Friday, September 30, 2011

Woolly Mammoth and T-Rex to Meet at Royal BC Museum

I stopped at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria, BC while on my lunchbreak – to get a coffee from the coffee shop, use the washroom, that sort of thing – and I came around the corner in the lobby to find this:

Aha! The suspense starts! Inconspicuous crates bearing labels with ‘Do Not Open Until September 28th’ were stacked, unassumingly, against a wall. No fan-fare, no signs, no nothing. Just the crates.

Do Not Open Until September 28th????? It was only September 13th!

Don’t they know better than to do that to me? I can’t WAIT! I skulked around the crates, itching to know what was inside. Now my imagination was fuelled.

Were more dishes discovered from the Titanic? And would they let me buy some to add to my collection of mismatched teacups? Or what if they are Dead Sea Scrolls? Or what if they found the Holy Grail?

Already wired, I skipped the coffee, but the washroom was a must. As I later left the building, I knew I had to get a hold of myself. My thoughts were racing; I had to put the crates out of my mind. With TOO MANY days to WAIT and ponder before the great unveiling (I was tempted to sneak in a crowbar), I had more important things to think about – to worry about.

Like if I had enough hairspray to last me the week.

Days later I went back, anxious to see if anything had changed. The September 28th timeframe? Forget it. I was sure it was just a gimmick to throw me off, the museum staff conspiring against me.

So I entered the museum lobby from a different direction than days before, hoping to throw THEM off their tracks, and made a beeline for where the crates were. I came around the corner, and……..the crates were GONE!

What? They're gone!? Before I could work myself into a later any further, I heard a low, snarling growl behind me.

Had the Woolly Mammoth from the Ice Age display come to life? Do we evacuate,for fear of being trampled?

Oh God! I hoped my hair would stay in place if I ended up in an ambulance. If I survived, that is.

I slowly turned, fearful of being stabbed by a great tusk (although I realize I would be miles shorter than the tip of the deadly ivory), and I saw this:

The crates had been moved, and MORE added. But this time they were roped off – to hold the curious back (meaning me). And aha! There was a sign! At last I would finally get to know what’s inside!

Oh. Seals.

The sign had a picture of seals accompanied with the words ’10 More Sleeps!’ Not that there is anything wrong with seals. In fact, I find great joy in seeing them in the water when I go to the beach, or when I see them from the ferry, or from the other beach, or from the other beach, or from the other beach...

Um, I can see seals anytime. I do appreciate them, and am thankful for them, and I do not wish them harm, but…. I got excited for seals? (Again, there is nothing wrong with seals). Alright, then. 10 more sleeps until I can see the seal display. I can get excited for that - I guess.

Another growl accompanied by a high screech had me almost dropping my camera.
Um, I didn't know seals sound like that. Not the ones I know, at least.

I scooted over to the coat-check desk, and asked the attendant if she knew what was inside the crates.

Frustrated, she grumbled, “They never tell us anything.”

Do I believe her, I wondered? These folks are pretty secretive…

The growling continued, the woolly mammoth stayed put, and I had to head to back to work – but not before I stopped at the drugstore for my hairspray.

10 sleeps later I went back, skulking through the back entrance to where the growling ‘seal’ crates had been. Black drapes, 20 feet high, hid the area. Well, I wasn't going to let a few drapes stop me, and given there were no ropes to hold back the curious (again, me), I went through an opening, and found this:

Guess I will be coming back on May 17,2012 to see the dinosaurs - but this time with the men-folk of my house! (The 'seal sign' was obviously a ruse to throw me. Because, as you know, this was all about me.)

Be sure to mark your calendars for May 17, 2012, when the dinosaurs and the mammoth meet at the Royal BC Museum to swap tales of old. Visit their website at for more information, or visit their blog at Royal BC Museum: Where did you shoot that mammoth?

(Many thanks to the Royal BC Museum for use of their Woolly Mammoth photo)
Royal BC Museum, 675 Belleville Street, Victoria, BC Canada V8W 9W2

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Dumpster Diving: 101

I bought a new purse.

Don’t get excited – no Coach, Prada, Chanel, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Kate Spade, Gucci or Dolce Gabana for me. It’s just a functional, it’s-okay-if-it-gets-rained-on, $15.00 cheapo purse. Nothing fancy, by any means.

So in my rush, angst, and excitement to discard the old, cheap purse, which was quite literally falling apart at the seams, I transferred everything from one purse to the other, marvelling at the wonder of intact stitching. Out with the old, in with the new; the old one found its way, hanging threads and all, into the garbage can under the sink.

Great. Whoopee. I felt like a new woman.

A full 24 hours went by with me strutting around with my new purse, intact seams and all, feeling like the Queen of the World, when I realized….

When I cleaned out my old purse, I forgot about one tiny side pocket.

Which had my flash drive in it. Which contained some of my writing.

I lost all feeling in my body, except for my stomach which was suddenly in dire need of antacids. I ran out to the dumpster where the garbage bag under the sink had eventually made its way – the garbage bag containing my old purse, containing my flash drive. Three garbage bags of the exact same colour were at the very bottom of the dumpster.

The very deep dumpster.

The very deep dumpster that was near impossible for me to climb into, unassisted.

Plus, it was broad daylight and the neighbours were watching.

My strapping young boys were willing to take on the task, but like I said - the neighbours were watching. Not that I felt that my neighbourly reputation out-ranked the need for my flash drive, but….

I alerted the husband of my dilemma, requesting dire assistance upon his arrival home from work – much later, after dark.

Pacing the house did not make the day go any faster, or the sun set any sooner. The novelty of the new, albeit cheap, purse wore off pretty quick. I knew I had most of my writing saved on my laptop…but…what if? What if there was something on the flash drive not on the laptop? I could visualize the purse in the garbage bag, covered in carrot peelings and egg shells, my flash drive safely tucked inside.

Much later, by the glow of the car headlights, in dove the husband. I offered kind support and guidance while standing outside the dumpster, holding the flashlight, with my trusty flannel pyjamas fluttering in the breeze. It was dark, so what did it matter? The neighbours were asleep by then, surely.

He opened each bag while I fought not to gag. The process would be quick, I figured, as I would be able to tell from the topmost contents, which bag was ours. Pizza boxes from way-too-expensive pizza joint – not ours. Organic milk containers – not ours. Baby food jars – not ours. Old, holey, runners – not ours. Bag by bag, my hope sunk faster that the bile rising in my throat.

Ew, ick, ew… that a…? Never mind. I didn’t mention to the husband what I observed. I didn’t want to ruin the moment.

Three bags checked, and none of them ours. And then three bags double-checked, and still none of them ours.


I replayed the last twenty for hours in my mind. The garbage bag containing the old purse, WITH my flash drive inside, must have made it to the dumpster shortly before the garbage truck came.

Shoulders slumped, and after helping the husband clamber his way out of the scary dumpster (it was touch and go there for a second – I didn’t think he was gonna make it), I made my way inside the house.

At least it wasn’t raining, so my pyjamas were dry, AND garbage- filth free.

“It’s gone.” I announced to the offspring inside, who knew how distraught I was.

Resigned to the fact, and knowing there was nothing I could do about it, I put away the flashlight and realized I learned a few things:

1. Some of us need to re-evaluate our household waste practices, including me.
2. You can learn a lot about folks from their garbage; be careful what you throw out.
3. Support for what I do comes in the most unexpected ways.
4. If I had purchased a better quality purse in the first place, something that would last longer, none of this would have likely ever happened.

And why was the flash drive in my purse in the first place?

For safekeeping, of course.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Shakespeare, Starbucks and Chanel

Ahhh…books, bookmarks, and coffee. And chocolate. What more could a girl ask for.

I walked into Chapters bookstore in Victoria, BC, and as always, the smell enveloped me. After a lengthy absence from the store – summer vacations and all that - the smell of books, paper, and coffee from the Starbucks© coffee shop upstairs was like walking into a familiar home. Everyone’s home has its own scent.

I stopped the manager, Vanessa, and with my usual disclaimer of ‘I know this is a weird question, but I am not really weird,’ I asked her if anyone has ever mentioned the smell to her – but in a good way. She said customers mention it all the time, many saying they find it comforting. Every bookstore has its own scent, she says; whether be stores with new books or used.

Basking in the glory of the books, I browsed, grabbed a bookmark because I am addicted to them, and then made my way towards the door. But a wall, floor to ceiling, heralding e-readers and fancy leather cases, loomed before me.

That wasn’t there a few weeks ago. I stumbled around, disoriented with my routine thrown off. Ah, I reminded myself, times are a changin'.

Bookstores are closing, and more often than not, new books by favoured authors can only be found online, for purchase and download to your e-reader.

But if all bookstores close, what will I smell? And if all bookstores go, books will become passé – although I doubt that in my lifetime all books will not become passé – and what will I frolick in?

I THEN realized, horrified, as I made my way out the door to the busy street - What will become of bookmarks?!

I love bookmarks, collecting them from bookstores and authors – the signed ones don’t get used. In a pinch I have used a sticky note or BC Ferry receipt. I treat my books, new or used, like gold, refusing to crack the spine or dog-ear the pages. And of course, savouring the smell of the pages.

As car and bus exhaust replaced the intoxicating smell of the bookstore, I realized – book marks will become passé, eventually, as well. Extinct will be the tassels, the clips, the old receipts – even those crocheted worm bookmarks big in the 70’s (I know how to make them if you want one). I know e-readers have their own ‘bookmark’ feature, but like many avid readers who love the concept of paper in hand, many also love a good bookmark.

Saddened by the state of what was potentially yet to come, my world as I knew it was slowly unravelling like a crocheted bookmark right before my eyes. As I was on lunch, I made my way to a bench, to calm down and read, before heading back to work.

I dug my book out of my purse and flicked to the spot my bookmark was holding for me. In all my worry about eventually only having the memory of the smell of a bookstore to get me by, never mind paper books becoming a rarity and their bookmarks becoming artifacts in a museum, I realized….


The bookmark du jour was a perfume card sample from the department store - this one, Chanel©.

Because I liked the smell.

Go figure.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Random Act of Reading - Obsessed Beyond Reason

I couldn’t let it go.

I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

My obsession took control of my senses. Piles of laundry, filthy bathrooms, and a starving cat – never mind my starving family – were testament to my neurotic obsessing.

I simply HAD to call the lost and found at Victoria International Airport.

Going back a bit….

If you recall, IF you had been keeping up with my last two tales about the ‘Random Act of….Reading,’ dated August 26 and September 2, 2011, respectively, I recounted my find of a book being left like a message in a bottle by ‘Ann’ of Georgetown, ON. My then my subsequent obsessive attempt to pass on the love of a good book had me (neurotically) heading out the airport, leaving it in the washroom hoping someone travelling afar would take it, only to find it later removed by (possibly) a cleaning attendant. Which I realized, with much shame, was not a bad thing, after all.

Worrying that the book likely ended up in the garbage (I hoped the cleaning attendant at least took it home to read – that WAS the whole point of the experiment – to share a book), my imagination ran amuck, having me subsequently obsessing that the book was sitting in the lost and found department of the airport.

Unable to get it out of my mind, and with my cat nearing starvation, I had to put an end to my racing thoughts.

I called the lost and found department – at least I THOUGHT it was the lost and found.

Dialling the number and mentally readying myself to head back out there and get the book, the line connected. A voice of authority answered - “Security Office.”

Oh God.

What had I done?

“Um, I am looking for the lost and found department?” I was already wondering if I should have registered with Homeland Security before calling the airport.

“Yes, that is part of this office.”

I could practically hear security officers getting in their cars and tracking me down - they can trace calls, you know.

“Um, I am wondering if you have a book I lost?” Great. Now I am lying to the security department, and I KNOW they know I am lying because I am sure the phone is connected to a lie detector machine, and as we all know, I didn’t really LOSE the book….oh what have I done?

“When did you lose it?” Suspicion crept in her voice. I swear I could hear the security officers buckling up their riot gear.

“Um….sometime last week?” Great….any NORMAL person visiting the airport would know WHEN they were there, as they would have a NORMAL reason for being there, like picking up someone, or leaving to somewhere exotic. Because that is what NORMAL people actually DO at the airport. I couldn’t very well explain the REAL reason of why I was there, and why the book was ‘lost,’ now could I?

I would just look silly.

“Well, what day last week – end of August, beginning of September?” I could hear her flipping through pages of a book. Was I on a list somewhere?

Luckily for me, being the bright, quick one that I am, I was on my computer at the time, and while I rambled aimlessly about dates, I looked on my blog, noted the entry of ‘Random Act of ….Reading; The Saga Continues (September 2nd, if you have been following along!), and counted the days backwards to approximately when I was there.

“Um….around August 30th or 31st?” I say ‘um’ a lot.

“Okay,” I could hear more pages flipping, “let me see here.” I was holding my breath, waiting for security to come bursting through my front door, guns drawn, as she looked through some ‘list.’

“Ah, August 30th. What was the name of the book?” I could feel her impatience through the line. I hope she couldn’t see me flapping my arms in panic.

“’Rescue’ by Anita Shreve.”

“Okay…(flip, flip, flip)….laptop, book – oh wait…book? Harry Potter? No, that’s not it.” Harry Potter? Didn’t I just say the name of the book?

She continued. “Cell phone….sunglasses…" (pause) "Now to August 31st. Laptop - no. Wallet - no.” Yes, yes! I wanted to scream! The wallet is mine, especially if there is a million dollars in it!

But I would never do that….

She continued going through each date. The pages she flipped through was not a list of suspicious ‘persons,’ but a book of items found at the airport. She kindly went through each date, and each item found and registered. I wonder if someone would call from Cairo looking for their Starbucks card they dropped….

But no book of mine was to be found.

“Sorry, nothing here.”

“But did you check the whole week….um, from August 29th to September 2nd?” I was panicking, but elation was slowly creeping in.

“Yes, I went through the whole week. Nothing here.”

“Okay, well thank you very much for checking. I really apprec…..” And the line went dead.


So that ends that. The book did not end up in the lost and found, and I can only hope that a/ the cleaning attendant took it, read it, and has passed it on, or b/maybe the book ended up in Cairo or Dublin, or.....

My obsession has been quieted, for now. I hope the book ends up SOMEWHERE, with SOMEONE reading it and passing it on.

I hope someone emails me…..

Uh oh.

A new obsession has been started - checking my email every five minutes.

Stay tuned….sort of.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Random Act of...Reading: The Saga Continues

(Please visit my previous story 'Random Act of...Reading' dated August 26, 2011 for understanding of this saga...)
I watched the short haul airliner load with passengers and luggage on the tarmac. Once loaded and checked, the doors of the 80-seat aircraft were sealed shut; the turboprops firing up at the pilot’s command. As the pilot continued his pre-flight check, the ailerons flicked up and down as if saying ‘bye bye,’ the rudder moving left and right like a fish tail.

Sure, Victoria International Airport (Airport Designator: YYJ) isn’t known for massive wide body airliners like 747s heading to Pakistan or Iceland. But many flights do depart to the United States, stopping at Vancouver International Airport (Airport Designator: YVR), connecting passengers to other flights travelling afar.

My French Fries were disappearing fast as I watched the flight departure in fascination, my imagination of destinations unknown in overdrive.

Because I knew it had to be in there.

The book.

I dipped a French Fry in (more) salt and ketchup as another aircraft taxied out to the runway. This adventure was well worth the dollar in parking (for two whole hours, no less), and the 2.99 I spent on fries; just to see my experiment take-off to who-knows-where.

If you read my last adventure, ‘Random Act of….Reading’ (Friday, August 26), finding a book being passed from one reader to another like a message in a bottle had me a little obsessive, to say the least.

So in order to get the book out of my hands, quieting my obsession, and have a proper second send-off, I plotted, planned, and contrived the best place to leave the book.

The airport.

As it was summer, travellers were bustling to and fro. But where to leave it, exactly? Because the book was women’s fiction, I figured the best place was the women’s washroom. Not that leaving it in the washroom was testament to the quality of the book, but leaving it in the waiting area at the arrivals was too risky. I could just see some kind person running after me, waving the book in the air “Oh, miss! Oh miss! You forgot your book!” And I would have to kindly accept it back, smile and say thank you. I couldn’t very well explain my whole planned experiment, could I? No.

I would just look silly.

So into the washroom I went, looking left and right for any observers/mind readers, and found the perfect stall. I placed the book, standing up as if on display, on top of the toilet paper dispenser. Satisfied with my mission, I left and made to wash my hands, just in case anyone was watching. I had to authenticate my need to visit the washroom, after all. Smug and quite proud of my accomplishment, I scrutinized my reflection in the mirror. Had I changed since accomplishing this ground-breaking feat? Despite the bags under my eyes, the dry, frizzy hair and the pimple on my chin, those Bond Girls have nothin’ on me.

So I celebrated with sodium-enriched French Fries, and eyed each person who came out of the washroom, making their way through security to the departure gate. Who had the book, and where was it headed to? And would they pass it on as I had inscribed in the book? I saw no one carrying the book, but was SURE at least ONE person had the great find stashed in her bag.

French Fries gone, the few planes on the tarmac now departed, the vortices curling and snapping in their wake, it was time to go. Besides, security was eyeing me, and I hadn’t brought my toothbrush for my usual overnight prison stay.

Curiosity got the better of me, though, and I simply had to go back to see if it was gone.

Entering the washroom, I noticed it smelled....fresher. Cleaner. Ah well, I shrugged the observation aside, this is a very clean airport. I likely didn’t notice the cleanliness during my initial visit, so focused I was on my mission.

I went to the stall.

The book was gone!

But before elation could get the better of me, I realized one thing.

The toilet seat was up, blue cleaner was still in the bowl, and the tiny scrap of paper earlier seen on the ground, was gone.


I went from stall to stall. All were the same. Lids up, cleaner within; clean as a whistle.

The cleaning attendants must have gone in while I was inhaling – sorry, DELICATELY dining on – my fries, and did their job.

Although I am not opposed to clean washrooms, and I commend the staff for doing their job, the book was supposed to be going on a plane to somewhere exotic. I could only hope the attendant didn’t throw it out, or leave it in the lost and found where it would sit forever. Mission failed, I made my way to the car, slumped over and disappointed.

As I drove away, the planes taking off without my book, shame washed over me like jet engine exhaust. This experiment wasn’t about me. The whole point of this mission was to get a book into the hands of another reader; to share the love of a good book, as the original book-inscriber had likely intended. Someone WOULD read it. It didn’t matter if they lived right across the street from me, or on the other side of the world. Even though my intent was to see a book travel the world, hoping readers would inscribe in the book, and possibly email me (again, see previous tale as mentioned above), I had forgotten the whole point - to share the joy of reading. So really....mission accomplished.

The planes continued leaving, I still kept wondering, and the French Fries were giving me indigestion. BUT, I decided to head back in a day or so and check-out the airport's lost and found, anyways – just in case.

If not, at least, for another $2.99 medium-sized French Fries.

(for more information about stuff going on at the airport visit/click Victoria International Airport)