Sunday, December 28, 2008

in and out

On Christmas day, Harry and I were buying movie tickets when we bumped into an old friend of his who used to work for the Huffington Post. He was telling us about his blog, when Harry said, "blogging is a NYC thing. No one in Toronto blogs".

"Sure they do", I said.

"Yeah, Toronto is actually a pretty blogger-rich city", Harry's friend added and then turned to me. "Do you blog?"

"No", I said. I could feel my cheeks burning. Later I thought about how I haven't blogged in so long I wasn't really lying. But it got me to thinking about how I missed it.

It's hard to come back. At first I stopped because I no longer had it in me. But then it's like I was waiting for something. Even when there was something to talk about, I wasn't sure I would know how to say it. I didn't want to come back with the obligatory, sorry I haven't been around lately-post, or the I promise I will post more frequently-post. I wanted to come back with something good, whether anybody would read it or not.

Tonight I felt like posting something. I don't feel like waiting and since it is my space to do just that, I'll start by telling you a few simple things. Maybe I will be back for more. Maybe not. But right now I miss this little narcissistic outlet.

First, I have to recommend that everyone see the movie Milk. Sean Penn did well as I am sure you have heard, although I must admit it took me about 10 minutes or so to believe him in this role. In a way I think that worked for the movie. Those that end up meaning the most to me in life are the ones who strike me in one way or another, whether it be I find them odd or abrasive or idiosyncratic. He grew on me exponentially.

What an incredible story. For a variety of reasons Human Rights have been on my mind, so this film was particularly timely for me. I have such respect for anyone who has the courage to live their lives authentically, especially in the face of oppositional expectations of their families, friends, and society. But to take that a step further and use yourself as an instrument of change is beyond my comprehension.

Yesterday I watched the movie In and Out. Since there are no new shows to PVR, I have turned to TV movies. I am surprised I didn't see this one when it was released several years ago, but it was a fun movie to watch. I bought the movie Capote at a used book store a while ago and I am about to watch it now. I've been saving it for just the right time. With only one episode of CSI:NY (I'm bored of CSI shows) and a couple of re-runs of The Office on my PVR, I'd say the time couldn't get much more right.

Lately, rather than listening to music when I run, I've become addicted to running to podcasts. Specifically I have been into (1) White Coat, Black Art, a CBC podcast by an ER doc in downtown Toronto who talks health care issues, and (2) the Dan Savage podcast. I am a huge Dan Savage fan. I have always read his column but I can't tell you how fast 45 minutes goes by when you are listening to him. Sadly, I am moving through them much too quickly, so I will soon be on the hunt for new podcasts. If anyone has any suggestions, please share.

It seems this post has a bit of a gay theme. While I'm not gay and therefore won't be coming out of that closet, I do one day hope to have the courage to come out in my own way. And so if I do come back to this blogging thing, maybe that would be a good direction to take my original theme, which was solely to 'capture'. Maybe the next phase of my blog (and maybe my life) could focus on taking it a step further: capturing and then living my life. Truly living.

Monday, September 22, 2008

variety show

Don Rickles was the highlight of the Emmy awards. I PVR'ed it and I am watching it in installments. I don't have the patience for three hours of this. Anyway, I loved Rickle's tribute to his wife of 42 years, Barbara "who sits all day on the Malibu sands with her jewelery, signaling ships".


I am liking my job more than I thought I would. I'm working directly with patients, I am involved in research, and there's more. Just last week I pitched my first story. It wasn't the New York Times, but I had an idea and the room to move and it worked out well.


I have a date later this week. This is the first guy I have met in a very long time that I am looking forward to going out with.


I can't help but think, as the US election draws close, that the Republicans could very well do it again. I have to tell you how frightening that is to me. It makes me want to move far, far away from this forsaken continent. Please. Please people. If you can, don't just talk about it.

Get out the vote.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

foot down

I had such a good night. Both nights. Friday and Saturday. I love me my wine lately. For years I was the girl who ordered a diet coke with dinner, but no more. I love the way a glass of wine feels, especially on an empty stomach. Or two. Or three.

And it goes down so smoothly. I think what it is, is that I have always been unable to let go and enjoy myself, but I am getting better at it, for better or worse. Tonight it ended too early for me and I came home to an empty apartment, wanting more. More drinks, more laughs, more hazy interactions. In lieu of what I really wanted—of all of the things I really want—I took an ativan. I will feel relaxed. I will be able to truly drift off on a cloud of restful sleep. It's better than dessert.

I haven't been this good in a long time. Maybe the pendulum is swinging. Setting myself up, waiting for someone to put their foot down. Someone always puts their foot down. Life puts its foot down. I don't know what it is, but I feel good right now and I'm going with it.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Friday, September 05, 2008

this is how we do it

I've pretty much given up the dream of being chosen as a blogger "blog of note", what with the lack of posting (not to mention the lack of quality posting), however I do find some good reads there.

I still hope to publish something someday besides a peer-reviewed journal article. I'm not sure if I ever told you that. Not sure if, in all of the years I've been posting, I bothered to mention that I have some far-reaching aspirations. Well, there you go.

I also don't know if I have ever mentioned how much I like the song "Bike", by Pink Floyd. That and "Itchycoo Park", by...someone who is not Pink Floyd. They remind me of all of the years my sister and I spent listening to music as pseudo-stoners—13 year old wannabes if you will—before we were ever introduced to hash (still don't know if I am using that em-dash correctly).

PS How efficient are we Canadians? We have been hearing about the US election for over a year now. The Canadian election is apparently going to be called this weekend. Our campaign and election will take place before the US election even happens.

PPS Vote Dion

PPPS If it can't be Clinton, Vote Obama

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I know what I know if you know what I mean

It was a good weekend. Sunshine and shoe shopping, drinks and dinners, a night at the movies, running, and tennis.

Like Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder, this summer has been a pleasant surprise. I have barely even noticed the rain.

The only complaint I have is that the music of 2008 has been underwhelming. Imagine if I was back in summer camp. What would the great songs of the summer have been? Would Katie Perry's I kissed a girl be the best there is?

Where is the Jack and Diane of 2008? John Mellencamp isn't the only one. There are always songs. You know the ones. Maybe it's rose colored glasses, but where is Edie Brickell and The New Bohemians when you need them?

Aside from the music, going into this summer it is safe to say I was not at my best. So imagine my surprise when, despite the mediocre music and the record rains, this summer has turned out so well. It isn't because everything is going right [it's not..although it is mostly], or I am having regular sex [I'm not], or I am in love [not, unless you count my new fall pumps]. Not even close.

I don't even think that Don Henley's Boys of Summer would be able to drag me into the summer-Sunday blues. I would like to think that it's more than a bottle of pills, but whatever it is that saved me, I'll take it.

There is very little of August left and I intend to squeeze out every last drop.

I am packing my bags.

I will be spending it somewhere fabulous.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


I just watched Flashpoint for the first time; a great new show on CBS. I heard or read something about it recently, I can't remember which, so I decided to PVR it. I am a huge fan of Law and Order type shows, particularly Law and Order SVU, so I am always willing to try out a new show of the same genre. Usually I am disappointed, but not this time. What a great show! I am so entirely impressed!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

book of negroes

I am no longer going to waste my time reading something that I really don't enjoy. And more importantly, I am not going to feel bad about it.

It's a lot like dating. Do you know how many second and third dates I have gone on because I should like the guy, for a variety of reasons ranging from his religion, to his good looks, to his success, to his 'great personality'? Yet here I am, still single. So all of that time spent not enjoying myself and conforming to ideas that are not mine didn't get me anywhere in that department.

This is what I realized after I was about a quarter of the way into reading the Book of Negroes, an amazing book I just finished by Lawrence Hill. It is a fiction based in fact. I fell in love with the characters and I did not want it to end. More than that, this story of African slavery changed how I see the world.

Like I always say (so often more delayed than necessary), when you know, you know.

Friday, August 15, 2008


I had the most delicious lunch today - a braised beef brisket and carmelized onion sandwich from Black Camel.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

the lottery

I am not going to bother to go in to where I have been and why I have taken such a long blogging hiatus. I'll save that for a rainy day or never, but something is coming up that I felt like writing about. Who knows if anyone is still reading, but if you are, feel free to give your two cents worth.

Next week I am scheduled to take part in a massive study. If I consent, they will take a DNA sample to find out if I have 'the breast cancer genes'.

If you have the genes, you basically have a 70% chance of having breast cancer and also a much higher than normal chance (I forget the percentage) of ovarian cancer.

If you are positive you basically have three options. You can:

(1) Prophylactically have your breasts removed, and/or your ovaries removed;

(2) Take medications to reduce your risk (i.e., tamoxifen); or

(3) Watch and wait (with frequent and intensive screening).

None of these options sound particularly appealing.

The chance that I have this gene is extremely small, but that being said I can't help but think how my life would be altered if I do.

I think I already know what I would do. I would get pregnant right away and as soon as I had the baby and maybe finished breastfeeding, I would have my ovaries and breasts removed (and then breasts reconstructed).

Who knows what I would really do if faced with the decision, but that was my initial instinct.

But it is even more complicated than that. Even life insurance or health insurance policies become a problem once you have this kind of information, not to mention the change in how you see and live your life. How about going through surgical menopause at 33? Not the most appealing idea.

So what's better? Not knowing?

My doctor was the one who said this was a good idea, and at the time I completely agreed, but now I am getting cold feet.

It reminds me of the way I feel about the lottery. I have never dreamed of winning a 100 million dollars like most people seem to. I have never longed for an irreversible transformation. I want my life, as hard and lonely as it sometimes. It can also be great.

And it's mine.

I am at a loss.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

bright and shiny

I ordered the new James Frey. I never read A Million Little Pieces. Not because of the controversy. I have no issues with his version of the truth because I know there is no such thing. I just never got to it. There are so many books sitting in my apartment just waiting to be read. But I haven't been able to commit to words as much as I normally do. I've been thinking of them, using them obviously, but I just haven't been able to commit to them long enough to read a book or even write a post.

I ordered the new James Frey because I can not walk past a book store without losing myself in the aesthetics of the book. I have fallen for it like no other since that compact burgundy package that brought me the Catcher in the Rye.

I don't expect the impact that J.D. Salinger had on me by any stretch, but I went ahead and ordered it. And I ordered the new David Sedaris book.

And I feel like I'm taking some chances here. And that's how I am, in case you were wondering.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

dead on the wall

It's taken me 33 years to come to this; to taste the truth. I know there is nothing we can do to rub the stains out, to prevent it from going to rot. I have to force myself to look at it, trust it, and let it be. Somewhere in there, between the mess of conception and a pile of dirt, there are moments so magnificent you couldn't possibly dream them up let alone devise them; harness them at best, but this kind of thing can never be contrived. Once you try to pin it down it ceases to exist. It is literally a specimen, dead on the wall. And that, my friends, is what has happened to me.

All of this can be summed up nicely by a quote from The Princess Bride.

"Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something".

It was either going to be that or my favourite, "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die", but I couldn't figure out how to make that one fit.

I can't be sure I will survive this. Actually, the one thing I can be sure of is that I won't. And neither will you. I guess it is just a question of time. To see it for what it is is painful in and of itself, but I was always a soft hearted kid. At least that's what my father used to tell me on drives home from his apartment Sunday evenings as I choked back sobs. He would say that and I would stare out the window trying to imagine what a soft heart looked like. I already knew what it felt like; a pain in my chest that never really went away.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

big red dog

We cut between two buildings to get to St. Clair. There was this slightly frothy puddle in the ally.

"Careful, don't walk in that", he said, a gentlemen-like warning. "Looks like someone took a leak".

"I don't know why, but I was thinking it was a drool puddle."

He looked at me, like what?

"I know. I don't get it either. I was picturing Clifford the Big Red Dog or something." I shrugged.

He laughed like he got it. I wondered how.


Just now as I was writing, I heard this sound from somewhere down on the street. At first I thought it was a woman, or women plural, screaming. It was agony, I was sure of it. I got a glimpse of it and it was bad...until it wasn't.

In a millisecond I knew it was music blaring from a passing car. That's all. But it could have gone either way; about as likely as a big red dog drool puddle.

Nothing's impossible. We should all know that by now.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

good as gold

It's always Sunday night that I feel a desperation to post something, last minute before the sleeping pill kicks in. Sunday night, the brink of a new week of unknown, where my constant state of anxiety makes the probable monotony to come the welcome alternative.

Tonight I called my parents at a time that I thought they should have been home watching the news or reading in bed and there was no answer. I called my father's cell phone, and when there was no answer there, my mother's. My brother is in Israel and I know he has a bad flu right now. I contemplated calling his phone next, but it was the middle of the night there. There are times when the hysteria would win out over common sense, but I forced myself to wait a little longer. I tried the whole routine again: parent's house, father's cell, mother's cell. Finally she answered.

There were all kinds of things that could have been happening. I have an incredibly vivid imagination [if only I could harness it]. All kinds of things happen all the time, so you can't really say it's irrational. Bad things happen.

Sometimes the things that happen are so bad I find it hard to believe anything good is possible.

That's why statistics never worked for me. Do you know how many times people have tried to use them to talk me out of my fear?

"Do you know your chance of dying in a car accident is much higher than..."

There was a time in university where I went crazy over probability trees. None of my friends could figure them out, and me, the one who had a full-time math tutor from the seventh grade on got them right off. Even loved them perhaps. I thought I had finally discovered a way to take risk out of the equation, to make sure bad things wouldn't happen, but there was still this number at the end. No matter how many precautions there were or how many back-up engines a plane had, the risk was never zero. There is always something.

I admit, being afraid isn't a good way to live. I am so much better than I was. At least now after all of these years I know that calling my brother in the middle of the night on the other side of the world when he is sick with the flu is not going to change the outcome. If it is going to be bad [and I hope with all of my heart that it is not], no amount of vigilance will change that. And even if it could, do I want to spend my whole life in that state to prevent one bad thing from happening? I don't think so. I'm still a little too vigilant, but if it interferes too much with my life I have the capacity to walk away from it. I have the balls to do things I never thought I could do.

There are still things that bring it out in me; bad news and change to name a couple. And Sundays, which are basically a combination of the two.

Monday, May 19, 2008

fresh start

There was a certain comfort I got
From cleaning out the bathroom.
They were coming in the morning
To redo the ceiling in the shower.
I took every single item out.
All that was left was a tin sound.
A hollow echo;
An empty stomach;
An aching beacon.

I never know if I have come far or just gone in circles.
I'm flying in the dark again
Off the coast of Newfoundland
And most of the time
I can marvel in the thrill of it all.

There was a time I craved the comfort of a carpet.
Its feigned warmth and welcome
Like a paid professional
Pretending to be your mother.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

down the drain

I dropped a fake diamond stud down the drain; one of my favourite pairs of earrings. I could see it with a flashlight, sitting about 6 inches down, in a bed of who the hells knows what, on some kind of a ledge.

I was running late for work. I put in another pair of earrings and decided to think about what to do during the day and come home with a plan.

That night, I felt like I was at the hospital doing some kind of procedure on a patient, only the patient was my sink. I could still see the earring. I put the flashlight down for a second, went to my purse and took out a piece of gum, which I chewed while I looked through my utensil drawer in the kitchen for some kind of a tool. I found a chopstick that I thought could fit the bill. When the gum was just soft enough I stuck it on the fat end. Holding the flashlight with my left hand, I slowy lowered it into the drain. I felt like I was playing that old game Operation and that if I touched the side it would buzz. I took a deep breath and lowered the chopstick until it stopped. I pressed the gum into the earring trying not to think about what might come back out with it. I carefully withdrew. An inch from the opening, the gum fell off the chopstick, presumeably with the earring attached. And like that it was gone, into the abyss of hair and crud.

I gave up. I even ran the water, like if I wasn't going to get it, I might as well send it on it's way.

Later that night I stood over the same sink brushing my teeth and I remembered a phone call from many years ago. Tears rolled down my cheeks. It's amazing that it still does this to me. It's amazing that my brain takes me to these places. It's like acid flashbacks without the acid.

I was in my childhood room, but already in first or second year university. I picked up the phone to call Tamara back who was living in Vancouver with her boyfriend and their other roommate, the one who answered the phone. Tamara was out, she said, and asked if I had already heard the news.

"What news?"

She stammered something about how maybe she shouldn't tell me. Maybe I should just speak to Tamara. Blah, blah, blah.

"It's about Z", she said. "Apparently he killed himself."

"What do you mean, apparently? What happened?"

It had to be a mistake. Z lives in the same city I live. How would they know before me, all the way across the continent? I was angry at her for saying something like that.

"We don't have all the details, but he jumped off some bridge out there", she said.

As soon as she said it I knew what bridge. I knew it was true. I don't even remember her name.

Every once in a while I am hit with it, like everything else miserable in the world, it is hard to believe that humans can suffer as much as they do. It is hard to imagine he is dead, he died like that, that these events unfolded the way that they did, and that bad things happen every day, everywhere. It is hard to then get into bed and read a book. Hard to get up in the morning, shower and put your make-up on. It's hard to go look at condos with a realtor, to run on a treadmill at the gym, to sit in a theatre and watch the big screen. I've never been good at it; coming to terms with all of the crud. I can't figure out if it's guilt or fear.

It's so much easier when you don't look down the drain.

Friday, April 25, 2008

did, did, did, did, you hear the falling bombs?

Has anyone else noticed that the birds are louder this year?
Maybe there are just more of them.
Or maybe it's that the winter was so long and cold.
It's a good sound.
It makes it seem like everything is going to be alright.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

wet nurse

Anna called me mid-morning. I was preparing for my first big meeting with the head of the department.

I was pressed for time but I put my notebook down. She was telling me about the house she was looking at when I remembered my dream.

"I had a dream last night that I was breastfeeding a newborn baby."

For a moment I forgot about the meeting and I forgot about the phone, lost in the details; the dark haired baby, swaddled firmly in white flannel. There was a time when swaddling sick babies was my specialty. But this was different.

"It was so real."

"Ew", she laughed, bringing me back to the conversation. "You were a wet nurse?"

She might as well have kicked me in the stomach.

The more I think about it the more it bothers me. I mean, is this how my friends see me? I can't be a mother even in my own dreams?

I am the best friend a girl could ask for; I have perfected the science. I love their children. I am their Tia Rachel or their Auntie Rachel. But I am more maternal than most of my friends put together—they would tell you that—and yet a dream like that to Anna could only mean I am lending out my services in some sad role straight out of the dark ages or some la leche breastfeeding cult.

If she had time to consider her reaction she wouldn't have said it. I know that. She didn't mean to hurt me. I guarantee she doesn't even know she did. But the message was loud and clear, from a place that never lies.

As I type this the phone rings. It's Anna.

"Fuck you", I say to my empty apartment. I let it ring.

Friday, April 11, 2008

my indents

My two indents,
One on the left hand side of the couch.
One on the right side of my bed.
Those are the two places I spend my time
And somehow the self-indulgent ramblings matter
When there are no other people to bear witness.
If I die tomorrrow
What will I leave behind?
The many items of clothing
Hundreds of books
Hopeful furniture
Blue bag of recycling
Canned diced tomatoes
Zinfandel I've been saving for the right time.
Three boxes of whole wheat matzoh
Take out menus
Photographs of my friends and their children.
My artwork
And the spaces;
I have two.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

if the dizzying highs don't subside overnight

This weekend was exactly what I needed. Sunshine, glorious sunshine. Double digit temperatures. Finally it feels like spring has arrived. I even saw a robin when I was running today. It was the first time I've been running outside since the fall.

I bought some clothes for work, did laundry, pressed my own shirts for the first time since I worked in the restaurant industry ten years ago. In fact back then I used to pretend I didn't know how to do it so that my roommate would do it for me. That and sew on buttons. As the granddaughter of tailors, I should be ashamed of myself. Truth is, I know how to do both. I am actually pretty good at it, and I like it. How did I not figure that out until now?

Friday night I found a new burrito place in my neighborhood and a friend and I tried it out along with a very good bottle of wine. Burritos and malbec; a great combination.

Wait, let's go back to Thursday night. Went for dinner at mini market with my brother's girlfriend. That's my second time there and I have to say the food is great. The grilled calamari is perfection. I can't wait to go back just to have that with the spicy chinese long beans. Plus little italy never gets old for me.

Went to see Emily Haines a week ago tonight. Stayed out pretty late for a school night. Haven't had that many vodka and sodas since... Well, a long time. Let's not go there. I was so much better behaved this time around.

One week later and my night looks very different. I am sitting on the couch watching the Junos [Go H!] in my PJ's, with a tomato sauce stain on my left boob, in a t-shirt that says, 'that's how I roll'. So it is.

Back to Emily. I love her voice; I love the music, although I am more of a metric fan. Apparently she is too. She wasn't really into playing her solo material.

"Maybe I'm just happier now", she suggested at one point when she was having trouble remembering how to play a song on the piano.

She said she was working on a new Metric album and maybe that's part of the reason she wasn't feeling it.

Still, she was incredibly interactive and she captivated the audience. She even sang a little sex pistols. A girl after my own heart.

About 45 minutes in, in the middle of Dr. Blind [my favourito], she stopped playing. She asked if anyone in the audience could play it and then she sat off to the side and let three or four people come up, one by one, and make their attempts. A few minutes later she joined them back on stage and sang a Metric song while one of them played guitar. Part way through that she thanked everyone and walked off stage, leaving the group of audience members to finish the song without her. And that was the end of the concert.

Some people were annoyed, but she sounded great, she kept the audience on their toes and completely engaged. She was unpredictable and I loved it.

As you can see, I can not for the life of me take pictures properly without a flash [I kind of like this one though]. I was given some good advice on this once, but I clearly need to review that lesson.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

lights out

On the train home I overheard a conversation between two guys, early thirties, one heavy, hair matted down with sweat at the front like a little boy coming in for a drink after playing outside. The other, thin, pale and powder dry, had a hint of a British accent. They both wore suits stuffed under their coats, which reminded me of when my mother used to make me wear a snow suit to school over my clothes.

These two guys, they talked about their office jobs in a generic sort of way, but somehow you still knew what they were saying. Their words were so benign, but maybe that was part of the trouble. It was something like, "Yeah, these guys just keep putting shit into these files and then they pick them up, make their presentation and never touch them again". Whatever they said, it made just enough sense to start that dull ache in the pit of my stomach, and like drips of water, all of that joined up with the threads that had meanered their way through my fresh new job this week, and suddenly there was a current.

Its just so damn depressing to see the truth so clear and up close. It takes you out of the moment. Makes it hard to go along with things when you see we are just animals doing odd little things; copies of a copy of a copy of a copy. It's a mess. A sad performance.

I don't know, but I can tell you that it is something about this life I find incredibly lonely and hard to take. It makes that little black fleck seem like the only sensible thing in the universe.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

black hole

You probably see it as a small black fleck
In a sea of swirling color;
Flashing lights,
Your name in lights,
Memories to be made,
If you see it at all.
I do.
It's all I can think about,
That little black fleck.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

messy writing

By the time I ever get up the inspiration to write, I've been sitting on my couch in the living room, curtains drawn, watching mindless television and drinking cups of instant coffee for so long I'm restless and I need to get up and do something before I feel like a complete failure. A sloth.

'Go to the gym, you lazy ass', I tell myself. 'Are you even gonna leave the house today?'

The phone rings periodically and car horns beep on the street below, which irritates me more, furthering the sense of urgency. It's as if people are waiting outside for me. Life beckons and staying in to write is a waste of time.

"You're not even going to take a shower? Your hair is in knots. Filthy knots', I continue. I can be mean.

'Your a mess. The apartments a mess. Do something!'

All of this usually coincides with a moment of inspiration.

It's always a dirty back room deal, my writing.

If nothing else is on the schedule, if no one else wants me, only then do I have permission, if you can even call it that. It's uncomfortable. It's crack filler.

Like today, a few sentences in.

'You should clear off the coffee table.'

It's a modern dark brown table where I do almost everything. Sitting on the couch, I eat there in front of the television, especially for breakfast, and so I am in the habit of leaving a black placemat for my coffee cup and dishes on the table so I don't scratch the surface. But this morning, as I look up from the screen, I notice how dirty the placemat looks.

'It always does', I add. Sometimes I hate myself.

However, in all fairness to the part of me I hate, the placement does show up everything. I wash it, I shake it out over the sink when there are crumbs, and yet, like a black car, even a speck of dust is annoying.

I take it away, shake it off and put it back on top of the fridge with the others. No more. I will risk a scratched table. While over there, I clear the dishes from the counter into the sink and fill it with soap and hot water to soak. I go through the pile of mail on the counter, determined suddenly to put everything away. There I come across a T4 slip. I go to the closet and pull out the other tax documents. I decide I need to organize this stuff right now, knowing that if I do it, I'll feel better.

But first I should at least brush my hair and put it in a ponytail so I don't feel so grungy and uncomfortable. In fact, maybe I should just shower now, but then I want to go for a run in a little while, so it would be a waste.

'Of what? Water?'

Well yes, in fact it is a waste of water. It is also drying to the skin if I shower twice in one morning, and bad for my hair.

I pull my hair back and return to the kitchen where I come across a long hand-written letter I got from my father before I went away, which reminded me of one my mother wrote me many years ago, when I was in my late teens; pages of lined paper folded into thirds and stuffed into a small envelope.

Is it me? Do I have some flaw that brings pleading letters out of people? Forces threm to desperate measures?

My father's letter was long and very neatly written. My mother's too, as I recall. It's funny, no matter how hard I try I can't write neatly. Almost no one can read my writing.

My father always wants something from me. The letter was just another angle in. It is always the same. He wants to erase history and create storybook endings. He wants to eradicate his guilt. I suppose one of these days I could let him have that. It's probably time.

I stopped cleaning the kitchen, sat down at the computer and logged into my email to reply to my father.

Dear Dad:

I came back from Cuba last week and started my job and with the long weekend I finally have a few minutes to write you. So far things are going well. I had a two-day general orientation and then I spent a couple of days getting familiar with the project I will be working on. It seems like it is going to be interesting and probably a pretty busy place to work. So far so good.

It was nice to get a letter from you. It arrived right before I went away. Nice card too. Loved the photograph on the front.

It sounds like turning 60 is a good time of life for you. It seems like its all coming together. I hope you will be able to continue on with that and fully enjoy how far you have come for many many years.

In your letter you said you hope I don't feel that you are indifferent with me and with what I am doing. I can assure you I have never felt that way. While there have been problems and differences of opinion between us, I have always felt you were proud of me and interested in what I was doing. I appreciate that.

I think that the hardest thing in the world is to live in the moment and not focus on the past or the future. Just as difficult I think is to be true to who you are. I think the best thing a parent can do is set an example. You are doing that by taking this trip you are going on in May, enjoying life in the moment, and contributing to the world through your charitable work. I think your kids will learn a lot from what you are doing, each in our own way.

I look forward to hearing about your trip. Be well.

Love Rachel

It felt a little like sandpaper writing that, and although I didn't tell him everything he wanted to hear, I didn't ignore him, which is what I would have done in the past, inadvertently taking all of the guilt for myself.

What he wanted me to say is that yes, I think we should get to know each other, spend time together, make our relationship into the father-daughter relationship we have probably both wished we had, but I didn't say those things.

And after I sent the email to him, I stayed seated and I wrote this out. I needed to write, more than I needed to clean. Turns out I did both. Also turns out the two are really not that different.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

my own space

The first week on the job is going pretty well. I think the work is interesting already. I have my own office. It's small but it has everything it needs: desk, file cabinet, a wicker chair for patients or guests, and a beautiful abstract painting on the wall. It's hard getting used to a new space. I did what I could to make it my own. Re-arranged the thumb tacks on my bulletin board by color, organized the office supplies and familiarized myself with the files. I am still waiting for the computer guy to hook me up; hopefully tomorrow.

It's nice being in a large teaching hospital with good coffee shops and stores. I bumped into a girl I went to nursing school with and hadn't seen for 8 years. She's been working in the same unit since we graduated. Of course she's had two kids since then. Who hasn't?

Oh yeah. Me.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

conversations with my mother

My parents are leaving for New Zealand tomorrow. My mother called me tonight to say goodbye. We pretty much had the same conversation tonight as we had three nights ago.

"I'm still trying to figure out what to wear on the airplane."

"Are you kidding me? This is not a difficult decision to make. Did we not just discuss this? I said wear your lulu's and your zip-up with a tank top underneath in case you get a hotflash."

"Ok, but then I thought maybe I should wear that black criss-cross v-neck. You know the one you gave me?"


"You know. It's criss-cross."


"Black with a v-neck in the front and the back?"


The conversation continued on like that until my mother changed the subject to something even more delightful.

"What are you doing tonight?"

"Nothing. I think I'll hang out here tonight. I was out late last night."

"Oh Rachel. I just wish you had something to do—someone to do something with. I just wish you could meet someone."

"Ok mom, this conversation can not keep going on repeat. Surely you must see that it doesn't bring anything good into the mix. I went out last night. I go out all the time. Nothing was going on tonight. That's all. Sure it would be nice to meet someone, but this conversation will only serve to annoy me."

"Oh I know", she laughs. "I just want you to be happy."

"I'm happy mom", I tell her like I always do, only this time I believe it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

playa blanca

I am back in the country; back to the worst winter in 15 years. Just in time for a spring forward time change. Early for the second year in a row and with all of this snow I find the light confusing. But good.

Tropical thunderstorms in Cuba and more snow in Toronto threatened to keep me there, but the plane took off. I never would have guessed I would find a week in a tropical paradise more than enough, but it was. I didn't want to be there for another night, if you can believe it. I mean seriously, take a look at the photo. That was my week.

White flour sand, the clearest cleanest most turquoise water I have ever seen, and warm too, especially when the tide was low. If it was just that I would be crazy to be so ready to face the relentless winter, but there is always more.

The food was terrible. I mean terrible. I sort of knew that going in, however I was still surprised. I mean even the fruit was bad...or canned. Even worse. If you like gristly mystery meat paired with brussel sprouts in a milky fluid, you would have been in heaven. So I became a vegetarian for the week.

Then there were the other guests. They were either young Quebecois couples with their children, elderly British couples baking themselves to a deep orangey-red, girls each sporting almost identical tattoos across their lower backs and their boyfriends in tank tops. There is something so unappealing about men in tank tops. Lana and I just didn't really find a place there. I think we were the only single people there, unless you count the gay couple or the group of ladies who harassed them. One night in the cigar lounge they got pulled over to a table by these women in their late 30's/40's. I watched them reluctantly drag their chairs over. Minutes later I heard one of them squeal,

"Gay guys make the BEST friends!!!"

"And like they are SO good looking”, another added. “I'm always like, that is SUCH a waste!!!"

I was so embarrassed for them. All I could do was shake my head.

I should have known I was in the wrong place the first time we went to eat and most of the people seemed to have no problem with the food.

The beach won me over, but after the first few breathtaking views coming up over the mangroves I just wanted it without all of the rest. In addition to the people and the food, along the path to the beach, there was a strong stench of shit in the air, which I also could have done without.

I left the resort only once, and it was by catamaran to a coral reef to snorkel. It was beautiful and peaceful and I could have done it every day.

There was nowhere else to go. Havana was hundreds of miles away unfortunately.

I sat in the shade on the beach, read constantly, wrote nothing, smoked some cohibas, did not overeat [or should I say COULD NOT], deliberately did not get a burn [or consequently much of a tan], and all of that left me recharged and offset some of the stuff that annoyed me, like watching people eating bad food, waving around pesos like they were big spenders to get special treatment at the buffet or the bar, and listening to parents bargain with there children.

"Madison, can Mommy put your sunscreen on?"


"Come on Maddy, please can Mommy put your sunscreen on?"


"Ok, then can Daddy put Madison's sunscreen on?"


If it is not an option, do not ask a two year old permission. Do not spend 30 minutes reasoning with them.

They say no. That's what two year olds do.

I have never seen such an incredible beach and I have never relaxed this much in my life. Lana and I wanted the same things out of the week and so it was ok that I went to bed by 10 pm every night. I could not keep my eyes open. I woke naturally to the sounds of birds between 6 and 7 every morning. I ate pretty healthy [i.e., didn't eat much], drank cappuccinos and rum, played tennis, read, napped, swam, read, napped, swam, and then started all over again. I did what I wanted to do.

But overall, something about the circumstance in that place didn't sit right with me. Beyond the bad food and the smell of sewage, something was off.

Maybe it was that the people who live there can never leave, despite all the potential—so much life— bubbling under the surface. It was palpable, and so fully enjoying this incredibly contrived paradise didn't resonate with me for long. All of the rest and relaxation could only mask that hollow feeling, almost a metallic taste in my mouth. When it was time to come home, I was ready. Rested and relaxed without a doubt, but ready.

back inaction

I'm back, and I still have some time off, but I can't seem to come up with much to say.

I think I am stuck in reverse. Instead of putting it out there or writing ferociously in my notebooks, I am reading and watching and listening. I am taking it all in. Filling up the tank or something like that, and I am relishing every minute of it.

Friday, February 29, 2008

end of the world

I lived with roommates for most of my twenties. On the day we were moving out of our apartment to go our individual adult ways, when I used the phrase, 'It's the end of the world as we know it', I think it annoyed my old roommates. I've always found most people don't like to have their world shift while they are looking at it in the face. They'd sooner pretend the transformation wasn't happening. I guess it's easier that way, to not see the end of an era, to look ahead, not around you in the moment and not back. To not see that your life is passing by. I have never been one of those people. For me pain and sadness is no easier to ignore than passion and beauty.

As I type this my good friends and colleagues with whom I have worked for several years are setting up a lunch for me in the boardroom down the hall. I am supposed to pretend I don't know this. And I savour these last two minutes and I put them down here because I am at the threshold of not being here anymore. Once the goodbyes have started, it is already over. It isn't the same-old anymore. There will be no more bored, everyday moments here with them. They will be here but I will be gone.

I am thankful to have had all of this.

Now I must go say some goodbyes and try not to be too sad that this is the end of the world as I know it.

Monday, February 25, 2008

it's always a gamble

When I woke up I knew it was too early. I kept my eyes closed and waited. I got a faint urge to pee and I weighed my options. If I go to the bathroom I may wake up more but if I try to ignore it now it won't be long before the urge to pee wakes me up again, that is if I manage to fall back asleep at all. It's always a gamble.

I got out of bed and limped to the bathroom. I sat on the toilet with my eyes closed, chin in my hands, elbows pressing into my knees.

Walking back to bed I opened my eyes a crack to check the clock.

Six AM. It's Saturday.

I got back into bed. I must have fallen asleep right away because the next thing I knew the alarm was going off and the radio played, set to flow 93.5 fm. I got out of bed, took my pill with a mouthful of water from the glass left on the counter the day before and I flipped on the kettle.

On the news they were still talking about the Queen Street fire. I heard it was huge. Still haven't had a chance to see it. I probably won't until I'm back.

I got up from the couch to make my coffee and I put a piece of bread in the toaster. I sliced up an apple and waited at the counter.

What am I going to do tonight, I wonder? I feel like going out. Already, this early in the morning, I wish there was something to do. Somewhere to go to have some red wine, to watch people. It's always when I'm in the mood that nothing is going on. And really, nothing is going on this weekend. Next weekend however, everything is going on.

I wonder if Andy is back from LA. We grew up together on the coast. He lives in Toronto now and he is always up for something. Mostly, I get the impression, he's up for me, although he's dating this girl from NYC now. Part of me wishes I felt something for him, but it wouldn't work.

I think I'm past proximity. At this point in my life, being nearby, nice, Jewish, and single doesn't do enough for me. What I'm looking for does not necessarily exist in these places. I want to be stimulated and to stimulate in all the ways that that word could be construed.

I'll call him later and find out if he wants to meet for drinks.

My toast pops. I spread a tablespoon of peanut butter on it and I slice a half a banana. I take it into the living room and sit down in front of the television.

They're doing sports. The leafs lost again, and now it looks like no play-offs. I remember so many spring nights spent cheering on the leafs after work at bars with my friends. I stopped watching hockey when they went on strike. That was too much for me. I just couldn't find it in my heart to have sympathy for them.

I think if I went back to hockey now I would return to the habs. I should never have strayed. The Montreal Canadians were my team growing up; Chris Chelios was my dream guy. I had a life-sized poster of him on the back of my bedroom door, the only spot I was allowed to decorate my own way. The whole door went to him rather than a collection of all of the other things that I loved back then, like The Cure, the Sex Pistols, Pink Floyd. The rest of my room was done impeccibly by my mother. Things were always done well in my house.

As I cleaned my dishes up from breakfast, a friend of mine from the university came by to borrow a pair of ski pants for her weekend in Collingwood. She recounted her irritability with people in the neighborhood that morning while she tried to get her errands done.

"I mean I know that this area is dog friendly, but to bring two golden retreivers into an organizational store—you know how narrow the aisles are there—"

I nodded.

"And this women and her daughter were practically standing at my cash while I was paying. I kept nudging the mother with my elbow while I signed my credit card. I just wanted to scream."

I invited her to stay for coffee but she said she had to get on the road and thanked me for the pants.

I closed and double bolted the door, stripped off my nightgown and got in the shower. Even though I was only going to the gym, I couldn't go with my hair dirty. I hate the feeling. I also wanted to be clean shaven because I had a massage appt after the gym.

I got to the gym with enough time to do 45 minutes on the treadmill before my personal trainer. Normally what I do, at least since I hurt my foot in October, is alternate running and walking. I'm trying to take it slow. I've been doing 5 minutes walk, 5 minutes run. I am aiming for a 10k charity run in the spring.

At the three minute mark, I noticed out of the corner of my eye, my trainer Isabelle, who has a very feminine name but in fact looks like a boy with her mannerisms and her very short hair. She was stretching someone on a mat. Her client was a chunky middle age women with a bright red face.

I bumped up the pace to a run early, after only three minutes. When I'd been running for a bit I realized my motive. I think I was trying to impress Isabelle. It was in the same way I might push myself harder when there's a cute guy next to me, or when I practically ran double time all summer with Harry along the beltline [which I now blame for my foot issues]. It reminded me of gym class in grade seven, when we were doing time trials. I was pretty fast at step-ups on a bench and I wanted to show-off in front of the teacher who was timing me and counting. I broke my ankle.

My need to impress has caused problems for me in the past, yet there I was, trying to impress the boys...and girls.

Not only did I start running sooner, I didn't stop for my usual five minute intervals. I didn't stop until I hit 30 minutes. I guess I'm just human, and that part of me doesn't discriminate.

She is kind of cute, in a male sort of way, I thought a few minutes later when she came over to get me for my session. If only she had a penis...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

breaking buildings

Only on the coldest winter nights
-10 degrees or less
From deep in the cement structure of my building
Comes a sporadic loud crack.
I worry the whole building will break in half.
I resent that I live in a place that gets that cold.
I long for hot summer nights.

How cold it is tonight.
I feel sorry for the bicycle on my balcony
Protected only by a thin blue tarp
And a couple of badly placed bungee cords.
The wind throws it around with impunity.
It's been at it for months.

And this is how I know
Nothing and no one
Can save me.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


Who would have thought that February, the cruelest and most desolate of months would bring such a gust of good in my life? I have been waiting to make sure it all came through in a pinch-myself sort of way before I said anything, but just before I left for London, on my last day of work, something happened that didn't really surprise me, yet was what I needed to make a decision. I won't go into what it was, but suffice it to say my boss went one step too far and I decided I no longer needed to be there and that this person would no longer continue to benefit from my skills.

I had been keeping an eye open for new work for over a year but I just didn't have it in me to put myself out there and prepare for interviews. All of that takes energy. But what happened before I left was the fuel that I needed to make a move and for that I am grateful.

I applied for about five positions I had been eyeing. When I returned in January I got three calls, all within two days. I interviewed for all three, but was quite taken with the first. I turned down one second interview and accepted the other two.

I was offered the job I wanted and exactly what I wanted. Of course I am still taking a huge leap of faith. I am so used to sticking with the devil I know. It is scary moving into the unknown, but even if it isn't the best thing that ever happened to me, at least it is something happening and I am so excited about it. It is a position that incorporates research and clinical work in a good hospital. It is a well-respected interdisciplinary centre working with an interesting patient population. It is going to challenge me in so many ways.

So this week, after seven years, I quit my job.

I gave my supervisor notice and told my part-time hospital gig that for now I would like to continue there but would only be able to work once in a while.

On top of that, I decided to take a couple of weeks off in between jobs because I still had a number of weeks vacation left. Funny enough, as soon as I was offered the position I was no longer desperate to go south the way I was before. I think the obsessive searching for good vacation deals was a throwback to my 1-800-holiday days; a self-soothing escape.

But then a twist of fate suddenly left Lana with a need to take [or lose] some of her vacation and so I said I would look one more time and see if there were any last minute deals, not expecting to find much given the time of year, with spring break and march break. But the next thing you know I found an incredibly good price for a week in Cuba, in a resort on a white sand beach with tennis courts and swim up bars. An hour later we were booked. I leave in a couple of weeks!

Then just a few weeks later I am going to NYC for a girl’s weekend. By then there will be blossoms on the trees and the weight of the winter will be lifting. Turns out the weight hasn't been so unbearable this year, unless you count my body weight; the 6 pounds I gained after I hurt my foot, couldn't exercise for two months, and went on a lasagna and chocolate chip diet.

But that brings me to the next thing on the list. I got a great deal on a personal trainer for three sessions.

In a few minutes I leave to get my eyebrows waxed [sounds like no big deal but I swear it is like a new beginning for us girls], do my cardio, and then meet the trainer.

It's a three-day weekend. The sun is shining and even though it is -8 degrees Celsius you can tell the sun is warming up.

Sometimes you go through dark spots where you know there is 'probably' a light at the end of the tunnel or at least you hope, with all of your heart, there is one, but I see it clearly now. I am in it.

In the past I think I have been hesitant to take these happy moments and dwell on them for fear they will slip out of my hands like a bar of soap.

And they will, but so what? I am going to dwell.

I am dwelling.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


I used to hide out in the den at my father's teak desk, transfixed by the globe. After choosing the most exotic spot I could find I would pull the phone close and dial the toll free Holiday Inn number from the commercial; the one where they said they have locations all over the world.

"Holiday Inn, how may I help you?"

"Hi, do you have a hotel in Mozambique?", I would ask trying to sound adult-like.

"Yes, we do. It's in Maputo."

"Perfect. I was wondering how much it costs a night to stay there?"

"What day are you arriving?"

"Oh, I'm not sure exactly. It's all still up in the air." I was proud of myself for that line. It sounded just like something my mother would say.


"Ah, the beginning of April? I just want to get an idea of how much money it will be."

"Alright, let me check on that for you."

As I waited I would try to imagine what the hotel would be like in whatever place I was calling about. For Mozambique I envisioned burgundy and gold drapes, palm trees, air thick with spices. I wondered if there would be an outdoor pool. Of course there would be, I decided.

"Ok, the cost for a standard double occupany room for April 1st is $169.00 per night."

"169..." I pretended to contemplate the price. "Ok, well I will have to get back to you with my final decision."

"Ok, thank you for calling the holiday inn", the man said on the other end and then cleared his throat. "Have a nice day ma'am."

Sunday, February 10, 2008

expectant care

I stumbled across it
Talking about job interviews
And how I struggled to get away from the office
Without raising red flags
In a sea of red flags.
And then of my patients waiting
In pale green rooms.
And how I do the best I can.

It came in images
And I drew him the outline
With clumsy but sure words.
This time I did not need his help.
His eloquence, or his impeccable memory.

I figured out what it is
That pulls my skin along the asphalt
Like a car accident and the stomach flu
Or airplanes,
Long metal cylinders
With human vessels piled inside,
Hopeful faces in oval windows
Going places.
Humans with their body fluids
Held back by an impartial membrane;
Bodies filled with all that we are made of
But hold back and call dignity.

The opposite of dignity is shame.
And while it is inevitably leeched out in the dirt
So often it is stripped against our will
Leaving us naked,
Outside the showers,
Smelling of fear and bowels.

I discovered this and let him have it
And it floated between us in the room
And as ugly as it was,
Settling there at our feet
On a cold February night,
He took it like a gift.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

too much time alone with the media

Not helping me want to get on a plane again. It is like someone read all of the transcripts of every therapy session I have ever had, boiled, diffused, and captured the essence de la Rachel and wrote it into a news segment.


Pilots are supposed to be the ones who have it all under control. How is it that this pilot managed to get ready for work, say goodbye to his family, find his way to the airport, get through security, get on the plane, greet the crew, study the maps [or whatever they do to plan their route], discuss it with the co-pilot, only then to go completely ravagingly insane over the Atlantic???

Then it got me to thinking, what does one do when one is a pilot and one has a nervous breakdown in the air? The only thing I can think of is that he was probably trying to take the plane down. I hear he was screaming that he wanted to talk to G-D. That would be one way to do it. So terribly frightening.

We were just hit with the "Godzilla" of snow storms, as dubbed by the media. It looks quite lovely out there for now, and the temperature is mild, so I do not really mind. Still rather be on a beach.

I have been sick this week. Just a cold, but it meant that I spent some quality time on my couch watching television.

The other day I saw a stupid talk show on the debate on men who wear baggy pants; like the kind that go halfway down your ass and your boxers hang out the top. It was treated as a serious debate. What a ridiculous and a collosal waste of time. Who cares?

In Toronto the other day they were voting on passing a law in city council banning flip flops, short skirts, muscle t-shirts [do these still even exist] and a bunch of other kinds of clothing. Stop wasting time and personnel on this shit! I mean seriously, if you dress unprofessionally, sure that may hamper your career growth, but let things evolve on their own. There are so many other problems in the city and the world. People should be ashamed for wasting their time on these ridiculous debates. They are a bunch of angry disatisfied drones projecting their own shit on the people around them.

Then a more important, but as I see it, misguided debate, was the afro-centric school debate in Toronto. The vote was close, but the decision came down that there will be an "afro-centric" public school in the city.

I have a problem with this in the same way I have a problem with the many public Catholic schools in the city. Public schools should be for everyone. If you want to send your kid to a special school you should have to pay for that. It should be a private school as it is for the Jewish, Hindu and Muslim communities.

If the city is going to fund an afro-centric school on the premise that the community is in need, they should probably do the same for aboriginal people, and then maybe the tamil community and, while I have not conducted any official needs assessment, I imagine the list goes on.

Instead of a "black" school, there should be a school for populations in need with extra services that meet the specific needs of each community. I can promise you that in this very multi-cultural city there are a number of poor communities that would benefit from extra services and programs. And more money should go into after school programs where kids in need can be exposed to strong adult mentors who value education and have the time to spend with them. There are lots of black kids with these needs, but I would be willing to bet there are lots of kids of all kinds of cultures that need it too.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

last minute deals

As a kid I used to obsess over travel brochures. You know those glossy booklets of tropical paradise? Any time we passed a travel agent I would take the sandals and sunquest brochures home and comb through them with encyclopedic determination.

Encylopedic determination. I call it that because encyclopedias, and as I said occasionally travel brochures, is what I did with my need to know before there was the internet.

I am not sure exactly how old I was when it started. Old enough that I could read, although not without some amount of struggle, and young enough that taking the encyclopedia off of the shelf and carrying it to my room was a bit of a physical struggle. I can still feel their weight and their textured brown on brown binding with gold trimmed pages. How I loved to run my fingers along the smooth gold.

Aaah. Encyclopedias. The first thing I ever took to bed.

Letter by letter.

“Hmmm…tonight I feel like…'M'.”

Determined, I read them cover to cover at an age when maintaining my interest through dry patches was almost impossible. The internet allows me to be more frivolous. Darting from pages as fast as thoughts come to mind.

I am reminded of this suddenly, struck with a craving for some sun and sand. If all goes as planned and I change jobs before spring is in full bloom, an all-inclusive may be on my agenda. I will do something last minute, maybe alone.

The idea of going by myself is appealing to me in a few ways. I would love to sit in the shade on a pristine beach the salt wind in my hair, reading, writing, and swimming. With all of the sun and the fresh air, I would probably go to bed early and sleep until whenever the sun wakes me and no one would pressure me to do otherwise. Going with someone would be fun in other ways.

However it plays out, knowing these types of places and the almost guaranteed shitty food, I might even lose a few pounds. I have done this sort of trip twice before. When I was in Cuba with a group of way too many girls, I lost weight because I only ate a real meal at breakfast: mostly fruit and a little bacon [which I no longer eat], and lots of coffee [they tend to do that well]. For the rest of the day I pretty much ate buns. I am not joking. I ate buns with butter for lunch and dinner. Normally I do not eat buns, and if I did I doubt I would use butter [listen to me, "use", like I am talking crystal meth].

The last time I went away to a resort was in Panama. I was still smoking, so I would laze and smoke and swim and read. I did one day trip to the rainforest and the Panama Canal, but the rest was pretty sedentary. Three years later and I surprise myself at how happy I am that smoking is no longer in the equation. I thought I would always want to smoke. That I would always feel a lack. Every once in a while I still do, like when I watched Keira Knightly in Atonement last week. Smoking looked so damn good to me in that film. But otherwise, I am so happy to be free. Free like the wind.

I like this version of me, three years later. I could most certainly out-run my former self, but it is more than that. I am more sure of myself these days.

Monday, January 21, 2008

instant coffee

I had friends over for dinner Saturday, including a baby who has recently learned to crawl. In preparation for them I cleaned very carefully with a specific focus on my floors. One look at a baby's pant legs after they have been crawling around and everyone knows if your floors are dirty. As I cleaned I listened to music, checking on simmering pots, setting the table, letting the wine breath. Do you really think wine needs to breath? There is something about that and perfume 'bruising' if you rub it together on your wrists that just doesn not ring true.

Anyway, I slept until ten that morning. It was a long week and I felt like I might be coming down with something. I started popping cold fx on Friday, felt better, and now my throat is starting to hurt again. I must have spent a couple hundred dollars on that shit this winter. Still I am a believer.

I was supposed to meet Harry at the gym Sunday morning, but instead I slept in and stayed home for most of the day watching taped tv and sipping instant coffee. Maybe it is because I grew up on it, but I love instant coffee. I used to love it with artificial whitener, but I had to stop that when I found out it was made of arterial plaque.

When I was a kid I used to spend the day with my Grandmother in her tailor shop sometimes. First thing she would do is make us "coffee". Mine was mostly whitener and sugar. Once we each had our drinks—as I recall, in plastic holders with disposable paper liners—we would get to work. She would give me scraps of material, thread, and buttons and I would make my creations while she sat at the sewing machine, pressing the iron pedal with her tiny foot, working the material slowly along with her fingers, peering over her thick lenses. I remember the smell of the hot steam iron and fabric, mixed with coffee. I loved every single thing about it. Now, for the life of me, I can not sew a proper button. Selective memory, my Mother calls it.

I finally left my cozy apartment to face the sub-zero city. Why? Why do I still live here? I had a massage and then went to meet Harry at yoga. On my way to the studio I realized I forgot my yoga outfit. Should I go all the way home and risk being late or should I go to the athletic wear store across the street and hope for some left-over sales. I could use a new pair of pants, I reasoned with myself. I chose the latter and I ended up getting a crazy deal on some nice stuff. It is no Lululemon, but still pretty good. I got pants, a bra and a top and it came to $45.00. That's less than half of what I pay for one pair of Lulu's.

I arrived at the class just in time, pointed my new outfit out to Harry and whispered the price. He shook his head.

"You are the best shopper I know."

And from him, that is NOT a compliment.

By the way, I am really liking the show, Women's Murder Club, despite the stupid name, partly because I am a sucker for that genre, but also because it is set in San Francisco. I love that city so much I am actually content to see even little flashes of it throughout the show.

Speaking of how I feel about cities, I though for sure I would love London this time around, especially since it was sans my sister's horrific ex-boyfriend, but I did not. London life is a much harder life in a lot of ways. Much harder than here, even with the cold factored in. It is expansive and expensive. Yeah, yeah, the tube system is good, but it felt a bit like a battle every time I left the house.

I am actually ok with my take on London. It was getting to the point that it seemed like I just want to be anywhere that is not where I am; not a great way to move through the one life you have. But it turns out that I just really like some cities. Toronto is not my favourite. Neither is London. But Montreal, Vancouver, Sydney, NYC, Miami, Edinburgh, San Francisco, Paris, Tel Aviv, Boston, on the other hand, I could live in those places. Not to mention the places I could 'summer' [ha!]: anywhere in New England or the Maritimes, or winter: Costa Rica, Panama, Florida, Mexico, the Caribbean. I think South America too, but I should reserve judgement until I travel there. Someday. When I can get on a long haul flight again.

Peace out.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

dangling over water

"2008 is going to be great", as I recall, was the brilliant tag line I came up with on New Years Eve, between glasses of good champagne and Romeo y Julietas on a London balcony. Sadly, at the party I went to, it caught on.

So the party may not have been too crazy and my revelation or tag line, if you will, was not dramatic, but sometimes the truth is not dramatic.

If you want drama, let's go back a few days. My trip began on a large aircraft, as so many overseas vacations do. About two and a half hours in, just as passengers were settling in for an uncomfortable sleep, the captain came on the overhead.

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is the captain speaking. I have an announcement to make".

My heart sank.

"Unfortunately we are experiencing a 'system failure' in the cooling system and the company does not feel it would be safe to attempt the atlantic crossing."

Two and a half hours in.

Off the coast of Newfoundland.

Two words you never want to hear on an airplane.

"System failure."

For someone who has spent years-and I mean years-in therapy for a parlayzing fear of flying, this was not good. Lucky for the fellow passengers, I had just recently washed a sedative down with a glass of wine in an effort to get some sleep.

I do not know what was worse, the fear of the plane going down in the black night over the ocean, the fear that everyone on the plane might collectively lose it, or the fact that I never actually felt the plane turn around. I am not sure why that made me so nervous. I kept thinking, did they turn before they made the announcement and I did not notice? This possibility left me feeling somehow guilty and irresponsible. In hindsight that last one was probably a good sign. My therapist would be proud. Do you know how long it has taken me to be a little irresponsible on an airplane?

For about an hour after the announcement, no flight attendants came out into the cabin. I had to stop myself a number of times from imagining them in the back crying because it was worse than the pilot was letting on. I forced myself to play cards with the guy sitting next to me. War, actually. Between the wine and the medication and the anxiety, anything more complicated and I would never have been able to focus. *

Two hours later we landed in Montreal. As scared as I was, when they began to board the replacement plane, I did not even consider refusing to board. I guess I just knew right off the bat how great 2008 was going to be. I was not going to start it by missing my vacation.

I had a great time, aside from spending money like mad [the pound pisses me off], the dramatic flight, skinning my knee pretty badly New Years Eve on an east end sidewalk in my little black dress after only two glasses of wine. Like a trooper, I continued the rest of the night in those tights and had to soak them to get them off at 4 am.

The highlight was spending time with my siblings, seeing the English and Scottish countryside, and my weekend in Edinburgh; an incredible city.

*I won.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

how we need the yellow brick road

In my early 20s, when I first moved to the flat metropolis of Toronto, I worked in a big restaurant downtown near all of the major event venues, like theatres, the skydome, and the financial district. Originally I was hired as a hostess. The month I started they had some sort of oyster promotion going on and I had to wear a straw hat; a cross between a cowboy hat and a sombrero. Being from the east coast and wearing that hat, everyone at work called me Anne of Green Gables.

A long disjointed train of thought brought me back there this morning. I woke up and read blogs over coffee looking for some kind of external inspiration to write. I went for my notebook in my purse and was hit with a wave of the smell of southern barbecue from the restaurant I went to last night. The owner of the restaurant is a guy I used to work with in my restaurant days. Putting my bag outside on my balcony to air out, I recalled that time and how I did not bother to tell them I was not from Prince Edward Island. To people here, anything east is just east.

Neither did I correct them when the general manager gave me the keys to the whole place and put me in charge. I was 22 and I had no experience in the industry. I had never even served a table let alone managed wait staff and bartenders, but I did it, and that is how the owner of this restaurant remembers me. A restaurant manager.

Another little taste of oz I guess. It was hectic and when he brought me wine in a glass that was not just a little dirty, I made sure he was well out of earshot before I asked the bartender for a clean one.

This morning, there I was, with my notebook and my coffee, and I could not help but wonder if maybe a little bit of the wizard of oz is what keeps us all from falling apart. I mean to truly come to an understanding that no one is that big a deal and that no one has the could be catastrophic. All of the order in the world depends on it, on making each of us into more than just a well organized clump of pulsing leaking cells, either growing or rotting, depending on which side of the lifespan you happen to be on.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

good enough

I went back to spinning today. Still didn't have my whole heart in it. Not loving the whole 'team spirit' thing.

"Keep it going!", she yelled in the microphone that was pinned to her skimpy lululemon top.

"For ten. Nine. Come on people! Say it with me. Eight. Seven."

"Fuck off" I said under my breath, wiping a line of sweat from my forehead. I mouthed the numbers when the instructor looked my way. Just couldn't bring myself to say it out loud. Still went though, which is good enough.

And this afternoon I got three-speaking of counting-interview requests. Three. A couple of weeks ago I made a decision, sent out a few resumes, and in one afternoon, three calls. Not only do I not feel like I'm dragging my body down a sandpaper road at the prospect, I am excited at the notion of change.

A lack of drag may not sound so good, but it is. It is how I know I'm doing the right thing.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


As I made my final preparations for my overseas excursion, I did something I never thought I could do. I let two people read a poem I wrote. By "people" I do not mean the kind that know me through the blog. I mean people in my real life. This was huge for me.

Along with a great bottle of wine, I gave my therapist a card with a poem printed and folded neatly inside. Under the title, I wrote, "by [my name]". Aside from elementary school, there have only been a handful of times I have signed my real name to my non-academic writing and had someone read it, and even then it was in a creative writing class with people I did not know.

Before I gave it to my therapist I had Lana proofread. She was my academic proofreader all through grad school. She has read a couple of my short stories before, which was hard enough, but this kind of thing is so much more raw.

Before I handed it to Lana, I babbled some preparatory instructions. I felt sick. I could barely breath. A few minutes later when she came to my desk, she had tears in her eyes.

She knew how hard this was for me. I think it meant a lot that I was willing to share it. She told me that it was beautiful. I was not sure if she meant the poem itself or the fact that I was able to let her read it, but it really did not matter.

And that is bigger than huge.

*I would like to dedicate this post to Z and I. Two people that should still be here today. Two people who inspire me to live with courage.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

behind the curtain

I do not believe it was you
That wrote those things.
I am not mystified.
No longer prone
To over-inflated

Now we can all breath a little easier.