In a blazer of glory

The last sports jacket I bought I had to ask the lady to put it aside for me while I ran home from her yard sale to find the 5 bucks. It’s wool and cashmere with a rich taupe colour, and you can barely see the cigarette burns unless you’re standing quite close to me, and why are you standing so close to me?

This is my alternate blazer. My go-to blazer is charcoal and goes with everything. I also own a well-worn micro-suede sports jacket that cost me 3 dollars in 2005 (that’s $3.71 in today’s dollars), and a green plaid Hugo Boss that has stood the test of time so well that my son recently borrowed it for a sports gala and made those wide lapels work!
Lately, though, I’ve been wanting to get a navy blue blazer, because sometimes a man just wants to feel pretty.

This past weekend, I found myself in Ogilvy’s in Montreal. To the best of my recollection, this was the first time I’d ever been in Ogilvy’s. I’ve never seen myself as an Ogilvy’s kind of guy. I’m more of a guy-outside-Ogilvy’s-playing-the-spoons kind of guy.

I ended up there while shopping with my brother- and sister-in-law and some of their clan. We were the kind of crowd that immediately puts security on alert. We definitely gave off a shenanigans vibe.

Ogilvy’s enters through revolving doors (we had fun with the revolving doors) into a hub of femininity, highlighted by the glamourous trifecta of perfumes, purses and watches. While the women browsed, the men stood about mispronouncing “Louis Vuitton” and debating the burning question: Emma Stone – hot or not?

Unlike most department stores where you can see unexplored consumer lands shimmering on the horizon, the first floor of Ogilvy’s is a self-contained, scented cell. One accesses other floors by disappearing down long corridors that give the impression that they may in fact be leading people like me directly to the exit and that the real access involves a secret handshake with a well-coiffed clerk named Siegfried.

But it did indeed bring us to the “escalier mécanique” and the women’s and men’s wear sections on the second floor. I had already decided the blazers at the Sears bankruptcy sale were a too pricey (I mean, they were no yard sale bargains), but for fun I decided to head to men’s to check out what was being worn these days by the posh man on the go.

When I shop, which is rare, I don’t want the sales clerks bothering me. “Can I help you?” they ask. That’s a loaded question. “Not for the moment,” I usually say. “Okie-doke! If you need anything I’ll be right here breathing in your ear. Hey, did you know there’s a cigarette burn on your jacket?”

Can’t imagine why I’m not being served.

But this was not an option at Ogilvy’s. No one offered to help. I received only the stares of the stern male clerks who looked like they’d been working there since my Hugo Boss was in style. To them, I was clearly beyond help.

It’s true I was wearing jeans and a shapeless, green sweatshirt, but that was only because it was cold outside; underneath I had a very nice cardigan in which there was only one tear. And, yes, my beard is not of the kempt variety, but how did they know this wasn’t some kind of Pretty Woman scenario and that I wasn’t coming back later with my monocle and opera spats to shout at them, “Big mistake! And Emma Stone is clearly attractive but not inherently hot!”

Unfazed, I went about feeling lapels and cuffs, making sure to do so only on the mannequins. One particular navy blazer caught my eye. So lightweight, so supple, so chained to the rack with a security cord. Then I turned over the price tag: $3750!

Now I understood that the store clerks weren’t ignoring me; they were simply keeping all eyes on my nephew carrying a doggy bag of greasy pizza.

But $3750 for a single piece of clothing! And that didn’t even include pants! Or a manservant!

I am not inherently against wealth; I would like some, please. But how can anyone justify spending that much money on a piece of clothing whose only practical benefit, at least for me, is to create the illusion of shoulders? That’s $1875 per shoulder!

It reminded me that our entire consumer system is built on illusion. Whether it’s a blazer, a pair of shoes or a painting that subsequently disappears into a covert shredder, we give items value because we decide they have value, not because of their tangible worth.

If I had boundless wealth, would I buy a $3750 blazer? Hypotheticals are hard to say, like “Louis Vuitton.” But I like to think that instead I would purchase 750 five-dollar blazers and keep the very real yard sale industry alive for always.

Posted in It Really Did Happen! | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Reply-all escalation

Subject: Re: News from Peggy

Thanks for the update, Reg.

Also, don’t forget to send me that link for the beard balm.


Hi, everybody. Sorry for the reply-all. LOL.


Hi again. Yes, I do appreciate the irony of apologizing for a reply-all with another reply-all, but I thought it was appropriate to acknowledge my error rather than have you think I was oblivious to the mistake or simply ignorant of basic email etiquette. So, again, my apologies for clogging up your in-boxes. Please: carry on.


Sorry, last one, but I can’t let this slide. Just because I responded with “LOL” doesn’t mean I was being insincere with my initial apology. If you had happened to pass by my cubicle when I realized I had hit “reply all” to Reg’s email about Peggy’s gall bladder surgery instead of “reply,” you would have distinctly heard a rueful chuckle. It was not at all an LOL of mirth but decidedly sardonic.


I said “sardonic,” Phil, not “sarcastic.” Get a dictionary. Also: beard balm is so a thing. Look that up too while you’re at it.


P.S. I’d also like point out that I’m not the only one replying all here. So I’ll stop replying all when you guys stop replying all about my replying all.


P.P.S. And, no, I don’t have to have the last word. I’m simply suggesting that certain people are being hypocritical. After all, it’s not like I was hawking chocolate bars to send my daughter’s dance class to the regionals.


I want to apologize to Hester in accounting for my last email. My reference to selling chocolate bars was merely an example of generic reply-all emails that we’ve all been guilty of from time to time in which we fundraise for such and such on behalf of our kids. I had forgotten that Hester’s daughter has been raising money for her dance regionals, and I would just like to say that I think she is an example of courage, and I’m sure I speak on behalf of all of us at Borchek Consolidated Industries when I wish the best of luck to the East Preston Differently Challenged Dancers in their competition in Stoufferville.


Sorry, Kenny, I really don’t know what kind of chocolate bars they are or whether they are still available. Hester, can you take this one?


Seriously, I can’t believe that people are giving me a hard time about an accidental reply-all when all of a sudden everybody’s replying-all about Kenny’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Let the poor guy have his chocolate bar!


No, Margaret, it is not the same as inquiring about beard balm, because my reply-all was an accident, as opposed to this global fretting for Kenny’s physical well-being. Honestly, doesn’t anybody have work to do around here?


How is that in the wildest stretch of the imagination an example of “mansplaining,” Margaret? The only thing any of this has to do with the so-called “patriarchy” is that I can grow a beard and you can’t.


Of course being able to grow a beard doesn’t make me better than you, Margaret, and, yes I believe the patriarchy is real. I only meant “so-called” in this reply-all-related instance, not as a matter of principle. Unless, of course, as a man, I’m no longer entitled to an opinion.


Seriously, ladies, y’all need to chill! Obviously I was being sarcastic. (Not sardonic, Phil.) Jeez Louise, it’s a joke! To suggest that I am “wildly thrusting about the company’s email in some crazed testosterone-fueled frenzy of harassment” is outlandish, verging on libel. I have been nothing but a gentleman during all my years of service to this company and always – ALWAYS – maintain eye contact when you ladies lean over my desks like that with the blouses, which I get no credit for! I am woke! I follow Roxanne Gay on Twitter! I said “I like that skirt, Jean,” that one time and got accused of objectifying women – don’t think I didn’t hear you talking! – when all it was is I really did like that skirt! But this is too much! I JUST WANT A LUXURIOUS, WELL-GROOMED BEARD THAT WILL MAKE ME STAND OUT A TINY BIT IN THIS DRAB, DIVISIVE SPHERE OF MISERY AND MISUNDERSTANDING SO THAT MAYBE, JUST MAYBE, I CAN GET ONE SINGLE DATE! IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK???


Subject: Re: News from Peggy

Hi Dave. It’s .

– Reg

Posted in Never Happened | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Happy Thanksgendering

Everyone, please? Everyone? If you could all stop arguing for a minute. Really, it doesn’t matter how you’d vote in the midterm elections. We’re Canadian, remember? Uncle Gary, if you wouldn’t mind putting your shirt back on. Yes, it’s an impressive and frankly terrifying tattoo, but I’d really like to take a minute before we dive into this delicious Thanksgiving feast to say a few words.

Thank you. No, no, we’ll get the broken glass later.

So. Here we are. It’s hard to believe that it’s been nine years since we last gathered as a family for Thanksgiving. Nine years. That’s like 14 years with two-thirds statutory release, am I right, Aunt Stella? Yes, your prison tatt is also impressive.

A lot has changed since we last saw each other. Well, partially saw each other; the smoke was pretty thick, and the fire trucks made it hard for all of us to gather around. But let’s let bygones be lawsuits. Here we are, limping towards the end of the 2010s, like our old dog Buster after the firecracker incident. Time flies when you’re having reconstructive surgery, right, cousin Randy? Blink once if you agree.

A part of me longs for those simpler times. No Trump, no CAQ, no terrible reboot of “Roseanne.” I remember when “me too” was just something you replied after someone said, “I think Grampa smells funny.” These days, everything is so complicated.

Take cousin Kelly here. Hi, Kelly. Kelly has decided to no longer self-identify according to assigned birth sex. Kelly is no longer a boy or a girl. Kelly is neither of those things. Or maybe it’s a little of each. It’s confusing. Basically, as Kelly explained it to me, Kelly is refuting the arbitrary notion of binary gender. I refuted the arbitrary notion of paying taxes once but that didn’t get me very far.

But I respect Kelly, because Kelly is showing me that what my generation was raised to believe isn’t necessarily the case. It’s like when we all thought Uncle Leon was on the road a lot but it turned out he had a whole other family in another town. We should have realized it was odd for him to be travelling so much, since his job was a custodian. Weirdly, he was a custodian in the other town too; he was binary janitored.

Anyway, Kelly explained to me that the only thing genes have in common with gender is four letters. Science has nothing to do with gender. No, Mary, that’s not at all like denying climate change. Plus, even if it were, I don’t think we’re going to destroy the planet by letting people go into whatever washroom they choose.

Easy there, cousin Duke, those are cruel things to say. Like I said, we’re all learning about transgender, cisgender, transsexuals and so on, and talking like that just displays your ignorance. Besides, we all know about your fetishistic relationship with your sports car; you’re a Trans-Am-sexual.

Kelly, you know we all love you, no matter how you identify yourself. You be who you want to be. And we’ll do our best to get used to it, including what pronouns to use. It’s no longer “he” or “she” and “him” or “her” but something else. I’m not sure what. It might take some trial and error to find some non-gendered pronouns that’ll stick. In the meantime, Kelly wants some gherkins; would someone please pass them to sleb. Bleeb must be very hungry after yurp long travels.


Maybe I should just wrap it up here, because Stella appears to be transforming a napkin holder into some kind of shiv. So allow me to offer this simple toast:

All of us are born with parts
Like turkeys we do label.
Drumsticks, giblets, thighs, but please
No stuffing on the table. 

We augment bits or add on –
It’s the marvel of our ages that
We needn’t feel so trapped inside
Our pre-fab body cages. 

But we’re stymied, all us folks who
Thought we really led the way by
Never caring one small bit if
someone said that bleeb was gay.

Now “he” and “she” are old-school terms,
And gender vague and wavy.
Still I don’t care what sex you are,
Just pass the bloody gravy!







Posted in Reading? Ugh! | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

One Awesome Liz

Yesterday, I was shocked and saddened to learn via Twitter of all places that Elizabeth Hohenadel had died suddenly. I never met Liz in person but had come to know her through her blogs, One Awkward Year and later Hottsauce, through her comments back and forth with me and via her social media presence. In the dark place that is the Internet, Liz was a light of good cheer, goofiness and joy for life. No, it was a determination to enjoy life, despite everything the world threw at her and the never-ending awkwardness of being a young person trying to survive everyday nonsense.

Liz had just turned 34. Five months ago, she and her husband Brian welcomed their little boy Owen. This is all heartbreaking on so many levels. I can only imagine the depth of grief among those who were truly close to Liz and loved her so.

Many of the people I first met with on WordPress are no longer active. As in real life, relationships begin and end. But there are certain writers we connect with, whom we look forward to hearing from, whose lives we invest in. I was so happy to have met one in real life this past summer and am sad that I won’t be hearing from Liz again. Don’t kid yourself, bloggers; the connections we make here are real.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to establish a scholarship fund for Owen. Yesterday, around this time, 190 people had raised $25,000 of a $35,000 goal. This morning, the goal is $100,000, and they’re at $72,600. More than 650 people have responded. I think that’s beautiful.


This was the last photo Liz posted on One Awkward Year before signing off in 2015. I love it.

Posted in Reading? Ugh! | 8 Comments

Oh, let’s be regionable!

The regions. Are you excited?

When I first moved to the Eastern Townships, I was thrilled to learn that there was a CBC Radio network dedicated to serving the English community outside Montreal. It wasn’t long after this that I learned that CBC referred to all these non-Montreal places as “the regions.”

I imagined this scenario:

“You mustn’t go, Jean-Louis, you mustn’t!”

“I’m sorry, Marie-Framboise, but the regions call to me. Their barren, vaguely described spaces, the noble savagery of their slow-moving farm machinery, the haunting homogeneity of the natives’ overall whiteness.”

Mais Jean-Louis, you must surely know that, in the regions, you may never again find… a decent bagel.”

“It’s the risk I must take, ma petite crevette, for go I must, to broadcast live from Townshippers’ Day.”

“The regions” sounds like a place where people and careers go to die. It’s a phrase said in a somber, defeated tone, like “The Troubles” or “The Canadiens.”

It’s a flat, grey term that does a disservice to the diversity of Quebec’s non-urban communities. It patronizingly transforms Quebec into Montreal and Everywhere Else, the City and Unimportant Places, the Centre of the Universe and That Place With All The Parking.

(I solicited comments online about this term, and a number of people suggested that Quebec City and Gatineau aren’t considered part of the regions. But I bet if you asked someone from Montreal, then, yeah, come on, they’re in the regions… As for Sherbrooke, totally region.)

I thought this was just a CBC thing, but I suspect it probably goes back to the division of Quebec into 20 administrative regions, which is not something you’re going to see on a tourism brochure anytime soon: “Come for the Administrative Region, Stay for the Contract Bid Submissions!”

I’ve also seen the term a couple of times during the current provincial election campaign. The front page of Monday’s Montreal Gazette, for instance, reported that the CAQ’s “Legault heads to regions.” This is a somewhat dismissive term to describe his campaign trip to Val d’Or and on to Chibougamau. The correct term to describe these places is, of course, “really friggin’ far.”

Earlier this month, PQ leader Jean-François Lisée floated a proposition that English cegep students should spend their final semester at a French cegep, “preferably in the regions” (en région). First of all, Lisée seems unaware that English cegeps like Champlain College already exist in “the regions” (typical regionalist!). How are those English students already in the regions supposed to go off and study French in the regions? Somewhere even regioner? Is there an area of Quebec that’s the regionest of them all? (Yes: Piopolis.)

As I was carping about this online, one of my CBC acquaintances chimed in, saying “regions” was at least better than “off-island.” She then challenged me to come up with an alternative term.

So what are we to call these so-called regions? They have many of the same services, options and cultural offerings as the city, only perhaps in less quantity. Thus you have “the metropolis,” and then you have “the metropoless.”

(A variation also works in French: There is “le métropole”; and then there is the place without a subway, “le métro-pas.”)

Other options:

  • Pays de Potluck
  • Frontières Sans Médicins
  • Last-Gaspésie
  • Chainsaw Country
  • The Outlands (which would make its residents Outlandish)
  • Les Zones Vertes
  • Les Zones Fosse Septique
  • Chez Ross

At very least we should not be lumping all of rural and semi-rural Quebec under a single catch-all term. We should have the Eastern Regions and the Western Regions, the Upper Regions and, naturally, the Nether Regions. (Thank you, Andrew Greenfield, for this suggestion.)

I challenge you, readers, to come up with a solution. And fast, for now that we have let this cat out of the bag (laisser le chat échappé le sac), I fear the government will step in with an official toponymie, and we will become known as les territoires sous-urbaines multifonctionnelles de la paysage, or TSUMPs – which is what you get when the city folks come out here to the regions and cut down all the RTEEs.


Note to my non-Quebec readers: I considered hyperlinking much of this content so you could understand the terms and context, but you kind of have to be here. 

Posted in Canada and/or Quebec, It Really Did Happen! | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Get along, little Doggie

My parents are preparing to move into an apartment after more than 50 years in their home. This means they are dealing with the three rules of real estate: location, location, what are we going to do with all this stuff?

My mother is a methodical woman, and when I was home with my siblings this summer, she produced a list of items that she thought we might want to claim: old phone, juicer, chopper, egg beater, 3-monkeys ornament, ivory fish fork – they were like clues in one of those I Spy puzzles – marbles, View Master, coffee pot with warmer, beaded evening bag, glass doorknob…

I was especially intrigued by the entry marked “handkerchiefs?” What else could they be? But in the end I didn’t call dibs. If anything, the list served as a warning: stuff accumulates.

Since the summer, the sorting and the purging has been ongoing. My parents are in their mid-eighties, so this is not a speedy process, though my trusty brother Andrew has been around to tote that barge, lift that juicer. All of this is happening simultaneously with viewings, meaning the house must be as pristine as can be. Mom, however, has found a great place to stash the transitional clutter: inside the dryer.

“I know: this red ribbon will distract from my nearly severed head.”

Most recently, she’s been tackling the closets, and she phoned to let me know that she had come across an old friend of mine: Doggie.

Doggie was a green, corduroy beagle with floppy ears, a sort of blend between Snoopy and Finnigan from “Mr. Dressup.” He and I were inseparable. I had to have Doggie with me everywhere I went. If not, I might bang my head against the stairs, which had plastic treads that left little indents in my forehead. But that’s an embarrassing formative trauma for another time.

“Do you want him?” Mom asked.

I chuckled. “No, I think I can do without Doggie. But send me a picture.”

She had also uncovered Andrew’s favourite stuffed animal, Pussycat. Yes, Doggie and Pussycat. Believe it or not, Andrew and I were the creative children in the family.

“It’s only a flesh wound.”

When Andrew was 5, he had to undergo an operation, and Pussycat came along. Even back then my brother was an insomniac, and during the night, while poking Pussycat (sounds ruder than it is, folks), he worried a hole in the fabric and discovered what it was stuffed with: pantyhose. What does a 5-year-old do with pantyhose? Puts it over his head, naturally! Somewhere there’s a retired nurse still recovering from the night she did her rounds and shone her flashlight on that Murray boy.

It was my brother who sent me the photos of Doggie and Pussycat. Poor Doggie. Not looking good. Whatever fur was once on him had been worn off, and his back has been reinforced with a dark patch of fabric. His head hangs on by mere threads. As with living creatures, there’s not much reinforcing you can do to stave off decapitation.

When I told my siblings that I had declined to take Doggie, Andrew wrote, “Oh Rossy, of course you have to have him and keep him,” and then he reminded me what a comfort Doggie must have been after he (Andrew, not Doggie) smashed me over the head with an ashtray and Dr. Carroll wrapped my head in a bandage like I was a casualty of the American Civil War. He (Andrew, not Dr. Carroll) also shoved a garden stake up my nose, but that’s a tale of sibling bloodletting for another time.

I purged a lot of old papers and photos when I visited this past summer. Some of them were tough to get rid of – little pieces of my childhood, tiny scraps of me. But I had to ask myself, what would I do with them? Where would they go if I brought them home? They’d just be one more thing I’ll have to sort when we too must move out of this house. And I don’t take inventory like Mom.

But now that I’ve seen the picture of Doggie, no longer as a concept but as an object, it’s hard to stomach the idea of him ending up in the trash. I don’t think I ever interacted with him; I think he just made me feel safe, like a security blanket or a handkerchief(?). But still, shouldn’t sentiment sometimes win?

Surprisingly, my wife thinks I should keep him. She says he can be a companion to the childhood companion she still has, a stuffed yellow bear.

His name is Yellow Bear.

Posted in Reading? Ugh! | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Always carry a notebook so you can keep track of your brilliant thoughts

• Next season on “Survivor”: everyone is covered with staticky packing Styrofoam and the first person who gets it all off their clothes without losing their mind wins.

• Just once, I’d like to see instructions that say your food item should be baked at 427°.

• Whodunnit character: Gil Sanz, Font Detective. (“Yeah, sure, I know your type…”)

• Bad French translation for making toast: bronzage du pain

• The mythical mountain creature that is also good at algebra: the Binomial Snowman

• I saw a box of 30 Magnum condoms at the pharmacy. I think it exists solely to impress the cashier.

• Everyone’s goal should be to go through life like a dog with his head out the car window.

• More terrible band names: Fats Squalor; Dental Vacation; The Urinal Cakes; Catfood Factory; The Headless Rabbits; Lactose Moon; The Bean Salad Aftermath

• It is without question less sad to dine alone at a café than to dine alone at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

• Age means having to mentally prepare yourself to lift your leg.

• Hashtag of the campaign for public flatulence: #metoot

• “Where do all the crazy birds live?” she asked. He pointed and said, “This way mad nests lie.”

• Unhelpful Conversations With Teenagers (No. 1 in a series): “Do you want watermelon?” “I don’t know.” “Is that a yes or a no?” “I don’t care.”

• The fact that cookie dough goes on the baking sheet in a lumpy splat and ends up a pleasing flat circle is evidence of a divine plan.

• Delightful + delicious = delighcious

• Unhelpful Conversations With Teenagers (No. 2 in a series): “Dad, why did you put a mouldy jar of salsa back in the fridge.” “I’m not the one who uses salsa. It’s because you guys open new jars before checking to see if there are other jars already open.” “There aren’t other jars.” [Dad opens fridge; finds two open jars.” “Well, you’re the one who put the mouldy one back.” “You have zero empirical evidence of that.” Conversation continues until teenager puts jar quarter-full of mouldy salsa in the sink, fills it with water and walks away.

• Conversation with 23-year-old daughter after trying goat-milk brie: “Ugh. I don’t like it.” “So, its not going to be your goat-to cheese?” “Haha! Goat one!”

• Home is where you can take off your glasses and not bump into anything.

• Starbuck’s new Passive Resistance Blend: Mahatma Grandé

• Sometimes when my iPhone doesn’t recognize my thumbprint I’m filled with existential dread.

• Conversation with a young woman: “You’ve been married a long time. Has it ever happened when you’re married that a woman asks you out?” “That never happened even before I was married.”

• Ways I’m likely to put my back out: sneezing; lifting; static shock from folding laundry; folding laundry

• Podiatrist film noir: Grime and Pumice-ment

• How impatient we’ve become with regular-flow hand dryers.

• Dog afflictions: Barkinson’s disease

• Conversation with Teenagers While Shopping for School Supplies in Which Dad Gets the Last Laugh: “I have the feeling there was something else the teachers asked me for that I don’t have.” “Your undivided attention?”

• Title of my autobiography: Grumpy-Go-Lucky

Posted in Writing | Tagged , , , | 23 Comments