Saturday, August 30, 2014

Rejected Business Ideas



Ministry of Government and
Consumer Services
ServiceOntario
Companies and Personal Property
Security Branch
393 University Avenue, Suite 200
Toronto Ontario
M5G 2M2

19 August 2014

RE: Business Registration

Dear Ms. Bennett:

Thank you for contacting the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, and for submitting your business ideas for registration.

After careful consideration, we have made the decision to rejected your application. You may wish to review your business plans, marketing strategies, financing, and overall concepts for your proposed enterprises. To recap, they are:

1) Bad Ass Baby Tattoo Company: Tattoos for the infants of ink aficionados.

2) Drive Thru Urinals: A complement to fast food drive thru windows. Allows the driver and passenger to relieve themselves via urinal or catheter, to save time. (You may wish to approach the Canadian Intellectual Property Office with this, as it is more of a patent)

3) Racoon A-Way: Do-It-Yourself animal removal kit. (Shovel, ax, large garbage bags)

4) Rent-A-Crank: Service provider. Acting as proxies for parents, elderly people nag and cajole successful younger adults, to keep them honest.

5) Gee-Had Me: Lighthearted greeting cards and novelties for Islamic extremists.

6) Old Tyme Movers: Environmentally friendly eco-movers, using horse drawn covered wagons. Fee charged by the hour.

7) Look Up: A computer app for mobile phones. Alerts busy texters when to raise their heads and focus on: crossing busy intersections, paying for food, buying groceries, boarding public transit, driving vehicles, engaging in conversation with a human being physically with them, swimming, bicycling, hiking etc, etc.

8)  Public Pylon: 24/7 on-call service that places traffic pylons around your vehicle, to reduce the risk of parking tickets.

9) Bad Ass Tattoo Removal Company: Hard-edged tattoo removal for the whole family. Sterilized needles optional.

10) Be Me, Be Free: Cloning service. Send replicas of yourself to events and occasions you rather not attend: e.g. board meetings, parent-teacher interviews, one man/one woman shows, family reunions, church, children's dance recitals etc..

We suggest you further investigate and develop your proposed business ideas. Not to put too fine a point on it, but we think you should abandon them all together.

Thank you for submitting your business ideas. The fee for each concept will still be applied

Sincerely,



Faceless bureaucrat

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Miracle on the HI-360

                                                                          







From Kahului, Maui's main city, the little town of Hana is 52 miles away, or about 84 kilometres. Hana is nestled in the island's rugged eastern coastline, and according to the  
Go Hawaii tourist website, is considered one of the last unspoiled Hawaiian frontiers. I would call it a backwater, if not a marijuana outpost. The drive to Hana can take anywhere from two to four hours to complete, because it consists of narrow one-lane bridges, and hairpin turn, not to mention spectacular scenery. A person is apt to toddle and gape.
 
The Hana Highway (HI-360) has 620 curves and 59 bridges. That's a lot of body and dental work. The road weaves its way through lush rainforests, towering waterfalls, plunging pools and breathtaking seascapes. Did I mention the hairpin turns? If you visit the Go Hawaii website, you will see I lifted some of the Road to Hana description, and changed the adjectives. Gosh, you'd think I was a speechwriter for Prime Minister Harper. I am merely setting the scene expeditiously, to get to the funny part.

I had just come off a gig in Honolulu, and Dan and I were vacationing in Maui. Yeah, I had a gig in Waikiki. Was booked in December 2013, at the height of the Toronto ice storm. (The internet is a wondrous thing at times, when it's not a black hole for attention spans. A company from Australia found me on the You Tube --but that is another blog to procrastinate writing.) All the tourist websites and books said to DRIVE THE ROAD TO HANA. I must confess, I am getting cautious in my advancing years. I thought the drive may be a little too tiring for Dan, because there was no way I was going to attempt it. I do not own a car, have never owned a car, and only drive the cars of other people when they are inebriated beyond repair. I am an dyed-in-the-wool urbanite, right down to my library canvas tote bag and metropass. Nevertheless, I shook off my apprehension, rented a car, and appointed Dan as chauffeur for the week.

 Maui is not a big island, but beautifully craggy it is. I imagine it is like Newfoundland, without the sleet, snow and people saying "I's the B'y". As Dan turned the wheel one way and then the next, and as the car climbed the road to Hana, I felt vague unease. One false move, like say texting a client, or eating a burrito, and we'd plummet off the side of the road and explode like cars did in the TV show Mannix.  It was more than that though. I felt, in my gut, that something was going to happen, and that something would not be good.

I pretended I was relaxed and happy. I had every reason to be; I had just come off a successful gig, and was remunerated well. The drive was every bit as amazing as the tourist books said. Dan parked the car at a remote beach, and we headed for the water.

That is, he headed for the water, and I was stuck guarding keys and wallets. I watched him frolic in the big surf, thinking it was a bit rough. My stomach clenched some more. I glanced over at a bbq hut in the distance, and saw a man leaning on a shovel, his eyes closed.

I turned back to the ocean, to see Dan climbing up from the beach, heading toward me.

Without his glasses.

Dan wears glasses. Dan needs glasses. To see.

     "Darlin', I lost my glasses in the ocean," he said.

And that's when I flew into a rage. Looking back at it now, I supposed I hadn't completely shaken off my apprehension.

      "I knew it! I knew it! I knew something was going to FUCK UP! I had this feeling ALL DAY LONG, something was going to FUCK UP. And something FUCKED UP."

I paced around in a fury, at the same time steeling myself for the tortuous drive back. I would have to get behind the wheel, be the responsible one, and draw upon my driving school knowledge from 1996.
     "GET IN THE CAR NOW. It's going to take six hours to get the hell out of here!"

What happened next is what I like to refer to as "Miracle on the HI-360."
Not wanting to endure my wrath for an interminable journey back, Dan insisted on driving. Being a coward, and an angry coward, I let him. For the first 20 minutes I hollered anytime the median line disappeared . Then, I started to relax. Dan was driving well. Not only that, he seemed to drive better without his glasses. He took hairpins turns with panache, exceeding the 15mph speed limit, and then some. I resigned myself to driving once we hit towns and the city again, but no, he kept going, passing other cars and keeping up with the highway traffic going 65mph, all the way to Kihei where we were staying.

Unwinding with beverages on the lanai at the condo, I asked Dan why he insisted on driving.
     "It was either I drive, or you mad at me for the rest of the day."
     Yes, Miracle on HI-360. The thought of someone ranting in a car for six hours gave him new vision. And it gave me insight into my own catastrophic thinking, and my need for control. If you take the Road to Hana, remember to just enjoy the ride.
                                                                                                  

Monday, May 19, 2014

Les Habs and Me


The last time the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup, in 1993, I was a young standup comic, full of piss and vinegar, pissing vinegar more likely, from metabolizing lethal doses of alcohol, marauding down town Toronto screaming Les Glorieux! Les Canadiens sont la!! Now, in 2014, I am unlikely to be drinking alcohol any time soon, but I am sorely tempted to join, or start, a riot again. Because if the Habs win the Stanley Cup, unbridled emotion will ensue.
I haven’t lived in Montreal for 25 years, but I still tell people I am from there. It’s in the blood, (or these days in the mucus, this being spring allergy season).  Being from Montreal isn't just a fact of birth; it’s a state of mind. It’s picnicking with your best friends on Mont Royal; it’s narrow cobblestone roads and lounging on a terrace; it’s minus 35 degrees and not being able to feel your fingers; it’s referendums on sovereignty that keep the rest of Canada hostage. The Canadiens, the hockey team that helped define Quebec, unite Montrealers from far and wide. In Toronto, when I see a brave soul coming out of the closet as a Habs fan, donning a Habs cap or wearing a Canadiens T-shirt, I resist the urge to kiss them.
Why I pour so much emotion into a hockey team, I can’t say. I do know that the game of hockey has seen me through some dark times in my life, when grief and anger almost swallowed me. Much has been said about the Montreal Canadiens being Quebec’s new religion. It is accessible worship and immediate communion. I have had to remind myself to pull back at times, to not get overly invested emotionally in a game’s outcome. But, lord, how the Canadiens can enthral and invite devotion! It is the rouge, bleu et blanche, those vivid bold colours that ignite the eyes and heart.

Why do I still love the Habs? Because they were my youth -- helped me through all the pain and glory of it. They were my young adulthood and now, my middle age. They are my long time companion. The team, no matter what, will always be my Glorieux.

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


http://www.josephszymanski.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/0129_12.jpg

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?"
"No."
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.

Crowdsourcing.

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