Woe is the self tape

So the other day I finally had my first “audition” of the year… it was a self tape. A self tape means (like it sounds, I guess) that you have to film the audition yourself, edit it all together, and send it off to casting.

Producers/directors love the self tape style of auditioning people because it means they don’t have to bother with the tedious and often gruelling process of actually meeting actors. It means they get to save precious time and money and make the whole process as distant and disconnected as possible.

I mean sure, they could meet us to get an idea as to what kind of people we are, see what we have to offer, and get a sense of whether we’d be fun to work with, but meh! Why bother? The self tape means they can say ‘absolutely not’ without having to bother with those pesky in person niceties that we all hate so much.

But hey I’m not bitter! That’s enough with the sarcasm… I’ll play the game like the rest of ’em.

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This is my “My name is Heather! Please go ahead and hire me” smile. Which I include in every tape and which maybe nobody has ever bothered to actually watch… until now that is! Thanks you guys!

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And this is my “I’m busy playing video games” expression. This tape was for a very odd and slightly awkward to film commercial (think old spice feels). I had to be engrossed in a video game and then become cold (??). So yeah, had fun with that. Of course every one of my friends and their dogs submitted for this audition and nobody has heard anything so far. Such is the life. Still, at least it was a relatively short and easy to do. Once I had to put together a tape for “Grease” the musical. I had to read some crazy 8 pages of sides for 4 different characters, choreograph a dance (which I ended up filming in the parking garage of my building) and sing a full recording of a 50s song… the whole tape was 10 minutes long and took me an entire day to put together and I heard NOTHING. Not even a “thanks for submitting”.  But I wasn’t too bothered. I mean don’t even like Grease.

Anyways I hope you all had a magical Sunday! Feel free to let me know what you got up to.

As always thanks for reading xo

Let’s go back to Switzerland

Let’s go back to Switzerland

I’ve been home from my grand European adventure for almost a month now. In the last three weeks I’ve started three new jobs, gotten a year older, and donated even more of my apartment to charity (forever en route to minimalism). I’ve slipped gracefully(?) back into Toronto life– aka big-city-life aka sirens-never-stop-life aka never-see-the-stars-life aka it’s-actually-okay-here-life.

I usually find it a little difficult to adjust to my regular world after being away for so long (I was gone for over two months!) but this time it was rather unremarkable. Instead of being all ~woooowww I’m home! How novel~ I was just like –oh yeah. This is Toronto. Okay-

This morning I ran out of soap in the shower and it was time to bust open the last remaining piece of my adventure– a bar soap I purchased in Cologne, Germany. As far as I’m concerned I’m still overseas in my heart so long as the soap remains….

maybe that’s a little out there. But hey! This is my inner dialogue and I can pretend, okay!

Alright… let’s go back to the beginning.

On August 26th I was hastily cramming my new backpack full of what I thought was necessary for two months of life on the road. I went through my mental checklist– clothes, toiletries, tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, collapsible pillow– seemingly I was good. My boyfriend was a lot more confident in our packing abilities than I was, and so he waited patiently for me to say “oh but!” and “wait! what about” at least a few dozen times as we were preparing to leave.

We were subletting the apartment for two months to a couple from the UK who were miraculously a lot like us. The girl was around my age and we connected on some very key points so I felt pretty confident leaving my place in her care. I gave her my key and she said,

Okay, bye! Happy Travels!

Thus I left my home to be someone else’s home for a while, and I sauntered off to the airport weighing much more than I usually do when I leave my front door. As I mentioned a while back, this was to be my first ever proper backpacking trip. I was mostly excited, although somewhat unnerved… I mean, what was waiting for me across the pond? So many doubts running through my head: Can I really make this work for two whole months? What if I run out of money so fast that I can’t afford to eat and I end up sleeping in my backpack on some unknown European street, unable even to ask for help because I can’t speak the local language!? Oh god.

Despite these nagging doubts I actually went into this trip with a healthy attitude– I knew it wasn’t always going to be pleasant or easy (I was right), but I also knew the adventure would teach me so much (also right).

After checking in and with our burdensome backpacks vanquished into the ether it was time to board and get ready for one of the least pleasant parts of traveling… the dreaded flight. We were scheduled to land in Zurich around 8:30 in the morning, which I think is pretty brutal. I’d much rather land just before bedtime so I could sleep and adjust to the time difference. The thought of landing after an exhausting flight and then having to face a brand new day was a bit daunting. But hey, maybe I could sleep on the plane. I once slept through an entire flight (Auckland to Calgary) from beginning to end. Maybe flight miracles can happen twice?

 

Though our faces and hearts were optimistic, it was not to be…

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Somewhere, way up high in the sky, amidst this beautiful and seemingly zen window seat view, I got yelled at by the woman in front of me as I was innocently trying to sleep.

I think most people can agree how agonising it is to sleep on planes. No matter what you do there is absolutely no way to get a good night’s sleep or even moderately enjoy yourself. *inhale* You flip through inane magazines, watch movies you don’t really care to watch, half-heartedly read a book, or play chess with the computer and when all of that inevitably fails to entertain you, you toss and turn and pray to the universe that you might get just a small sliver of shut-eye, even though body part after body part is falling torturously to sleep and everything you ever learned about your breath and meditation is coming up short until there you are – somewhere in the sky in no man’s land – questioning your entire life and wondering how you ever found yourself on this god forsaken plane in the first place. *exhale*

Or at least that’s how it is for me.

So back to this woman… at some point during all of this turmoil I suppose I accidentally bumped her chair as I was shifting between uncomfortable positions, and where most people would feel a slight sting of annoyance and shrug it off, she decided to turn around over top of her chair to aggressively poke me and wake me up.

“You kicked my chair,” she just about yelled.

It was apparent that I had ruined her holiday before she even landed at her destination.

I was a bit dazed, but I immediately apologised and told her it wasn’t on purpose. I think most everyone in the world would understand, but no…

You’re making it so I can’t sleep!!” she exclaimed, and then she just stood there looming over me with hatred in her frazzled looking eyes, waiting for a more satisfying response.

So I said, “Yes, well I can’t either because there’s a crazy woman yelling at me…”

….

..

.

Okay I didn’t really say that. I took the boring road and just said I would be more mindful which I guess she accepted because she finally turned around and slumped angrily back down into her chair. But jeez it was a really awkward situation. I mean if I kick your chair, and you yell at me, and I earnestly apologise, then… what more do you want from me? Should I sing you a lullaby? Guide you into savasana? Prostrate myself at your feet? What?

Anyways there wasn’t much getting back to sleep after that, but it didn’t matter. The hours went by and we would be touching down soon enough. Switzerland was finally in sight through the plane window, and that little magical feeling was beginning to set in.

It was happening.

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There’s not much to say about that first day, it was all a bit of a haze. One thing I can say with confidence is that I took the world’s best nap which more than made up for the grind of the flight. We were lucky enough to stay at a friend’s apartment who was out of town, so we had a cozy bed, a kitchen, and a base to make the most of the first day– which was mostly wandering as you might expect.

Zurich is a lovely city with some really nice architecture and even nicer canals. Also, the day had literally PERFECT weather. Clear skies and bright sun. It was so hot and I was so glad I decided to pack shorts, although it turned out to be one of only three or so days where shorts were acceptable attire, and the rest of the time they just took up space. Another thing we learned that day which we had to relearn every week thereafter– grocery stores in Switzerland are closed on Sundays, and many restaurants as well. Just doesn’t happen where I’m from.

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When we finally felt tired from our long day, we decided to hang out with some ducks and get our feet wet in the water…

Well that pretty much sums up day one.. so that’s one down and another sixty or so to write about.

Have a great weekend everyone! xo

My first skydive experience

My first skydive experience

The other day I messaged my best friend in Calgary to help me think of something to write about on here. She gave me two suggestions: the first was to start an angry protest against bronies (a bit controversial and unnecessary, though appreciated) and the second was to write about falling from a plane in New Zealand. As the title suggests I decided to opt for the latter. So… let’s talk about my skydive in Abel Tasman.

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I had it in my head long before I left for New Zealand that it was something I wanted to do. I had never thought about skydiving much before in my life. Any thoughts I did have about it were along the lines of: skydiving is for crazy people, extreme dare-devils, adrenaline junkies, idiots, and people brave enough to potentially die early. So, not something I had EVER actually considered. Not seriously, anyway. To be blunt I was a bit of a wimp about the subject and would likely have remained so if I hadn’t met a particular boy.

Typical. “A boy came into my life and then I couldn’t help but jump out of a plane.” That tired old story, ya know? Riiiiiight. It’s true though. Sometimes it just takes meeting someone with a fresh perspective to make you think of doing things you wouldn’t have before. So this boy I met (who went on to become one of my best friends and eventually my boyfriend), mentioned casually in the early stages of us knowing each other that he had sky dived before. It wasn’t just ‘I went skydiving once on vacation’ (like me), no, he decided on his 16th birthday that he wanted to skydive and so took a course to become solo certified and start jumping out of planes… I mean, I don’t know what you guys did for your 16th birthdays but when I turned 16 I was still nervous to give presentations in front of the class let alone board a plane with a parachute on my back and jump out from 10 000 feet. Alone. He said he had finished about 80 jumps before selling his parachute to move to Toronto, and that’s not even a big number. His father, who decided to take up skydiving with his son, has something like 500 jumps under his belt, and my tandem master had 1980 + jumps!

But anyways, I digress. The way he spoke about sky diving made it seem like it wasn’t a big deal. “Tons of people do it”, he said. It was just so casual. Like listening to someone talk about hockey, only I was actually interested. I think this was the moment where the realm of sky diving made its transition in my head from ‘that thing that only crazy dare devils do’ to something I could potentially do. I became fixated with the notion of free falling through the sky. It’s really pretty poetic, don’t you think? You guys know how I love poetic. I became very preoccupied thinking about it. What would it feel like to fall through the air? Is it what flying feels like? What do people think about as they fall? Why do people do it? This is a terrifying thing, how do these people not realise??

At some point I made up my mind that one day in my life, one day soon, I would be a sky diver. I had no idea when but I knew without a doubt that it would happen. Eventually it occurred to me that if I was going to do it, I should do it in one of the world’s most beautiful places that I coincidentally would be headed to in a year’s time: New Zealand.

Fast forward about 10 months to when my father, brother and I are gallivanting around the NZ countryside in our camper van. Amidst the rolling green hills, the mass of sheep, and the impossible to pronounce Maori road names, I finally piped up to speak what had been on my mind for months and months.

“I’m going to go sky diving on my birthday next week.”

I remember my brother’s reaction very clearly. A very quizzical look crossed his face that I know he reserves for only those moments that ignite great amounts of skepticism.

“Actually?” he asked.

“Yes, actually!” I said with a defiant grin on my face.

Ha! Your wimpy little sister wants to jump out of a plane. Are you shocked? Yes, be shocked! For I am Heather and I am not afraid.

I affirmed my seriousness with confidence and gusto, though under the surface I was still asking myself the same thing. Really, Heather? Are you sure? If anyone is going to die sky diving it’s probably going to be you. But I just kept saying to them, yes I want to do this. Yes, I’m serious. Convincing them, but more convincing myself. I think I thought that once I said it out loud, I’d be stubborn enough to follow through even if I was trembling with fear when the moment came to board the plane.

I decided on Skydive Abel Tasman. I read the website and felt comfortable with the team. One thing stood out for me from their FAQ…

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That’s pretty convincing isn’t it? Instills confidence, has a bit of humour to it. Yes, I liked this place. Hit by 3 busses in a row, hah. Not possible! I’m golden.

On the day we were meant to be boarding our ferry to the south island (and subsequentally heading to Abel Tasman which is on the tip of that island), the earthquake struck Kaikoura. I woke up that morning to an onslaught of messages on Facebook from friends in Canada asking me if I was okay. I was very confused to say the least. I made my way to the communal kitchen of the campsite and discovered that everyone had woken up with the same confusion as me. None of us had felt the earthquake. We were a long way away and safe and sound on the North Island.

We were told that ferries were suspended for at least a week. With our plans gone awry, we had to come up with a new plan of attack which consequently meant delaying my skydive, much to my disappointment as I had been building up my nerves. Later that morning I hopped across the road from the campsite to go get a coffee at the local cafe. After ordering I took a number and a seat, where I was told to wait and they would bring the coffee to me. 5 minutes went by, 10 minutes went by. No coffee in sight. 15 minutes, 20 minutes… they’ve clearly forgotten me, but I’m too Canadian to say anything so I just waited patiently and threw some longing looks in the barista’s direction. Sure enough she walks by me and goes “oh geez! I’m so sorry. I completely forgot your coffee!” Now, you may be wondering what the point of this story is when I’m meant to be talking about skydiving. Well, this happened to me 3 days in a row, in the same cafe, twice forgotten by the same employee and once by a new one, but MAN. Three times in a row? Totally forgotten? That never happens! That’s weird, am I right? (And if you’re wondering why we were even in the same place for three days in a row it’s because of an even longer winded story involving me cracking my head open on a rock, blacking out briefly, waking up covered in my own blood, being carried back to a hike entrance and whisked off to the hospital (all on my birthday) to determine if my brain was going to be okay. Spoiler: I was fine. Or at least no more out of sorts than normal.)

ANYWAYS, the point of the cafe story is that they forgot me 3 times in a row. Now remember the likelihood of dying skydiving, as per the Abel Tasman website FAQ, was the same as being hit by a bus 3 times in a row. To me these became the same thing.

Coffee forgotten x3 = getting run over by a bus x3

I’m going to die. Oh my god I’m going to die skydiving, it’s a sign! Also how did I smash my head open on a rock? Why was there an earthquake the day before I was meant to go?? I’m definitely being given warning signs. Do not do it. Abort abort abort. Just go back to wimpy life. It’s safe there. 

Both the doctor I saw and my brother declared that I should 100% definitely not go skydiving on this trip because that’s just not something you do after smashing your head open. But to be honest, I felt fine after a couple days and I wasn’t going to let anything deter me from jumping out of that plane. I told them I appreciated their concerns but I was dead set on doing it. Luckily for me they respected that and supported my decision.

Fast forward six days and we were finally on a ferry to the south island. I had decided that night that tomorrow was the day. We would camp one night, and then drive over to Abel Tasman in time for the afternoon. Late that evening, I made a reservation for the following day at 2 pm (because apparently it’s no big deal to just book a last minute sky dive. Again, so casual).

I didn’t really sleep that night. I was excessively nervous and overly excited. I honestly couldn’t believe that I, Heather, was going to sky dive. This was a big deal for me, something I had been dreaming and fretting about constantly, and it was finally going to make it’s way into reality.

We arrived at the centre at my booked time and after hopping out of the camper van I looked around to see a completely vacant parking lot. Weird. I entered the building, butterflies literally busting out of my belly, and saw that there was almost no one there. I approached the desk clerk only to discover that they hadn’t even received my booking because I put it in too late. Seriously is this EVER going to happen?? Fortunately I was able to get a booking for that day, I just had to wait a couple hours before someone would be available to come tumble out of the plane with me… so very anticlimactic.

I know what you’re thinking… Heather how long can you write a blog post about sky diving before you actually talk about skydiving?

Okay, okay. I’ll get on with it…

After waiting around the drop zone for a couple hours people finally started to arrive. That tangible, tingly, buzz of energy started pouring in from a slew of apprehensive and eager first time sky divers which totally reignited me. After a few introductions, weighing in, and signing our lives away on a piece of paper (yeah yeah I die, my own fault, whoops), we were shepherded into a little cinema room to learn from an instructional video what was going to happen and how we should behave during the fall. I literally can’t remember a single thing about it. I do remember that after it ended we had to decide from how high we wanted to fall: either 9000, 13 000, or 16 500 ft.

Can you guys guess what I went for?

16 500 ft (duh)! All the way up, please and thank you! If I’m doing this I’m going as high as possible, falling as long as possible, and prolonging this sensation as much as nature will allow me.  From that height you “enjoy a 20 min scenic flight, up to 70 seconds of freefall and then 3-5 min under the parachute.” Yup, okay, that all sounds pretty good to me.

It was time.

I was lead to the backroom of the centre where all the tandem masters were packing their parachutes and given my jumpsuit. After suiting up I was lead over and introduced to my tandem master, whose name was Scruffy. I stood in front of Scruffy and he stood in front of me, laying out all of the equipment that was paramount to hurdling us safely to the ground. As I was stepping through straps and being tightened into fancy foreign skydiver gear he was explaining the specifics of the process… telling me about my oxygen mask going up, what he needed from me during the initial jump (arms in, legs tucked behind), etc. All the good stuff. I was nodding with exceptional enthusiasm and paying diligent attention, trying to take everything in as best I could. But, to be honest, the whole thing happened so quickly that in the end I was basically just like…

yeah you’ve got this Scruffy. What a pro, I don’t need to do anything.

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And honestly that’s pretty much true. The tandem masters take care of everything. They are trained to pack the parachute, operate the gear, strap you in, take you up in the plane, keep you calm and happy, jump out, get in proper position, pull the parachute, have fun with you in your video, guide you down to the drop zone and finally plop you safely on the ground… all in the span of a half hour. All you have to do is get strapped to them like a parasite and follow their instructions as best you can remember. You’re basically wearing this critical person as a backpack and hoping that everything goes according to plan.

I was trying to hone my concentration on feeling excited, breathing, and being hyper aware so I could take in the whole experience without letting fear get in the way.  I’d say I was about 90% excitement and 10% fear at this point. Before I knew it the plane was ready and it was time to wave goodbye to my dad and brother, time to put one foot in front of the other and to follow Scruffy to the door. There were two other teams jumping with me, and the plane was pretty small, so we packed in like sardines in our jumping order. Scruffy and I were second and so we smushed up close to the pilot on the floor of the plane, Scruffy behind me and the first pair of jumpers directly in front of me. The hatch was closed and off we went, up and up and up into the sky. Headed for 16 500 ft.

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It was an absolutely beautiful day; crystal clear skies, a gentle breeze, bright shining sun. I felt so lucky considering the amount of rain we had faced in the weeks prior, and I took in everything as we ascended more and more. Abel Tasman is a huge national park along the ocean, and from that height and by the grace of clear skies, I could even see Mt Taranaki on the North Island. All the way up I kept my breathing long and even, just looking out the window and enjoying the view. The higher we went, the higher my nerves, and the higher my excitement. It’s a pretty short 20 minutes cramped in that tiny plane, which is louder than you like, going higher than you realise, when you consider that the way back down is a pretty unusual plummeting.  I was wearing my oxygen mask and thinking gee I hope Scruffy is definitely remembering to strap me to him. At some point I remember him saying in my ear “you’re strapped in. From here, you don’t go anywhere without me.” It made me feel a lot better.

Then the plane door opened in front of me, and that’s when it all really hit me… suddenly my fear and excitement could no longer be put into percentages because the intensity of both were just amassing inside me like they were forming their own little planet in my chest. Planet Holy shit, I am really doing this. It all becomes abruptly real when you look down and realise that there’s nothing between you and the earth from 16 500 ft but open air. The first team in front of me moved swiftly into position, and then poof, they were gone. Now it was our turn.

Scruffy and I inched forward like a pair of awkward siamese twins, him angling me to the door where my feet escaped and tasted freedom from the plane for the first time. I was held in position, my body perched to fall, my heart racing, my mind a flurry of anticipation. But I was smiling. He tucked my arms in, reminding me to hold them to my chest until I felt him tap me, giving me the all clear to release my arms and have fun. I think I said “yes, okay”, or something, but there was no real appreciation of his instruction to be had because I was preoccupied by the fact that I was dangling out of a plane door. He grabbed my head and leaned it back on his shoulder, we rocked for a brief second, I took a deep breath and then…

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You can see in these pictures that, immediately upon exit, everything I had been told about keeping my arms into my chest went out the window and instead I just went woooooooooooooooo, and threw those arms up like I-just-don’t-care. I was out the door, my body desperately trying to orient itself by flailing around with poor Scruffy behind me. I can imagine what went through his head, ohp another flailer, hahaha. But he was such a pro, he just used his arms and legs to contain mine and held me together so he could orient us in the right direction.

I was falling, falling, falling, and wow… how do I explain it? It felt absolutely… breathtaking. Dazzling. Surprising. Exhilarating. It’s total weightlessness, a feeling of extreme liberty and freedom. In the span of milliseconds I had become a skydiver and it was such a rush of intensity I was hardly ready for it.

A lot of people I’ve talked to imagine that stomach-lurching sensation like going down a hill on a rollercoaster, but it’s nothing like that. I just felt the shock of the wind blowing against me, the surprising cold, the breath caught in my lungs. I was falling, yes, but it’s a bit hard to get perspective from up there because you’re so high up that your senses can’t make heads or tails of where you are and so you’re just a bit disoriented. But oh man is it ever gorgeous. Those 70 seconds of freefall were so intoxicating. I tried my best to take in everything around me and admire the scenery from the sky which is a bit hard to do when you’re up there and there’s a camera in your face, haha.

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My photographer’s job was to get in front of me and encourage me to make silly gestures, blow kisses, look cool, etc. I mean… how am I supposed to concentrate on this when I’m falling through the sky?! Actually can we side track for a sec and talk about how amazing and crazy it would be if you were a tandem master or sky dive photographer?

What do you do for work? I throw people out of planes. Or I jump out of planes and take pictures of people.

I wish that was my job.

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When the parachute finally caught us I was completely overwhelmed with gratitude and awe for the experience I just had. Being under the chute was mesmerizing and relaxing. Your body calms down and suddenly you’re just floating like a wish from a dandelion, gently descending. The earth was approaching, coming closer and closer, and I just exchanged little bits of conversation with Scruffy and enjoyed my limbs dangling in the air. It was all coming to an abrupt end and I felt that tinge of bittersweetness. On the one hand I was so glad and relieved that I survived, but on the other I really didn’t want it to be over already. So badly I wanted to hold on to that sense of complete freedom. Mere minutes had passed since I fell from the plane and, just like that, I was plopped down in the grass, safely on the ground once again.

All in all I call it a sweeping success. I was on such a high for days after. Honestly I could not stop talking about it… must have driven my father and brother crazy.

My dad gave me a big hug when it was all done and told me I was very brave.

I felt completely invincible. My face minutes after landing says it all. I love this photo because I can actually see the wonder in my eyes…

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I had to snap about the occasion, obviously. 🙂 🙂

So there it is, my first (but definitely not my last) skydive experience.

If any of you guys have ever been, I’d love to know!

 

Thanks for reading xoxo

I know it was a long post ;p

 

Here’s to you, clunker

A very sad thing happened yesterday. My beloved little bike was stolen from outside my apartment building.

Bike theft in Toronto is super common, and I knew that, which is why when I bought this clunker bike last year I only paid 60 dollars. This is a real piece of junk, I thought, nobody is going to bother to steal this. And for eight glorious months, I was right. Sometimes I would leave it overnight at bars, friend’s houses, etc, always locked, of course, but out in the open. I never had a problem and I didn’t care. I would often leave it wondering if it was the last time I’d ever see it. It wasn’t a nice ride or even that reliable of a bike, either. Just a couple weeks ago I was riding it during rush hour when the front brake literally just fell off. I was on the sidelines of one of the busiest downtown streets at the time. It’s hard to pedal, the gears are super rough, and it’s rusted and peeling and just all around in poor condition.

But something happened in the last 8 months that I didn’t expect… I fell in love with it.

Honestly. I adored its capacity for failure, its quirky gear shifting, its rust and its peeling paint. I loved that I could plow straight through pot holes and it would just keep chugging along with its bruises without batting an eyelash. I felt so much freedom because of it. I was flying past cars trapped in traffic jams, weaving my way in and out of construction areas, and best of all, I was liberated from shitty public transit. My bike and I, we ruled these downtown streets. And now, my beautifully imperfect clunker bike is gone. I’ve already been fantasizing about finding it for sale on craigslist and then pulling a stealthy “oh I’m really interested in this bike” to “THIS IS MY BIKE, YOU BASTARD”, flipping them the finger, and then riding it home triumphantly. But I don’t think it’s going to happen.

The worst part of all this is it’s totally my fault. I got cocky thinking nobody would take it so I started locking it up outside over night instead of in the bike locker of my building. I feel like I’ve let my bike down. Someone told me today that I should feel happy for whoever is now commuting on it because of how awesome it is and how much they must be enjoying it. And honestly, I think I can do that. I hope whoever stole it sells it to someone who was really hurting for transportation and needed a cute little rusty bike for cheap to brighten their day. I hope that the person who stole it uses the money for something like a birthday gift for their kid/grandma/dog and that the receiver of that gift is so stunned by the generosity which they were sadly not expecting from their no good bike-thief parent/grandkid/owner that they overwhelm them with tears and gratitude. And then the thief is so moved from the appreciation that they realize there is more to life than thievery, and are inspired to embark on a life of redemption and charity.. yeah.

God speed with your new life, dear beater bike. I’ll miss ya.

Rupert and the Frozen Pond

The greatest pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him, and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself, too.
― Samuel Butler

I went out for a walk with the dogs a while back; it was just after a cold snap, -20°C for a week or so, and finally it was warming up. You wouldn’t call it warm per se, being only a few degrees above zero, but in comparison to what we were having before it was positively balmy. At 2 or 3°C I was still decked out in winter boots/coat, scarf, toque and mitts. I didn’t go crazy thinking it was shorts and tee-shirt weather just yet, although I’m sure some people in this city would have argued to the contrary. My point is that though it was sunny and pleasant, it was still cold with no shortage of ice and snow.

Rupert, for whatever reason, decided that that day was a good day to test how serious I am about our relationship.  Rupert is my 2 year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, although some might mistake him for my own biological son, seeing as we’re both redheads and all.

rupert

He’s about twenty pounds and a bit of a trouble maker. Lately he’s been going through a phase of doggy teenage rebellion. The terrible twos, perhaps. I don’t know. The other day, for example, I went out to meet a friend for lunch. I was only gone for an hour and by the time I came home Rupert had managed to chew most of the hair off one of his ears. As if he purposely gave himself a haircut he knew I would hate.

The area that I take them to is about a thirty minute walk from home. It’s in a bit of a valley, forested; very pretty. A few years ago the city installed these storm ponds in the area and fenced them (and much of the forest) off in a reclamation attempt. Which is fortunate when it’s wintertime because you wouldn’t want to be walking the dogs where all these frozen ponds are, you know?

Well as it turned out the local coyotes didn’t much care for the fencing. I guess it was in the way of their usual hunting commutes, so naturally they tore a hole right through the bottom of one of the sections. You wouldn’t really notice it unless you happened to look at it, but unfortunately for me Rupert leaves nothing unchecked and he is of course the perfect size to squeeze right through.

I see him staring at me from the other side, right by this big, and now somewhat thawing, frozen pond. Neither of us is moving, we’re at a standstill.

Me: Rupert!

(I’m yelling, of course.)

Me: Come here! Back on this side!

Rupert: *stare*

Me: I swear to god, Rupert, I will end you if you don’t come here right now.

Rupert: *wags*

I’m using my stern, warning voice, which I believe is his favourite to make a mockery of. He’s holding all the cards and he knows it. He has a very particular look on his face, and I know it all too well. It’s his I’m-such-a-devil-I-love-breaking-the-rules-and-not-listening-to-my-mom look.

I call him one more time and as I make my move toward the fence he turns and bolts like a bandit toward the pond, right onto the ice. Had this happened earlier in the week when it was still a frozen wasteland, it probably wouldn’t have been a problem. But as it’s above freezing, and the sun is shining, the centre of said pond is starting to melt. As I’m watching him run off, tail in the air, hearing his happy panting breaths as he gallops across the ice, I say out loud…. he’s gonna fall in. Seconds later I watch him disappear under the ice.

Shit.

You see, if this had happened to Buttercup (my other dog) I might not have worried so much. She is a duck toller and a true water dog. But not Rupert. He can’t swim (so far as I know). Especially in frozen water, I’m sure. The most he had ever done during summer when I took them to the river was dip his paws in.

I hauled ass over the fence like an inmate during the critical final seconds of their prison escape. At least I’d like to think so. I dropped down to the other side and ran to the edge of the pond, seeing his little head bob up and down as he splashed around, trying to get his grip on the surface ice to pull himself up. To no avail. Each time he tried the ice would break apart more and more and back under he’d go. Behind us on the other side, Buttercup had taken notice of the commotion and at the sight of her best friend trapped in the water, started panicking and running back and forth at the fence. Barking like mad. It really was one of those slow motion moments. After another failed attempt poor Rupert finally managed to get a grip on the ice with his two front paws and held himself there. Clearly he could not get out on his own. His little eyes were wide with panic as he called to me for help…

There was only one thing to do.

Off went my winter coat, my sweater, my jeans, my boots, my socks, my mitts. I was keeping eye contact with Rupert the whole time, telling him “just wait. I’ll be right there.” Thankfully no one was around to see me standing there, barefoot in the snow, in my tank top, underwear, and toque. I’m sure I looked utterly stupid. If I thought the snow was a misery under my feet, it was nothing compared to how frigid the pond was as I lowered myself in through the ice. Strong enough to hold a little dog for a time, but good luck if you’re a full grown woman.

I waded through as swiftly as I possibly could, breaking the ice apart as I went.  It was bitterly cold and though it was awful to near skinny-dip in icy water, I couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of it all as I looked Rupert in the face and said “I can’t believe you’re making me do this.”

By the time I was close enough to reach him I was up to my bellybutton in freezing water. I grabbed him and squeezed him to my chest, holding him as best I could out of the water and hopefully giving him whatever body heat I might have retained. I mean how long can a little dog last in a frozen pond before he gets pneumonia? I plopped him down as we reached land and lifted myself back onto the slightly less awful snow bank.

It was a long walk back to the house, to say the least. With no car access, and no one around, there was nothing to do but dry myself off as best I could with my coat and slip my muddy frozen feet into my boots and trudge home for a well earned shower.

So that’s the story of Rupert and the frozen pond. Thanks for reading if you made it this far. And if you have a fur-baby be sure to give them an extra pat today. You never know when they might do something stupid like fall in a frozen pond.

some inner dialogue

Good vs Evil brain, a conversation.

Good: I think I’ll write something today.

Evil: Are you sure that’s a good idea?

Good: Sure, why wouldn’t it be?

Evil: Are you kidding? Read your drafts! Every word written there is barf.

Good: That’s a bit harsh.

Evil: It’s the truth.

Good: Well screw you, I’ll write something anyway.

**writing**

Evil: ….. so?

Good: You’re right, this is really shitty.

Evil: You should have just listened to me to begin with.

**crying**

fin