Trifecta – Craft

Trifecta’s writing challenge challenges you to write a piece between 0 and 333 words, with the third definition of the word they give each week.  This week was:

 1 :  skill in planning, making, or executing :  dexterity
2 a :  an occupation or trade requiring manual dexterity or artistic skill <the carpenter’s craft> <the craft of writing plays> <crafts such as pottery, carpentry, and sewing>
plural:  articles made by craftspeople <a store selling crafts> <a crafts fair>
Click the link to head over and read some of the other submissions, or submit your own.

This piece is stand-alone, or can be read as a kind of prequel to Castle, Stormed.  The artwork is by my sister, the talented Doodle.  Click the image to go to her DeviantART.  It’s a free-hand pencil sketch, and, not to sound too cocky, but she drew it for me.  I requested an unimpressed goat.  It totally makes sense.

It took hardly any of his craft to get the map.  Its previous owner understood so little of what it meant, this scrap of parchment with the name of a long-forgotten kingdom, that by the time he’d been through, the woman had been glad to part with it in return for a song and a smile.

He’d have called it not enough of a challenge, but he tried to avoid setting himself up for failure.  The most complicated part was dosing the goats just right, so that they didn’t die on the way to the castle.  It was a little-known fact that dragons didn’t eat things they hadn’t killed themselves.  His father had wanted him to go into medicine, had taught Monroe all he knew of herbs.  He suspected the old man would not have considered this a worthwhile use of that knowledge.

The toughest part was hanging by his fingers, over the edge of the bridge.  He hadn’t really considered what would happen if the dragon didn’t take the bait soon enough, not until his fingers were going numb, his arms and back aching as he hung. Hanging over a dry moat full of rusty and broken pieces of armor shook his confidence in the plan.

He’d done it, though.  The dragon slept soundly less than an hour after he’d crossed the moat, and he padded through the empty castle, hopping confidently over the piece of the dragon’s tail that blocked the inner yard.

The highest room, in the tallest tower, he thought, mentally mapping out his best route through the maze of corridors.  I’m going to be rich.

His legs soon joined his arms in aching, as the stairs spiraled up and up.  Even with his goal so close, he stopped at the top landing to catch his breath.

His grin faded as he stepped forward.  He may have been clever in defeating the dragon, but it appeared he wasn’t the only one to get past.  She seemed surprised to see him too.

Winter Camping

I love camping – any chance to go into the woods for a few days and disconnect is OK by me.  And yet, the few times I’ve been winter camping, it’s been in a yurt.  Not quite glamping (*shudders*), but going up for a weekend and staying in a yurt is the equivalent of renting a really tiny cabin with a separate cabin a 20 minute walk away that has the toilets.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s excellent – go up to Algonquin in the winter, stay in a yurt, spend your days playing in the snow, skiing, snowshoeing, building a snow fort, maybe sit in a chair on a frozen lake, extra chilly beer in your mitt-clad hand, watching the sunset.  Camp in the winter.  Whatever gets you out there, whatever extras you need to take, bundle up for the cold and go. 

we couldn't get a very clear shot of the canvas tent all lit up at night,  but it still turned out pretty fantastic

we couldn’t get a very clear shot of the canvas tent all lit up at night, but it still turned out pretty fantastic

And, when you are given the opportunity to spend a weekend learning wilderness survival skills in the winter… also go.  Just… bundle up wayyyy more.


Doodle, Gwynn and I went up near Bracebridge near the beginning of March to participate in an Intro to Winter Camping and wilderness survival clinic organized through the Muttley Crew Meetup Group, a weekend at a private camp where the dogs could be off-leash at all times.


Gwynn and one of the German Shepherds, Sabre, had a bit of a romance all weekend – Sabre would follow Gwynn pretty much anywhere, and I think he’d have followed him into our car at the end of the weekend if he could have.

Leaving the balmy +5C temperatures of the city, I was pretty sure I had seriously overpacked on gear for keeping warm.

Arriving in the -10C temperatures, in the woods near Bracebridge… I was glad I’d packed so many sleeping bags.

By the end of the evening, there were 7 people total, and 7 dogs.  Two very large german shepherds, a Bermese, an enormous labradoodle, a Great Dane, Gwynn, and one wee little white dog.  Gwynn looked like a small dog compared to all but the little one.

We lucked out, in finding ourselves with a group of dogs that all played nicely together.  No ganging up or bullying, all the roughhousing was very clearly being enjoyed by all parties, and all in all, the dogs were great.  It was like the most ideal version of a dog park visit, ever.

our great dane buddy needed a bit of extra help keeping warm, but she still had a great time out there.

our great dane buddy needed a bit of extra help keeping warm, but she still had a great time out there.

On to the winter camping and fun!  Before I start with that, though, I want to make something clear –  I am not a professional (in anything related to camping, winter, or survival), and I’m not writing a how to winter camp blog post.


We packed my regular three-season tent and put a folded tarp underneath the tent.  According to one of the leaders from our trip, the winter camping tents are slightly better at releasing the humidity from sleeping, but aren’t really all that necessary for a few days of camping in the winter.

We packed three regular three season sleeping bags (not down… and not at all compactable… oldschool Coleman sleeping bags), and the heavy old down sleeping bag my mom kept of her father’s.  We layered one coleman bag underneath us (on top of sleeping mats)  and two on top, with the heavy down bag on top of all that.  Clearly, this method of keeping warm wouldn’t work if we weren’t camping within a five minute walk of our car, but for a drive-up and camp situation, it worked.  If I were to go on an interior trip in winter, I’d be buying or renting a good quality four-season bag that would compress down small and light.


under this blanket was the great dane – the shepherds were shocked EVERY SINGLE TIME the blanket moved, unable to remember that she was under there.

We couldn’t get Gwynn under the blankets.  I think that’s very much dependent on the individual dog, whether they’re cold or not.  Gwynn in March is Gwynn pre-hair-cut, so, frankly, sleeping on our legs, outside of the warmth of sleeping bags, was probably the most comfortable temperature of sleep he’s had since January.  The Great Dane would burrow under blankets at night, and had a coat on during the day.

Our first night was not pleasant at all.  We didn’t bring all our sleeping bags in that night, and Gwynn’s curling up at the foot of our bags successfully pulled off most of the heavy-duty bag, making it hard to stay warm.

I find it just about impossible to sleep if my feet are cold.  Even with a fresh pair of wool socks (you want to change your socks every day and evening, even if you don’t change anything else – the socks compress down in your boots and absorbe humidity, so they’re less effective by the end of the day), wasn’t warming me up enough to get to sleep.  It went down to -16C, and I swear, I woke up every fifteen minutes.  Lesson 1: Even if you feel fine now, bring extra warm stuff down to your tent for bed anyways!  Next time I winter camp, I think I’ll layer a tarp on top of my tent right from the start, and not feel any qualms about extra extra sleeping bags.

One of the other women there gave us the wonderful gift of HotHands hand warmers on Saturday morning, though.  They were magical, and made a huge difference on our second night out. It went down to -20C, but we were able to get under the covers and spark some initial heat with hand-warmers between two layers of sock (they say not to have them directly against skin if you’re not paying attention to them), slept soundly and completely restfully through the night. Getting warm at the beginning of the night – even doing some jumping jacks and jogging on the spot before getting into the tent – is a good way of ensuring a warm and restful night sleeping outdoors.  If we’d had more nights sleeping there, we might also have had to worry about the condensation buildup in the sleeping bags (damp bag = less warm).


Sit tight, and I’ll be back in a few days with tales of the wilderness survival side of our trip!

Property Lines

This week, we’re picking up with Agata.  You can probably read this one alone, but I’d suggest reading Crush, the previous one in this series of stories, just to be clear on how things got to this point.  If you want to read the entire series, click on the Fiction Tab above, and you’ll find all the links to the story under Which Witch.  As always, let me know what you think – and how you think it ought to be improved!

I’m using the prompt from Trifecta, and from Write on Edge for this.

Trifecta’s word was


1a : the natural opening through which food passes into the body of an animal and which in vertebrates is typically bounded externally by the lips and internally by the pharynx and encloses the tongue, gums, and teeth   b : grimace <made a mouth>   c : an individual requiring food <had too many mouths to feed> 2a : voice, speech <finally gave mouth to her feelings>   b : mouthpiece 3: something that resembles a mouth especially in affording entrance or exit: as
This week on Write at the Merge, the picture of a crumbling castle was what I took as inspiration.
I highly recommend checking out both sites, to submit your own prompt response or to read some of the great responses other people have submitted.

Agata rolled painfully to her feet, scattering debris.  Dust swirled through the maelstrom of berserker barbarians.  Agata caught glimpses of the ogre, green-gray skin covering boulder-like muscles, eerie catseye gleaming yellow in the dimness.

The battle wasn’t going well.  She sighed, narrowed her eyes, and, with intense focus, shook out an imaginary blanket.

As the barbarians painfully clambered to their feet, dazed and confused at their sudden fall, Agata strode purposefully towards the now-frozen ogre.

“Gragh, is it?”  The creature stared down at her, dumbfounded.  “Yes, you.  Gragh?”

Its voice rumbled thunderously.  “Ya, me is Gragh.  Who you?”

“Agata.  What do you want here?”


“It wants to eat us!  Kill it!”

Agata whirled and glared them into silence.

“GRAGH CRUSH!”  The ogre snarled at the barbarians, fighting the invisible bonds.

“But why?

Gragh’s brow creased in thought.  “Gragh want…”

Agata found herself nodding encouragement to the hulking creature.

“Gragh want No Bother GRAGH!”

“You came here.

“Dey is come first to Gragh sleep place and try hurt Gragh!”

At Agata’s accusing glare, the barbarians broke into a cacophony of denials and explanations like children caught with their hands in the mouth of the cookie jar.

“It took the castle on the mount!”  A blonde-haired hulk in a skunk-fur loincloth stepped forward.

“Did he kill the owner?”

“It’s, um, been abandoned for centuries, actually.  Terrible location, no water, no trees…”

“So what does it matter where he lives?”

“It eats people.  And sheep.

Agata turned her scowl on Gragh, who shook his head in denial.  “Gragh no eat animal-things.” He curled his lip in disgust.  “Gragh vegetable-arian.  And rocks.  Rocks crunchy yum.  Fuzzy Baaas no yum.”

“Here’s the deal – you leave people alone, and” she turned to scowl at the barbarians, “people stay away from your castle.  Shake on it,” she barked, commandingly.

Agata watched and spelled every hand-shake before approaching the ogre with a proposition.

In short order they were headed off, a witch and her ogre-guide through the mountains.


This week on Trifecta, the word was:

CRUSH (transitive verb)

1a : to squeeze or force by pressure so as to alter or destroy structure   b : to squeeze together into a mass
2   : hug, embrace

Head over to submit your own response, or read some other takes on the prompt.  There are some fantastic authors who submit weekly to the Trifecta challenge, and they’re always well worth the read.

This story is a continuation of the Which Witch series of stories.  It is pretty much entirely stand-alone, but you are certainly welcome to read back through the story pieces, by following the Fiction tab at the top of the page and clicking on the links under the title Which Witch.

I try to include a piece of artwork that I think goes with the story, and this week is no different.  Only I put it at the bottom of the story, because it’s not just me that thinks it goes with the story – my sister drew it, in response to reading this story ahead of time.  She didn’t even roll her eyes too much when I changed the original, accidental deadline of friday to “um, no seriously, you have to have it done Wednesday night, because I have to post it tomorrow”.  You can check her out at her blog, Drawn in and Quartered, or over at DeviantArt.  She doesn’t have too much of her personal artwork up on DeviantART yet, but I’m working on it – peer pressure is key!  This is one of my favourite pieces she’s done – it hangs on my wall, and when I eventually have the option of painting rooms in my own house, will likely the colour-inspiration of one of them.

Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I could totally kick her ass at drawing… when she was 4… and I was 10.  She claims it probably had something to do with the development of fine motor function, but that’s just a cop-out.  She’s just a sore loser.  What sibling rivalry?

Comments and critiques are always welcome, I hope you enjoy the story,


Agata clapped her hands over her ears as the howl reverberated down the canyon, followed by the distant thunder of landslides.  Dust from the ceiling settled on her meal.

Removing the hand cupped protectively over her own pint, the barbarian woman took a swig and continued, “There are some nasty beasties out there, Miss, so you really ought to hire on a guard to get through the pass.”

Gunilla brushed her short blonde hair back, the heavy musculature of her shoulder and arm rippling, and jerked her head towards the rest of the barbarians.  “And I suggest you hire me, ‘cause some of the lads have trouble hearing ‘no’ when they want to hear ‘yes’, if you know what I mean.”

Agata shuddered.  Such large, heavy-set men.  Such tiny loincloths.  Barbarians are quite barbaric, she decided, firmly averting her eyes from the manly display of body hair and scarring.

“What do you hear when you want to hear ‘yes’?”

Gunilla let loose a full-bellied laugh.  “Me?  Depends on how much I want to hear ‘yes’, I’d imagine.” She grinned and winked.  “But my tastes don’t lean towards scrawny pretty little things like you, eh!”  She produced a small painting of a statuesque woman wearing a horned hat and a bustier that left too little to the imagination.  The barbarian woman stroked the side of the picture in a surprising show of tenderness.  “My Vilhelmina is an opera singer!”

“Very nice.” Agata cleared her throat.  “So what is so dangerous in the pass?”

The inn-door burst off its hinges and slammed to the ground.  A gigantic figure shouldered its way into the room, towering with its one-eyed head amongst the rafters.

GRAGH CRUSH!” It swung its club down hard in a shower of dust that had once been a solid oak table.

“OGRE!” the barbarian woman yelled, sweeping Agata out of harm’s way.  Potential client safely stowed, she let out a berserker yell of her own and leapt to join the fray.


<– Quack! ||

Gone for a Wander

You may have noticed that there were no short stories up this week.  You’ll notice that again next week, too.  As of yesterday at roughly midnight, I’m in fabulous Moncton, New Brunswick on vacation.

Before you warn me about mentioning vacations before I get back from them… know that I’m travelling solo, and the house is still quite occupied.

Writing this ahead of time means I can only make assumptions.

I’m pretty sure the flight will be horrible – any travel that involves me interacting with security people and plane staff at midnight can’t be good.  Let’s just hope that I emerge with all my luggage, and what shreds of my sanity I can hold onto at well-past-my-bedtime-o’clock.

I’m positive that I’ll be spending a fun-filled week catching up with my aunt and uncle, all my cousins, and my cousin’s 8-year-old son, who I haven’t seen since he was 4.  I’m hoping this time he’ll be out of the shy-cling-to-parent stage, and we can say hello to each other.

I suspect that it will be colder than here.  By a lot.

I really hope for there to be seafood.  Lots and lots of seafood.  My uncle married a wonderful woman, all around, so it’s really just a bonus that she’s Acadian, and thus a goddess of seafood.  Last time we went camping out there, she taught me how to dismember a cooked lobster after showing me what she looked for in them at a fish market right at the dock.  Since then, I’ve ordered lobster at a restaurant once… and i was thoroughly disappointed that they had cut it in half down the middle, eliminating the entire dismembering process.

Happy Friday, everyone, see you in September!

Portal to Adventure

I remember this place! It’s my Camping House!

Soon, we’ll be in the woods. Wait for it….

… well that’s weird. No woods…

I guess maybe we’ll actually have to bring it to the forest first. Grab the car!

Gwynn and most of the family are now officially Camping… I’m sure he’s relieved to find that sometimes going through the trailer door does bring one to the woods.

Wordless Wednesday – Adventure

what a strange circle of rocks... must be some sort of teleportation device...

Off to explore this new dimension... I hope there's bacon

the rocks here are much bigger... and disappointingly not made of cheese

Great view, but not really different from home. Oh well... to the portal!

The Necessary

Write On Edge: Red-Writing-Hood
It’s Red Writing Hood time again.

I’m torn between feeling pleased with myself, and feeling at a bit of a loss.  The prompt for this week’s Red Writing Hood was to take a tool out of my writers’ toolbox that doesn’t get used as much and needs a bit of extra polishing.  You might not have noticed it, but if you compare last week’s prompt post to the previous ones I’ve done, it’s pretty different.  Even apart from the fact that I didn’t kill anyone in last week’s, I specifically (and purposely) focused on the piece being mostly about conversation.  I’d say that counts as two tools I don’t use often enough.  What am I bad at doing?  Well… “Nothing” comes to mind, I am, after all, pretty awesome.  For this challenge, I figured I would use…

*drumroll, please*

… THE FIRST PERSON.  I realise that 99.999% of my blogging is in the first person… but that’s just talking about myself, something thing I’m pretty awesome at doing in the first person, because, let’s face it, I would sound pretty creepy if I spoke about myself in the third person.

It helps that this story is an idea that stemmed from a VERY weird dream I had.  The kind of dream you wake up from and question whether acid flashbacks can happen to people who never dropped acid.

Check out the rest of the submissions HERE, and mine is below:


It all started when I met Joanna.  She was the most unusual person I had ever met, though I didn’t realize nearly how much so until later.

I stood out at my new school in my hand-me-down jeans and flannel shirt.  The packed cafeteria held more students than we had in my entire town.

She looked like a crow, with her wide dark eyes ringed in heavy makeup, her dark hair braided and piled haphazardly and in a tangled mess on her head.  No-one back home would dress like that, black lacy skirt fluttering and tattered at the bottom, tight T-Shirt labelling her ‘The Clash’.

I didn’t hear much rock music back home either.

She grabbed my arm, long red nails clacking, and pulled me away from the cafeteria line.  I made a weak protest, but Joanna was a force of nature.

“You don’t want to eat that crap, come on!”

She dragged me down the hall and into the girls’ washroom.

This is it, I thought, I’m going to be bullied.

“I’ve decided that I like you, so I’m going to show you a secret.”  Heavy purplish-red lips stretched wide as she smiled back at me.

She took me to a stall.

The doorway, despite being just as large as the others, was a tight fit to squeeze through.  I hardly had a chance to register this unusual misrepresentation of proportion before we were leaving the stall.

I blinked in confusion.  I was sure we had been going into the stall, but Joanna was leading me out the way we came, and right back to the cafeteria.

The hall was different, though.  The grungy old lockers were gone, with rich mahogany panneling in their place.  The cafeteria now had solid oak tables and heavy chairs, and the stale-grease smell that had permeated the room just moments before was replaced by the heady scent of roast chicken and gravy.

The people were beyond description, so unusually dressed and exotic.

I looked to Joanna for an explanation.

She spread her arms wide and said, “I call it The Necessary.  It brings you to what you need.  What we needed today was better food.  Fish don’t even have fingers!”  She laughed and added, “Also, it’s a synonym for toilet.”

My first introduction to that magical place was the most delectable roast chicken dinner I’d ever had.

It was the Creature from the Black Lagoo-OO-oon!

Be seeing him again real Soo-OO-oon!

After his last intended did the dirty o-on him,

didn’t last five minutes in the-e swim!

Last weekend, my sisters and Gwynn and I piled into the car and headed North.  Up into the wild blue yonder of Scotsdale Farm, there to trek epically and mightily through rain and cloud and patches of sunshine with a group of like-minded adventurers bipedal and quadrupedal alike.

We did somewhere between 12 and 15 km of hiking, on the Scotsdale Farm property and along sections of the Bruce Trail system, and were out and about for about 4 hours.  There were hills and rocks and brief walks along the side of a country road.  We walked down to a waterfall, through a field and alongside a small escarpment. 

about 5 minutes into the hike... and the last time Gwynn was mostly-clean

Gwynn ran around with a dozen other dogs big and small, older and younger, through woods, puddles, creeks and mud.  He cavorted, pranced, splashed, stomped, gallivanted and even monkeyed around a bit.  There were shenanigans. 

River froliking with his partners in crime... the cleanest soaking he recieved that day

Gwynn met a horse… his response was such delight that he did a little two-legged dance and then tried to slap the horse on the face.  Do we have pictures of that?  No… I was too busy making sure that this laid-back Mr. Bill didn’t try to slap Gwynn in the face in retaliation.

Gwynn and I... united in MUD... relaxing by the waterfall

He was, at times, thoroughly soaked, thoroughly coated in mud, and varying degrees between.  My pants were, at times, thoroughly soaked,  coated in mud, and varying degrees between.  They required two runs through the washing machine to get clean.  I wish sometimes that the dog could go through the washing machine.  I seriously considered taking off my pants and putting them in a bag before getting into my car… but then I realised how awkward that would be, since Doodle and I would be switching positions part-way through, and I’m pretty sure I’d end up arrested for indecent exposure during the switch.  I did insist that my sisters and I get barefoot before getting into the car, though… our boots were relegated to the trunk.

Doodle and Gwynn on the road... he is hypnotised by the dried bananas she's snacking on.

The most bizarre and extreme part of the journey happened when we were on yet another boardwalk.  The boardwalks throughout the hike had been over slightly muddy areas, or shallow creeks.  Gwynn loved it – he’d leap enthusiastically off the boardwalk, if he made it onto it at all, and frolic in the oozing black gook, or prance and splash through the creek, luring other dogs to follow him in.  This boardwalk was different, though.  It was a small projection that jutted in a U shape over a big semi-marshy pond.  The water was crystal clear, and you could see mud a foot or two below the surface.  Now… this mud.  I recognised it as what it was – the kind of mud that you just sink down into, so that you end up almost waist high in mud by the time you stop your descent.  It’s just about gelatinous for the first few feet, then progresses to a gluey sucking consistency the deeper you go, until finally solidifying.  This is the kind of mud that tightly laced up boots get left behind in.  But the bottom looks like it’s just there… just a foot or two below the water’s surface, which is itself, only about a foot below the boardwalk.



Don’t pretend you don’t know what’s about to happen here.  I should have realised what would happen… but I figured he’d recognise the type of mud like I did.  Have I mentioned it’s been less than two weeks, at this point, since Gwynn actually started swimming… all four feet off the ground? 

He jumped about equidistant from the shore in either direction of boardwalk (you knew this would happen…)… and he sank like a stone.  He landed about 5 ft from the edge of the boardwalk, and plunged down into the murky waters, only to bob back up a few moments later, hair plastered to his head, and entirely covering his eyes.

Gwynn covered in mud... after he'd shaken off a lot of it

 He paddled his way back to the boardwalk and realised his dilemma – no way to get back up onto the boardwalk.  And I had about the same chance of luring him to swim all the way around the boardwalk to shore as I did of teaching him to use the toilet in our house for its intended purpose… and flush.

So I grabbed him by his slimy black mud-coated harness and hauled him up.  Safely ashore and having come fully up onto the boardwalk right between my legs, my beloved pooch, coated in a thick layer of dark slimy mud, did what any beloved pooch from the black lagoon would do… he shook.  You’re probably now understanding why I seriously considered dropping trou before getting into my car, despite it being a public parking-lot. 

It was a great trip, and we were all thoroughly pooched by the end of it.  Our reward for a day of hiking and adventure?  The food of champions – Timbits and Iced Caps!  Gwynn got a peanut butter sandwich, since the food of champions is way too full of sugar, caffeine and chocolate for a dog to safely eat.

sockfoot, grubby and triumphant!

Bike update:  As this is posted (hopefully, if scheduling works properly), I am biking… and have been for several hours.  proof of this will be forthcoming, with photos of the beautiful Niagara on the Lake region we’ll be biking through all weekend! 

A Clandestine Affair in NYC

Friday we woke up mostly refreshed and fairly prepared for the day.  We headed out and used our second and final groupon, which was a discount at a small cafe called 63 Bites.   It was right near Central Park, and in a refurbished portion of a YMCA building – very cool looking, and plenty of space to eat. 

YMCA Building with 63 Bites inside

We walked up to take pictures of the Metropolitan Opera house for M’s opera-singing sister, and spent the rest of the morning at the American Museum of Natural History. 

We then spent a few hours wandering through the fashion district and the Times Square area.  D is a fantastic seamstress, and spent a fair bit of time drooling over fabrics and trying to figure out what she’d do with each one.  I looked at the ones that could be used for reupholstery, since I am planning to reupholster some chairs in the near future. 

 We ate dinner at Pazza Notte  , very tasty, and VERY crowded.  I think crowded is a good general description of everything in Manhattan, though.  I had managed to convince myself and the others that our showing of Phantom of the Opera was at 8:30, right up until we got back to the hotel before dinner.  Luckily, paranoia set in, and I checked the tickets – 8pm start.  Dinner and getting dressed for the evening were a wee bit rushed, but we made it to the show in good time.  I haven’t been to many shows, but this was AMAZING.  I can now understand why the others were so gung-ho about buying tickets for a show they had both already seen before – The Phantom of the Opera is worth seeing more than once in your life!  However, I was hugely disappointed upon realising that the charms it looked like they were selling were actually a not-so-nice bracelet, and not something I was interested in.  So there went that opportunity for a touristy-keepsake.  Oh Well.


We went to the very open-late Toys R Us right near our theatre, and saw lots of lego landmarks and generally awesome toys.

Saturday, we were at some random little diner near our hotel, and who should walk in off the street but… some hockey guy.  Yeah, I know, I’m clearly not really a Canadian, with my lack of hockey obsession – but clearly my travelling buddies aren’t either.  We made the brilliant deduction that he was someone in hockey by the fact that he was carrying a New York Rangers hockey bag, as well as 6 really expensive hockey sticks, while also wearing a suit.  Clearly he was famous, because about half the men in the diner leapt to their feet, emitting Bieber-feverish-pre-teen girl squeals of of excitement and delight, and stampeding over to get their pictures taken with him.  I heard such gems as “Hey man, you’re like, really good at hockey, like, um.  Can I get your autograph?” and “I am totally planning on trying to maybe watch the game tonight, man.  Good luck!”

The Empire State Building's Shadow, from above

We went from there to the Empire State Building.  Where  we waited in many different lines on many different levels of the building.  Another common theme in New York is lineups… we stood in many of them.  I can think of a whole lot of things I ‘d much rather do.

We headed down to Canal street to do some shopping, hitting up china-town for lunch.  While on Canal Street, I had the opportunity to casually read through a random novel with pictures of faux-designer purses in it.  In an oh-so-sneaky way, I made my purchase decision, carried on a muttered conversation with the mysterious figure who had first handed me the book, and came to a price decision.  It was then that they led me and my travelling companions down a dark alley, and we met with an enormous man in a trench coat and fedora smoking a thick cigar.  The fedora was

I much prefer the Christler Building to the Empire State Building, it's so pretty

pulled low over his eyes, shadowing his face, and the thick smoke of his cigar shrouded him in mystery and nicotine.  He casually opened his coat, holding the panels wide so that I could see the many faux purses he had hanging about his person.  This would explain why he looked like a small canvas hill.  His cohort walked up and whispered my choice of purse in his ear, and he whispered its location on his person to her in return.  There was a flurry of smoke-hidden activity ( I swear, I think there was a monkey clambering all over him like it was scaling a tree), and when the dust and smoke settled, he was once-more fully buttoned up, and had my choice of purse on his arm.  It nearly glowed with its designer-ness, and I felt the heat of the prestige it radiated on my face even from a distance.  Beside me, D frantically tried to cool her eyebrows; the prestige radiation was so great that it was singeing them.  Nearly drooling, I walked over, money in the palm of my hand. 

ostriches... awesome! And crazy-expensive purses... the kind you might find immitations of in shady back-alleys full of cigar smoke 😉

 We casually shook hands, transferring the purse and the money.  He grinned a toothy predatory grin, touched the brim of his hat in a small salute, and a scrawny hairy monkey arm poked out of the collar of his coat, dropping something.  Before I could prepare myself for it, smoke boiled up from all around the man in the fedora, leaving me gasping and stunned.  When the smoke cleared, the alleyway was empty except for D, M and I.  None of us had our purses or our shoes, and the clear light of day now filtering down between the buildings revealed that the beautiful prestigious purse I had been handed had been switched out for a canvas sack with the brand mockingly written in sharpie.  The inside of the ‘purse’ was clearly where the monkey had been going when nature called.  We trudged out of the alleyway in defeat, the rosy glow of warmth from the real fake bag a distant memory as our bare feet hit the cold cold pavement.

Well… in the real version of that, I did get to handshake-pay someone, and I did read a novel full of purse pictures.  But we did NOT go into a dark alley with anyone, because that would be irresponsible and stupid and dangerous.  Our clandestine purse-shopping expedition happened in a Starbucks, and, while I’m quite sure it’s not a real designer bag, it looks decent enough.  The story would have been better with a monkey, though.

monkeys in the natural history museum. Too bad we couldn't have gone at night, when they all wake up 🙂

… I’ll leave the rest for another post, to keep things moving along.