Friday, December 28, 2012

AGO a Go-Go

I live in a world class city that is vibrant with music, art, culture and heroin needles. When it was announced that the elementary teachers would stage a walkout exactly one week before Christmas I knew I had get my kid out of the house. My child had become a raging cyclone of hyperactive destruction due to the very idea Santa was coming soon. Where better to take her then a place filled with priceless art?

It's better then her knocking over our IKEA lamp I’ll tell you this much. So, I took the kids and my eldest daughter’s friend to the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Family Heirloom

My youngest daughter is only 14 months old at this point and if she starts sleeping at night I may let her advance beyond that, but for now we stay at 14 months. This means she needs a mode of transportation. My favorite being the baby carrier which I carry on my back since it’s the least spine compressing option. This carrier is also like a roofie to her and she usually passes out while in it.

As we entered the gallery this was the case. A security guard, who obviously is not a parent asked me to put her on my front. I looked at him incredulously and said, “no”. He wasn’t used to this answer and sputtered for a moment. I explained that removing this sleeping baby is akin to pulling the wrong wire on a time bomb. Everyone in a three block radius would feel the shock wave. He allowed us to enter.

Before going in to look at any art I gave the two five-year-olds a lecture on behaviour in the gallery.

What I said: “No running, no touching the art, no wandering off.”
What they heard: “ There is a candy cane in the snack bag, a delicious candy cane. One for each of you!”

Christmas crack

We started in the European section of the gallery where immediately one of the kids decided it was super important that we all be aware the women in the picture was showing her boobies. She did this by using a gallery map to reach up to the painting and touch it. I quickly wondered if the AGO was like going to a movie and if you have to leave within the first twenty minutes you got your money back. Instead a stern looking security guard appeared.

What he said: “Don’t touch the art!”
What they heard: “Candy canes are still in the snack bag!”

The thing about European art is that they loved their bloody Jesus. Everywhere you turn you see a tortured bleeding Jesus. My daughter decided she couldn’t stomach Jesus (as an non practicing atheist this made me proud) and refused to look at any of the crucifixion paintings, going so far as to enter each room with her eyes shielded until her friend told her there were no Jesus pictures.

This lead to the following conversation:
“Jesus was scary when he was nailed to wood.”
“They nailed him to wood as decoration.”
“People as decoration is gross... except at Halloween.”

Boo! Happy Halloween!

Next we went to the The Dr. Mariano Elia Hands-On Centre an area where kids can do their own art, sculptures and in a bit of a stretch dress like princesses and row a boat.

It’s a good place to go with a baby if you enjoy moving scissors out of reach for an hour.

The Baby Alligator Pit is also a good draw. "Behind you!"

Then it was lunch time, otherwise known as “If I Get Through This Gross Food I May Just Get That Candy Cane Now” time. The great thing about the AGO is not only do kids five-years and under get in free, but they also eat free in the cafeAGO. So my tip to you, order yourself the cheapest thing on the menu and wait for your kids to declare they suddenly hate Mac and Cheese and eat theirs. Word of warning though: the Mac and Cheese is delivered to the table hotter then molten lava, ensuring that a hungry child either goes crazy waiting for it to cool down or gives themselves third degree burns.

One of the kids waited until everyone else was finished their meals and then announced they didn’t like their Mac and Cheese, a food I’ve watched them eat roughly 10,000 times with no issues. She was hungry and wanted something else. So back to the line we went and ordered a grilled cheese sandwich. I was surprised to find I didn’t have to pay for a second selection for the kids. I felt like loading my arms up with kids selections and asking for a to-go bag.

After lunch I took the kids to the Contemporary area, which is my favorite area. There is currently an exhibit of Evan Penny’s work, who does amazingly lifelike silicon human sculptures.

The girls looked at the above work “Aerial” and started snickering at the penis. I launched into my lecture of how it’s just a body part and not funny. In truth penises are of course hilarious. Just ask anyone who has seen one.

I then saw a sign that read, “Line drawing class in session, no photography allowed.” I saw people sketching one of the sculptures. The girls wanted to go over and ask if they could help. Recently during a trip to Allan Gardens, a greenhouse conservatory, a woman let the girls use her pastels to fill in some sky for her, and they now assume every artist will be welcoming to a five-year-old scribbling on their work. I was about to say sure they could ask when I saw the sculpture’s penis jiggle and realized it was a nude model they were sketching. I quickly turned the girls around and headed back to bleeding Jesus where there were less questions for me to answer.

Whoops, this isn't the cafeteria!

As we hit the elevator someone who works at the gallery looked at us and said, “Just to warn you, there is a line drawing session happening on this floor.”

I answered, “Thank you, but we’ve already ran into it. And as a suggestion you should change the warning sign from reading ‘line drawing’ to ‘real live naked hairy man around corner’ in order to be clear.”

Throughout the day there was plenty of questions to be answered about the various art work. Such as this piece:

“Why is that man pooping out a head?”

Or this Piece:

Five-year-old: “I would put a sink, a bathtub and a toilet on the wall.”
Me: “Your art would then be three times better than that one.”

The AGO has plenty of places for kids to try their hand at art. At this time there was the Frida and Diego exhibit where you could try your hand at Frida’s style.

"You call this inspired by Frida? I call it inspired by bullshit!"

Best Exhibit: The Elevator. A study in vertical movement

In the end it was a good day and yes, they did get their candy canes on the ride home.

Well played AGO, well played.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Common Street Trash

They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. When it comes to a five-year-old everyone's trash is their treasure.
Happy Birthday Darling

Recently my eldest daughter and her friend have started picking up any litter they find on the ground and proclaiming it “precious”.

A fine role model

It started with things that I thought wasn’t that odd, a torn out page of a calendar with a bunny and a kitten, or a broken Transformer left on the curb for taking.

The cat later devoured the bunny

Then things started to get strange. Bus transfers were deemed worthy of collection (but only the ones on stiff paper that come from subway stations, the flimsy paper ones on buses and streetcars were below the girls. Then things got ridiculous, pine needles, wrapping paper and flyers for sales. It’s as though they are making a disgusting nest in a tree somewhere.

A good day of hunting

Anytime we walk by a stand with free pamphlets its like they won the lottery. Going to the passport office with me was a super special treat as they stuffed their bags with documents outlining duty free amounts and shouting, “I’m going to decorate my room with these!” If they ever followed through with putting these things on their walls they would look like every conspiracy theorist depicted on television ever.

Weekly on the way to swimming lessons we pass a bank of newspaper boxes. This is most exciting. Can you guess which of the four boxes in the below picture two five-year-olds would most want to pillage?

That’s right the pink box! Xtra, Canada's Gay and Lesbian News.  I think even the editors of these fine publications would have to agree that the contents are probably not suited for their age group. And I don’t want to have to answer their questions about some of the pictures in there.

Well, the chimney gets hot, so sometimes Santa has to take off his shirt while he goes down... I mean enters the house!

I dictated that they only take from the green, blue or orange boxes. Given how outspoken I am for my dislike of Barbie, I think they must believe there are magazines in there all about her and her pink convertible.

I’ve gone to keeping my eyes on the ground ahead of us as we walk to spot anything I don’t want them picking up. The other day while walking to school I spotted something hiding under the bushes. It was bright orange with little pink spikes. In my head I was begging them not to pick it up and decided it was best not to point it out. Sure enough one of the girls picked up a penis tickler sleeve. I screamed, “Put it down! Drop it right now!” with my best Daddy voice. A parent I was walking with asked me what it was. Not wanting to profess my knowledge of the specific names of such things I spelled out, “c-o-c-k-r-i-n-g”.

I had to look at a lot of penises to find this picture. Then I remembered the Internet and looked at even more.

The girls immediately wanted to know why they couldn’t have it, or even touch it. I was stuck. I find reverting to the “Because I said so,” never works. I had to give an excuse. My mind raced, then crashed and failed me, “People put it on their privates.”
“Why?” my daughter asked.
“For decoration,” I answered, while in the back of my mind I knew this answer would only raise more suspicion and questions.
“It looks like it would hurt.”
“Nope, it’s quite soft.” Then I ran away forever.

The other parent both laughed at me and said it was very brave of me to actually answer the question.  The bigger problem is that the damned thing is still there and every day we walk by it I see the girls glance at it full of curiosity. That’s why I am hoping for a teachers strike only to give me a break from the daily awkwardness.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Everyone Loves A Parade... Except Everyone

I am a sucker for the Santa Claus parade. I’m not sure why, being that I usually shy away from crowds and sentimentality of all kinds. So don’t expect me at your funeral especially if you are popular. I think it comes from my childhood in a small Ottawa Valley town where the Christmas parade had less floats and music and more drunken farmers driving tractors while wearing Santa hats.

Me, dressed inexplicably like a bunny vomiting over the side of a float. Festive!

The Toronto Santa Claus Parade has tons of bands, clowns and festive floats.

Ho-ho-whoring out the parade. Own it on Blu-ray today!

Yearly I take my daughters out to the parade. My wife rarely joins us as she has a) many social engagements, and b) brains.
"Have fun in the cold."

It took a few years to find the right place for us to watch. We used to go to a main street in the city in order to watch the crowds prevent cyclists from crossing the street before the parade started for fear of losing their section of curb. I saw parents bring ladders for their children to sit on while they spilled scalding hot chocolate on the children below like the monarchy in a castle defending themselves from rebelling citizens. Because we don't have a car (again, because we are better than you) I resort to hoisting my daughter up on my shoulders, known as nature's ladder.

I'm not smiling, that's the face you make when your spine is being compressed beyond the body's natural limit
 The last three years we have gone to the same place where there is lots of green space to play.

Another fine view this year for the small children. This photo was taken moments before these two were punched in the back of the head.

It’s a big lead up to the parade waiting for it to start while denying my child the cotton candy that obvious hobos are selling along the route. We check the "Santa Tracker" on my phone every twenty seconds to see if Santa is on the way. That is until my daughter notices I have Angry Birds and although she has no idea what that is, enough kids at school have hats and backpacks adorning their likeness that she knows its a thing she should want and then begins to whine to play it.

Then it begins! Empty transport trucks that are sent ahead to store the floats until next year are the first things we see. Nothing says holiday fun like teamsters.


They no longer throw candy at the kids, instead promotional materials are lightly tossed into the crowd. Last year upon receiving a promotional activity book for the Smurfs movie, my daughter asked me, “Why isn’t this fun?”

"Just cuz"

The floats are always the real reason to go to the parade. The craftsmanship of the sign advertising a company is always breathtaking.
Look, he has enslaved his own kind to do his bidding.

Yes, human is hard to digest properly.
Then the fat man arrives. I am of course taking about our recently ousted mayor. It’s refreshing to see people boo and throw knickknacks back towards the parade.


We then hear a roar down the street, it’s the sounds of a urine tsunami as children pee their pants with excitement. Santa has arrived sitting high up above the crowds looking down on them like the benevolent dictator he is. After all he sees you when your sleeping...

Seen here with his pre-show Fluffer

Then it’s all over, everyone packs up their lawnchairs and Drambui for another year. Leaving only the magic of Christmas swirling in the empty streets.

It's like Fairy Dust only smelly