Sunday Signage: The Suspense Is Killing Me

I see this sign every day in the public restrooms at the Harbour:

Come on, people– are those ellipses really necessary? (Especially so many of them?)

The suspense is killing me!

Where can I possibly find some feminine hygiene products?


That was a bit anti-climactic, no?

PS: Do you know how difficult it is to take a half-decent photo inside a public restroom without looking like a total creep? Believe me. It’s not easy.

Become the Best Worst Friend You Can Be

Classic Wooden Boat Festival– one of the many events that takes place right on our doorstep every summer.

Over the past three Harbour seasons, I have learned a lot about friendship– namely, how difficult it is to maintain even cursory relationships when you’re otherwise occupied drowning in the chaos you call your job. Don’t get me wrong: I value my friendships and wish that I could be a much more stellar and reliable amiga. However, for my own sanity and cognitive well-being, I’ve got to start accepting the fact that– for the most part– I am a flaky, preoccupied, over-stimulated, sleep-deprived, sad and sorry excuse for a compadre.

Let’s not mince our words here, shall we?

Sometimes I err on the side of optimism and believe that I’ll have time to “catch up” with my friends during the off-season. During the summer months, I keep guilty tabs on everyone who will need phoning and make lists of all the neglectful wounds that will need patching up come October, but suddenly it’s April again and I’m still as terrible a friend as I’ve been for the past three years. What gives? In the past month alone, I have unintentionally committed three grievous Friendship Code Violations– I didn’t call my best friend on her birthday, I didn’t RSVP to the same friend’s wedding invitation by the specified deadline (even though I had months to ponder my reply), and I didn’t even phone my youngest sister on her birthday last week. Yep. Optimism be damned: I am a rotten, stinking, no-good friend. 😦

Hey! Wipe that smile off your face, you! What did we just say about being a horrible friend?

Here’s the good news, though:

Rather than beat myself up over my lack of social reciprocity or my severe deficits in normal engagement levels, I’ve decided to use my weaknesses to my advantage and become a Horrible Friend Coach. Yes! I’ve got all the experience and tools you’ll need to have yourself deleted from every former friend’s day timer, address book, birthday calendar, or newfangled iPhone. I’ve even distilled my vast knowledge and years of expertise down into three simple, easy-to-follow steps! If you try my program and don’t experience 100% friend loss, I’ll even refund your money– no questions asked!

Wow! Be a GREAT Bad Friend!

Step 1: Get a job at the Inner Harbour!

Make sure you give yourself super long hours and stupid amounts of work to do. Don’t take any days off unless it is raining goats outside, and even then, use the precious hours away from work to run all the errands you don’t have time to do otherwise (groceries, laundry, banking, cooking, cleaning, sleeping?, etc.). Forget about weekends. Forget about “hanging out”. Forget about attending birthdays, weddings, funerals, baby showers, stag/ettes, or doing anything remotely resembling “fun”. In fact, forget you even know what “fun” is. (That last part will come naturally, don’t worry.)

We were even at work when the sky looked like this, to give you an idea of the Harbour schedule you should keep.

Step 2: Make well-intentioned (but empty) promises and set unrealistic expectations of yourself!

Definitely tell everyone you know that you will call them in November (or get together for tea, or go out for dinner with them– whatever. The details don’t really matter here– the point is to make “plans” with people and to create a false sense of hope.) We’re not just playing with other people’s hearts here, though– no. In order for this program to work effectively, you have to set your standards bar unbelievably high, too. Believe that you will, indeed, follow up with all of these people and attend all of these future engagements. Fill your heart (and theirs) with optimism! You’re a good friend! People like you!

Let’s go see a Super Pod of whales after Harbour season, okay? It’ll be fun!

… Then wait until November. By then, your nerves will be frayed and your eardrums will be begging for silence. You’ll have experienced months of noise– people, buskers, boat engines, float planes, festivals, children, seagulls, and cell phones– so the last thing you will want to do is call anyone, let alone meet anybody in person somewhere public, aka noisy. At this point, you can take your bar of standards down from its lofty perch, clothesline your friends with it, and then take a stab (ha) at impaling yourself with it. The disappointment of letting other people down will be painful, but then again, so was listening to various buskers sing ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ 8 million times during the summer. It’s all relative.

Disclaimer: If any of your friends will happily attend a silent retreat with you come winter, The Best Worst Friend program is considered null and void.

Step 3: Move!

Maybe you’ve done a half-decent job of keeping in contact with your friends over the winter months, and maybe you’ve even made good on some of your phone call/tea/dinner promises. If you’re serious about burning bridges and losing friendships, though, the best thing to do is pack up all of your belongings and completely uproot yourself! So what if you just moved in December? It’s April now– move again!

Most of your friends probably have birthdays and wedding anniversaries in April, anyway, so it will be perfect timing for you not to have any phone or internet access. Keep ’em guessing! Did she really not have internet/phone access, or was she just being her regular Bad Friend self by not phoning on my birthday? Who’s to say?

Take it from me: you’ll be so busy packing, unpacking, cleaning, and oh yes, working at the Harbour!– you won’t have much time for frivolous things like “friendships”. A big part of you will feel sad and like you’re missing out on the most important aspect of life, but don’t let it get to you. We’re all good at something in this lifetime, and maybe you’re just an All-Star Horrible Friend. Own it!


Pitiful ed. note: I have been wracked with guilt about my non-availability and my non-awesome friendship skills lately. To my friends in real life: thank you for your understanding and for your continued ability to take my super crazy schedule in stride. To my online friends: thank you for being my friend! (And consider yourselves lucky that you only have to deal with Flaky Online Me, and not Flaky In-Person Me, too. Heh.)     

Jesus Smells Like a Wet Dog?: Curious Things Overheard at My Grandma’s House

Creepy LASER VISION basset hounds!

One of the highlights of my recent trip to Calgary– a shining beacon of happiness in the midst of sorrow, if you will– came courtesy of the interchange between one of my cousins and my mom. It was a few days before my Grandpa’s funeral, and a small army of family members had descended upon the Legendary Family Home like locusts (to save on hotel costs, of course). The bedrooms were all full, the couches had all been claimed, and one of my poor cousins got stuck on a foam mattress on the basement floor when she first arrived.

Not my grandma's dog, but pretty darn cute nonetheless. Ladies and gentlemen: meet Howard!

To make matters worse for my poor cousin, even though the eldest aunt had washed every piece of bed-able linen in the house, all of the bedding had been distributed to other family members already, leaving my cousin with only (gasp!) one of the dog’s blankets to use overnight. She didn’t know it at the time she snatched the furry quilt up, but my grandma’s prized basset hound, Metro, had snuggled in that very same blanket– probably for solid weeks before my cousin used it. (In this case, ignorance was bliss. Who would have wanted to knowingly curl up in the dog’s blanket for the night?) 🙂

Metro and Grandma

Anyway. My cousin understandably had a terrible sleep that night, ensconced as she was in a stinky dog quilt. My mom didn’t fare much better on the couch in the living room, as my grandma’s two dogs (Metro and Hunter, aka The Bestest Boy), were free to cuddle with her all night if they so desired… which they did. Hundreds of pounds of dog in her makeshift bed! In the morning, bleary-eyed from lack of sleep, my cousin and my mother commiserated.

Mom: I didn’t sleep well at all last night. The Bestest Boy was practically wrapped around my face the whole time.

Metro is playing the part of The Bestest Boy in this pic.

Cousin: I had a terrible sleep, too. I’m pretty sure I was sleeping with one of the dog quilts, because I kept waking up and smelling Cheezies all night.

Mom: [Perplexed.] [Totally misunderstanding my cousin, thinking she said she was smelling Jesus all night. Don’t forget that we come from a super-religious family, so somebody claiming to smell Jesus wouldn’t be entirely unheard of in the family home.] [Giving my cousin a polite look.]   ???

Cousin: [Seeing look of utter confusion on my mom’s face.] [Attempting to elaborate.] You know… sort of like a wet dog smell? I kept waking up and smelling something gross.

Mom: [Nose wrinkling.] [Not sure if her niece is being serious or completely sacrilegious.] Jesus… smells like a wet dog blanket?!

Cousin: [Busting a gut laughing.] Not Jesus— CHEEZIES!!

[Gales of laughter erupt]


PS: Thank you to those of you who wrote to tell me that the Comments section is being a real jerk. The WordPress forums don’t have much to suggest except “Make sure you are logged in to comment”, so hopefully things will clear up soon!

Honorary Keepers of the Lighthouse!

Being married to an artist definitely has its perks. For me, one of the greatest parts of being the Less Creative Other Half to a Creative Genius is getting to accompany my beau on some stellar “art research” excursions. We’ve been invited to experience the inner workings of a chocolate factory before, got to hang out at a micro-brewery when Marty’s custom-designed beer bottles were being filled, and most recently, we were whisked away to a nearby island to be Unofficial Keepers of the Race Rocks Lighthouse for 24 hours! It’s a tough job, but somebody has to be a tag-along bride! 😉

Race Rocks: Our new home away from home!

Race Rocks Lighthouse is one of the two oldest lighthouses on Canada’s west coast, and it can only be accessed by boat. (Fisgard is the other oldest lighthouse, and both have been in operation since 1860.) Marty and I had been by Race Rocks Lighthouse before (en route to see the Super Pod of orca whales, natch!), but we never imagined we would ever get to set foot on the sacred island, let alone spend a night at the Lighthouse Keeper’s house! (As Honorary Lighthouse Keepers, even!!) So what if the beacon itself has been automated for decades? Allow me to take a single night’s worth of credit for keeping the passing ships safe… 😉

Don't worry, ships passing in the night-- you're in great (albeit inexperienced) hands!

How on earth did this happen? How did the chance to hang out at Race Rocks Lighthouse fall into our laps?

I’m glad you asked! Last autumn, Marty was asked to donate an item to a charity’s fundraising auction here in Victoria. He generously donated a custom painting of the winner’s choice, and we were thrilled to bits when the auction winner requested a piece of the Race Rocks Lighthouse! Even better was the fact that the winner had actual, physical ties to Race Rocks and could arrange for us to spend an evening there, for “research purposes” obviously. Hanging out at the Race Rocks Lighthouse is not an opportunity that comes along very often or to very many people at all, so you can bet that I dubbed myself Marty’s “Art Manager” ASAP and insisted that I accompany him to the remote island when the invitation was extended. 🙂

I'm the manager. I go everywhere Marty goes.

Getting ready for our journey, I fretted about what to pack and how to prepare. What, exactly, does one wear to be a Lighthouse Keeper? How much food does one pack, especially if there’s a chance of being stranded on the island? Should I bring my own toilet paper? (Was there even a primitive toilet there?) Would I need a book to read? Would I get any sleep at all? (Race Rocks is home to a substantial bunch of migrating sea lions during many seasons of the year and is a notoriously loud and stinky place while they are there. Thankfully, the sea lions weren’t basking on the surrounding rocks during our visit, so we didn’t need to use our ear plugs or hold our noses for 24 repulsive hours!)

We were told by the auction winner to “bring a sleeping bag and food” with us– in addition to our signed waivers, of course– but I had no idea what to expect from the accommodations. Would we be roughing it on a rustic wooden pallet on the floor? Would we be crammed into a storage closet-sized ‘room’? Would there be heat? Could we cook? Call me naive, but I’d never been an Honorary Lighthouse Keeper before and had no idea what awaited me. (For the record: I resisted the urge to prepare all of the remaining food items we had in our fridge and pantry for a 24-hour stay, and instead packed enough food to last us 2 days, just in case. The weather forecast looked promising for a timely exit from the island, so my OCD kitchen tendencies were kept in check.)

On Wednesday afternoon, we met the official Lighthouse Keeper at the docks of Pearson College with our overstuffed (and impressively heavy) expedition backpacks on hand. We were wearing our most rugged hiking clothes, vintage PFD jackets (on loan from the college), and we had warm and dry clothing reserves waiting in our sacks, just in case our very small and otherwise exposed transportation boat left us soaked and freezing before we even pulled up to the jetty at Race Rocks. Luckily, the sail there was dry and mostly warm, if bumpy and a little nerve-wracking. (Did I mention I don’t know how to swim? Heh.) First hurdle: cleared!

On our way!

Our first surprise was encountered right at the jetty, where we were supposed to dock and make our way onto the island. Blocking our only pathway to the island was a moulting (read: cranky!) female elephant seal, who snorted, hissed, and generally threatened to bite us when we made even the slightest move towards her.

Race Rocks is a protected ecological reserve site, so one of the first and most important rules for guests is to not disturb the animals, at any cost to themselves. (In realistic terms, this means that regular visitors to the island have to stand back and witness the normal life cycles of resident animals, including mating, birth, death, abandonment, starvation, disease, stand-offs, etc.) This female seal showed no intention of moving off the jetty, and there was obviously no way for us to move her ourselves, so we ended up having to creep around her while grasping to the outside of the protective handrails on the jetty. Welcome to Race Rocks!

I was terrified as I scaled the very outer edge of the jetty, knowing that a sharp drop into still-tumultuous waters awaited me if that female seal lunged in my direction. (The group consensus, made before we exited the boat, was that it would be better to let go of the rail and fall into the water rather than risk being bitten by a moulting seal– if it came to that, which hopefully it wouldn’t. For the record: this is much easier said and done by people who know how to swim. Luckily, I scrambled past the seal without being bitten or plunging myself into the icy waters. Welcome to Race Rocks, indeed!)

Once we were safely past the Unofficial Race Rocks Guardian, we met our next animal friend around the corner– a gigantic male elephant seal named Misery who had taken up residence mere feet from the door of the Lighthouse Keeper’s house.

Meet Misery. (We are smiling in this pic but we are secretly afraid of waking the beast).

This particular Misery does not enjoy company (as evidenced by his continued maiming and killing of rival males and young seal pups), so we tiptoed gingerly past him while he slept, sending furtive prayers to the universe to keep him snoring until we were safely inside. Thankfully, the universe obliged. (I don’t know if I could have handled two seal antagonists within mere minutes of arriving at Race Rocks, especially one of the 1000+ lb, Alpha Male variety.)

But the lighthouse! Oh, the lighthouse!

Race Rocks Lighthouse by day

I was blown away by the actual light tower! A giddy grin affixed itself to my face and refused to budge or wane for the next 24+ hours. I was overcome by all sorts of romantic notions about lighthouses and spent most of the time on the island either admiring the light tower, photographing the light tower, thinking about the light tower, climbing the 98+ stairs to the top of the light tower, or enjoying the spectacular views from atop the light tower. Marty and I took occasional breaks inside to make tea or grab snacks, but the majority of our time was spent outside appreciating the magnificence of Race Rocks Lighthouse!

Race Rocks Lighthouse by night

The weather was perfect for the outing– not raining, not too windy, and we visited there the night before the Full Moon, too. We stayed up as late as possible, watching the sunset first and then witnessing the moonlight playing on the light tower several hours after our camera decided it could no longer capture the magnificence of the setting digitally. (The brightness of the full moon enabled us to keep a sharp watch on Misery, too. God knows we wouldn’t want to accidentally trip over him while we were skipping around like fools on the island! Antagonizing a male elephant seal in the dark would have been a definite– and probably fatal– Race Rocks FAIL.)

What did I tell you, fools? I OWN THIS ISLAND!

After what felt like a very short sleep, we crawled out of bed in time to catch the sunrise. (Would we have missed our only sunrise at Race Rocks Lighthouse? Never!!)


(In total, we snapped over 1150 photos in less than 24 hours on the island! Our first sweep helped us whittle this down to 500. It was nearly impossible to “just” pick 20 or so for this post.)

If this is what it’s like to be a “starving artist”, sign me up please! 😉

Final notes and details: The Lighthouse Keeper’s residence at Race Rocks is actually pretty classy and modern. (The Lighthouse Keeper offered us freshly baked cookies right out of the oven, which came in stark contrast to my idea of the house as a tiny, uber-drafty campsite.) There is no flushing toilet on site, but there is a primitive, indoor-outhouse-type toilet that more than suffices, especially when I was bracing myself for a day of peeing on rocks. There’s electricity, heat, a fully-equipped kitchen, and even wireless internet access there! (I decided not to bring our laptop with us, though. Contrary to popular belief, I can last for a day without checking my e-mail.)

Fortunately, the moulting female seal left the jetty during the night, so we didn’t have to deal with her menacing presence on the way back to the boat. Our return trip was delayed by a few hours due to wind and sketchy water conditions, but we had more than enough food to tie us over and the delay just meant more opportunities to take excessive amounts of photos! 🙂

What do you think, dear readers?

Was that an adventure or what?

Was the story worth the wait?

PS: A big thank you to everyone who visited Lake Superior Spirit on Thursday when I had the honour of guest posting in Kathy’s absence! Apologies for being a shoddy guest and not telling you I was even there until after the fact. What can I say? I was lighthouse keeping! (Please feel free to check out Kathy’s blog when you get the chance. She is one of my favourite stops each morning, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to guest post there.)