Wednesday, October 30, 2013


J, our director, always greets me with a huge smile and uses my full name: "Hi, Alison Jenkins! It's so great to see you." I've known him for about 15 years; he and my mom are friends and we've worked together before but not for a long time. He has a manic laugh and when things are crazy (which is often, given that this is a show with so many elements and many non-professional cast members) he will turn to someone and say "Can you believe we get paid to do this?" It's partly his way of letting off steam but there is also an endearing truth to it. He is truly happy to be doing this show, which would leave many other directors pulling out their hair.
One day we are working with Mila, a busty Ukrainian woman with little english and a big personality. She sings, I follow her with my accordion while she flirts with the men in the cast. She is having difficulty grasping J's direction, even with the help of Helen, who is translating for her, but when J tells her to approach Steve, who is tall and very handsome, she gives a firm thumbs-up and says "Understand!" "Tell her to flirt more with the audience. Or I'll break her neck," says J, but he's smiling as he says it.
Evening, and I crochet a scarf while the Ukrainian dancers warm up. There are adorable 6 year-olds capering and twirling; teen girls with perfect bodies (although they wouldn't think so); young men and women who can spin and kick in the show-off style of slavic dancers everywhere with their red leather boots flashing. They exercise their brains and bodies, we musicians exercise our brains and fingers, racing through the Kolymykas and Hopaks, always getting faster and faster towards the end, as dances should.
This show is a celebration of a place: the Ukrainian Hall itself, which is where we're performing and rehearsing. So although the acoustics are the worst I've ever experienced- speech and music becomes a mushy wash of sound, and extraneous chatter is impossible to tune out or ignore- there could be no better place to be given that this is a hall with 85 years of history, which we are trying to condense into a 2-hour show. Labour unrest, immigration, racism, marriages, parties and perogy-pinching, all smushed together in 2 hours of... whatever this show will turn out to be. And although I'm not Slavic at all, I wouldn't miss it for the world.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Staining Backward

“Holmes speaks of grief “staining backward” through the pages of life; but Valancy found her happiness had stained backward likewise and flooded with rose-colour her whole previous drab existence. She found it hard to believe that she had ever been lonely and unhappy and afraid.” -L.M. Montgomery, "The Blue Castle" 
Vancouver seduced me this Fall like a guilty lover holding out a brilliant bouquet. The last two years I'd stumbled back into town from the north feeling alienated and a little lost. My moods were dark; so was the weather. Okay, last year the weather was amazing, but I wasn't. So I packed, this time around, feeling apprehensive about this challenging season, and happy to decompress for a few days at my dad's before coming home. 

And I am afraid to tempt fate here, but it's so wonderful to be back! The weather helps a lot, of course, and this October has been literally nothing but gorgeous sunshine and a lot of atmospheric fog. For the first time in the twelve years (!) I've been working at the pumpkin patch, there has been no rain. At all. Now we still have six days to go, so anything could happen. But this is truly incredible, and all of us are very, very grateful. (And yeah, I know: climate change, global warming, blahblah, but...)

That I love my work with all my heart, that I even have work, is also helping. I have paycheques coming in, and the promise of work until mid-December, and it is all 'real' work; that is, work that I am trained for and enjoy doing. I spend sunny/foggy days at the pumpkin patch, or I attend rehearsals for this and am so happy to be doing live theatre again. Or I get together with friends and rent a double bass and play folk music and score us sweet gigs. Or, super-extra-bonus: I get to be on a committee that selects who will be nominated for the Vancouver professional theatre awards (known as the Jessies), so hello! Free theatre tickets to All The Plays.

And lastly, a change of address is coming up. I will miss Hastings Sunrise immensely, but:

Goodbye, loud traffic and incredibly annoying crosswalk beeper!
Farewell, messy roommates!
Sayonara, rat shit in the living room! 

But you know, I've been showered with good fortune before and sometimes it just made me feel tired. And overwhelmed. So I have to think that at least some of the change is coming from me. I am healthy, my spirit is strong, I wake up every morning feeling excited to begin the day. Maybe it's luck, maybe it's circumstance, maybe it's exercise, maybe it's a change in the mysterious chemistry that powers my body (when I think back to the exhaustion and despair I felt at times last year I have to wonder), but whatever it is: long may it last.

Or maybe it's just the coffee. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Wow. Back in the big city again. Sunshine and perfect autumn days easing my transition back into urban life, And friends, always my lovely friends, and family too. 
The night I got back, I was staying at Mom's place and her roommate found two dusty but serviceable-looking bikes leaning against their condo's dumpster. Tires flat as pancakes and the amount of dirt on them suggesting that they hadn't been used in a very long time. I took the more modern-looking one, and with a few minor repairs (plus a new lock and helmet- nothing's really free in this life) I now have a great bike! Which I rode for miles today, zipping up to south Main for lunch with a friend, and then cruising home along sunny backstreets. 
Which goes a long way to make up for the uncertainties of this month: having to unpack from being away all summer and yet start packing again in preparation for my upcoming move to a new (yet still temporary) home at the month's end. A new theatre job starting this weekend- excitement and fear always mixed to a certain extent for a new job. Seeing rat (rat! Ugh!) droppings scattered liberally around my apartment when I got home. (Actually there's no uncertainty there. They are rat droppings, and they make me all the more certain, as if I already wasn't, that I'm doing the right thing in getting the hell outta here.)
Yesterday I felt a bit down about everything, as city life threatened to become overwhelming. Today I feel much better, grateful for a sunny bike ride, for my excellent friend Allan, who has been a huge blessing in my life for the last couple of years, for my sweet mom who does so much for me, and for new possibilities and adventures on the horizon. I know that the instability of my life here makes me worried and afraid sometimes, and that will probably continue, but there are many wonders too, and I feel glad to be able to see them today.*

*However if I actually see a rat in my apartment before I am lucky enough to leave, my worldview will become a great deal more pessimistic again, I know it.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

in transition

I rode the Dog today all the way from Quesnel to Kelowna. But back up: first I rode in a car out of Wells (watching fog rising off Jack O'Clubs Lake as we sped past, whispering a goodbye in my mind as we left)... and the day before that I stood at the top of the old tailings pile with my two roommates and looked out over the lake and tossed quartz rocks over the edge as we said our collective goodbyes to the season. The last few days were rough: we were all exhausted, and some of us were sick. Our bodies knew that the season was over and they collapsed, even though we still had to clean the house from top to bottom, and pack up our stuff. Cleaning, parties, goodbyes. In a way it gets easier every year to say goodbye, knowing that in all probability I'll be back in 5-7 months anyway, knowing that I've made as much of a life for myself up north as I have in Vancouver... in a way it's harder too. I'm not just leaving a seasonal job, I'm also leaving dear friends, a way of life that satisfies me deeply, a home where I feel most like myself. And I worry that by living in two different places I'll only have half a life in both.

But anyway, goodbyes and traveling were the order of the day and despite my worries I actually felt really happy today. I rode the Greyhound, which meant lots of unhealthy snacks and some strange characters, but mostly it meant reading and staring at All The Scenery. I am resting for a few days with my dad in Kelowna, before heading back to the city and jobs! and friends! and Vietnamese food! And (drumroll please)... moving to a new place! (which I am sub-letting for a few months and so basically my life is in transition again: I am single and sort-of homeless and not in school and not looking as glamorous as I'd like to and yet feeling amazingly optimistic, all told.)