Sunday, January 31, 2010

Death and Taxes

Being born and raised in Canada, one tends to get used to paying a large amount of tax. I can't speak from experience, but I can only assume new Canadians adjust to this as they are surrounded by shoulder shrugs that suggest 'that's the way it is'.

Off your pay, on everything you buy and just about everything you do, the government seems to have their hooks in you. I do realize that something has to pay for the roads I drive on, the doctor I go to see and the public parks that I enjoy so what can I do but shrug my shoulders?

But, as they say, there is always room for improvement. No, I am not politically active and yes, I grumble about what politicians should and could do better. Aside from being an armchair political quarterback, I rarely get fired up about any particular issue.

Once in a blue moon though, I read something about our system that makes me think, ‘damn right, I could do a better job!’ Case in point – in this weekend’s paper, there was an article about a model of the Lusitania that the City of Toronto owns. It was purchased in 1963 and was displayed at various venues until 2001 when it was put in storage.

A request has come from a Maritime Museum in Halifax to borrow the model for five years. Simple enough you would think, we have paying (as a taxpayer I can say the proverbial ‘we’) to store this 15 foot (plus glass case) model for 9 years and no one has laid eyes on it in as long a time.

Rather than say, "sure, off you go then", we have to act like the 3 year old in the playground who wants their toy back now that someone else has shown an interest in it. Given our track record, even if someone gave authorization without going through the proper channels, it would be back in town before anyone even knew it was gone. But now two, that’s correct, two levels of government need to say ‘okay, you can borrow it’.

Toronto’s Economic Development committee, whose “Primary focus is the economy, with a mandate to monitor, and make recommendations to strengthen Toronto's economy and investment climate” has to say ‘yes’. Does that description sound like it has anything to do with model ships? What are we going to say to Halifax? “Yes you can borrow it but you have to open a tuna canning plant here in Toronto.”

And then, it has to go to City Council. “Really?” As Seth and Amy would say, “Are you serious?” Do you not have more important things to focus on? At the very least, potholes or perhaps making our neighbourhoods safer. Unless the decision is to fill the model with medical supplies and sail it to Haiti, shame on you for wasting your time and MY money.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Buyer Beware

On the weekend, I took IronMan on a whirlwind tour of some antique shops around Toronto. He calls anything previously owned “junk” and does not understand why anyone would buy something with another’s cooties on it. He is a good sport about it though and after touring a 20 000 sq. foot warehouse in 5 minutes waited patiently for another 30 or so for me to finish.

I got very excited at ‘Of Things Past….’ when I came across a Leather Top Secretary (mind your comments Kitkat and Papi). It was beautiful – compact, sleek and would one day tuck neatly into the corner of my retirement home room with my apple snug inside and serve nicely as a bedside table.

Checking the construction, I noted the drawers were all dove tailed, the long slender legs did not appear to have been broken and the leather was all there. In my mind, a charming, witty dandy of a Victorian gentleman had composed untold correspondence from this charming piece and I had to have it!

$2400 price tag aside, I was shocked by just how perfect it was. My dandy was clearly a teetotaller as there were no water rings in the leather where he set his gin and tonic down in summer or hot tottie by winter. I could spy no burns from where he had carelessly rested his pipe as he wrote to his lover. Having just seen Sherlock Holmes, I knew something was amiss. If it looks to good to be true…….

IronMan was less than pleased when I dropped to my knees (now now boys) to investigate further. Imagine my surprise, when on the bottom of MY Victorian I spied a bright yellow manufacturer’s label. My peepers not being what they once were I had to squint to make out the details. ‘Theodore Alexander’ it read. Promising I thought. Perhaps this Theodore was ahead of his time and wanted people to know who he was! Bright yellow was clearly the way to go.

The absence of any tape or pin to hold said label in place should have been my next clue. Squinting again, I saw the proverbial fine print – “Made in Vietnam”. Crushed is the word my pretties. Crushed.

Wouldn’t $2400 in Vietnam buy me a house or a cow or something? Like a puff of smoke from his pipe, my Victorian was gone. I was outraged and convinced that this had to be a mistake. Another buyer was trying to throw me off the scent and waiting for the price to drop so they could have it for themselves! No no no!

Well folks, Google never lies. In about 2 minutes I found the Theodore Alexander webpage and in about another 30 seconds, found my desk. And one e-mail later, to my local dealer identified via Mr. Alexander’s landing page, found out this desk retails NEW for $1805. Which means it is worth about $700, so I’ll give you $500.

I still find the little desk charming, and maybe, just maybe, a little note will find its way inside warning people about the high price. And then, as this particular consignment shop works its magic and the price drops, I will be able to snap it up.

Having recently been introduced to Kendrick’s Gin by Papi, I am sure I will manage a plethora of water rings all on my own.