Fireside Chat


imgresAs we gathered around the fireside enjoying the ambiance of a warm room, dim flickering light, and amiable conversation, my daughter Carrie made note of the fact that the logs had burned quite low. Nobody did very much about it—neither my husband Rolly who usually likes to be in charge of such things, my son-in-law Phil who, at that particular moment didn’t seem remotely interested, nor my brother-in-law Bob who is much too polite to wrest control of the situation from his host.

It could have been remedied with such a miniscule effort, but I wasn’t about to get into a confrontation with my adorable spouse who, as usual, had the remedy to the situation close at hand but refused to give the control to anyone else.

When I couldn’t stand it any more— after ten or so minutes of his totally ignoring my pleas to remedy the situation, or at least let someone else do it— I yelled (well maybe not yelled, as I was trying to be polite.”For crying out loud! Change it to One Eight Four Zero, the French fireplace channel right now or I’m going to come over there and grab that stupid remote control right out of your hand and do it myself! French or English! It doesn’t matter—the sound is on mute anyway!”

Just then— as if in response to my agitation at the fact that the fire was losing the last of its pre-recorded, copyrighted flames to a bed of glowing embers— the screen momentarily faded out and then burst into new life again, with a blaze that would merit a call to 911 to get the Middlesex Centre Volunteer Fire Department over here immediately— if it had been real and not the big screen version of reality.

At least the larger than life hand that used to appear onscreen and clasp the larger than life tongs, to position new logs on the fire, had been wisely edited out since last year (on both French and English versions). There is nothing quite so disturbing when one is gently dozing off in a most relaxed mood, on a housebound pre-Christmas evening, than the shocking apparition of a disembodied arm! Especially when it’s clutching a deadly weapon (as defined by Perry Mason anyway). Heavy eyelids after too little sleep are a prerequisite for viewing apparitions I think.The disembodied arm should never have been there in the first place. It always ruined the illusion of reality in the same way that Alfred Hitchcock would if he were to jump up from behind the couch, during his movie Psycho, with a “You’ll really like this next bit!”

When we have agreed to let fantasy become our reality—if only for a little while— then any worm holes in the illusion of that perceived reality are really discombobulating. Just as using the word “discombobulating” right there, while in the midst of the illusion that I am an actual writer, is discomfiting (a much more noble word) for both my reader and myself.

When most of us are content (at least some of the time) to sit around the pseudo fireplace, what other compromises are we as a society willing to succumb to in the name of Convenience, in the name of Economics, in the name of …well, in all likelihood, in the name of Laziness?

Too much of a couch potato to bother with exercise? Maybe watching those young, fit, perfect bodies on TV, stepping, jumping and gyrating through their moves will improve your blood pressure. Too low? Watch Zoomba! Too high? Watch Yoga instead. All this is totally vicarious of course. But if the word vicarious contains the word “vicar” then surely this can’t be anything but a wholesome and well-adjusted approach to life (if PBS offerings on idylic life in Britain can be trusted.)

What about those of you who dislike any kind of spicy or adventuresome food experiences? How in the world, with such a limited exposure to jalapeños, are you ever going to mix in at parties? With such an untrained palate how can you ever hope to properly use the right terminology when interacting socially, on the odd occasion when you leave your hearth side? You, me, and your uncle are now expected to say things like “rich and full-bodied” “aged” “nutty” or “earthy” when describing ingredients for recipes— rather than potential blind dates! The remedy is equally simple here. You can easily acquire that talent from Chef Shows like Chopped, Master Chef and Hell’s Kitchen. Well, maybe not Hell’s Kitchen unless you only ever want to talk about Scallops, Beef Wellington and Risotto— a kind of savoury rice porridge nobody can get right, apparently, even though it seems to be all they ever make. Gordon Ramsey’s adjectives are rather limited too, or bleeped out altogether —even when he’s describing foods. Though I suppose you might learn the right  adjective from him every now and then when an earthy one is actually called for.

Moving on to other avenues of obtaining  culture— Have you heard yet that you can actually experience a Symphony Orchestra performance identical to one you would actually need to leave your home for, while going only as far as your own living room? Just get yourself a Bose music system and put on that new evening gown and that new tux and stretch out in your matching Lazy Boy chairs. Close to the refreshments and no line ups at the washrooms. Awesome!

Want a seat that’s just as close as the front row at the next big hockey game? Just order yourself a pair of Zoomies— the special glasses that you can now wear to actually live that experience— at only $19.99, (Second pair free! Just pay shipping and handling!) Wow! Two of you can watch from the equivalent of the first row, for fewer than fifty bucks and save at least a few thousand dollars! Even if you have a TV the size of a toaster the promise is that it will make your TV into a large screen and there’s at least another thousand saved!  And by staying home you won’t even have to fight your way through the snow. Now, on the other hand, if you love snow and can’t get enough of it you can still pick it up in a can at Wal-Mart and spray it into the corners of all your windows! Just like in the olden days! There really is a remedy for everything, if you choose to allow a little bit of illusion be your solution.

This morning when I got up bright and early (not actually bright yet, but definitely early) the first thing I did was turn on the bathroom light. For a few seconds I wasn’t sure who it was that looked back at me from the mirror— perhaps I was dreaming. It wasn’t the way I wanted to begin my day anyway, acknowledging that the hands of time had definitely been wrestling with and trying to reposition some of my favourite parts. I can identify now with how Mr. Potato Head must feel at the end of his day in a kindergarten class.

For a moment or two I thought about sorting through some photos of myself and scanning and enlarging a picture of my face that was taken on a nice sunny relaxing holiday— maybe about ten years ago. I could always stick it to the centre of my bathroom mirror.

But then, who needs reality anymore? After all, if I want the real thing I can always just open myself a can of Coke! 

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