Have you noticed how enticing and controversial my blog titles are! So many reasons to read on. And so often totally unrelated to what I end up ranting about.

First off, let me say I am being cautious that my mildly sarcastic and perverse sense of humour does not offend those struggling with addiction. That is not my intention.

I do like to go to the liquor store weekly, but sadly, I am pretty much an abstainer and have been since my teenage years. I tried alcohol, once, and since none of my natural sensory receptors had a positive response to something that no human should have a natural taste for, I decided, “This tastes like crap” and never tried it again. I understood that I’d have to apply myself and keep at it if I was going to develop a taste for this stuff, and every time I did … say champagne at a special occasion, it was like “Nope, this stuff doesn’t taste any better than it did a decade ago, so not going to do that again.” And then it was off to find some ginger ale (which can masquerade as champagne) or Dr. Pepper to feed my sugar addiction with high fructose corn syrup instead. I think the main problem was I never felt any compunction to fit in with a peer group where alcohol consumption was a prerequisite for membership. And remember, this was in the era when the movie “Animal House” came out, and clearly, drunken debauchery wasn’t for me. I mean I loved the movie but I just never saw the need for a chemical stimulant to help me enjoy myself, especially an ironic one where if used enough of it you may not remember what you did anyway.

It was like smoking. I remember finding a pack of cigarettes on the road with a few left in it, and then taking it to a fort in this big tree root pile with friends and lighting one up. So let me get this straight .. “I’m supposed to suck this horrible tasting super-heated smoke into my lungs … and find pleasure in that?” Nope, two puffs and I never tried that again. And then in the 80’s when the data was clear and I knew my eyes would be glued shut by 10 pm in a smoke-filled room, I insisted on a smoke-free wedding reception, much to the chagrin of the other side of the family. And you wonder why I don’t have any friends.

So I don’t drink and I don’t smoke. Boring! Exactly. What a wuss!

Back to the liquor store though. I do have a strong affinity for boxes. Cardboard boxes. And I have for years. It started when I got into kindling production in a big way, and then was compounded while running the CSA. There are always uses for cardboard boxes. They are just the best. And FREE!

I used to get them at my discount grocery store, No Frills, which had a huge metal enclosure at the front of the store gloriously filled with them. If you got there on the right day it would be overflowing and it was awesome. Get there at 4 pm on a Saturday and it was empty and you out of luck.

My favourite boxes were the ones that had held oranges. They are extremely strong and when filled with kindling they fit really nicely in to the metal bin (purchased at a thrift shop) we keep near the woodstove to start fires. Put the empty bin over the box, flip and voila, ready to rock and roll. So efficient.

Then it happened. No Frills did one of those big ‘reno’s to make them more responsive to current trends blah blah blah and got rid of the free boxes. It was devastating.

Well, it could have been devastating, but luckily, as always, I already had a backup plan in place. I had discovered the loading bay at the nearby liquor store. The employees pile empty boxes there. They recycle them eventually, but they put them there first for people to use.

You get to know the cycles of empty boxes at the liquor store. Never try to get them near the end of the month. People move then and the cupboard is usually bare. You need to go earlier in the month for maximum efficiency. Also, if you drive a compact car like mine, you need to know which brands fit best inside other brands … i.e. a “merlot” will generally fit nicely inside a “chabliss” (an Australian typically) or a vodka box will fit inside a whiskey box. This allows for more efficient inserting, stacking and piling inside the car, so there may be a hope you can see out the back window, which in my greedy world of liquor box addiction, rarely happens.

Editor’s note: Cam just made up what boxes fit inside of other boxes. He couldn’t tell you difference between a merlot and Chablis if his life depended on.

I know what you’re thinking. Cam, really, how many empty boxes does one person need? Good question. It reminds me of my daughter’s hilarious comment when we discussed our plans for Secret Santa this year. “Yes, what DO you get the man who has everything .. and more .. stored in trailers behind his house?”

Well, when I helped my Dad close up his cottage I took a load of them up to help start cleaning out his garage. If I had tried to get them that week I’d inevitably lucked out. But since I had an ‘inventory’ of them in the barn, I was ready to go. Michelle and I are in a big ‘cleaning out old file cabinets/accounting record mode’, so it’s nice to have the boxes as a receptacle, at the ready!

And then there’s the kindling. My liquor box addiction goes hand-in-hand with my kindling obsession. With my neighbor’s huge pile of millwork offcuts, I have a never-ending supply of scrap wood. Placed in my cutting jig, ratcheted down and buzzed through with the chainsaw, and I am a kindling magnet. Think Carnegie or J.P. Morgan but with kindling rather than oil and money.

Perhaps it would be more appropriate to say I’m addicted to ‘free stuff’, and right now liquor boxes are in that sphere. If they trim trees along our road, I am NOT going to let that stuff just sit there and rot. That ‘waste’ has value in my woodstove. Those shipping pallets at the snowmobile dealer in town had to be cut and trimmed to fit in my little Ford Ranger, but I was not driving home empty from my CSA deliveries after my final drop off with that free scrap sitting in that pile.

I was born a scrounger. This playhouse I built for my daughters many years ago was built with lumber from an office supply place next to a printer I did artwork for in Burlington. I’d drop off artwork (in reasonably nice clothes) then drive out back and hop into their massive, magical dumpster, and load up my Honda Civic to bursting with wood. Sure, I’d have been further ahead to go knock on other business doors to generate more income for my business, so I could just afford to buy one of those nice big plastic play houses, but that was never in my DNA.

So for now, while it lasts, I shall keep loading up on those enchanted liquor boxes. Clearly they are well made, and designed to protect an expensive product inside. It just surprised me it took me so long to figure out this was such a logical alternative to orange boxes. Clearly I’ve got to start thinking ‘outside of the box’ for the next cool free thing I should be hoarding, er scrounging, what-ev-er.


Michelle’s Note: Speaking of champagne, I’ll be making a special Birthday pizza and a Black Forest cake to celebrate Cam’s 59th birthday on Saturday! Join me in wishing him a happy one!