Sunday, September 2, 2018


This time last week, I was watching an outdoor play that was a 6-hour journey from Vancouver. What a crazy thing to do! To get in a car and drive all day (massive props to Mom for driving, since her daughter STILL doesn't have a license), and by evening we were there watching the show, hugging our talented friends... and by the next day we were home again. The entire trip took less than 24 hours. 

Which was followed by a 3:30am wake-up on the following day to get to the airport for a 6am flight to Toronto, so I could run a 5k race with a friend of mine. Two impulsive trips in the space of a week. (You can see lots of pictures of my travels and adventures here on Instagram.)

Toronto was amazing. The sun shone. I crammed a lot into four and a half days. And then, with my bank account dwindling, I flew home to some unsettling news: no Fall teaching job for me, due to (another) impulsive decision of mine: to accept a part in a musical in another city. I'd be away too long, and the music school, which patiently bore my many absences last year due to my theatrical career, changed their Leave of Absence policy (probably entire due to my shenanigans). I am now out of steady work until November. 

We all love to post memes and hashtags urging us to #FollowYourDreams; telling us #YouOnlyLiveOnce. It is part of our (my) privileged-as-fuck culture to do so. There is a part of me that is so happy and surprised that people want me in their shows, that wants to follow these opportunities wherever they lead. And there is another part of me that sits here, in my dream home, the home that the teaching job pays for, and wonders
                                                  what the hell did you do? 

I lead a charmed life. I have the luxury of having no dependents, so I can take these kind of risks. I know that I would have been angry with myself for turning down the risky performing job to keep the safe job. 

And yet. 

I don't want to be scared that I can't make rent over the next 60 days. 

I don't want to go back to "scraping by" instead of having a decent paycheque. 

I don't want to be replaced at work.

What I really want, I know, is to have my cake and eat it too. And sometimes, that just isn't possible. 

Sometimes, being impulsive is a gift, but sometimes, it can get you into some scary situations. 

I'll let you know how this works out. It will work out. I think. 

What do you do when interesting opportunities turn up? Do you follow the safe bet? Or do you follow your heart? 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Surviving a Post-Show, Pre-Apocalyptic August

My show closes on Sunday the 5th. 
Two-show-day: AC fail so sweating buckets; cast member sick; everyone sad but ready(ish) to move on; sing-act-bow-sing-act-bow-partyparty-sleep.
My beautiful show closes on Sunday night.

Monday morning, I buy a new bicycle. A beautiful blue bike and I ride it everywhere. I'm goal-oriented, so I make a list of all the places I want to get to, on the bike or on foot, and I GO. 

Deep Cove. 
Arbutus Greenway.
Port Moody.
Burnaby Heights Trail.

Those are the ones I've crossed off the list and there are more to come:
Bowen Island, Richmond Dyke Trail, Fort Langley, The River District, Vancouver Island. My satisfaction grows with every red line I use to cross off the names of places I've been. 

I have coffee with a dear friend I haven't connected with in a long while. I get free tickets (a perk of my job) and I see Mamma Mia with a new friend. 

I record two new songs with my band. It's some of the best work we've done. 

My love and I bike to the Burnaby Blues & Roots Festival, where The Rural Alberta Advantage sings keening songs about Canada, and the Suffers charm us with their funk, and Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats simply blow us away. During their headlining set, the heavens open and sweet rain pours down, which is wonderful, until we have to bike home again and it's still raining. Hard. But we make it, and it's even kind of fun. 

For a few days it's cooler, and grey. Then the heat comes back and the air is sting-your-eyes thick with forest fire smoke. The world is burning up. 

I eat dim sum with a friend and go on a 25km bike ride, even though I am sick with a summer cold. I am knocked on my ass with fatigue that night, but the next day I start to feel better. 

I watch a concert in somebody's front yard, everybody sitting on steps or on the lip of the sunken patio to catch every note of the sweetest voice you ever heard.  Even in this grungy block between Broadway and 10th, in this nondescript front yard, there is so much beauty that it will make your eyes sting- with real tears this time, not just smoke. 

I catch the bus to a lake- A real lake! That you can catch a city bus to!- and I walk its small circumference, just like I did this time last year. Just like last year, it's hazy with smoke; just like last year I am filled with equal amounts joy and dread at the world. 

Just like last year I jump in and let the lake wrap her cool arms around me and I pretend things are normal and it's just another hot sunny day and maybe the world isn't ending, not just yet, please not just yet.  And then I dry off and wait for the bus to take my out of the forest and back to my home. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Too Late

Late night in my living room. I spent the day tending to my house, which was sorely in need of some love. Grey skies kept me inside, or at least close to home.

It's a summer of love and good, good work. The first summer in years that I've been able to stay in town. This evening, I found out that my job has been extended by one week. I couldn't be happier.

I like to eat early, so I don't go on stage feeling too full. Then I bike home and by the time I get there I'm ravenous. Many nights I've devoured late-night snacks (my go-to is chicken fingers, for some reason). There's a place close to my house that stays open strangely late, even on Mondays. I spent a couple of hours in there last week with a friend who was walking by. Two night-owl musicians catching up over beers and Irish whiskey.

I am in love with my night work. With lazy mornings and and taking bows and singing my heart out. With bike commutes and two-show days and waiting for the next heat wave.

I think about summers where I was working up north, ready to crumple the paper of my life's plan at the slightest hint of a better option. I was a drama queen, a troublemaker. I fell in mad love several times a week. I was careless.

My life is less fraught now, but new options still raise their heads. The difference is that I don't fall in and out of love at the drop of a hat. Love is here to stay, and the choices I have to make are work-related. Play it safe / Follow your dreams. Beautiful decisions. I may be poised on a cliff, but the ground beneath my feet is rock solid.

This song creeps up on me, like all the best ones do. One day it's just another track on an album I like, and the next day it's wrapping its tentacles around my heart. Soundtrack to the drama that still plays out, if only in my head. Missed connections and late nights and feeling strangely aware of that person sitting just to your right.  Looking up and someone's eyes lock onto yours and your breath catches, just a bit. It's not for nothing that my favourite movie is Lost In Translation. I am a huge fan of the breathless crush, the unresolved but staggeringly strong attraction.

The drama is not mine anymore. I swam out of the rapids and now I get to float in the warm shallows. This song is where I go to remember how it feels to be madly in love and crushingly sad, all at the same time.

It wasn't all bad.

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.