Today was awesome!

Went shopping in Toronto proper again, with buddies Graydon and Ian, who informed me that the two-to-four inches of snow sifting gently down on our heads was hardly worthy of notice, let alone comment. And so, with this in mind, we hiked from bookstore (Awesome!) to comic shop (overwhelming!) to sex boutique to St. Lawrence’s market. (I have great friends. They accept that Ursula’s interests go books, sex, and cheese, and cater accordingly and without undue comment or surprise.*)

And let me just say, THAT is how a sex shop oughta be. It was called “Good for Her” and it was a tiny, brightly lit little boutique of the sort that generally features expensive handbags made by the more capitalist variety of hippie, or aromatherapy kits, or handmade batiked scarves or something. Except it had sex toys. And books. And a wall of vibrators with the tiny handwritten notes that one might expect from the better sort of independant bookstore. The staff behind the counter was all female and offered us tea as soon as we walked in. Tea.  I mean, I have been in clean, well-lit adult stores before, but they still carry an indefineable air of mild, if professional sleaze. This was so far from sleazy that sleaze would not be seen on the same BLOCK. It was amazing.

If more sex shops were like that, women would be infinitely less sexually repressed, let me tell you.

(No, I’m not telling you what I bought. My parents read this blog.)

And then…there was St. Lawrence market.

I would like one of those added to Raleigh, please.  Preferably before I get back.

It was…this…kinda…culinary….farmer’s market…crazy…place.  I mean…dude. DUDE. Venison and green apple pate. Wild boar and apricot pate. And….cheese. Wow. Such cheese! (I made the mistake of telling Graydon that I loved Black Diamond cheddar. He stared at me in horror and said “That’s only fit for putting on macaroni and cheese!” And so now I have a block of 9-year aged raw milk Quebec cheddar that is just this side of orgasmic, and if customs tries to take it from me, I will gnaw on somebody’s ankle.)

Plus some weird Canadian candies. I grabbed somewhat indiscriminately from bins, just to try them. (If I wind up liking some, of course, I’ll be screwed and begging for people to export, in much the same way I do Red Vines and those little foil-wrapped cheeses with the Elmer’s glue cow on them.)

Also, did you know Canada has ketchup flavored potato chips? They’re a lovely country, but that’s somehow unnatural.

And I picked up gifts for Mom & Tom, who love the cooking thing–death mustard powder, good parmesan, and then…honey.

Oh lord.

I have spent my entire life on a quest for the honey I had once in my youth, a wildflower honey, still in the comb, that tasted like the essence of wildflowers. It was lightweight and fragrant and melted on the tongue, and I would claw my way over the piled bodies of the dead to get more.  Unfortunately, I have never quite found it, and I still haven’t, but this was pretty damn good nonetheless, and I acquired a small comb for my parents.

But the honey salesman…dear me.

It was an entire booth of almost entirely New Zealand honey. You’d think this is a specialty market, and you’d be right. But the man made up for it by selling his honey with a missionary zeal. He was not a salesman. He was a honey evangelist. 

He asked if I would like to try a sample. I said yes. Possibly this was foolishness. I’m not sure. Because he then brought out samples of almost every variety of honey behind the counter. Acacia honey! Heather honey! Chesnut honey! French Christmas tree honey!** Tasmanian lavender honey! Thyme honey! (Oh god, the thyme honey…)  I gave up after about fifteen or twenty samples, because my tongue was curling up and mummifying in my head, and I was starting to vibrate like a giant wool-clad hummingbird. (Ian stuck it out bravely with me on the honey sampling front. Graydon just bought six jars, and so avoided being sampled to death.)  We tried to retreat, and he waved viper-bugloss honey at us for the road.

By the time we got to dinner at a place that offered tea, I drank it black, unable to bear the thought of honey in it. Or possibly ever again.

So a pleasant meal, met Ian’s lovely wife Jen, and all was right with the cosmos. Then back, to blog, and thence to collapse into a pile of sleep.

Oh, also my editor called, and Nurk isapparently going to be featured in something called “Kirkus Reviews.” You writers reading this–how excited should I be? Is this like cool, megacool, somewhat cool, coolish, break-out-the-booze cool…where on the coolness scale does this rate?

*Yes, yes, get the jokes about combining them out of your system. Although I will admit that I once said, while severely drunk, “I dunno, anybody who rubbed brie on my nipples, I’d give ’em a second look.” Make of that whatever you like.  (Probably what you should make of it is that I was really REALLY drunk…)

**Seriously.

Da zoo–photos!

Graydon continues his mad documentation of things, and he managed to get some really good shots of some weird beasties at the zoo, including the dreaded Pink Ninja. So, for your viewing pleasure…

 I observe ducks. Yes, that’s me, looking like a Russian peasant. I include this because A) they were cool mandarin ducks (although alas, not eligible for lifelisting) and B) I really, really love that coat.

This one’s for fatfred and the rest of the local otter lovers…(What are they looking at?)

A burrowing owl. Possibly visiting the holodeck. (A keeper came in and present him with dead chicks, but alas, he did not start noshing while we were there.)

Pink Ninja visits the thriving metropolis of Toronto, and wishes it to be known that it is COLD.

This is a pygmy marmoset. I believe they feed it dead babies.

This is a saw-whet owl. I believe they feed it marshmellows and concentrated Cute-On-A-Stick.

Pink Ninja has had enough of this foolishness, and wishes to be warm again. She is apparently oblivious to the suspiciously phallic rock formations in the background.

Da zoo!

Went to the Toronoto zoo today!

Many cool beasties. Many more were, of course, off exhibit owing to it being bloody cold, but it was still awesome. Tentacled snakes! An adorable beaver! Lynxes looking like hoary shamanic housecats! Gaur! Bison! Sloths! (Oh god, the sloths. I wanted to cuddle and wuggle them. They curled up into shaggy little balls and tucked their freaky little wrists into their laps and it was slowly. painfully adorable.) And a number of very cool birds that I would give my eyeteeth to see in the wild–but we saw wild trumpeter swans and American black ducks! Birding has been accomplished!

Sure, it was -25 with the windchill, but pfff. I’m from Minnesota! I have long underwear and scarves and stuff! I am invincible!

And in fact, I was just fine at the zoo, while I was hiking around…you call that a steep hill!? In my day we hiked steeper hills to get to the bathroom, and it was uphill both ways! And the cougars weren’t in cages! And you had to make your own toilet paper out of bear pelts!…ahem, sorry…Anyway, it was the ride back that everything froze, once the blood stopped pumping. But I have peppermint tea and internet and am going to spend a pleasant evening being stuffed on sirloin and roasted turnips* and then perhaps curling up with a good book–I am on vacation, damnit!–and all will be right with the cosmos.

*Astonishingly tasty. I had never actually EATEN one, although I paint many.

So here I am in Toronto!

I was hoping for some birdwatching, but the weather always conspires against me, so I arrived during a cold snap…might possibly catch some waterfowl if lucky. Tomorrow we’re supposed to hit the zoo, which is often a good spot for birding.  I have been promised strange ungulates. (Who doesn’t love a strange ungulate?)

Today, with my buddy Graydon acting as Native Guide, we wandered–and shopped–what may have been downtown Toronto (Hell if I know. They had tall buildings, though. And subways. And streetcars. And gay bookstores.)  Visited a fabulous outdoor sporting good place (I had to get long underwear, if I’m going to roam the zoo, and buying long underwear in the South just isn’t worth the bother. You go to a state/country/whatever that actually experiences cold to buy long underwear. This is a rule.)

And then we visited one of the places that I was really dying to go–Northbound Leather. Which sells, um, leather. Lots and lots and lots of leather.

And, err, other things. Odd things. Things that Ursula did not look too closely in the case at, and a few things that she picked up, said “What is…OH!” and put back down hastily. Still, delightful.  (Do you know what a flattened out latex gimp mask looks like? I do. Now.)

Look, I have been wanting a corset for AGES, and I really LIKE leather. Yes, yes, cloth has all kinds of appeal but…err…I like leather. Purely as a tactile thing. Nothing weird. No, really.*

Also, apparently I wanted buckled sleeve thingies. I had not previously known that I required these in order to make my life complete, but I discovered this almost immediately.

Graydon was very patient about the whole thing. “Sorry this is taking so long…” I said, as the equally patient (and very very gay) salesman laced me up for the six-hundredth time. “I’ve gone shoe shopping with dancers,” he said wearily, “this is nothing.” 

Part of the reason he was so sanguine about it was probably that he decided to document it all, for posterity, or possibly just the internet. And because I love you all, and you’d ask anyway…yeah, here ya go. Ursula in leather. Don’t say I never gave ya nuthin’.

The photos were just too much fun to pass up. I am told that I am far too kinetic a subject for easy photography, however–by which I think it was meant that I move a lot, and tend to bolt or grimace if I see the camera–so between that and the lighting, mad props for getting any that came out at all.

Also, I did not include several that would likely cause a riot if I tried to wear them outside and do anything such as “tie shoes” or “scratch nose.”  They suffered what is known as the Nuclear Bodice problem….severe danger of fallout.

Please note purple socks. Possibly I would wear different socks with this in public. Possibly.

Please note mannequin in background of this photo. No, I didn’t try that one on.

Look at those buckled…sleeve…wrist…thingamajig…stuff…and tell me that you could live without them either. I swear, I’m wearing them to every convention until I die or my wrists chafe from doing too many sketchbooks with ’em on. They cover fishy, but leave the kingfisher fully exposed.

Quite a good shot of kingfisher and fishy, in situ.  All staff members present talked me out of the corsets with shoulder straps, on the principle that the tattoo was way too cool to get minimized. I deferred to their judgement.

I am posting this one as a reminded to myself that once upon a time, in my early thirties, I had a great ass.

A profile shot of me that doesn’t make me want to run screaming into the night is rare enough that I’m posting this one, Roman nose and all. The corset in this shot has lovely front buckles, and the cut was actually rather more flattering than the sweetheart line, strangely enough. I am told that after some wearing, the stretching will occur in the proper places and provide a bit more support rather than compression (or something like that, I don’t know how these things work.)

I contemplated the oddly furry gimp-dog-mask thing…complete with leather tail…not for myself, but just to scare the crap out of the poor people who volunteer to help me man the table at cons. “Here. You’ll be wearing this….” but then I thought…naaaaah. I’d have to get it cleaned, and…well, never mind. (I had this brief searing mental image of Carlota and…well…I want people to spend money and then move along, not  grovel in front of the table, thank you.)

Have no idea if the outfit I finally settled on will boost table sales, or whether it will simply mean that I get a higher percentage of fifteen year old boys lurking around, but damnit, this is the best I’ve looked in ages, and if conventions (i.e. Nerd Prom) are not the place to show it off…

My credit card sobbed, but did not actually ignite, so all is well with the cosmos.

*Does anybody actually believe me when I say this any more, or am I doing this solely for my mom’s benefit?

I had a dream last night that I was trying to come up with an RPG character concept. (Yes. This is how geeky my dreams are.)

Somehow I hit upon the notion that I wanted to play a hyper-intelligent goldfish. His little bowl would be set into a gigantic cyber death-machine (sort of like Nixon’s head in Futurama, or Krang from TMNT) but, in order to make life interesting, the goldfish would not really remember what all the buttons did. So (I was trying to explain to the GM, who was dubious even in my dream) occasionally he would throw caution to the winds and roll a d20. On a 1 something horrible would happen–i.e. “Oops, guess that was the chlorine gas emitter, sorry guys…” on a 2-5 something mildly bad would happen–“Ooh! Kareoke!”–on a 5-15 nothing much would happen–“Hmm, I found the desalinizer…”–on a 15-19 something reasonably good would happen–“Yay! That’s the button for the buzzsaw arms!”–and on a natural 20, he would remember how to operate the flamethrower.

…I do not know WHAT sort of system or demented campaign would be fitting for a hyperintelligent goldfish and his battlesuit, but damnit, I kinda wanna find one now. Fishy to the rescue!

This one was for

who, I was informed, needed an otter and a egg painting about now. Always happy to oblige!

Saint Otter and the Egg

I’ll be donating proceeds from the sale of prints to breast cancer research–if anybody can suggest any particularly good charities in that line, please let me know, as I haven’t researched the matter all that closely yet…

Whew! Busy, busy, busy.

Heading off tomorrow for an actual honest-to-god vacation–visiting a buddy in the Great White North–for birdwatching and gallery hopping (okay, MOSTLY a vacation.) So today is spent frantically doing all the things that need to be done so that jobs get done/art gets shipped/the cats don’t explode while I’m gone, etc. Find phone charger, find books for plane, find passport, find clothes, etc, etc, and I swear this suitcase gets smaller the older I get…

Plus, of course, one must take steps to insure that the object of one’s affection does not forget one while one’s gone for most of a week. But I think that’s pretty well taken care of… *whistle*

You know, hockey is a much more interesting sport when you’re ten feet off the ice.  I’m not a big sports fan by nature, but that was nasty, brutish and short, which is generally how I like my bloodsports. (Hockey was explained to me as “soccer, on ice, with pain.”) When people are slamming into plexiglass walls close enough that you can admire the quality of their dental work, that’s…yeah, that’s pretty cool, gotta admit.

Also, while I can spot a warbler in the brush at the Gifted Amateur level, how the hell people track pucks in a net through a tangle of bodies is beyond me. Damn.

Beats the hell out of the last professional sports event I attended, which was a Padres game some decades ago, and the less we say about that, the better. 

If there is a recurring theme to conversations I have had with men this last week, it is this bit of wisdom from my dear friend Linda. I pass it along, O Readers, because when we speak of relationships, this is the one bit of advice that comes up over and over again. It is universal. It stands the test of time. Ignore it at your peril.

Rule #1: Don’t stick your dick in the crazy.

If it will help you to hear G.I.Joe narrating this, please feel free to envision it.

Today I was a Responsible Adult for most of the day.

I got my car emissions checked. I got an oil change. I scheduled a pap smear. (Hey, both the car and I have some mileage on us these days…) I paid bills. I did laundry.

This sort of behavior is sufficiently stifling that I have an urge to dance around in my underwear or something or risk implosion.