Sunday, March 02, 2014

I Was Rob Ford's Girlfriend

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Not out of the realm of possibility mind you, but purely coincidental.

I was Rob Ford's girlfriend.
I dated him on and off from 1987 to 1998. Mostly off.

We met at the Etobicoke Ribfest. He asked me if I'd like some of his secret sauce on my ribs. I thought he meant the food I was eating, but no, he meant my ribs. 
I thought he was funny.

I was 14 , he was 29. I've always had a thing for older men. These days I'm dating William Shatner, or Bill, as he likes to be called.  I feel confident in saying to you, my friends, that Rob Ford is no Spock. He's not even Scotty, or Bones, or Lieutenant Sulu, or Captain Pike's yeoman.

Forgive me, I digress. It's the brain damage...
Rob asked me if I liked ACDC and Rush. I shrugged and said "I dunno". He asked if I liked Guns and Roses and I said "yeah." Then he handed me a gun and a rose.

We made out in his Dodge Caravan. He kissed like he was slurping back a beer. I went along because he was 29, an older man, like Alfred Hitchcock or William Conrad from the Quinn Martin Production Cannon. I let him feel my breast, and then almost let him feel my other one, but then I noticed his brother Doug was in the back seat watching, so I told Rob I'd see him later, alligator.

Rob was a giving lover. He gave me weed, booze, crack and once a little cough syrup because I was coughing. He liked to go down on me, he called his move the "Robbie Bobbie". One night he got wrecked and didn't want to make out. Instead he rested his head on my lap and cried, cried about all the times he was bullied in school. Kids called him fat and stupid and an imbecile, that he was too fat to play football. He felt so hurt, lonely and worthless. I told him it was okay, that we all feel like outsiders and losers. It was okay to feel pain, that we are only human and that kids could be mean and cruel. Then he punched me in the face.

That's when I had to leave.

He said "don't go baby! I won't do it again! I'll show them -- I'll show them all -- I'll coach football! I'll be a leader among men!"

I downed my beer, hiked on my jeans and headed for the door.

"Baby please," he begged, "I'm fine. Stay with me! I'm gonna be someone someday. I swear one day I'll rule this town! I'll be Mayor of Toronto. I'll be famous!"

I never saw him again, until I turned on Sun TV in Toronto and saw him and his brother had their own show. Too bad it was cancelled, but I hear he's on You Tube now. You Tube! Can you imagine!

Now Rob will probably have book deals and a line of BBQ grills and his own brewery and his own ecstasy stamp. 

He might even be on talk shows.

But that's okay. I don't fault him for capitalizing on his misfortune.

Why? Because I was Rob Ford's girlfriend -- and for the right price, I will do the same.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Ford More Tears

Happy New Year, dear reader. It is 2014: year of the horse, the 100th  anniversary of the start of WWI, 75th anniversary of the stirrings of WWII, the year Canadian Forces pull out of Afghanistan and, most monumental of all, the municipal election year in Toronto.

Ah, Toronto, city of tempered glass, concrete, steel, and a subway system that hasn't changed since Charles Nelson Reilly appeared as uptight Claymore Gregg on the television series The Ghost & Mrs. Muir. Money is being invested in infrastructure, apparently. I think we’re getting a new swing set for a park. This is my adopted city, one that has been good to me. What’s been extra good to me in recent memory is our mayor, Rob Ford.

People have asked me (okay, maybe not) “why haven’t you commented on Mayor Rob Ford?”  I believe the expression is “gilding the lily”. Why tamper with comedy perfection? Mr. Ford has been a gift from the comedy gods. I have always held that Toronto proved its exceeding progressiveness by having elected the world’s first developmentally delayed politician. Perhaps in 2014, the City should consider imposing an IQ minimum for candidates, like those height requirements needed to board certain amusement park rides – you have to be this smart to run for mayor.

Now Mayor Ford is in the running again for re-election. He has called his campaign “Ford More Years”. Dan, my paramour and live-in caregiver (he makes a mean pancake) on hearing the news, immediately quipped “Ford More Tears”.  Being the comedian in the family, I put my spin on it with Ford More Gears, Ford More Beers, Ford No Hears etc. But Dan was first out of the gate and, I admit it, captured the exasperation of sentient beings everywhere with Mr. Ford, his antics, Ford Nation, and the dumb and dumber team of Rob and Doug.

Thing is – Dumb and Dumber is one of my favourite comedies. Rob and Doug Ford make for great entertainment. Too bad Rob Ford is the actual mayor of Toronto. I would vote for him in a second if everyone agreed to let him run amok for the cameras, to let him exist only on television and in opinion pieces and blogs. He’s way more fun than Mark Grimes (who?) or Gloria Lindsay Luby (who?). Rob Ford has put Toronto on the map. Sure, people say he’s disgraced the city and has sullied its reputation, but is that all bad? We’re on the map! Come see our new aquarium!

This is when my Gemini nature really emerges. My 100% whole grain side says “Rob Ford shouldn't be allowed to vote, never mind run for office”, while my frosted sugary side says “Yo, smoke a fatty, fatty, and mow Pam McConnell down one more time.”

In the book Amusing Ourselves To Death (published in 1985) Neil Postman theorized that television sacrifices quality of information in favour of feeding the insatiable needs of entertainment. In 2014, this is not only true, it is an industry, a lifeblood.

We are all complicit in the creation of Rob Ford, as critics, citizens and consumers.  He is the lightening rod for our civilization and its discontent. So hello 2014,  bonne annĂ©e, Kung Hei Fat Choy, and Insha'Allah, we’ll stay sentient, sense of humour intact. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

How Natalie Saved Christmas

Late afternoon, mid-November and I'm sitting in a corner booth at McDonald's with Dan. We had just finished sanding an antique sideboard at his shop and I was the one to suggest a coffee at McDonald's. After not setting foot in the place for over 35 years, I will now drink their coffee on occasion. This is an occasion; I'm depressed.

Depression feels like a vice grip clamping my brain. I've felt it coming on for weeks, have tried to ignore it, but it has closed in. Gloom eclipses my thoughts and days are getting darker. Thank god November coincides; it's always difficult to describe this pain in the spring.

I've suffered from depression all my life. Some of the best comedians have. That's not to say I'm one of the best comedians -- I'm pretty good -- but I'm not great and certainly not the best. I have a melancholic nature and I discovered early the antidote to that is to assume the opposite. I remember as a child sitting in an armchair (it was orange woven fabric ) and numbly staring off. I did that fairly often. It was either that or recite goofy stories I wrote for my classmates.

Today I'm pensive, staring off onto the street, the heavy slate sky matching the concrete side walks. Colours hurt right now. The red AutoWash sign across the street makes me squint. Autumn, time of decay and inevitability. There isn't a minute that goes by that I don't feel a cell die. Today is the Santa Claus parade too. I went last year and felt deliriously happy, swept up in the holiday magic and cheer. This year I feel too low, to inexplicably ashamed to go. I have a sip of coffee and tell myself to be patient, that this internal dread and fear will pass.
I see her in my peripheral vision, tallish, wearing a grey hoodie. She is nearing.
"Do you have any money? I'm hungry."
I glance up. She's standing over me and looking into my eyes. Dan is sitting across from me and she doesn't see him. I don't feel fear, annoyance, repugnance, pity, compassion. I feel nothing. She has asked me a question and all I can do at that moment is be truthful because I'm numb.
"Yes, I have some money. Let's go get something to eat."
"Can I have McNuggets?"
I dig seven dollars and fifty cents out of my wallet.
"I have seven dollars and fifty cents. Let's see what that will buy."
"Can I have a combo?"
"This is all I am going to spend. Let's see what it will buy."
There is a line up at the counter and she steps in front of the queue. I tell her we have to wait our turn.
"How are you today?" I ask.
"I'm fine."
"I wanted to go to the Santa Clause parade today, but, well, I didn't make it," I say.
"Uh huh."
"Have you ever been?"
Her eyes are glazed and fixed. She smells of old wool and body odour. Her hair is close cropped. I'm guessing she is between 30 and 40 years old. She is stooped.
"Are you from Toronto?" I ask.
"I was born in Jamaica."
"Do you have brothers and sisters?"
"I'm an only child."
"Do your parents live in Toronto?"
"My mother is in Mississauga and my father lives in New York City."
"New York City. That is a great place, one of my favourites."
She smiles and she is lovely.
"Where do you live?"
"I'm homeless. I have bipolar and I can't work."
"What's your name?"
"I'm Natalie. What's yours?"
"I'm Carol." I extend my hand. "Nice to meet you Natalie. That is a lovely name."
When it is our turn to order I ask for 10 chicken McNuggets. She asks the cashier for a combo pack and the cashier says no, because I only give her seven-fifty.
I leave Natalie and return to the corner booth and to Dan, who has noticed the police have shut down traffic on Keele. I try not to think about the ridiculousness of living in Toronto these days.
I see Natalie carrying a tray and sitting down at another table.
"Look," says Dan, pointing.
I turn around and face the street. A flat bed truck goes by, giant fairy tale ducks in tow. I hear someone say the float is probably going up to Weston for its Santa Claus parade. Another flat bed truck whizzes with a Smurfs display. I am on this.
"Natalie! Come over here. Come sit with us!" I'm waving at her and she comes over with her tray.
"Look outside!"
Float and float goes by, shiny candy canes, gingerbread people and gingerbread houses, penguins in bow ties, all barrelling down Keele. Natalie offers Dan a McNugget.
"That one is pretty," she says of the gingerbread float.
I'm smiling now, perked by the crazed parade.
"Hey, here come the reindeer!"
We see the big finale shoot by, the twelve reindeer, the north pole workshop and Santa's sleigh. Three people not Santa are sitting in the sleigh. People on the side walk have all stopped to watch this. They wave anyway.
Natalie has finished her McNuggets. "I have to go now," she says.
"Where are you going?"
"I have to go back to the shelter now. Thanks for the McNuggets."

And then she hugs me.

For that instance, my cells stop dying. She hugs me and I feel alive. She shuffles away and out the door.
My eyes meet Dan's. We don't say anything. We're both tearing up. Natalie, for those few moments, has transformed me. She has blessed me. There is no other way to describe it.
"There needs to be more housing for people," Dan says.
"Yes." Grateful, I let the tears flow and lift my coffee cup and touch his.  "Merry Christmas, Natalie."

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Dear EPublisher

 Dear EPublisher:

Thank you for your interest in my first novel Please Stand By. I do appreciate your notes, support and eagerness to get it into the www. ether. However, your enthusiasm has been a deciding factor in my pulling the manuscript from your epublishing company.

I can hear the sighs of disappointment from my legions of fans. I can hear the accusations about denying the public my humourous insights, searing imagery and complex characterization. How dare I be so selfish.

Ah, yes, I can hear them, as I tap a spoon against my tea cup. The roar is deafening.

The simple fact is -- I don't read ebooks.

Not only that, I don't have a smart phone and I don't have cable or satellite TV. I have a phone that was given to me in 1994. It has an oversized keypad because it is a phone for the visually impaired. It plugs in to the wall.

I can go down the list.

I am not anti-technology, far from it. I am not a Luddite. I am a Luddite-light perhaps. That's a better term than cheapskate.

So I realized -- why would I have my novel published as an ebook when I don't read them?

You also told me I had to get on Twitter, PinInterest and Facebook. This caused many sleepless nights. I joined Facebook in July 2013 at your insistence. Call me a late adopter. I use it reluctantly, as a promotional depot. I hate the thought of bothering people with "notifications" and feel guilty when I don't respond to personal requests for online friendship. The less time I sit and stare at a computer screen, the happier I am. Maybe If I am ever "liking" a beheading on Facebook, I'll be more open to using Twitter and PinInterest.

Which leads me to the main reason I have decided to put my manuscript on hold with your company.


We were going to put an Indiegogo campaign together for me to ask people to pre-order my book. I wrote a funny script and lined up an excellent cinematographer to shoot it.

And then I pulled the plug. So close.

Cancer researchers use crowdsouring. NGOs use crowdsourcing to raise funds for typhoon victims. Writers who are social media darlings use crowdsourcing.

I could not in good conscience go electronic cap-in-hand. Even to friends and family. Especially to friends and family. This is a first novel, not a cure for Alzheimer's (although it has been said I am a clever writer). Can't do it. Even if it, as you say, "pre-ordering".

So where does that leave Please Stand By?

Exactly where it was a year ago, under a stack of paper on the bottom book shelf in my office and as a Word document. It may stay there indefinitely. Or I may work up the nerve again and send it to small Canadian publishing houses. And I do mean houses, there is one around the block from where I live.

Thank you very much for tolerating my infernal unwillingness and knuckle-cracking. I am confident you have moved on at lightening speed to the next fortunate writer.

I remain,

Carolyn Bennett writer/comic

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Why YXE?

Late afternoon, Saskatoon airport. We're up on the A departure level; three gates adjacent to each other.  After a peaceful week of visiting Saskatchewan and camping in Banff, we're relaxed. I'm still high from my first scramble up an avalanche shoot to the top of a Lake Louise peak. The departure lounge is brightly lit, sunshine streams through the wall sized windows that overlook the tarmac. I'm watching the tail end of a Blue Bomber/Rough Rider game on the lounge TV, Dan is flipping through his smart phone.

The plane arrives 20 minutes behind schedule. An announcement comes on the PA system.

Sorry for the delay folks, there were some strong headwinds flying in from Toronto. We'll just do a safety check and get you on your way shortly.

I heard the same sort of announcement at the same time last year, on a flight heading back to Toronto, with the same airline. That aircraft lost cabin pressure at 35,000 feet and had to make an emergency landing in Winnipeg.

I shoot a glance at Dan. He munches on trail mix and smiles at me.

I jump and head to the window to watch the airport crew unload baggage from the plane. I watch them insert a big pump into the plane and into the plane's wing. Arms folded, rocking on my heels, I watch. I turn to see passengers walking by me. I see two pilots greet the other two pilots who will take us to Toronto. My stomach squeezes. I see one pilot nodding and another turn and gesture toward the window. My head whips around to the plane. My eyes shoot back at the pilots conferring.

I do not have a good feeling about this. The pit of my gut is a rock. Am I the only one who notices? Do I ask the pilots if I may join their conversation? Or do I relax and remind myself there are some things you can control and some things you can't?

Fifteen minutes later we're on the plane. I've popped a tranquilizer as a pre-emptive strike. Nothing to worry about. There are hundreds of flights across the globe taking off right now. This is routine, this is Saskatoon. You're being a drama queen.

Dan knows I had a bad flight last year. He pats my knee.

We're taking off, the wheels rise and the airplane climbs. Almost immediately I sense something isn't right. The plane shouldn't have to labour this much to get airborne. Then, I smell it. Something odd. Dan is looking out the window. The plane feels stalled. I see a man the row ahead of us look sideways. And he says to no one in particular, do you smell something burning?

Although I have tranquilized myself, my heart pounds furiously and I break into a sweat. Breathe, my yoga teacher would say.

Flight attendant calls sound from multiple rows. I squeeze Dan's hand. From the outside, you'd never know I'm flooding with cortisol. The plane starts levelling off mid-rise. That is not normal.

Underneath  my calm facade I'm in a rage. This is happening again, another airplane malfunction. I think about Dan and how if I was alone, I would be okay with crashing. But I am not okay with him crashing, being hurt, losing his life. This is between me and the airline now, between me and a higher power letting me know who's boss.

After a few minutes the pilot informs us we struck a bird and must return to Saskatoon. Un oiseau seulement.

Geese brought down US Airways Flight 1549 a.k.a Miracle On The Hudson.

Back at the airport, we're told we'll be accommodated on another flight leaving at 7:15pm.  After that flight is cancelled due to mechanical failure, we're informed there will be room for us on the 11:15pm flight.

A week earlier I was on top of a mountain, exhilarated. Now I'm searching the internet for train and bus schedules.

I realize my anger is mixed with grief. My father worked for this airline for 30 years, soldiering on and supporting us six kids doing a job he loved, then tolerated, then suffered. He practically gave his life to this airline, an airline that now seems to be more about marketing and satisfying shareholders. My father died driving his car one day, his heart exploding. At least he wasn't flying.

We board at 11:15pm and have a non-nonsense flight back to Toronto. The roar of the engines are determined. We're slicing through night sky at hundreds of kilometres an hour. I'm in the fetal position on two chairs, numb from two more tranquilizers.

I love flying. I love the seeming impossibility of it. That's why I'm angry and sad and still feel grief. Sooner or later, we're all struck down.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Social Media and the Push for Please Stand By

Dear Carolyn,
We are pleased to inform you that your manuscript Please Stand By has been accepted for publication. Note that we are not a traditional publisher. While we only publish books that meet our standard, we will not incur any upfront costs. You have to do your part to acquire funds to allow for publishing. We will help you with that through an Indiegogo campaign and crowdsourcing because you have made it clear you will not self-fund (self-publish). We want to work with you and believe your novel will enjoy commercial success.
What we need you to do now is get on social media. We need you to have an online presence. We suggest you start with Twitter and Facebook. Expanding your brand in the community will help engage more readers with your excellent work.
If you need any assistance, please don't hesitate to email.
All best,
Ebook publisher.
Carolyn Bennett
Want to drink some Koolaid and meet the lord? Follow me!
Hi Carolyn,
Thanks for your first tweet! While we appreciate your willingness to join social media, we suggest you find a more congenial approach. Let people get to know you and engage with your awesomeness. Thanks!
Hi community. Will someone help me get some milk out of the fridge? My back gave out.
Sorry to bother you, but I need to advertise.
I pixilate therefore I am.
I miss email.
Germany Invades Poland.
Hi Carolyn,
Thanks for all your hard work getting the tweets out! Maybe Twitter is not for you, considering you have no followers and that you are not following anyone yourself.
Why don't we set up an author's page for you on Facebook. I realize you have held off on joining Facebook since its inception and that the thought of promoting yourself is abhorrent. So consider the Facebook page a website for the book! It is all about your novel (although people do want to know about you, on a personal level). On Facebook you can invite friends to "like" you, and that way they will know about your upcoming Indiegogo campaign for Please Stand By.
Please give it a try, Carolyn. We are here to help. By the way -- You need a new name.
All best,
ebook publisher.
Dear Ebook publisher:
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. Isaiah 11:6
Oh man -- I'm quoting the bible. I must be scared.
Once, in Jasper National Park, I jumped off a cliff; falling, flailing, screaming into glacier water.

Brace yourself:

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

McDonalds May Still Rule All

The workers in their hard hats, paint-stained jeans and plaid shirts queue. The sun, blazing with optimism and best intentions, makes some guys squint. I haven't taken off my shades. The breast pocket of the plaid shirt I'm wearing is laden with keys and wallet. I dig in, looking for some change, but Dan says he'll get it.

The McDonalds army weave and bob, working in symmetry. The assembly line is occasionally disrupted by human error. Someone has forgotten a coffee order. Someone has placed an Egg McMuffin in the wrong bag. Someone is gazing out the window. They quickly snap back to attention, these McDonalds workers. Woe to the wandering mind -- one false misstep and someone might get trampled. Traffic is everywhere. It's 8 a.m.

Up until a year ago, I hadn't stepped into a McDonalds for over 35 years. When I was a teenager, I had a t-shirt made up that said McDonalds Rules All. I have disdain and mistrust for the processed food industrial/agricultural complex. I delight in things like rutabagas and celeriac root; ugly vegetables in their natural state. While I appreciate fine dining and support anything organic and local, I am also keenly aware of our two-tiered food system. As one writer wrote in (I think) an Atlantic Monthly article, people starving in poor nations don't care if food is locally sourced, gluten-free and dolphin-friendly -- they want sustenance to stay alive.

Dan, my wood-working, all-around guy who deals in physical reality, need sustenance. He needs his $1.49 muffin and coffee. He has lived off the stuff for over a decade. He just loaded nearly one thousand pounds of plywood into the van. Dan weighs 146lbs. Is he addicted? Hell yeah. Will he give up his $1.49 coffee and muffin? No.

Young mothers with strollers, blue collar workers, people over 70 -- they are all milling, McD bags in tow, looking for a seat. The 8 a.m. sun is brilliant, slanting and expansive at the same time.

No one is bothered by the two-tier food system here. I brood. Dan notices, splits his cranberry muffin in two and hands me some.

Hungry, I take it.


Bennett News: 
My screenplay The Mac And Watson Springtime Reeferendum Show won the 2013 TIFF Screenwriting Intensive Jury Prize.
Thank you.