If after numerous attempts you simply cannot get the ketchup to flow out of the bottle at a formal dinner given by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, do not despair. We counsel a cool head and assure you that one of these clever work-arounds will be just the ticket:
Take the ketchup bottle by the neck and, raising it high above your head, smash it with all your might against the sharp edge of the table, all the while coughing to mask any noise.
Insider Tip #1: If the Duchess is blinded by aflying glass shard, simply ring up Harrod’s and have them black-cab you a selection of sunglasses by Prada or Ray-Ban. This should calm any unnecessary hysterical crying.
Insider Tip #2: Creeds’ celebrated dry-cleaning service will gladly undertake removal of any vitreous humor from her Vera Wang gown. Your removal from the Royal Social Calendar has been most resourcefully averted!
If your neighbor at the table has a multi-tool, distract him by yelling,“My word, old chap, look over there! That delightful young Peeress we were admiring is dabbing her chests with the calf’s-foot jelly!” and point away from you. As he searches for the young lady, pilfer his multi-tool from his waistcoat pocket and use the glass-cutter to score around the neck of the bottle so that it comes cleanly away.
Skillfully deploying the little spoon in the multi-tool, serve yourself a sufficient portion of ketchup, wipe the spoon with your cravat, close the multi-tool and replace it in his waistcoat pocket.
This all must be done with lightning speed.
Excuse yourself for a moment, stuff the bottle under your greatcoat and sprint post-haste to the nearest Academy of the Fine Arts. Immediately upon arrival, enroll in an evening glass-blowing workshop for the continuing education of adults. Availing yourself of the facilities, surreptitiously melt off the neck of the bottle.
Race back to the table, explaining, if asked, that the welder’s helmet you are wearing is to protect yourself from allergic reactions to sun spots.
Note that it is most essential that you reach the table well before the molten glass solidifies again.
2. Introductions: Three ways to easily and quickly remember someone’s name:
When the person presented to you says, “How do you do, I am Archibald Psmithers, with a silent ‘p!'” cry out, “I am most pleased to make your acquaintance, Mister Puh-smithers!” As you repeat the surname Puh-smithers, punch him hard in the teeth with a decisive, tightly-clenched fist.
This will indelibly record his name in your memory, both long- and short-term. OR
Use a mnemonic: A mnemonic, with a silent “m”, is a memory aid.
For example, If you should be presented to a Miss Ghorkstein with a silent “g”, “hoark” up a big wad of phlegm and expel it discreetly into her Pimm’s No. 1 cup.
To stun your new acquaintance with your exceptional sensitivity you could add, “Shaken or stirred, Miss GORKstein?” OR
Simply address everyone as “Susan” even though they protest that that is not their name. You must stoutly resist these underhand attempts to confuse you and cast aspersions on your perfect memory.
3. Proper use of the cellphone or similar electronic device when in public
It will not do simply to ignore your tradesman or wig stylist, as they ramble on about use of the comma in Jane Austen, by nodding politely, all the while making no attempt to disguise the fact that you are scrolling through the “Family Fun” videos on Pornhub and sorting them by “most viewed” or “length.”
Everyone in Barrie and their unmuzzled pit bull can do that! From you, dear reader, we must demand a higher standard of social awareness!
The best way to ignore people is to have two cellphones rigged upin a hood constructed of leather straps so that each cellphone’s face is in direct contact with the eyeball. Such an arrangement will effectively discourage people from talking to you about their paltry concerns.
It is likely that you will experience some navigation problems while using the two-cellphone technique. Do not succumb to frustration! Simply stand on any convenient street corner and shout out, “Excuse me! Is anyone here heading, perchance, to the Saks Fifth Avenue boutique at Hudson’s Bay?”
When you receive an answer in the affirmative, press the crotch of your trousers securely and forcefully against the their backside, maintaining this intimate contact until you have reached your destination.
Do not be overly astonished should the general public regard you as a new Sir Edmund Hillary as a result of your inventive wayfinding skills!
If you simply cannot locate your leather hood with straps, make do with one cellphone, but make it the most costly you can buy. Apple daily releases a new iPhone which contractually requires you to throw out your headphones and charging cables and buy new ones. You would be well advised to choose one in beaten rose gold or, if price is no object, marble.
Now, should some impudent narcissist beetle up to you and begin to regale you with the Table of Elements, the plot of some episode of “Murder, She Wrote” or a complete, word-by-word re-enactment of a travelogue featuring Joanna Lumley sampling lye-preserved fish in Norway, simply begintalking over them.
Should you find yourself at a loss as to subject matter, you could in a pinch read the closed captions provided for “Leave It In Mom’s Beaver” until your hapless accoster is so put out they positively flee your presence!
Drooling will add to the effect and improve your chances of being thought thoroughly repellent should your natural manner fall short of the mark.
4. Casual Entertaining at Home
When planning a dinner party, be certain to take account of everyone’s food likes, dislikes, allergies and mushy-texture problems. Then, to get the conversation going, deliberately serve everyone the wrong dish.
This will provoke animated comments and much ribaldry! When the gentleman who is extremely sensitive to peanuts starts gasping and turning purple as his throat swells then closes up, exclaim, “Oh, bother! And my Epi-pen’s at the cottage! No matter! Let me make an incision and insert this MacDonald’s Blizzard straw so you can continue normal respiration!”
Don’t be taken aback if your razor-sharp quip sets you up as the “Oscar Wilde” of your special circle!
5. Treating the gentle sex with proper esteem
If you’re out to dinner discussing fishing tackle after a heartfelt reunion with your high-school all-male cribbage club, and a woman at the next table starts breast-feeding her squalling infant, pay no attention. This is simply a normal part of life.
You and your lusty companions should respond with empathy. Release your members from the confinement of your trousers, drape them on the chair seats and continue casually sharing your best Stanley Cup stories.
If the woman misinterprets your friendliness and considers this an affront, explain that “We thought we’d take out our perfectly natural body parts and waggle them about as well! #GuysMembersToo!” This demonstrates your solidarity with your “sisters.”
Suggest to the woman that you are changing your mind and supporting abortion any time up to the one hundredth week.
No particular shock if you are henceforth regarded as a “feminist” because of your show of support!
Don’t forget to slip the Maitre d’ a little something!
6. Recalcitrant vegetables
The best way to eat an artichoke is while driving, using a chainsaw. Take each quarter artichoke into your mouth and spit it at any cyclists who happen to be passing. Cyclists are usually poor, so do not often get a chance to sample “haute” cuisine.
Be sure to offer your companion in the front passenger seat a sample as well. It is considered de trop to completely sever their head with the chainsaw; we recommend the exercise of discretion to temper your impeccable power-tool technique.
Swinging your power tool with too much abandon, thus inadvertently chain-sawing through the front passenger’s mouth, such that the lower jaw is hanging by a thread, is commonly regarded as a “newbie” misstep.
Most experienced artichoke enthusiasts will overlook this, even going so far as to demonstrate correct form for you, thus smoothing over your trifling error and putting you at ease for the long drive ahead. Though not entirely headless, one would hope!
A packet of “wet wipes” from the chemist will aid in the absorption of any heavy bleeding. A very important consideration if you do not wish to undertake expensive restoration of your white leather upholstery.
7. At the Debutantes’ Ball
When arriving at the Ball, while still milling about the porte-cochère, turn to the footman and confide, “Give over, Dilmot! I ain’t ‘arf poncin’ to polish me knob with a fresh bit of the ol’ shag carpet, know wha’ I mean, know wha’ I mean? Take these ‘ere toe rubbers and present them with all me best wishes to The Lady Georgina Arbuthnot. I hear that slag’ll slide down your pole faster than a poofter at a firemen’s convention, doo wah, ‘ow’s yer faver, nudge, nudge?”
The help always appreciate your condescending attempts to speak their “lingo” and to demonstrate that you understand how base their morals are.
Dancing the quadrille:
As you cross your arms to grasp the hands of the ladies on either side, be sure to “accidentally” brush against any available “bosom.”
Should either lady blush, swiftly withdraw your hand, not neglecting to give at least one breast a strong, manly squeeze lasting at least ten seconds.
Standing next to you clearly indicates any lady’s unspoken request that she be grabbed as rudely and forcefully as possible.
Rest assured that her squeals are proof of the highest pleasure rather than indignation!
We hope these suggestions have polished your social graces until they glimmer and raised the tone a bit!
a trip to the mall yields a gift from the gods of chance
SATURDAY: AN EX-ROOMMATE DROPS BY with a friend who’s in town to see the Raptors play. (I’m not sure, but I think the Raptors are some kind of sports team.) Anyway, my ex-roommate brings this handsome Raptor fan and a doggie-bagged hamburger, flits about, wreaks delightful sketchy havoc, scrummages through another friend’s personal effects (some of which he appropriates—he’s a bit of a kleptomaniac), tidies the kitchen, messes up the bathroom, and gives me news of someone, let’s call him “Ben,” whom I haven’t seen in nearly two years.
Ben and I are estranged because of my big mouth and my snippy tactlessness and my sour, flippant remarks about his abusive passive-aggressive female partner, whom he endlessly complained about but couldn’t seem to break free of. Ben took offense at my unasked-for advice, which admittedly was a little brusque, and stormed off in a straight-guy huff.
This is because straight guys pretend they’re manly and strong, but in fact, compared to gay men, they are as fruit flies to our turkey vultures, so spindly and ephemeral is their sense of self-worth. Straight men are used to being coddled and kow-towed to, and receiving the world’s deference and the security blanket scented with Febreze, so they are soft and frail.
Gay men, by contrast, eat rock-hard shit for breakfast and halt juggernauting freight trains with our bare hands, all while dancing backwards in Louboutin cocktail booties, lashes mascara’d so thickly our eyelids glue shut, and wearing a print dress from the Sally Ann that someone’s grandmother died in, so we’re ready to take whatever you care to throw at us.
Like, “Hey, faggot!” for example.
Then we shove a butt-plug up our ass and head to the office.
You know. Tough.
Straight men are all about the masculinity and the deference, but their masculinity is butterfly-fragile, so that if you so much as brush its powdery wing they are irrevocably maimed. And trust me when I tell you that they will exhibit their wound with a stoic, martyred acceptance that is worse than any accusation, like those portrayals of saints holding out their lopped-off body parts on a tray or having their entrails slowly wound up on a wheel.
They will pull on the sweat-stained track suit of their straight-guy pride, they will draw themselves up to their full height and they will take their elevated chin, their grim have a nice life, dude, expression and their affronted, bruised ego out the door, pulling their ruined masculinity behind them like a stuffed toy rabbit on a string.
Still, Ben was handsome and slim-muscular, refined and smart and soft-spoken, with a hint of Barbadian accent, and he let down the straight-guy façade every so often and we’d mud-wrestle, winner take all, quite effectively. So I feel wistful about Ben, wishing we could be friends once more, although I’m not so wistful as to think my remark was inaccurate. Just badly timed, and with a little too much emphasis, perhaps, on the words “co-dependent” and “dysfunctional”.
You know, and can I just say, seriously. I mean, someone’s gotta cut me a great, big bleeding side of slack, and it might as well be me.
And, in case you’re wondering: When we mud-wrestled? I always made sure I lost.
MONDAY: I ARRANGE A HOOK-UP with a guy in North York. For an elite downtowner, as our bloated odious demagogue premier, Dug-Up Ford, would call me, this might as well be the moons of Jupiter. As I rarely travel north of Bloor Street, and start bleeding from the ears somewhere around St. Clair, I pack with a vengeance, remembering that it is food and its availability that determines the outer boundaries of possible interplanetary travel.
Book for the subway ride ( Resident Alien: The New York Diaries, by Quentin Crisp, who I am trying to become), shoulder bag with cigarettes poached from the Mohawk nation, lighter, butane. An apple, culled from my roommate’s sock drawer and slightly mummified, in case I get peckish, a sweater in case it’s cold up there, sunglasses for viewing any displays of the aurora borealis.
Hey, Cortana: What’s his particular corner of North York called?
You can’t be serious, girl.
Phone charger. I will definitely need the phone charger cause my phone’s at twenty-eight percent, but I figure I’ll plug it in at the hook-up’s place before plugging the hook-up into me. Yowza!
And I have five dollars and some change. A subway ride is three dollars twenty-five cents, but because I’m providing a little government-sanctioned legal cannabis sativa, I figure I’ll touch him for a subway token to get me home, if I’m still able to walk to the subway, that is.
I am placing a heavy burden and high hopes on this hook-up. And I haven’t even met his boyfriend yet!
I’VE BEEN ON THE NORTHBOUND TRAIN for twenty minutes. As the subway leaves York Mills station, my hook-up texts me: “When you arrive at Sheppard, go upstairs to the mall, find the Shopper’s Drug Mart and wait for me there.”
At Sheppard Station, I head up the escalator and look for any random exit because it is all the same to me, and it is not immediately apparent what the mall means, because that is what North York is.
One big mall.
I have no idea where I am in relation to the mall, the exits were designed by Max Escher and a sign says “take this stairway down to the first level” while displaying an arrow that points to the ceiling. The sign is in front of another escalator.
I take this escalator back down to where I started and follow a TTC worker, who leads me into a cul-de-sac where she disappears through a door marked “Employees Only.” I backtrack. I take another escalator up and this time I exit to the street, where the people, who are all teenagers, look different and full of cares and have diametrically opposed interests to me, and I look across Yonge Street and I see the words “Harcross Centre” on the front of what looks like a mall.
It looks like a mall because everything looks like a mall. This particular mall does not have a Shopper’s Drug Mart, but it has a fine-looking Rexall.
I’m glad I brought the sweater because it is freezing cold on the street corner. I text the hook-up: “Hi! I’ve arrived and taken the wrong exit, is it OK if we meet in front of the Rexall Drug Store instead of Shopper’s?! LOL!”
I’m unsure which way is north and which way is south. Perhaps this does not matter in North York, where you can just say the mall to indicate directions. I cross the street to the Harcross Centre, sit outside on a granite bench and vape.
I wait and vape, vape and wait. I wonder if the teenagers in North York are property speculating and driving up housing prices, and how they manage generally without adult supervision. I’m convinced the teenagers are looking at me with stern disapproval, the way the people looked at me in Flatbush, New York, when I was running around looking for a pay phone wearing a semi-transparent Indian hippy shirt, tight, white hot pants from Joe Fresh and sandals, which would not be a positive thing. Or perhaps they haven’t seen an adult in a while. The vape produces impressive clouds of pipe-tobacco-y sweet smoke, but it makes me cough like I’m going to hack up a lung.
I text, “Hi, I’m wearing blue shorts, sandals, a jean jacket and I’m reading!”
I text, “Hi, I’m still waiting for you in front of the Harcross Centre! Sure hope you’re getting these!”
I text, “I’d feel a lot better if you were responding!”
I text, “I’m waiting fifteen more minutes! LOL!”
My phone has just shut itself off with a little Bronx cheer, like, “I’m on strike for better working conditions, loser. You might at least charge me.” I turn it on again. The screen is on power-saver mode, like, “I’m working to rule, buddy. And you call me dim!”
I call the hook-up. A voice says, “The wireless customer you are trying to reach is not available at this time.” I have two dollars and fifty cents, in dimes, and I’m realizing that the hook-up has come out without his phone, or the hook-up doesn’t have a phone plan but is using an app—or the hook-up is a wanker who has pulled one over on me.
I AM ON THE SOUTHBOUND SHEPPARD-YONGE subway train. I’m heading home, meaning that in my imagination I’m heading as far away as possible from the hook-up who’s pulled one over on me, for which “home” will do. I am so demoralized that I am alternately crashing asleep like a stone dropped down a well and waking up with a little yelp one stop later.
I will spare you how I wandered with tear-stained face like Stella Dallas along the byways and alleys of North York;
how I walked into a plate glass window that is not the exit to the Yonge-Sheppard Centre, which is the mall;
how I found the Shopper’s Drug Mart, where I waited for the historical thrill of knowing my hook-up had waited there, hopefully feeling guilty as a Christian;
how I plugged my phone into a socket located on a pillar near the Shopper’s Drug Mart, which was a decorative gew-gaw socket installed merely for its visual flair and architectural irony and which did not charge my phone.
I will spare you how I started to try and find his apartment building, until I realized I only knew my hook-up by his screen name, and I did not envision myself, in the movie of the week that will be my lasting contribution to Canadian culture, asking random residents of the building, as they exited or entered, “Excuse me, do you happen to know in which apartment Big-Hung-Bubble-Butt-4U might be found?”
I did not see myself doing that with anything like nonchalance.
But I still need to get back to civilization, or, in a pinch, anywhere that’s not North York. I don’t have enough to make the subway fare, which is not usually a problem at this hour, when the TTC ticket booth guys abandon the booth to go for haircuts or play Parcheesi behind the doors marked “Employees Only.”
However, this is North York, and in this wacky topsy-turvy land of furrow-browed teenagers the ticket booth man is clearly visible, looking work-ethical and fierce, bristling with multiculturalism and wiry, fiery red hair.
I consider just dumping the inadequate handful of dimes into the fare box and striding away, but that’s like fare-dodging and I could be arrested, though this rarely happens.
I am the adult in the room and I am nothing if not compliant. My fare-dodging strategy will be to age myself to “golden oldie” status, a little white lie which requires the addition of three years.
This is a concession which I would not, before today, have considered psychologically safe, but I have been beaten on the anvil of desire and tempered in the purifying crucible of rejection and I no longer care. I will pretend I am disoriented and in the throes of early-onset senile dementia, which I now view less as a tragedy and more like a coping mechanism.
I approach the booth.
“Excuse me, do you have a seniors’ fare?” I make my voice querulous and raspy, as though I have just torn out my feeding tube and fled the Sunset Lodge. I only wish I had a kerchief and shawl.
“Ten — Seniors’ teeckets? Vhat? Vhat?”
“I think I’m — a little — short…”
Ticket Booth Guy looks at me like he just recently spotted something similar crawling out from under a rock.
“Jus’ go troo!”
Life, they tell me, can reasonably often gift us with random moments of bliss that sneak up unexpectedly and just as quickly pass, leaving gratitude and nostalgia in their wake.
I’m not convinced about the bliss thing, but I can confidently say that humiliation this made-to-order is rarely experienced without participation in a spelling bee, awakening in a urine-soaked bed or attaching pornographic selfies to the email of recommendation you are sending to your friend’s probation officer. My tender dialogue with Mister Go-Troo is humiliation perfection.
I left home at six-fifteen. It is ten-thirty as we approach Wellesley station. Normally I get off at College, one stop further, but I am suddenly overpowered by whimsy, and I think: “Let’s get off here for a change, and take the alternative route.”
The streets are fairly quiet on a Monday night, but it’s still the gay village, or what’s left of it that drugs, rising rents and quasi-equality haven’t ravaged, so there are still flickers of that tawdry, hot-dog stand, drunken, drag queen circus I sometimes guiltily, secretly miss.
Nothing disappoints quite as much as getting what you want, and now that the larger-than-life, extravagant outlaws have been homogenized, suburbanized, deflated and dispersed, mediocrity and misery have filled the void. Out, fantasy and Fellini; in, Family Guy and fentanyl.
I cross Jarvis, and now I am walking past the Petro-Canada gas station with its convenience store and twenty-four hour A&W Burger.
And a voice calls out, “David? David!”
I look at the car stopped at the lights one west-bound lane away from the curb, the car in which the driver is leaning over and calling to me.
“It’s Ben!” says Ben.
He drives around the corner, turns into the gas station lot, pulls up next to me. I hop into the car. He’s still so handsome it brings tears to my eyes just to sit next to him. Everything’s all right. It’s old stuff, what happened, and we’ve moved on. We’re cool.
A random stranger who I still haven’t met sets in motion the random schedule which leads to my random decision to take a route walking home that I never take, so that I can bump into someone I never meant to hurt at the one, exquisitely-timed moment when he’s at the red light and I’m right beside him on the sidewalk, and be friends with him again.
This is why synchronicity is the atheist’s substitute for god, God for the godless.