Categotry Archives: Just for You

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Two Princes

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Categories: Just for You, Something or other but True, Stories, True Stories, When There's Weather, Tags: , , ,

IMG_9346I leave the doctor’s office, where I have just been shirtless in front of two men I have never met. I’m feeling a little scared, because in meeting with this doctor, I have basically consented to surgery. Elective surgery, but elective surgery that may change my life and make it possible for me to run, wear seatbelts, do yoga poses properly, and lay on my stomach. So I’m a little fazed, a little overwhelmed. I decide to hit the mall, maybe buy some lunch.

I walk through the mall. It’s empty. The downtown business crowd are back in their offices. I decide I’m going to go to a shop to get some leggings because I have none without holes in. I smile at a fellow at the bottom of the escalator and head up to the shop what sells leggings.

There is a rack of leggings at the front of the shop. I’m touching every pair because texture is important. I bought a pair of leggings once that ended up feeling like elasticy burlap. I’ll never do that again. I feel someone touch my elbow. I look up.

The man from the bottom of the escalator is standing beside me. He’s touching my elbow. “I saw you,” he says. “Down stairs.”

I don’t know this man. He’s touching my elbow and standing very close to me. He’s followed me from the bottom of the escalator, where he was leaving, back up the escalator to a shop.

“You are so beautiful,” he says. “I wonder are you married?”

I touch the ring on my finger. I back  toward the rack of leggings.

“Do you have friends like you, because, mmmm,” he closes his eyes and licks his lips, “I would love to have a woman like you.”

“Pardon?”

He leers at me. Leans forward. “I would love to have a woman like you,” he says. “So much, so lovely. Like you.”

I thank him for saying so, and look pointedly away from him. I look inside the shop. There are women in there. I can just go in the shop if I need to.

“Okay, goodbye,” he says, but he continues to stare at me.

 

IMG_5754I leave the doctor’s office. I have just been shirtless in front of two men, nonchalantly shirtless, I might add, because, and this may shock you, I have no problem being topless anytime, anywhere, for any reason. We have been discussing my having breast reduction surgery. Talking about nipple necrosis. Did you know there was such a thing as nipple necrosis? “They turn black,” the doctor says, “and then they fall off. So you could lose your nipples.” I try to picture myself with no nipples. I figure, if it means I can lay on my stomach, do yoga poses properly, and find shirts that fit, I’ll cut the fuckers off myself.

It’s cold outside. The wind is unforgiving. I decide to head back through the mall, maybe grab some lunch. Inside it’s pretty empty. All the suits are back at their desks, monotonously clicking ‘refresh’ on their effbook pages, clicking ‘like’ on upworthy vids, wondering if anyone would notice if they looked for some light porn. Nothing hardcore. Maybe just lesbians.

It was cold like this when I was in Ottawa, when I realised I’ve blown apart the thighs of all of my leggings, and considered buying some new ones in the world’s biggest Hudson’s Bay shop. I decide to look at some leggings at the Hoopty Mama shop upstairs. It’s weird for the mall to be this empty. I ‘m used to being here at noon. Dodging crowds. Hearing snippets of conversations about who pissed off whose HR person by using the wrong pencil to fill out form HS/Q1-22. But it’s early afternoon and the only people in the mall are people who don’t have to be back at their desks.

A man leaves the down escalator. He looks me in the eye. I smile at him. I hear him say, “hello!” in a kind of surprised voice, but it’s too late. He’s behind me. It would look weird if I turned around and said hello. It’s damnably uncomfortable being Canadian sometimes. Plus, I’m focused on leggings.

I’m standing at the table of leggings at the Hoopty Mama shop. I feel someone grasp my elbow. “Hello,” the man says.

It’s the man from the bottom of the escalator. “Hello!” I say. “You said hello to me downstairs, and I completely ignored you and walked away! It’s only because I’m so damnably Canadian and realised Too Late I had walked away from you. I’m very sorry. That was rude.”

He smiles. “You are so amazing,” he says. He indicates my hair. “Your hair,” he says. “Are you from Canada?”

“Yes, damnably so, I’m afraid.”

“Always from Canada?”

“Always.”

“Are you Aboriginal?”

“I’m not,” I say. “Although there are rumours about something my great-grandmother might have done when great-grandfather was away, and why my own grandfather had such high cheekbones and such dark skin.”

He doesn’t understand. He squints at me. It occurs to me that English is not his first language. I smile. He smiles. “Are you married?” He asks.

I show him my rings. “I am!” I say.

“Oh.” He sounds disappointed. “It’s just that you’re so beautiful.”

“Sir, I would hire someone to follow me around every day to say that to me.”

“What!? NO!”

“I’m just being silly. Thank you very much. You’re very kind to say it.”

“Do you have friends like you? More women like you?”

I laugh. “Oh, good God no. There ain’t no more of me, baby. I’m it. And let me tell you, that’s probably a good thing because this world couldn’t take any more of me than there already is.”

“Wow,” he says. He shakes his head. “Wow.”

I offer him my hand and ask his name. I offer him mine. I thank  him again. He leaves. I leave.

I end up buying a really shitty juice and some mediocre noodles.

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Why we can’t be friends when you’re in Hawaii

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Categories: Children, Dogs, Family, Four-legged Family, His Nibs, Just for You, The Captain, The Nipper, Tags: , , ,

My cousin is in Hawaii right now, and I have vowed that she and I can NOT be friends until she is home. Now. She’s a professional photographer, so all of her pictures of her little “vacation” are fucking gorgeous, and because I am not at all petty or jealous, I’ve decided that I’m going to post photographs of MY awesome time STAYING HOME IN THE SNOW.

Now, I’m not a professional photographer or anything, but I think these turned out pret-ty well:

YardSnow The view from our bedroom window. I should point out that this image may be a little under-exposed. It was really difficult to get the light just right, and the snow and sleet kept just firing sideways the whole time which knocked the crap out of my auto-focus. 

I took this with a 500-SLDR MMX BMW 14 gauge 2DR 99% option-free sliding reflux mounted on a tripod made of stale oreos. The lens I used was “Screw You, Winter”, which cost me more than I’d like to admit in mental health. The light’s really nice, coming in from behind the…um. Well there are trees out there somewhere.

SassypantsBumblebuttSnowHere you see ‪#‎PrincessSassypants‬ and ‪#‎Bumblebutt‬ in the yard. They’re adorable when they get out there, all running around and sniffing the air to see if there’s anything still alive after a week and a half of zero degrees kelvin. #Bumblebutt claims she heard a squirrel, but she’s an older dog and might have been hearing #PrincessSassypants’ farts, which, I can assure you, are terrifying. I used the camera on my phone to capture these two mutts. Just look at the looks on their little faces. AREN’T THEY ADORABLE?

…that’s not a dead squirrel in #Bumblebutt’s mouth, is it?

DogpoopSnowOh. This is one of my favourites. After the #Doges romped about for a while (you have to keep moving or else you’ll die of exposure!) , I took this shot of our yard. I’ve always really admired how photographers can capture the SOUL of someone’s yard in a single shot. You know the ones I mean – lush and verdant green gardens, full of blooms and climbing vines, with a little babbling brook or birdbath in the corner, and an arbour under which a small patio set sits, just waiting for a bottle of wine and a much-loved book. Now, I’m not a professional photographer, but I think this shot really does capture the soul of my yard right now, after the dogs have been playing in it.

Well. Okay. Not “playing” per se.

FamilyPortraitSnowOf course, what pictoral essay would be complete without the ubiquitous family portrait in the back yard. We’re all wearing our Hawaiian shirts, as a kind of HOMAGE to my cousins who are staying with my aunt and uncle on the Big Island (the Hawaiian Big Island, not the Lac La Ronge big island). I’m ..I’m not sure what ‪#‎TheNipper‬ is doing in this photo, but it might have something to do with fire walking or coconuts or…I dunno…um…flying crabs? And don’t be turned off by ‪#‎TheTeen‬‘s scowl. He always looks like that. You can tell he’s actually enjoying himself because he’s wearing his earbuds and watching a YouTube video WHILE WE TOOK THE PICTURE. Oh. And apparently one of the mice from our kitchen got in the picture too. Swine cats, not doing their job.

So there. I AM TOTALLY HAVING FUN NOT IN HAWAII.

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Storytelling Month – Grandmothers

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Categories: Family, Grandmothers, Just for You, Stories, True Stories, Tags: , , , ,

To celebrate Storytelling Month, I’m going to tell you at least one story per week in  February. These are all true stories.

Every day at noon, the bells in the fire hall in Climax (the town in southeastern Saskatchewan that was home to my mum, and to me every summer, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, and most spring breaks) would sound out the Westminster Chimes, and bong their bongers twelve times. No matter where you were, you knew it was time to go home for lunch.

Or, in some cases, you knew last night had been a hell of a night and you buried your head under the pillow and cursed the English once again for every travesty they’d committed upon your ancestors, your ancestors’ ancestors, good food, and the middle class.

Either way, to this day, I associate that particular melody with everything that was good and right and wonderful about childhood. Lying on the the dry, crinkly grass (it was always dry and crinkly down there, no matter how often you watered it because the only trees in town other than the spruce trees planted by Old Mrs. J at the end of the block were two weedy and spindly poplars we planted in Nama’s yard that grew at a 60º angle because of the constant wind), staring up at the cloudless azure sky, the Chimes of Westminster would break you out of your reverie and in you’d go for toast squares and blueberry pie and a tall, cold glass of milk.

"Moroccan Breakfast" photo by Piotr Menducki, used with free license from freeimages.com

“Moroccan Breakfast” photo by Piotr Menducki, used with free license from freeimages.com

Today I walked a few blocks west of the hotel in Pasadena, letting the sun warm my bare arms and dry my hair, and I stopped in to a little restaurant for breakfast. I ate on the patio, and the part of my leg not sheltered by the sun shade grew hot, but I didn’t move it out of the sun. So what if eight inches of my right calf got sunburnt? It’s summer here and there’s no goddamned way I’m budging an inch.

I drank hot, rich coffee and read the book I’d brought with me. I made plans to stop in at the Pasadena library on the way back, because it looks like the lovechild of the Alamo and a colonial spanish ranch-style bungalow. (It turns out it has a courtyard with a fountain and a wall of books devoted to Doctor Who. I love libraries.) A few minutes after my order arrived (eggs benedict florentine with avocado and Canadian bacon), a woman arrived with a young boy – the boy probably not quite old enough for school. The woman had short greying hair and the boy had Spiderman clutched in one hand.

She ordered for them (waffles, orange juice, water, and two plates so they could share) and I read my book and ate my breakfast and drank my coffee in the sun. If this story ended here, it would be just fine. But it doesn’t. Because, as Anton Chekov says, “something-something gun in the scene, something-something better get shot”. I may have muddled up the quotation a bit but the gist of it is that if you introduce something into your story, you had better be prepared to use it.

The waitress brought my bill and I sipped my coffee and watched the grandmother with her grandson and I had An Idea. It was one of those Ideas that kind of jumps out at you from behind the topiary and then slaps you around a bit until you agree that it is, in fact, a Good Idea. Because the grandmother and her grandson were having breakfast together, on the porch of this little café, and I thought about all the times I had eaten at my grandmothers’ tables. I thought about grandmothers. About how maybe someday I’ll get to take my grandchild to a restaurant and share a plate of waffles.

I thought about how, even now, thirty years after she died in a cold and green hospital room, I miss my Nama fiercely and think of her often. I thought about how despite the differences my Gram and I had. one of her greatest joys was taking us out for a meal (and how she nearly shivved His Nibs when he attempted to pay for dinner one night). My eyes were filling with remembering, and this Idea was still beating me up.

This was taken the last fall she was alive.

This was taken the last fall she was alive.

When the waitress returned to take my credit card, I asked her to please add the grandmother’s and grandson’s bill to mine, and to please not tell them I was doing that. And the moment the waitress walked away, a church nearby began to ring out Westminster Chimes. I left a note that said “please tell the grandmother and her grandson how wonderful it is to see them enjoying each others’ company, and to always remember how lovely it is to spend time with your grandmother.” And I paid their bill and left my tip and got up and walked down the stairs toward the library.

Now go ahead and call me flaky, but I could damn near feel my Nama walking next to me. She was smiling as she told me, “that gift came from me, you know.”

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Storytelling Month – Dogs

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Categories: Dogs, Just for You, Stories, True Stories, Tags: , , ,

 

1391804289614To celebrate Storytelling Month, I’m going to tell you at least one story per week in  February. These are all true stories.

dogsweater

A picture of the cat in a sweater I made for my friend Road Rage’s dog.

You know how you sometimes get in to the middle of a situation and then you wonder “how the hell did I get here?”, and then you spend the rest of the night trying not to let any part of your body touch any part of the furniture, floor, walls, or yard of the place you’ve found yourself? You know how that is, right? Of course you do. It’s part of the human condition. It’s one ‘a them…whattayacallems…shared experiences that become part of the collective unconscious, shaping the entire future of mankind.

I had a lover who played bass.

I realise this sounds like the beginning of a noir novel…“I had a lover who played bass,” the dame said and blew her cigarette smoke across the desk into my face. I’d have taken offense, but nothing that those lips could do would ever hurt me more than watching them quiver as her heart broke. But it isn’t. A noir mystery/thriller/crime story. Well, okay, it could be, but you’d have to squint a bit and pretend that “noir” actually means “punk rock” and that “mystery/thriller” really means “crazy adventure”.

So I had a lover who played bass. He had long hair and loved Primus and thought he was less bright than he actually was. He was a friend’s ex boyfriend and he was sweet and I always knew that he was the one whose heart would be breaking when the affair ended. I was on a roll back then, “chewing up men, and spitting them out,” my friend RR would tell me, “like a combine chews up wheat and spits out the chaff”. He had a band. I mean, of COURSE he had a band. Well. He had a dude he hung out with who played drums.

He and his drummer had an audition, down in Regina, and of course neither of them drove (didn’t have their permits, in fact – I once attempted to teach my lover how to drive and after he nearly took out the neighbour’s fence I encouraged him to take some lessons) and neither of them had paying jobs but I thought it was kind of cool that they had an audition for a band. I agreed to drive them to their audition. In Regina. Did I mention we lived in Saskatoon at the time? We did.

I collected my lover’s friend and their kit and we drove down after I was done work for the day. I asked where the studio was as we approached the city. “What studio?” D- asked.

“Uh. The studio where your audition is?”

My lover’s friend in the back seat snorted. “Studio. There’s no STUDIO. This is at a dude’s house.”

Ah. A house. A house with a recording studio built in the basement. My boss at the time had one of those. Well. His was in his garage, but still. I’d always wanted a studio in my house.

Nope. It was a dingy, run-down house in the sticks of the ‘hood. A tiny little house with shitty floors and Too Many People and these stupid dogs. I mean. Okay, to a certain extent, all dogs are stupid. This is a true fact. But these dogs were PARTICULARLY stupid. Like. Sat in the fire pit while the fire was burning stupid. Big, fluffy, drooly things with mats and bad breath. Which reminds me of another fellow who asked me out on a date…

…but I digress.

The house smelled like wee and stale beer and cigarettes and a lifetime of regret and bad decisions. The stupid dogs had the same look about them, except with more sadness. There was a torn and 100% springs-free chesterfield up against one wall, a filthy coffee table varnished with several years of spilled beer and ashtrays in the centre of the room, and an even MORE decrepit couch/love seat covered in tattered blankets along the east wall.

There was no television, no stereo. The “dining room” was a bunch of lawn chairs with tables made of beer cases. And let me just say here before I start sounding too pretentious that there was a fairly long stint in my own life in which my primary goal was to save up enough money from the return of my empties to buy a carton of smokes, and that meant the only reason my dining table wasn’t made of stacks of empties was because I was returning them for a carton of smokes. And the only reason we didn’t use the busted pool table as a dining table was because the legs were gone. So. Just to put things in perspective there. It’s not like I lived in the most auspicious lodgings.

Remember the scene from “Trainspotting” where Renton retrieves his fix from the worst terlet in Scotland?

Right. Well. That was pretty much what the loo was like upstairs. After dodging the passed out drunks and stupid dogs while trying not to touch the walls, I ended up standing on the terlet seat (with my boots on; I’d refused to take them off) and squatting to wee. The worst part was that when I was done, the drips on the terlet seat WERE CLEANER THAN THE REST OF THE TERLET. Ugh. I was even a little leery as to whether the running water from the sink was clean enough to wash with. The point here is that this was not a Better Homes and Gardens house.

I sat at the end of the chesterfield, nursing the one can of beer I’d accepted from the host, and pretending to share the joints that were passed around. I did not inhale. I literally didn’t inhale* because I was pretty sure if I did, I’d have flashbacks about that house for the rest of my…oh wait. Shit. Well I could have been high, which would have made what happened later make more sense. Maybe.

This guy. This guy sat on the couch next to the chesterfield and he started chatting me up. As they do. With the dulcet tones of staggergingly bad death metal lilting up through the floorboards at 800 decibels, this guy on the couch leaned toward me and said:

“DOGS.”

I nodded. Because, 800 decibels.

“YOU LIKE DOGS, MAN?” He shouted.

I nodded again. I figured, just keep nodding and eventually this guy will get the idea that you’re too high to talk to.

“I LOVE DOGS, MAN.” He shouted.

I do not have the sort of luck that involves people getting the hint that I’m too high to talk to.

“WHAT’S YOUR NAME, MAN?” The guy shouted. He was like…if you took Bruno Gerussi and roughed him up outside Molly’s Reach, then kind of smooshed him up with Stan Rogers’ younger brother Garrett, then threw in a liberal dose of Gordon Lightfoot, added a few more felony convictions and a dozen years of hard labour, and far fewer showers, that’d be this guy.

I told him my name.

“WHAT”

“cenobyte”

“WHAT, MAN?”

“cenobyte”

“NO WHAT’S YOUR NAME, MAN”

“cenobyte.”

“FUCK YOU, MAN.”

Now. I’m sure you’ve heard the adage about your life flashing before your eyes when you’re in a car accident or when you find your grandmother’s dildo. This was one of those times. I was convinced that there would be a news story the following morning in which someone found my body stuffed in a chesterfield in a burnt-out slum house in Regina. Faced with such a situation, I know you’d have done the same thing I did. I leaned as close to Bruno-Garrett-Gordon and shouted, “No, fuck YOU, buddy. You asked my name. My name is cenobyte.”

He reared back like I’d spit on him. I may have spit on him a little bit. “NO, FUCK YOU MAN!” He shouted, jabbing at me with his finger.

I stared at him. Knowing that would be the last moment of my life, I wanted to remember it in perfect clarity just in case reincarnation was, you know, a thing.

“MY MOTHER’S NAME IS CENOBYTE!” He hollered.

“Uh. What?”

“NO, MAN. MY MOTHER’S NAME IS CENOBYTE. I LOVE MY MOM, MAN.”

I’m not really sure there is a way to describe what my expression must have been.

“YOU KNOW WHAT ELSE I LOVE, MAN?”

I had no idea what else that man loved. I had a few ideas. Blow-up dolls, larceny…definitely not soap.

“I LOVE MY DOGS MAN.”

What does one say? I mean. A hobo is screaming at you in a drunken slum house while your boyfriend is playing death metal in the basement loud enough to move the floor joists and a smelly chow dog is drooling on your foot. What does one say? Want to know why you’re not me? Because *I* said, “at least you have someone.” I said that, like, before I thought about it. I should probably claim contact high here.

“I HAVE THIS SHIRT, MAN.”

Thank Christ he hadn’t heard me.

“I HAVE THIS SHIRT AND YOU KNOW WHAT IT SAYS, MAN?”

“I cannot begin to fathom,” I said.

sadie“IT SAYS, THE MORE PEOPLE I MEET, THE MORE I LOVE MY DOG, MAN.”

I kind of felt bad for the guy. I feel bad when people love their animals more than they love other people because what shitty people we are. Love is easy, you know. Even hobo Gerussi. He was lovable in his own way. As soon as he said that, I knew there was no threat from this guy. Not from any of these folks. So who cared if they’d fired the maid or were squatting in a low-income rental? They had music, they had friends, and they had dogs. That’s a damned sight more than a lot of people have.

I didn’t budge from my corner of the chesterfield all night. I eventually fell asleep with the chow dog on my legs for warmth, and when my lover was finished his audition (which was an hour of playing and five hours of steady and unreasonable drinking and drug use), we drove home. That guy yelled at me periodically throughout the night, every time he caught my eye.

“THE MORE PEOPLE I MEET, MAN, THE MORE I LOVE MY DOG, MAN.”

I hope you’re still around, Hobo Gerussi. And still kind to dogs.

*This should read: “I literally didn’t inhale THE DOPE”. Not “I literally didn’t inhale at all”. Because, of course, if I had literally not inhaled, the rest of the story would be a complete lie because I would be dead. Of not inhaling. Which I think they call “not breathing” these days.

I’VE BEEN FIVE-STARRED!

1391804289614

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Oh Danny Boy, Oh Boy Oh Boy, Oh Boy, Oh Danny

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Categories: Just for You, True Stories, When There's Weather, Tags: , , , , , ,

I’ve been gone for a little while. Which is to say, after ExMass, I decided I’d do a little assperiment. But before I get to the assperiment, I want to tell you a little bit of background stuff. While I’m ramping up to that, have a listen to the best version of this song that has ever been performed in the history of the performing arts:

Sometimes, when I find something I really enjoy, I like to walk away from it because as the child of an alcoholic, I’m always a little nervous that I’m using the things I really really like as some kind of crutch or escape. That, in essence, I’m exhibiting the same behaviours toward things about which I am passionate as my mother exhibited toward her addictions. I suspect there’s some kind of buzz word for this, but I don’t think much of buzz words. And I’m going to warn you now this post will probably descend into some kind of rant about something, even though it’s meant to be more expository than …uh…rantitory.

Just after ExMass I gave some thought to my activity on social “needia”. It’s no surprise that I’m not a huge fan of Effbook. Their privacy policies make me grind my teeth (and frankly, there’s a reason I didn’t keep in touch with you, Chris M.; we’re just too different. Plus you were a total dick). I hate how most of these platforms aren’t actually about being social. They’re about breaking communities down and attempting to rebuild them on the basis of algorithms and the laziest of “social interactions”, the ‘like’ or ‘poke’.

There are two things about social networks. One is making connections. This is done one person at a time. You meet someone, you find out a bit about them, you share a little bit about yourself, and there’s give and take. The second thing is about content. In order to form a social “covalent” bond, you have to share content (electron pairs, if you will. This will be the extent of my chemistry metaphor because my knowledge of chemistry is pret-ty rusty these days). And I find most social networks sorely lacking in the content arena.

If “media” is a form of mass communication, then “social media” is either redundant (“collective/mass communication to the collective/mass from the collective/mass”) or it’s misnamed. It could possibly be both, actually. If society is really communicating to the masses, but society IS the masses, then doesn’t the actual content – the message – become meaningless? How can you find the content if the point of communication is simply broadcasting?

These are the sorts of things that keep me up at night.

At any rate, when I find something I really like, I walk away from it because I want to be sure that the reason I’m passionate about a thing isn’t because I’m using that thing as a crutch or a replacement for some aspect of my life or my self that’s lacking. Or absent. Or stunted. You get where I’m going here.

So I quit social “needia”.

I wanted to see if I’d hate it. If I’d feel lonely. If I’d feel like my friends had all abandoned me and I was alone. (Yes, yes. *I* was the one who chose to leave, I know.) I wasn’t sure if I could handle more of that lonliness business.

What happened was exactly the opposite. You wrote and asked if I was okay. You checked in. You texted me and emailed me and called me to find out where I’d been. You missed me.

These are the important connections. This is what I want to build on. One person at a time, one relationship at a time. I miss you too. It’s important that you know that. That you’re not just a name on a screen – I know this sounds really schmoopsy, but I want to and plan to continue to focus on building relationships up.

Look, my hiatus wasn’t narcissistic in any way. I needed to walk away to see what would happen. I do plan to come back, maybe a little at a time. Maybe all at once. But I kind of like the silence too, and I kind of liked forcing myself to come here to this place and share a little bit more. I don’t know what’s coming, but since you asked, I thought I’d tell you where I’d gone.

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CRISIS! (Averted)

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Categories: Just for You, Something or other but True, True Stories, Tags: ,

From SantaI don’t know about you, but I still write letters to Santa every year. This year my letter, after the perfunctory inquiries about Mrs. Claus, the reindeer, and the state of Santa’s socks, included a request for the Clauses to look after my wee cousin as he undergoes some surgery. Usually the boys and I write our letters together, but secretly, so that nobody knows what’s in each others’ letters. Kind of like when you used to play “Mastermind” (that classic game of trying to guess the shit out of your partner’s twisted mind as it pertains to setting up a row of four differently-coloured beads – we rediscovered it over ExMass this year and I was reminded just how beastly the game truly is. I love it.); we scribble our greetings and requests, and sometimes line drawings of the cats while shielding the contents from one another because some secrets are still sacred, thank #Glob for that.

We got our letters off late this year, so I was a little worried that Santa wouldn’t get them before ExMass, what with the post being overbogged at this time of year, but I have to tell you. We received replies on “Christmas Adam” (which is, The Nipper asserts, “the day before Christmas Eve because Adam came first, after all”. And to think we aren’t churchgoers (nor, in fact, are we Christian…nor in fact particularly religious except for my own quest for enlightenment which is at best ramshackle and at worst pretty handwavey. Not that I think there’s anything wrong with handwavey enlightenment. It’s sure nice when it’s hot out).

ANYWAY.

Often, Santa also leaves a hand-written note after his visit on ExMass eve. This year’s note was pretty awesome. I’ve…um. I’ve redacted portions of it to protect the “innocent”:

Dear [redacted],

I hope you will be happy with these toys. I haven’t received [redacted]’s Christmas list yet, but I think I still know what he likes.

SantaLetter2014[Redacted], I have had to have a talk with Jingle the Elf. He mounted the crossbow backward on your Zombie Strike Crossbow, and then he had an accident that kind of messed up your whole order. Jingle was put on a strict “NO NOG” list and will be in charge of reindeer poop next year. Sorry.

Mrs. Claus has shipped replacement items for you. I hope they arrive by the time you get home. The Terradrone was particularly badly damaged. I’m having Elf Ralph make a new one from scratch.

[Redacted], you have had a good year in sports. I was going to bring you new skates but I guess you don’t need them!

Merry Christmas to all,

S

P.S. I had some soup. It was a nice change from cookies.

[Not shown] P.P.S. You guys have weird stockings.

I should explain that I forgot our ExMass sockings in the exact spot I dumped them, unceremoniously, in the middle of our upstairs hallway, last year after ExMass. I probably should have mentioned my utter lack of domestic tenacity in my letter to St. Nick, but he probably already knows. ANYWAY. Our “stockings” this year were a bunch of cardboard boxes. Yes, we *did* have a white trash Christmas. Thanks for asking.

The Nipper’s whatever the hell they were things that he asked for (I have never even heard of this stuff before, thereby putting me solidly in the “old fart” category) showed up at some point between New Year’s Eve and this past Sunday. I had heard some horrific banging coming from the rafters, which I assumed was the cold snapping the roof beams, but apparently was a wobbly reindeer, because The Nipper discovered some stuff (a crossbow and a weird and very creepy robot that shoots darts) on his upper bunk while getting ready for bed on Sunday. And there was a note that said more about Jingle the Elf and how he felt terrible and how there had been a meeting where he acknowledged a Nog problem.

I mean. That was cool and all.

But it was nowhere near as cool as what happened to me this morning.

I’m sure you remember me bitching about how I was having a RIDICULOUS time trying to buy gifts online (particularly from ThinkGeek, which makes me sad because I do love their stuff, but they refuse to ship to my address, for reasons that are long-winded and usually end in tears). Well. It turns out that SOMEONE ELSE noted my Bad Attitude this year.

Dear [Redacted]:

In due course after the seasonal rush it has come to my attention that you have received poor service in the assemblage and shipping execution of much-desired gifts to your post office box, an address at which you have lived for ages, and one at which you are easily reached by those with a greater capacity for both caring and drink.

krampusletter2014
As you suspect, your troubles were entirely due to the inebriated incompetency of Jingle the Elf, whom Santa has relocated to the stringent auspices of my department for the twelve-month ensuing. Jingle (whom some of the lower order here at the North Pole have simply taken to calling “Nog” as a sniggering homage to his propensity for the rum-laced libation) has been put to hard labour in the bowels of the internet for his various misdemeanors.

Rest assured that I can hear his piteous moans and occasional whimpers as he proofreads BuzzFeed lists and GoodReads reviews of Fifty Shades of Grey – about the worst punishment I could see fit to tax him with. I am, however, not without some small morsel of compassion and do allow him the opportunity to read Your Blog as reward for good behaviour. [Editor’s Note: That could actually be construed as punishment in four states and the Republic of Guelph.]

Having read of your Dorothy Parker, the Effin’ Cold Weather in Saskatchewan, and your love of classic literature, he has had An Idea.

Therefore, in an attempt to curry your favour (and perhaps get back into Santa’s good graces in so doing), Jingle asked me to forward to you this small token of his sincere repentance and his wishes for your Very Good Health and a Very Happy New Year.

K.

Enclosed, wrapped in black tissue paper, were cotton gauntlets printed with passages from Alice in Wonderland which, as you know, is one of my favourite favourites.

I GOT A LETTER FROM KRAMPUS, MOTHERFUCKERS! And gauntlets from Jingle “Nog” the Elf, who is on his journey to recovery, it would seem. HOW COOL IS THAT? (That’s might cool, yo. MIGHTY COOL.)

I love things.

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…when you look at it

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Categories: Just for You, True Stories, Tags:

image "old photograph" used royalty-free with permission from freeimages.com

image “old photograph” used royalty-free with permission from freeimages.com

So after yesterday’s Debbie Downer post, I thought I’d just say another thing along the same vein. And that is, that while there is a very important role that grief plays in dealing with loss, where the actual MAGIC happens is somewhere else. What that mourning stage does is gets some of the sadness and hurt out – you know, when you cry so hard, and so long that you’re exhausted afterward and fall in to a deep, deep sleep? It’s a powerful purging. That expression of longing and loss and sadness makes way for something that I’m sure the Germans have a long, awesome-sounding word for.

And it’s this kind of happysad memory invocation, also usually spurred on by stories, where we actually can and do “celebrate” the life of someone we’ve lost. Yesterday I had a bee in my bonnet about the whole thing and here’s why: I was at a wake two years ago, and the MC stood up and said “we don’t want to see tears today; we want to remember him fondly and remember all the wonderful and amazing things he did and the great man he was”. And that’s great; that’s important to do. But it stuck in my craw because at that moment, that day, what we actually did need to do was to cry like banshees. And we did.

I remember the first funeral I went to, when I was eight, and the minister was talking about how wonderful it was that my Gramps got to hang out with God, and I thought, “yeah! Actually, that is pretty awesome, because he totally believes that’s going to happen. GOOD FOR YOU, GRAMPS!” And so I did have this moment of joy knowing that Gramps was getting to hang out with God. This was, of course, immediately followed by my own selfish knowledge that that meant that *I* didn’t ever get to see him again, and let me tell you, that knowledge has pretty much shaped my entire life.

But there is good, comfort, and even sometimes joy to be had in peoples’ passing, especially so if their death is an end to their suffering. And if you have faith in an afterlife, there are all kinds of awesome things a soul can go on to do! Honestly, that’s the kind of comfort that some people need. I think that’s wonderful, that you can find comfort there. There are many ways to find comfort whether you’re religious or nonreligious, theist or atheist.

Death is a very inward-looking thing. There’s nothing wrong with that. And honestly, one of the things that gets me the most at death services/celebrations/whatevers is that my heart breaks for the pain that everyone is in. I mean, whether or not I even knew the person. This one time, Drang and I went on a date to a funeral. I know that sounds weird, and trust me, it gets weirder. It was my cousin’s funeral; a young man who’d been murdered at a house party for trying to defend his ex girlfriend from her then-boyfriend. That branch of the family was pretty much destitute, and it was the first time I’d ever seen an actual cardboard box coffin and the little chapel filled with his peers and his parents and brother, none of whom could rub together two nickels to get a dime between them.

I wouldn’t have known my cousin if I’d have passed him in the street; I’d only met him once, and that was in passing and is a whoooole other story. But I watched my great aunt, his mum, come apart. I felt how heavy and melting people’s grief was, and I wanted to make it better, but of course, I couldn’t. Nobody could. Helplessness really blows. I remember walking up the street afterward, surprised at how emotional I’d become over someone I didn’t even know, whose life never touched mine except in the story of his, if not noble, then at least somewhat heroic death.

Kay. You know what? This was supposed to be a more UPBEAT post. I meant to say that there is a place for happiness and laughter at memorial services. There’s a HUGE place for all of that. I think the (rather abstruse) point I’m trying to make here is that we oughtn’t deny the power of grieving together to …well, to help.

So at my funeral I ALSO want you to laugh and fight and throw shit and cause a ruckus. A joyful ruckus (this might be the name of my next poetry book), a tearful ruckus (maybe a combination of those two things). I want you to do whatever you need to do to send me off. Fireworks ought to be involved. And possibly a New Orleans-style brass band. And filthy poetry. PLEASE promise me there will be filthy poetry. [Note: I don’t intend on dying anytime soon. I still have at LEAST 40 more good years in me, so you’re going to have to wait rather a long time for this awesome shindig.]

 

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Not with a whimper

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Categories: Just for You, True Stories, Tags: ,

I thought I would be much, much older before so many of my friends died. I thought I had more time. That’s the thing, isn’t it? We always think we have more time.

Well, we don’t. That’s just the thing. Cherish every single moment because while time is not finite, our lives are. We are so delicately, so miserably, so beautifully finite.

I am sad to say I have had more experience with funerals* and wakes and ‘celebrations of life’ than I would really like to have had at this point in my own life. And I have something to say about it right now. It’s not politically correct. It’s not going to make anyone feel any better. If you’re the sort of person who needs trigger warnings, well, there are probably triggers all over the damned place in what I’m going to say.

When I die, I goddamned well want people to be sad. I want you to mourn. I want you to grieve. I want you to sob and to wail and to gnash your teeth. Because grief and sadness have a place, an *important* place in our lives. We have to learn to let go of hurt, and the only way to do this – seriously, the *only* way to do this – is to grieve. To let that sadness wash over you in wave after wave of throat-stabbing, chest-heaving wave. To cry so bloody hard your tears dry out and your nose is raw from wiping away all the snot.

Grief is raw, it’s visceral. It’s not *pretty*. But it’s beautiful. Grief is one of those things that bind us to one another. It’s one of those things we have all experienced. Every one of us has lost a friend, or a pet, or a family member, or, what the hell, a beloved gewgaw, gadget, or toy. It’s okay to grieve for lost things. It’s okay to be sad. The purpose of grief, then, is to embrace that sadness fully in order that we can move past it. To experience it so that we don’t drown in it. To learn to swim, in other words.

I get what we’re trying to do when we say we’re going to have a “celebration of his/her life”. I know we’re trying to focus on all the great things our loved one did; all the awesome ways they made us feel good. We’re trying to focus on the good memories in order to ameliorate the heavy, bleak white and scarred landscape that our souls become when we lose someone. But at some level, that’s completely missing the point.

A while ago, for reasons that I only understand in terms of listening to what the universe is saying (I will not beg forgiveness for my understanding of how the universe works. I’ve done enough of that, frankly.), I wrote my father’s obituary. My father isn’t dead. I am terrified of having to face my father’s death, and I woke in the middle of the night and thought, “I’d better jot something down now because God knows I won’t be able to when the time comes, and since I’m the last member of his family alive (other than the kids, of course), I’d better do this now.” So I did. And I wept the whole time. My sobs shook the bed. I also haven’t…told my father that I’ve written his obituary. That would probably weird him out, so maybe let’s just keep this between you and me, okay?

You are bloody well right that I expect people to be upset at my father’s wake. He is a great man, with a great many friends, and his life has touched many, many others. He is a giving, caring soul, despite his many ‘accidents’ with my (former) pets, and I expect he will be mourned. He is utterly irreplaceable. What we will be grieving is that we will no longer have the chance to sit with him and hear his laughter. We won’t be able to make any new memories. The only way we’ll be able to be with him will be to tell stories.

Now, stories are powerful strong, and a good story can bring a man back until you can damn near see him. But not strong enough to feel his arms around you or to just sit at the table and talk. And that’s why we grieve. That’s why we NEED to grieve. And wakes and memorials are the time when we all grieve together. Where it’s okay to show our vulnerability. Our sadness. We are strong together in our weakness.

So when I die, you motherfuckers better be sad. You had better grieve and mourn and for those of you who don’t, well, I probably pissed you off right good and never got the chance to figure out what I did wrong. I do plenty wrong, and I do wrong things often. We all do.

I love having you in my life. I love spending time with you, or chatting with you or talking to you, or reading your words. You are important. You are brilliant. You are worth it. I have no idea if I’ll miss you when I croak. But when I do, I want you to be sad *together*. If there’s one thing I want my life to have done, it’s to have brought people together (with or without Very Awkward Verb Tenses). I want to have made a difference, however small.

So. Just so’s you know. I don’t want any of this “come and celebrate cenobyte’s life at blah-blah-blah”. I want “look, we’re all pretty miserable about this, so let’s all be miserable about it together, okay?”

And of course, part of this is spurred by the possibility (however real or imagined) that there will be five non-family members at my wake, and three of them will have been hired according to the tenets of my will, as traditional keeners. YOU KNOW I’LL DO THAT.

*I want to note here that the purpose of religious funerals is very specific, and that is to note and celebrate (in the sense of the word that means ‘observe in a religious rite’) the journey of one’s soul to whichever nirvana to which your religion adheres. So I’m kind of not talking about religion-based funerals in this little rant, although I’m sure I have something like that burbling away somewhere.

 

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I don’t know why she’s leaving, or where she’s going to go

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Categories: Just for You, True Stories, Tags: , ,

Alice Through the Looking Glass

First, there was Alice.

http://nac-cna.ca/englishtheatre/event/8444You have lived your whole life in the lap of storytellers; everything you have learned, everything you remember, is from stories told over and over. The reason we tell stories is because this is how we learn. History is nothing without the narrative; every religion began as a story – some way of shaping what’s around us, some way of making sense of who we are and why we are the way we are.

At some point, you read Lewis Carroll. Maybe you were just little. Maybe you were older, in University, and a girl you liked read Alice Through the Looking Glass. That girl liked you too. An awful lot. She won’t remember, years from then, which of you most resembled the White King, but she will think it is you, because she…SHE…is the one who sometimes believes a half dozen impossible things before breakfast. You were one of them.

Later, a different boy would hear her read Alice in Wonderland and would give her both stories bound in cloth, cuddled together in a sturdy red box with foil reproductions of the woodcut illustrations on the cover. That would be the moment she knew she was in love with him.

Look, verbs are difficult. Tenses muck everything up. Because even later than THAT, the girl would be in a far-away city (relatively speaking), and she would go and see Alice, on stage.

Alice Through the Looking Glass

Alice Through the Looking Glass

And it would be the most magical, the most achingly beautiful thing she will ever have seen. Better yet, she will have gone to a dress rehearsal, and she will have been one of the first people to see the performance on stage; on this stage. On the chessboard.

It will have started with Alice. Then, two Alices, as the mirror rotated in a complete circle, over and over and over. Where did that other Alice come from? The girl will have spent the evening full of so much joy she wept. She laughed and wept and laughed and cheered and there will have been jellybeans. JELLYBEANS FALLING FROM THE SKY FOR EVERYONE. And the jellybeans made it rain on stage and verbs. Verbs are tricksy things. Very slippery. Very verby.

Alice.

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Signs, signs…

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Categories: Just for You, Tags: ,

I was tagged more than five consecutive days ago by my friend Julian (@saskajules) to post five photos for five days.

There’s a reason I am the way I am. I have no idea what that reason is, but there’s some speculation it may have something to do with my mother’s strict diet of beer and sunflower seeds when she was pregnant. At any rate, when #TheTeen was wee, I decided that rather than trying to prevent him from colouring on the walls and stuff, I’d paper the walls with art paper so that if he got the hankering to do so, he’d not ruin the wallpaper or paint or whatever.

I had this huge roll of brown paper, and I used to just tack it up as high as he could reach, and that was fine. For painting, I did what mum used to do, and I covered the walls of the bathtub with newsprint and then tacked up painting paper overtop. Mess = contained. Art = awesome.

When #TheNipper asked me to repaint his room, I painted a couple of spots of whiteboard paint, and then I did a big one in The Captain’s room. The Nipper loves the white board drawing areas – he even made up a game to play with His Nibs that involves drawing a picture and then trying to solve a mystery based on the picture.

None of this will explain what I did tonight on the white board in The Captain’s room:

B3gC4MlCMAEsY9Y

It ain’t easy, life with me.

I challenge Jason F. (@jasondfedorchuk) to post five pictures for five days. And to tag someone new each day.

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