The Original Storyteller and The Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

My grandfather is the reason this blog exists. He told wild, interesting, funny stories to me before I could speak. My Granddad spent my childhood captivating audiences and his family. Those experiences are the reason why I myself became a storyteller and why my two year old son, who carries my grandfather’s name, now starts sentences with “Remember the…?”

For the past little while, I’ve been struggling with the nature of my blog. I debated whether I should keep it in its original form- a place for wickedly amusing happenings in my life, or transform it into something entirely different. My husband remarked that three years ago I lost my funny entirely and have since been penning a subdued form of Reader’s Digest humour, so maybe the change has already occurred.

I began this blog, with the same hope that many other writers have- to strike it big, be recognized and be published for the larger masses. It never happened but still, I kept going. Over time, as with anything, my writing became better, more descriptive, more fluid. Even the process of writing itself became easier. When I started The Great Unwashed, it would take me an entire evening to come up with a couple hundred words. Slowly, the work of writing, editing and publishing became much faster.

As the years passed, I built up a portfolio of work. To date, I’ve published nearly 400 posts. When my son was born, something that I felt proud of was that my baby would always know my voice- no matter what. Not the sound of it, but the cadence of my words, my stories, what I found funny, what hurt me, what buoyed me up. Should anything ever happen to me, my son will have this. And obviously his baby book, where I write ridiculous long paragraphs of how much I love him. Undoubtedly he’ll throw the thing on a fire in his teens. But I digress.

There are unforeseen benefits that have come as a result of writing regularly for five and a half years. Ultimately, what I love about my blog is that it chronicles my life, and my stories. This year has been a tough one for me family wise. Hef died to start with. (Anyone who has followed this blog for any length of time understands the depths of my obsession with the bunnies and recognizes what a blow this was to me.) So I knew the next twelve months were going to suck on some level if this was a warning of what was to come. Then my grandmother became very ill and passed away as well. Her death wasn’t unexpected- she was older than Hef. But this made the dark winter months significantly darker. Most recently, my grandfather was given an upsetting diagnosis.

The moment I received that troubling news, a decision was made. Nearly two months ago, The Great Unwashed ceased to be the only place where I write- currently I have two other writing projects on the go, so this blog can be whatever I choose. I pick family stories, whatever is clattering about my head on that particular day. The following are my heart’s musings for the day.

When I was fifteen and my sister was thirteen, our cat attempted suicide. Ringo concluded that he’d had enough of the excessive attention my sister lavished on him, that a life spent chasing a laser was not worth living and that perhaps my mother was buying the cheap cat food when truly Ringo deserved the expensive stuff with chunks of chicken rather than the machine pressed junk. So in a fit of angsty feline rage, he threw himself off the upstairs banister.

This is my version of the story. Despite cleaning our cats’ litter boxes for over a decade, I am not, nor have I ever been, a cat person. My mother has a different version.

Ringo was an acrobatic cat. Around the neighbourhood, he was known as the cat on the roof, because he would jump from the deck railing to the lower roof, finally making his way to the top of our forty foot house. Ringo was a thin, determined cat who knew what he wanted out of life- generally it was your chicken dinner. He walked around our house like he owned the place. Seeing as I spent my entire adolescence shoveling Ringo and his brother’s waste, I felt he had good reason for this.

Ringo used to taunt death by jumping onto our upstairs railing and walking along the thin curved piece of wood, twenty some feet in the air. He never once fell. At least until that day.

My mother recognized Ringo’s miscalculated landing immediately, had she not been in a hip to toe cast at the time, from a ruptured Achilles tendon, she herself would have rushed to Ringo’s aid. As it was, my mother’s cast cost Ringo the precious seconds it took for her to yell, “Dad! The cat!” Ever the knight in shining armor, my grandfather rushed to catch the now falling cat.

Granddad didn’t get there in time. But the point is he tried. Granddad tried even though he would constantly claim that we only had one black and white cat because he couldn’t tell the difference between the feline brother duo – Ringo and Splat. He tried, even though he hated cleaning up cat vomit especially when it was from a cat that didn’t belong to him. I have suspicion that Granddad does not actually like cats.

For all those concerned about the cat- Ringo used one of his nine lives that day and walked off without a scratch or even so much as a limp, whereas Granddad had to feel sorry that he didn’t catch our cat. Twice; once when he failed to actually catch the cat, and the other time when my mother relayed the tale to my sister and me over the phone while we were on vacation with our Dad.

This was the Granddad story I wanted to share this evening. He would tell you it’s less a story about him and more about our daredevil of a cat. True, but like so many of the stories of my life, Granddad was there, and I wanted to remember that he played a role. My grandfather of course loves having top billing but for this story he was there.

Also, the roof cat might not have been Ringo. My parents have had so many pets in their life that the cats blend together into one furry, Sarah-hating animal, that I spent years cleaning up after and chauffeuring to the vet.  All except for Splat who was almost as dirty and uncoordinated as me, God rest that filthy feline’s soul. If there is a lap to topple from in heaven, Splat is laying legs akimbo and irritated on the floor.

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All of the Words That Go Unsaid

My sister is the inspiration for this series of posts which will be a departure from my normal humour. During the brief period that she tweeted, Diana expressed multiple times that our Granddad was her favourite person. Immediately after the first time she tweeted this, her next tweet was “How do you tell a person that?” My answer- you just do.

In these next couple of posts, I want to communicate the love and gratitude I feel towards my grandparents. I’ve chosen this particular set of people in my life because at thirty-one, I know I’m running on borrowed time. I’m one of the few people my age with no less than three living grandparents and I recognize how precious and special that is. So without further ado, let’s start with my sister’s favourite person.

Granddad, this post could have been entitled all of the words that go unheard. I love you, even though my voice falls within the exact range of hearing that you’ve lost. I love you even though since you’ve gone deaf, you can’t hear my stories any more. I love you because you are the one who molded me into a storyteller. You’re the reason this blog and all of my ridiculous anecdotes exist. I learned the craft of humour and exaggeration, of careful weaving of details while sitting at the dinner table listening to you talk about gypsy children in Europe. I learned that stories change over time and become better, hyperboles grow and become their own parts of the tale; the bear that the gypsy children led around became more ferocious. You taught me the power in confessing one’s own follies, your frantic gestures conveying your panic as you reenacted tossing coins at the begging children and their “pet”. From you, I learned that every problem is an adventure, and every adventure a story and the bumps along the way only serve to make the narrative more engaging.

Since you lost your hearing, you can’t hear my stories now, but that doesn’t matter because I’m still listening to you. Just as you taught Diana and I to do, because each time you gently beckoned “Come here, I want to show you something”, although the tone was light, it was understood that we were to come now and listen carefully while we were at it. You are teased, somewhat unmercifully for this habit, but even when those explanations meant that my math homework took 80% longer because my Granddad had to explain how nautical miles were calculated even though it was a basic subtraction question which had nothing to do with the speed of ships and had merely mentioned the terminology, I still loved every minute of it. I adored your descriptions of each ingredient’s function in a loaf of bread as you carefully added the warm water, then the salt, then the butter to your delicious dough. Try as I might, my bread is never as tasty as yours.

All of those lessons are ingrained in Diana and me. Every time I mount my bike, I relive your lectures on bike safety; “Let me show you something” pointing to the various road signs, explaining their meaning. It was you and Gran who decided that eight was too old to be riding with training wheels anymore, so the two of you spirited Diana and I away for a weekend, then spent forty-eight hours gripping the backs of our bike seats, running behind us. Not to mention the countless rides we made as a family; you, Gran, Mom, Diana and I traveling along a path towards a picnic spot. To this day, I still hear your voice shouting at me as I approach a hill “Gear down”! Gear Down!” Is it any wonder that I prefer my silver Trek bicycle that you chose for me to a car any day?

I never learned how to dance well, but that didn’t prevent me from delighting in your and Gran’s skill each time that I watched the two of you dance together in the living room, the garage, at the Coyote Cave, or on television when Mom would painstakingly set the VCR to record “Club Dance”. I felt so special and grown up, attempting the steps you would repeat as we moved across the dance floor. I sometimes joke that “Baby Likes To Rock It Like A Boogie-Woogie Choo Choo Train” is the soundtrack of my childhood because I heard it so often. That lesson of life long activity and dedication to one’s passions has stayed with me.

Granddad, I love you, and you are one of my favourite people in the world for all the reasons I mentioned and hundreds more. And even though my son bearing your name probably tipped you off to that, I still wanted to write these words, because you are important; I am so grateful and blessed that you chose to take such an active role in my life.

The Great Unwashed, Coming to a Mailbox Near You -Travesty Tuesdays The Spam Edition

I recently came upon a collection of postcards. The images ran the gamut from Babysitter Club book covers, to remote locations in the US, to beautiful pieces of Italian art. Clearly when one comes upon such a bounty, there’s only one course of action- start inflicting yourself on the world in the form of postcards like you’ve discovered how to make 457 dollars a day and want to share the secret with everyone you know AND  all their friends.

No longer am I asking for volunteers to send cards to (for the record, I received one lone reply last time in response to that request) instead, if we once had a conversation and your address is listed- you’re on the list. I’ve got a lot of postcards and nothing but nonsense to cover them with. All I need are your addresses. Happily, over the years I’ve amassed an equally large collection of contact information that could almost but not quite keep up with my childhood love of 35 cent souvenirs.

Here’s an excerpt from the first batch

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Next to opening up their mailbox to find one of those novelty cheques for a million dollars, it’s everyone’s dream to receive a postcard like this, no?

Dear Iris,

I don’t know you well but I thought you’d enjoy receiving images of random cyclists exiting a tunnel in a place that I don’t remember the name of and that you likely don’t care about. It’s a part of my new campaign to treat the mail like the internet. I’m going to send 300 of my closest friends an offer to enlarge their vagina next.

Socially inappropriately yours,

Unwashed

 

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Don’t these people look hangry to you?

Dear Ben,

This is what it looked like in Ancient Rome when the lunch cart was late- people standing around, their stomachs rumbling and all of them grumbling about how Aelius must have gotten into the wine again and taken a dip in the aquaducts. If they’d had Twitter, they might have tweeted something passive aggressive like “Still hungry #thelionsaretooAelius” But instead after the fourth time this happened, they just fed the tardy man to the beasts. Then regretted it- no one could quite make his beef and fig dish the same way.

Much carnivorous action,

Unwashed

 

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The ghost of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s clothes is even more terrifying if you know that her father was a prison warden during the era of straps and racks in Canadian penitentiaries.

Dear Jared,

People are all “Wow, I can’t believe you write even though you have a baby” what they don’t know is that the mannequin  from this card appears to me in my dreams and threatens to suffocate me with her moth eaten veil that smells of mould if I don’t put pen to paper. It’s like the literary version of “Nightmare on Elm Street” The wallpaper also starts to spin in those dreams. This may be why I prefer paint. Happy Writing!

Sincerely, your friend and the undead spirit of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s clothes

 

My Grandfather is having a love affair with his new car. Incidentally his new car is Tex and my new car. Well, they’re the same make and model, so close enough. I wrote this to him because when Sula informed him one night over dinner that I had bought a car, (Yes, Sula is so lovely I have to share her with my grandparents.) apparently my grandfather’s fork just hovered in the air while he stared at my friend in disbelief with his mouth open. The idea of me doing something normal like buying a car was shocking I guess. I sent this to him to tease him, because trading in our lovely, practical minivan for something absurd would be just the kind of ridiculousness I strive for every day.

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As you can see my ride comes pre-pimped, no need for a reality TV show.

Dear Granddad,

Did you hear the news? We decided to trade in our can for something more practical. Our new car is pictured on the front. After all, how is one supposed to go joy riding in something with side air bags? Where the fun? Where’s the sense of peril? There’s just no point in driving unless you can feel the wind in your hair, the rain puddling at your feet and your childrens’ fingers pinching your side as they cling to you with their nails while trying not to fall out of the car. I’m off to pick up Betty and Archie for the shin dig, Archie’s jalopy broke down again, thank goodness mine is reliable. It’ll be a swell night.

Love, Unwashed

The next card was sent to a man who began as a friend of Tex’s and became a friend of mine, so much so that when I sent him an unsigned postcard, he figured out who had sent it. If sending weird pieces of anonymous mail and then being called on it isn’t a sign of a good friendship, I don’t know what is.

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Hammy’s post petite potatoes diet head shots

Dear Wyatt “Why did I give Tex’s crazy wife my address” Strumpber,

This is Hammy Swine. After spending his childhood working the petting zoo circuit thanks to his momager, Larda, he tried out for the role of “Bebe” hoping to make it big. Obviously he was rejected seeing as the role went to a younger, pinker, thinner pig. Ever the fighter, Hammy was determined and went on a diet of small potatoes when he learned of a Babe related opportunity- “Babe 17: Bringing Bacon Back”. Hammy was elated when his newfound weight loss led to a supporting role. Tragically Justin Timberlake passed on the role of the hiphopping farmer so the project was kiboshed. Now Hammy spends his days sitting on street corners trying to sell future shares in his own pork roasts in exchange for watermelon. It’s a story that reminds us to just let pigs be pigs.

Wow, that got dark and very weird fast. Even for me. I think I’m going to stop there.

Belly Button Watch 2013

I have a nice belly button. It looks kind of like most other people’s belly buttons, a little taut, but not too taut. An inny. Your standard issue belly button. And to be honest until recently I never gave it much thought.

However lately it’s come to my attention that my belly button has become a thing of interest. At work people sneak glances at it, during family parties my grandparents openly study it. This new unexplained interest in my naval has me confused. I have a theory on it though. As a child I had a lovely smile and so people enjoyed gazing at my face. In my teens and early twenties glances drifted a little further south. And now in my late twenties people’s interest has settled firmly on my abdomen. It has left me wondering whether people are going to spend my late thirties and early forties looking intently at my knee caps. Perhaps this downward focused trend will continue right into my fifties and sixties where I’ll catch people randomly examining my toes.

Or possibly it has to do with the proliferation of technology and that people have simply forgotten where to look and in the future, social mores will dictate that staring off in every direction but the speaker is an acceptable practice. At any rate all this preoccupation is giving my poor naval a bit of a complex. It’s left pondering whether it should borrow the clip on belly button ring which flashes green and pink from my mother so it feels it might deserve all this newfound attention.

If this keeps up, I know one thing’s for sure- I’m going to spend a lot less time doing my hair and makeup in the morning.

 

Revolutionary Diet Secrets of the Great Unwashed

It’s the New Year! Oprah and Doctor Oz have decided that everyone is too fat. But before you get upset, read on, because they’re willing to help you!

 Now I would post what Doctor Oz and Oprah recommend for a “Newer, Healthier You” but that would be plagiarism. And it would also severely detract from advertising my diet plan. Now I haven’t patented it yet, or copyrighted it, or whatever you’re supposed to do to prevent people from stealing your brilliant dieting secrets but since you are all fans and avid lovers of my Unwashed wisdom, I will share my slim down strategy with you.

My diet is called the “Would Tori Spelling Eat That?” diet. For those of you who don’t spend hours perusing the 791.45 section of the library also known as the “Biographies of D-list movie stars and the cast of Jersey Shore” section, Tori Spelling is Aaron Spelling’s daughter. I can’t tell you much about Aaron mostly because he was a somewhat respectable character and I only read poorly written biographies about people who probably really shouldn’t have biographies. On that note I’ve read all four of Tori’s books and her mother’s.

Anyway, so Tori was on a big TV show in the 90’s but mostly she’s known for being very,very skinny and not having much acting ability. This doesn’t prevent me from watching the majority of her work including the very mediocre and disturbing “House of Yes”. Let’s just say the theme of incest figured prominently into the movie. Roscoe thinks that she looks like a cross between an alien and a praying mantis. Personally I think she’s pretty- potato, potahto, same thing.

Anyhow, on with the weight loss!

 

The “Would Tori Spelling Eat that?” Diet

Step 1.

Find multiple pictures of Tori Spelling. Ideally she should be pursing her lips so her cheekbones all but slice through the paper you’re going to print the picture on.

Step 2.

Print the picture. Now some people might lump this in with step one however I enjoy checking off steps and our printer also HATES me. Almost as much as the photocopiers at my work. It waits until I need to print something vital and then abruptly stops working, or prints it backwards and upside down or on polka dotted paper. Now admittedly the last one might be partially my fault for loading the printer with polka dotted paper however it works so infrequently for me that I’m going to shift the blame onto the obviously faulty technology. You may want to have a bit of Printer Crack on hand to complete this step.

 Step 3.

Post pictures of Tori Spelling’s head all around your living space, wherever you eat. You could even put her picture in the bathroom because even toothpaste has calories and everyone loves being watched while they pee. Note I may be making the toothpaste calorie thing up.

Step 4.

Cut out large speech bubbles then take a thick Sharpie marker and write the following messages in block letters “Would I eat that?”,  “That doesn’t look like thin air”,  “I exist entirely on lettuce and my love for the children that I’m constantly having.”  Then put the speech bubbles next to the disembodied Tori heads that you’ve posted around your apartment.

 

 

Allright you caught me, this isn’t actually a diet plan but a ruse to make people cover their houses with pictures of Tori Spelling’s head with odd quotes next to them. If truth be told you’re better off with the Oprah magazine. Unless you have a thing for reality TV décor, in which case, I think you’ll really like my blog.

The Fallout of the Grand Opening

So ever since the Grand Opening I’ve been expecting a visit. For those of you who are just arriving the Grand Opening was last week, you missed it. There were balloons, and rotten egg flavoured pastries. Anyway, since unleashing the Great Unwashed on the world I’ve been expecting a knock at my door. Mostly because I know that this scenario is going to be happening at some point in the future.

~Somewhere in the Kawarthas~

The sound of a phone ringing. It’s my great aunt calling my Granddad to catch up.

(Sorry Aunty Betty, I’m not meaning to pin Granddad finding out about my blog on you, someone was bound to tell him.)

Granddad – “She what?”

The sounds of scrabbling and Granddad stepping over three poodles to get to his beloved laptop that Roscoe helped pick out. More sounds, this time of furious typing.

Granddad’s eyes will scan the web page, growing more alarmed with each line he reads. Finally he’ll bellow “Gran! Get the dogs in the RV, we’re going to visit our wayward granddaughter.”

Several driving and dog filled hours later there will be the sounds of footsteps and paws coming up the steps and violating our “No Pets” lease followed by a knock on my front door.

I’ll open it. He’ll gruffly hand me something before pulling me into a hug and an equally gruff lecture.

Granddad- “Here’s some soap, start bathing dammit and you need to stop telling the world that you don’t.”

It hasn’t happened yet but I‘m expecting a reaction on par with the one that I received when I dyed my hands bright purple on Boxing Day five years ago.

Sage Advice From Granddad

Time – 9:12 AM

Date- Christmas Morning 2012

Place – Grandparent’s House

Granddad stops me in the hall.

Granddad- You look pretty.

Me- Thank you, Roscoe actually picked this out.

Granddad- It’s very nice. You should listen to him and to Diana about what to wear. (Diana is my sister who has excellent taste in everything and chooses the majority of my clothing that I look nice in.)

I nod in agreement

Granddad- And you should wear make up more than three days a week. When you first met Roscoe he was smitten and followed you around like a puppy dog. Now he’s a handsome doctor and spends everyday surrounded by cute nurses.

So essentially Granddad feels I need to try harder. And that I occasionally look like a swamp monster, and that this may result in Roscoe divorcing me. I may have made the situation worse by telling Granddad that Roscoe gets asked out by single mothers directly after he delivers their babies.