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 answers...it 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.