Saturday, December 31, 2005

Food Fetish

Are you a food person?

Food people are those who simply enjoy food as an interest, a hobby or a vocation. Typically, they enjoy talking about food, planning meals or learning more about food preparation.

Food people usually enjoy eating, of course. But, this doesn't mean they're overweight or eat too much.

Food people just like food. It's that simple.

Friday morning was grey, damp and foggy.

The mild temperatures and frequent rain of the last few days have almost melted the Sack's accumulation of snow. In combination with the greyness, this gave the Sack an uncharacteristically drab appearance.

The drabness was also enhanced by several streams of household garbage in the middle of the street. Unfortunately, garbage collection had already occurred several hours earlier.

On the previous evening, there were very high winds. It's possible that a few garbage cans blew over during the night as they awaited collection in the morning. It's also plausible that the old town's waste management professionals were a bit distracted in their work today.

It could've been a little bit of both that caused the mess.

A lot of garbage was in front of Florence's house. Mrs. Wonders and I are looking after her home while she cavorts at her cottage.

Feeling vaguely responsible for the mess in front of Florence's house, and with the gentle, but persistent urging of Mrs. Wonders, I went out to clean up the garbage.

Most of the garbage was unremarkable. A few pieces of Christmas wrapping, packaging from a set of screwdrivers, and the empty box to a woman's bra were just a few examples of the stuff on the street. I took a green garbage bag with me and filled it as I walked.

With one exception, there wasn't any wet, rotting food among the neighbourhood trash. The exception, however, was quite remarkable.

Piled in a small heap, several feet in front of Florence's driveway, was a Caesar's salad. There wasn't a bowl or container to be seen.

It was just a small pile of Caesar's salad.

Regretfully, I am not a food person. I can offer neither rhyme nor reason for this state of affairs. It just seems to be the way it is.

Mrs. Wonders was summoned to the scene. She was the one to positively identify the Caesar's salad.

I just made the discovery.

If there is garbage on a street, it's common to run across food waste. It's almost to be expected. But the Caesar's salad was notable by its neat, organized appearance. It wasn't strewn about the road. Instead, it was in a nice neat pile.

The Caesar's salad is even more remarkable when put in its proper context. It's the second food product discovered on the street in the last month. A few weeks ago, I found a solemn muffin at the bottom of our driveway. Mrs. Wonders identified it as low-fat blueberry muffin.

It is hard to gauge the significance of these food discoveries. It could be just coincidence and mean nothing at all. Oscar thinks it might be an omen or metaphorical message of some kind.

I remain very doubtful about this.

But, of course, I'm not a food person.

It wasn't long before food unexpectedly showed up on my horizon again.

Computer Doug came out and started walking toward me across his muddied lawn. I had obtained two snow shovels to collect the Caesar's salad off the street. I was using the shovels like giant salad tongs to pick up the salad and deposit it in my garbage bag.

Computer Doug said it was the first time he had ever seen anyone shovelling Caesar's salad. He wanted to get his video camera to capture the moment. Thankfully, he didn't. I don't want to be seen across the Internet shovelling Caesar's salad. That's undoubtedly what Computer Doug would do with a video of that kind.

Fortunately, Computer Doug had more important things on his mind. He needed to borrow my shop vacuum. Apparently there had been a spill of some kind in the back of his Dodge Caravan. His wife, Marion had insisted that he give the vehicle a good cleaning before it started raining again.

According to Computer Doug, the spill had been quite spectacular.

On the previous night, the Computer Doug family packed the van for a trip to a nearby relative's home. There was going to be another holiday gathering and it was going to be a potluck affair. Mrs. Wonders tells me that food people can be quite fond of potluck affairs.

Marion had prepared a pot of Swedish meatballs for the gathering. It had cooled in the fridge before they left. It just needed to be heated up again later.

Computer Doug packed the back of the van with the usual gear associated with a family with two young children. As he put it, "There was a lot of crap back there."

Somewhere in the midst of knapsacks, toys and pillows, Computer Doug placed the plastic container of Swedish meatballs. He said he packed it in as best as he could.

During the drive to the relative's home, Computer Doug had to use his brakes very suddenly.

The container of Swedish meatballs opened and its contents spewed from the back of the van toward the front. It was as if, he said, someone had shot a cannon filled with Swedish meatballs toward the front seat.

His two young boys wore most of the sauce over their heads and necks. His wife, Marion took several direct meatball hits to the back of her head. Thankfully, she was wearing a toque, so her hair was relatively untouched.

Computer Doug said he probably got the worst of it. He said he had bits of Swedish meatball in his hair and down the back of his shirt. He even found a small piece in his ear.

Understandably, the kids were quite upset with having Swedish meatball sauce all over them. Computer Doug says they prefer to do this themselves, rather than having it flung at them unexpectedly.

Marion was very upset with Computer Doug. She thought he should have been more careful with how he packed the van. Computer Doug said Marion should have put a better lid on the container.

Either way, Computer Doug had to clean up the Swedish meatball mess on the inside of the van. He said it wasn't on his "top ten list of things to do today," but he had no choice in the matter.

The worst part of it all was that he doesn't even like Swedish meatballs. He told me this as he extracted a dark, squishy substance from under the driver seat.

"I am not," he said with a grimace, "what you might call a food person."


Thursday, December 29, 2005

Maxwell Smart

A new year is almost upon us.

Britney Bitterman and Little Doug's daughter, Daisy are both pregnant, so the Sack population will increase in 2006. Burning Manor reopens in February, so we can expect new shenanigans as sure as the snow will fly.

Big Doug's lawn will return in the spring as fine as ever. Gordon will wield an iron fist in leading the Sack Resident's Society to nowhere in particular. Sack kids will continue to be . . . well, Sack kids.

Many things, it seems, will be predictable.

That's why it's always interesting to meet new faces in the Sack. Suddenly, things become a little less predictable.

Shenanigans are inevitable.

Oscar was bent under the open hood of his car as I strolled into the Sack after a leisurely morning walk. Apparently, his car wouldn't start.

We stood in front of his car staring intently at the engine. After a few moments, Oscar looked at me and asked, "Well, what do you think?"

I scratched the side of my face thoughtfully and tugged at my toque.

"I think," I said calmly, "there is something wrong with your car."

Of course, Oscar wasn't expecting me to give a more detailed diagnosis of his car problem. Neither of us has much expertise on such matters. The best one can do in this situation is to call Little Doug for assistance.

That's who Oscar was waiting for when I arrived on the scene.

Oscar said Little Doug would be coming outside as soon as he finished his lunch. Apparently, he was having turducken sandwiches for the third day in a row.

As we chatted amiably on Oscar's driveway, the front door of the Bitterman house opened and the illustrious Maxwell, Britney Bitterman's new beau, walked onto the porch. He was wearing a red tracksuit and a red baseball cap. Both bore the distinctive insignia of the Montreal Canadiens.

When he got to the bottom of the front steps, Maxwell took off his cap and drew a cigarette from behind his right ear. He cupped a lighter in his hands and eventually took a long draw from the cigarette. Then he blew a long, satisfying puff of smoke in the air.

Oscar and I gave him a friendly wave from our position next door. Maxwell immediately joined us in front of Oscar's car.

It was our first official introduction to the father of Britney Bitterman's unborn child.

Handsome might be a word to describe Maxwell, if not for a badly chipped front tooth and the absence of a few others. He has a tall, lanky frame and moves in a slow, languid fashion. His hair is dark and closely shorn, and his face was unshaven in the manner of someone who pays only occasional attention to such things.

Maxwell bent over Oscar's engine and fiddled with a few hoses and wires. Two of the fingers on his right hand were badly stained with nicotine.

With the cigarette clenched in his teeth, he continued to inspect Oscar's engine with an air of confidence and determination. He poked around at the carburetor for a moment and then nodded to himself.

"Try it, now," he said.

Oscar got in the car and turned the key. Nothing happened. Maxwell continued to tinker with the engine.

"Try it, now," he said again.

Oscar tried to start the car again. Nothing happened.

"If I were you," Maxwell said, as Oscar got out of the car, "I'd take her to a mechanic."

Maxwell explained that he was very adept at fixing cars until the Japanese came along and messed everything up. They made their engines so complicated, he said, you almost always have to pay to get them fixed. This is why; he said with authority, he would only buy an American car.

Oscar asked him what kind of car he owned. Maxwell said he didn't have a car at the moment, but a friend of his was going to be selling him a 1993 Cutlass Supreme for a very low price. According to Maxwell, the Cutlass Supreme is in mint condition.

Maxwell claimed he would be getting the car as soon as his insurance settlement came through. He said he slipped in an unmarked puddle of water at one of the old town's two Walmart stores about six months ago. Apparently, he suffered a concussion and was unable to work until very recently.

With the concussion behind him, Maxwell said he had recently started his own painting business.

While he only had one job lined up so far, he said his cell phone would be "ringing off the hook" before the winter was over. This is because, he explained, people are aware that he knows what he's doing when he has a paint roller in his hand.

After taking ownership of the Cutlass Supreme, Maxwell says he plans to install a roof rack he acquired recently from his uncle. Apparently, the roof rack is in very good condition, even though his uncle was poised to throw it away. It will be used to carry the fourteen-foot ladder Maxwell plans to borrow from his cousin. His cousin won't be needing the ladder right now, he explained, on account of being in jail for the next eighteen months.

It seems that the Cutlass Supreme will play an integral role in Maxwell's new painting business. Aside from bearing the ladder, the car is also the namesake for the business itself.

Maxwell said his new company will be called Cutless Supreme Painting.

I wondered to Maxwell if such a name would be acceptable, given the laws on copyright and trademarks. He said he had no immediate plans to register his business, so this wouldn't be a problem. Besides, he said, once he gets busy enough with the business, he plans on hiring other people to do the actual painting. By that time, he said he would probably have a new truck and would have to change the name of the business.

"Dodge Durango Painting," Oscar said, waving his hands across an imaginary sign. Maxwell thought this was very funny and began to repeat the same thing with every model of truck he could recall.

"I think," Oscar would say later, "our new friend, Maxwell may still be suffering from that concussion."

Cutlass Supreme Painting's first customer, according to Maxwell, will be Mr. Bitterman.

Apparently, Mr. Bitterman has engaged him to paint the main floor and kitchen of the Bitterman home. Maxwell said he's going to give Mr. Bitterman a very good deal, since he and Britney are having a baby together and will probably get married.

In fact, Maxwell claimed he got the idea for the business after he and Mr. Bitterman had a discussion about his employment circumstances. After Mr. Bitterman agreed to his terms for the painting job, he said he realized that he could start his own business. This would be far better, he said, than working for "the arseholes" that own painting companies in the old town.

As we continued to chat in front of Oscar's car, the front door of the Bitterman home opened again.

This time it was Britney, herself who walked onto the porch. She was wearing a pale green, quilted housecoat and was barefooted. Her long brown hair was a tangled mess. She had her arms folded tightly across her chest as she walked over to the side of the porch closest to Oscar's house.

Ignoring Oscar and me, she looked at Maxwell and croaked, "Can you gimme a few drags on that smoke, hon?"

Maxwell walked over to the porch and passed the remains of his current cigarette up to her. Britney took a few puffs, coughed a few times and then spit a long, looping mass of phlegm into Oscar's yard.

"Thanks, hon," she said, and then disappeared back into the house.

Our inaugural conversation with Maxwell ended with the appearance of Little Doug.

Before Maxwell left, he told us he would be happy to paint the interior of our respective houses for a very good price. Oscar said he didn't plan on painting his place until his son, Dorian had moved out. Since Dorian is only twelve, he told Maxwell it would probably be about eighteen more years before this would happen.

Fortunately, Mrs. Wonders and I repainted our home last year. I promised Maxwell I would let him know as soon as we tired of our present colour scheme.

Then Oscar mentioned two people in the Sack who were thinking of repainting. He pointed toward Gordon's house and Elizabeth's house. Maxwell said he would contact them after the holidays and give them estimates. Apparently, his niece is going to design some business cards for Cutlass Supreme Painting, as soon as she gets the cast off her broken arm. It would be more professional to have his business cards ready, he said, when he spoke with Gordon and Elizabeth.

This, we agreed, would be very smart thinking.

Little Doug spent some time looking over Oscar's car.

Oscar told him to be very careful not to get any turducken grease on the interior of the car. Little Doug said he would do his best.

Eventually, Little Doug determined that Oscar's car was simply out of gas. The gas gauge had been malfunctioning for some time, but his wife, B.W. said she had bought gas only two days ago. Oscar found out later that she had only put five dollars of gas in the car. That was all the money she had on her at the time.

We drove off together in Little Doug's truck to pick up some gas. On the way to the gas station, Little Doug told us he used to have a car with a malfunctioning gas gauge. It was one in a series of problems he had with the car. It was, he said, a very good day when he got rid of it.

"What kind of car was it?" Oscar asked.

"If I remember correctly," Little Doug answered, "it was a 1993 Cutlass Supreme."


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

No Dubious Dougs

"Everybody has won, and all must have prizes."*

That's the best way to look at the Doug of Year award, since all Dougs are champions in their own unique way.

After all, the Dougs of the world are just doing the best they can, in the best way they know how, in a difficult world.

Boxing Day brunch had just been consumed at Oscar's place.

Dishes were cleared from the table, sleeves were rolled up and mugs were refilled. It was time to make a decision on the annual Doug of the Year award.

First, in alphabetical order, we reviewed the honourable nominees . . .

Big Doug was a model of consistency this year. He maintained the Sack's best lawn once again, despite a continued challenge from Gordon. His snow removal prowess remains unparalleled, even though Rental Doug is showing early signs of aggressiveness in this area.

Notable Achievements: Distributed promotional ballpoint pens to Cuban resort workers to minimize the impact of the U.S. trade embargo; slipped through the grasp of plutonium-hunting CSIS spies who lived in the Sack's rental house until August; recent acquisition of professional-style shovelling gloves.

Regrettable Moment: Purposeful decision to refrain from putting up Christmas lights. Fake electric candles just don't cut it, Oscar says.

Computer Doug maintained a subtle profile in the Sack this year. Just when he seemed to fall off the radar screen, he would gently remind everyone of his presence. If anything, Computer Doug firmly established his position as the person least likely to be asked for advice on a home maintenance matter.

Notable Achievements: Attended three concerts by The Rolling Stones in one year; ownership of Sasquatch slippers and willingness to wear same in public; one of only two Sack people (Oscar was the other) to watch the Burning Manor fire in his pyjamas; displays of encyclopaedic knowledge relating to rock music; accidently cut the electrical cord on his lawn mower twice in one year; buys his clothing on eBay.

Regrettable Moment: Attended three Stones concerts in one year.

Little Doug proved himself to be a very unpredictable character this year. Each of the other Dougs seems to have a common theme behind his achievements. Big Doug is fastidious about his property, Computer Doug has a nerdish side and abhors manual labour, and Rental Doug has that whole Satan thing going on. With Little Doug, however, one just can't predict what he'll do next.

Notable Achievements: Suffered two spectacular household falls, resulting in two separate broken bones; successfully uses realistic coughing fits to separate self from undesired situations or conversations; first among Sack people to serve turducken for Christmas dinner; annoyed Gordon by leaving a mess in his side yard; calmly accepted possibility that daughter, Daisy and prospective son-in-law, Weed will live in his house for another year.

Regrettable Moment: Laughing uproariously when a sausage fell into the lap of a lesbian resident at the second Sack Resident's Society meeting.

Rental Doug has only four months of Sack time under his belt, but his reputed Satanic connections have magnified his presence considerably.

Notable Achievements: According to Oscar, he occupies an executive position within the Devil's corporate structure; first to put up Halloween and Christmas decorations; first to shovel after both of this year's snowstorms; home maintenance and beautification efforts have already exceeded previous tenants.

Regrettable Moment: Snarky kids, although one would imagine your kids would be snarky, if you were working for Satan, too.

And finally, a winner was determined . . .

It was Rental Doug.

The debate raged for five hours, but a scheduling problem forced the matter to a coin toss. Oscar agreed to a simple, single game of chance, with Big Doug and Rental Doug as the finalists.

Rental Doug won.

In every way, aside from the Satanic connection, Rental Doug was quite undistinguished. But Oscar was unwillingly to budge from his support for the newest of the Dougs. He was steadfast in his desire to lure Rental Doug into our midst by granting him the DOTY award. Oscar thinks this will be his best hope to learn about Satan's plans for the Sack.

A passionate case was made for Big Doug, but Oscar hardly flinched. A last ditch effort was made to make Little Doug the "compromise" winner, but by that time, Oscar had his fingers in his ears.

Time ran out on further debate because of a hockey game.

The World Junior Hockey Championships are always held at this time of year. It is a tradition for many in Canuckistan to gather together to watch the games on television. It was Canada's opening game on Boxing Day (Boxing Night?), so observation was mandatory. Matters like the DOTY must be resolved before full attention can be given to the tournament.

Americans may love their holiday college football, but Canada is the only country in the world where the highest television ratings of the holiday season come from watching teenagers play hockey.

So, Rental Doug has profited from our hockey affliction by winning his first DOTY award.

I'm starting to think this is exactly the way the Devil planned it.

*The Dodo in Alice in Wonderland.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Gifts of the Season

Boxing Day is always like a Sunday in the Sack.

The shopping laws prevent any feverish commercial activities until the second day after Christmas. So, it's a day where people slowly emerge from their homes after a day of relaxation and indulgence.

It's almost like a day to stretch and loosen up.

Sack kids make their reappearance in the street after a twenty-four-hour hiatus. Some will bring out their newly-acquired gadgets or spiffy, new sporting devices. Other kids will be proudly wearing a new coat or hat emblazoned with the logo of their favourite hockey team.

The kids will banter about in the Sack's centre circle for a while. Sometimes, a half-hearted game of street hockey will erupt. Invariably, they'll end up playing video games together at someone's house.

From the outsider's eye, it can look like there is very little going on in the Sack on Boxing Day.

But there is always something going on.

Young Doo made a conspicuous appearance in the Sack's centre circle this morning.

Santa Claus, it seemed, had given the young lad a very impressive new snowsuit. It was, to say the least, a very thick, heavily-insulated outfit. Doo looked like a dwarfish Michelin Man as he staggered into the street.

The colour of the snowsuit also drew one's attention. It was a deep, metallic-blue and was liberally adorned with the age-old emblem of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

There was no mistaking young Doo's hockey allegiance.

The best part of Doo's new snowsuit was the hood. It tightly enveloped his face, making his cheeks and chin look a little bit squashed.

The sides of the hood were vertical and flat, while the top was even and horizontal. It made his head look like it was in a box.

Oscar said he could easily rest a drink on top of Doo's head without spilling a drop, if he wanted to. He actually wanted to give it a try, but fortunately, Doo's mom was around.

Oscar's boy, Dorian was outside playing street hockey for a short time.

According to Oscar, the boy was a bit miffed about one of his Christmas gifts. It had been sent from a relative in Cape Breton.

Dorian had inspected the gift very closely prior to Christmas. Somehow, he spied a small tear in the wrapping and was convinced he had read the word "Microsoft." He was certain he was going to receive a game for his Xbox contraption.

Unfortunately, the hopeful relative had given the boy a microscope. Oscar said Dorian was unable to mask his disappointment on Christmas morning.

His disappointment deepened when Oscar tried to explain what a microscope was used for. Oscar thinks it's now unlikely that Dorian will win a Nobel Prize some day.

"At least, not in the science category," he added.

Big Doug was outside trimming the snow banks around his driveway.

It hasn't snowed for two days and his snow banks were already the envy of those who care about such things.

But Big Doug was simply trying out his new shovelling gloves.

The new gloves look like suede oven mitts which extend up to the elbows. The palms are reinforced with a thick layer of tough leather.

Oscar says they're the kind of apparel worn only by professional snow shovellers.

Weed made a brief appearance outside the Little Doug household.

He was going over to a friend's place to fix the new MP3 player he'd been given for Christmas. He said he'd only been able play one song on it since Christmas morning. The Little Doug household was crowded with out-of-town relatives and Weed said he needed some tunes to "tune them out."

He tried listening to the same song over and over again, but he said he was getting bored of it. Even worse, he said, the song was now starting to get stuck in his head.

Oscar was very sympathetic to Weed's dilemma.

He had a Bob Marley song stuck in his head for the two days just before Christmas.

"At least, you know the name of the song in your head. I didn't have that luxury," he told Weed.

He hummed a few lines of the Marley song, but Weed couldn't figure it out, either.

Oscar says he still hasn't had a chance to talk to Computer Doug about the song. He's certain that Computer Doug will know the title.

Fortunately, Oscar no longer has the song stuck in his head. He said drink seemed to take care of it on Christmas day. He still remembers the song, of course, but now he's "in control of it."

Ben and Norma drove into the Sack while Oscar and I chatted on my driveway.

They were returning from a visit with Ben's mother. Ben said he received some terrific Christmas gifts this year. The best one, however, was something he didn't receive.

Ben endured a colonoscopy two days before Christmas. The experience, he said, has left him with a fine appreciation for any day without a colonoscopy.

"A day without a colonoscopy is a gift in itself," he said.

The gift of peace may have found its way to the Bitterman household.

Britney Bitterman's unexpected pregnancy threw a curve at the family fortunes, but this seemed to get ironed out just before Christmas. Now, it seems like Britney's new beau, Maxwell has been welcomed into the family.

Mr. and Mrs. Bitterman came out their house, quickly followed by Britney and the infamous Maxwell. The four of them got into Mr. Bitterman's car and drove off. As they passed us, Mr. Bitterman even offered a half-hearted wave.

So Christmas, it seems, has brought some kind of harmony to the Sack.

The Bitterman clan seems to be at peace. Big Doug now has the kind of shovelling gloves fit for a man of his ilk. Doo's new snowsuit is so tight and stiff, it would seem impossible for him to break any more tree branches in the Sack.

"Ben's bum," as Oscar likes to put it, is now safe from further intrusions, at least for the time being. Weed's MP3 player will certainly be repaired and the song stuck in his head will be released.

Oscar says Dorian will survive his disappointment at receiving a microscope instead of a Microsoft product. Hopefully, he says, Dorian will regard it as a life lesson that things are not always as they seem.

Oscar and I turned to go into his house. It was almost time for Boxing Day Brunch. This is when the Doug of the Year deliberations must begin in earnest.

As we walked toward his house, we noticed Gordon and Elizabeth having an animated conversation in front of Gordon's house. She was pointing emphatically at the new Burning Manor.

We quickened our pace toward Oscar's front door. If we lingered any longer, Oscar said, the Sack's newfound harmony would surely be broken.


Saturday, December 24, 2005

Music to the Ears

People in the Sack have eased nicely into holiday mode.

Most folks are off work until January and consumer activity has slowed considerably. Fewer people are emerging from their cars with shopping bags and other signs of holiday commerce.

There is, I think, a general cheerfulness in the air.

As usual, there are a few exceptions.

Ben has a very good reason for holding back on his seasonal cheerfulness.

By some scheduling quirk or the simple vulgarities of the health care system, Ben had an appointment for a colonoscopy yesterday.

A colonoscopy, I'm told, involves the placement of a very large object into a very small hole.

Thankfully, the procedure is only a preventive one. Ben said he has a family history of defective colons. His doctor wanted him to be "on the safe side."

According to Ben, yesterday was the only time available for the procedure. If he rescheduled it, he wouldn't get to experience the indignity until some time in May.

Despite the ill-timing, Ben remained quite stoic about the whole affair. If anything, he said it would make the holidays more enjoyable, knowing the test was behind him.

When Oscar heard about Ben's woes, he just shook his head and said, "That's a bummer, man."

He also said a lot of other things about bums, colons and large objects. Thankfully, I cannot remember them.

Oscar has been a bit distracted of late.

He called me to complain about a very perplexing problem. Apparently, he is being plagued by a repetitive song which is "stuck" in his head. While he recognizes the song, he has no recollection of hearing it recently.

He can't understand how it became lodged in his consciousness. Even worse, he says he can't get rid of it, either.

According to Oscar, it's a Bob Marley tune, but he can't put his finger on the title. He tried to hum a few lines of the song over the phone. I couldn't make head nor tail of it.

Eventually, he told me not to worry about the song being stuck in his head. He said he would speak to Computer Doug about it. I told him I would do my best to forget the whole thing.

He also said he was going to listen to some Christmas music. Hopefully, this would knock Bob Marley out of his head and replace the late Jamaican master with something more seasonal.

If this didn't work, Oscar said he'd just have to live with it. He says he doesn't mind Bob Marley at all, anyway.

"Besides," he said, "a song stuck in your head is still better than having something stuck in your bum."

He could be right about that.

"Cul de Sac Blues" will return after Christmas. We wish the best of the holiday season to one and all!


Thursday, December 22, 2005

Meat the Devil

As the year stumbles toward its inevitable end, at least one of the Sack's Doug population is making a last ditch effort to secure the Doug of the Year award.

Little Doug is drawing no small amount of attention with his reported plans for Christmas dinner.

Oscar tells me that Little Doug is planning to serve a turducken to his extended family on Christmas day. If this news is accurate, it will be the first turducken ever consumed in the Sack.

This will be hard to ignore during the DOTY deliberations.

So far, the most exotic meat to find its way into the neighbourhood was from a moose.

Several years ago, Little Doug and Ben, along with a few mutual friends, went hunting together. They came back with a rather bewildered-looking, dead moose in the back of Ben's pick-up.

Vegetarians in the Sack were appalled.

According to Oscar, Little Doug's extended family was at odds over the main course for their Christmas meal. Half were in favour of turkey, but the rest savoured duck.

Little Doug's daughter, Daisy heard about the turducken concept from her gynecologist.

It seems there is no limit to the body of knowledge held by the modern gynecologist.

When asked about the turducken matter, Weed fell into convulsive laughter.

It wasn't so much the absurdity of the turkey, duck and chicken combo, according to Weed, it was the word "turducken." He thinks it's a very funny word.

Weed said there is a very good chance he'll wet himself on Christmas Day, if someone asks him to pass the turducken.

That would be something worth seeing.

Oscar is also enthralled by the word "turducken." Instead of laughing about it, he has started to use the word as an expletive, rather than a descriptive noun.

Yesterday, he told his boy, Dorian to "clean up that turducken room of yours before you go out to play."

When asked if the boy obeyed his demand, Oscar said, "You're turducken right he did."

Mrs. Wonders and I will be having a small turkey for our Christmas meal.

The most surprising development in the world of Dougs has nothing to do with any recent Doug achievement or folly.

Oscar's suspicions about Rental Doug have been well documented. Simply put, he thinks Rental Doug is in serious cahoots with Satan. This, of course, has virtually eliminated him as a contender for the DOTY award.

Oscar still has nagging bouts of Catholicism. It would seem impossible for him to give Rental Doug a fair assessment.

Yesterday, however, everything changed.

Oscar dropped the biggest bombshell seen in the Sack since Burning Manor was reduced to cinders back in August.

He is now actively touting Rental Doug for the DOTY honour.

Unfortunately, the change in Oscar's position is more strategic than sensible. He gave a lengthy diatribe about the importance of intelligence-gathering, planning and something he called, "subversive intervention."

Winning the DOTY award is sure to get back to Rental Doug, Oscar said. Inevitably, he'll become curious and start to interact with us. The closer we get to him, the more we'll find out about the Devil's business.

I said to Oscar, "So, what you're saying is, know thine enemy."

Oscar considered this for a moment.

"No." he said thoughtfully, "It's more like better the devil you know, than the devil you don't."

I'm beginning to think Oscar has lost his turducken mind.


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Multimedia Man

There has been a late flurry of Christmas spirit in the Sack.

After a slow start, almost every house now has some kind of Christmas decoration. The new, but unfinished Burning Manor is one of the few that remain barren.

A number of houses have electric candles in their second-floor windows. They give off a soft, gentle glow. This practice, it seems, is a bit of a tradition in these parts.

Many houses in the Sack have two matching second-floor windows. At night, the candles give these houses almost a human look. The fake candles look like eyes.

Big Doug has a candle in each of his upper windows. He had pledged to remain without Christmas lights this year. He said it was becoming a "pain in the rear."

It looks like he has made a small compromise.

The fake candle in one of Big Doug's windows seems to have something wrong with it. Occasionally, it flickers on and off.

Sometimes it looks like Big Doug's house is winking at the rest of the Sack.

Just before supper on Monday night, I ventured outside to locate the newspaper.

It was, unfortunately, the morning newspaper. I was unable to find it in the morning. It was somewhere under a bush, in a planter box or under the porch.

I knew it was there somewhere. I could just feel it.

When it is cold or there is any kind of precipitation, the Daily Snooze will rarely find its way to the foot of the Wonders' door.

The rocker chick who delivers the Daily Snooze is very much a fair weather gal. In unfavourable weather, she'll fling the paper from behind her car door. Sometimes, her car won't even come to a complete stop.

On those days, the Daily Snooze is vaguely delivered to the Wonders' home.

As I waded through our shrubbery, I saw Computer Doug herding his two small children into the family car. When they were tightly affixed to their safety seats, he walked over for a brief chat.

Computer Doug, it seemed, was taking the kids over to his mother's home. His wife, Marion was still working and he needed to go Christmas shopping.

It is very common to see Computer Doug taking his children to be supervised somewhere else and by other people. Oscar says Computer Doug often seems both surprised and slightly annoyed, whenever he finds himself alone with them.

Of course, there is no doubt about Computer Doug's love for his children. He's just not that comfortable being the only one in charge of them.

After exchanging the usual pleasantries of the season, Computer Doug asked if I had watched the local evening news.

In the Sack, this is just another way of asking, "Did you see Oscar on television tonight?"

Oscar, of course, has been on television and in the newspaper more times than is probably good for someone.

This time he was picking up his boy, Dorian at school. The local CBC news affiliate was doing a story on some education-related matter. Once again, Oscar was "just in the right place, at the right time."

As always, Oscar gave a thoughtful and intelligent response to the reporter's query. He looked completely at ease during his brief appearance. When you have been on television as often as Oscar, this is not surprising.

During the interview, Oscar was wearing his serious, contemplative face. He says it's a face he reserves solely for the media.

I've practiced a number of different faces in my bathroom mirror. I have yet to find one suitable for the media. Computer Doug said I shouldn't worry about this. He doesn't think the media will tire of Oscar any time soon.

He could be right about that.

Of course, Oscar had warned me that he would be on television that night. He makes a point of letting me know well in advance.

Usually, he will simply call and say, "Make sure you read the Daily Snooze tomorrow." That's when I'll know he's in the spotlight again.

Computer Doug eventually drove off with his children.

I continued to look for the Daily Snooze. Wedged between a bush and planter box, I found the plastic bag containing the newspaper.

Unfortunately, it turned out to be an old newspaper from September. I took it inside anyway. I enjoy newspapers, even if they contain old news.

I opened the paper to a random page and glanced at it. A particular picture caught my eye. It was a picture of Oscar.

The picture was in a section entitled "You Said It." They were asking people what they thought about the price of gas.

Oscar, apparently, is dead set against the price of gas.


Monday, December 19, 2005

Hard Day at the Orifice

Sunday is always a grand day in the old town.

The province remains as one of the only jurisdictions that does not allow Sunday shopping. Restaurants, bars and cafes are open, of course. So are most places of necessity. Businesses which attract tourists are also open. But anything associated with significant shopping is closed.

The Sunday shopping issue continues to be controversial. The last referendum on the matter was very close. The law will probably change some day.

But Sunday remains a day for doing something other than major consumer activities. It's a time for chatter, blather or simple meditation. You can putter, get rid of clutter or lie about in a prone position. If you prefer, you can hang out in a cafe, spend time with your family or avoid them entirely.

If it suits you, you can spend some time with your God or just take a good hard look at yourself in the mirror. You can even do both.

Whatever you do, it's really up to you.

Sunday in the Sack is usually a very quiet affair. Sometimes you can almost see a clump of tumbleweed drifting aimlessly through the street.

On this Sunday, Oscar and I take a casual stroll outside of the Sack. Oscar is wearing a Santa Claus hat he found in his trunk.

Along the way, we stop at the local coffee cathedral. Most Canadians are very familiar with the establishment. It's the one named after the dead hockey player.

The coffee cathedral is the only business within easy walking distance of the Sack. According to the New Urbanism Movement, this is part of a dastardly plan to keep us in our cars.

Oscar orders one of the new flavoured, hot drinks. It turns out to be something pink and frothy.

I stick with java. I won't drink anything pink unless I am very sick.

As we ruminate about world affairs, the price of gas and Oscar's man boobs, we are suddenly joined by our Sack compadre, Weed.

Weed was wearing a very interesting combination of head apparel. On his head were a pair of ear muffs and a pork pie hat.

He said he'd been sent down to the coffee cathedral for a take-out round of coffee and donuts for the Little Doug household. Intrigued by Oscar's steaming pink refreshment, he went to the counter and ordered his own beverage. He came back with a hot orange substance. It was sprinkled with cinnamon.

Weed took off his head gear and sat down.

When he was settled, we offered him our congratulations.

Daisy and Weed are expecting their first child in July. The child will be born around the same time as the newest addition to the Bitterman clan.

Weed said he is very happy about the pregnancy. It's happening sooner than they'd planned, he explained, but it's still a blessing nonetheless.

Daisy, he said, is particularly ecstatic about the baby. He said she'd been fighting off bouts of mild depression over the last few months. Now she is "sailing along on cloud nine."

Weed said it is easy to tell when Daisy is getting a bad case of the blues.

"For every meal," he explained, "all she will eat is Cheerios."

Oscar asked Weed how he was faring in his new call centre gig. Weed's face suddenly darkened.

"Every day," he muttered, "it's like lowering myself into a deep, black hole."

Oscar nodded and looked at Weed with compassion. "So every day is a tough day at the orifice?"

Weed considered this for a moment and then said, "Yeah, that's exactly it."

Despite toiling in the coal mines of the new millennium, Weed said he's determined to stay with it, at least until a more preferred opportunity comes along. He's still looking for his true calling.

So far, Weed said he's only sure about one thing. "My ideal job would allow me to wander off for a while, if something else caught my interest."

Oscar was intrigued by this idea. "Tell me more about this concept," he said.

"Well," Weed replied, stirring what looked like orange hot chocolate, "suppose you suddenly got interested in science fiction. You could stay home and read science fiction stuff, watch videos or surf the net."

"And you would still get paid?" Oscar asked.

"Sure," Weed replied, "as long as you went back to work within a month or so."

Oscar stroked his chin for a moment. Finally, he said, "I like it, man. I really like it."

Under his plan, Weed said Mrs. Wonders could stay at home to watch Newsworld or CNN, whenever there was a natural disaster or global event of some kind.

Mrs. Wonders is an avid follower of natural disasters.

"Yeah," Weed said confidently, "she could go back to work whenever she got tired of watching it."

Oscar said he was going to think more about Weed's idea during the Christmas holidays.

He admits the idea is very impractical. But he says it would be a very enjoyable thing to think about while he's napping.

Weed was happy to tell us about another one of his good ideas.

He said he's been thinking about how he could mildly, but consistently, enjoy the benefits of marijuana while toiling in the black hole of the call centre.

It is, he admitted, very inconvenient to smoke it during his lunch hour.

"And I don't like to smoke it in the morning." he added.

Weed said he does enjoy being high in the morning. He just doesn't enjoy smoking at that time of the day.

Weed's idea involves what he calls a "pot patch"

A person would wear it on their skin and get a mild buzz for the whole day. According to Weed, it would be a perfect solution for an uninspiring work place.

Oscar said he was already familiar with a marijuana patch. Apparently, it is only available for people with severe pain or nausea.

Weed's face showed a brief flicker of disappointment.

"Well, at least they've been working on it." he said.

After more idle chatter, Weed's cell phone rang.

Daisy was wondering why he had not returned with their order of coffee and donuts. She said the Little Doug household was starting to get impatient.

Weed put his ear muffs back on and repositioned his pork pie hat.

"Man, I really hate Sundays," he said, slowly getting to his feet. "Those people have no idea what to do with themselves."


Sunday, December 18, 2005

Glass Half Full

Preoccupied with Doug of the Year deliberations, we've allowed a growing pile of unreported Sack news to accumulate.

It is time to grab a shovel.

The January meeting of the Sack Resident's Society has been postponed until February. Gordon informed everyone about the change through the Society's email group.

The meeting must be changed, according to the missive, because Gordon is going to be out of town during this time.

"Out of town," in this case, means a ten-day winter vacation in Cuba.

Gordon, Big Doug and their respective spouses have been going to Cuba every winter for the last four years.

Last year, Little Doug went with them. A year earlier, Elizabeth made the trip, as well.

Cuba, I'm told, is a very popular place among the old town's sun seekers.

Oscar says Little Doug won't be going to Cuba this year, at least not with Gordon.

Gordon is miffed with Little Doug because of the debris on his side lawn. Scrap wood and a few pieces of siding are strewn about the yard. A snow-covered lawn mower sits as a centrepiece to the rest of the debris.

Oscar thinks it would be impossible for Gordon to go lounging about a tropical Communist state with Little Doug under this kind of circumstance. The subject of the unruly yard would hang heavily in the air throughout the vacation.

Little Doug says he has no interest in going to a place he has already visited. If he can afford to take a holiday, he'd like to go somewhere different. But this year, according to Little Doug, he doesn't really have the money anyway.

Oscar says Little Doug is probably saving up to contribute to a wedding for Daisy and Weed. It is now confirmed that they will have a child in July.

Gordon often talks about bringing small sundry items to distribute among resort workers when he vacations in Cuba.

He packs extra supplies of things like soap, deodorant, and gum. It is, according to Gordon, a simple humanitarian gesture.

Oscar is very impressed with Gordon's generosity and human spirit. He is always surprised when Gordon doesn't take his winter vacation in Rwanda.

Big Doug also makes claims about his humanitarian side.

Last year, he said he brought several boxes of promotional pens for his Cuban brethren. A friend of his wanted to get rid of these items.

He says the writing implements were a very popular item among the resort workers.

Oscar says Big Doug has probably made a significant contribution to Cuban writing. Thanks to him and the courtesy of the Royal Excalibur Insurance Company, the next generation of Cuban literature will find its way to paper.

According to the inscription on the pens, Royal Excalibur has been servicing insurance needs in the old town since 1983.

A second election sign has appeared in the Sack. Once again, the sign is in support of the New Democratic Party, Canada's social democrats.

With the election only five weeks away, the Sack's informal election sign poll is predicting a NDP landslide.

If the current number holds, the People's Social Democratic Republic of Canada will soon be a reality.

Oscar doesn't think the NDP has much of a chance in the election. He is probably right about this.

When driving through the old town, Oscar says another party seems to hold favour with the local citizenry.

"This Century 21 Party seems to have a lock on the whole thing." Oscar said. "They certainly seem to have the most signs out there."

There are two house parties scheduled in the Sack tonight.

Ben and Norma are having a party with Ben's co-workers. Big Doug will also be hosting some of his work friends.

Work-related parties usually result in a long snake of parked cars throughout the Sack. Half of the cars will be parked illegally.

When a party starts to wind down, there will be a rumbling chorus of cold engines and a series of dull thuds as car doors are closed. Several hours later, usually after 2:00 a.m., a few inebriated stragglers will make their exits.

Door closing will be noisier and oddly, more frequent. Voices will be louder and more robust. The good-byes that mark the end of the evening will be more spirited as well. Sometimes it will sound like partygoers are leaving on a long transatlantic sea voyage.

Sack people will never invite each other to work-related parties. It just isn't done.

Oscar says no good can come from mixing people from different parts of your life. Some of your work people won't mix well with your neighbours. And some of your neighbours won't mesh with your co-workers. Either way, he says things are likely to go awry.

According to Oscar, this is the same reason why mixing church and state isn't always a good idea.

The wooden shell of Burning Manor is now complete. The framing has been concluded and shingles are about to be affixed to the roof.

Despite some weather setbacks, the small construction crew made remarkable progress this week. Computer Doug thinks Dirk and Dora will be back in the Sack before the end of February.

On Friday, Dirk made an appearance in the Sack to check on the progress on his rebuilt home. According to Computer Doug, the front of Dirk's car has some significant damage to its right side. Very clearly, the car has been in a traffic accident of some kind.

All things considered, it has not been a very good year for Dirk.

On a final, but more positive note, I am pleased to report some harmony in the Bitterman household.

Oscar says he saw Britney and Mrs. Bitterman returning home together. They were armed with a number of shopping bags and packages. Oscar thinks they were Christmas shopping together.

This is a very good sign for the Bitterman fortunes. Like Dirk, the Bitterman clan has suffered through a tough year. Britney had a few nasty meltdowns and is now unexpectedly pregnant. Mr. Bitterman's gallbladder staged a painful attack upon him and Mrs. Bitterman has been tormented by menopause.

Jason Bitterman, currently engaged in the Christmas tree trade, has yet to make his long-awaited entrance into the military.

The smoothing of Bitterman feathers brings a hint of optimism to the Sack.

Britney could have a lovely child, along with a doting and hard-working Maxwell. Dirk and Dora might move back to the Sack and have quiet and peaceful lives. Oscar may finally acquire his long-awaited helper monkey and the Wonders' newspaper will only land at the very foot of the front door.

It could be a phenomenal year.

More important, the good people of the Century 21 Party will bring peace, order and good government throughout the land.



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