Category: Item

Smokey’s Collar

Smokey the cat adopted us in January. It all started on a cold, horribly wet evening when we saw her soaking wet sitting on our steps outside… we knocked on her owner’s door (she lives three houses over), and nobody was home, so we let her come dry out in our house. We didn’t feed her or anything, we just let her hang out and then in the morning when it stopped raining, out she went. And she kept coming over and slipping in the door between our feet whenever we grabbed the paper in the morning or came home from work. Turns out they had a new kitten who was messing with Smokey’s favorite spots, so she liked our house better. More peaceful.

Then we found out she had feline leukemia, which can be transmitted to other cats if they share a feed bowl, so we offered to take care of Smokey, and her owner accepted, with the stipulation that she could come visit… And within no time, that cat had us trained to let her out our bedroom window in the middle of the night, put her in the bathtub to drink, and every time we opened a can of salmon, she’d come tearing in the kitchen and start begging like a dog. She also loved to sit beside us at dinnertime, just hanging out, never whining or trying to steal our food. I think she thought she was human.

In the last few weeks, Smokey started to lose interest in food, until she wasn’t eating at all. We tried enticing her with fresh salmon, beef, scallops, fancy cat food… anything, but to no avail. And she started hanging out in the darkness under the bed and would increasingly refuse to come out. We all knew she was well on her way to kitty heaven. So her owner made the difficult decision to put her down on Tuesday night. Smokey died surrounded by two families who loved her very much, and was laid to rest in our garden.

Anybody’s who’s spent any amount of time on our street probably knows Smokey by name. Elementary school kids loved to stop and pet her on their way to the school at the end of the block.

I have several scars on the back of my left shoulder from her claws… she’d always dig her claws in (and my skin scars extraordinarily easily… my husband actually banned me from picking her up for a few months before our wedding because he thought that scars + strapless dresses + photos = bad. I said that’s what Photoshop was for. And then I only picked her up when he wasn’t looking.) I wonder if I’ll still be able to see the scratch marks in 30 years.

And so, this last photo of Smokey goes into the box, along with her collar (if I get her owner’s permission to keep it… if not, this picture will have to do.)

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Map of online communities

Oooo lordy, this map will surely look different before the time capsule even closes in 11 months, but it’ll be hilarious to look at in 30 years. Duckface Mountains (BWAHAHAHAHAHA). Sea of Memes? Love it. And of course Bieber Bay. (I will never understand the appeal of Justin Bieber. Seriously.)

I’ll be printing this one out and sticking it in the box.

And when you’re done perusing the map, check out the rest of the amazing cartoons on  XKCD. Definitely my favorite comic strip, online or otherwise.

“But Where Are You Really From?”

Today’s item is a question! Why not… it carries weight, therefore it is an item. My time capsule, my rules.

Almost inevitably, when I meet someone new and the conversation lasts more than 2 minutes, I get asked where I am from. Whether I answer “Burnaby” (where I was born), “Port Coquitlam” (where I was raised), or “Vancouver” (where I live now), nobody is ever satisfied with that answer. Because I am not white.  (Or, when I am at salsa clubs, because I don’t speak Spanish, though apparently I look as if I should). So I get the followup question “So where are you REALLY from?”  To which I repeat my earlier answer. At which point, I am met with a furrowed brow and more questions. Eventually, we get to what my interrogator is really getting at, which is my ethnic background. Which wasn’t the original question. At that point, I usually turn it into a guessing game. I figure, if people are going to ask me roundabout questions, I’m going to make them work for the answer they want. (Bonus points go to my now father-in-law, who the first time I met him hauled out an atlas and quite methodically worked his way through most of the continents trying to figure out where my bloodlines ran).

It is a pretty regular experience at social gatherings, this asking about my provenance. My experience is shared by a growing number of people who were born in Canada, but look neither Caucasian nor Native American. Meaning we don’t “look Canadian”, whatever that’s supposed to mean. I will acknowledge here also the experience of Caucasian folk who were born and/or raised outside of North America or Europe and have surely have had analogous experiences in their countries of residence. Anyways, I just discovered a Vancouver-based online magazine called Schema that deals with cultural fluidity and diversity in a beautiful and honest way. In particular, I came across an in-depth series of stories called “But Where are You Really From?”

Jen Sookfong Lee writes in the introduction:

Many of us know that feeling, that combination of anger, resentment, hesitation and confusion that bubbles up from your gut whenever someone asks you the question, “Where are you from?” Yes, it’s a simple question, and, yes, you know that the answer can be simple as well, but that’s not the problem. Before you even open your mouth to respond, a very familiar thought runs circles inside your head, “No matter what I say, this person will not understand.”

Yup.  Been there. I’ve been feeling that way since I left the social safety net of my suburban highschool and started meeting new people at university and beyond. So about 13 years of being asked “So where are you from?” on a regular basis and being sometimes amused, sometimes exasperated that “from here” (or “from Vancouver” when I’m travelling) is almost never accepted as an answer. Will I still be getting asked this 30 years from now? I imagine that our notions of national, ethnic, and cultural identity will be a lot more flexible than they are now, but that all remains to be seen. Still a lot of tensions in the world (the burqa debate in France being a prime example); it’ll be interesting to see how the human landscape changes, or in what ways it stays the same. Plus ça change…

Now, mostly I say I’m Canadian. Sometimes (when humour or context suit me), I say I’m Austrian. Which sometimes means “pass the liver sausage already”, but almost always means “a lot of the way I am is because I was raised by my mother. Who was raised in Austria (with ‘Catholic’ and ‘post-war’ and several other things implied).” I never say I’m Bajan. For many reasons, none of which have to do with any like or dislike for Barbados. I hear it’s a beautiful country, I just have no connection to it. I wonder if I will refer to myself as “mixed”, “biracial”, or any term that implies a blend of distinct ethnic bloodlines. Those terms rarely even cross my mind when I describe myself. I kinda just prefer to think of myself as Maria. I even refuse to check boxes on forms that ask me to identify myself as a visible minority.

Perhaps I shall borrow the words of one of the contributors to the Schema series: “I came from my mother’s womb.” 🙂

Mon amour est prafumé!

This was a gag birthday gift from my friend Tasha. She spent several months in Africa earlier this year, and I’m betting she bought these in the Nakumatt grocery store in Kigali. When I was in Rwanda last summer, I had a good laugh at the condom packages in the checkout line displays at the Nakumatt every time I stopped in there. Bleach blond girls with 80’s style shredded acid-wash short shorts, pictures that look like the covers of Harlequin romance novels from the ’90s. And typos galore, which just add to the giggle factor.

In this particular exemplar, we have a pack of 3 strawberry flavoured, coloured, ribbed willy wraps. Check out that couple laughing in the sunset. Mazungu tourists planning on capping off their stay at Lake Kivu with a strawberry-scented roll in the sand? “Comme j’adore les fraises, mon amour.” Love it.

(This brings to mind a funny story about raiding somebody else’s fruit-scented condom stash, but y’all don’t need to know the details. Safe play was had. Strawberry scent during sex is kinda disturbing. End of story.)

But giggles aside, I wonder what birth control is going to look like in the future, even though my fertile days will be long behind me in 2040 (I will not be doing in vitro when I’m getting the seniors’ discount at the Value Village, I can ASSURE you). In current usage, we have a whole array of ways to prevent the making of babies (the Pill, IUDs, injectables like Depo-Provera, spermicides, sponges), but not too many effective ways of preventing the spread of STIs other than the trusty ol’ love glove, as far as I am aware. (Please enlighten me if I am mistaken.)

And in the future? Will spray-on condoms ever take off? Will spermicides (like the current Nonoxynol-9) be modified to also become effective protection against STIs? Will we have some kind of Star Trekish scanner device that zaps viruses in their tracks? Or will we still be unrolling strawberry-flavoured diving suits?