Monday, December 31, 2007

yup that's me, making Christmas last as long as I want it to.

So I'm up here in Kelowna, about to see in the new year...if I can stay awake that late. No seriously, I slept really badly last night for some reason (could it have been the bottle of Bailey's I drained right before bed?) and only got about 4 hours' sleep so tonight I'm gonna sleep long and well. And really, what's there to stay up for? I've had my fabulous meal- my dad & stepmom always see that I eat like a queen while I'm here- watched my movie... Dad is listening to a British Invasion collection CD and Tom Jones is crooning "It's not unuuuuusual"... I could sleep soon. I'm reducing my horizons: true happiness is now a perfectly pan-fried piece of sole and watching "You Kill Me" about a gazillion times with a curly-haired Portuguese Water Dog slumped on your lap. No, but Ben Kingsley is to die for in this flick, silly though it is. I could fall in love. I could fall in love with a 65-year-old bald British actor playing a Polish-American alcoholic hitman. I always did have a thing for older men actually. Especially the odd ones that every other girl said "eewww" about. Who's with me here?
This beats the pants off last year's new year's eve, which was also the closing night of "Christmas in Wales" over in Chemainus. We drank at the closing night/New Year's party with one eye on the clock, because 3 of us had to take the ferry back to the mainland the following morning and go straight to rehearsals at the Arts Club for the Back Kitchen. There's too much pressure to have a super-great blast on NYEve, because it's the start of the New Year, for god's sake, and if you don't have the best time ever then what kind of loser are you? Well I say the hell with it. Stay home with your true love far away and fall in love with some celluloid substitute instead.
Um, Happy New Year to my 1.5 readers, whoever you are.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Happy (Burp) Christmas!

The festivities are winding down, the presents are open, the pile of junk food is being consumed at an alarming rate, the turkey leftovers are disappearing...
To me, the best part of Christmas is Christmas Eve, maybe because you can sense the anticipation of thousands of children in the air, the excitement of things to come. Christmas Day itself always feels bloated and quickly unexciting once the presents are open. I spent Christmas Eve day with my mom, preparing for the night's feast-ivities. J & his folks arrived soon after 5. The nicest surprise was that my brother was able to join us for a good few hours before going off to his night shift at the hospital (he loves that double-time pay). There was music (good ol' CBC), smoked oysters, sherry, and of course, the actual turkey dinner itself. Nicely lubricated by alcohol and background carols, the party flowed pleasantly. J's parents enjoyed themselves; freed from having to be the hostess from Hell, his mother could relax and enjoy herself. We all ate way too much of couse, but that's part of the fun. Then Mom & I took ourselves off later for the 11pm service at Christchurch Cathedral, which we've wanted to do fro years.
(This post was never completed, due to time constraints. But I'm posting it anyway)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

"Tis the Sneezin'

A Merry Christmas Poem:(
Jon & I are stuffed-up and snotty
My bronchitis is still making me feel grotty
Christmas Day will probably find us in bed
Both of us heartily wishing we were dead
I played music with friends last night until one
Then walked 35 blocks home in the rain, which was dumb
Tonight there's another party- should I go?
Well, of course, the answer is "no"
But there'll be friends, and booze, and smoked salmon
Laughing and singing and lots of jammin'
So of course I'll be there, guaranteed
Even though I should probably be quarantined
*(the author accepts no responsibility for the lousy rhyming scheme of this poem, as she has now been sick for about 6 weeks and her brain is turning to mush. She has canker sores on her tongue that make speaking & eating challenging, a cold, and the aforementioned bronchitis is still around. Any suggestions on how to make this all go away would be heartily appreciated.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

it's too yucky outide- I think I'll blog some more.

Ooh- this is my first holiday season as a blogger. Welcome to what I hope will be an annual event I shall call...
Christmas Traditions I like to Mock (part one):
  • "It's a Wonderful Life" No, it's not. If you put this lame-o movie in a cage match with "A Christmas Carol" (the B&W Alistair Sim version, natch) it would get its Yankee ass whupped. I am seldom more proud to have British roots than when I don't have to endure this crap with my family every year.
  • Christmas Songs. This is the only time I fully support Christian over Secular. "O Come Emmanual"? Benjamin Brittain's "Ceremony of Carols"? "Lo How a Rose"? Pure, silvery magic, especially when sung by little treble boys whose voices have not yet broken. "I'll Be Home For Christmas"? "The Christmas Song" & my mom's personal anthem of anathema "The Little Drummer Boy"? Dreck.
  • Feeling obliged to buy presents for everyone in your extended circle when you can't afford it. This blows. Don't give in to the insanity! Buy prezzies for the ones you love. Give everyone else a Christmas card. Seriously.
  • Getting guilted into doing things you really don't want to do/can't afford to do/don't care about. Also blows. No wonder so many people stress out over Christmas! If you have elderly, lonely parents or other family who really need you over the holidays then by all means spend time with 'em, even if you hate them. On the other hand... If you are baking 10,0000000 cookies your waistline doesn't need, hosting parties for people because you feel you should, not because you actually like them, and worrying what the neighbours will think if you don't clamber all over your icy roof stapling reindeer to the shingles then you are officially sad. And by the way, there are enough people doing their one-day-a year at the soup kitchen over the holidays. Be charitable to someone in need in February and I'll buy it.
Ok, that's all the mockery for now. If you have an impassioned argument about the merits of "Blue Christmas" (or "White Christmas", or any other Christmas 'song'), I'd love to hear it. Ditto any defences of "IAWL", although I will never believe it's better than "Christmas Carol". Never.

if I eat Almond Brittle for breakfast will it be any more bad for me than if I ate it later in the day?

So yesterday was the first ever Axis Theatre Gingerbread House Build-Off at my mom's place. The cast of "The Emperor's New Threads" worked hard to create these G-bread masterpieces, which my mom had provided the raw materials for: homemade gingerbread slabs, melted chocolate for "mortar", icing sugar for "snow" M&Ms and jelly beans and candy canes for detailing. (Note to readers: not only is my mom the coolest mom ever but she is probably the only stage manager you will ever want to have, especially if you like parties.)Josue went for the trad approach, Tanya's was a bit like an ancient Greek monument, and Stephano created a lovely villa, complete with wall and garden. A good time was had by all, and as the fabulous Mme. Anderson has written another TYA show, we all may have more work next year- here's hoping! After trying our hardest not to gorge too much on treats like Brie, hommous, shortbread, pizza and chicken drumsticks, J & I went off down the road to dinner with Galia & Terence and stuffed more food into ourselves- I love this time of year! G& T gave us some lovely baked treats for a present (see the title of today's post for details). Aw, now I've made myself hungry!
I have to reiterate how grateful I am to who-/whatever gave me the perfect family and in-laws who don't drive me crazy, although they're best in small doses. This year, to dilute them, my mom will actually be hosting our Christmas Eve party with J's folks, bless her. After many years of study I have decided that the reason my mom gives such good party is that:
  • she is warm & welcoming
  • she never sweats the small stuff
  • she always plays great background music
  • her cooking is without peer
  • she genuinely enjoys having people over
This year I will be flying up to Kelowna to see Dad & June close to New Year's eve and staying for a few days. This involves a little sacrifice on my part since my father and stepmom are seldom awake after 10pm and so are not exactly the ideal people to be seeing in the new year with. But as long as they have some booze in the house the dogs & I can take care of ourselves thankyouverymuch.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

new opportunities

On Saturday night, a new band was born. It might become the one band I've hoped of playing in for years, or our combined crazy schedules might pull it apart. But I'm hoping we can make it work. There's an excitement, an electricity when we play together, even though it's not a polished sound yet. The potential is awesome- I'll have to practice my butt off to keep up with these guys.
We stood in front of a bunch of theatre people, some who've known me since I was just starting out as a musician, and played just a few songs for the Leaky Heaven fundraiser- I must say it was very satisfying to look and sound good in front of people I want to work with and an old crush was there, which was extra fun- and they loved it! Here are some of the things we heard:
"You guys sound as if you've been playing together for years!"
"What great singing!"
"I've never seen anyone play the accordion with such passion...and such eroticism!" Seriously, I'm not making this up.
Anyway, I have to run, but keep your fingers crossed for me. This could be awesome.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

D'you think...

...that eating a wheel of shortbread with breakfast might, just might, play havoc with my plans to look really slim 'n sexy by Spring??? Nah, didn't think so.
It is so intensely grey outside that it's taking all my willpower to change clothes and waddle off to the gym (to combat the negative effects of said shortbread), so I'm putting it off by writing this blog.
I think I'm slowly coming back to the land of the living after spending a diverting time in the land of the bronchially infected, with a not-so-brief foray into the Valley of the Jetlagged. Still really enjoying my sleep, though- J says "it's about time," having been a long-time fan of 11-hour "naps".
Yesterday I didn't get out of my pj's until sometime in the afternoon! On the bright side though, I did finish 3 arrangements of Eastern European tunes for the hopefully reborn Redboot Trio. I would post a sound clip here, but there seems to be no way to do that. I find there is something so satisfying about arranging music- when the pieces just seem to fit together perfectly. I, who have no time or patience for jigsaw puzzles, Scrabble, Sudoku or any of that stuff, will happily mess around with a song until it sounds just right. Hours will pass like minutes (as they did yesterday) and hopefully at the end of it I come out of my daze with some tasty new material. Can't wait to test these songs out on Russ & Amelia!
Ok, must go to the gym now. Can't put it off any more!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

random gratefulness

I feel genuinely sorry for those people who dread this time of year. Whether it's tragic memories, evil family members you suddenly have to cook for or just too much damn money flying from the wallet, some folks just can't seem to get behind this "merry" part of Christmas at all. Time then for me to give heartfelt thanks that although my wallet is running on fumes and probably no one will get a Christmas prezzie from me, even my sweetie, I am looking forward to spending some happy nights eating and drinking too much with the people I truly love. My mom gets back into town tonight after touring the province with "The Emperor's New Threads"- I have so much tell tell her- all about my trip, which is feeling a bit like a dream at this point... I have just bought the fixin's for a chicken stew, so J & I will bask in chicken-y goodness tonight... We no longer have cable, so we'll have to think up some other inexpensive way to make the hours pass- this could be good for our love life!
I just dragged my sorry ass back to the gym today after many months away. First it was school starting, then the pumpkin patch, then the stage managing job... something had to go and exercise was it. Well, after a month of flopping around the house like a dying fish because of my bronchitis I was as weak as a kitten. Good thing I didn't start by jogging, as I nearly did! In my fantasies, a horde of overweight women in stretchy clothes would have welcomed me back and paraded me around the room in triumph after I completed my 2 circuits. But my Curves is shamelessly low-key (thank god), so I got a pleasant "hello"on my arrival and worked out in peace and quiet.
Oh, and I survived my one music exam yesterday, although I slept so much this past week that I didn't study as hard as I should have. Honestly, every time I so much as glanced at my notes I'd fall into a coma. But I think I passed, although not with flying colours or anything. And my teacher said my jazz/swing arrangement of "I Love Paris" was one of the best in the class, so score one for the old, cunning, part-time students!
Time to go and practice my clarinet now...

Sunday, December 9, 2007

a little snow

It is grey outside, with a high ceiling of clouds, and a little snow trickling out of them as if it can't help itself. A dusting of it lies on the ground, but it's very thin and won't last long.
I read that it's going to be a long cold winter, and I'm glad, because it seems like such a Canadian thing to have a cold winter and we've been lacking them these last few years- Global Warming and all that. When there's snow on the ground I remember that there are no other countries between us and the North Pole, the top of the globe.
My sleep patterns are still very messed up... I tried to study for my theory exam last night and by 9:30 my eyes were drooping and I had to call it quits and retire to bed- I bet I was out like a light before 10pm. And I slept right through until 8:15 this morning- almost 12 hours! Well, I guess my body needs to sleep right now so I'll just let it- and be thankful that I have no kids to wake me at ungodly times.
I had a gig with the North Van Community Band yesterday: 25 or so of us labouring through Christmas songs at a North Van Christmas craft fair. I find it strangely satisfying, even though we are pretty bad. The percussion section is hilarious- it's made up of two 50-something ladies who look like the conservative moms they are. I mean, good on them for taking up the drums (especially if it embarrasses the hell out of their kids) but they have a very shaky sense of rhythm! The kit player took off on a Duke Ellington medley yesterday and the rest of us were caught unawares, suddenly galloping through "It don't mean a Thing if You Ain't Got That Swing". Still, even though I always hate the pain-in-the-ass factor of commuting to the north shore, I always feel better after tooting away on the clarinet for a couple hours. I think it's the healthy flow of air through the lungs (and I very seldom cough while playing, I've noticed), plus the nostalgia factor of being back in North Van, where I grew up- it's a tidy place where the houses are comfy and everybody looks as if they have enough money.
Today, Zeellia is playing an outdoor (shiver) gig on Cambie Street- three nine-minute sets scattered throughout a 5-hour period. Who thinks up these things?!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Saturday, midnight.

So I got home from work around 4 today, full of good resolutions to study for my upcoming Jazz Theory exam, which is on Monday. Instead, I was soooo sleepy, (perhaps it was the lemon-and-honey grog with the shot of potent Kyrgeze brandy- for my throat, of course), I decided a nap would be in order, and went down around 5:30, aiming to rise by 7 and begin anew. Yeah, well that didn't work out so good. I slept until 11:30pm, and now I'm up, and hoping I will sleep again by 1 or so. I don't know whether to blame the jet lag or my bronchitis, which is now in week friggin' four, or the fact that I'm mildly terrified about my general lack of funds and maybe my body's decided that if I'm sleeping, I'm not spending $.
You know, it really bites to be in this money (or rather, no-money) situation again after having been fairly well-off for the last couple of years. Thank god J is getting tons of editing work- that expensive camera and Final Cut he went out on a limb to buy turned out to be a heaven-sent idea. Now if only he would land a nice supporting role in some tv show and keep me in the style to which I've become accustomed...
I woke up at 5:30 on Thursday morning, galvanized by fear and dread. J found me huddled on the living room couch, sobbing my heart out. We can blame a lot of things- jet lag, although I don't know how long I can keep milking that excuse, sickness, even cigarette withdrawal (did I mention I smoked in Turkey? Well I did, and if you think I don't know how amazingly stupid that was, well I do), but basically it came down to me crying about my problems and J comforting me, which he is so good at, but I feel like a troll for making him do it, especially at such an ungodly hour.
You know, the suckiest time of year to have no money is... pre-Christmas.
Anyway, enough whining. I know there are many blessings for me to ennumerate, so I'll do so, so you don't think I'm a total bitch:
  • my incredible, all-expenses-paid trip to foreign lands;
  • my part-time work at Tanglewood Books, which may at least help me to pay the rent;
  • my lovely man, who is the best cuddler around;
  • some upcoming gigs- nothing makes me feel more Christmassy than singing and playing music
And, because I've been reading the wonderful blog Sweet Juniper and drolling over their incredible photos of abandoned buildings of Detroit, here are some more pictures of Istanbul for your viewing pleasure... G'night.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Jet Lagging.

I have never slept for almost 24 hours before- jet lag is a killer. Got home yesterday afternoon, was in bed by 6:30 in the evening, and with a few interruptions, slept until after 4 this afternoon! Now I feel groggy from so much sleep, but it was good for me- I didn't sleep much this week for obvious reasons. Who wants to sleep when they're halfway across the world for only a week? There's too much to see and do, not to mention the fact that jet lag again had a hand in only letting me sleep for about 6 hours at a time.
Fatigue aside, it was an incredible trip, one that is already taking on the feeling of a dream as I sit at my desktop and try to sum it up. One week is not long enough to see a city that huge, especially when you're traveling in a group and working, and tired and still getting over a nasty illness. I'll describe these photos to give you some idea of what it was like:
The above picture is the view from Bilgi Universitesi, Santral Istanbul campus, where we were staying. A pocket of calm and wealth, surrounded by poor neighbourhoods. We called it the Compound, because although it was lovely and relaxing, it was a bit like being in a gilded cage. The pointy towers are minarets, which are everywhere. There are so many mosques that Sam and Noah started playing "Mosque Buggy"- punching each other in the arm every time they spotted one. There must be at least a thousand mosques all over Istanbul, and when the Ezzan (the call to prayer) rings out 5 times a day over the minaret loudspeakers, the sound of the singing echoes all over the place. Very haunting. This is a picture of one of the countless narrow streets we saw, filled with so many tempting stores & cafes. This was a little market that seemed to specialize in garden supplies and pets. I'm not sure how well those pets were going to be treated though, because Turkish people don't seem to have very many pets. Most of the cats & dogs I saw were strays, and had to scavenge their food where they could. There were even stray cats on our campus, staking out the cafeteria for scraps. And this is a sweet shop, of course. On the whole I found Turkish candy a bit too sweet, but Turkish Delight is just one of those things you have to try at least once while you're in Turkey. And the stores, piled high with colourful treats, looked so beautiful. This is the Hagia Sophia, one of the most famous sights of Istanbul. Funnily, this shot, with its palm trees, headscarfed woman and mosque, looks like a middle eastern cliche. Actually, I didn't see very many palm trees at all, many woman don't wear any headscarves, and the Hagia Sophia was declared a museum by Ataturk, so it's desecularised. The weather may look tropical in this photo, but it was actually really cold the whole time we were there, cold & crisp. This is me, pretending I can dance like a Turk. Of course, they all learn to move as kids, at weddings & parties, so this gorgeous girl did a lot better than me. All the young women there are very beautiful, so the guys in my band were in heaven. I on the other hand, who had only packed comfy, boring clothes, and felt very frumpy after 2 weeks of being sick, felt distinctly unglamorous. And these are the rest of Something About Reptiles, posing on the steps of-what else- a mosque with a Gypsy kid who was selling us some spinning tops. We ended up by mistake in a Gypsy area one day called Kustepe, and were mobbed by kids who led us to an internet cafe and asked us questions and sang songs to us and made us laugh. We were so lucky to have Burcu with us as she was born in Turkey and is still fluent in Turkish. Having a translator got us into places that we wouldn't have otherwise visited (or survived). We also all learned a lot of useful phrases from her, so by the end of the week we could all order food and beer, ask how much something cost, and say our hellos and goodbyes.
Oh, and our 2 gigs went very well. I wondered how Turkish audiences would take to 1 ex-pat Turk and 4 foreigners playing their songs, but we were a hit. As one Gypsy man put it when we busked in Kustepe: "The hands of the Devil play pretty well." Bush & Blair may be seen as "2 devils", as our Aya Sofia guide put it, but we were treated very well.
I think all of our appetites were only whetted by this trip: none of us was ready to come home yesterday, especially Burcu, whose family, as well as most of her heart, is still in Turkey. I'm already plotting how I can return.