Thursday, May 31, 2007

rude awakening

it's just after nine and my eyes are burning from having been open too long. would put myself to bed now but know that at about three this morning i'd be wide awake. considering that the sassy red rims that adorned my peepers all day were inspired by just such an occurrence last night, i think i'll try to soldier on through the rest of garden state (great flick, great soundtrack) instead.

now last night's wake up call was not a pee break or a symptom of too much on the brain. no, these would be welcome messengers of morning compared to the insanity that rang my proverbial bell...

picture a row of quaint walk ups on a tree lined street. manicured lawns leading up to rich, wide wooden doors. on the street, a procession of BMW's, SUV's, Lexxi (?) hum happily by.

last night, as the inhabitants of the art deco styled sanctuaries slept, a sudden crash echoed in the space between two of the buildings.

"just shut the fuck up! shut up or i'm gonna come over there. yeah, do it again and i'll call the cops."

i sat bolt upright in bed.

it was 2:43

my heart was instantly racing, my ears attuned to the voice, almost theatrical in tone that broke the deathly still quiet of the night. i was instantly taken back to childhood where you caught strains of an argument between your parents who thought you were asleep. you clung to every word, holding your breath.

another crash and the voice, from my building, rang out toward the other.

"i'm calling now (yells out the address and the apartment number), better shut the fuck up cause they're on the way. calling them now. yeah, big guy"

not at home anymore, i'm in an episode of cops, peeking through my blinds as the wife beater parade swaggers onto the lawn, beer bellied bravado and smudged mascara on the leads.

can hear a woman's voice muffled in the background. have heard it before, from behind a door. guess my neighbour below gets the version with better reception.

am glued to this conversation, hanging on every word. feel less and less like a visitor here, it's close.

"get out and come and meet me outside. just get up and meet me outside. oh what, what now you're gonna put a gun to my head is that it, just meet me outside, that's it, they're comin"

wait, what the fuck? gun? this shit just shifted gears. i hope i have misheard as i can literally feel my brows furrow with worry. i don't live there. i don't live in that place where the guns are. who are these people and how did they get here. aesthetically i should have been protected from this. i have felt protected by my polished wood and birdsong in the morning.

still no sirens. but it's three oclock. maybe they don't use sirens then. it's quiet. no slamming, muttering or bellowing from below.

my mind is filling in the blanks, the silence with scenarios. i don't know who to fear more, the crazed woman who i've heard wailing randomly for a few months now and her bare chested boyfriend who lingers in her hall or the guy below who's clearly lost it.

still quiet. am torn. am washed with rush of urge to call cops myself and get this woman and her freaky ass alcoholic sidekick evicted and then the tide turns and wonder what happens to people who live in this raw nerve like state of being for any length of time. i'm nauseous after a moment's exposure. what does a lifetime do? how do people raise children when surrounded by belly busting blasts of abuse.

so easy to criticize the self centred blue blooded cry "not in my backyard." but here it is. in my backyard, outside my window, at three in the morning; too scared to sympathize.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

boulevard of broken dreams

is anyone else as disappointed as i am that "on the lot", a show that i was really looking forward to making time for in my week, has been infected by the trappings of "idolism"?

at the outset, it seemed that this was going to be the film equivalent of project runway. i had anticipated a behind the scenes look at how directors handle the pressure of new weekly assignments. i wanted to marvel at the editing sensibilities of one and the great visual style of another.

instead, i got a "results show" with inane banter and excruciatingly rude time delays before the losers were booted off.

i don't want to hear half an hour's worth of reminders of the number i should text message to keep my favourite person in. i don't want "america to decide" . i want a panel of people who do the job and aren't personally related to the contestants give them real feedback!

i want to see these people, who all have some talent, inspire me to push myself harder creatively. i have no interest in hearing about their home towns or watching them squirm when placed in the bottom three.

i suppose i should have known better when it was revealed that carrie fisher was to be one of the judges. i like that they wanted a woman on the panel, but why not get a female director? why not an actress who has worked in the past decade?! this ridiculous, "paula factor" where a token untalented woman exists solely to say something kind to the one who bombed, drives me mental. grr!!

gotta run, canada's next top model starts tonight. now that's a formula i can live with!

Monday, May 28, 2007

blast from the past

sorry haven't written for awhile, in the past eight days i've recorded a few tunes, put on a class production, been involved in a think tank to change the direction of literacy instruction, moderated a session about equity issues with students from four different schools, co-ordinated a thirteen act assembly in which i danced in traditional indian costume, sang a song in korean and choreographed two dances, one to chinese and the other to indonesian music. i topped it all off with the creation of a piece of artwork for a funfair on the weekend which i attended after performing friday night and before attending a barbecue saturday afternoon.

tonight? tonight i got a head start on my report cards and am fighting off fatigue and a spasmy back (my neighbour's alarm went off at 5:00 for an hour and i had already had a bit of a restless night.

on the flip side, ottawa is playing well so far in the first playoff game and i feel like i finally have something interesting enough to write about.

being one of the only people on the planet who still has dial-up, i am in the habit of checking my phone for messages before i turn on my laptop. when i checked recently, i got what i thought was a message from a telemarketer " hello, this is a message for @@@@, this is @@ from ottawa ,my number is #### just wondering if i could drop by at some point tomorrow. just give me a call when you get this message, once again, the number is #####.

the voice was calm and businesslike. had the tone of a returned phonecall that i had at some point initiated. and yet, i was perplexed. @@@ from ottawa? do i know a @@@ from ottawa? it sounded so official, so preplanned, but i have to work in the morning! i was totally thrown off. how is it that the voice on the other end of the phone could speak so assuredly about the likelihood of our meeting when i have never even known this person to have lived in the city he claimed to be calling from!

when my "tune out the prerecorded telemarketer message" sensors switched to attentive mode, i realized that the mysterious caller was a guy that i went on two dates with about three years ago! i have moved since then but my number has stayed the same. felt immediately creeped out that he had "found" me here (was never lost according to my number but you get the idea...) i met him during my, sure, why not, let's go against type and see what happens phase. he's in politics, which explains the "work the conversation to make me think that i had been looking to reconnect" aspect of the call. has been in politics for awhile and like others i have met,the culture has infiltrated to the way he communicates in his personal life, very shake your hand, call you by your name, networky kind of vibe.

anyway, while we were able to keep conversation going, i wasn't feeling a love connection. i told him so at the end of a second date and it didn't go over well. (did i mention i met his dad before our first date...?)

saw him again months later and was chatting with a guy he knew, political rival of sorts i think. he came up behind me and said bitingly " so this is the guy you dumped me for". once again, a little creeped out and a whole lot perplexed.

it was incredible. it was the first time that i had seen someone else act out one of those excruciating unrequieted have- a- whole- relationship- before- you've -been- on- a -real- date moments that had been such a prevailing theme of my own life. is this how i am coming off, i wondered?

so different to be seeing it from the receiving end. suddenly i was back in a friend's basement in junior high where i had a tortured yet meaningful (to me at least) final dance with a soul mate who could never be mine-he was with the cute petite girl, Keri, like the lotion. i would write letters to him for years, seeking him out over time, convinced that he too, felt fate had cheated us earlier on...

as an adult, on the other end of a phone where a message like one i have no doubt left on someone's machine at some time was still ringing in my ears, i felt not the hand of fate, but the eye of big brother.

where the hell does this guy get off calling me after three years to set up a time for him to drop by? does he think i don't work? and then, to ask me to call him back?! if he wants to reconnect then...but i digress.

not so much of a romantic now, am i?

i didn't call back. neither did he.

guess this is my karma for letters to self-willed partners of days past.

one day we'll all get it right.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

goin with the flow

am off to a another recording session with my band this afternoon. had our first group session on friday and am looking forward to it.

this will be the sixth time i've been in a recording situation. i've run the gamut from the clinical fancy pants studio experience where i was alone in a basement with nothing but a persian rug and a set of expensive headphones and a heavy set guru sitting at a startrek-like console of shiny lights all the way to a DIY closet i couldn't stretch my arms out in lined with cheap mexican blankets hemmed in by a screen door. this time around, we are in the other vocalist and trumpet players' living room. it's a fantastic space with crazy high ceilings, a cozy fire place, plants, great light and comfy couches that weren't picked up from a curb.

as a group, we've all got a respect for music and have discipline from our respective day jobs that's helped us to get things down and perfected. coupled with this focus is an openness to play a little bit. as a result we've taken a couple of tunes in a completely different direction.

this is what keeps me going. when it comes to any creative pursuit it's always the process that drives me. when i am writing i love to let my mind go where it will unedited for pages at length and then go back with fresh eyes and cut and clarify. when choreographing something, it's the trying things out in response to the music that gets me going, it's the emergence of organic transitions that come with dancers just playing around that i love.

in terms of singing, i love to listen to the structure of a song repeatedly,stumbling upon a groove while improvising. once i'm hooked into it, it grounds me within the song and i can meander safely around this safe spot until a melody forms. it's only possible when every one else is willing to be patient, to keep walking along the established borders. thankfully my bandmates are incredibly patient and, like me are able to go on their own "walkabouts" when similarly inspired by something someone else has done.

the experience of writing and editing the songs as we went was incredibly fluid. one idea fuelling another. the challenge comes when you can't hear or feel where the others are going. ran into that situation a couple of times. for me, i have to almost act my way through it. envisioning a character that goes along with the genre or mood we're going for and then playing the role sonically. once i can physically get a sense of what the song is supposed to feel like, i can usually retry it in a more natural voice. really trippy experience. very sensorial and intellectual at the same time. can't think of any other way to describe it.

we played for nine hours that session in a dreamy, flowing way. hope that we can get back there again somehow. hard to replicate the intangible.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

special delivery

i love people watching. if i find myself on the subway without something to read i'll just scan the car for someone interesting and try to parse together a back story for them.

found my wheels spinning tonight when the delivery guy from my neighbourhood's best wing joint dropped off my guilty pleasure.

he's an elderly gentleman-mid sixties at least, who is always winded when he makes it to the fourth floor of my walk up. though winded, he suffers discreetly, shaking his head slightly and raising his eyebrows in a self mocking, smiley kind of way. (don't think me cruel, i've offered to meet him a couple of floors down but he insists he's fine).

there's a gentleness about him that i love. he speaks to me through gestures, a wave of the hand, a tap and a nod in the direction of the receipt. there's no feeling sorry for a man like this. there's history in his hands and a sureness in the way he moves. i trust him.

i find myself strangely confident that we'd get on well together as he taught me to garden or whittle or play bocci or whatever grandfatherly activity he preferred. trust him as if i knew him.

this romanticized notion of my diminuitive man bearing the mouthwatering smelling brown bags was somewhat turned on its head tonight when i saw him with fresh eyes. i have been watching old seasons of the sopranos lately and am totally loving tony's uncle junior. he's funny and warm and straight talking and real. love the way he walks,squints, the way he suffers from being surrounded by fools. anyway, he looks exactly like my delivery guy. same glasses, same pattern of baldness, same habit of gesturing often.

seeing him in this light i wondered if my sweet old guy perception was totally mislaid. maybe he's really crusty by nature, cursing me all the way up the stairs, drawing straws with his middle aged son back at the restaurant when my order comes in to see who would have to climb my everest. maybe the smile is his uniform.

another observation,...he was wearing sandals and socks tonight. never noticed his footwear before. navy plastic sandals and brown socks. footwear you wear around the house cause the heating's acting up or something you'd slip on on your way out to the garden. no editing here for time and place.

complicated man. just like i like 'em.

then again, maybe i am the one who's complicated. maybe i just need to resubscribe to cable and leave the poor guy to his rounds.

Monday, May 14, 2007

dressing in the dark:don't do it!

i wore two different shoes to work today.

i wouldn't even have noticed had i not called my students to the carpet to read to them. this ritual has often brought with it observations from my students about my person. my first gray hairs were spotted here, as were missed patches of stubble on my knees. one year my painted toenails peeping through my sandals caused such a stir that i had to stop the lesson and address them!

one of my more candid students (there's one in every bunch) asked me why i was wearing different shoes. i scrunched up my face, befuddled by her question in the middle of my paragraph. "i wear different colours for different outfits" i replied. "no," she persisted "why are you wearing different shoes on each foot?"

her persistance took me out of the book and down to my toes. sure enough, when i extended my legs out from under me i was staring at one black sandal and one brown...with a bow no less!! i left the house at 7:30 and didn't bother to turn on the hall light before slipping my toes into my sandals and heading out the door. in my defense, they both had a wedge of the same height and a single panel of leather across the toe so they felt exactly the same.

as i sat there mortified at my inability to dress myself, my mind began to flash backward. it was eleven o'clock. not only had i been walking around work like that all morning but i had taken the subway and a bus as well! where were the nasty glares when you needed them?! You can usually rely on some busybody to throw you a disapproving glance when you've lost your way in your personal grooming regimen.

what must my fellow commuters have thought? unlike most mornings, i was not fast asleep within moments of boarding the train. i was wearing a skirt and feeling confident from a particularly close shave (new razor, foamy shave gel), my hair was doing what it's supposed to and my mascara hadn't even clumped! i wonder, would my sleepy eyed self have awoken to a bevvy of reproachful glances?

back in the classroom , i felt my credibility slip somewhat in their eyes. i had just made a kickass observation that children in fantasy stories are typically orphaned and therefore more free to carve their own understanding of the world rather than accepting their parents' filtered version and it meant nothing when held against the fact that i couldn't match a pair.

think i need to get to bed earlier. got to walk away from the lure of Lenny and his cheesy quips in the intro to the third episode of Law and Order for the evening.

it's moments like these that i fear i've been living alone for too long. i need a witness to shame me into behaving as the rest of the grown ups do.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

in praise of augusten burroughs

going to deviate from describing my travails today and take some time to promote an author i am absolutely loving right now. augusten burroughs.

the name might be familiar because he penned the novel Running With Scissors which was turned into a film last year. it details his crazy upbringing where he spent the better part of his formative years shuffling between the homes of his bipolar mother and her psychiatrist who had his own houseful of misfits.

i am reading a series of short stories that he wrote. i love the short story as a literary form. it's all about moments in time in people's lives. i love the way that the good ones let you dive right into a three dimensional place that's familiar. i love the singular focus, sometimes humourous, sometimes desperate, sometimes quietly mundane.

being a fan of the form, i've devoured carol shield's work, anne hebert's, ernest hemingway's (which kick his novels' proverbial asses!) and dave eggers', so i was pleased to discover a new voice to track when i'm in my favourite bookstore looking for a mental snack for the subway.

the collection of stories entitled Magical Thinking, is based on true events. each of them are both hilarious and endearing. i've found myself smirking shamelessly and even laughing out loud at one point. i love a good laugh when i am reading. love to be able to identify in a seinfeld kind of way to the quirks of an openly flawed protagonist.

my favourite story so far centres around his discovery of a mouse in his bathtub and his efforts to rid himself of the cretin. it details the way its mere presence has tainted his tub forever, rendering a soothing soak forever out of the question.

that's all for now. run out and read this! it won't disappoint.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

the birds and the bees

i said the word penis yesterday at work.

when launching into a recap of a science test, i had no idea that i'd end up having "the talk" with my students. i knew that it was coming and i'd even started to browse for the requisite videos about "your changing body" but nothing prepared me for having to respond on the fly to the query "what's sperm?"

as i was thrust head first (pardon the pun!) into the discussion it took awhile to get my head around just how little they knew. i was fascinated by the gaps in their understanding and their willingness to be candid about something that mortified me when i was their age.

it all began with the question "how can two women have a baby without a man?" the question was tinged with a sense of confusion about how the parts would connect. i described in vitro, voluntary sex with a man, artificial insemination and adoption as potential answers. this in turn led to "women have eggs in them?", followed by , "but then how does the baby come out?"

as i spoke they started to gather around me, a question from one spurned a question form another and the vibe in the room became family like and comfortable. they handled everything i gave them openly and maturely. i was amazed with their comfort, marvelling at their well-adjustedness. the only time when their embarassment got the better of them was when one boy asked me what sperm was and i had to say the word penis. as i spoke the word they lost it covered their ears and rolled on the carpet. i even giggled a little myself-not exactly a word that feels natural to use in your day job.

before responding to the sperm dilemma, i had to check myself. do i talk about the texture, the variety of smells, volume? i wanted to honour their risk taking with truth and enough description to demistify any misconceptions they had but i didn't want to reveal too much about my personal familiarity with the subject matter either!

before long, the girls were prodding me to give it to them straight about their periods. questions about amount of blood, colour, pain, the use of tampons came barrelling at me, one after another. in no time i was heading for my stash and opening the packaging of a pad and a tampon. i can't even describe how incredibly taboo the whole thing felt. to have something so personal become so public was strange. holding them in my hands they seemed tinged with something otherworldly. so rarely do they see the light of day. i've never had to demonstrate how to use an applicator to an audience. i'm glad i did it though. both girls and boys had all sorts of questions revealing their readiness to hear it all.

while i was dreading the whole experience, it turned out to be something quite special. the litany of questions told me that it's been something on the forefront of their minds, keeping them up at night. their eagerness to share told me that the information would be a salve of sorts where they could feel somewhat normal again in the grand scheme of things. i felt honoured to be able to help them out and allay their fears.

listening to them, a part of me wished i had had their openess at their age. hope that they'll be able to carry this confidence with them for a few more years of change.

Monday, May 7, 2007

sunday morning mass inspires

went to see a friend run a 10km race on sunday. i love being in the presence of people who are taking risks, realizing goals and pushing themselves to places they only half believed they could go.

though i run only when chased, i can appreciate the simple satisfaction a runner must feel. that feeling of being carried on by momentum, limbs moving independently of will. a true split of the mind body connection. because it was a 10k race, there was a real range of people participating. dads running with their sons, girlfriends on teams from work, marathon types who figured they might as well get a warm up in before their real training began...

each face was a story. some were flushed, some strained, some relaxed. as i scanned the crowd for my friend, i came upon a young woman wearing a ball cap and an ipod. she was one of the weary, visibly worn from her efforts. she too was searching, and soon found her mother. weakly, she called out to her: "mom", her voice faltered. having silently pushed herself through the race each step of the way, this was the moment where her accomplishment, now made real by the witness of someone who knew what it meant for her to be there, took shape. her mother, well dressed in a red cape and shades faltered somewhat, trying to place the source of her daughter's call. she called again, overcome now, shaking and covering her face with her hand, fatigue and pure emotion overwhelming her. calmly, her mom stood a foot away from her and opened up a hand made sign which read "congratulations, you did it!" the two embraced and didn't say a word for the next few moments.

i frickin lost it! there was a lump in my throat so large that i couldn't swallow and i found myself welling up. i was completely moved.

the air was literally charged with endorphins. i felt buoyed by the accomplishments of those who stood before me, walking side by side through the gates. so rare to come to celebrate the small victories. we were all beaming.

so glad i went. we so rarely get a chance to celebrate our friends in a public way. to share in those moments where we become more than we were an hour before.

proud of you jen. may just even run on purpose sometime soon!

Saturday, May 5, 2007

power play

you can take the boy out of the frat, but you can't take the frat out of the boy.

performed last night at my regular friday night gig. sets went well, crowd clapped regularly, were visibly groovin to the tunes for most of the evening.

after about an hour and a half of playing, i informed the crowd i'd be going around with tip jar to collect contributions for the band. i was about 7 tables into my rounds where people were happy to give what they could when i came upon a table of men in their mid forties.

when i approached them i was met with smiles and a compliment. as they reached into their pockets a buddy of theirs returned from smoking outside and took out his wallet to reveal a five dollar bill (a standard minimum as far as tips go). he held it out flat between his fingers and paused. he stared at me , face serious, "can i have some change for this". his buddies smirked and laughed behind me. "for a five?" i questioned. "yeah, can i have three dollars change please." his buddies behind me were laughing muttering, he's joking, he's just joking. but he wasn't. i tilted the jar toward him and told him he could take it out of the jar if he'd like. "i'm not putting my hand in there". he wouldn't budge and was staring me down, enjoying his little game, fuckin prick. my blood was boiling and it was all i could do not tear a strip off of him. instead i stared right back and said " you know what, that's fine, i'll just move on". i turned and left him there and went to the next table. his buddies roared with laughter.

as i was talking to the next table i felt a tap on my shoulder. "i'm not being rude you know. i'm not being rude" i didn't even look him in the eye. he reached around and shoved the five dollar bill in the jar.

as i continued to make my rounds i was running through a series of scenarios where i alternately threw the jar at him or went on a tear where i eviscerated his masculinity and shamed his compadres for taking part in the shaming of a woman.

it was really difficult to be in a public dining space where i had to react professionally rather than personally. probably for the best though, screaming at the guy would have gotten me nowhere. someone who belittles others for amusement is not going to phased by an emotional rant.

this is why i have a day job. don't know if i could stomach being at someone else's mercy for paying the rent.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

warning to walkers: less likely to wed

my fingers are literally leaping from key to key. couldn't wait to sign in and share this.

was just checking in on my lava account to see if i tickled anyone's fancy today and found that someone wanted to chat on instant messenger. feeling open and friendly, i replied.

the end of the conversation left me so bewildered that i thought i'd share it to see what you thought. here it is, copied and pasted, swear to god, couldn't make this stuff up. (know it's a bit unethical but it's for demonstration purposes only and his identity is protected...)

him: hey

me: hey there

him: Hello..........look at my pic

me: saw it, great smile

him: I go right for the jugular, is toronto where you see youself for the long run

me: for awhile at least. i am a pedestrian and love sidewalks and neighbourhoods rather than box stores and car life

him: what do you do professionally

me: i teach, you?

him: MOE

me: i'm going to need abit more than that

him: walkerton

me: ministry of the environment?

him: are a pretty lady but get the gut feeling -- you probably are a metro woman --unlikely to leave -- yes - thats correct, right ministry

me: you looking to go suburban?

him: Hamilton is as big as I go, I still would like a family and more rural the better different tastes thats all

me: guess so. wow, you really do cut to the chase, way to filter!

whats the purpose of all the fluff I am not 26 anymore anyhow...........I gotta go............take care Miss Pedestrian there is a life beyond the gta

me: see ya mr. minivan

Can you believe it! All of this took place in literally 30 seconds!! Incredible. 2 questions and i am discarded, at first politely and then with a little barb as a parting gift. "there's more to life..." where the hell does he get off....i lived in sudbury for 5 years for cryin out loud...

his stealthy mode of becoming acquainted totally took me aback. while i also like to get a quick sense of who someone is, i have never dared to be so brazen as to defy social norms and catch and release with such reckless abandon.

his little "MOE" IQ test was hilarious! i literally laughed out loud when i found myself reaching for the keys to type the response as a contestant would on a game show. imagine if i had got it wrong? what kind of exit line would he have used then?

love the way that my being a fan of walking the streets of the city made me unfit for family life. where am i supposed to push the stroller? inside the strip mall?

that's the scary thing about using this inhuman tool for humane exchanges. when you spend the majority of your time using this medium to fill out templates in small boxes, it's sometimes hard to remember that a person is at the other end of the interface and needs the equivalent of a friendly handshake before intimate details are highlighted in the drop down menu.

think i'll stick to stealing glances at attractive men from across crowded rooms without approaching them for the next little while.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007


vitriolic whispers

from behind closed doors,

from the vents in the concrete walls.

acid reflux feeling in the sternum

when you wander through their jet streams.

can't find a corner free of the noxious gas

expelled from bloated bellies,

tainted tongues, bruised from blathering


filtered by some into soggy strains of truth

tempers, like prairie fires, flare suddenly

in a charged yet eerily quiet kind of way.

too much for me, poor pisces.

want the cool water

in a silver bucket, thrown

on our backs.

cat like consequences

befitting our feline den.