Sunday, September 30, 2007

A rainy-day miscellany

Perfume. The only one I like to smell on my body is Chanel No.5. I know, champagne tastes... I liberated a bottle of the eau de toilette from my mother's bathroom years ago (sorry, Mom) and just recently I've begun using it again. Its sophisticated, elusive scent makes me feel more grown up. I wonder how much of loving it comes from the fact that I smelled it on my mom as a child and loved it then...
Soprano. When I was a kid I always sang alto in the choir because I could learn the harmony parts. When they finally let me be a soprano I was so happy- at last, the high notes! In high school, Toni and I would sing along to whatever was on the radio as we drove along in her car. Her foot as often as not propped on the dash as she drove. Singing the melody line was not cool- you had to find an alternate part, always. From such silly games comes a remarkably good ear for harmonies that has stood me in very good stead.
Games. I've never used a vibrator, can you believe it? J & I keep meaning to buy one, but then we forget. I've also never had a three-way, made out with a girl, or had someone snarl "you know you want it, Baby" while dripping candle wax on my nipples. But I'm only 33, so this could all change. I have held on to the same great guy for 10 years though, and it wasn't just due to my sparkling wit, let me tell ya.
My parents never beat me, so what can I write songs about? I had a disgustingly happy childhood in North Vancouver & Etobicoke. I love my mom, (who is truly my best friend other than J), my dad, and my younger brother. I am also very fond of my stepmom and my future sister-in-law. All the crazy people in my family (and there are a few) are overseas, in England. We are ridiculously healthy, except for my stepmom, but she is determined to beat her cancer and we are trying so hard to believe she can. The men in my life before J weren't good matches for me, but they were all pretty nice. This has made me confident, optimistic and friendly, but left me with very little fodder for angst-y songs.
Greasepaint & Footlights. We had tickets to Young People's Theatre in Toronto when I was a kid. I was always so jealous of the actors- I wanted to be up there onstage too. I was (in)famous in my neighbourhood for staging a full-length lip-synch version of "Cats" with all my little friends, which our parents had to watch all the way through. I know exactly why I love playing music, but my love for theatre is harder to analyze, so I don't. I just know that being part of a production makes me feel wonderful.
Don't take me to Playland. I have a terrible intolerance to being whirled, dropped, flipped, swooped or spun. Amusement park rides are strictly off-limits. Doesn't matter if it's the Polar Express, the Rainbow, or just the Swings- I will feel nauseous for at least an hour after I ride and yes, I will barf on you.
Time's up. Here are the ways I think I might die: in a car crash, trapped inside a chunk of twisted metal as the flames lick closer. I don't drive, so I am a nervy passenger because I don't feel in control. Or... I kiss J goodnight and go sleep on the couch because I have a cold and I'm snoring. Suddenly I awake to a thunderous roar. Is it a freight train? No, the whole apartment's shakingshakingshaking, the whole world's rocking and as I run to find my love, the whole bedroom breaks free from the building and slithers down the Cut onto the train tracks in a flat heap, squashing me under tons of debris. Hey, I live in a major earthquake zone- it could happen at any time.
Just say no. It was easier for me to quit smoking and weed than to give up sugar. I've been smoke-free for over a year, haven't done weed for months. But I'm going to get up from this computer and bake some chocolate chip cookies right now.

Friday, September 28, 2007


This is me today, straddling several worlds as I write quickly before heading off to a rehearsal. Wearing capable, comfy stage manager clothes for work, but made-up and packin' a pretty red dress for tonight's gig with Something About Reptiles- which will be a fun thing to do after way too long without a show to play! Hair freshly dyed ("Paint the Town" is my hair colour, and a damn good one, if I do say so myself), health returning, thank god- and I passed my 2 music tests with marks in the B range, so thank goodness for that!

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Autumn is a good time for rehearsals. The cold, wet, changeable weather makes people want to stay indoors and work. It's so much harder to rehearse in the Spring, or Summer. I spent a very enjoyable few hours this morning polishing up the vocals of the "Emperor's New Threads cast at the Russian Hall. They all sound better than they did last year, as if they all learned to use their voices over the summer. How I envy them, not because they get to sing my songs (!), but because they get to sing at all! I haven't been, lately, and I miss it so much. Ditto playing the squeezebox, but I guess I'll be doing plenty of both soon enough, at the Pumpkin Patch. For those who don't know, I tend to spend much of my Octobers entertaining at the Richmond Country Farms pumpkin patch. You get to wear orange, and a cowboy hat, make up a nickname for yourself (I'm Accordion Allie, natch), sing the same 5 hokey tunes over and over all day, and get maybe 2 short breaks if it's not too busy. It's also tons of fun, did I mention that? Although I think it takes a certain kind of person to enjoy it. A masochist, maybe.
Anyway, the "Emperor" rehearsal was a dream. The cast kept saying "Oh, we're so happy to have you here!" and I kept replying "You guys have no idea how happy I am to be here!" It's a tiny cast of three plus my mom is the stage manager, and Peter and Melody Anderson (the writer/designer and the director respectively), as well as being two of the most talented theatre pros in town, are also two of the sweetest. We broke for lunch at 1:00, and Mel had snuck in and set the big kitchen table in the Russian Hall's kitchen with a fancy tablecloth and candles. She'd brought in delicious mac 'n cheese (it's a running gag in the show), salad and drinks, so we sat around and had a candle-lit lunch and laughed a lot and I thought sometimes working in theatre is every bit as fun and amazing as I thought it would be.
Nose update: it's not a Staph infection, and I have a nifty saline spray to combat the inflammation. Let's hope it goes away soon. It's not so much the sore nose I mind, it's feeling so tired and run-down that bites.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

It's another world.

I'm starting to realize that there are many East Vans. There's the one I live in, where the Drive is a funky street to eat out and buy great clothes, a rough-edged but warm-hearted neighborhood that I love. A neighborhood I can walk around, even late at night, and feel pretty safe in. And then there's this other East Van, where some of the kids in my show live. A place where you get beat up if you walk down the Drive. A place with rival gangs that can trap you between them, so that every walk is dangerous. A world where the streets aren't safe, and home may not be any safer. Just now, after I wrote that, J & I were standing on the balcony watching some totally looped guy stumbling around in the bushes outside the apartment across the street. The other day, there was a completely stoned woman passed out on our lawn. "It's gotten worse in the last year or two," said J, matter-of-factly. So these two worlds are closer than I sometimes think. I love where I live, the raw mix of it all. But it breaks my heart to know that it's a place of terror for other people. And seeing the violence, the drugs and the poverty spilling over- I can understand why so many flee to the suburbs or to smaller towns to raise families. It takes it out of you, to stay.
One family that has stayed are my friends G&T, and their son Sebastien, who I looked after for almost 8 hours yesterday. Here's a typical East Van scenario: I took the little guy to a park close to his home, where he played joyfully in the playground while a homeless guy thrashed in his sleeping bag by the empty paddling pool and a dead cat lay stiff by the garbage cans. Thank goodness he's too young to see too far beyond his tiny bubble yet! I forgot how much fun kids are- it's so amazing to belly-laugh with someone that young- to look into their eyes and share a joke, even though you can barely share language yet. My face was tired from laughing. He plays his ukelele and sings: "Maman! Papa! Alisooooooon!" while he rocks out- it's so great.
I'm still fighting this nose infection. My latest self-diagnosis: some kind of Staph infection. One hopes not, especially since I was around a small child yesterday. But it might be, so I'd better get it checked out, because if it is, it's not gonna go away on its own. I'm usually so lucky with my health- it really drags you down, feeling blah all the time.

Monday, September 24, 2007

my nose feels like a radish.

Yes, my nose may look normal, but to me it feels like a swollen, fat, just-about-to-burst beach ball. I've never had this before- is this what sinus infections feel like? The bridge is so tender...I have to look after little Sebastien tomorrow-what if he hits me in the schnoz? I might have to wear a face guard!
The tests keep on comin' at school, and I parry and thrust, keeping my head above least I think so. Test results in a few days!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

...and me without my camera!

I took a Mental Health Day today and did a lot of nothing in particular. Or, rather, nothing related to school or The Play. Met up with Mom and strolled around the East Vancouver Farmers' Market for a while- it's apple season and the crisp, tart, juicy apples there taste nothing like their insipid cousins at the supermarket. Then over to the Russian Hall to record a cd onto a minidisc for The Emperor's New Threads. (I wrote the music for that last year and they're touring it around BC again this Fall.) Then we walked to a travel agent to try and book our flights to Mexico in the Spring for Mal's wedding. After a huge walk to get there, they were closed, but it didn't even matter because just being out on a day like today was bliss. A fierce wind last night blew away all our clouds and the air was fresh and just cool enough. And for me, being active and walking miles is some of the best medicine there is. But I was a dunderhead and forgot to bring my camera, so this blog will have to remain photo-less for the time being!
It was interesting to be at the Russian Hall, back in "Emperor" mode after all this time. (we rehearsed it last January, so it's been a while.) Made me realize that I miss being a music director- it's been a while now since I've had any MD/composing gigs and my soul (and my bank account) is feeling the lack. We'll see what the new year has in store, I guess.
Anyway, that's it for me right now. I'm going to be present in my own life today and stop staring at this screen!

Friday, September 21, 2007


That was a long, exhausting day. I rolled out of bed blearily, still tired. Zombie-lurched to school, clutching my hot-water-with-lemon. Not one, but two tests to get through in Jazz Theory! (I think I did well in one of them, though.) Then workworkwork on my script and homework, and off to a terrible rehearsal in which the kids stumbled around on the stage like the living dead, and their director freaked out on them for not working harder. And to top it all off, I stuffed my maw full of sub-par Chinese "food" and sucked down 1 and a 1/2 danishes, craving starch and sugar so much that it was worth the guilt that always follows. Why is it so easy to sabotage a healthy diet?
My sweetie is concocting a delicious-smelling chicken stock in our tiny kitchen. The scent wafts through the apartment and makes me feel better (has anyone actually proved that chicken soup has curative properties? It would make a great thesis. And think of all the great "research" that would have to be done.)
My mom took pity on me and gave me a lift to rehearsal today, saving me from the rain.
And best of all, I have two days' break from school and rehearsals!!!
(sorry, this isn't a very eloquent post. And it's kinda whiny. But that's just how I be today.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I should be doing my homework...

...but I don't wanna.
Jazz Theory is slowly making sense to me, like a dim light in a dark tunnel slowly flickering on. But I'm not sure the faint light will withstand the harsh wind of a quiz, to take that metaphor WAY too far! It's also hard for me to learn late at night, the traditional time for students to work. I only absorb info before about 9pm. After that I may as well hang up the ol' spurs, because nothing's gonna stick in my brain.
Tonight, my mom & I met the parents and half-sister of my brother's fiance, Naomi. We had sushi, which is a great way to break the ice, all that finger food, soy sauce flying everywhere, etc. I had met N's half sister before, on a very drunken night a year or so ago- she's great, as is everyone we met tonight. I am so lucky with my family. All the really crazy ones are a long way away, in the UK. Poor Malcolm, though. Finally getting hitched (the first one of our generation) and my mom and I are so not into weddings. My mom is the woman who promised me she would never wear old-lady polyester pantsuits if I never had a white wedding. And I enthusiastically agreed. I am very fond of my future sister-in-law, but I just don't understand the whole need for a big wedding! I don't. At least they're getting smart and marrying in Mexico, so it's a combined tropic holiday-slash-wedding. (not to be confused with a holiday slasher wedding, which is much different, and bloodier.) Mind you, I will probably cry as much as the next person when Mal says his I do's. If J & I make it to 10 years, which is pretty likely as it's only 5 months away, we'll have a nice little party to celebrate and that will be that.
My theory is that everyone has one performance in them, and for most people, it's their wedding. Hence the histrionics. J & I perform for a living, so...
Anyway, in other news I survived my first rehearsal with the crazy at-risk youths last night. I still hate stage managing but I think I'll survive. I don't know why it's so easy for me to be bossy when I'm a music director and so hard when I'm SMing. Actually I do know- it's 'cause I have waaay more confidence when I'm MDing. Please gods make me more assertive. And let me pass my music quizzes tomorrow. I'll sacrifice a nice goat or something, ok?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Flying Folk Army Reunion BBQ!

There were chips. And dips. And kids- the tiny offspring of my band mates. (Maybe one day they'll have their own bands!)
And jammin' to the old tunes, just to prove we can still rock! (That's me on the squeezebox)
Some of us have moved on to other areas of music. Some of us don't play much anymore. But there's always this band, the one that never officially broke up, the one with a 2nd CD in the works for the last 5 years...
Hey, we're all still speaking; we all still like each other. That's more than many bands can say.

Friday, September 14, 2007

It's Almost Bedtime

I'm going to savor my sleep tonight, unless my tricksy body has other plans. My upper back is twingeing, the kind of twinge that happens after a bit of commuter-biking and hunching over a computer for too long. School, production meeting, homework... but there was gorgeous weather, dinner with my sweetheart, and time to play a little clarinet as well. If this keeps up I shall have to stop calling myself Accordionista, because the poor old squeezebox isn't making it out of its case these days! My pal Russel recently invited me to join the North Shore Community Band, so off I went last night, to play my clarinet in a North Shore high school...just like the old days at my alma mater...except that my high school band sucked. This one is really fun, and the music is challenging enough that I'll actually have to practice, which will be fun. The inside of my lower lip stings today, though.
The sound of a band (as opposed to an orchestra, which sounds very different) took me back to my days at the National Music Camp of Canada, back in Ontario. Almost all the school bands I've ever been in have been terrible, but NMC made up for it. In one week, you'd learn more about your instrument than you would in an entire year of school band. These amazing jazz & classical musicians would come up there to teach, and they had a blast. They'd put on concerts for us, in the humid evenings in the main hall; I still sometimes hear their names on CBC. We'd play in bands, and have sectionals with experts who'd teach us everything we ever needed to know about our instruments, in my case the clarinet. I can still remember the pleasure I felt when I learned that the clarinet has 2 registers: the Clarion and the Chalemeau.
The camp itself was...spartan, to say the least. The rest of the summer it was a camp for Jewish kids- Camp Wahanawin. There were wild 3-D papier mache "posters" of all the musicals these kids had put on, all over the dining hall. If the musicals were half as entertaining as the posters...
The camp was run by this older guy and his sons, who all looked exactly the same- dark and saturnine. I remember that one of them was called Bruce, and that in the morning we were roused from our saggy bunks by one of them mournfully intoning over a loudhailer: "Flagpole, everybody. Everybody to...the flagpole." Glory days.
Anyway, I'm still feeling a bit nervous about biting off more than I can chew this fall. But with my trusty clarinet in hand and a view like this from my balcony, how can life be all bad?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

sweet music. (or, Chord Scale Theory, my ass)

I know, I know. Two posts in one day- tres nerdy, n'est pas? But... I was so tired, and my head was stuffed full of Jazz Theory, and all I wanted to do was lie down and sleeeep for 2 days. But like the good clarinet player I am, I got on my bike and pedalled off to a Reptiles rehearsal 2 hours ago, and it was like a dip in a sweet, cold pool. This learning about the cold hard rules of music is all very well, and it will be very useful to me, I have no doubt. Just playing for 2 hours with honeyed tea, good friends and wild Turkish songs however...
That's what music is all about. That's why I do it.

water, water!

It's so unseasonably hot right now. Part of me wants revel in this latelate summer (especially since we didn't get much of one from June-August), but you can't really, these days, can you? I mean, there's always that sad little voice in your head saying "well it's not supposed to be like this, is it? Probably some Global Warming-related disaster, that's all. We'll pay for this heavenly weather, mark my words."
Actually, unless I guzzle water from morning 'til night, days like this can be difficult. I'm really trying to keep up with the old physical fitness routine as well as stretching my poor brain in new directions, so between running and working out I always need water or I get headaches that last all day. I hope I can keep fitting the exercise in as life gets busier- Rev from the Pumpkin Patch called yesterday and signed me up for 12 days of Pumpkin Patch work next month, sandwiched between school, homework, stage managing and whatever else comes up!
Finally, a note of joy... I took the advice of our building manager Robert (whose stories of vigilante justice meted out to junkies and car-window-smashers working our 'hood are both amusing and horrifying) and took our poor window-lacking car to an auto-wrecker in Surrey. Well, my Mom took the car and I rode shotgun, as I still don't drive. Unfortunately I didn't take a camera, because I would have gotten some wonderful B&W shots of the auto-wrecker wasteland that exists under the Patullo Bridge. A true man-land; I think mom & I were the only females to be seen. I admit I'd dressed a little sexy, thinking that it might help in the discount department, but some of the stares I got made me feel like I'd walked into the sticks: "Yer not from around here, are ya?"
Anyway, the guy who actually fixed our windows was fantastic. Friendly, helpful, stayed 2 hours after the wreckers closed to install the windows, and the whole thing only cost $150 as opposed to the $650 we would've paid at Speedy Auto Glass!!! Made me feel better about human nature again. So Gateway Autowrecking gets the great big Seal of Approval from me. Take your car there and experience the love for yourself. Our car is no longer a flappy horror, thanks to them.

Sunday, September 9, 2007


Wow. That was a hard week. But, like all things, it has passed. And looking back, there were just as many wonderful things in there are there were hard things- in fact, most things were a hard/wonderful combination! As you can see above, this was my office for most of the last 6 days. Hard: the fresh air knocks you out! I mean seriously: zombie drool mode after a few hours in all that sun & wind. But also Wonderful: could I even believe I get paid to stroll around Jericho Beach at the tailend of summer and discuss which areas would make potential performance sites? Pretty awesome.
Here's my poor boyfriend getting kicked by "Lithuanian soldiers" for being a Jew. This show, "Letters From Lithuania", is pretty intense. Lots of violence and death, juxtaposed in one of Vancouver's most stunningly beautiful parks. If it ever gets performed (which it's supposed to, this summer), it will be very interesting to see how people react to its themes and content. There'll be a lot of stilts, masks, site-specific sets... along with the aforementioned violence & death. I stage managed this workshop, which for me is hard. I don't like SM-ing. But also wonderful: I needed money! And SMs get paid more than actors!
Also hard: school. It's kicking my ass. My instructor told me to wait as long as possible before paying for the 2 courses I'm taking, so I don't waste my money if I'm too overwhelmed. Thanks, Rob MacKenzie. But I know he's only saying that to be kind, and honestly, there's so much I don't know, so much I should know before taking these 2 classes (jazz theory & arranging). But how wonderful- to sit at a chair in a classroom and soak up information. I love learning! (And I'm determined to prove my instructor wrong and pass these 2 courses.)
The hardest thing this week: to wake up on Friday, tired already but determined to get through my 1st Jazz Theory class and then head straight to the LFL workshop...
and I get outside our apartment and some goof has smashed 2 of our car's windows! Nothing taken, just sheer vandalism, to the tune of $650. It was impossible to find anything wonderful about that. But Jon and I got through the day, a dark cloud hanging over both our heads, and slept for 10 hours Friday night and got up yesterday in much better moods.
Now the workshop is over and I have only school this week before my next SM job starts next Monday. One week. Better get working on that music homework! I went to the VCC bookstore and bought my textbooks and a comfy new knapsack on Friday. I'm a student now, even if the courses aren't paid for yet. And I'm in this for the long haul, dammit.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

school's in

Waking up early. Learning. Organizing. Keeping track of things. Being a good communicator. Listening. Focusing.
Ah god, where are the carefree days of summer? How did they fly away so fast?
I am alternately ready and not ready. To be challenged, to be learning new things, to have responsibilities again. There was a sweetness to being static, but there will be fire and fierceness this fall as I take these new steps: stage managing, school, school- I can't believe I'm going to school after so many years! Everything's crazy this week but I'll know soon what classes I have and how I'll weather part-time school and part-time stage managing. And the North Shore Community Band I'll be joining to improve my trumpet skills. Oh, and somewhere in there I need to revive my stagnant music career. And keep practicing the clarinet and accordion. And love & cherish my wonderful boyfriend. Help.

Saturday, September 1, 2007


I am a passionate believer in creating your own family, your own group of folks who sustain and nurture you even if your blood kin has disowned you for whatever reason; or even if you are not dramatically disowned but just can't be your real self around your relatives. I always think of a great quote from "Microserfs", a book I love, where the female heroine says to her new boyfriend "I'm the silent frog with my parents, but I'm the singing dancing frog around you." Meaning that she was the silent, obedient but dull frog around her uncomprehending family, but with her partner, she came alive.
I think about that this weekend as I'm in Kelowna visiting Dad & June, and also June's visiting daughter and son-in-law and their 2 kids, age 5 & 3. Jade & Brenden are not tied to me by blood, but their shrill little voices called me "Auntie Alison" all day yesterday, and it was unexpected, and sweet. Their grandma June's late marriage to my dad has made me a relative. And they call my dad, who visits them in Ottawa when he's there on business, "Grandpa David", which made my heart clench a bit. Not from jealousy, but from sadness- they may be the only kids who ever call my dad "Grandpa". Malcolm & Naomi claim not to want kids at all, and J & I are on the fence. So the only children who think of my dad as a grandpa are, again, not related to him by blood at all.
And my blood relative, Dad, has this really annoying habit of not listening to a thing I say- I have never known if it's disinterest, or poor listening skills, or what, but I can be telling him the best thing and he'll interrupt it with a random, unrelated story or interjection; while June, who often drives me crazy even though I know she's battling a life-threatening disease, can suddenly ask me what my plans are for the Fall and listen, REALLY listen to my answers in a way my dad never will.
Meanwhile, J went to a funeral today for his dad's cousin, a man he barely knew. But this cousin's daughter told him a funny story of meeting J as a 5-year-old: "you'd bury your clothes in the sand at the beach and run off, buck-naked." A great family story, from a virtual stranger.
Jon and I are both products of families who are largely disjointed from grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and the like because our parents emmigrated to Canada from other countries. In a way this is liberating- we can live our lives without the judgements of this great lumpish Family hanging over our heads. But this also leaves us dangling- lonely and disjointed in our lives without the built-in safety net of Family to cushion our blows. We are fascinated and repelled by large extended family groups and the pressure they can exert. And while I feel 90% more myself around my manufactured "family" of people like Gord, Darryl, Sean and the like, I still crave the approval or at least the recognition of people like my dad, my grandparents and cousins in the UK. "It's so nice to read about your way of life," wrote my grandma in her last letter to me, and although I find her a repellant woman in most ways, I was absurdly pleased.
At the end of this slightly intoxicated blurt (I shared 2 bottles of wine with my dad as a courtesy- June can't drink because of her cancer so really it only seemed fair to glug back some wine with him- 'hic') I guess I'm no nearer a neat summary- I still believe that the people you are truly close to are your real family but I can't reject the hold that "kin" has on me because I'm so fascinated and unfamiliar with it.
At the end of the day I can only say that I had a great time getting to know Jade & Brenden; that I passionately hope I will continue to be a part of their young lives even as I doubt that this can be so (they live across the country for one thing); that this is all probably tied in to my confusion & ambivalence about having kids; that even though I've had a great time here I'll be thrilled to get home to my Jonny tomorrow night where I can sing & dance & croak to my heart's content and still be loved just because I am Me.