Good-bye Kitsgal

Well, all good things must come to an end. At the start of this year, someone told me that 2014 would be a year of huge change for me. Boy….were they right! And why do people say those things never include the lotto numbers at the same time? So annoying.

On a complete whim, we decided to sell our kits house and move to a small town just outside of Vancouver.   Most of our family and friends received the news bravely but with looks of “WHAT THE @#$% ARE YOU DOING?” on their faces.  Living in Kitsilano has been great. We have lived here for ten years. We have eaten well. We have shopped lavishly. We have worn lulu lemon transparently. It’s time for a new adventure.

We are moving to a small red neck, outdoor adventure based town of 17,000 called Squamish. The Boy likes outdoors, bike riding and hiking. I like none of those things. But I do like chatting with people on the street, drinking wine alone in my room and shopping on-line so I think there will be something for both of us.

You can follow the adventures of this kitsgal as she moves to the small town of Squamish. Check out:

Thank you for following my adventures. I appreciate the kind words and emails that I have received regarding my silly stories.

I would love to see you at my new blog soon.


Xo, maggie

London Eye

The closest I have ever come to peeing myself in public was on the London Eye.  I have a fear of heights.  Not just a small fear of heights – a monster fear of heights.  It has gotten so bad that I have to take Gravol when my shoes have a heel that exceeds 2 inches.  About a month ago, I found myself in London.  The BF suggested we take a ride on the London Eye.  The London Eye is a giant The London Eyeenclosed Ferris wheel that allows the rider to experience incredible views of the city – from extreme heights.  At first, the plan was for the BF to ride the London Eye while I watched from the bar and/ or snack bar below.  (Heavy emphasis on any location with the word bar in it).  But when we got to the ticket booth, I had a sudden change of heart.  I asked the ticket gals and the ticket guys the same question, “I am extremely afraid of heights.  Will this be okay for me?”  The response was always the same – “Oh you will be fine.  I also have an extreme fear of heights and I love it. I ride it every hour”  The logic of this statement struck me as odd – if all these people have an extreme fear of heights, why on earth are they tormenting themselves by working at the London Eye?

I bought a ticket and, because the BF had a fast track ticket (which is a good idea to get you on the ride faster), we were rushed to the front of the line.  Our pod arrived and we got on with a lovely British family and three Spanish teens.  Before the guy locked the pod door, I asked him what would happen if I lost my mind.  He said, “Oh.  You will be okay.  I am extremely afraid of heights and I love it.  I ride it every hour.  Besides, there has only ever been one person who freaked out so badly that we had to……”  SLAM.  LOCK.  AHHHH.  WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT PERSON?  WE WERE OFF.

The ride takes about 30 minutes to complete one full rotation.  Fortunately, there is a nice wood bench in the centre, so I instantly sat on that.  My heart was pounding.  I focused every ounce of my core strength to stop the internal screaming that was happening inside my brain from becoming external screaming.  The BF wisely suggested that I close my eyes and go to my happy place.  At that point, my happy place was anywhere there was dirt, gravity and a bar/ snack bar.

As the ride progressed, I actually felt brave enough to slightly open my eyes.  The ride is so slow and motionless; it was hard to picture

50 Shades of Pale.  Me on the London Eye

50 Shades of Pale. Me on the London Eye

that we were up so high.  I started to look around slightly, but I did not move from my bench.  The view was truly AMAZING.  I began to chat with the lovely British family that were riding with us and we began to laugh at things we thought we saw happening at Buckingham Palace.  I really started to enjoy the view.  Before I knew it, the rotation completed and we were asked to exit.

I was numb.  I was shaky.  And I WAS SO PROUD OF MYSELF for doing it.  Despite my fears, it was worth it.  The view.  The experience.  The memory.   Riding the London Eye was one of the highlights of my trip to Europe.   If anyone was to ask me if they should do it, I would reply, “Oh you will be fine.  I also have an extreme fear of heights and I love it. I ride it every hour.”  

Bat Fishing

Despite my best efforts, I have never caught a bat.   I was very fortunate growing up to spend summers at my grandparents’ cabin on Keat’s Island.  As some background, Swedes are genetically pre-disposed to build cedar cabins in the middle of no where.  We can’t help it; it is what we do.  My grandparents, Elna and Viktor, had the choice between buying two lots of land on Keat’s Island.  Each one would cost a grand sum of $500.   The first choice was beautiful waterfront property with its own private beach.  The second choice was in the middle of the island with no road access, a pre-built outhouse and a mosquito infested pond that was known to be ground zero for malaria.  My practical Swedish grandparents, of course, keenly identified that living on the water would be too breezy.  It would be much better to build a cabin where no one could find us in the event of a serial killer attack.

My grandfather built the cabin by hand.  He hauled every piece of lumber to the site himself.  It was a long and painstaking process.  Growing up, I was under the impression that my grandfather only spoke Swedish but, during this process, my grandmother would often ask the younger children to stay inside given that my grandfather was speaking fluent French outside.  Every summer, my cousins and I would roamed Keat’s Island like a pack of kids from Lord of the Flies.   (but a little less murder-y, of course).

Every night, my grandpa would herd all the grandkids out on the porch of the cabin he built.  There he would hand each of us a stick Batswith a string and a piece of tin foil on it.  He would always say, “So.  Who is going to catch me a bat tonight?”  Being the competitive kids that were, we would all scream, “MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!”  And off we went to the edge of the property circling the tin foil string high in the air above us.  We would do this for hours.  In the dark.  Without a nibble.

It was years later that the truth finally came out.  Bat fishing was the only way my grandfather could get any peace and quiet in the small three room cabin he had built.  It allowed him to sit on the porch in the evenings and enjoy a drink.   And, since there was no TV,  it allowed him be highly entertained by the horde of kids in his front yard who were trying so hard to catch a bat.  Grandpas can be jerks sometimes.

Professional Mom

It happened again.  I went out in the world looking like a bag lady.  There was no one around to yell, “Young Lady….you are not going out looking like that.”  So I did.

Here in Kitsilano, everyone looks as if they just stepped out of a photo shoot for Banana Republic.  Even when kitsgals are going casual, the money spent on one pair of Lululemon pants could feed a bulimic family of 4 for three months.  I never stop to think that my over-sized, paint-stained Addias sweat pants and my Vancouver Grizzlies toque are not appropriate public roaming attire.  Granted, by wearing my ensemble in public, I did make $1.15 in change when folks handed me their empty cans to return for recycling.

That got me thinking how much I wish I could hire a professional mom to nag me into pulling up my socks – or at least wearing socks.  Most folks know that my mom is very ill with Alzheimer’s.  She was diagnosed very young and had a rapid onset, so I haven’t had a mom around to nag me for quite some time.  And, as a result, I have definitely noticed a huge slide in my attitude surrounding my appearance.

Growing up, my parents always presented well in public.  My dad was the only guy on the block to wear a suit and tie to cut the lawn.  He had a standing barber shop appointment to ensure his hairline never touched his ears.  My mom dressed causally inside the house, but when she had important functions, like going to the bank or to Safeway, she didn’t think twice about donning a tight fitting Chanel dress that made her look like a supermodel.

Thinking back on their ‘rules’ of appearance vs. my anarchist ways, I know that they would be twitching to remind me of the following fashion principles:

1)    Bras that are held together with safety pins need to be thrown out.

2)    Putting dirty clothes in the dryer with 12 Bounce sheets is not the same as washing them.

3)    Wearing clothes one size bigger than you need is fooling no one.

4)    At your age, you need to wear make up….a lot of makeup.

5)    Black nail polish is for meth addicts and 9 year olds.

6)    Panties with holes in them are sexy if bought new.  If they are 12 years old, they are not.

7)    If you can’t keep food debris out of your hair, maybe you should cut it.

8)    Your purse should not equal the weight of a Labrador Retriever.  Take some crap out of it.

9)    Women’s shoes are supposed to hurt more than child birth.  If you can walk in them, they are not fashionable enough.  Side note:  Runners with a cocktail dress are ridiculous.

10)   You are fooling no one by wearing a Running Room T-shirt and sweat pants in public.  No one believes you have just been working out.

11)    There is no need to sleep in two pairs of sweat pants, four sweaters, mittens and a toque. If you are cold, turn up the thermostat.

12)   Wearing a long top to conceal the worn out thigh patches on the inside of your pants is not working for you.

Having a professional mom around to call me on my lazy fashion choices would be so great.  And if she wanted to comment on my budgeting, career choices, dating life, eating habits and swearing patterns that would be awesome too.  You don’t realize how much wisdom was contained in all that nagging until you don’t hear it.



Literary Intervention

It’s National Book Week. The rules: Grab the closest book to you. Go to page 56. Copy the 5th sentence as your status. Don’t mention the book. Post these rules as part of your status.

When my good friend Shaun Stewart posted that challenge in the midst of my facebook feed, I felt compelled to respond.  So I promptly posted a line from the 2010 edition of The Condominium Manual:  A Comprehensive Guide to the Strata Property Act.  Another lovely friend of mine, Heather Kennedy, promptly noted that I might need a literary intervention….which got me to thinking…when was the last time I actually read a book for pleasure?

A quick check of my bookcase reveled the following titles:

  •   How to Grow and Make Your own Wine (bought one evening on after too many glasses of vino where I delusionally thought I could turn my 15X45 foot Kitsilano back yard into a full fledged winery in order to save money on booze)
  •  A well chewed copy of The Care and Training of your Problematic Rottweiler
  •  The Bible in Everyday English (essentially, the Coles notes of Bibles.  It is what Jesus would say if he were a homeboy.)
  •  How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse (a gal can never be too careful)
  •   The Yellow Pages 1994 (because if the internet ever failed, I may need it to call someone).
  •  Hypochondria:  Reading Your Doctor’s Body Language to Understand Your True Diagnosis
  •  Mexican Cooking:  A Pop Up Book.

Maybe Heather was correct.  I do need a literary intervention.  I searched my brain caves.  When did reading become such a chore?

I used to read all the time.  But now I read more for information than for pleasure.  It started when I went to school and we were asked to analyze stories for their underlying meaning.  Being a very thorough soul, I would scouer great works of literature as if there was a Where’s Waldo hidden on every page.  My university professor once gave me an A+ on a paper about Steinbeck’s The Pearl because I made incredible parallels between the mention of an ant in the story and the life of Jesus.

Could it be that the last books I truly remember reading for pleasure were the Trixie Belden series when I was a girl?

It had been a while since I had peeked inside a Trixie Belden book so I wandered down to my local library at the corner of Broadway and McDonald.  To be honest, it had been a while since I peeked inside a local library.  For you young folks, libraries are like Google but in building form.  I found the Trixie Belden section by guessing its dewey decimal number.  Given my love of learning, it should come as no surprise to you that my very first job was as a library monitor when I was in grade two.  My role was to break the spines of new books by opening them.  It was sort of like being a mob enforcer for books.  I soon got fired because I was too gentle on them.

Seeing the cover of these original Trixie Belden books was like having an LSD flashback – except without the LSD, the drool or the screaming.  A huge smile spread across my face.

Trixie Belden was my kinda gal.  She spoke to me in a way that stuck up Nancy Drew never could.  Trixie was a 13 year old gal who solved crimes with her rich, gorgeous best friend Honey Wheeler and had a crush on Honey’s adopted, orphan brother, Jim.  The parallels between us were uncanny.  We both lived in the country.  We were both brain dense when it came to math.  We both hated chores but could be counted on to do them.  We were both the frumpy, chunky gal with a “good personality” amongst the pretty people.    We both loved adventure, pie and friends.

It suddenly dawned on me how subtly influential these silly books may have had on me.  True, I have not opened the Nyfors-Belden-Wheeler Detective Agency (yet!) but it certainly supported my love of independence, adventure and friendship.  Perhaps reading for pleasure is something that needs to be a bigger priority.  On my way out, I spotted a well worn copy of The Pearl that they were selling for $1.  I am going to re-read it and, this time, I will read to enjoy.  I will let the ant be an ant.



Nyfors Name

You can now buy me for $99.  I knew it would happen eventually.  Having an unusual Swedish last name meant that it was only a matter of time before IKEA used it to market something or other.  The other day, my lovely and talented friend Eric Fell pointed out that I am now featured in the new IKEA catalogue.  Yes.  Nyfors is now a lamp.  Its special instructions read much like the person it references.  We both can be made dimmer with the flip of a switch (in my case, the switch is booze);  we both require assembly (in my case, a lot of makeup and hair products);  we both have a base that is much larger than its top.  (in my case, well….enough said about my ass). 

The Nyfors lamp from IKEA

I always thought my surname Nyfors (pronounced N-eye-fours) was easy, but, for some reason, very few people can spell or pronounce it correctly.  All my life, I have been referred to as Knee-fors, Nyfords or (much to the distress of my young overweight self) Knives and Forks.  In Sweden, the name means “new cascade”;  in Canada, it is an improved brand of dishwasher detergent. 

My father also suffered the pains of an unusual name.  He was born Boo Nyfors..  In Sweden, “Boo” means “first born son”;  here in Canada, it is the sound ghosts make.  My dad decided to switch to his second name after giving a speech at a work function.  The host, in order to welcome him to the stage, said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, Boo Nyfors.”  Of course, some drunk guy in the front row took dad’s name to be a verb and started booing him.  From that point on, dad insisted on being known as Evert or Ev.…..or as 100% of his mail would state, Everest or Eve.

Fortunately, in order to give their daughter an easy ride in Canadian society, my parents chose to give me the sexy cheerleader sounding name of Margret (pronounced by all as Marg-RAT).  Of course, it is spelled the Swedish way because my dad had a huge crush on Ann-Margret.  When I tell people to spell it like Ann-Margret, they say either “Who?” or “Oh…you look nothing like her…why would your parents name you that?” 

Ann-Margret: Yes. I look nothing like her.

To make things  interesting, my parents gave me a middle name that starts with the letter “E” which means that all my monogrammed towels spell “MEN”  – an anagram that constantly gives the wrong impression as to the success of my social life. 

After doing a bit of research on the Nyfors name, I came to realize that there are very few Nyfors People around…..and there are even fewer of us in North America.  But, I do know now that the name Nyfors is a typographical font;  it is a city in Sweden; it is a fibre optics company….and now, it is a lamp.  Even though this name has given me mild grief over the years, I am proud of it.  All the people I know who were born a Nyfors are absolutely wonderful, loving, funny folks.  Okay, Nyfors lamp…make us proud.

The Beaumont

Lately, I had a chance to spend time looking at the old Bow Mac sign on West Broadway. Back in the day, it used to be one of the largest freestanding neon signs in North America and was the brain child of then sales manager, Jimmy Pattison.   It was such a simple and brilliant way to promote the Bow Mac car dealership.  Just put up a freakin’ huge sign.  Boom!  Done.  Everyone for 10 miles around will be able to find them because they can see it!

Currently, the old car lot is now a Toys R U and, since they just slapped their sign over the Bow Mac part, it looks a bit hideous.  Still, I remember that sign with fondness. 

My dad was never one to splurge on anything for himself.  He was always very practical, especially when it came to cars.  If it ran, it was good.  If it didn’t run, you had to replace it with something only slightly better than the car that just died. 

I was very young, but I still remember my dad sighing over pictures of his dream car – a 1966 dark blue Beaumont.  True to my dad’s practical nature, he never dreamed of owning a new car.  Even his dream car was 10 years old.  With my mom’s encouragement, we made the long trip down to Vancouver on a Greyhound so my dad could buy his dream car for sale at the Bow Mac car lot. 

The Beaumont was a solid steel, four doored V8 super charged machine.  Its hood was easily 16 feet in length.  You could put the entire contents of a medium sized Safeway in its trunk.  The trip from Vancouver to Burns Lake usually took 12 hours but in this car we were home in 3.

After my dad bought the car, the rules of behaviour in the Beaumont were implemented. 

  • No food or drinks were allowed
  • All feet must be on the floor
  • Punch buggy was prohibited because it might draw blood, which would stain the floor mats
  • Windows must remain closed at all times when there was a hint of rain or snow…, which in Burns Lake was daily.   
  • No popping the bubbles on the plastic seat protectors no matter how tempting. Surprisingly, this plastic wrap was not in the car when my parents went out on a date…only when my sister and I came along. 

When my dad was teaching me to drive, I could tell he was panicked that he was letting his baby take control of his other baby.  He was always very patient, but the occasional shrieks of “Oh My God…” were a bit distracting.   I am firmly aware that if I had been in a car accident, my dad’s first question would have been about the condition of the car. 

The Beaumont ran for almost 20 years.  The day it had to go to the wreckers was one of the only times I saw my dad cry.  He said he was crying because it meant he would have to spend money on a new car.  But I know that even though he spent his life taking care of us, he felt like a rebel zooming around town in his hot rod car.  I think the irony of it made him young at heart.  Knowing that he allowed himself to splurge on something that made him so happy, makes me smile.  We should all do that for ourselves every once in a while.

Toy Store

I now understand the uncomfortable feeling that men experience when their girlfriends make them hold their purses in the industrial bra department of the Bay.   Yesterday, I ventured in to a store that was far outside my comfort zone –  Toys ‘R Us.  The fact that I couldn’t stop obsessing that the store’s name had been spelled by a gangsta should have been a clue that this was not the place to find the wholesome educational toys of yesteryear.  I entered on a quest to find the following items on my Christmas shopping list:

  1. Lego
  2. Something called a Liv doll
  3. My Littlest Pet Shop animals

The smell in the store took me back to my kindergarten days – a mixture of play dough, puke, peanut butter, pestilence and urine.  Fortunately, I had my scarf and wrapped it around my nose to block the smell of the five Ps… and so my adventure began.

I made a plan to look for the Lego first since it was something I would recognize.  After asking a child labourer for directions, I found Lego World.  Back in the day (OMG – I’m now channelling my dad)….but seriously, back in the day, Lego consisted of a bucket of blocks.  From them I made houses, cars, and possibly the world’s first Rubik’s cube.  Now Lego has undergone “branding”.  And it is connected to big movie franchises – Star Wars, Indiana Jones and the Prince of Persia (Really? I recall this movie as being quite horrible but apparently, you can build stuff from it).  From the sets, kids of today make tie fighters, space shuttles and storm troopers.  The Legos are not designed to make the highly creative and complex solid square boxes that I used to make.  Sigh. 

So I stood there.  Staring.  Comparing.  Agonizing.  I honestly had no clue which one to pick.  I was able to rule out the ones over $125 – which was most of them.  For that amount of money, the set better contain Legos, booze and Harrison Ford.  Fortunately, as luck would have it, I was blessed with the presence of the best volunteer salesman Toys ‘R Us has probably ever had – Max Gruenberg.  Max strode into the section like an 8 year old on a mission – to get his mom to buy him the Star Wars Drop Ship with Walker for a total of $349.  His sales pitch was incredible – “Mom, I will stay off crack if you buy this for me.” And he was an expert in all things Lego.  I asked Max for some help and he weighed in on the pros and cons of each package.

  • Well this is good if the kid likes to build.  But if he is smart like me, he will have it done in 10 minutes.  And then what is he going to do with it.  Nothing. 
  • This one is cool but the wings snap off and can be eaten by your dog so I say no unless you have a lot of money for vet bills. 
  • Stay away from anything Prince of Persia.  That was a horrible movie.  We shouldn’t support it.

In the end, he assessed my situation and picked out my Lego set for me. I

Star Wars Lego: You can't make a square cube from this.

was thrilled.  Gift one, done.  Check.  I tried to lure Max to the Liv doll section to help me on my next selection but apparently, his mother and Toys R Us security don’t like it when you use the word lure around children in their store.  So I went there on my own. 

I knew nothing about Liv dolls.  I had been told they weren’t Barbies.  I

never liked Barbies.  My sister loved them but I was more of a Hot Wheels gal.  I used to tie her Barbies to my Hot Wheels track and have my cars jump over them.  But it was a hard hobby to enjoy since my sister’s screaming tended to ruin the fun. 

The Liv doll section was smaller than Lego World but no less intimidating.  Apparently, Liv is the new hot doll in town.  If you haven’t seen one, they are bigger than a Barbie but have smaller boobs and freakishly large heads – sort of like they have lived too close to a nuclear reactor all their life.  The marketing says Liv dolls are a bold new fashion doll that celebrates what’s cool with being a real teenage girl.  Based upon their styles, I would say what is cool about being a teenage girl is promiscuity, vapidness and underage clubbing.  It is a far cry from my experience as a teenage girl where fear of rejection, obesity and hormonal driven depression were a daily occurrence – granted, I can’t say that my teen life would have made a particularly fun doll. I mean what young girl would want a doll whose accessories were

This is Hayden. I am not sure how her neck could support that head.

buckets of chicken, Kleenex and Midol?   I ended up choosing Hayden, the flannel wearing outdoor girl.  While none of the Liv dolls looked like they would grow up to be doctors, Hayden looked like she would at least get an undergraduate degree from a community college and hopefully come out of the closet one day to embrace her lesbianism.  I am rooting for Hayden to break away from her Liv doll cohorts – they are weighing down her life potential. 

I found the final gift, My Littlest Pet Shop, around the corner from the Liv

Little pets. Not for eating.

Dolls.  By that point, my patience and hand sanitizer were running low.  I picked the first over packaged thing I saw.  The tiny little pets were cute but I think they need to be renamed My Little Choking Hazard since my intent is to give them to a three year old.  Fortunately, the family is vegetarian so the kid should know not to put animals in her mouth. 

Standing in line to pay for my gifts I looked around at the parents and people in line.  They all had a weariness about them.  They looked tired – and maybe slightly stressed that their Visa wouldn’t go through or that they had bought the wrong version of Lego.  Toys R Us is definitely not Toys R Me….but since it pleases Them, I am cool with going there once a year if it gets the job done.   Three gifts off the list. Check. Check.  Check.

Gobble Day

Another big food holiday has passed and I didn’t kill anybody.  I am not talking about killing a drunken family member over a slander that started with the phrase, “You know what I really hate about you…..”  No.  I am talking about not killing anybody with my cooking. 

Elna Nyfors, my grandmother, was a brilliant cook.  She arrived in Canada with a grade two education and a work ethic that would make Protestants orgasmic.  The only English word she knew was potato – and from that one ingredient she could produce an incredible seven course meal and a vodka chaser for dessert.  Unfortunately, no other Nyfors gals inherited Elna’s cleverness in the kitchen.  To be honest, the family has not eaten well since she died. 

It comes as no surprise then that big food holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving have always been a source of stress in my family.  To get around it, we have all become highly skilled at getting ourselves invited elsewhere.  The tactics below have been very effective at snagging invites to dinners:  

  • We were thinking of doing Christmas dinner at Tim Horton’s…
  • Our kitchen has a snake infestation…
  • We’ve been so busy buying gifts for orphans, we totally forgot to buy food for ourselves…
  • Our stove was stolen…
  • We have all these free flats of booze…

On holidays when my family was not able to finagle an invite to someone else’s house, we have attempted to cook for ourselves.  One year, my mom cooked a turkey for seven hours only to realize that the bottom oven element wasn’t working.  The top of the turkey browned beautifully – the inside was salmonella pink.  We had Chinese food that year….and every year thereafter, once we realized that we could get Chinese food delivered on major statutory holidays.  Fung “Fred” Chen the delivery man for Happy Golden Panda Chinese Kitchen Express soon became a coveted member of the family. 

When I moved out on my own, I soon came to realize that I had no sense of how long to cook food.  My mom had huge worries over food safety and so she adapted recipes accordingly.  The goal of cooking, as she understood it, was to kill as many germs as possible. Thus, she would cook chicken breasts for a minimum of three hours; peas and carrots needed to be cooked for one hour; and pork needed to be cooked for months.  Essentially, I grew up on food that would be identified as either jerky or gruel by most people.  For the longest time, I thought the difference between cooked vegetables and soup was negligible. 

Recently, I made a vow to learn how to cook properly – and to stop bothering poor elderly Fred Chen to bring me chow mein for Thanksgiving.  This year, I made a three course meal and it turned out well.  Not Elna Nyfors great…but the dog liked it and no one died.  In my cookbook, that is a huge success.

Camping Outside

Camping Outside

The last time I went camping, I woke up soaking wet in the middle of a field.  I was in Girl Guides and shared tent with Lorna Ramstead.  The fact that Lorna and I had pitched our tent on a huge slope without enough tent pegs meant there was nothing to keep me from rolling out of my tent in the middle of the night during a sudden torrential downpour.  My dinner of Chili Surprise and my bubble mat air mattress (essentially the bedding version of a slip and slide) meant I was ripe for midnight wakeboarding.  The fact I lay on the field for about 45 minutes before I woke up is an indication that the conditions outside the tent were about equal to the conditions inside the tent.  Alas, I swore at that time, camping was not for me. 

When the boyfriend, Peter, suggested we go camping, I was excited.  In my mind, camping is something that occurs when you stay at a hotel of less than 4 stars.  In these tough economic times, I thought it would be fun.  When he clarified that we would be camping outside, I froze.  “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO…!” I screeched internally, while passive aggressively saying, “That would be fun,” externally. 

Pete’s version of camping is very different from most people…..even those who like camping.  If there is no risk of forest fires, bear attacks or tornados, he is really not interested.  He refers to the TV show Survivor as Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.  So as Pete packed oxygen masks, bear spray, and a harpoon gun, I packed life insurance, rosary beads and extra booze. 

We arrived at Birkenhead Lake Provincial Park just in time to hear reports of possible landslides in the area.  Pete was thrilled.  We set up our small hurricane proofed tent and proceeded to look around the grounds.  I was shocked at how much camping had changed.  We were the only ones in a tent.  Everyone else brought their homes with them.  The site next to us was occupied by a family from Langley.  Their RV was easily the size of the space shuttle.  It had a chef’s kitchen, a soaker tub and a 42 inch plasma TV.  The dad, Ralph, said they loved camping because it allowed them to return to a simpler time.  I guess the fact they could only get 145 channels returned them to the simpler time of 2008. 

Cooking meals on this trip was tricky because of the campfire ban due to extreme forest fire risk.  Pete was thrilled.  This meant we had to cook with his tiny survivalist camp stove – a strange contraption that most military officials would call an incendiary device.  We heated canned chili (no surprise there) and ate it with fresh Cobbs bread, real butter and a six pack of beer.  I must admit the food got better tasting with each can of beer.  By the end of the six pack, I could have sworn I was eating at Bishops. 

A couple of hours later, I faced my next real challenge.  Earlier in the week, Peter had given me the resource book “How to Sh*t in the Woods, 3rd Edition: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art” by Kathleen Meyer.   Pete was mortified that I had no practical experience sh*ting in the woods.  I was mortified that he had a book on the subject.  I was also surprised (and pleased) that Kathleen Meyer’s editors could get that title past censors but I guess when you are talking about bodily functions, you can use medical terms like that.   Even though I studied the book and looked at the pictures from every possible angle, I could not see how any gal could possibly sh*t in the woods without sh*ting in her pants.  Perhaps the gals in the photos have better aim than I do.  This meant I was relegated to sh*ting in the camp outhouse.  Thank goodness Pete brought the oxygen masks. 

Entertainment in the evening consisted of hunting mosquitos, questioning why we were camping outdoors and gossiping about the neighbours.  I soon realized the campsite was a microcosm of a weird wilderness suburb….and I was the Gladys Kravitz of that world.  It didn’t take long before I got to know everyone around me.  I didn’t know them by name – I knew them by my personal judgement.

  • The trucker with tattoos in site 6 spent his time hacking down tree branches to make more poles for his awning.  I guess he liked to return to nature so he could destroy it.  Thus, I nicknamed him, Global Warming. 
  • The people in campsite 18 rode their ATVs everywhere – even to the campsite 17.  I called them the Jabbas after Jabba the Hut. 
  • The guys in camp 13 sat outside their RVs drinking beer for the entire trip.  I called them the Single Alcoholics

Pete made me stop speculating about people when I insisted on calling the Ranger so I could twitter a sighting of the Black Eyed Peas in campsite 72.

In the end, I actually really loved my time there.  And this trip, I didn’t roll out of my tent – mainly due to the ground staples that Pete put in my sleeping bag to stop it from being sucked into a twister – but I loved breathing fresh air, walking in the woods and watching people.  I can’t wait to camp outside again soon.