Sunday, 24 June 2018

An Umbrella Makes All the Difference

            On Saturday morning the wound on my elbow from when I’d fallen off my bike on Wednesday evening was generally less painful than the day before. During yoga it was easier lie on my back with my arms at the side, whereas the day before the contact between the big scrape and the floor was excruciating. Some poses were a little more difficult, such as propping myself in the shoulder stand with my elbows or doing the locust, in which I have to lie on my stomach and bring my arms together underneath me to lift my legs up in the air. Overall, a lot of the ordinary bending I do with my elbow on a daily basis was slightly easier, though some of them still smart, such as lifting my guitar strap over my head to put it on. I’m glad that I went on Thursday for x-rays because at least now I know that the pain I feel when bending is just from stretching the wound and that I’m not agitating cracked or broken bones.
            I don’t know if it was me or the day but even though it was cloudy and rainy outside I felt like there was a pretty good energy from the mood on the street as I looked out my window and sang. It was probably me.
            I worked out the chords to Serge Gainsbourg’s "Docteur Jekyll et Monsieur Hyde”, which is kind of a fun little rock and roll song to play and sing.
            It was raining when I left for the food bank, but I still wore only a tank top and shorts, though I’d stuffed both a long sleeved shirt and an umbrella into my bag. The line was quite short, I guess because of the rain and as soon as I got at the end of it I put my shirt on and opened my umbrella. I’m not really an umbrella person but when one is stuck waiting out in the rain someplace an umbrella makes all the difference in the world. I would have been miserable if I'd gotten soaked but with a brolly I could actually even enjoy being out in the rain.
I was impressed that I hadn’t been the only food bank client that had brought an umbrella. There were about ten of us out of thirty that were able to hold back the rain. The short East Asian woman with the hennaed hair and the white roots had a pink umbrella with a few flower designs on it. She was also wearing mostly pink. She said hi when she stepped into line behind me and said, “It’s quarter to ten, but it’s raining!" I told her that it was supposed to rain all weekend. After a little while she started talking to herself in what I think was Chinese and sometimes laughing.
The tartan-lined cart belonging to guy with the neck tattoo was a couple of places in front of me. He came to get his umbrella out and after opening it I thought he was going to put it over his head but instead he started struggling with fixing it over the cart to keep the rain off. After about three times he’d found the right position and was about to walk away but first barked at the guy in front of him, "You don't have to fuckin stand in line!” and then he went off with his hood up to brood in the rain. The guy he’d yelled at asked me what his problem was. I explained, “I think that he thought you could have moved out of his way”. For some reason, after I told him that he seemed hurt, as if I wanted him out of the way, and he moved further away. After a little while he went inside the foyer to wait because he didn’t have an umbrella. When I think in retrospect of the guy with the neck tattoo's outburst, I recall that I haven't seen him smoking for the last few weeks, so maybe he's got some internal struggles going on in addition to his regular anger management issues.
I was given another good reason to be glad that I had an umbrella a little later on when I looked up through the baby blue canopy and saw a blob of green bird shit had landed on top. The rain had stopped but I couldn’t close my umbrella to put it back in my backpack with poop on it so I stepped off the curb and straddled the puddle that had formed on the street in front of 1501 Queen Street West to wash it off. Then I moved away from the curb because close passing cars were often sending meter high splashes onto the people that were waiting on the sidewalk.
I was able to read about half a page of my book before it started raining again and I had to reopen the umbrella.
Martina came around with the box and I drew number 9, then I stepped out of line and wandered around until she called the first five people in at around 10:30. It seemed like an unusually long wait before the next five were invited in. During that time Martina left in the van with Valdene, the manager and another volunteer, who hadn’t been there for a few months, took over as the doorkeeper.
It was after 11:00 when I went downstairs. The guy in front of me was angrily swearing, punching walls and slamming doors open all the way to the food bank.
Downstairs the elderly regular named Mike came out of the elevator and he was ahead of me. I heard him mention that he is living in a shelter now and looking for a place for between $300 and $400 a month. I did a quick glance at rooms for rent on Kijiji and found that he’d have to move out to Mississauga or Scarborough to get a room in that range and most of the ads are asking for young female tenants. It’s actually a breach of human rights for landlords to rent only to one gender unless the landlord will be sharing a bathroom with the tenant. But the Ontario Human Rights Commission is apparently too small to be able to police discriminatory ads and when the ads are online they fall under federal jurisdiction anyway. Maybe if you showed up to look at a place and got a recording of the landlord admitting they were discriminating against you because of your gender then you could take it to a tribunal.
            My volunteer was a young guy that I hadn’t seen there before. The other volunteer, Marlena was telling clients, including me, to hurry up. I had spoken to her a few months ago about that kind of thing being disrespectful and she had agreed to behave herself. I didn’t say anything this time.
            I got a 4.5 litre jug of cold water laundry detergent; a clear bag of coffee which I was assured was ground and not instant; a 368 gram bag of blue corn tortilla chips; a sleeve of saltines; a small box of apple, cranberry and almond granola; two strawberry yogourt granola bars; three chocolate nut granola bars; and a can of chickpeas (there were a wide variety of canned beans).
            I turned down pasta and rice, although there was plenty of that.
            I notice that it’s been a few weeks since they’ve had any soup or broth on the shelves.
            From Angie’s section I turned down the milk because I have plenty at home, but I took everything that she offered: a pack of two small containers of slightly sweet Greek yogourt with two attached containers of pralines, cashews and almonds; three eggs; a frozen cheese and bean enchilada verde; two fresh chicken legs; and behind her were a couple of stacks of boxes of pizza, some small and some large. I assumed the large was for families so I took a small one but I noticed that Mike had put a large box in his bag. It was nice to get a little fresh meat.
            I didn’t take any onions from Sylvia but I accepted a handful of potatoes; two carrots; a cauliflower, three kiwis; and two granny smith apples.
            On my way in I’d noticed that there was a whole pie in the bread section but on my way out I saw that it was in Mike’s bag.
            As I walked down the hall, Valdene, the manager followed me out. The East Asian woman who’d been talking to herself was just getting into the elevator as I passed. As the elevator closed I was opening the door to the stairs and Valdene exclaimed, “That’s a lot of pink!” I climbed the stairs with Valdene behind me and she said, “You’ve got some long legs! I was looking at them from the back!” Either Valdene was flirting with me or she’d been smoking dope and noticing things again.
            After the food bank I went home and put my things away, then I headed out into the light rain again to buy some fruit at No Frills. I bought grapes; a pack of three chicken legs; yogourt; a jar of peanuts; and since I’d gotten the blue corn tortilla chips from the food bank, it made sense to get a jar of hot salsa.
            I had half of the pizza for lunch.
            I didn’t go for a bike ride that afternoon because it had rained a lot and even though it was clearing around the time I would normally go cycling, I figured it would be too puddly and it might even rain again. So instead I stayed home and wrote about my food bank adventure.
            I had eggs and toast with a beer for dinner and watched a couple of episodes of Dobie Gillis.
            In the first story Dobie meets a female soldier who doesn’t want to have anything to do with him because she comes from a long line of career soldiers and considers Dobie to be a civilian by comparison. So Dobie begins to lie about his father having had a distinguished and heroic army career and a chest full of medals and so Martha is suddenly interested in him. She says she’ll be meeting Dobie’s father soon at the father and son day at the base. Dobie quickly lies again that his father can’t be there because he is missing in action, having never come home from World War 2. So Dobie doesn’t tell his father about the father and son day but he finds out through Maynard's mother and decides to go. On the night of the dinner Dobie is asked to say a few words about his missing father and so he gets up and tells everyone about his father escaping from a Japanese prison camp using secrets of judo that even the Japanese didn’t know. Around that time Dobie’s father walks into the hall and Maynard tells him he's got to do something. Herbert says, “Wait a minute, I have to find out who I am first, and so he listens to more of Dobie’s story about how he sacrificed himself while blowing up the bridge on the River Kwai. There is not a dry eye in the place but then suddenly Dobie’s father steps forward, exclaiming, “Dobie! It’s me, your father, they found me, I’m here! I’m alive and home at last!” The lieutenant asks Herbert to tell everyone about how he survived, and so, in the Gillis tradition, he lays on the bullshit as thick as he can.
            The second story was more interesting because it was almost entirely focused on the character of Zelda Gilroy (Sheila James Kuehl) with some help from Jenny (Trudi Ziskind Ames).
            In this episode, Zelda’s snooty and rich former schoolmate Rochelle, who throws poorly pronounced French words into every sentence to make herself sound classy, is going back to the fashionable school she attends in the east. She comes to tell Zelda that her parents are throwing her a big party to send her off that that she is invited and though all of her other friends will have to bring dates she will make an exception in Zelda's case because she knows she won't be able to get a date. Zelda asks her what makes her so sure that she can't get a date but Rochelle just smiles incredulously and says, “Come now!” In response to this Jenny steps forward threateningly with a clenched fist, saying, “Right in the labonza!” Rochelle adds, "Perhaps you'd like to come alone mon petit chou?" Zelda says, "It just so happens I can get a date!" "Do tell!" ”We’re secretly engaged!" "And what, pray tell is the name of this si charmon garcon?" "Dobie Gillis!" Rochelle leaves and Jenny confronts Zelda about lying. Zelda decides to go to Rochelle and confess that she wasn’t telling the truth but Jenny stops her and says, “This is bigger than just you! What about the rest of us girls who got short-changed in the looks department? You’re a shining example of a girl who made good in this world in spite of limited physical resources, and no shape, and a face that wouldn’t turn a single head in an isolated navy base …” “Well I wouldn’t say that!” “Don’t be modest Zel, you're our leader! Show us dogs we can win!” Suddenly Zelda has a plan to create several ruses that will convince Rochelle that Dobie is Zelda’s fiancé. She fakes a long distance phone call from Dobie in front of Rochelle and at the same time to receive a dozen flowers from Dobie along with a poem. Then she will explain that Dobie can’t get a pass for the party, which will justify her showing up alone. The thing is though that Dobie and Maynard accidentally do get a pass. Rochelle goes to the Gillis grocery store and finds out that Dobie is in town and so she arranges to trap Zelda by leaving him an invitation to the party. Having no idea what is going on, Dobie goes to the party. Zelda arrives before Dobie and when she gets there Rochelle calls all of the other guests around her and announces, “When we were children, Zelda was fond of showing me up in intellectual pursuits!” Just then Dobie arrives and Rochelle tries to humiliate Zelda by revealing that her claim about being Dobie’s fiancé is false. But on seeing what is going on and the look on Zelda’s face, Dobie immediately steps forward and pretends that he is in fact engaged to marry Zelda. They dance and Dobie, with a loving smile, whispers in Zelda’s ear, “When I get you alone I’m gonna strangle you!"
            This episode had the feel of a tease for a spin-off and it turns out that was exactly what was being planned around that time. Zelda's character was so popular that a pilot episode of “The Zelda Gilroy” was shot with the aim of the show coming out for the 1962 season. The stories were to feature a super intelligent but aesthetically challenged young woman coming up with schemes to catch various attractive young men. The opening segment to match Dobie’s elbow on knee and fist to chin pose, followed by a monologue would have Zelda playing the cello and then speaking to the audience. The pilot was shot and hopes were high but the president of CBS rejected it, saying that Zelda looked too butch.
            In order to shoot the pilot, Sheila James Kuehl had been required to cancel her contract with the Dobie Gillis show. After that she only appeared in four episodes. Of course though, she went on to become a successful politician in California and the first openly gay California legislator.

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