LOLITA writing contest

This is it. I am hosting a writing contest. There is a prize. TWO prizes, to be honest. But ‘cept the two prizes are two individual things that are actually part of the SAME prize.

The contest:

Send a postcard story (up to 500 words) or a poem (limerick or haiku) to c3n0byte at gmail dot com. The subject field of your email should say LOCKDOWN LOLITA. The subject of your piece (or pieces; you may enter as many pieces as you wish) should have something to do with roller derby. Bonus points if you can also work dreadlocks into the piece! Deadline is Thursday,  April 24th.  There is no cost to enter this contest. Unless you count peace of mind.

The Prize:

logo-2013The winning entry will be published at cenobyte.ca; promoted on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+, etc., etc., and will receive two tickets to the Pile o’ Bones Roller Derby’s season opener on Saturday, 26 April at the Caledonian Curling Club in Regina (2225 Sandra Schmirler Way)! This is the first event of the season and will feature all three house teams:

306th Bombshell Battalion vs Bone City Beaver Dames vs Lockdown Lolitas

You can find more info about the club and about the bout itself at the Pile O’Bones Derby Club page: http://pileobonesderbyclub.com

The Coolest Prize:

The winner of this contest will get to meet Parks ‘N Wreck – one of Pile O’Bones’ newest derby girls! You’ll get to meet her IN PERSON, after her bout.

 

 

Sacrifice?

See, the thing is, when I chose to become a parent, I did not think in terms of “sacrifice”. I did not think in terms of “giving things up”. It wasn’t about not being able to go out partying with my bee eff effs. It wasn’t about not eating hot food. It wasn’t about giving up my personal space and time.

It was about welcoming a brand new soul to a fucked-up, wonderful, terrifying, joy-filled world. It was about getting to help build a whole new person. It was about seeing everyone I had ever loved reflected in wide, questioning, innocent eyes.

My great grandmother as a girl, standing with her parents.

My great grandmother as a girl, standing with her parents.

It was a decision to learn from my mistakes, to know I would make many, many more. It was a decision to create something bigger than myself, someone more important than myself. It was about learning what true need was, and learning how to be comfortable filling that need with love and patience and absolute fear. It was about learning how to identify and to accept my myriad weaknesses and to begin to learn how to find strength.

I did not choose to become a parent because I wanted someone to fill all of those voids in my life left *by* my life. I didn’t think children would “fix my life” (rather; I knew they would bring different challenges). I certainly wasn’t doing what was expected of me.

Having children has been the scariest thing I have ever chosen to do. It is the grandest adventure, and on every adventure you encounter mishaps and hardships and insurmountable problems. Usually, I am the insurmountable problem. I had to be willing to accept that there was someone who would love me because of who I am, and who would, at the same time, resent me and sometimes hate me for those same things.

I resent the claim that parents do a thankless job ceaselessly for no pay. Parents are paid with laughter and with tears. With hugs and fights and birthdays and slamming doors and most of all with years. We are paid with time. Every moment you get to share with a child is a gift. Even if you don’t like kids (not every gift is the one we want).

The most important thing I learned when I chose to become a parent is how much I valued the people who had a hand in raising me, even though sometimes they messed up. I have learned and continue to learn so much about who I am and who I am meant to be. I have not had to sacrifice; rather I have had to earn every moment

Competition?

Hi cenobyte,

How have you been? I understand you only wanted to communicate to your previous consultant but I am emailing you now check on the update for your book. We are celebrating our 17th anniversary this month and we’re giving out almost more than 50% discount. I am not sure if you are particular in saving during the publication of your book but I only wanted to inform you this as your publishing consultant. I hope you will not get angry with me. I am just doing my duty as your consultant.

Sincerely, Jan

How-to-Format-a-Book-Manuscript Dear Jan,

It’s a fine thing for you to just go around calling Nathan my “previous consultant”. You probably have him hog-tied under your desk and you’re feeding him cheerios one at a time and water from a hamster bottle. That’s no way for a man to live, Jan. I’m not sure it’s even legal. Maybe in Indiana. Either way, it appears you are utterly without remorse for what you’ve done to that poor man, and recalcitrant to boot (I really like the word ‘recalcitrant’, by the way. It doesn’t mean “someone who adds calcium to something more than once”, like you might think it means, though. It means something like a leopard doesn’t change its spots.) And that describes you perfectly.

Since our last discussion, I’ve *moved on*, Jan. I’ve been talking to Cherie [REDACTED] a Publishing Consultant with [REDACTED], which is a very long name, and I honestly don’t know what her parents were thinking when they named her that; it must take up an awful lot of space on her driver’s permit. Anyway Cherie and I have a relationship now, since you man-napped my beautiful Nathan and did horrible things to him in a pit full of cockroaches or whatever.

Cherie and I have been talking about my new book. I had to give up on my manifesto because when you man-napped Nathan, nobody ended up getting back to me about my advance, and so I couldn’t finish writing it. Well, I suppose I could have but since I didn’t get that cheque, I had to go back to work and because I had given them two weeks’ notice, they took me out of the filing office and put me back on the front lines, which isn’t bad if you don’t mind rats and raw sewage. Which, like all writers, I’m pretty used to.

I’m a little confused about your email. I mean, not only because you have the cojones to write to me after everything that happened between us – you, Nathan, and me – but I’m a little confused as to what kind of operation your publishing company is, anyway. At first, when I started talking to Nathan, I thought you were a respectable publishing house, but now, after the man-napping and three separate “consultants” offering to publish my book, I’m thinking maybe I was mistaken there.

What I’m saying is that I think I’ve underestimated not only the size of your operation but my success as a writer. Three acquisitions editors are asking for my manuscript (I’ve taken to calling it a manuscript, which, if you left your cubicle long enough to find Cherie and ask her about it, I’m sure she’d be able to explain why)! I bet Stephen King never had THREE ACQUISITIONS EDITORS asking for HIS stuff. Maybe two.

This makes me think that I’m probably asking too little for my advance. Nathan and I had initially talked about $300,000, but now that I’m in such high demand, I think I’m going to have to insist on the $500,000. And I’m not even going to pretend it’s all for Uncle Dan anymore. He can hire a grad student to grab things for him when his last three fingers fall off; since everyone seems to want to publish my books, I’m just going to take that $500,000 and buy one of those portable classrooms to write in so that I don’t have to share the kitchen table with Grandfather and Ms. Bloom’s preschool bible class. It’s a big table and all, but the truth is, what with Grandfather’s shingles and little Ricky Anderson who always (and I mean ALWAYS) has his finger up his nose, it’s tough to get a lot done.

So once you send me my advance, we can talk more about my book. To be honest, I’m not 100% sold on the idea of the book about what it’s like to be a gay man. It’s compelling stuff, and I think it’s a great idea, but I haven’t heard back from Cherie yet so I’m thinking maybe Ms. Bloom was right when she said that nobody wants to read about the gay agenda. She said it like that, too. She leaned way forward and said the gay agenda with her eyes wide open and she only really half-said it, like she was just mouthing the words but I’m notoriously terrible for lip-reading, so it’s like she knew she’d have to say SOME of it so she just kind of half-said it. Later she said it was for the benefit of the children, but honestly, those kids are more interested in what Ricky Anderson pulls out of his nose than what goes on between a couple of people in love so I don’t know what she was worried about.

Anyway, Ms. Bloom knows her books – she has, like, fifty books on her shelf and only half of them are the bible, so I might take her advice. But I was thinking that maybe the book I’m going to write should be something more *accessible*. That’s a word that means “something everyone can read”, but in this case I really just mean “people who don’t come from around here”, because if I were going to write THAT book, it’d have to be an audiobook and I’d have to get some dude with no teeth to narrate it. Not that I’m ashamed of where I’m from, Jan. I love these people. They’re just not sophisticated, you know? Unless you count shucking corn as some kind of sophistication, which I guess it is when you think about it, because there’s actually a real skill involved in getting all those hairs off without winding them around your fingers. Which is actually what happened to Uncle Danny’s left pinky. He got some corn silk wrapped around it and he didn’t notice for, like, two weeks, and by that time the damned thing just fell off so what can you do?

Speaking of audiobooks, Nathan and I talked about having Patrick Warburton do the narration for my manifesto, but now that I’m doing a different book – I’m thinking of one of those…what do you call them…coming of age stories about a girl who lives in the city and eats some bad meat. I mean *really* bad meat. Like, radioactive meat. And then instead of going through puberty normally – I mean, instead of growing armpit and crotch hair and whatever – she grows vegetables all over her body. And she’s, like ostracized or whatever because she always smells like onions because that’s the most prevalent vegetable growing on her body. I’ll do a tie-in with bullying of course, and maybe you can include a study guide for schools. You guys sell all your books into all the schools in North America, right? So this should be easy.

In fact, I was thinking if you just get the book adopted to all the core curriculae for, like, all the elementary schools on the continent, you might even be able to up that advance to, say, $550,000. That would really help with typewriter ribbons. I don’t know if you know this, but typewriter ribbons are super expensive. I think they get ink directly from deep-sea squid.

Thanks for getting in touch with me. Let me know about that advance and do be nice to Nathan. He’s a peach.

Yours,
cenobyte

Cherie from the vanity press called today

I received correspondence today from the vanity press that keeps contacting me. You remember this from such escapades as Nathan’s going to publish my manifesto and Suggestions for Nathan regarding my manifesto and A Mouthful of Marbles and Nathan’s gone missing.

A woman called “Cherie [REDACTED] a Publishing Consultant from [REDACTED]” contacted me today. Below is my reply to her request for information as to whether I am still interested the publishing services provided by the vanity press for which she works.

Image licensed for use from shutterstock.com

Image licensed for use from shutterstock.com

Dear Cherie a Publishing Consultant with [vanity press],

That sure is a long name.

I knew a girl in University called Cherie, except she spelled it Cherrie, which always made me want to pronounce her name “cherry”, and that’s pretty much a stripper name, don’t you think? Not that there’s anything wrong with strippers, although I do wonder sometimes if they actually use their real names or if they dance under some kind of nom de plume. I guess it wouldn’t be called a “pen name” if you’re a stripper. It’d be more like a nom du bâton, I guess. It just seems weird to say “pole name”, kind of like you’re making fun of Polish people. Then again, if you’re like me, every time you see the word “Polish”, you pronounce it “polish”, like shoe polish. My friend had this cruddy old car and he had a bumper sticker on it that said “Polish Mercedes”, and his family really is Polish, but I didn’t get the joke until he sold the car because I kept reading “polish”. It’s weird how words can look one way but then say something completely different.

Cherie, I’m going to choose to pronounce your name “Sherry” and not “Sha-REE”, like the Cajun woman on Bones says “cherie”, which is actually the right way to say it if you’re French, which I’m not, and since you didn’t send a pronunciation guide with your letter, I think I’ll just go with “sherry” like the drink. I’m not even going to try your whole name because that’s an awful lot of letters and I’m the sort of person who always errs on the side of brevity. If I’m doing that wrong, I guess that’ll just be my cross to bear. Which reminds me, Easter’s coming up so if you’re one of those people who does the live crucifixion things, let me be the first to wish you a good hang. And if you’re, like, Jewish or whatever, let me be the first to agree that Christians are wacked. And by ‘wacked’ here, I mean ‘crazy’, and not ‘the bomb’ or whatever. You know what I mean. With a hipster name like “Cherie”, you’re probably seven steps ahead of me already.

I have a bit of a sensitive question for you, Cherie. Do you know Nathan? If you don’t, you should ask that bitch Jan about him. Nathan was working on my manifesto, and then all of a sudden he sent me this weird garbled message about some kind of super important information and then I never heard from him again. Then JAN called me. That’s a little strange, wouldn’t you say? I mean, if this were one of those crime dramas on television or whatever, you’d be getting ready to start accusing the butler or the little blonde kid down the street, wouldn’t you? Everyone always blames the little blonde kid down the street, although usually that’s because those little buggers are up to no good. I can say this with conviction because I was a little blonde kid down the street and although I never threw rocks through anyone’s window or anything, there were times when I peed on their lawns when they weren’t looking.

You’re probably thinking that’s impossible, but I assure you, Cherie, with enough root beer and determination, you can take over the world. Pop rocks help too, although don’t mix the pop rocks with the root beer because that’ll make your stomach explode. I didn’t see it happen but my friend’s cousin’s neighbour’s dog’s former owner had a kid who ate, like, a whole packet of pop rocks and then guzzled some cola and the next thing you know it was all Hellraiser all up in that kid’s kitchen. My friend’s cousin said they were cleaning bits of that kid out of the microwave hood for weeks. They should probably put warning labels on pop rocks so that kids stop exploding all over the place.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure JAN did something to Nathan, and I suspect the reason you’re contacting me now is that JAN skipped town with her Portuguese lap dancer who bears a striking resemblance to Tommy Smothers. I don’t know this for sure of course; it just seems like JAN is the sort of person who’d have a Portuguese lap dancer who looks like Tommy Smothers for a lover. Personally, I don’t care who JAN sleeps with as long as I get Nathan back. He was working really hard on my manifesto. We talked about editors and how to come up with a title and who he was going to get to play in the movie adaptation of my book. But that’s old news. Probably I’m just going to have to accept that Nathan’s never coming back. That he’s probably lying in the bottom of some dirt-strewn hole somewhere in JAN’s condo complex, trying to sustain himself by eating his own fingernails and singing the Little Engine that Could, you know, just to keep his spirits up.

I’m going to miss that guy. He was a really good publisher, Cherie. I was really excited when he first contacted me too. But I guess I’m going to have to start over at the beginning now that you’re my publisher. Which is actually okay because things have kind of changed focus since Nathan got in touch with me earlier this winter.

Originally I was going to do this, like, manifesto or whatever? Like a kind of how-to book for people looking to establish fascist dictatorships and take over the world? Kind of like Stephen Harper? Or, you know, Vladimir Poutine? I think that’s his name – the guy who wants to force everyone in Quebec to dress like Russians when they’re at church? I actually don’t pay any attention to politics because the last time I voted, there was this old lady in queue and I think she had bladder problems or something because she kind of smelled like wee, and that really just ruined the whole experience for me. Voting should be fun, like a big party or whatever, with free drinks and bandages for everyone, but if you’re just going to go around smelling like wee all the time, maybe you should just stay home. I was going to put that in my manifesto, Cherie. The bit about if you smell like wee you shouldn’t vote? But then my mom said that what if there are people in wheelchairs who can’t get to the loo and I said “you mean WEEchairs?”, which I thought was pretty funny but my mom said it was actually kind of mean so I guess I just won’t put anything about cripples or old people in my manifesto at all in order to make sure that nobody gets picked on.

It’s not like I was going to pick on cripples. I was just going to make a joke at their expense. Everyone does that so it’s not like I’m some kind of hater or anything. I mean, I love fags, even though you’re not supposed to call them fags anymore unless you live in Arizona or whatever, but that’s just a really fun word, don’t you think? My new book is going to be called “Dan the Fag” and it’s going to be about this guy who thinks he’s gay but he’s not sure even though he only ever has sex with other men. Oh, and Dan totally is gay, by the way, but it’s not going to be all schmaltzy and romancey; it’s going to be a serious book about how difficult it is to be gay in today’s world of fast-paced insider trading and left-wing fanatics trying to force everyone to like everyone else even though there are perfectly legitimate reasons to hate lots of people, like BO for instance. I don’t think there’s anything in the charter of rights and freedoms that says you can’t hate someone if they have really, really bad BO.

So anyway, yeah. The focus of my book has totally changed; I hope that’s not a problem for you. Your email says that you’ve published more than 45,000 titles, and I have a question about that actually. My question isn’t about your brazen use of a comma splice (although that was *very* brave), but more technical. When you say you’ve published more than 45,000 titles, do you mean just the titles, or do you mean the actual books too? Because I’m not sure how lucrative the title publishing business is. I don’t know much about this business at all, to be honest with you, but I don’t think I’ve ever been to a title store, so if you can just tell me how much I can expect to make off of selling my titles, that’ll be awesome. I mean, it’s way less work to just write a title than it is to write a book, and really who wants to sit in the basement up to their ankles in raw sewage for two weeks writing a novel if they don’t have to? Me, that’s who.

You also mentioned something about your marking services, and I’m just wondering if you actually use a red pen or if you do that really annoying thing where you write down all of the errors in like an email or whatever and then send me the email? I’d rather you use a red pen because I get lost sometimes when I read email. I admit, I’m a skimmer. I’m not as bad as Dorothy, though. You can send that woman an email and she won’t even read past the first line unless you throw a whole bunch of pictures of cats in there and then put the important thing you wanted to tell her right at the bottom below “share this if you want something good to happen to you within five days”.

Oh, my bad. You said ‘marketing’, not marking. That’s a little embarrassing. I don’t even know what marketing is. I mean, you hear about it all the time on CBC, and they have that dude on that show about the dragons, and he’s also on CBC talking about markets and that kind of stuff, but all I can think about when I see him is how much he looks like the blue Muppet who always goes in to Grover’s diner and then Grover mixes up his order and he starts yelling. Those were some of my favourite skits on Sesame Street. That blue dude was so uptight, and Grover was just trying to be helpful, and it always ended up backwards somehow.

I’m guessing that marketing makes you really uptight because I just can’t get over how that business and marketing dude from the dragon show is always really uptight. He talks about himself a lot too, so I guess when you do marketing you kind of have to be really full of yourself. I’m not really comfortable talking about myself, as you can tell, so I’m glad that you are going to do all the marketing for me. I’m not sure if the book signings are part of that or not, or if I should bring this up in another email, but since Nathan never got back to me about my Australian book tour, I kind of had to cancel it and now it’s autumn over there because everything that happens in Australia is either poisonous or upside-down and I don’t want to leave here in winter to go there in winter.

Actually, I can never remember the difference between poisonous and venomous, just like I can never remember whether lay is transitive or intransitive and really who makes up these stupid rules anyway? I’m sure when you get Neil Gaiman to be my editor, he’ll help you figure those things out. I don’t think he’s Australian or anything but his wife doesn’t shave her armpits and she tours in Australia all the time so I suspect between the two of them they know a lot about that sort of thing. It’s going to be exciting to have someone who doesn’t shave their armpits editing my manuscript.

I’ve decided I’m going to start calling it a manuscript because that whole manifesto thing was more of a thing I had with Nathan, and now that we’re moving on to a more professional relationship, it just makes sense that we’d use more professional language like “manuscript” instead of manifesto and “stool” instead of poop. Did you ever wonder why “manuscript” and “manscaping” are such similar words? I think I’ll include a chapter about that in my new book “Dan the Fag”.

Does it matter if you’re not gay if you want to write a book about gay people? I’m pretty sure I’m more than capable of doing it because I have a gay friend and he tells me shit all the time like how he actually DOESN’T want to have sex with every guy he meets. Can you imagine? We’ve been wrong about that all this time. Anyway, my book isn’t going to be about BEING gay. It’s going to be about how difficult it IS to be gay. There’s a subtle difference there, Cherie, but I know you caught on right away.

I can’t wait to hear what you think of my new book idea. I guess since JAN murdered Nathan or whatever, you probably haven’t processed my advance, so let’s talk about that okay? Nathan said you were going to give me $500,000, and I totally need that right away because Uncle Danny’s second last two fingers are starting to give him some real trouble and I still need that operation on my foot. Although I banged it against the couch leg the other day and that seems to have really helped, so I don’t know; maybe I can get away with $300,000 for now.

Thanks, Cherie! I look forward to hearing from you!

Sincerely,

cenobyte

NATHAN, WHERE ARE YOU?

In January, I was contacted by Ex Libris, a vanity press that uses extremely aggressive marketing techniques to bilk writers out of their hard-earned income. I have asked repeatedly to be taken off of their contact lists, to no avial. When they contacted me in January 2014, I began a lengthy correspondence with my contact there, called Nathan. The links below will take you to those first three posts. In early March, I received another telephone call and email, but this time from someone called Jan. I sent these emails (one to Nathan and one to Jan)at the time, but didn’t post it because I was working on regular posts for Women’s History Month.

writing_a_letterDear Nathan,

I am frightened.

Something has changed.

Nathan, I don’t know where you’ve gone. When you first got in touch with me and told me you wanted to publish my manifesto, I was really excited. I wrote you a letter about how I needed some pointers about how to get started, and then gave you some suggestions about who should be my editor, and then I didn’t hear from you for a while. But you called me back to tell me there was some REALLY IMPORTANT INFORMATION for my book, but you were talking like you had a mouthful of marbles and thank God you also emailed me because Helen Keller herself couldn’t have understood you even with a flow chart and a nature guide. I was waiting for my advance so I could start writing my manifesto, but then I didn’t hear from you and there was all that talk about your being kidnapped or man-napped or whatever, and that was A WHOLE MONTH AGO and now I get an email from someobody called JAN?

What did Jan do to you, Nathan? Are you all right? Are you trapped somewhere, trying to get in touch with me to call for help? I know we hardly know each other but in times of extreme duress we all band together, don’t we? I mean, that’s what makes us HUMAN. Although technically I suspect what makes us human is some kind of DNA whatever-whatever. But I mean FIGURATIVELY it’s what makes us human. And nobody left a message with the word “artichoke”, so I don’t know if it’s you trying to contact me because you’re being held captive somewhere, or maybe it’s because “Jan” is an alien who’s taken over your consciousness but didn’t know about the artichoke thing, or maybe it’s because you had to take a sick day because of cough-due-to-cold and you forgot to tell “Jan” about artichoke or what. Really, though, you shouldn’t be sharing our private conversations with Jan, Nathan. That’s a betrayal of trust.

If there’s one thing an author needs to have with her publisher, it’s trust. And if you’re just going to go around and tell everyone you know about artichoke then maybe Ex Libris isn’t a good fit for me. I mean, it’s not like you’ve sent my advance like we agreed you would. I was getting a little nervous about that, but then my mother reassured me that you’d come through. I BELIEVED IN YOU, NATHAN. And you went and told Jan about us? HOW COULD YOU?

Oh wait. We changed our safe word to olestra, didn’t we? Well Jan didn’t say that EITHER so you STILL betrayed me. Just like that dude in the Scarlet Letter. I can’t believe you.

Anyway, this “Jan” person, if indeed s/he is a real person, contacted me in early March, but I was in the middle of a thing at work – oh, yeah. I know I told you I was going to quit my job, and I did actually give them two weeks’ notice, even though I don’t think you really have to give two weeks’ notice in the rat-catching profession, but it’s a professional courtesy, don’t you think? I did give them my two weeks’ notice, but then Laurel’s brother got into a car accident and she couldn’t do her route, and that’s taken me out of the office and back into the field. Honestly, it hasn’t left me a lot of time to work on my manifesto. I hope you understand.

So “Jan” called me in March, but like I said, I was up to my ears in rats, and I didn’t get around to writing until now. I mean, I sent her a letter and everything. Well, an email. Actually I sent it from my phone. It’s a funny thing, you know – you can actually get pretty good reception in a sewer.

Dear Jan

I don’t know who you think you are, stepping in on the well-established relationship I had with Nathan, but I’ll have you know I don’t much appreciate forward women. Or men, for that matter. “Jan” is a pretty gender-neutral name, I guess, but in the end it doesn’t matter if you’re a chick or a dude, because Nathan is the only person I want to work with. Nathan is the one who offered me a publishing deal, and we’ve already talked about my advance and who’s going to edit my book. We’ve talked about a lot of things, actually, Jan. Nathan and I have a kind of relationship you just won’t ever understand.

Look, I’m sure there’s an author out there for you, too. There’s a perfect match for everyone under the stars. I read that somewhere. Maybe Herman Hesse? Kalil Gibran? Oh wait, no, it was Jiminy Cricket. Anyway, the point is you need to back the hell off because Nathan and I have a good thing going. You can’t just up and leave your publisher. It’s a RELATIONSHIP, Jan. Just like every relationship. You don’t just walk into someone’s kitchen, drop your trousers, and pull a ring out of your…well. You just don’t do that. That’s my point.

And this is the same. FIGURATIVELY the same. Because if it was literally the same, you’d be in my kitchen and I’d be hitting you with a frying pan.

How did you even find me, Jan? Have you been reading Nathan’s emails? Are you in the business of poaching his authors? HAVE YOU NO SHAME? You must have some kind of loose morals to think you can just go into a man’s emails and send messages to anybody you find in there. There ought to be a law about this kind of behaviour.

Did you ever see that movie with Glenn Close where she boiled that rabbit? Or maybe it was the crotch woman who boiled the rabbit in Glenn Close’s stock pot. I don’t remember. Anyway, the point of that movie is that you can’t get what you want just by stealing it. Or, you can, but then your rabbit dies. Or rabbits are good in stew. You know, it’s been a long time since I saw that movie, so let’s just move on.

Anyway Jan, I don’t think it’s going to work out between us. It’s not that you’ve done anything *wrong* per se…well…except rifle through Nathan’s personal contacts, steal from Nathan, and then try to offer a new contract behind Nathan’s back. You really are a piece of work. So yeah, actually, it IS that you’ve done something wrong. So it’s not me, it’s you. You’re the reason Nathan and I can’t have nice things, Jan. It’s all your fault.

Listen, just between you and me, I’m actually a little worried about Nathan. I haven’t heard from him in a long time and I’m worried that maybe he hasn’t contacted my editors and the list of movie stars we’re going to get to act in the movie that’s based on my manifesto. If you could, you know, help him with that, that’d be great.

Okay thanks Jan.

~ cenobyte

So that’s what I wrote to Jan. I think I probably could have been a little more clear about our relationship – yours and mine, I mean – but it’s sent so it’ll have to do. I hope you’re okay, Nathan. You’re the only one who really understands me.

Can you look in to my advance again please? I think it must have got lost in the mail. Probably, what with Valentine’s Day and all that, it just got delayed. But if you can find out for me, that’d be great. Uncle Bruce still has three fingers!

All the best,

cenobyte

 

Red Light District

the-red-light-districtRecently the media in our province did, if you will pardon the pun, an “expose” on the colloquial massage parlours. These are not the offices and suites of Registered Massage Therapists. We’re talking about rub ‘n’ tug establishments here. Whorehouses. Brothels.

Here’s the deal – the province’s largest city (Saskatoon) has opted to license and regulate “adult entertainment services”. This means that massage parlours (brothels) must acquire a business license from the city in order to operate. It also means that the individuals working in these establishments must be licensed as service providers.

In Regina, the provincial capital, there is a bylaw that “massage parlours” can only operate in the industrial areas of town. That’s it. That’s all that’s said about them – except for the weird thing about being 110 metres away from a bowling alley, because what else do you do on a Saturday night but go bowl a few frames and then hit your local rub ‘n’ tug for a perfect cap to the evening.

So the public debate has begun about whether it’s okay for the law to “turn a blind eye” to what goes on in these establishments, and whether Saskatoon is right in licensing and regulating brothels or whether Regina is more correct in simply stating that if you’re going to ask someone with whom you are not romantically entagled to put their hand(s) on your genitals in exchange for money, you have to do that near the Refinery. I cannot believe that was just one sentence. There have been debates and talk shows and articles in the paper and a great deal of, as my friend @JasonDFedorchuk would say, “pearl-clutching” (which is, I must say with full props to Jason, probably the very best backhandedly-snarky description of the kind of gut reaction we get in Saskatchewan whenever someone mentiones any sort of change. Just picture all of us – every single Saskatchewanian, sitting in our dining rooms, clutching our pearls and saying things like “well I NEVER” and gasping loudly).

So we’re dealing with two issues, really:

  1. What to do about the sex trade
  2. Where to put the sex trade

Both of these questions seem pretty easy to answer, in my never humble opinion:

  1. Legalise and regulate it
  2. With any other business

[cue the pearl-clutching]

Look. Everything is a commodity. Everything. Food, shelter, clothing, romance, sex, drugs, culture, art, water…about the only thing that *isn’t* commodified is air…oh wait. Yes it is, at service stations sometimes you have to pay to use the air compressor. If you don’t pay for goods, you pay for services. If you pay for neither, you live in the sort of world of which I am quite jealous, and in which I’m not sure I could thrive. But it’s true.

If you *really* want to be cynical (and I know you do), the argument can be made that every interaction is a kind of transaction – the trade in information, the trade in sound, the trade in non-verbal communication. While much of those sorts of interactions are not commodified, some are (do you pay for long distance service on your telephone? Do you pay for internet access? Then your *interactive transactions* are being commodified – you pay for the service of communication). We don’t feel any moral indignation over buying kumquats from our local kumquattery, and we certainly don’t feel any moral indignation over paying for a spa treatment, so what’s the big outburst of moral indignation at the idea of selling sex?

Well, the church (on which our legal codes were established) taught us that sex is bad and dirty and wrong. I mean, *wanting* to commit sex is right up there with murder and theft when it comes to the ten commandments of things you Really Ought Not Do. I don’t want to get in to a debate about the rightness or wrongness of religion, so I won’t. The fact remains that the written codified laws of most of western society were established based on the common law, which was heavily influenced by the church’s teachings of morality and of right and wrong.

The sex trade has been vilified for hundreds of years, and it’s really difficult to change our minds on that, and it’s really difficult to get these horses going in a new direction. But hey, we can hold each other’s hands and bravely go forward together. I’ll be right here with you.

There shold be nothing morally objectionable about sex. Therefore, there should be nothing morally objectionable about commodifying sex. As long as the choice is yours to offer sex as a service, you should have the right and the privielge to do so however you see fit, providing you do not harm others. [Insert argument here about people who are married stepping out on their spouses and exposing people to disease, etc.. See 'providing you do not harm others'. Also, with a licensed and regulated sex trade, sex workers would have better access to things like health care, and benefits like every other employee in Canada.]

red_lightIf you legalise and regulate the sex trade, you can also tax it. Consider it a ‘sin tax’ if you’d like (which completely countermands my argument about sex not being a sin, but whatever).

Question two – where to put it? Any damned where you please. [cue the "dear Glob won't someone please think of the CHILDREN" argument.]

This argument always confounds me. Do people really think that if children know what goes on behind the bedroom door, they will be irrevocably broken? Do you think that seeing a prostitute is going to make your children decide to become prostitutes? Do you think that brothels automatically attract rapists and murderers and drug dealers and all of the other criminals?

There you go, vilifying sex again. Listen, the claim that only criminals have sex is pretty ridiculous. The claim that only criminals want to pay for sex is only an accurate claim because we have made buying sex services illegal. That right there is what we call circular logic. If something is only illegal because doing it is illegal, then only criminals will do it.

If you legalise and regulate the profession, then you get to set bylaws and policies which outline things like safety, cleanliness, health codes, etc.. Sure, don’t put a brothel in a high school or across the street from a daycare, because by and large, schools are built in residential zones anyway. Keep commercial endeavours in commercially-zoned areas, and we’ll all be good.

We good now? We’re good.

 

How much we lost

March is Women’s History Month (in the US).

I’m posting articles featuring important women.

I’ve been missing her a lot lately. This should be the time of my life when we can finally see eye-to-eye. When I apologize for the bullshit I put her through and she sits back and laughs. But it isn’t.

My mother Judy at her wedding, with my father's father (Gramps).

My mother Judy at her wedding, with my father’s father (Gramps).

My mother went back to work when I was three months old. It was, she always told me, the hardest decision she ever had to make. She left me with, as she said, “a stranger” (but who, I can only assume, had looked after and not murdered or kidnapped many children) and wept the entire way to school. Most women then gave up their careers and jobs when they had children, but my mum chose to do both. She took a lot of crap for that decision, too.

In going through old photographs to find some of my mum, I saw so many where she held my hand. Where she cradled me on her lap. Where we were both smiling, and I understand where my smiles came from.

She valued her education, and she cherished her ability to and decision to have a professional career. She was damned good at it, too. She was one of the first women named to provincial educational committees, and she was one of the youngest people there. My mother was never content to be a ‘token woman’, and so she threw herself into her teaching and her committee work. She was also the primary caregiver at home. Which isn’t to say Dad didn’t contribute, but that of the two of them, Dad was the one who played rec hockey and coached team sports and went on ski trips.

Mum was a really good teacher. She had a way with kids – difficult kids. She loved teenagers, for Christ’s sake, and they respected her. I think that’s part of why I’ve felt her absence so keenly the past couple of years – this is just when she would be enjoying the shit out of our kids, and when they would understand how really wonderful she was. What a wicked, filthy sense of humour she had; how she was quick-witted and could turn a phrase faster than a french chef flips crêpes. She would tell them stories about me, about my father, that would make us seem more human, more…like them. She would somehow be able to confirm that their places in the world were just beginning to be apparent, and that they are just starting to understand how truly magical the world is and how fortunate they are to be a part of it, even when things are shitty.

I think this was my first day of school. Apparently my underpants were picky.

I think this was my first day of school. Apparently my underpants were picky.

She taught me to value all people, that no person is better than any other person (even if she didn’t always live by this rule). She taught me to love books – she taught me to read. She taught me that the most important asset I have is my brain, and that if I used it, I would be unstoppable. She taught me the value of an education, the necessity for compassion, and to never stop playing – to always embrace the best things about youth (vivacity, joy, and creativity) and the best things about maturity (perspective, wisdom, and direction) and to find the perfect balance of both. She taught me that women deserve to be equal to men; that no gender is more entitled than any other, and that equality doesn’t mean “the same”. She taught me that to make a better world, you had first to start from a place where everyone has the same opportunities. This, of course, is what “privilege” means – when we do not, from birth, have the same opportunities.

But here’s the mystery about how she did all that – the only time I ever remember her “telling me” something (I mean, other than “clean your room – it smells like the British House of Lords in there”) was when I came home from Kindergarten and asked her why my friend’s parents wouldn’t let her play with my other friends. (If you’ve been following the Women’s History Month, you’ll know the beginning of this story already.) We lived in northern Saskatchewan, a few blocks from the Student Residence (a government-run residence for northern Aboriginal students during the school term), and many of my friends were Aboriginal. It was a white girl’s family who wouldn’t let her play with the Indian girls. (And in all irony, my ‘white girl’ friend was from a Métis family.)

My mother sat down with me on the couch and said, “how would you feel if her parents said she couldn’t play with you because you have blonde hair?”
And I said that was silly.
She said, “what about if they said you were dirty because you had green eyes?”
I said that was even sillier. Because kids can tell when things are just plain ridiculous.
“Your friend’s parents don’t want her playing with your other friends because your other friends are Aboriginal, and your friend’s parents think that means they should only stay with their own people.”
I said, “but aren’t we all the same people?”
Mum said, “yes, we are. But some folks can’t see beyond what makes us unique to what makes us all the same.”
I didn’t understand. I still don’t really understand things like sexism and racism and homophobia and classism and relig…um…ism…and …let’s just say bigotry. I don’t, on a fundamental level, understand how we can choose to set ourselves apart from others because of the colour of our skin or the place our ancestors came from or the amount of money we make or whether we believe in God or Allah or nothing. I just. Don’t. Get it.
She said, “it doesn’t make sense, Jillian. It didn’t make sense 40 years ago [in WWII]; it didn’t make sense when Dutch and the English kidnapped African people and enslaved them 200 years ago, and it doesn’t make sense now. It doesn’t make sense because it’s wrong. It always was wrong, and it will always be wrong. We are all the same.”

That’s probably the most important thing I ever learned – that we all start out the same and that we all end up the same.

Nama, Mum, and the top of Grandpa's bald pate.

Nama, Mum, and the top of Grandpa’s bald pate.

When I think about how much we lost when she died, and how my children will never know all of the wonderful things about her, it’s all I can do sometimes to keep going. Don’t get me wrong. She had faults. Oh Lord, she had faults. But somehow now, they don’t seem that bad. I guess it’s true that absence makes the heart grow fonder.

If any one woman has made me realize the importance of women, and the importance of humanity, it is my mother. For all her faults, she was a good person, an inspiring person. She was cherished, admired, vilified, discriminated against, and most of all, she is very, very dearly missed. I miss her fiercely. I miss her passionately. I miss her so hard my throat aches and my hands shake. Even though she taught me to never need anyone, I will always need her.

The way you treat others is the way you treat yourself

March is Women’s History Month (in the US).

I’m taking this opportunity to write about women who’ve inspired me.

NamaMumandJillian

Nama, Mum, and me. For some reason, my Nama insisted on wearing wigs. But she always insisted on wearing wigs that looked like wigs.

There was really little more than native grass and dust in the most of the province when my grandmothers were born – one in southwest and one in central Saskatchewan. They were both born into successful families – my paternal grandmother to a successful real estate agent (back then called ‘land speculator’), and my maternal grandmother to a successful lawyer. The world had just come through the Great War and there was, I am told, a general feeling of buoyancy and joy permeating most of the British Commonwealth.

My maternal grandmother was born in southwestern Saskatchewan, in a tiny town – probably even then not much more than a hamlet – to a lawyer and his wife. She had two older brothers and two older sisters, and when she was seven years old, she watched her elder brother die in the bath. He had tuberculosis, the same disease that had taken her mother when she was only two. Her father remarried, not, they say, for any passionate reason, but because he needed a woman to look after his home and his children.

She was cruel, the stepmother. She sent my grandmother’s elder sisters away to a nunnery (it didn’t take). The surviving elder brother went off to join the army, and so my grandmother was left with the stepmother and her son. Her stepmother beat and tortured her. She was kept in shoes several sizes too small, not because they couldn’t afford new ones, but because my great-grandmother couldn’t stand my grandmother. My grandmother’s feet were crippled her whole life.

Nama in the garden. She *may* have been hamming it up for the camera. Maybe. A little bit.

Nama in the garden. She *may* have been hamming it up for the camera. Maybe. A little bit.

Yet my grandmother survived the abuse. In spite of the horrible treatment, she thrived, if not physically, then intellectually. She finished high school and became a registered nurse. She practiced privately for a wealthy family in the US during the war, and when the war was over, she returned to the southwest corner of the province to make a life with her soldier man who’d refused to marry her before the war because he didn’t want to leave fatherless children behind. They had a fine life together – she, working as a nurse, and he as a mechanic and a farmer.

They had three children, and my grandmother never stopped nursing (and here I mean “working as a nurse”, and not “breastfeeding”). This meant she had to send my mother to live with my great-aunt in the next town, but those were, my mother assured me, the best years of her life. Not only because she was completely spoiled by her uncle AND her cousins, but also because she got to be the ‘baby’ of the family while Nama was busy with my aunt.

My Nama was brilliant and quick-witted. She was kind and sympathetic. Watches always stopped when she wore them. She was a witch. She was a healer. She grew a phenomenal garden. She participated in every community event to come through town and some that she held in her own basement. She was involved in the area’s drama clubs and carnivals. She would never pass up an opportunity to dress up, or to be ridiculous. She never stopped moving, not up until the day she died. She went a mile a minute and I don’t actually remember her ever sleeping.

Nama, witching for water on my father's farm. She found water when the drilling crews/engineers couldn't

Nama, witching for water on my father’s farm. She found water when the drilling crews/engineers couldn’t – the interesting thing about this photograph is that the white smudge is exactly where she found water.

If some poor unfortunate should happen into town, my Nama would make a plate for them at her table, and would usually find some work for them to do to earn their keep and spending money. She fostered hobos, drunks, soldiers riding the rails, and stray cats. In fact, I’m pretty sure she’d foster anything that was in want of fostering, whether they needed it or not. She’d feed them and water them. She’d force them to bathe, and while they did that, she’d wash their clothes. And when they went on their way, they did so with a bag lunch. I don’t think anyone the world over ever had anything bad to say about my grandmother.

When she died, the mourners filled two churches up and down and filled the yards (they had to set up external speakers so people outside could hear. It took two days for all the people to come through the house. It took months to eat all the baking and sandwiches and casseroles and soups.

When she died, everything changed and the world lost an awful lot of colour. She died just when I was about to need her most. It seems to be a theme with the women in my life. I was 12. It occurred to me when I was going through our family photographs that on the last vacation we took as a family, everyone took pictures of the sea, of the jumping dolphins, of the rides and the gunfights and the Mexican streets. We should have been taking pictures of her. But then, she was too big to be captured in a photograph.

My Nama taught me that there is no end to the amount of love you can give. That a person’s station in life ought not dictate how they ought to be treated – that everyone deserves to be cared for and to be cared about. She taught me how to plant a garden and how to swear at a seam or hem. She taught me that it’s okay to stand up for what you believe in, even if the people you’re standing up to have more power than you – nurses took a lot of crap from doctors (they probably still do), but my Nama took no guff from anyone. Especially not from doctors. She taught me how to fold linens and make beds, how to make pastry, how to bake tarts and pies, how to make Easter ham and Thansgiving turkey. She taught me how to clean and bind wounds and how to set a broken bone until you can get to a hospital; how to make healing tea and how to witch for water. She taught me that it is possible to love someone just because they need to be loved, and that it is possible to love without condition. I wish she could have taught me how to heal a broken heart.

This was taken the last fall she was alive.

This was taken the last fall she was alive.

She taught me that wisdom is sometimes more dear than knowledge, but if you CAN have both, you ought to try to. She taught me that money is no object when it comes to kindness. She taught me that the way you treat others is the way you treat yourself. Not in a golden rule sense. Not in terms of “treat others how you wish to be treated” – not that Golden Rule malarky. But rather that the way you treat others is the way you reward yourself; kindness is its own reward, in other words.

It would take a big soul indeed to fill the space my tiny Nama embodied (she was 4’11″). There is hardly a day that goes by I don’t think about her.

Pay yourself first

March is Women’s History Month (in the US).

I’m taking this opportunity to write about women who’ve inspired me.

There was really little more than native grass and dust in the most of the province when my grandmothers were born – one in southwest and one in central Saskatchewan. They were both born into successful families – my paternal grandmother to a successful real estate agent (back then called ‘land speculator’), and my maternal grandmother to a successful lawyer. The world had just come through the Great War and there was, I am told, a general feeling of buoyancy and joy permeating most of the British Commonwealth.

Of course, it wasn’t to last.

Dorothy

Dorothy

The years got drier and drier and the money wasn’t coming in because the crops wouldn’t grow and the famers couldn’t pay their bills, and although he did what he could, eventually my great-grandfather lost everything. He’d extended all the credit he could, until finally the bank took *his* house, because he was bound and determined he wouldn’t send the bank after the farmers because, he said, you cannot get blood from a stone.

This meant that my grandmother began working to support her family when she was just a girl. At 8 or 9 years old, she used to run errands for people in her town, and by the time she graduated from grade 8, she had taken in laundry and done deliveries and she was fortunate to find work with a local shopkeeper. But, the shopkeeper was into some shady business and he had to shut up his business. So my grandmother found other work. She supported herself and her family while her brothers went off to WWII; while her elder sisters got married and moved out of the dust bowl. While her younger sister tried (and failed) to finish school.

She met the young man who would become her husband, and he was a farmer, which in the 30s had seemed like a pretty bad idea, but now that another war was looming and the rain was back, it was clear that people had to eat, and farming didn’t seem so foolish. So my grandmother worked to support her husband while he farmed land that they together saved every penny to buy. My grandmother had a baby, and instead of doing what every “respectable” woman would do (which was to stay home with the bairn), she, thanks to the kindnesses of her own mother and mother-in-law and neighbourhood ladies, went right back to work. When Dad was too little to be left with anyone else, she took in laundry and scrubbed the sheets and pressed the linens and boiled the unmentionables of several families in town who could afford such a luxury.

Her hands, she told me, would crack and bleed, but she contributed, by God, to that household. She went back to work in shops and finally at local banks, and continued to be self-sufficient even after her husband was killed in a farming accident in his fifties. Even after she lost her second husband to cancer in his early sixties.

My grandmother taught me that self-sufficiency is one of the most important things you can have, *especially* as a woman. “If you don’t take care of yourself,” she said, “you oughtn’t expect anyone else to want to. It’s no man’s job to keep a woman, Jillian. It’s a woman’s job to keep herself.”

We didn’t see eye-to-eye on many things, but she taught me a lot – the value of a dollar, to pay yourself first (always have savings), to never be in debt more than you can pay off with interest, and to always, ALWAYS put something away. Even if it isn’t very much – a little bit every week goes a long way if you need it.

Gram and my own self, selling lemonade in front of Mum's first car.

Gram and my own self, selling lemonade in front of Mum’s first car.

On a much different level, she taught me how to talk to people, and how to get the crap out of my own head long enough to realize that other people are out there, and that they *want* to talk to you. And that that’s how you build a community – one person at a time.

My Gram passed away just about one year ago today. She was my last living grandparent. I have found myself missing her in ways I didn’t think I would. Ultimately, she was a good person who taught me that feminism doesn’t have to be about fighting *against* something – it could be about fighting *for* something. I love her.

Slick’r’n snot on a doorknob

March is Women’s History Month (in the US)

These are some of the women who have made a difference in my life.

There is one woman I remember looking up to my whole life. I mean, I remember the sensation of just looking at her and thinking “wow”. From the first memories I have, she is there, and she is breathtaking, in every way. This woman is my Auntie Vicki. She is, literally, one of my heroes. I don’t think I will ever live up to the level of awesome that she is, but I try, all the time.

Vicki and Jillian

Vicki and Jillian

She lived with us for a few years when I was little. She and Mum were very close – had lived together in University, and shared the wickedest sense of humour I’ve ever seen. They, like Amy and I, could share a single look, and there would be more said in that look than anyone could ever put down in words.

Auntie Vicki is devilishly clever. She’s a voracious reader. She is a teacher who devoted her entire career to teaching mentally challenged students. Her students had Autism, Down’s Syndrome, or any number of other genetic or congenital conditions that resulted in their having brain injuries or mental delays or disabilities. She learned sign language because many of her students were non-verbal or pre-verbal. She taught through music, writing her own songs for entertainment and education. She made puppets and wrote books and told stories and she did this for over 30 years.

More than that – she can talk about pretty much any subject with authority, and if she doesn’t know something, she’ll go out and learn about it. And she won’t just get a few brochures. When she wanted to learn how to ski, she took all of the lessons, and became a beautiful, accomplished skier. When my uncle prodded her to learn how to waterski, she did it over and over and over until she got it right. She wanted to learn more about horses, so she took riding lessons, which led to week-long trail rides in the mountains, which led to buying her own horse and learning how to care for him, which led to buying a ranch and a stallion and some mares (and a pig called Ambrose who I always thought ought to have been called “Bacon”), which led to an idyllic, but busy, life in addition to her career.

She is well-travelled and when she goes somewhere where English isn’t the only language, *she learns more languages*. She drives, so that she learns the countryside. She meets people, so that she learns the culture. She tells stories (with actions), so they can laugh with her.

Auntie Vicki - we are NOTHING alike. NOTHING.

Auntie Vicki – we are NOTHING alike. NOTHING.

She is a tiny wee thing – just over five feet tall and I think she can probably still shop in the “teen girls’” clothing sections, but she’s strong, and her eyes light up the room whenever she’s near. People are drawn to her, not just because she makes them laugh, but because she is a good soul. She also has a sharp tongue, and a good dose of our family’s Irish temper. Where my Mum got Grampa’s patience and determination, Auntie Vicki got my Nama’s stubbornness and righteous conviction.

Auntie Vicki taught me to be independent – to value my mind and my humour over all other things. That with those two things, I could conquer any adversity. She taught me that everything is possible. She taught me that you must devote your life to learning, because the only *true* power is knowledge. She taught me, very subtly, and without ever saying it, that no woman needs a man to be successful, and that if a woman should choose to share her life, her success, and her soul with a man, that is no compromise, no ‘settlement’, and no ‘fulfilled expectation’; it is, rather, her *choice*. She continues to teach me many things, and is one of those people I always feel woefully uneducated and naive around (which isn’t a Bad Thing). I love her a great deal, and I want to keep learning from her for many, many years to come.

(She also taught me some of my best and filthiest swear words, which is something for which I will be eternally grateful. Nobody can turn a filthy phrase better than Auntie Vicki.)