Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Eternal Nightcap

I come across The Whitlams' Eternal Nightcap and it reminds me of being in the car on one of our road trips to the Central Coast where the four of us would sing the whole way. Our favourite song was 'You Sound Like Louis Burdett' and we'd sing it at the top of our voices. My mum would even let us sing the line "All our friends are fuck ups,' and Luca would sing it the loudest because it was the only time we were allowed to swear.

This line, from a young adult novel called Saving Francesca, was something I noted every time I read the book. 
Do you have 'comfort reads'? Books that you dip back into when nothing else seems quite right. Books that hail you like an old, well-loved friend from the shelves on a lazy night? Saving Francesca is one of those for me. I came across it years ago while I was pricing books at the used bookstore where I used to work. A perk of working at a store with no computerized inventory is that there was no record... Reader, I liberated this book (and a few others over the years, I'll admit). And I read it many times, and I still go back to it a couple times a year. I don't know exactly why, except that the author, Melina Marchetta, manages to capture the essence of teenagers: moody, unfinished, loyal, loving, fierce, yearning, angry, funny... 
Here's my book-jacket blurb: 
Francesca, whose larger-than-life mum is suddenly stricken with debilitating depression, suddenly has to figure out the tough stuff by herself: she's in Year (grade) Eleven at a new school, and the crowd she used to run with isn't around to tell her how she should act anymore. After five years of being largely subdued and colourless- just to fit in better- Francesca may just rediscover her real personality and save herself, with the help of some new friends, her large Italian family, and a certain Will Trombal... 

The characters are well-drawn (Marchetta is a teacher) and wonderfully three-dimensional: Francesca often clashes with her uncompromising mother, but also loves her more than anyone else; her two closest male friends are two frequently oafish and crude teenaged boys, but they also show moments of true kindness as Francesca negotiates her difficult year. And although it's a story that could take place anywhere in the world, it also has little touches that set it firmly in Sydney, Australia, which makes it slightly exotic. 

So anyway, I really like this book. And I'd always wondered about The Whitlams, but then I'd finish the book and totally forget to look them up on the internet to see if they were real.

Well... last July, Jay and I took a little road trip on Vancouver Island, and we stopped in at Ladysmith to look at my favourite antique store, and we also checked out a store that was most definitely second-hand as opposed to antique, and they had a tray of used CDs so we pawed through them, and lo and behold- 
There it was. So I paid my 50 cents or whatever it was, went back to the car, and put the CD in the slot...
The lush strings of "No Aphrodisiac" came on, and 3 tracks later, there was "You Sound Like Louis Burdett", with its slightly deranged honky-tonk piano, and bizarre lyrics:
I'm chewing ice and grinning/I'm spewing up and spinning/It's biliousness as usual in my corner of the kitchen/Hey you, lose that friend before we go anywhere/
And of course, the refrain:
All my friends are fuck-ups/but they're fun to have around/Banana chairs out on the concrete/Telling stories to the stars...

There was '90s piano rock, there were more guitar-based tunes, there were songs that owed a lot to The Beatles, there was a song that wouldn't have sounded out-of-place in an Irish bar; there was even a Bob Dylan cover! And I was hooked. 
We played The Whitlams quite a few times over that weekend road trip. Then I took it home and forgot about it, and just pulled it out two nights ago as I was sorting through receipts and papers to get stuff ready to do my taxes. And got pulled in again, the lush arrangements and loopy lyrics providing a cool counterpoint to a boring chore. 

And that's the story of how a novel lead me, after many years, to an album I love. I'm glad I never remembered to look up The Whitlams while I was reading Saving Francesca. It made finding Eternal Nightcap in that grotty second-hand store all the more exciting. 
Here's the song that Francesca and her brother Luca liked to sing at the tops of their voices. Enjoy. 

Monday, April 2, 2018

Spring A-waitening

Spring is springing but it can't even be 5 degrees outside. I went for a run yesterday and the early spring wind made me gasp with its cruelty. Cruel too: chocolatey eggs and sugary candies everywhere and I *CAN"T* eat them because I'm wearing a bigger bra size than ever and I must, I must, I MUST decrease this bust. And tummy. And bum. I try to walk a moderate line but it's too hard, so it's back to low-carb this and lots of water and no desserts and less booze and yeah, running. All the fun stuff. Actually I like to run, but it's hard when you're carrying a few extra pounds. Maybe more than a few.

I think on all those wasted days in Chemainus where I sat around between shows and didn't work out. Yeah, that was smart.

It's the last day of my "break" between a show that's ended and the start of school-and other projects. My brain is filled up with ancient Greek plays and preschool rhymes. It's an interesting contrast. Preschoolers rending their garments and groaning oi-moi, oi-moi, while Electra and Medea grasp brightly-painted hand drums and sing Somebody's Knockin' at my Door.
My hours and days are going to be so, so full, and I've left a lot of my prep until the last minute.

I think on all those wasted days in Chemainus where I sat around between shows and didn't work. Yeah, that was smart.

My email dings and it's Equity, announcing another audition. The part I auditioned for, they mention, has been cast. That means... well, it means that I'll be teaching music this fall, not performing in a musical. But it also means I can start looking for cheap tickets to Toronto, so I can run a 5k race with my friend Theresa. That's awesome! I think of my sweetie, doggedly sending in applications and expressions of interest to public art projects and corporate art projects and galleries and who-knows what else, casting his net far and wide. He simply carries on if he gets a rejection or doesn't hear back. And you know, it works. He's starting to get stuff. So that's what I'll do, just carry on and not let rejection stop me from trying.

I spend my last day of relative freedom flitting from one project to the next: printing out a plan for teaching my preschoolers tomorrow; recording a smattering of ancient-Greek-inspired lament; sketching out the idea for a new song. Feels like a day of waiting: the mail won't come, the emails don't arrive, love is at work, phone don't ring.

Sometimes the hardest part of Spring is waiting for all that promise to burst into bloom.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Year In Review: 2017

Where to start? Someone I know described 2017 as "the year in which everyone else's existential angst caught up to my own," which is a pretty good way to sum it all up.  Last Christmas, I wrote that it felt as if we were teetering on some sort of abyss, and that still applies. But it's a year where we got angry. A year of #MeToo. A year of protests. We've had a year to get used to the fact that some terrible things have happened on the world stage. A lot of writing I've seen lately has been positive- it's almost as if we've hit the bottom of the (cess)pool, and now we have to push quickly upward, towards light and fresh air.
Last year I also wrote that the negativity on social media made me despair, so this year I did something about it. In May I stepped away from Facebook, almost entirely, and it felt fantastic. I've been bingeing on it over this Christmas week, but I'll step away again, and what was surprising was how easy it felt after a day or two. I wish I could say the same for my sugar addiction, which is still something I struggle with. I don't weigh myself, but I know I'm heavy right now. I'm also running and hitting the gym, so hey, it's a work in progress. I'm a work in progress. Let's see how things progressed in 2017.

January: I joined thousands of pussy-hatted protesters downtown in hopes that we could start making the world a better, hate-free place. In faint hope, I started cruising the Craigslist ads... and hit the jackpot. I found a gorgeous basement suite just off Commercial Drive, with the nicest landlords in the world. I still pinch myself, every day. I did an online psychology course. Vancouver was snowy, to my everlasting delight.

February: I taught. I did some session work. I saved my money and packed up my bedroom, readying for the big move in March.  It was still snowy. I had a revelation that although teaching was important, performing was still the most important thing in my life. I played music with my friends.

March: Big month! Moving day was on the 6th: two hours later my stuff was in boxes on the floor of my new place. Two days later it was mostly all unpacked. I don't waste time. The biggest incentive for having everything tidy? A week after I moved, I left for a 2-week trip to Saskatoon. It was cold, and I missed my new home, but working with the Persephone Theatre young company was rewarding. I also got to catch up with some old friends.

April: Back from Saskatoon and revelling in my new home, I also dropped straight into rehearsals for a remount of The Out Vigil. It was a delight to connect with such a wonderful show and such great people, and to get to perform in the beautiful Evergreen Cultural Centre. Then I was back to Saskatoon for a week. Underdressed and permanently freezing, I was happy to be able to tack on a quick visit to Kelowna to see my dad. I enjoyed the Okanagan warmth, and my weekend there.

May: One more week in Saskatoon for the opening of Here, by the Persephone Young Company. Very proud of the show I helped create, but I developed stomach pain that made much of my trip uncomfortable at best. Back to Vancouver, to teaching, to band practices.

June: Finished up teaching, and as is becoming tradition, I left for Saskatoon the day after for a three-week contract. It was STILL cold! In fact, I spent much of my time there freezing in the unseasonable chill. It warmed up at last, just in time for our long confinement indoors during tech week. I found this contract a bit challenging at times, but it was still a great chance to reconnect with some amazing people, and spend time in a city that I love.

July: Returned to Vancouver. Taught 2 weeks of summer music camp at Arts Umbrella. Biked, walked, and swam. Went for a month without sugar. Visited the island.  Looked after my landlords' garden and made so much pesto.

August: Heatwave! Vancouver was smoky and hot. I was on holiday. I spent happy hours at the pool. I played at the Maritime Festival with the Crows.  I enjoyed a rare visit from my dad and his girlfriend. I celebrated another trip 'round the sun on this crazy planet.

September: Back to work after one more glorious trip to the island to go tubing down the Cowichan River. Teaching started to feel like something I did, more or less naturally, rather than a strange experiment every day. And of course, just as that happened, a friend encouraged me to audition for a musical... and I got the part! Necessitating a term-long leave of absence from teaching that goes into effect in January of 2018 as I leave to work at Chemainus Theatre on Vancouver Island for 8 weeks. I can't wait.

October: After more than a month of watching him be busier than ever before, my sweetheart had his first solo art show! Almost as amazing as his art was watching all his nearest and dearest friends and family show up to support him at the opening night. #squadgoals, for sure.

November: More teaching. My first solo performance as a singer/musician in a long time. A great gig with my band the following week. This felt like a looonnnnnnng month for some reason. I think because I knew I wasn't coming back to school next term and I was eager for fall term to be done.

December: School concerts- always sweet and touching and chaotic. First recording session with the band. Dreaming of a white Christmas (got just enough snow!). Family time and time with my love, and too much food and not enough visits to the gym. But some, which was a start.

2018 is going to bring some big changes. To me, and the world. I hope they're positive. Love, strength, passion to you all.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Sore heads and Snow.

Yesterday, I had a large lump taken out of my head by a remarkably unsympathetic surgeon. (Although the words "unsympathetic surgeon" may actually be tautology. I have been a Standardized Patient - role-playing for medical exams- for years, and surgeons almost always have the best brains... and the worst people skills.) Doctor Meanie (not his real name, sadly) offered to do the surgery for what he called "a tray fee" instead of the usual 400 dollars (this wasn't covered by MSP as it was not an essential surgery). But when I went back for the operation yesterday he complained throughout the procedure, and generally made me feel guilty for accepting something that he'd suggested in the first place. I contemplated the wiseness of getting into it with someone who was about to slice into my head and bit my tongue, but it made me feel simultaneously angry, and also like a charity case. 

Anyway, when I sat back up after 15 or 20 minutes, I was surprised to realize that I felt much shakier and crappier than I'd foreseen. I'd been living with this annoying thing behind my ear for over 2 years, and when the opportunity to lose it had arisen I'd quickly accepted... but I hadn't really thought about how losing it would actually feel. What it feels like is as if someone sliced hard into my head, removed something, and then pulled the skin together really tightly and sewed it together roughly. Which is exactly what happened. 

This is a busy week, what with Christmas and all. There are dinners to help cook, gatherings to attend, a couple of gigs, last-minute shopping to do. (Thank the gods that I only have a couple of people to buy for, because I've hardly done any shopping at all.) Today I had a gig at a seniors home, and my dear mother offered to drive me, my harp(!), and my accordion there. Twenty minutes before she arrived to pick me up... snow! We white-knuckled it through the unsalted streets to the gig, where my mother was thanked and applauded more than I was, for getting me there. It transpired that one of their other entertainers had had to cancel, and many family members had also backed out of the Christmas party. I played my motley assortment of Christmas accordion tunes and faked my way through a few harp instrumental numbers, and then we happily accepted their invitation to stay on for a turkey lunch. 

And then, instead of trying to get things done, I took myself and my throbbing head home (actually, my mother took me. Thanks mom!) The Christmas tree is glowing, the rosemary-caramel popcorn I'm eating is a perfectly acceptable dinner substitute, the Christmas blues/soul hits are playing on Spotify, and there is just enough snow outside to make it look wintery. I may regret this idleness in a day or two, when shopping and cooking overwhelm, but for today, it just feels like the most Christmas-y of days so far. Even with (or maybe because of) this sore, stitched head of mine. 
Actual, real SNOW! Not likely to last, though. Sigh. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017


Have you ever tried to force a feeling or a mood and come up... just a bit short? 

The seasonal holidays are upon us; as usual I have bushels of time off (unlike my theatre friends, who often get the 25th off and are back at work for a Boxing Day matinee), but although there are lights twinkling on my house, a tree brushing the ceiling of my apartment, AND QUITE LITERALLY A HARP LYING ON THE CARPET AT MY FEET, I'm not quite feeling that Christmas spirit yet. 

Blame the snow, or lack thereof. Last December it snowed on the 5th and stayed snowy right into March, so I got my long-for White Christmas with a vengeance. Everything about that December felt almost stolen and delightful: the snow blanketing everything felt stolen from a colder country; my little Christmas tree crammed into a corner of my bedroom defiantly (my roommates had just gotten kittens, and had wisely decided against a tree); the last month of stolen relief before that orange buffoon ascended to the White House and destroyed the world... 

This year there are no kittens to attack my tree, and I bought it so early (too early?) that now it doesn't smell all pine-y and fresh when I walk in the door. The weather stays Vancouverishly temperate. Some snow fell in early November(!) and I was delighted, but that was the last time. I cannot for the life of me think of the perfect present for my lovely Jay this year... There are a hundred small reasons and yet I know that it is mostly that I am missing the magic of snow, and I am trying too hard to make up for it, and you just can't force an atmosphere. 

Tonight, my friend Tanya and I went to the Christmas Market together, which is now an annual tradition. We drank overpriced but delicious Gluwein and waited in line so long for perogies that we were actually happy to cough over the twelve (gasp! rage!) dollars each for a small plate of them. Then we waited in line to get into the tent where they sell the really expensive Christmas ornaments... and then suddenly I looked at my phone and realized that it was almost 9pm. Closing time! And we still had to get our photos taken with Santa and ride the carousel! We gave up on the carousel ride and proceeded to the photo booth, where Santa was looking decidedly livelier than last year (we'd thought he might die on us, actually). 

And so, even in the absence of snow, and in the (saint) nick of time, a little Christmas magic after all. I think this sums up this year's Christmas really well: a little bizarre, a little weird, but still with a lot of potential. 
Kudos to Santa for playing along. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Eccentric Architecture

In the morning, I dream of water.
In my dream, I am walking down a street and I see an old building, slated for destruction. 
But when I go in, it is a huge, covered swimming pool, and there are people. A cafe. Children playing. There is kind of a combined Italian cafe/pool hall/rec centre vibe. It's both very strange and perfectly normal, in the way of dreams. I meet Lucia there and we have a lovely conversation, much more intimate than we would have in real life. We talk, I think, about things that happened to us a long time ago, but it's blurry like dreams can be, and I just remember a sense of peace. 
I wake up mostly feeling calm and inspired by all the turquoise water and the playing children. When I dream about eccentric architecture I often wake up with a fierce longing to actually experience the place I have just dreamed about, and I feel that now too. To spend a day surrounded by water and food and a good friend. Never mind that in real life that combination of things would be odd, and the person, although lovely, is not a close friend at all. 
My Google search of dream interpretation says that dreaming of swimming pools  "...suggests that you need to acknowledge and understand your feelings. It is time to dive in and deal with those emotions. You need to cleanse yourself and wash away past hurts. Consider the depth of the pool. If you were swimming on the deep end, then it means that those emotions are deeply seated and may be harder to confront.. You will need to work through it, no more matter how difficult. If you are swimming on the shallow end, then it implies that you should be able to easily deal with your feelings."

Interestingly, an old friend reached out to me last night, just before bed. What the f? he asked. You disappeared. 
I did, and his message wakes thoughts and feelings I need to chew over.  
I got off Facebook, because my friends' posts were making me bored, or angry, or despairing, and I wanted to remember what life felt like when my day wasn't being sucked away by the internet, and I enjoyed meeting my friends in person and knowing all their sides, not just silly memes and attention-grabbing posts (both which I was also guilty of, by the way). I got busy: I moved house; I worked in another city a lot; I had band practice and teaching and a boyfriend... In short, I was a bad friend. I thought that cutting back on social media (a move I don't regret in the slightest) would mean that I'd suddenly have dinner parties and coffee dates galore, but in reality my social life is dictated by the things and people that I love the most: my boyfriend, my band, my work. I am lucky in that my job as a musician means spending time with people I adore. Band practice is work, but it's also a social life, which is a large part of why I formed the band in the first place. 
Last night as we ended our recording session (!) for the day, our recording engineer asked us if we had any plans for the evening and the other girl in the band (who is one of my best friends lately) said offhandedly "I'm going to a ball," and we all did a double take. Turns out one of her friends was having a birthday and decided to throw a ball. Just thinking about going to one, let alone throwing one, gives me acute anxiety. I thrive on performing; I can get up in front of people and perform and not even be scared about what might happen, but I cannot imagine trying to gather scores of people in a rented hall and having a celebration. 
I think of the eccentric architecture of my friendships.
My bandmates, who are 3 very different people who somehow form a cohesive whole. We are tight. Even when I go away, they keep going without me, as I'd hoped would happen. When I had my birthday party/picnic this summer, they were pretty much the only people I invited. 
The people I teach with. When my boss asked me if there was anyone at work I felt I could go to if I was having a problem or a bad day, I couldn't think of anyone I wouldn't go to. 
My friend T, who is busy stage managing and living in the 'burbs but who keeps in touch. My Christmas Market date, my guilty-McChicken Meal-bingeing partner in crime. 
My other friend T, who I met in Saskatoon; who lives in Toronto now, and with whom I carry on a surprising and delightful friendship almost exclusively over Instagram Messenger, of all things. 
D, who invites me to yoga and breakfast. 
J, who is my love and my best friend, and whose own friends have enthusiastically accepted me without reservation or exception. 

And I think of rooms that are boarded up, maybe slated for destruction. 
The friends who had families, who got preoccupied with diapers and routines and sudden illnesses and school. Maybe I wasn't always flexible enough to accept that other things were more important to them and maybe they weren't always willing to make firm plans. 
The ones who live far away.
A couple of family members who didn't warm to my partner, and we haven't dealt with it because it's easier to let things drift apart than to hash it out. 

My last Facebook post was also about friendship, now I think about it. These feelings run deep, and they need airing and investigating from time to time or they appear in odd ways, in dreams. The anxiety of living in this uncertain and scary world makes me want to reach out, but also hide in my little bunker. I love my world, but I never want to take my place in it for granted. I shore up the crumbling foundations and board up certain rooms and reopen other ones and find new rooms I never knew existed. Rooms with a view I never expected. And maybe a swimming pool/cafe or two as well...

Monday, September 4, 2017

Impromptu Road Trip

Sometimes you decide to take a last-ditch, last-minute trip to celebrate the end of summer. Neither of you has much money to spare, but you jump on the ferry and borrow someone's car on the other side and drive to the capital. There is eating and walking and lots of laughing. You might all decide to walk the one whole block(!) to the beach to catch the last of the sunset. 

Then there is bedtime in a small apartment, with three of you bedded down in the living room. One of you snores. Loudly. Not coincidentally, only one of you gets a single wink of sleep all night. 

The next morning, you and your love will stumble to the beach again and search for sea glass, clutching your coffees like a lifeline.
Why is Victoria such a great place to find
beach glass? I have no idea. 
You will find the best and cheapest breakfast place, right on the water, and the rest of your party will stumble in, and plans will shift and change, and soon you are heading to the river in two cars in the intense heat. 

Of course, you are not the only ones who thought that tubing on the river during a heat wave on a holiday weekend would be a fine idea.

The first place is sold out of tube rentals(!), but there is a second place. Fast forward through the yucky stuff: lineups, waitingwaitingwaiting on the asphalt in the heat, figuring out how much time we have left before someone needs NEEDS TO BE HOME, packing hot bodies in a smelly van to drive to the river. Nothing matters but hauling your tube to the water and AHHHHH! you're in. 

Even then, nothing's quite how you imagined: the water is still high but the current is sluggish so the breeze blows you backwards and it takes forever to float downstream to the rapids. But who cares? There is beer, and swimming, and lazy conversations. It's hard to capture this spectacular place, seeing as only one of you brought a phone. And- whoops!- guess what? Ziplock bags aren't waterproof! Someone's phone takes an impromptu bath!  

You finish later than you thought, of course. So two of your party race away, and you and your love linger at the ice cream store that sells homemade cookies, cupcakes, and other treats. You eat ice cream for dinner #1.

Dinner #2 is at the crazy little Mexican restaurant in Nanaimo. There's a lineup, and it's only open 'til 8, but the wait is short and the food is great, although it's so hot you might as well actually be in Mexico. And guess what? Even though you couldn't make ferry reservations and you're sure you won't get on... You drive to the ferry anyway and bliss! There's no lineup at all! You will get home earlier than you hoped, and a good thing too, because by the time you hit the sack you will have been up for over 36 hours. 

Sleep deprivation catches up to someone. 

And you learn- again- that nothing ever goes quite according to plan, but that the way it went was actually better than you had planned, and you need to let go of always wanting to be in control of things. And he learns- again- that maybe making a few flexible plans isn't always a bad idea. You learn and you grow and you squabble and you laugh, and you have happy, imperfect holiday time together as the summer draws to an end.