Sweet Gees

Sweet Peas

 

Edith Bunker came home with flowered sheets and Archie bleated out, “If I want to wake up covered in flowers, it’s when I’m dead”, or something similar. My father thought this was very funny, chuckled and gave my mom a glance, ‘wouldn’t know about that, hey Gladys?’ then back to the show. It’s the equivalent for anyone else barking out a laugh and yelling, ‘I feel ya, Brother’.

My mother loved flowers. Loved them. Not only was her garden a proper cornucopia of flowers, all blooming at different times, all varieties of colour but the scents as well.  I loved it out there. It’s a place I often am reminded of, standing in the garden eating peas right off the vine or new carrots out of the ground with just a few swipes across my pant leg to remove the fresh dirt. The smells and sights of the flowers; it was like that little garden patch was its own oasis, where magic happened.

When she was in her last days of life, she was very proactive and went through her things to donate or give to friends. One day I was there helping her and she pulled out a blouse from the closet, looked at it and then hung it back up.

“I just can’t bring myself to part with anything that has flowers on it.”

After she passed, I found flowers everywhere. Sheets, clothes, tee towels, writing paper. Everywhere. All types. I doubt she own many solids at all.

I’ve always been a balcony gardener and now that I’m settling in the new apartment, I decided to get some blooming plants on the go. My friend who was recently here for Christmas brought me cat grass and I actually found soil in one of the grocery stores the other week, so grass planted, I thought about my seeds package.

I have a collection of seeds I’ve gathered over the years, still have a few little bundles with my mother’s handwriting on them, one of them, a bundle of sweet peas. I love them. Love them. She did, too. The delicate heads, the heady aroma, I was thrilled to find them.

I put about eight seeds in water to see if they would sprout and sure enough, I noticed yesterday they all had cracks in them and were likely going to bust a move. I got a pot ready and was very excited about the smell of these sweet peas, the memories they would evoke.

I came out to the balcony this morning to check on them and they were all gone. It’s been ridiculously windy here lately and I guess they all just took off.

It actually pleases me no end, the thought of my mother’s flowers landing in someone else’s yard, or flower pot or just back yard. Maybe one will catch by the side of the road I walk down everyday and I’ll still get to see it.

My mom passed away twenty years ago, but she’s still spreading the love and power of the flower .

 

 

Cat Box

When I moved to this apartment I’m in now I had to buy a fridge and stove. It’s actually standard here. I put my fate into the hands and connections of my friend who helped me find the place. He set me up with his friend who hooked me up with a used fridge and stove. If it’s sounding like a drug deal, it felt that way. We drove across the city, ‘buddy’ jumped in the back seat, took the cash, brought out the fridge. Then, we followed him for another twenty minutes for the stove. Yes. Both appliance came out of someone’s house.

The fridge died after about three weeks and it cost me $165 to replace the motor. Luckily one of my neighbours in my building does the sort of thing. My friend had initially told me both appliances had a year warranty but of course when the problems started, ‘he isn’t answering his phone’.  Okay, but if he doesn’t want to pay for it, just say that. Don’t say you can’t get ahold of him, then post pictures of you and him all hammered up on rum all over your Facebook page. Not cool. No longer my friend.

So, that was the fridge. The stove, besides coming with its own family of cockroaches, had been painted. Painted. I assume to look new but I wasn’t buying it to look like anything other than a stove. House paint, the door, the metal covering for the burners, the entire inside. I know. I have managed to burn off the paint on the top, what’s a bit of toxic fumes amoungst friends. But the inside is unusable.

Plus, everything is gas here and frankly, it scares me. The stove top I’ve mastered (almost) but the oven pilot light thing remains a nightmare. My last apartment had a beautiful stove but I was so afraid to light it. I would turn on the gas, light the pilot light and then just run.  It would never just catch. Rather, it would continue to fill with gas while the pilot burned and then a massive gas bomb. All the while, I’ve shooed the cats in to another room while I watch with one eye from safety around the corner. Not really worth a few roasted potatoes.

I had decided to get a toaster over, my friend and I were Skyping the other day and she had said she was considering the same thing. I started the pricing check.  There is a fabulous store not too far from here called ‘Mister Zapatos Departamentos’. It’s like an old Zeller’s or Kresgies, for those of you who know.When my friend was here to visit last week, we went in and he came out with a case full of gorgeous hair product, all for about ten dollars.

There were a few toaster ovens, microwave ovens and there was a convection over. Counter top type, on sale. I checked them all out, then carried on. Checked another store the next day, they have a crockpot, slow cooker I may go back for, but I digress, I went back today to get it. I walked down with my bundle buggy, determined to bring that bad boy home.

I went in, went up to it, smiled and said Hola to the guy who recognised me from the other day and pointed at said convection over and smiled and said, por favor. Pointing and showing people things is how I survive here. More on that later.

My lovely assistant, whose name tag read, Melvyn, and I was in no position to argue was more than happy to accommodate. He got it down, checked it all over and the went and got a long pole to poke the box on the top shelf. He got it down and started to pack up the oven , all the while other people kept coming up and asking for stuff. That happens all the time here, but more on that later.

He packed up the box and the whole while I was watching him, you might think I was thinking about all the delicious things I was now going to be able to make. Cakes, roasted vegetables, pizza, frozen goodies like samosa, but no. No. I stood there thinking, my cats will spin on their tails when they see the size of this box.

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Year New

Well. Here we are, then. Teetering on the brink of the old one, about to dive in to the next. It’s different for all of us, some looking forward to seeing the back of 2016, others may have had a good one and be sad to see it go. It’s been a proper bitch for the celebrity death toll, but it really only affects of superficially, doesn’t it?  We like their movies or music, but  it’s not really OUR loss, is it?

I’m pleased with this past one. Mostly near the end. My old landlord showed his true colours, greedy green, so it seems, but it meant a move to a better neighbourhood and way cheaper rent. When I say better, I mean for me. I lived in the ‘burbs before and hated it. All  my neighbours had maids and no one of those fuckers could be bothered to take out their own garbage. I mean, what?

My new place is very close to a main thoroughfare. It’s loud, busy, noisy with horns, people yelling, car alarms, music blaring, the honking or shouting from the fruit and veg vendors and I LOVE it!  Before my view was a parking lot, now I can see for miles… and miles and miles… (Little Who reference for those in the know) I can walk to the stuff I need, hang my knickers on my balcony to dry (absolute NO-NO at last place) and buy almost anything I need from my door step. There are about five or six colmados close to me and they will deliver anything. Well, they would if I knew how to ask for it.

My newest favorite thing is the public taxis. They travel up and down the same route all day. All the major and even minor streets have them and in any country these cars would not be deemed road worthy. I had taken them when I lived in Sosua to Puerto Plata but my ‘car mate’ (won’t call her friend) and I paid for the whole back seat, so twice as much. But for a long trip, it’s fine. Here, it’s perfect. The first time I took one, I handed the driver 50 pesos and was ridiculously delighted when he handed half of it back.

Here, it’s 25 pesos, which is about 70 cents Canadian, and you can go three blocks or three miles. I would have taken them in my old ‘hood, but they don’t go off the beaten track, just the main street, so it wasn’t really worth it as I still had another ten minute walk to get home. They stuff 2 in the front and 4 or 5 if they are small in the back. These are not big cars.

I love them. The cars are complete pieces of shit and it’s a wonder you make it there. I had my Brad friend here for a week and we took them several times. He loved them, too. These cars are everywhere, stop for you and drop you off absolutely anywhere. I find it so civilized. It’s the best way to travel here. We had a joke that the ride itself was 10 pesos and the rest was a gamble whether you would make it or not. There is often no inside of the doors, just the metal and a bit of coat hanger to keep the thing closed.

One day, we walked to the grocery store, had a wander through a department store, had a pizza, then bought pineapple off the truck. We hopped in a car, Brad got in front and when I jumped in the back, I was only slightly surprised to find no floor. I sat speed eagle with all our groceries on my lap while the woman and her daughter stared at us.

It’s great. My move has been great. Mostly, I feel like I finally live here. I had to buy a fridge and stove for this place, both of my other places were ‘furnished’. So, it’s all mine now. There is nothing fancy about the neighbourhood, except that it’s fabulous! There is a great flea market that sets up on Sundays but I walked past today, being two days before new year’s day and it was rocking. it’s like Goodwill is having a yard sale. Plus, I have the Caribbean ocean out my back door, a new language I’m still trying to learn and new people to meet.

The bonus, as well, in a way, is that I’m almost out of money. I can’t afford to leave even if I wanted to, I don’t, but now I have to survive, which is great and scary and exciting and what life should be. So, this year, my friends, ignore what your mother told you about getting in to stranger’s cars. Take a chance. Pay the 25 pesos, get in the car. You never know what you’ll find. Perhaps yourself.

 

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Can’t Wait!

 

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Well, it’s a month away from Christmas. Are you excited? I’m excited because I get company. Visitors from a far away land, bringing me news of my long lost lifestyle and special Canadian treats like cat grass seeds and Cheesies. Mostly though, conversation and someone to drink with who is in the same room!

I’ve been noticing lately that people say, “I can’t wait!” a lot. I remember very clearly saying this to my mother as a child while she sat at the kitchen table reading, perhaps eating something sweet, I said, “I can’t wait!”. I don’t remember what it was about but it’s just something we say. “Well”, she said between chews of her caramel, “you’ll just have to.”.

I’m not going to lie, it really took the wind out of my sails. But of course we have to. It’s a silly thing to say, really. I can’t wait. If you are running late, for instance, and you are at the barber or there is a line up for the latte, you can say, ‘I can’t wait.’ If you have a bladder like mine, ‘you can’t wait.’.

Waiting for a holiday, waiting for company, waiting to move, we just have to wait. We can’t make time shift itself any faster but we say ‘I can’t wait’ as an expression of excitement of something coming up. It’s just that everything I hear it or read it I hear my mother saying in her matter-of-a-fact way that I simply have to. No argument, no debate, just have to.

But Christmas is coming and my friends are coming and I have to wait.

I See City!

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So. We moved. It’s always such a big job and for someone who seems to do it a lot, it’s still a big job. Also, for someone who moves a lot, I have an awful lot of crap. Not an easy job, this one. Moved out of the forth floor, which is really eight sets of stairs. Moved in to the forth floor, but with ground level parking beneath, so fifth floor and ten flights of stairs. I pity the fool who has to keep hauling my record collection up and down said stairs.

Moving to Santo Domingo was so exciting! Stressful but exciting. I knew soon after I got to the Dominican that the city would be the place for me. I was very pleased with the apartment I found when I got here, but that never lasted long. I was stuck in the burbs and my entire view was the parking lot. Plus, everyone pulling in to the parking lot had a view of me. Don’t get me started on all the exhaust fumes I had to suck in. I have a view now, a city view. There is something about being able to see a long way away that just opens you up.

My number one tip for moving to a new country is to befriend a local. I’ve met a few people but I happened to take a taxi home from shopping one day and the driver spoke really good English. We exchanged numbers and I called him for things a few times. But when It came to this move he really proved to be helpful. I saw more of Santo Domingo in a few days than I may have in a year. He took me around to areas to look for “For Rent” signs, called places and interpreted everything. Seriously. Friend a native.

Things were tolerable with my old place until the landlord made a big deal about me signing a new lease. I told him several times I didn’t want to. I had completed the year long one and wanted to go month to month. He actually showed up at my door, which he did a lot, (at one point I told him to look up the difference between the words ‘tenant’ and ‘guest’) and wasn’t leaving until I signed it. It was for six months, I still didn’t want it. I knew I could find a great place for half the rent he was charging me.

My first comment was, ‘It’s in Spanish’. He said it was exactly the same as the last one, just six months instead of a year. Lie. This is where he forgot to mention there was a rent increase in it. I didn’t know about that until he sent me a message a few weeks ago telling me I had to make up the difference. Like fuck. At the signing I again expressed my concern about getting locked in due to me not having much money. He said he wouldn’t sue me, just beat me. I mean, come on. Who the fuck says that to your tenant? It’s not like I really believed him, but he said it.

So, we moved. I didn’t tell him I was leaving. My friend helped me find this place, got me appliances, found movers,  helped with the move. Seriously pleased. Now I can’t afford to move again, so I guess I’m here until I’m not.

Desert Album

It’s a nice ice breaker, “What’s your desert island album?” It’s also a nice way to let people know what music you like. That one album.

I’m not interested in yours, just as much as you don’t give two shits about mine. It’s a way to brag, or show off, really, or just make a move on someone, make them think your clever.

But let’s look at it, really look at it. One record. Small inhabitable island I I have to go there with one record. Let’s assume for a moment I actually have something to play it on and the power to do so. My battery in my phone is never charged and I never bring my phone with me so that’s a bust.

The point, of course, is to talk about your favourite music, but the last think I want to do is take my favourite music to a desert island and then hear nothing else but wind, waves, birds and my own self-mewling.

No. No, I say. Frankly if I can only take one record, I’m not going. Not that I have such a broad spectrum of musical appreciation but only one? My neighbours downstairs and one over have young kids or a kid. They have, a) a kid’s record of kids favourite songs: eieio, Twinkle Twinkle, many other recognisable hits, all in kids voices, all in Spanish.

So in both cases, the neighbours’ kid music or me stuck on an island b myself (and let’s be honest here, I already kinda am) there is no way I’m settling for just one. The kid music goes for hours some days, hours. A desert island tape would be the same. It could be something I love, but it might as well be some noise like Hootie and The Blow Crap. If I only get one, I’m not going.

We would grow to hate it. Hate it hard. So. In both cases, if anyone is packing, please take me out. Now.

 

Thank you, and Good Night!

 

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Cat’s Away …

When I left Toronto I lived in a poorer area of the city, albeit extremely colourful. It’s called Parkdale, for those of you who know, one of the older sections of the city, it boasts big old mansions, some of them converted in to halfway houses and old funky building, but a lot of poverty, drugs, crime.  My last year or more there it saw the influx of the dreaded hipsters. Guys with one sleeve tattoos and fedora hats while the women went everywhere with a yoga mat and matching pants. Twats.

It’s interesting to see poverty butted right up against opulence, a man begging on the street right beside an obscenely expensive car. That car parked in front of some pretentious little shit hole of a restaurant that served only five different things, charged an obscene amount of money for it and all of the aforementioned hipsters lined up to get in. Ridiculous.

Here, in the Dominican Republic it has the same elements. Where I first lived in Sosua, you see most Dominicans and Haitians in poverty and the ‘gringos’ living in wealth. The reason I moved here was due to me being past the ideal hiring age, despite years of experience and thousands thrown into higher education. My family inheritance wouldn’t have lasted anywhere near this long in Parkdale.

My first taste of money vs not was when I was going to Spanish class in Sosua.  Non Dominican people hired Dominicans or Haitians to clean, garden. At least the large number of expats there from Quebec hired Haitians, due to them speaking French, which was a small consolation for them. The Haitians I mean. Not the French Canadians.

The family who ran the school were nice enough but they were considered well-off. The school was in their home and I’m guessing they did alright. They taught Spanish, English, Russian and maybe more. They had this lovely Dominican woman who worked there, cleaning, cooking, laundry. I remember going up one morning to use the washroom and the door to my instructors bedroom was open. He had crawled out of his bed and just left it a mess, as if to say he was above making it. He was a lovely young lad, about twenty or so, studying to be a lawyer, but come on!

The woman asked me every morning if I wanted something but I always refused. I brought my own water with me and she was so lovely, she would burn a piece of egg carton underneath the picnic table where we sat to repel the mosquitoes.

This building I live in, the area here in Santo Domingo is kind of like that. My building is very nice, next door is a mansion where often times when someone is there there is an armed guard standing at the gate in army fatigues.  Around the corner is a calmato, or corner store where people can buy things, grab a cold beer and drink on the way home, maybe a hairdresser or plumber shop but the people there live there, upstairs or behind within.

My apartment has a ‘room service’, so advertised in the ads but translated really means service room, or servant’s room. I use mine as a ‘cat box’ room, but I can see young women in other apartments wearing uniforms, up early in the morning, starting breakfast, who live in the cat box room. Perhaps a better life but, still.

The people next door to me, to my left (because that clears it up), the women likes to sit on the balcony at night and scream down her cellphone. Sometimes her and her husband like to sit outside and chat. She also likes to call to the security/cleaner man who works here, almost lives in our parking lot all day. She and others call him to get their garbage, which they simply toss down to him off their balcony, which just shocks me to the core, maybe they ask him to stop the fruit truck and get them something, or just go run errands. I hate the sound of them screaming his name all day, but I’m guessing no where near as much as he hates it.

He often hides on the rooftop, likely just napping or playing on his phone or chatting to family and friends. Who can blame him. The class difference is shocking to me, I really don’t like it. I love the apartment I have but people assume I’m stupid rich because it’s a big place, I’m here alone and that I’m overweight with tattoos. That bothers me. I am moving to a different area in the new year. My rent is cheap compared to Toronto prices (I still pay less than my last place in Crackville) but it’s very expensive in terms of what I can do here.

Lately one of the real pleasures I get is when I see the cleaning lady early in the morning for Shouty-Cell Phone Lady sitting peacefully on their balcony while they are away. I hope she has a cup of tea, lunch and drops a massive deuce, as well.

Yeah, I got your class distinction right here.thebaglady