The cold night air swept in through the partially open doorway, chilling me through my modest t-shirt, as the Greenpeace volunteer yammered on about bears and whales. I could hear the clatter of my wife starting on dinner, snug and cozy back in the kitchen, no doubt reflecting on my rotten luck. “Sucker,”she was probably thinking. Well I suppose I could have slammed the door on the canvasser’s face the second she suggested I start using recycled tissue paper, but I honestly have a hard time being rude to someone who clearly represents a good cause. I mean, it was Greenpeace for God’s sake, not Carolers for Convicts or Send a Klansman to Space Camp. Still, as polite as I was prepared to be, there was no way she was getting a dime from me. No, I learned my lesson years ago when my one-time donation to a good cause resulted in an ensuing deluge of solicitations from various equally needy organizations. “Yeah, they help each other out,”was how one of my friend’s put it. “They put me on a sucker list,“was how I put it. Ever since, I’ve made it a rule never to contribute to any charity that contacts me at home. That said, when the phone rings or someone knocks on my front door at 6:00 p.m., my overriding curiosity gets the better of me and I must find out who’s come a-calling. My wife, on the other hand, has absolutely no problem leaving these mysteries unsolved and so, while I’m trapped listening to the charity spiels, she is free to watch t.v., shake her head at me in disapproval, or chow down on kimchee and leftover curry chicken. The phone solicitations are the worst as they all seem to follow the same pitch: “Hi, is this Joseph? Hi, Joseph. How’re you doing? I’m calling on behalf of Sherpas with Shingles. Did you know that fully three percent of all sherpas may suffer from this debilitating condition in their golden years? With your help, Joseph, we can make some headway in the fight against this disease and ensure that future generations of Sherpas will be shingle-free. So, can we count on you for a one hundred dollar contribution? No? Well, we understand that things are tight this time of year, so can we count on you for a fifty dollar contribution instead? No? Well, any amount would be greatly appreciated so why don’t we say twenty dollars? No? Five? How about some spindle wax and a ball of twine?” Naturally, the entire spiel is delivered in one breath, without interruption that may allow you to get a word in edge-wise. I’ll allow them to deliver their carefully rehearsed speech and then, ultimately, turn them down. They’ll all insist that contributing to their particular organization will not put me on any mailing (sucker) list and I tell them that while I believe them (untrue), it’s a matter of principle and I can‘t make any exceptions. And if that doesn‘t work, I tell them that, unfortunately, I just invested all of my savings in a very promising business venture involving the son of a deposed Nigerian prince. Most of the callers are understanding. Some are offended and hang up. A few actually get belligerent, like the guy who phoned on behalf of Blind Children Basketball (I kid you not), and then chided me for not supporting the cause. ’Tis that time of year, I guess.
Talk about prescient. The day after I go on my Olympic rant came news that Montreal finally finished paying off the tab on its Olympic debacle. Yesterday, I talked about a writer’s occasional need for self-imposed isolation, and so today, I hear about one member of our writing staff who went to the unprecedented step of checking into a Holiday Inn for two days just so that he could make some headway on his script. At times, it’s a very lonely business.
Well, we paid a return visit to Prima Taste, that Singaporean restaurant I mentioned yesterday. This time we went for lunch and I was prepared, camera in hand. We started with the delectable chicken satay and its accompanying satay sauce. I followed with the Bak Kut Teh, a soup made with herbs, spices, and simmered pork ribs. I fished five whole sweet garlic cloves out of the clay pot in which it was served! Very good. My wife started with the vegetarian spring rolls that were crisp, not too greasy, and very tasty. She wasn’t that crazy about her main course, the Mee Goreng. I thought it was very good, but she was still thinking about the curry chicken she’d enjoyed the last night. Overall, another enjoyable meal. One of the nice things about this place is that they’re not afraid to spice their food, unlike many of their more conservative competitors.
On our way home, we stopped off at the nearby H-Mart, a Korean grocery store, and picked up some take-out items for dinner. It was an interesting assortment: Korean sausage that tasted suspiciously meatless, great spiced pepper leaves, equally good spiced garlic shoots, my wife’s favorite pickled radish, tasty fishcakes, and a nice jar of good old-fashioned kimchee. The highlight of the meal was dessert (natch), a “Holy Smokes This is Fantastic” chocolate bar I picked up from Meinhardt’s: “Bittersweet Chocolate with Amaretti di Saranno Crumbles”.