Hi! I'm Louie."

Dumbstruck, I placed my own mornoic hand into his.


"Nice to meet you!" He gave me a little wink and then turned around to leave the bar. We all watched him go without speaking for a solid thirty seconds. Then they all turned to me, asking the same question with their raised eyebrows and gaping mouths.

My only answer was "I don't fucking know."


So there you have it, Internet. This concludes my three-part series of meeting famous people. And you know what? All five of them were class acts. Green Day's band members were humble, down-to-earth regular guys. Jack Layton was gracious in trying to navigate unfamiliar territory (a hard job for a politician with a specific public platform). And Louie - I can totally call him Louie, guys, cause he straight told me to - just got a kick out of the whole thing. I guess when you're sort of a Hollywood one-hit-wonder, you learn to laugh at these kinds of situations. (If you read the above dialogue as sarcastic or snotty at all, I assure you it wasn't; he really is a nice guy.)

So remember, reader: when you meet a famous person, they're just a regular person like you. A person with a lot more money and power than you, who's probably cooler and almost definitely better-looking who has maybe had a lot more sex than you! But they're a person all the same.

And if they tell you to call them Louie, then just smile and nod like a moron. Because no matter how you respond, no matter how you react, you know he's going to be telling the story later on tonight; and however he spins it, you're going to sound like a jackass.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Meeting Celebrities Part 2: The Politician

Have you read Part 1 yet? If not, stop! Go back! Read it! It's right here.

The Politician

I promise I won't get political on you.

This encounter was probably the least hilarious of all my celebrity-meeting encounters. However, if three-part episodes of the Simpsons and Family Guy have ever taught me anything, you always put your weakest story in the middle. So, here it is.

I work for a government-funded not-for-profit company in Ottawa. Since I swear a fuckton and occasionally discuss my political affiliation and I write about dildos and zombies (and probably, eventually, zombies using dildos - new post idea???), but I also like having a job, I'm not going to tell you who I work for. However, that poses a complication: for this next section, I'm going to need to tell you a little bit about an event I attended through work. I work for an advocacy group, and we occasionally sponsor events and things, and these events and things are often funded in part by a particular department of the Canadian government. When I met the politician, it was at an event on Parliament Hill for one such event.

So we're going to play pretend! From here on out, I will tell you that I work for an advocacy body called the Fantastic Mustache Supporters of Canada, or FMSC. We support every Canadian's right to have a fantastic mustache, regardless of income level, religious affiliation, age, or gender. (...I guess our knowledge of biology is a little flawed.) We occasionally sponsor mustache-related events, and on this day in question, we were at a reception on Parliament Hill hosted by the Canadian Department of Mustaches to mark the end of a weeks-long mustache growing competition.

I knew that at this event, I was going to meet the Minister of Mustaches* along with some other committee chairs and important people and a few lesser Members of Parliament. There were also some bigwigs from some of our non-profit partners within the mustache advocacy community. It was sort of fun; it was a wine & cheese in the middle of the day, which was a nice break, and I always like an opportunity to dress up and be fancy and impress my boss. He and I were the only two people from my office in attendance, and he was introducing me to some of our mustache partners.

Then, in the middle of the event, while my boss and I were chatting up an official from a fellow sponsoring organziation, in walks Jack Layton.

I told you I wouldn't get political on you, and I won't: this isn't going to be about why I greatly support the NDP. All you need to know is that I do, in fact, happen to greatly support the NDP, and therefore you can imagine my excitement. I am about 72% sure that my eyes cartoonishly burst from their sockets and were replaced by big shining orange stars.

Everyone else was clearly just as surprised as I was to see a federal party leader just waltz into the room like it ain't no thang; all the MP's had of course been invited, but the big important ones don't usually attend this sort of lowly mustache event. I gaped for a few seconds before I managed to catch my boss's eye and I mouthed "Jack Layton!" at him, which in retrospect, probably insulted his intelligence.

He played it cool as always, nodding his approval. He is not a man who discusses his own politics, and for all I know he could be a Tory, Grit or a Dipper, but he was obviously pleasantly surprised to see Layton step into the room.

Jack Layton worked his way around the room, shaking hands and being politiciany, with his trademark handsome grin and hearty laugh. It was very soon that I saw him approaching our group and all that I could think was "don't be a moron, don't be a moron, don't be a moron."

Imagine this, guys: you're at an event, totally unprepared to meet a national celebrity. And there he is. And you know that you have to try and be calm, because this is is different from the autograph signing with Green Day (again, go read Part 1) for two reasons. One, you are with your boss and you have to not be some giggling teenager. You have to keep a cool head because you are representing your organization, and you have to make that organization proud, especially in a room full of people working for the Department of Mustaches that might be able to increase or cut off your office's funding. And two, you did not wake up that morning knowing you were going to meet Jack Layton; you are totally unprepared for this.

So, what I'm saying is, pressure, guys, pressure.

Jack Layton approched our group. He met everyone, shook their hands, and smiled humbly as they all blurted out their names and the organizations they were there to represent in tones that were far too loud and excited, far too soft and shy, or some viciously awkward combination of the two. It seems as though that's how it works at these events: you say "Hello, First Name Last Name, Organization," and you do it with the appropriate level of humility (read: difficulty) according to who you're meeting.

Then he turned to me. To me. Jack Layton turned that awesomely mustachioed face in my direction, stuck out his hand, being his impressive but "everyman" self, and his hand touched my hand and shook it and he said "Hello, I'm Jack Layton." Like, fucking duh. But I just grinned back and said in my most quavery voice ever, "Hello, I'm the Social Caterpillar, and I'm here with the Fantastic Mustache Supporters of Canada."

This moment must have been every politician's nightmare. Because it could not have been clearer that Jack Layton had no goddamn idea who we were. He had never heard of us, but that's not a slight against him; our organization is sort of well-known in the "mustache advocacy" community, but it's not so famous that it's on every Canadian's radar. I don't think I've ever told someone outside our industry who I work for without having to give an explanation. But Jack Layton is a politician. And politicians have to keep up appearances and be gracefully supportive of the greater Canadian public. So, after a few moments of visible pondering, he just nodded passionately, waving his hand in a circular motion that I assume means he's thinking fast, and said, "Well...I am a Canadian...who supports fantastic mustaches!"

He moved down the line to my boss, who pretty much just repeated me with his own name, and seemed satisfied that I hadn't puked red wine all over Jack's nice suit.

That was it, and we had no further interaction with Jack Layton for the rest of the day. But we got back to the office and I jammered all over my co-workers, saying "Jack Layton was there! OMG! Jack Layton!"

I was pretty pleased with the encounter, actually. I really thought that I would have horribly embarrassed myself, my boss, my company, or the whole mustache advocacy community. But when you work for the FMSC, and one of Canada's most famous mustache-havers is touching your hand with his hand and moving it up and down in an international symbol of respect, well...you know you did good, and you had a good fucking day.

Next week: The Celebrity Who's Not That Famous!

*does anyone else really, really wish there was a Minister of Mustaches? I tried to think of someone** I would nominate, but I have no idea.

**Surprisingly, there is no Wikipedia page for Canadians with awesome mustaches. What the fuck, Canada?


UPDATE! We have some candidates for the Minister of Mustaches! And our Mr. Layton did indeed make the cut. http://canadianfermentation.wordpress.com/2009/02/21/great-canadian-moustaches/

h/t to Stephanie for the link!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Meeting Celebrities Part 1: The Rock Star(s)

I have met several celebrities in my life. And I know what you're thinking, Internet: of course you have. You are best friends forever with Michael Cera, you are brilliant and sophisticated, and you are the world's first blogging caterpillar! Surely you must be rubbing elbows with the best and brightest Hollywood has to offer.

However, Internet you are wrong. I am not, in fact, a rising star in the diamond-studded world of celebrity bloggers. I am actually not famous at all. And seeing as how I've been blogging for like two whole months now, that is fucking lame and maybe I should get famouser. In the meantime, though, I'll have to settle for occasionally meeting them and getting all starry-eyed and spewing out wordless gibberish.

There are several different types of celebrity meetings that I have experienced:
  1. The Rock Star(s)
  2. The Politician
  3. The Celebrity Who's Not That Famous
I was going to document each of these hilariously awkward experiences for you in one post, but it turned out it was getting stupid long. So! I'm very excited to tell you that I am going to be putting together my first-ever blog miniseries. Today, we're exploring the first section: the rock star.

After reading these three posts, you'll see why I should be famous. I am really, really terrible at being a person who isn't famous.