Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Tanks for nothing

When I was in my late teens to early 20's, I had a 50 gallon aquarium in my bedroom which housed two piranha. I had them for several years and at some point, for some reason I decided to give them away. The brother of a friend of mine had two 100 gallon built-in tanks in their rec room and one wasn't being used, so they said they would take them. I don't recall how I moved these guys to their new home or what I did with the old aquarium and accessories (and I had a lot of them!).

Recently, I've had the idea in my head to get a couple of goldfish and a simple bowl. I've been thinking that it would be a nice relaxing bit of serenity to watch the fish gently swimming by.

The squeeze and I went to the pet store on the weekend to look at bowls and fish. We looked at the bowls, but decided it would be better to get something a bit larger that we could use a filter on so we don't have to change the water quite as often. They had a 10 gallon starter set for $99, but for another 20 or 30 bucks you can get the 20 gallon kit which includes a heater that the 10 gallon tank doesn't have. We decided to think it over. I called my folks to see if my old tank was still at their house. Like I said, I have no idea what happened to it. I might have given it away to someone...I just don't know who. My father checked the basement. No dice. So that settled it. I decided to go back and take another look at the 20 gallon tank. Well....I was looking at the tanks side by side, and they also had a 32 gallon tank kit that was calling my name. I figured, the bigger the tank, the more fish we can have.

So the next thing I knew, I was loading up the cart with gravel, live aquatic plants, background scenery and the 32 gallon tank. When I left the store I was down nearly $400. After miraculously fitting this huge thing into my car, we drove home so I could set up the tank and let it run a bit before going back for the fish. I noticed that The Squeeze was being rather quiet as I was loading up at the pet store and on the way home. Turns out he was a bit concerned with the money I was spending. Quite frankly, so was I, but hey, it somehow made sense to me as it was all happening.

We arrived at home and unloaded everything and I began to set up the aquarium in our guest room / computer room where we spend a fair bit of time, and where it would actually fit. I managed to get the whole thing set up in a few hours with little to no difficulty, taking pauses to watch the included DVD for tips and instructions. According to the DVD, once everything is set up and running, you are ready to add your fish. Off we went to buy the new occupants.

We wandered around the fish department for a good half hour before someone asked if we needed help. I explained that I was looking to pick up some fish for my new aquarium.

"How many days have you had it running?" he asked.

"Umm....I just set it up today, so it's only been a couple of hours," I said.

"OK, that's too soon to add the fish," he replied. "You should wait at least 72 hours, but to be extra safe, I'd let it run a week before adding fish."


"Ya, if everything isn't stabilized, it can cause stress on the fish that could kill them," he told me.

"Alright then. I guess I'll have to come back in a few days then. So what fish would you recommend for a communal tank?" I ask.

He showed me a few types to begin adding to the aquarium first. I'm not even sure why I had him show me, because I can't remember any of the names and I'm sure I'll be asking the same questions when I go back later on. I asked him about putting fantail goldfish in it and he looked at me like I just sprouted another head.

"Well, you can either have a goldfish tank or you can have a tropical tank," he stated.

"Oh. OK then. I think I'll have to do a bit of reading up on this stuff," I said.

The Squeeze and I headed back out to the car a bit disappointed that we wouldn't see our new pets swimming around for a few days. Or a week as the pet store guy recommended. I think I'm going to be looking up some info on the net and maybe picking up "Aquariums for Dummies", because, hey, that's me. Piranhas are much easier! Who knew?

After we got home, The Squeeze was working on the computer, and I was lying on the guest bed with our cat beside me. And I was staring into this 32 gallon vacant tank, trying to get the cat to look at the aquarium and get excited about this new addition to our home. Every so often, the water from the filter would create a current that would move one of the leaves of the plants. It was thrilling.

There's something to be said for instant gratification. I could have bought the bowl and two goldfish and we'd have entertainment right now, not to mention a few hundreds dollars off my Visa bill. Of course, open fish bowl + cat = dinner. Ya, we're better off waiting.


How do they find me???

OK, this is just bizarre. For some strange reason, a good number of my new clients arrive at the shop and say something along the line of "you guys must be new here" or people find us in the phone book and need a complete set of directions to get here. We have been here more than ten years, and we are on a pretty main thoroughfare in this city right near any number of landmarks. Why they can't notice us or find us is beyond me.

What really kills me is that on countless occasions, people have come into my shop instead of any of the varied variety stores, coffee shops, fast food joints, etc. to ask for directions. It seems that people who have no idea at all where they are come in so I can tell them where to go...or at least how to get there.

Another treat is the seemingly endless parade of those door to door vendors with their cardboard boxes full of useless junk. I had two of them in today. One of the guys is pretty much a regular, and he's a nice guy, good sense of humour. He's always throwing free stuff my way if I buy a certain little item. Since I need some kids toys to donate to a local Christmas fund, I bought a child's laptop computer for $40 ($89 value...says so right on the box. whatever.). As an added bonus he gave me four Disney colouring book packages. Eight books plus crayons in each of the kits. So for $40 I've got gifts for 5 needy kids and I don't have to go to the mall. Win:win.

But a few minutes ago, a guy with a very thick Asian accent came in. What I got from him is that he wanted me to drive him somewhere because his car broke down. So....ya, why don't I just lock up my business and get in my car to take some stranger somewhere? I couldn't understand if he wanted me to take him to his car - what would be the point in that, and besides, wasn't he just there? And how did he get here from there? When I explained to the man that I can't just lock up my business to give him a ride, he said "you give me money for cab. I come tomorrow pay back."

I figured this sounded just a bit too fishy, and quite frankly, the money tree I planted didn't take. I had to decline. A friend of mine recently told me that when someone asks him for money in situations like this, he says "sorry, I'd love to help you out, but there are a lot of scammers out there asking people for money, and I don't know whether you are one of them or not." He said that normally people say "ok man, no problem". Me...well, I feel more comfortable telling a lie and saying I don't have any money.

So the guy just walked toward the street and continued on his way. Since I didn't see where he came from when he got here, I decided to check the business next door to mine to see if he was in there before he got to me. Nope. It looks like he was just walking along and decided to hit me up for a ride. What the hell? Why me? I'm not the frickin' Goodwill or Sally Ann.

I think I do my share. I donate to toy drives, food banks, shelters, etc. Maybe word got out about that. Nah...I'm just being paranoid. Or am I?

Friday, November 18, 2005


Spare some change?

I was out for lunch with a couple of friends on Saturday at this little sushi buffet place we go to pretty much every week. After we left the building, we stood outside the front door and said our goodbyes. This ragged looking guy was walking through the parking lot, turned on his heel and headed right toward me. Of course he came up to me and not my friends because, hey, after all, I AM the Freak Magnet. He held out his hand with two quarters in it, and stuttered out "Hey buddy, do you think you could help me out to buy a cup of coffee?"

Now normally, I tend not to fork out money to people on the streets as a rule, but for some reason I was feeling somewhat charitable at the moment. Maybe it was because I was with some friends and I didn't want to look like a cheap bastard. Hmmmm.... Anyway, I reached into my pocket and pulled out a loonie (Canada's one dollar coin, not to be confused with our twonie - the two dollar coin). I handed it to the guy, making his total $1.50 (not counting all the other money I'm sure he had in his pocket). I figured that would buy the guy a coffee at the Tim Horton's coffee shop on the next corner. He looked into his palm and said "That helps."

Then he leaned in toward me a bit closer and said "Hey buddy, do you have another one of those you can give me?" Incredulously, I just looked at the guy and said "I just gave you a dollar. What you have there will buy you a coffee." Then he turned and walked off.

You know, that kinda chapped my ass. I gave the guy a buck, he didn't even say 'thanks', unless 'that helps' counts, and then he tries to get me to double the donation.

My one friend said that she never gives pan-handlers money. She tells them that there is a Salvation Army at the corner of (wherever the hell it is.....Walk & Don't) and they would gladly give him something warm to drink and probably something to eat as well. She's got great boundaries.

My other friend, the Psych Nurse, told me that one of her co-workers carries Tim Horton's gift certificates in her purse and gives those to the pan-handlers so they can get coffee or a bite to eat instead of giving them cash. She figures that they are more apt to use the money for booze, cigarettes or drugs, so she refuses to help them do that. On one occasion, this woman handed someone one of the gift certificates, and the person threw it back in her face. Obviously, they weren't intending to use the money they asked for to buy coffee like they said.

My friends and I parted ways and got into our cars, and as I drove out of the parking lot, I see the recipient of my limited generosity heading down the street in the direction of the coffee shop. Hmm...ok, maybe he was going to use it for coffee. As I'm thinking to myself that maybe I was a bit quick in judging him, he changed directions, held out his hand and headed toward a woman in another parking lot who had just parked her car and was walking through the lot. I'm sure he probably showed her the same two quarters he showed to me. My loonie mingling with all the other donated cash in his pocket.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


The psychiatrist is in.

I work with a lot of artists. Some of them are quite good; some, not. But most are at least good for some entertainment. Many of my clients treat this place like their therapist's office. I hear WAY too much.

One lady I've dealt with for a couple of years (I'll call her Sally) was in a month or so back to pick up some things and we chatted for a bit. She told me that she recently got some news from her doctor and she was quite worried. I didn't want to pry for details, but I'm assuming it's cancer. Sally is dreading that this may be her last Christmas, and I'm really hoping she's wrong because she's quite a nice person and she would be missed.

Sally went on to tell me that she almost accidentally killed herself by falling asleep at the wheel and going off the road on her way home one day (she was only a few doors away). Then she explained how she almost got arrested at a furniture store after the clerk there called the police on her because she threatened to eat something in the store after seeing the clerk with her coffee and donut. Apparently there is a sign that says "no food or drink allowed". Sally's under a bit of stress and apparently the clerk was being rude to her. So I guess she said "Well if you can eat and drink in here, maybe I'll eat this slice of pizza I have here in my bag." She apparently bought it to feed to her dog (I don't get it either), but while she waited for the police to arrive, she went outside and ate the evidence.

Sally called her husband in the meantime, and he came to meet her at the store where the police had just arrived. She told me that her husband was explaining to the officers that she's been under a lot of stress lately, and that she didn't realize what she was doing. So Sally is telling me that her husband thinks that she's crazy. She was a bit ticked off about that.

Well, a few weeks went by, and Sally and her husband came into the shop to have some work done. He stepped out to visit another shop in the mall, and I said "Well I haven't seen you in a while, where have you been?"

"I've been in the loony bin for three weeks" she told me.


"Yes, they kept me a lot longer than they should have. You know how I like to make people laugh, so I was being funny acting like a clown to cheer everyone up, and they thought I was still crazy so they kept me."

I thought it was funny that she mentioned the word "clown" because her make-up kinda made me think of that word too. Her lipstick was greatly exaggerated and her cheeks were just a bit overdone with the blush too. It sort of looked like she applied her make-up with a roller. (A friend of mine who works in the mental health field said that it's quite common to see people with mental illness do that.)

Before her husband came back in to get her, she reached into her pocket and said "I've got a present for you". She pulled out a tea bag and a packet of sugar. I was a bit confused, but she said "It's tea - your last name begins with 'T' so I thought you'd get a kick out of it".

Ya, this psych nurse friend of mine told me that's another sign of mental illness. Loose association that makes sense to them, but to nobody else. Gotta agree with that one!

So a couple of weeks have gone by since that day, and they haven't been back to pick up the work they brought in that I told them would be ready the very next day. I'm wondering if she's back in "the loony bin".

I wonder what she'll bring me next time.

I just thank God that my last name doesn't begin with 'P'.

Friday, November 11, 2005


Freak #1 - Peeler Hunt

OK, so I picked the blog name "Freak Magnet Dave" because there never seems to be a shortage of the freaks that I seem to encounter. So why haven't I written about any of them yet? That's a damn good question! So let's begin...

Last night was my late night working at my framing shop. While on the phone discussing something with my business partner who was out of the shop at the time, the front door opened and a guy in his mid 20's walked in. I got off the phone and asked him how I could help him. Since I didn't recognize him as a client who had brought something in to be framed and he didn't have anything in his hands I assumed he wasn't here to pick up or drop off anything. Immediately I thought "Either he's here for directions, or he's going to rob me." I'd hate to lose the ten bucks in the till. Nobody here pays with cash.

"Hey buddy, where's The Pussy Palace?" (a local strip club, not its real name, but we call it that)
I notice by the pink of his eyes that he had already drunk or toked a few before he came in.
I gave him the directions, but he didn't leave. He just sort of hung out for a few minutes, which made me wonder what his weapon of choice was going to be.

"Hey buddy, do you sell cameras?" he asked.
"Umm....no, we just frame the finished product...and I don't think they let you take cameras into The Pussy Palace" I reply.
"Do you take Interac?"
"We do." Why he wanted to know this is beyond me...remember, we don't sell cameras.

"Can you guys fix frames?"
I explained that we work with a restorer that may be able to repair it depending on the extent of the damage.
"I've had this really cool picture out in my garage that I'm not allowed to bring in the house, and my dog chewed up the frame."
I just had to ask him why he wasn't allowed to bring it in the house.
"My wife hates it. It used to belong to my grandfather, and he passed it on to my father and then he passed it on to me. It's really nice. It's a great big Indian head and it's painted on velvet."
"YIKES!" I thought.

"So how much would it cost to fix it?"
"Depends on the size, the extent of the damage and the work involved. I'd have to have the restorer look at it and he can give you a quote."
"Well, what would you guess roughly?"
"Honestly, I don't know, but you're probably looking around $300-$400 or so. Maybe more. It might be cheaper to just get a new frame put on it."

"Hey, I should get my kids' picture framed" he said while looking over the corner samples.
"Oh ya, how many kids do you have?"
"Two, just had the second one", he said with pride.

Once he mentioned his kids, his face just beamed. Immediately, the discomfort I had at first melted away. I think he was just a young man away from his family and friends, looking for someone to talk to. The uncomfortable situation just turned into what seemed like two guys shooting the breeze.

We chatted for a few minutes. He told me he was just in the area for a few more weeks working on some job. He lives a few hours away from here in a small town with nothing to do and as he said, "no jobs that don't involve hay". He doesn't know anyone here. Guess that's why he was looking for the peeler bar. Must have been looking to hang out and chat with some other guys. And I guess he was missing his wife. That poor woman with the velvet Indian living in her garage.

Monday, November 07, 2005


Baby Daddy Update

I got a call at work from Weezie last week.
"Hey, what's up?"
"Nothing...just working. You?"
"Well.....are you sitting down?"
"You're gonna be a daddy!"
"Get out! Really? Wow. Potent swimmers I have there, huh?"
"Ya, I guess so."
"And....how many are there?" (remember, there were two eggs)
"One that we can detect so far."

So there it is. It appears that I'm going to be a father. Is this for real? I'm a bit freaked out. A bit amazed. And very overwhelmed and humbled. I'm wondering how this will change my life. Although the child will know me as his/her father, it was a clear arrangement that Weezie was to be the sole custodian, raising the child as a single parent with no financial expectations of me (whew!). I can, however, have as much involvement in the child's life as I want. And I do want to be involved. This child is a part of me. An extension of me. The most important thing I have done. I will be there for his/her first step, first visit to Santa, first day of school, hockey games, ball games, school plays, recitals, concerts, graduations, opening nights, book launches, marathons, Academy Awards, space launches, Nobel Prizes, or anything he/she does with his/her life. I don't mean to put any pressure on him/her...I think I'm just doing what most parents do. Dreaming of the limitless possibilities open to their child. I think I get it. I think I finally understand what a parent feels....and it's still 8 months away. I'll just spend that time hoping and praying that everything progresses as it should. I know it's still very early in the pregnancy, but I am so excited. So looking forward to holding my child for the first time...and for the rest of its life.

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