Archive for May, 2009


Ups and downs on the Golden Pass

Back in Vancouver less than 24 hours and the Twister’s already calling to use my credit card. So much for “rebranding” herself, as she claims to be doing over there in Zurich.

Our goodbye, which happened at the main train station when I saw her off to work, was sad, as much as we infuriated each other over the last 10 days. And there was plenty of irritation to go around… for the Twister, I’m sure the highlight was Saturday afternoon. On our way to Montreux, in southwest Switzerland on Lake Geneva, via the scenic Golden Pass train route, we’d gotten on the wrong train, and we were trying to right ourselves. In a weird switch of gender roles, the Twister likes to figure things out herself (invariably leading to more confusion) while I, especially in a foreign country, like to ask questions. At any rate, she also hates my pronunciation of the few German words I attempt, and becomes acutely embarassed whenever I start asking questions.

So when we became uncertain which train to take next, she left me on the platform of a station. I was strictly forbidden from inquiring from any passing authorities or other passengers while she went in search of info. Of course, the minute she was out of sight I spied this weird pillar-like kiosk that said “information.” You don’t even talk to someone in person, you press a button and talk into a microphone. And that’s how she caught me, red-handed as it were, talking to a red pillar and trying to communicate with some Swiss train dude about which train to catch. She couldn’t have been angrier if she’d caught me with pictures of someone else’s crotch on my camera (see previous blog entry, Thanksgiving 2008).

We got through that, but there were several more instances as we tried to navigate the Swiss train system. It was all worth it though for the night and half-day we spent in Montreux, a breathtakingly beautiful little lakeside town. The Golf Hotel was no great shakes as rooms go, but the breakfast (included) was a feast, and a terrace looked out on the water. For dinner we ate at a little Italian restaurant—pizza, again, it’s so good over there thanks to the Italian influence—and chatted with a local who recommended, for lunch the next day, the Palais Oriental. We stopped in for lunch—Greek tapas—on the restaurant’s terrace, then spent the rest of the day at each other’s throats navigating our way back to Zurich. All right, it wasn’t that bad, but it was a long (if sickengly scenic) journey, and we were exhausted by the time we arrived back in town. And like I mentioned, everything was fine by the next morning, and love and sorrow at parting had replaced our mutual desire to make the other’s head explode like in the movie Scanners.

Next: a pictorial essay on my Switzerland trip.


Game on!

The chatting with Bali Boy has continued on an almost daily basis over the past few months. I like him, he is sexy, smart and gorgeous. He makes me laugh hard, so much so I snorted Cheerios out my nose and all over my iMac last week. Our chats are intense, fun, sexually charged and leave me wanting more. I have been trying desperately hard to sell stories on BC in order to justify a trip out west to visit him but it didn’t look like I was going to be able to do it.

Just when I was about to give up, I managed to score an assignment for a national magazine that requires me testing out romantic resorts (yeah!) so at the end of June, me and kiddo will fly to BC, I’ll drop my daughter off with her father for 10 days and spend some quality time with Bali Boy.

This seems like it will be the perfect way to consummate our “relationship”. He’ll drive us to the resort in his convertible, we’ll spend two days holed up in a luxurious suite that has a jacuzzi tub made for two, ocean views and everything you could possibly ever want for a dirty weekend. Hopefully the connection I felt that night back in Vancouver so long ago will still be there, we’ll make each other laugh, and enjoy each others company enough that the rest of my time in BC will also be spent with him.

I’m so happy that I’ll at least get to have a bit of fun, because it has been so long since I’ve spent time with someone I really like. Like I said before, this can’t go anywhere and I’m okay with that. I’m not looking to fall in love with someone who lives in the city I am so happy to have left, and this guy isn’t looking for a long-term thing.

This will be a fling, with a start and an end.

For 10 days I will exist outside of the realities of being a mom, where I get to be someone else. An all the time sexy and fun version of me, where I am not responsible for anyone and seeking only my happiness. Kind of like me ten years ago, but more jaded, less desperate to please and much more concerned about my own joy!


The set up

My neigbour knows the perfect guy for me apparently. Freshly divorced, two kids, works in a creative field and very nice. He sounded awesome and I got kind of excited at the prospect of meeting this man, but then found out that he wasn’t quite divorced and lives in the same house as his wife still. So although he could well be the perfect guy for me once his shit is together and he is properly separated, right now, there is no way I could get involved with a mess like that.

One of my new rules in life (post divorce) is no relationship drama. I realize that any relationship is going to have some drama at some point, but if someone is still living with their wife I cannot see how that could bode well. Even if they are definitely split, this guy has some healing to do. Maybe next year, if I’m still single I’ll check in with my friend about that guy, but right now its not going to happen.

Then two of my girlfriend’s met a guy that they thought would be perfect. A friend of one of their husbands who had moved back to Halifax recently. He sounded exciting and interesting, and a dinner was arranged so that I could see for myself what a catch he was. The dinner was great and yes, this guy seemed to be a catch,until he mentioned that Halifax was just a temporary stay and he was planning to move back to Montreal as soon as possible. I can’t invest time in someone that doesn’t want to live here. Plus, I don’t think he was exactly bowled over by me, there was a lack of spark for sure both ways.

Despite the fact that none of my set-ups have played out to a great conclusion, I still like it when my friends try to find me the perfect guy because I think it shows how much my friends are invested in my happiness. They want me to be happy, and I love that. Given how hard it is to find someone in this city, I’ll take whatever help I can get.


For a good time in Zurich…

It was some kind of holiday yesterday, though national or just city-wide I’m not sure. Also, no one seemed to be able to tell us what the holiday was about, outside of “some Christian thing.” Anyway, the upshot of all this being, the Texas Twister lost her key.


To put it into context: there is one key that works both the building door and the apartment door, and it’s basically uncopy-able. So we have the one key between us and yesterday she was doing the laundry in the basement dungeon. She took the key with her and came back upstairs and then said she was going to get some breakfast. I said I’d be along in a bit and she left. A few minutes later, having finished whatever it was I was working on, I started getting ready to leave. Then I thought, the keys. She must have them. However, I know enough never to assume such things when it comes to the Twister, so I took a quick look around the apartment, even checked some coat pockets. Nothing. Okay then…

I found her sitting outside at a nearby “cucina” (lit. “kitchen”, meaning restaurant), where she’s having a coffee and waiting on some mussels. Hi, I say. You have the key, right?

She looks in her big white bag, which she bought at the flea market last Saturday. No key. Still, I’m thinking, it’s probably in that bag somewhere—this kind of thing, where she can’t find something that she has on her, has happened before. We finish our coffee, go back to the apartment. Re-check the bag, both of us. No key. We decide to stake out the building, even though no one ever seems to come or go. She takes the first shift, and I go up the street for a glass of wine and some olives. I come back, she’s inside. (I have to call up to her second-floor suite from the cobblestone tourist bath outside, with people who are sitting at wooden tables outside the Migros Take Away watching, because, she told me when I first arrived, the doorbell doesn’t work. Last night she revealed this was a lie, that it does work, she just wants me to yell from down below like some kind of putz.) She’d rung all the bells and someone, “a little old Italian man,” had come down to let her in. “I should’ve asked him to let me into the [locked] laundry room.”


“I can’t find the keys anywhere in the apartment. I must’ve left them in the laundry room.”


She’s already called the Swiss company that takes care of the building. They’re sending someone over to unlock the laundry room. She has to do some work she says so she’s going to go up the street to the bar that has wireless. Can I wait here in case they come? Oh sure, I say. What a sucker.

Dude shows up, doesn’t know a lick of English. The door to the laundry room, by the way, is unlocked—not sure if he’s just unlocked it now or if it had been unlocked the whole time. Anyway, I start looking for the key ring down there, but it’s nowhere in sight. There’s a pile of bedsheets she’s piled in a chair in the corner. I go through the pile. Nothing. Then Swiss handyman dude, mustached, 50-ish, stocky, goes through them. No keys. I’m babbling, “I don’t know where they could be, she does this all the time, the stories I could tell you, hahaha,” and he’s not understanding a word.

We go back upstairs to the apartment.

Swiss dude calls his boss. Boss gets on the phone with me, asks me what happened. Never mind that my presence here goes more or less unexplained, and I already fee like we must be breaking some weird Swiss rule by my being here (this apartment is run like a transitional hotel, with maids sent once a week), but now I have to try to explain. See, she went down to do laundry, and then came back up, and then went out, and and and… He says he’s going to get the handyman to leave me the extra key, and asks me to speak to the handyman again.

They speak in Swiss. Handyman laughs. Yeah, haha, stupid North Americans have locked themselves out of the building, yeah, no, the girl’s not here, it’s just some guy, yeah, what a sucker. Hahahahahaha…. hands me the phone back, dude on the line wants again to know what happened. Establishes that they weren’t stolen (“So you had them last night? And this morning?”) then pleads with me to let him know as soon as we find them. I hand the phone back, dude gives me the key, leaves. Five minutes later, the Twister shows up.

“Did they come?”

“Yep.” I show her the extra key. “They weren’t in the laundry room.”

“They weren’t?”


She goes down to look in the laundry room herself, like there’s some secret nook or cranny she might have left it in. Comes back up, no key. “Where could it be?” she asks repeatedly, as though I’ve hidden it.

Finally I say the only thing I can think of, the one avenue we haven’t explored in depth, even though it was the first one that should have occurred because it seems so obvious but then, wouldn’t that be the first thing you’d think of, “Where else did I go?”

And so I say, “Well, did you go anywhere before the restaurant where we were at?”

“No,” she says. Pause. “Wait. There’s one other place I can look.” Leaves. Comes back five minutes later, waving the keys. Where were they, I asked, not really wanting to know the answer.

“The cafe.” What cafe? “The cafe I went to before the restaurant. I put my stuff down but then they said they were closed so I went to the other place. I guess I left my keys… ”

For a good time, visit the Texas Twister in Zurich!


Dateline: Zurich

Zurich, Switzerland—It’s Monday, 9:30 a.m., but back home it’s 12:32 a.m. The time change screws you up, and not just your sleep-cycle—it’s played havoc with my internal email clock, which I didn’t even know I had. But now I get emails between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m. Zurich time, so there isn’t much point in checking them during the day.

But that’s just a consequence of crossing into a different time zone, and doesn’t really say anything about Zurich itself. One thing I can say, unequivocally, is that it’s freakin’ expensive. The other, that it’s pretty as a postcard, or a jigsaw puzzle scene.

I arrived Thursday, and promptly got lost on the way to the main train station, Zurich HB. The Twister had to come and get me—I’d gotten off at the wrong stop. Fortunately, she’s staying not far from the main station, in an area rife with cafes, bars, restaurants, shops, and, uhm, strip clubs. It’s cobblestoned streets were teeming with the arrival of the sun this past weekend, and if you love European culture—sitting outside with a drink and watching the people go by—this street (Niederdorfstrasse)  is definitely prime. It’s also close to the river, the Limmat.

However, the Twister’s place—which is above Splash, a clothing shop, and across from the Hotel Alexander and a grocery store called Migros—is tiny. The kitchen is practically unworkable, and there’s nowhere to put my suitcase. It’s a furnished transition place halfway between an apartment building and a hotel; there is no garbage bin outside, but someone comes in once a week (tomorrow, Tuesday) to clean. Depending on your food habits—I’d suggest staying away from fish, if there was any fish to buy here—you could have a pretty stinky area under the sink by the time someone picks up the garbage. For this, she’s paying New York City apartment prices—and that’s nothing, apparently.

Language is a problem. For one thing, I don’t know any German, and for another, the language they speak here is a bastardization, Swiss-German. The Twister’s no great shakes in the language department either; we got into a silly fight when she accused me of coming off like a linguistic expert. Every once in awhile I’ll try out a little Swiss-German on a poor store clerk or server, usually with comical results. At least, the Twister’s laughing.

We watched a movie the other night, with a title loosely translatable as The Swiss Maker. It’s about a couple of petty bureaucrats who have the power to grant citizenship, and four people who are trying to become Swiss. It’s a cute, comical ’70s movie that tweaks the nose of the powers-that-be and the more uptight echelons of Swiss society. The Twister’s stories of trying to assimilate, and all the bureaucratic hoops she’s had to jump through, show things haven’t improved for those seeking citizenship. Echoes from Home, the other Swiss movie we tried to watch, turned out (the Twister wasn’t sure what it was she was buying at the time) to be a documentary about contemporary, experimental yodelers. I’m not making this up.

The weather’s been unpredictable, sometimes cool and overcast, other times hot and humid and sunny; Saturday was gorgeous, and we walked along the river to a lakeside flea market followed by a delicious pizza near the water. Yesterday started out beautifully, and I went for a run along the river walk, but by the time we got to a park in Langstrasse the clouds had come out. We stopped for a glass of wine before coming home, and everywhere we went, people were watching a football (soccer) game. Tres European.

Friday and Saturday nights we went bar hopping, an expensive proposition, let me tell you. But there are so many around here, it’s hard to resist; one I’ve especially liked so far is called Corazon, which has a casual atmosphere with cushion-y chairs and benches, and serves big bottles of Chimay. Speaking of Belgian beer, yesterday we stumbled upon Beers of the World (at least, I think that’s its name) in the shopping concourse under the main train stration. I haven’t been that excited since I discovered the U.S. chain BevMo.

Today looks like another cloudy one. With the Twister at work, I’m gonna be spending a lot of time wondering from cafe to bar to cafe again. And I might have to visit Beers of the World again. It’s cheaper than going to Starbucks, that’s for sure.


Dating and broke

As a self-employed single mom, money is tight. Actually, in this climate its fair to say that money is tight for everyone but I’m pretty much surfing the poverty line every day. I mean, I get by and my child is well looked after. The reasons that we are poor are that I bought a house and had to spend $12000 on a lawyer last year thanks to custody battle bullshit. But anyway, being broke is my reality right now, which is hard when dating.

On many levels, it is difficult to date when broke. Here’s what I need money for every time I date:

1) Babysitter. Before I’ve walked out my door I’ve spent $20 on childcare. If its a good date, that could be more like $50.

2) Haircut. Because although cutting my own bangs with kitchen scissors and sticky tape is fine for everyday mommy life, I do dream of presenting a more polished persona when meeting a man.

3) New tights/ stockings/ whatever. There is always one thing that my dream outfit needs in order to make me feel pretty.

4) Taxi fare home.

5) Money for beers/ dinner/ whatever. Of course I hope that my date might pick up the tab but you never know, so you need to be prepared. (For the record, I like it when men at least offer to pay, and not just because I am poor.)

Because of this, going on a date is never just an easy feat like it was in my carefree youth where (thanks to being a grunge girl) it was as simple as putting on some black eyeliner and strutting out the house looking carefully dishevelled, because I am supposed to look like a put-together woman in order to snare a man.

And now, because the date I am getting really excited for is in Vancouver (the traveling boy has returned to Canada and I am about to actually take our fling off-line and in to the real world!), I have that pesky plane ticket to cough up, and one for my child so that I can make this a combined custody visit for her and week of fun for mummy.

Dating is expensive, and unlike when you buy something tangible and know that you will be getting a certain value for that expenditure, you never quite know whether you’ll be getting any bang for your buck. Of course, not knowing what you will get and the hope that you will actually score something that money can’t buy is what makes this dating malarkey truly worthwhile.


Entertaining… at home in the sky

Last year’s Vancouver Bombay Sapphire promotion took place at Lumiere, one of the city’s tonier restaurants. For this year’s, the booze reps booked a night on the 58th floor of the city’s newest upscale hotel/residence, the Shangri-La.

The view was spectacular; after a mostly overcast day, the clouds dispersed, leaving the city to shine as the sun made its way to the horizon.


Merlin Griffiths, the London-based “global brand ambassador” for Bombay, was back on mixing duties, showing us the proper way to make martinis (well, one way, anyway), and making ginger mint drinks and Sapphire Collins in the suite’s island kitchen, while servers brought out a steady supply of hors d’oeuvres. The theme was entertaining at home, specifically for guys who want to do more than break out the Pabst and Pringles when a date comes over, and food stylist/entertaining expert Murray Bancroft whipped up some food pairings, such as crostini with Parma ham and a dungeness crab topping, to go with the drinks. An even mix of male and female media reps—the usual suspects—watched attentively, trying not to think about the playoff game in Chicago between the Blackhawks and Vancouver’s beloved Canucks.


Though there’s nothing I enjoy more than taking shots at people who get swept up in hockey, especially those who plant little team flags on their vehicles, I have to admit I found myself watching the last 10 minutes of the game at Circa. A new restaurant & lounge on Granville (which, because of ongoing Canada Line construction, is looking more apocalyptic than ever), Circa is a 192-seat room, including a mezzanine area and “a private dining room edged in gold leaf and elaborate woodwork” (okay, I’m reading off the PR bumf here). The menu is based on a shared-plate theme, with an emphasis on local ingredients (mushrooms, salmon, tuna) and wines. The moment I walked in—last night was the grand opening—I was handed a sample of the pulled pork with poutine, and my pants exploded.

But even that, along with Absolut vodka drinks and pretty minglers in fuchsia dresses, wasn’t enough to distract hockey fans as the Blackhawks pounded their precious Canucks into submission. Oh well, at least I won’t have to listen to any more hockey pool drivel at the office.

We—including former wingman Wingy, who brought his phone co. rep (!) along, and who spent much of the evening wondering how he was going to get out to a suburb where his car was getting fixed as some sort of contra deal—ended up, as is often the case on nights like this, at Bin 941 on Davie. The gin and wine must’ve gone to my head by then, because I recall having a conversation  about God with a Ukrainian. And then I blacked out.

Okay, not really—more like passed out (at home, not at the Bin). Today I’m taking it easy and tomorrow, well, tomorrow I’m packing; Thursday night I’ll be in Zurich, singing “Reunited” with the Texas Twister. Can’t hardly wait!

Thanks to Almira Bardai and the folks at Jive Communications, Merlin Griffiths and Bacardi/Bombay Sapphire, and Ayesha Khan with Optimum for putting up with me.

May 2009
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