Sunday, February 28, 2010

In the midst of honking horns, gleeful shouts, a fairytale ending to two weeks of olympic games-
A sobering email comes in.
It's from my aunt in England. It's titled simply, Mother. It can only mean one thing.
My grandmother, my mother's mother. Gladys Dennis. Grandmee is dead, at the staggering age of 103.
Bon writes so tenderly in this post about caring for her grandfather as he nears the end of his life in a hospital bed. I am bowled over by her love for him. I am so sad that I have never felt anything like this for my own grandparents.
My relationship with her was a casualty of distance and dementia. She lived in England. I live in Canada. When she did live with us, for 5 years, her mind was still ok but her body was failing her. She was the sick lady in the guest bedroom. Then as her body got better, my parents split up and she went back to the UK and lost her memory. My aunt would go upstairs to work and Gran would forget that she was still there and call the police and say she'd been abandoned. She went into a home and survived, as tiny and frail as a bird, long after her sense of self had flown.
When she saw you, her face would light up and she'd say "Hello, Lovely!" Even though she didn't really know who you were she knew you were someone she loved.
She couldn't remember what happened fifteen minutes ago, but she could sing the lyrics to wartime pop songs and seeing Hitler's face in a documentary could still inspire pure terror in her.
Her house was bombed to the ground in World War Two.
She survived on her own after her husband Fred Dennis died of emphysema when my mom was 19.
She was born in 1906. Nineteen-oh-six. Can you imagine the things she saw, the changes she lived through?
I wish I'd known her better. I wish I'd appreciated her more when she was with us. I wish so much of my family wasn't so far away.
Rest in peace, Grandma.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Yesterday, J & I celebrated our 12th anniversary together. What did we do? Well, we ended up playing 'tourists' for a day, and got caught up in the Olympic Party Machine that is sweeping our city at the moment. The surprising part, at least to me, was that we ended up having such a good time doing it.
Yes, the Games have begun, and like many people in Vancouver my thoughts about them were mildly grumpy when I though about the crowds, and extra-grumpy when I thought about the staggering expense attached, the expense that we'll ALL be paying off for years and years to come.
I have no problem with athletes. In some ways they are like artists: they practice their skill hard for years and years and most see very little reward for their work. (I mean, when was the last time you saw a bobsledder with a big-name sponsor? They all get media hype for the olympics, but I bet most of us would be hard-pressed to name a luger, a curler or a ski jumper when the games aren't on.) As a non-athlete who is cowardly about heights and pain, I have huge admiration for people who can jump off a gigantic slide and soar through the air, or survive being cut in the face by their partner's skate and even think of trying again. Some might say that what they do is ridiculous, but hey, I play the accordion for a living. I prance around on stage pretending that I'm someone else from time to time as well. Who am I to throw stones? So if these athletes want to compete in their sports and win little metal discs as a reward for their risks, their pain, their hard work, good on 'em.
I DO have a HUGE problem with the olympics as a money-sucking, corporation-favoring machine. I think that they have no business spending the amount of money that gets spent on these games, lying about how much it's going to cost, and then making us pay through the nose for years. My friend Rodney deCroo writes brilliantly about it on his facebook page, and his arguments are much better-informed than mine, so I'll get off my soapbox now, and say...
... that before yesterday, I never would have believed that I could have so much fun in downtown Vancouver on a Tuesday in February! Jon and I walked around for hours, taking in the free performances, the crowds, the fun. And I thought isn't it kind of sad that we need this kind of bloated, over-priced, over-budget event in our city to let our hair down?
Restaurants packed with happy diners. Strangers spontaneously talking to each other. Parties in the streets. Free concerts all over the place. Pedestrian-only areas. Art installations everywhere. A downtown core filled with crowds and excitement. For a moment, we have become a city that knows how to celebrate life.
When this is all over the after-party hangover will begin, and we will be grumpy again. But I hope that we will remember to tell the ones in power that this- this explosion of art and music everywhere is what Vancouver needs more of.
And in this time of gigantic budget cuts to the arts, something that we're going to see less and less of, unless we fight hard to be heard.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fired Up

Last night I emailed a friend:
'You know how I started off the New Year nearly naked in a hot tub with you and B, swearing up and down that I wanted to take more action in my life and stop watching from the sidelines all the time? Well, I have no work and life feels as if it's kind of standing still, but now I'm back from Surrey and excited about starting to figure out where the hell I'm headed for the next few months...'

Man, I was so full of fire in early January! And then life and inertia and unemployment and dogsitting rose up and claimed me, and I tumbled happily back into the sticky chocolate pudding-ness of the everyday, where you take a few stumbling steps forward and a few more giant sliding steps backward again.

I am back from my doggy job in Surrey, and as much as I bitched about the locale, I was overjoyed to spend time bonding with my furry 'niece' and 'nephew'. How can you possibly complain too much about this:

"I'm getting fed up with these damn photos!"

...and this:

"Pleasepleaseplease play Tug-o'-War with me rightnowrightnowrightnow!"

Nope, pretty hard to complain about that, huh?

Plus, they don't call it "City of Parks" for nothing:

Pretty hard to believe that this is 10 minutes' walk from Strip Mall Hell, isn't it?

Back when I was more fiery and conflicted, lo these 2 months ago, I accepted a job offer that will take me up north for 4 months this summer, and I was reminded of that job yesterday as I sat in on someone else's audition. Now only 3 months (less, actually) away, and I am excited to work somewhere that will stretch me as a person and as a performer.
Here's what else I want to experience in the next couple of years:
  • I want to go to the UK with my guy and see our families over there.
  • I want to hear the call to prayer soaring up from hundreds of mosques in Istanbul again.
  • I want to sing more often, and get really good at it.
  • I want to play music in Montreal, Toronto & Europe with my best friends.
  • and more prosaically, I would like to sort out my finances so that the future isn't so scary, tax time isn't a drag, and collection agents don't call us all the time.
Let's see how that goes, shall we?

(In the mean time, stay tuned for my reports as the bloated, costly Olympics descend on my city. I intend to go to as many free concerts as I can, avoid all public transit, and definitely not see any of the actual sporting events.)

Oh, and by the way, I made 2 incredible pizzas tonight. From scratch. Dough and all. In case you thought I was doing nothing with my days. Cooking: I highly recommend it. You will always surprise yourself with what you can do.