Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Resolutions & Reviews

So everyone's all like 2008 can suck it, so I thought I'd review my year to see if that was so with me as well. Let's go back in time to...
January '08: I finally shook my persistent bronchitis, got strep throat, and after some searching on Craigslist, also got a fairly shitty retail job, which I took in desperation because I was B-R-O-K-E.
February '08: I celebrated 10 wonderful years with my sweetie, slowly recovered from laryngitis, drudged at the kite store, had 2 weeks alone as Jon worked in Whistler. I sound sad but hopeful in most of my posts this month.
March '08: I was still sick all the time, I made it through midterms, got a job MD-ing a musical revue in Kamloops (money! money! money!) and had a party to celebrate J's and my first decade together.
April '08: I got to the airport in the middle of the night with various other family members to fly to Mexico for my brother's wedding! We came from Ontario, England, Kelowna and Vancouver and somehow, it was just the perfect combination of people. Even my parents got along famously. Other, less successful travels included a 1-week Zeellia tour in BC's interior, where I spent pretty much all 7 days in a serious funk.
May '08: I spent 3 wonderful weeks in isolated Wells and Barkerville, working on a show about the BC gold rush. Running every morning, smoking every afternoon; living with 20 year-olds in a ramshackle wooden house, seeing grizzly bears along the side of the highway... life in the country.
June '08: I rehearsed Back Kitchen again, procrastinated a lot while working on music for the next show, had the usual ups and downs...
July '08: I continued procrastinating as I got ready to do "Letters from Lithuania", saw the fabulous Lyle Lovett in concert, enjoyed my solo evenings as Jon performed in "Back Kitchen" all month.
August '08: One of the best casts I've ever worked with. One of the most, um, trying productions. 30% of the shows were rained out. Let's leave it at that, shall we? Rushed to Kelowna to spend 2 days of family time, as my stepmom decided to cut out her radiation treatment and wanted to see us all while she was still in good shape. I would only see her one more time after this, but I didn't know it then.
September '08: I flew to Edmonton for a wedding, bought a whole buncha shoes, went kayaking, ground my teeth in boredom at the kite store...
October '08: Pumpkin Patch, for the 5th time! Still fun, still hard, still great money. Went on the Atkins Diet and you could practically see me lose weight. Started writing music for "Medea". Started writing music for "Merchant of Venice" as well. Squeezed in "Merchant" rehearsals at night after doing the Pumpkin Patch all day.
November '08: I was super-nervous about "Medea", especially because I got behind on my composing, so I buckled down for some hard work. I also played hard and got to visit some great friends out of town. My stepmom's condition got worse, and we all knew things were past the point of getting better. Oh, and the world economy tanked.
December '08: I started rehearsals for Medea- what a relief to finally be doing it instead of worrying about it! And how great to actually be on stage again. Christmas holidays came really fast, and with them, the shopping craze. My mom returned from the icy prairies, where she's been touring for the last 3 months. And my stepmom died after fighting cancer tooth and nail for 2 years.

Re-reading my posts over the last 12 months, I realize how sick I was a lot of the time last winter, and how up-and-down my mood was. Reading other blogs, it seems that 2008 was a pretty intense year for a lot of people. Jon and I had a serious brainstorming session yesterday and we have a lot of ideas and hopes for this year. It's always hard to keep going with those plans after the first flush wears off, but I feel confident that we're going to make some big changes, and I'm going to do my best to keep on the right path. If there's one thing a funeral can teach you, it's that you never know how much time you have left. I know that's a total cliche, but it's so true. By the time we scatter June's ashes this spring, I want to be able to measure some real changes. Here's what I'd like be able to say by then:
Hi June,
Sometimes you drove me nuts, but I really admired your organization and your enthusiasm. You've inspired me to get my life in better order, and I've finally been saving some money for when I'm older. You were always eager to hear about my career, even though you probably didn't understand why I had to be so poor; well I realized that being an artist is no excuse for being clueless about money. I've also learned to market myself better and not just drift from job to job. And although I will never get up as early as you liked to, I'm not snoozing 'til 10am every day! Someone described you at your funeral as a domestic genius, and while that's certainly not something I'll ever be, I've finally learned to keep my little apartment tidy and, more importantly, clean. I even laundered the quilt you made for us, before it got up off the bed and walked itself over to the laundromat!

Let's see if I can make all this (and lots more) come true in 2009.

Friday, December 26, 2008

On Boxing Day, my stepmom June slipped into a coma in the early hours of the morning and died in the afternoon without regaining consciousness. She'd had a nice Christmas Day at the hospice where she was supposed to be staying for a few days to sort out her pain medication levels. My dad and June had a good lunch together and a walk, and she would have spoken to her daughter and grandkids in Ottawa, as it was Christmas Day. I spoke to her for a few minutes as well, and told her that we were looking forward to seeing her when we arrived in Kelowna on Sunday. That night, she complained of a pain in her head, and yesterday morning, the staff at the hospice couldn't wake her. Her body just gave up, after years of putting up such a fight against the cancer. I'm glad that she went quickly, after what sounded like an enjoyable day. I'm glad she never woke up after what was most likely a stroke. I'm glad for my father, that this long journey is over. I worry about what he'll do in the next few months as his new reality sets in; this new loneliness. I haven't cried yet. I feel very detached and more relieved than anything else, although I think sadness will come when we arrive in Kelowna tomorrow and stay in the house that June made so comfortable.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

3am Thoughts

Rich food and alcohol thwarted my sleep plans last night, and a miscommunication with my mother meant that she called me at 7:30 this morning, waking me after less than 5 hours' sleep.
Welcome home, Mom.

Actually, it's great to have her back, especially since I know that many people can't get home right now because the weather is so, well, winter-y. She's been gone since October, so we had a lot of catching up to do. Which lead to wine-drinking, which lead to us getting home late, which lead to eating pasta after 10pm, which is just not so smart.

Which lead to lying awake at 3am dwelling on things, as you tend to do in the small hours of the morning. Things like:
  • why do I feel like I need to compete with one of my best friends, instead of celebrating our differences and enjoying the things that make us alike.
  • why can't I quit smoking and eating things I shouldn't when it's really just a teeny tiny matter of self-control and do pleasures that last about 5 minutes outweigh the guilt and bad health that follow?
  • if I can't quit my very mild habit, what are the odds that my boyfriend will ever quit, or will we celebrate our 20th anniversary in the ICU with him hooked up to some oxygen device?
  • why do I feel unsupported and frustrated in one of my bands and is it worth opening a can of worms and sparking some conflict to get to the bottom of this, or should I just keep my mouth shut?
and of course, the old standby, the voice that whispers:

  • You're no good.
So you see, I should never eat carbohydrates late at night.

I am going to be gentle with myself and others today. I am going to eat a good breakfast and go play in the newly-fallen snow. At noon, Jon & I are going to get our hair cut, which will make me feel pretty, and then I will have 2 gigs later. I will do my best without endlessly comparing myself to others, and I will try to be confident without being arrogant or feeling that I have to prove myself all the time. I will admit that I have things still to learn without feeling that this makes me a failure. I will be kind to the man who loves me.
I can.
I will.
I am.
These are small but powerful words.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Reasons to be Happy

It's -2 degrees and snow is swirling out of the sky and muffling the sounds of trains and traffic. The weather forecast says it's going to remain cold for the foreseeable future. I think we're going to have a white Christmas- I can't remember the last time that happened here. I know drivers everywhere in the Lower Mainland are cursing this White Stuff, but look at it! It's magic!

I sang carols in a beautiful church last night. Which was sort of a trip, because it was a high school Christmas concert, and I haven't been to one of those in a looong time. And not even my high school, to boot. All around me, alumni-who-were-barely-alumni giggled and goofed off and were generally their annoying 19 year-old selves. I wanted to strangle them. But then I remembered what I was like at that age, how giggly and raw and unfinished, and I forgave them, because I had been way more annoying. At the end of the concert the lights in this old church were dimmed; we all held candles and sang Silent Night, and these teenage monsters transformed into a heavenly chorus around me, and I looked up from my music at the choir teacher who had made me, all those years ago, want to be a musician, and I thought this is a perfect thing to do just before Christmas.

I love my job. And it's not over 'till the end of January. Greek tragedy rules!

I have a gig on Thursday with the Redboot Quartet and I think lots of people are going to come...

Did I mention it's snowing?

We finish rehearsals early- on Friday instead of Tuesday. Roll on, Christmas holidays!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Yesterday was a blur of caroling, old school-friends, and a Chinese-Ukrainian concert where haunting erhus mingled with french horns and I sang my first ever song in Mandarin Chinese. Of course, I was taking pictures all night, and the photographer seldom turns up in pictures, so... you'll have to take my word for it that I was there. All this singing about winter has suddenly brought it on with a vengeance, and after my concert last night, J & I ventured down the Drive to by a sizzling hot pizza from Pizza Garden and I captured this: A whirl of snow came down last night, and still covers everything today and I know it's an inconvenience to drivers everywhere but I love it. The first snowfall, especially in a city that gets so little snow, is pure magic to me.

We're getting close to Christmas now, and although I don't really want the blur of jobcarolingconcertsschool to end, if anything it gets more intense this week, because I'm adding dogsitting into the mix. Which means that Christmas will be on top of me before I know it. And to be brutally honest, I've yet to buy one single present. And this just hit me as I typed that sentence: 10 days 'til Christmas, plus every day and night full equals PANIC!

Take a deep breath. Remember the beauty of Christmas and snow. Don't get sucked into the buybuybuy frenzy. In the big picture, it is the spirit of Christmas that matter, not the presents. See below: Ahhh.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas Caroling and Greek Tragedy

I had a post on the back burner the other day, a moan about Vancouver's unrelenting greyness. But I got bored just writing it, so I canned it without publishing it. And of course, Vancouver being the tease she is, there was actually sun today- real sun. Not that I saw a lot of it, since I was inside a black-box theatre doing Greek tragedy all day. But it was there, and I enjoyed it on my lunch break, so there.

My mood's been swingin' all over the place in the last few days; not that that has anything to do with the fact that it's That Time of the Month Again. A few days ago I was feeling frustrated and weepy, (nope, definitely nothing to do with That Time, eh?), and today I feel as if I could climb mountains. I had a great rehearsal at UBC today- after all the self-doubt I go through every time I do a show, it was good to hear songs I wrote echoing through the theatre, vanquishing the pale little ghost of me at 19, when I last went to UBC and hated most of it.

This evening I took the bus to Memory Lane (AKA North Vancouver) to sing Christmas Carols with the Collingwood/Argyle Schools Alumni Choir. Grads from my school (Collingwood) and the other school (Argyle), who share a total dynamo of a choir teacher. Ok, so we had her for 2 years and they still have her, but we loved her and we got to go to Europe with her back when I was 17, so I was thrilled to go to this thing after many years of not being available for it. What freaked me out was that I was expecting all the choir to be about my age, but apart from a few other Collingwood grads who were a couple years older than me, they were all much, much younger. Still, it was awesome to see some old friends I literally hadn't seen for 16 years, and to be able to tell one of my favorite music teachers that I was still a musician after all this time. Oh, and I get to sing Christmas Carols at 3 separate little gigs, or giglets, if you will.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

When it comes to silver, I am the proverbial magpie. And while rings can be annoying and bracelets dangle from my freakishly small wrists, a good necklace makes me salivate. So I am very happy because today I can wear my new necklace (if I ever get dressed, that is)!!! And my funky new camera strap from Chicago should be coming any day now (she wrote hopefully). And to celebrate, J and I took to the streets (well, just the one street actually) and I continued adding to my newest photo series: neon signs of Commercial Drive.

I find that all too often these years, Christmas rushes past me without my getting a chance to properly acknowledge it. And I love Christmas. Not all the aspects of it, but a lot of it: Carols (but don't get me started on any songs written after about 1906- they don't count), the excitement of children, sparkley decorations, shopping... there's a lot to love. This year I'm determined not to let Christmas get away without enjoying some of the hokey pleasures that make it delightful. So the other day, I decorated our apartment with shiny blue disco balls, silver snowflakes, and lights. All while listening to King's College choir. And it was great. Christmas will be a nice contrast to the show I'm rehearsing, which is all about killing. And more killing. And the resultant misery. I'm having such a great time so far, and rehearsals are going really well. But it's nice to poke my head out from the tragedy of Medea and her doomed family and remember that my favorite holiday is fast approaching...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Giving Thanks...

  • for this blog, which inspires me to keep snapping pictures, even when I don't really know what they're for;
  • for the start of a new month, and a goodbye to lazy days at home with no motivation;
  • for Christmas concerts and gigs to keep me busybusy;
  • for a fabulous first day of rehearsals, and the chance to perform in a wonderful new show; and finally ...
  • ...for the fact that in Canada, we don't have our Thanksgiving less than a friggin' month before Christmas!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Pro's (but not prose) & Cons (because boring entries look better as poetry)

So, on the "pro" side, I looked into photography
courses and walked down the Drive but
on the "con" side I ate potatoes and a cookie
and totally sabotaged the whole low-carb lifestyle
that's been sliding into the can the last
few weeks

And I got up after 12 noon, did I mention that? ("con")
because I stayed up so late the night before
drinking martinis with my sweetie so maybe
that's a "pro" because we spent some
quality time together.

and I'm also
all caught up on my schoolwork
(all A's so far- ha!)
and rockin' my compositions for "Medea"
it's a good thing rehearsals start next week because

all this lethargy
is not so good for me*

*(always finish with a rhyme at the end)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Other People's Words

I had another post up earlier, a couple of fairly mean-spirited movie reviews coupled with a bit of a rant about divorce, step-parents and the media. And while I still hold with everything I wrote in that post, I think this song, which is on the new cd by The Breakmen, is way more eloquent on a subject that's close to my heart at the moment. I have a step-parent who's in the hospital right now, and my Dad is trying to keep it together up there in Kelowna- to work and live and try and be "normal" while his wife slowly dies. No other words- mine or anyone else's- come close to this song in summing up what it must be like for them, and what it feels like for me: to want to take on just a little bit of the pain they have.

Hospital Moon - by Archie Pateman & Mark Berube

I remember watching you dance that night, holding her like a dream you stole
I watched your heart, so pure, bet it all on her and let the dice roll
I watched you change direction that night, never dreamt of stopping you
Hope was the fire in her eye, in spite of a hospital moon

Give me, give me, give me a bit of your low, a bit of your low

Your knees are skinned from kneeling, your hands are wet and cold
Your eyes are tired from crying and wired from trying not to let them close
'Cause what will happen if she wakes up and you're not there?
What'll happen if she's all alone in that room?
Hope is her lover in a chair silhouetted by a hospital moon

Give me, give me, give me a bit of your low, a bit of your low

In a world of war and money, cancer and lies
Politicians running and and doctors coming in to sympathize
All that's certain is heartache, and love lost too soon
And the coming of a new day, and the setting of a hospital moon

Give me, give me, give me a bit of your low

Monday, November 24, 2008

good & bad

We played a Jewish wedding yesterday, Amelia & I; not a family that we knew personally, but it was still lovely to be part of it, and it was our first Jewish wedding, so that made it more interesting. We loved the fact that the short ceremony included both singing (by the female rabbi and those of us watching) and wine, and concluded with the bride and groom beamingly dancing out of the incredibly tiny room to a rousing chorus of "Simon Tov u Mazel Tov". As we played klezmer/Eastern European instrumentals at the reception later, we mused that Amelia still had a chance to find a nice Jewish boy of her own, but my boyfriend's Irish-Catholic ancestry and my anglo-welsh forefathers mean I will never do the Hora at my own wedding. Sigh.

Later, instead of going right home we paid a visit to Burcu, newly back from Istanbul where she was visiting friends and plotting the Reptiles' return to that incredible city. I love how she closes her shop for the night and then has impromptu meetings, band practices and dinners around the couch at the back of the store. Drinking too much red wine, listening to haunting Iranian music and eating delicious Indian takeout at Burcu's clothing store- not a bad way to spend a Sunday night.

I am waiting for news on my stepmother, who's in the hospital at the moment. Her back is in agony, they don't really know why, and all the physio and massage isn't helping. Even though it's an old injury, the fact that nothing's helping means that the spectre of Cancer rears its head again. And so the limbo that she and my dad live in lost days is over for now and there is new pain and fear for them both and my concern for them is shamefully tempered with the thought oh please don't let me have to go up there this week; I have so much stuff to get done because sickness and dying have their own agendas and there is no convenient time but also because when it is in Kelowna and I am not, I can keep their fear and sorrow at arms' length and I am terrified that I won't be able to be strong enough to watch one relative die and be a comfort to the other. I'm not proud of these feelings, but that's how it is. Another voice says when it's time, you'll do what needs to be done and I know that's probably true but not yet, please. Not yet.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Happy 50th, WISE Hall!

...because it's not every day a local institution turns 50. Ok, I haven't been to the WISE Hall in ages. But it was a venue that supported the Flying Folk Army, and was the site of many a fine party. So I was more than happy to show up for its 50th anniversary. And take a few pics while I was there. Including this one of me: (I look more like my dad every day)I have a very funky camera strap en route from Chicago, courtesy of Souldier Straps. Can't wait. I've been really digging the photography thing in the last few weeks. Don't know where, if anywhere, it'll lead, but it's super fun.
Jon and I also had a blast at the East Side Culture Crawl today. 300-plus galleries to browse around- all near our neighbourhood! We ran out of steam long before we'd seen even a fraction of the art that was on display. Some days, this is the best 'hood in the world, and this was one of those days.

Friday, November 21, 2008

There is this great scene in the movie "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" (a surprisingly funny and entertaining movie, IMHO) where Sarah berates her ex for wearing the same pair of sweatpants for a whole week. Well Sarah, I feel your pain, but I am that man at the moment. These days I get up, change from my pj's into what I call my "daytime pyjamas" (paint-stained sweats, t-shirt with no bra if I'm really feeling casual, and stare at the computer until my eyes bug out. I wish I could claim that it's all work, but still a good portion of the staring has to do with blogs, or blogging, or (new thrill) playing with my best photos in the 30-day trial version of Adobe Lightroom I just downloaded. Oh, and participating in my first online chat with my teacher and some classmates for that film composition course I'm taking.

Sometimes I do this thing where I'm a total slob but then I can't stand it anymore and I get mad at J and then we throw some stuff out. And sometimes we clean the apartment in total harmony, without argument. And sometimes, like now, we are both being slobs in total harmony. I'm thinking well, I have school, and this composing job, so I don't have time, and he's thinking well I have to go film Jules' play and then come home and teach myself everything about Final Cut, so I don't have time. And we fester together, in happy slovenliness.

She writes (I would direct you there, but her blog is private) I love my kid but I am so missing the freedom to get up late and do what I want without all this planning and sometimes I realize that it's suppertime and I'm still wearing the same sweats I had on yesterday and I haven't even washed my face and I think Dude, I really sympathize, but when it comes to the sweats-wearing and the getting nothing done, I am exactly the same and I don't even have a kid!

Two close friends of mine had a big fight recently about... tidiness. They've been living in each other's pockets too long, roommates and bandmates and buddies, and it's wearing on their friendship, which is sad. I think they're going to need some time apart, from their friendship and their projects.

It gets hard, when you're in your thirties, to compromise any more. You don't want the beer-splashed sofas, the milk-crate furniture, the crusty dishes. But you get busy, too. There's work, and sometimes children, and all of a sudden you're standing in your kitchen shouting "Where's a damn maid when I need her? I need a servant, for god's sake!"

(or if you're me you could just wake up earlier and do some cleaning, fer godsake. But that would seriously cramp my go-to-bed-at-2am lifestyle, 'mkay?)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Photo Lessons

We did it, we actually got away for a 3-day break to the "Sunshine" Coast, and I am sitting at my desk pretending that I am still not really returned, and therefore do not have to return calls just yet. The photos I took are part of my slideshow on the sidebar to the right- it was equally awesome and frustrating to pick up my beloved Digital Rebel again after a long hiatus. Awesome, because when you get a great shot, it really is a great shot: crisply focused, taken at the exact moment you wanted to capture and not, like, 2 seconds after, like on our crappy little HP digital. Frustrating, because the LCD screen is so small, sometimes you think you have the perfect shot and it's not until afterwards that you realize it was actually blurry. I made friends with my 50mm lens, which I'd always shunned before, and to be honest, I barely missed the zoom lenses I usually carry. But given my blurry-to-crisp ratio, I obviously need to get more practice in. I was that annoying person who dogs everyone at parties, snapping away. But since I hate to use a flash, it wasn't all that noticeable, and I'm realizing that if you just keep snapping away without drawing attention to yourself, people sort of forget you're taking pictures, which leads to some honest and un-"posed" shots.

Oh, and we had a sort of sugar and alcohol and carb binge that definitely lead to my pants feeling tighter today than they did last Thursday. It's really scary how fast you can fall off the wagon, and even scarier how quickly your failures can show up on your hips! Lesson learned. On the plus side, however, I went for two great runs, so all was not totally lost...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

I did it! What? Survived the last month- pumpkin patch, Studio 58 rehearsals and all. Now it's the 9th of November already (how did that happen?) and of course I'm totally behind on my next project: writing music for Medea, the Greek tragedy I'm doing at UBC. It'll be interesting to see how these acting students stack up to the ones I just worked with, who were delightful. Even though I had doubts about my work at times, rehearsals with the 6 musicians in the show were always super-fun and as usual, I learned as much as I taught. Last night was the well-received opening night, and I can now start letting that show go and move on to the next. J and I are also taking off to the Sunshine Coast (faint hope of actual sunshine, though- it'll probably rain all the time) later this week for three delightful days- a much-deserved break.

Watching the show last night and breathing a sigh of relief as the music cues came and went, I realized that my biggest lesson learned on this show was that I am allowed to trust myself a little more. A friend sent me a wonderfully encouraging email last week, just as I was doubting myself, and I am going to remember her words and try not to get so knotted up about my abilities and my (often imagined) failures. I will try to learn to be both confident and still humble. We'll see how that works out for me in the months to come...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Getting Away With It.

Reading Alan Bennett's Writing Home for at least the 5th time. It's the perfect diary: a glimpse inside the life of a wonderful, understated and very funny writer. So modest ("I know so little that writing is like crossing a patch of swampy ground...trying not to get my feet wet or egg on my face"), and yet he never lets himself get away with his seeming modesty either: "...I prefer to be liked and thought a nice man. But I'm not. I'm just as bad as the rest of them, only I don't like to show it." An introvert, liking to lurk on the sidelines, happily morose. Hard on others, hardest on himself. I wonder what he would think of blogging (having published several volumes of his diaries for the world to read, he can hardly be too judgmental, one would think). He talks about a friend calling him to congratulate him on one of his plays, "...but really to congratulate you on getting away with it again." That's how I often feel when I've finished a project- as if I've dodged a bullet and somehow no one's guessed the truth: that I have no idea what I'm about. But I know that somewhere, someone knows, and it helps to keep me humble.

After a run-through at Studio 58, where some of my latest work will be performed in The Merchant of Venice; Kathryn Shaw, the head of the school, gives me notes and I quail as generations of actors have before her gimlet eyes. I feel as if I have squeezed in my work for that show between days at the Pumpkin Patch and various other chores, and it's not my best stuff. Watching Antony Holland direct and act (as Shylock) at the age of 88 is several lessons in itself: I was nearly moved to tears watching him in the run-thru. Approaching his nineties, he is spry, sharp as a tack, and has every line memorized: the stage manager only has to prompt him twice. For the first time yesterday I was truly aware of the honor of working with someone who is literally a living piece of theatre history. His delivery is simple, stripped down; none of the histrionics or mannerisms that sometimes characterize an actor of his generation. The meaning of every line is crystal clear. At 88 my grandmother was already sinking into dementia; this man can still recite Shakespeare, for god's sake. The lottery of aging is so random.

The curse of my kind of life: afraid of turning down work I accept it all... and then end up feeling resentful that my time is not my own, and scared that I'm not good enough at all these jobs I take on. A friend of mine blithely takes all kinds of jobs he knows next to nothing about and executes them competently enough because he has no doubts that he can pull them off. But I am more like Alan Bennett: knowing how little I know I can only wait until I am rumbled by someone who's onto me: congratulations on getting away with it again.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Alright, Buddy, I say. I'll read you one story if you promise to be a big boy and go to sleep or read to yourself after, ok? He agrees, and we read a French book about bathtime, his French already so much better than mine. As we read together, his parents put his baby sister in her crib and sneak away for their night out. The story ends, and tears threaten: I don't want to go to sleep! he protests. But we had a deal, remember? The deal was all of 10 minutes ago, a lifetime to a toddler. I cave. I'll turn off the big light and hang out with you for a while, alright? We lie together on his big-boy bed, lit by the blue night-light. His head on a pillow, mine resting on a pile of his books, my feet dangling over the end of the bed. He is giggly, not quite ready to close his eyes. I am giggly too, having sampled a bit of pumpkin wine* at a friend's before my babysitting duties began. We talk, as only a 3 year-old and a slightly tipsy 34 year-old can. I'm a monster. I'm gonna eat your nose. I'm gonna be a pirate for Halloween. So's my boyfriend. How's school? No, I'm a monster and I'm gonna eat your ear!
Finally, adulthood asserts itself and I get up; time to go to sleep, Monkey. We've been "chatting" for a good 30 minutes.
I blow him a kiss and tiptoe out, spending the rest of my time fighting sleep and poring through the weekend Globe & Mail. The baby sleeps like a log; so does her brother.
I remember evenings with him as a baby, as young as his sister is now. I am enchanted, lulled by what has undoubtedly been a super-easy evening of childcare, but I'm so glad they're in my life. I can't wait for more silly conversations as they grow.

*BTW, it was only a bit of pumpkin wine; I was NOT babysitting drunk. And no, that was not a typo- it was pumpkin wine. Imagine pumpkin pie in a wineglass and you have a pretty good idea. Wow. Yum. No prizes for guessing where it came from...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Status Update Haiku

Pumpkin Patch sunny
October's nearly over
Feeling kinda sad.

Always feel wistful
at the end of October
Soon to say goodbye

Many 1-month friends
won't be seen until next year
when we start again.

Also, big project
looming on the horizon.
Hope I'm up to it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Oasis Day...

... and not as in the squabbling Gallagher brothers. No, this was a quiet, restful day in which I got to do exactly what I wanted, with nowhere to be and no demands except the ones I made on myself. Get up. Do laundry. Run. Make delicious food. Start and finish all school assignments for the week. Not super-exciting, but very satisfying, especially with 5 days of Pumpkin Patchery coming up.

I even got time to experiment with something I've been wanting to use for a while: the homemade wide-angle lens! Very fun. Here are two of the results:

The pix aren't great, because I haven't actually made the attachment thingy that will fasten the lens onto my camera, so I had to hold it on while shooting. But I love the look of these...

I also love being able to work at home, although the distractions of the internet are hard to avoid. Why work on a film scoring assignment when I can browse recipes for Crispy Tofu, read the news, enter my meals into the Nutrition Tracker at Sparkpeople, and of course, read all my favorite blogs? Clearly, something I'll have to get under control. So far, I'm scoring A's in all my Film Scoring assignments, but it's only week 4, so I can't get too cocky.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Meaty Goodness

A short day at the Patch today, thank goodness. As I put on my Facebook page: "Alison is having a fight with the lamb she ate for dinner yesterday. The lamb is winning." Blech. 'Nuff said.

I love, love, love being noticeably smaller than I was 2 weeks ago. And I will do my utmost (within reasonable limits) to stay that way. But I'm realizing that my utmost does not include ingesting huge amounts of red meat every day. For one thing, it's hard (and expensive) to buy meat that's safer to eat: non-medicated, free range, etc. Why lose all this weight just to fill my body with toxins, hormones, additives? For another: well, before this low-carb thing started I was toying with the idea of being mostly vegetarian. It just feels like the right thing to do, for my body, for the animals, for the planet. With a carnivore companion in my life, I don't think I can be totally veggie. Also, when it comes right down to it, I like meat. Love it, sometimes. But I walked into Chapters this afternoon and one of the first things I saw was the cover of Michael Pollan's new book In Defense of Food. And this is the slogan on the cover: Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants. It was as if it spoke right to me. Of course, life will be easier if mostly plants includes eggs. And cheese. And yoghurt. And maybe some really good chocolate, once in a while. As I've said before, baby steps, people.

I also love drinking 2 litres of water every day. Don't know how I went without doing so for so long. My skin is clear, my eyes are bright... 'course I pee every 5 minutes, but at least that allows me to get off the tractor-drawn wagon at the Patch for a mini-break every once in a while. Yesterday was insane. Working from 10am until 5, no breaks. Seriously. No breaks. Gulping food between wagon-loads of people. For those of my 2.7 readers who don't know what I do there, I sit on a wagon and sings to loads of customers as we ride out from the main gates to the Pumpkin Patch. And then again as they head back, clutching their pumpkins. It's a fine life, for 3 weeks. Any more and you'd go nuts. Being outside all day is actually wonderful, even in the rain, although we all moan and complain when it's wet. The pay is fantastic. The people are awesome. It's the same bunch of starving musicians every year; it's like a time warp. And the same tractor drivers, the same farm and produce store employees too. I'll say one thing about Harry Hogler (isn't that the best name ever for a farmer?): he certainly seems to inspire loyalty. I'll probably still be working there in October 2058, wrinkled and slower, but still singing "Oh Susanna" with all the energy I possess. They don't do breaks there, as I mentioned, but the pay is good enough to almost compensate for that. Oh, and I have a bit of a crush on one of the guys who works there, so that brightens my days there quite a bit.

You know what I would love, though? I'd love to be able to get my hands on a recent list of people who thought I was sexy, or crush-worthy, or whatever. Wouldn't we all? I would love to read that list and go Ohhh. So that's what he thought of me. Hee hee. But I will have to settle for being chatted up on the bus by the wild-eyed man wearing a big silver skull ring. I know he liked me.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The things I do for money, I'll never understand...

This is an actual picture of the costume I was wearing, from 10am 'til 3:30pm, at the Pumpkin Patch yesterday:Need I say more?

Well actually, I have to add that I am verrrrry sore from dancing all day wearing a giant corn cob which was hanging off my shoulders. I shouldn't have danced as hard as I did, but I do love to shake my buns to music, and what better time than when no one can see who you really are? At one point I tripped as I was doing some highland dancing, and fell over. It must have looked hilarious to the people watching. Especially as I couldn't rise without assistance. Good thing I was protected by all that padding!

Low-carb update: feeling much better one week in. Also have lost over 7 pounds, so much incentive to continue...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

My body's in shock today.
It just came back from a weekend at my Dad's, a place where bodies routinely say Is it after 5 o'clock? Then I believe I'll have a glass or 4 of this delicious local wine. And another helping of this wonderful home-cooked meal. And then I'll just flop right here on the enormous couch and watch my annoyingly skinny brother eat a pillowcase-sized bag of caramel corn. What a great idea! Let's have another bowl of cheesecake brownie ice cream!
My Dad's place is not always Gluttony Central, but he does like to relax and indulge when the kids come to stay. And we fall right into line with that, oh yeah. But the pounds piled on, and J & I came back and said well, now's the time. Let's start that low-carb thing we've been talking about for ages. And so we did. And my body is howling for bread and sweet things, waking up tired and sluggish. I wait for the breakthrough day that's supposed to happen, where I will wake up feeling energized and no longer craving something, anything made with flour. J grins and says "I think I can get behind this Atkins thing," and happily devours another bacon slice. (Don't worry, we're eating tons of veggies. But J does love him some bacon.) Meanwhile, if I don't feel better in a day or two I'm gonna make a huge bread-man in the shape of the late Dr. Atkins and devour it all.
After the kids-together vibe of the weekend, where 4 people in their thirties bedded down happily in my dad's basement with the only responsibility being who was going to walk the dogs, I am also feeling very no I don't wanna about buckling down to my various jobs that are coming up fast. I know, it's whiny self-indulgence. I know I'll do it, and hopefully do a good job. But there's always a few days of fear before I get to it.


My mom left today for the east; starting the tour van at 6 this morning for the long drive to Standard, Alberta. They'll rest there tonight, then keep heading towards Sault Saint Marie for the end of the week. Touring children's theatre is hard work; I should know. She popped in to say goodbye last night, exhaustion already lining her face from weeks of rehearsals. She'll be 63 next month, probably celebrating her birthday by performing 2 shows in some tiny Ontario town. I wish I could give her a bulging savings account and tell her she never has to work again but instead I watched her leave in awe and sadness. She is my mom, my best friend. And I wish she didn't have to work so hard to keep the wolf from the door.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

family time

Watching my dad massage olive oil into a beautiful little roast of beef is a lovely sight. So is the Okanagan Lake view from his windows. Spending time with my dad, stepmom, brother, sister-in-law, Jon; all of us under one roof with a pack of three dogs- a convergence of family that doesn't happen as often as it should.

There are many exciting projects on the horizon; not lurking distantly, but crowding closer in a terrible hurry. I'll write about all of those in the future. But for now it's family, and beer, and tasty local wines... and roast beef. A last, lazy weekend before the storm of business and busy-ness descends for at least 2 months.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Of books, Mad Men, and vertigo

I'm working on a list of 100 Facts About Me to post here, but sheesh- it's hard going! Might take awhile. (And then only 4.6 people will ever read it. And of those, maybe 0.7 will care. But it's fun to do anyway.) So in the meantime...

A health update, just 'cause. I felt so awesome yesterday; I was on fire. Went for a killer run; felt energized and invincible. Biked to a Zeellia rehearsal and home; loved it. Drank tons of green tea and water to stay hydrated. As I was heading to bed, noticed that I felt slightly woozy and dizzy, as if I'd had a few too many (I haven't had a drop of alcohol for over a week). Thought: Oh well, I've overdone it a bit. I'll just sleep that off... Woke up this morning with a case of vertigo! That's worn off, thank god, but I'm still feeling kinda crappy. What gives, health gods? Don't make me feel so good one day and then yank me down to earth again the next! 

Watched Mad Men last night with J. We're both loving it- it's a shocking reminder to me of the mind-boggling chauvanism the original Feminists had to fight against; gives me a whole new respect for them. Wouldn't want to live back then, but it's fun to watch. 

Read a funny post from Beck yesterday. I wish I could link you to it, but I've momentarily forgotten the name of her blog. Anyway, it was a post about how she'd written a scathing review of Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love, but had taken it down because she was afraid it was too mean-spirited.  I read some of the comments, where people hotly agreed or disagreed with her original post, which I wish I could've read. I have to say, I luuuurved that book, and have read it many times. But I can totally see where the naysayers are coming from: that it can be seen as flaky and self-indulgent and part of the whole navel-gazing, self-centred spirituality that we Westerners are perfecting lately. This review makes some good points, and I really enjoyed Googling other opinions on this hugely popular book. 
I guess where I come from is that I like reading about how a woman my age makes her peace with the fact that she doesn't need children to complete her life, (because- duh- goin' thru the same thing here, folks) and Gilbert was lucky enough to take her child-and-husband-less self off to 3 very interesting places for a year, and concentrate on sensual and spiritual pleasure which sounds delightful. I mean, who wouldn't like a year to focus solely on doing what you feel is right for your mental and spiritual health? And get paid a fat advance for the privilege? And of course you're going to piss off others, who say Well, your flaky-schmaky quest for god is BS, lady and I'd like a year to go stick my head up my ass but there are bills to pay and butts to wipe and how dare you rub your lucky fate in my face and have the cajones to whine about your love life?
Which, ok. But we don't all have to make the same choices. I can see why some folks think that it's part of this whole OprahmagazineEckhartTolleBuddhistLite self-indulgence masquerading as self-help. But I think you can also enjoy this book as a fun piece of travel writing and the story of how one woman had a transformative year. 

Anyway, rant over. 

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I neglect my bike for years at a time. Then one day something clicks; I drag it from the balcony to clutter up the "hall" in our apartment, and begin to take it everywhere I go. That's where I'm at these days.
This morning I rode down to the East Van Farmers' Market, a ritual I try to fit into every Saturday, especially as there are only a few markets left this year. It was crowded, as it always is (the best time to go is early, and when it's pouring rain- not too many people to contend with): They let dogs in the market, which I think is great. Also strollers, which is not so great for traffic. Here's one sad doggie whose owner didn't bring him along, for some reason:Fall is the best time to go to the market: there's corn, apples, and many squashes, if that's your thing. I don't much like to eat squash, but they sure take a pretty picture:
Trout Lake looked beautiful through the changing leaves: (I don't know why there's a strip of red at the top- some Photoshop blunder on my part).
And finally, after a ham-and-cheese crepe and a rare Americano (when I do coffee, I go for the hard stuff), I cycled back home again, stopping to take a picture of the Grandview Cut, in all its Autumn glory:
Just another lazy Saturday near the Drive.

Friday, September 26, 2008


Ever since I can remember, I had a vivid fantasy life. Get your mind out of the gutter- I don't mean those kind of fantasies (although they pop up from time to time, of course). But the world of my imagination has always been an absorbing place I can escape to when real life is dull. I mean, I was mocked by a little "friend" when I was about 6 for walking down the street telling myself stories out loud. After that, I learned to keep my lips sealed, keep the stories inside. But they never went away, they just changed as I grew up.

"It really bites my ass when you answer me like I just asked the stupidest question in the world," J complains tonight. After a tense few minutes, I apologize, because he's right, after all. Tired and grumpy, feeling pulled in a bunch of different directions, I lash out at J because he's... there. Because he's (gasp) less than perfect. Because inside my head during a long shift at the kite store I was telling myself stories about falling in love (not with anyone specific, you understand. Or at least, not anybody real.) And then I went out for dinner with the real thing, this person who's spent the last 10 years loving me and arguing with me and cheering me on and not replacing the toilet paper; and it was hard, because I just wasn't in the mood for real life today.

Do you spend a lot of time "inside your head"? Do you think that living "with your head in the clouds" sustains you or distracts you from getting things done? Is a vivid fantasy life just a low-tech version of those computer games like "second life" or whatever they're called?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

That's me- out there on the fringe...

As I stared at my friendly, helpful bank teller yesterday, I came to the realization that I had no idea if this person was male or female. This is why I love living near Commercial Drive, folks. Even the bank tellers are interesting. Anyway, he/she set me up with an appointment to talk to a very large man about getting a Visa. And I was approved! In 2 weeks or so, I will receive a credit card with my name on it, the first in my 34 years! OK, I scraped in there by the skin of my teeth, but who cares? Now I can join the leagues of people with crushing debt problems! (Actually, I mostly got the card for ID & emergencies, but I'm sure it'll see a teensy bit of use every once in a while.)

It's been a few days of feeling a little... marginalized, I guess the word is. First of all, our Prime Minister, Stephen "Dead-Eyes" Harper, thinks that the funding problems of artists like me, problems his government created, are of no concern to "ordinary people." Listen up, Dead-Eyes. I don't go to fancy galas. I get up every day and try to scrape a decent living together as a musician because it's what I'm good at. To survive, I take on weird little gigs like working in a kite store or being a dancing pumpkin, for god's sake. And I don't really mind because I'd rather have the freedom of my life than be bogged down with a well-paying job that would eat my soul or a mortgage that would eat my savings (savings? ha, what savings?) I chose this lifestyle; I have to make do with the financial hardships that go with it. But don't call me part of the "cultural elite", whoever they are. In this country, I doubt they even exist.

And then this whole thing of getting a Visa: how come it's so easy for an 18 year-old student to get his hands on one but I only get one because I have a few extra bucks padding out my bank account from my grandma's legacy? Of course, I know the answer: the student gets it because credit cards want to get 'em hooked when they're young and broke and foolish; a 34 year-old who's never owed any money is not an appealing customer. That's why it's taken me so long- don't think I haven't tried to get a card before.

Topping it all off, even the theatre companies I work for have no idea what to do with me. I've had to get snarky with the latest one for not budgeting me for their remount rehearsals. Let's look at this: new cast, five songs (most with 2-part harmony) and you're not going to even think of getting a music director in? And then you're going to get super defensive with me when I ask for some respect? I already had this with another company this summer; I'm getting tired of it.

Lastly... I read 2 very good blog entries yesterday about another set of marginalized people: the overweight. Which I am. Gosh, it was hard to complete that last sentence! I often joke that I have the opposite of anorexia, in that I think I'm thin and gorgeous... until I try to squeeze into a pair of jeans at the mall. I have boobs and hips, people. Even if I was at my ideal weight I WOULD HAVE THESE THINGS. Not to mention short legs, at least, if we're going by the average length of jeans these days. Right now I'm in limbo: not big enough for the plus-size section, not comfy in all those narrow clothes.

Sorry. This sounds very complain-y and I don't mean to inflict that on you, dear 2.8 readers of mine. I'm not even in a bad mood today. It's just that I'm surprised, I guess. My life and my job feel so...normal to me. But I guess they are a little "out there". Which I don't mind, as long as I don't start feeling invisible.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Grrrr. Rage. Grump.
That was me, yesterday. Why, I have no idea. Well actually, it was because I didn't get what I wanted and it was my own fault, which is one of the most frustrating positions to be in. Wanted to change my cel phone over to Koodo, since Telus is ripping me off (and I know, Koodo is a subsidiary of Telus which poses the question: why do Koodo users not have to pay the system activation fee while I do?) Couldn't switch over because I have no ID right now because it was stolen waaay back in February and I was too stupid to get it replaced back then and am paying for it now. Also I don't have a credit card, which makes companies nervous. I also need to update the memory on this computer of mine so that I can install the incredibly complex software I need to know my way around for this film scoring course I start next week...! And I couldn't get that done because it's a slightly older Mac (about 3 years, which is practically antique in computer terms) and there were no appropriate chips to be found.
Anyway, I do like my instant gratification, and when I don't get it, I get grumpy. But luckily, J & I made a bizarre impulse buy that was so unexpected that it took away my bad mood.
After all, there's nothing like an antique Chinese wooden arch/headboard to brighten up a gloomy day, is there?
*UPDATED LATER* My marvelous machine is now equipped with a fiery 2 gigabytes of RAM. I can now install the fearsome Logic Studio and begin ruling my home music studio empire. Very slowly. And with much gnashing of teeth, probably.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Omigod. Shoes.

This is a very girly post, but I have to admit that shoes are a major fetish of mine. Well, boots, really. I don't think of myself as a major shoe buyer, and I'm sure that compared to many, I am in the minor leagues. The funny thing is that I usually wear the same boring pair of Blundstones day in, day out, because they are the most comfortable. But they are getting tired, and they don't look very glamorous. So here is a photo essay: the footwear I'll be sporting this Fall...
These are the workhorses: my Blundstones, from the Australian Boot Company. Fit like a dream, you can walk for miles in 'em without pain. So they're not very flashy; who cares? However, it might be fun to wear these as an alternative:

I just bought them today, as a matter o' fact. Max & Co. blue leather. They seem very comfy, so I look forward to getting to know these guys a lot better in the next few months. But when I want to add some height to my short stature, or glam up a pair of jeans, I might turn to...

The understated yet classy pair. I scored these from my mom's very rich friend Sheil, who only gave them up because her feet were a little wide for them. I looked up the brand- Sartore- on the internet, and let's just say they'd be out of my price range if I bought them new. As it was, they were free, free, free... and she'd had them re-soled, too! But being ankle boots, they won't go very well with skirts, so then I'll turn to...

The might-be-leather-but-they-smell-kinda-chemical pair I got a few weeks ago. I thought these would be my go-everywhere boots when I bought them, but there are a couple of snags: they're really warm, as in they don't breathe at all. And although my calves are actually not that big, the left boot in particular is hard to zip up all the way. So we'll see. Anyhoo, on to some shoes...

These are dead gorgeous, in my humble opinion, and vintage, to boot (no pun intended). When I want to channel Dorothy of Oz, or a retro housewife, I will wear these ruby retro beauties. I wish I could say I'll wear them all the time (I'm actually wearing them right now), but given that they are heels, and I can't really wear heels, they'll probably decorate my closet more than my feet. However, so far they are surprisingly comfy given their height.

Now, there's an event coming up that my poor feet suffer through every year, and that's the Pumpkin Patch. Why do they suffer? Because it's hard to find footwear that's warm and waterproof, that's why! But fear not, feet. This year, you will rest easy in the fuzzy, waterproof comfort of...
The Rocket Dog lined rain boots! Stylish and waterproof on the outside! (Love the side buttons.) Lined with black fuzzy material on the inside to keep your feet warm even when you're playing music outside for 7 hours at a time! Finally I will be both stylish and comfortable at the Patch!!!

And on those rare days when it's not raining out there, I have...Yessss. Kenny Rogers Signature cowboy boots. Actually, I may turf these. I don't really have room for them now that the blue boots are here. My current rule is: buy a pair, chuck a pair. But sometimes you gotta have cowboy boots, so I dunno. Maybe they'll get a reprieve until after October...

Well there you have it. The contents of my closet, or at least the shoe/boot portion. I have neglected the flipflops, Crocs and other sundries you don't really need to see. You know what the cool thing is? With the exception of the Blundstones and the black ones, all the other stuff you see here is second hand. I know some people have a thing about wearing secondhand footwear but all I have to say is Can't you see how much you're missing out? Get over it! Or don't, and let me keep snapping up all the bargains out there, 'kay?

88 keys

Recently, I learned to juggle.

It came from too many shifts at the kite store, where we happen to sell those beanbags for jugglers. Bored, I picked up three of them to see what would happen, and in tossing them up in the air, remembered as they fell every which way that I had tried to teach myself many years ago, and had always failed. But my hands, though too clumsy to actually catch the bags, remembered the form, so I kept trying. Last week I had a breakthrough; up to 50 catches before a bag fell!
Now, when I have a spare moment at the store I pick up the 3 little beanbags and toss them, sometimes perfectly, sometimes...not. I am not consistent enough yet, but I have improved a lot and it was an excellent reminder of two things: muscle memory is powerful, even if it's been years since that particular motion, and regular practice really does make a difference.

It's been a timely reminder, what with starting piano lessons last week. I've been taking it slow, learning to walk again before I try running (although my teacher is always telling me to slow down, so I guess I'm not walking slowly enough). Certain things are so different from when I was last practicing as a kid: half-hour lessons go so fast! Practicing every day is fun! And certain things are like old friends I haven't seen in a long time: hello A minor harmonic scale, haven't seen you for a while. My fingers stumble where once they would have flown. But I have advantages now: I carry extra experience on my shoulders: years of playing instruments, hearing patterns, writing music. Every day I play those chords and scales like a mantra, like a Tai Chi exercise. I may be walking slowly, tentatively now, but as my hands learn the chords and scales again- easier this time because I enjoy the learning- I will begin to sprint.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Edmonton, we hardly knew ye.

  • Cost of 2 return tickets to Edmonton: $575
  • Cost of 2 nights in the (kindacrappy) West Edmonton Days Inn: $250
  • Nerves after 2 flights in 3 days: Frazzled. (even though said flights were short and smooth.)
  • Seeing your sweetie reunited and laughing with his high school buddies from Cape Breton (class of '88): Priceless.

So it wasn't the wedding I would plan (see above cake for details). But the bride and groom seem to really love each other, and if that's there, everything else is just icing. Purple and white buttercream icing, in this case.
More importantly, it was a rare opportunity for J & his friends from Riverview High in Cape Breton to gather (they all live on the prairies now, typical Maritimers fleeing their beloved East coast in search of work), pick up where they left off, and of course, get some serious drinkin' done there, b'y. They don't see each other very often, even the ones who live in the same city. But they gather for the important life events, they re-connect even though their lifestyles are varied, and I know that if Jon was in trouble, they'd have his back.
And I like them too, which is a bonus. Plus, I got to glam up for the wedding, which was fun, and a great excuse to wear my new Little Black Dress. You can't really see it here, but I really enjoyed wearing it. And here I am, posing in front of a Prairie phenomenon, the subdivision with the man-made pond (no swimming, fishing or boating allowed).
I can't say we really got to know Edmonton (hence the title of this post). We were stationed in West Edmonton, which I can only describe as a soulless hole filled with drab brown houses and motels. Oh yeah, and The Mall. (The world-famous West Edmonton Mall, eighth wonder of the world, if you believe their publicity material. Yes, it's big. Really big. We killed some time there today before our flight home. I would way rather have seen downtown Edmonton but there was no time.)
It's good to be home, though. It's good to be on solid ground, not hurtling through the air in a narrow, combustible tube of death with wings. It's great to be back in the mountains again. Thanks be to whatever gods there are that theatre school brought Jon to Vancouver and not flat, brown Alberta. But thanks, also, to good friends who are still laughing together over 20 years and 5000 miles from the Old Days.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Still exploring ways to chase away the blues- I've found a few more tasty recipes for that in the last few days, helped by the fact that the weather remains amazing. We are finally getting the summer we never really got when it was summer!

Monday's solution was to get outside- on kayaks, this time. It would be pretty hard to find a better way to appreciate our coast than this, I think. Gliding softly past seals and even sneaking a September skinny dip off a tiny island in Indian Arm (luckily there are no pictures of this, and if there were, I wouldn't share 'em). For someone like me, who loves the water but isn't thrilled at the idea of being too far from land, paddling in a sheltered, narrow inlet is perfect. How can you not love a view like this? (That's an old power station in the distance, just one of the curious sights you can see from the water here.)
Today was Kid and Friend Therapy, with Galia's twosome providing gummy grins and 3 year-old curiosity galore. I love finding new things in my own backyard, so to speak, and Galia introduced me to the Avalon Dairy, hidden away near her son's preschool. A century old, and you can buy milk and eggs there, as close to the source as you're going to get in the big city.

Tonight is Wonton Wednesday at my mom's: homemade wonton soup and apple crumble for dinner. This could be the start of a new tradition...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Recipe to cure the Post-Summer blues:

  • Wake up early (for you). Read the news and your favorite blogs, and realize the weather is getting better by the minute. Decide to head to the farmers' market for dinner supplies. Stop in at your mom's on the way over, on impulse, and invite her along. Pick up some delicious locally grown produce. Run into friends and pat their grinning baby. Head home to sleepy man.
  • Cajole sleepy man into hurrying so you can hit the great outdoors. Drive through the 'burbs to a nearby Provincial Park. Hike 5.5 km up and down a rocky trail. Hear the wind rustling in the trees around you. You should watch for bears, but not too vigilantly. Relish the scent of sweat and sunscreen on your skin. Your heart will pound at first as you hit the first steep part, but you'll adjust. Try not to feel too peeved as your pack-a-day boyfriend cruises by you. The temperature will be perfect, the trail a lovely mix of sun and shade. You will hear people in the distance, but only a few other hikers will actually cross your path.
  • You'll come to a small, rocky beach at the trail's end. At first it'll be filled with kayakers, but be patient. Soon they'll push off again into the water and you can explore alone. Marvel as you so often have that here within this huge city are such pockets of absolute beauty and nature. Vow that you will do this much more often.
  • Have a home-cooked dinner of local corn, tomatoes stuffed with home-made pesto and baked, small spicy sausages.
  • Go to the Fringe Festival and watch some theatre, the first time you have done this in years.
  • Savour the feeling of being comfortable in your body for the first time in days. Sleep soundly.


Back at Kids' Only Market yesterday, feeling even more too old to be working there, let me tell you! 34 seems so definitively... well, almost middle-aged, if we're talking three-score years and ten. I know, I know, it's all about how you feel, etc. Well dammit, when I'm at the kite store, I see that almost everyone else who works in that market is either a) the store owner or b) some little college student earning her rent money and I feel that I'm getting closer to the owners' age than the students'. However, on the plus side, as it's pretty quiet there in the fall and winter, I am perfecting my juggling skills (we sell juggling balls, along with the kites & puppets) and yesterday I had a major breakthrough, probably because I practiced for a couple of hours. Quick, add another skill to the resume!

We closed "Letters" last weekend, and of course, it already feels like years have passed since then. Certain emails drift to us from different cast members indicating that they miss the whole experience... J & I on the other hand, aren't feeling the post-show blues so much this time. Sadly, if we'd pushed the run dates back another week we would have had much better weather than we had to endure. As it was, we were rained out 3 nights out of 10!

My body, perhaps, is feeling the post-show blues, even if my mind denies them. Ever have times when you don't have a specific illness but you feel as if your body is not quite right? I feel restless, slightly grumpy; my tummy seems dissatisfied with any and all food I try to feed it... I think it may be time for another cleanse or some such thing... at least I've been smoke-free since the show ended. I saw a David Mamet movie called Redbelt last night and it inspired me to get healthier and learn a martial art or some such thing. But gyms seem to charge a lot of money for their classes...

Anyway, this is a time of transition, which I never seem to find comfortable. I seem to be doomed to be caught in the middle between 2 warring sides of me; one that hates routine and the other that fears change. Still, there are exciting things afoot: piano lessons start next week, J & I fly to Edmonton for a wedding next weekend, I have meetings about a new project that could be very exciting...

Now I need to get healthy so I can face the Autumn with all the confidence I require.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


"I don't wanna be like G & D," I told Jon the other day, "They have too much stuff." Their crime? Accumulating video games and action figures like they're going out of style, buying video gear for G's business as a kids' film teacher, and of course, the giant flat-screen tv that J covets. Part of me loves to see them buying stuff together, a funky gay professional couple and a great match for each other, cementing their lives together. It's the stuff itself that I fear, even though I love spending the odd evening on G's couch playing Rockband; the accumulation of things that will fill up a tiny apartment so quickly. "But you like stuff too," Jon counters, knowing me all too well, "You just like buying different stuff than G & D, that's all."

Busted. Because of course, it's so true. The gorgeous new boots that sit in my closet. The new haircut- although one could argue that my head takes up less room now than it did before. The new clothes I bought a few weeks back. And a week or so ago. And last weekend. Ok, I like my material possessions as much as the next person. The big-screen tv that J wants so fiercely? I protest at every turn because I don't want to admit that I love slouching on the couch with a season of "Dexter" to watch. "I want to watch less and do more," I can be heard whining whenever J teases me that he's going to buy a giant tv. But although I'm a hypocrite through and through, I think I have a point. And to this end, I'll be "purging" our apartment of unwanted items in the next week or so. After all, when you live in a place that's less than 800 square feet, you'd better do some tidying occasionally.

Show update: we did it last night, because the rains were kind enough to (mostly) hold off until we finished. New lesson learned: a tiny bit of rain on the train tracks means that the miniature train cannot move once it's stopped. Its wheels will spin in place, actors will have to push it, and I will have to stand in front of the audience for what seems like an hour (but was only about 6 minutes) singing a song to cover until the other half of the audience and actors arrives from the Lithuania site. Today it rains again. So we'll see about tonight...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Rites of Passage

When I turned thirty, I was close to the Rockies, in a skiing resort called Panorama. The Streels were on tour, and part of that tour was playing at the Music in the Mountains festival. It was one of those places, like most ski resorts, which make you feel healthier just by being there- fresh mountain air, people jogging in the mornings, expensive outdoor wear for sale... Jon & I revisited the town where we hooked up, and I got a pair of running shoes for my birthday.

That night, the night I became 30, we opened for Doug and the Slugs, a Canadian band that was popular back in the '80s with hits like "Makin' It Work" and "Tomcat Prowl". I was kind of excited to be in the small crowd as night fell... What followed was like Exhibit A of Rock Stars Who Fall Off The Wagon and Drink Themselves Into Bitter Bloated Parodies of Their Former Selves, Mocking the Audience Between Every Song And Making Everyone Feel Uncomfortable. I tell you, it was too, too sad. When I heard of his death a mere 2 months later, I was completely unsurprised. But for that one night, it was a brush with sorta-fame, and I proceeded to get very inebriated and sneak into a hot tub at about 1 in the morning, head spinning with the booze and the heat.

Which I only bring up because I've had some good birthdays in my 30's: Panorama, Whistler (last summer-getting drunk on Bailey's and nearly stumbling straight into a giant bear) and, memorably, the summer before that with Whistler Theatre Project)...
In 3 days I'll be 34, but what will this year bring me in terms of work, joys, griefs, love...? I've just signed up for piano lessons, rented a proper keyboard, about to register for Spanish lessons... Stage One of what I've been jokingly calling the Alison Finishing School. By the time I'm 35, will I be a better musician? A healthier person? Making more money? Smoking or non? Unless it's pouring, I know I'll be celebrating my birthday by... doing a show!

By the way, I've told J that I would very much like an iPod Shuffle for by birthday; that and an iTunes gift card. Because nothing will make me want to go running all the time than a tiny MP3 player that clips to my clothing, and a whole whack of new tunes to hear on it. Let's hope he comes though...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Can we not get a break- please?

Yesterday, the weather was perfect. A little hot, sure, because there seemed to be almost no wind, but that was such a nice change after the wet and cold of a few days ago.

So we got to Stanley Park, all ready to do our show, three days in and so feeling a bit more confident about how things should go, weather in a holding pattern of slightly overcast but still hot as anything, every prop, puppet and instrument set in its place, waiting...

And then Blue Rodeo began their concert at Malkin Bowl, only a few acres away from us, and we were plunged into sonic hell. Ever tried to do a show about the Holocaust and mental illness while through the trees a Canadian country-rock band with a giant sound system is belting out hits like "'Til I am Myself Again" and "5 Days in May"? It quickly became clear that it would be impossible to perform our South Africa show, because the set was far too close to the concert and watching the intimate and painful disintegration of one man's mind would be pretty hard when Jim Cuddy and co. were wailing away in the background. But the Lithuania play, which mostly takes place (BTW, I just tried to type the word "place" too fast and it became the word "polka"- is that random or what?) anyway, the Lithuania play takes place in the woods a bit further away from the Concert Zone, so it was still a go.

Now the concept of these shows is that they start as one, then about 20 minutes in the audience is split into 2 groups- the ones who leave with Lazarus to emigrate to South Africa, and the ones who stay in the Lithuanian shtetl with the rest of his family. Then at the end, the two shows reunite as one in the South Africa location. So last night, the actors and musician (me) who do the South Africa show just got to ride the miniature train and watch the Lithuania play, while strains of Blue Rodeo wafted through the trees in a thoroughly distracting manner. (Jonas: ""You have defiled my house, my life..." Frozen tableau of the errant wife, the furious husband and the gun-wielding lover, as a gorgeous but totally inappropriate guitar solo floats by.)

Anyway, one could just chalk that night up to experience and a great anecdote and carry on- except that the Blue Rodeo boys are back at Malkin Bowl tonight. AND it's pissing down rain.
No show tonight? Half a show? Stay tuned...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The weirdest tech day ever,

Wow, what a day/night...
Tech day: where performers are allowed to be called for up to 10 hours out of a 12-hour period.
Cue-to-cue with float planes, roosters, trains and tourists making cacophony.
First play finished- goes quite well; second one still to do:
7:30pm: Rain begins.
8pm: Rain continues.
8:30pm: Rain gets really serious; musicians are released for the night.
9pm: Everyone is released, 2 hours early, because the !#$@%$% rain will. not. stop.
9-9:30pm: tons of props, puppets and instruments have to be loaded onto a wagon and pulled (by me among others) back to the lock-up.
So tired; cannot even form intelligent sentences.

But seriously folks: if you live in the Vancouver area, c'mon down to Stanley Park and see Letters From Lithuania. We'll be the actors either shivering in the rain or sweltering in the heat, swatting mosquitoes all night long. It's been a long, hard process, but the end result may be something quite magical... if it ever stops raining.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Take back the movie theatre

So the J-man and I were watching a movie at the good ol' Van East cinema tonight: Tropic Thunder. (stupid and gory and very, very funny, by the way.) And this guy was talking to his friends. Very, very loudly. Like, not even pretending to whisper. And I'd taken enough crap from people this week. I mean, this play I'm doing is Gong Show Centrale, to use a phrase of my buddy Amelia's. So I take a deep breath, point my face in Talky's direction and say, very loudly "Could you please shut up? Thanks."
Thereby scoring one for all the timid folks like me who usually say nothing to idiots but would really like to.
And they actually did shut up. For the rest of the movie.
So there.

Friday, August 15, 2008

So this is what 6am looks like...

There's a soft light coming in through the windows, a light I seldom see, since I am more prone to rising at 10am than 6am. But last night was so hot, and I was in such a bait, that I tossed and turned until 5:30 and then gave up. It was either lie there and punch my pillow in frustration at the way things are being done in this show I'm working on, or admit that sleep wouldn't return, get up, and have a pleasant stroll to the bank while it was still cool enough to move. So I did, and it was a great idea; a chore completed (I had to deposit a cheque), and a green tea and muffin eaten at the local coffee shop (who knew they opened so early?).

How are things? Don't even ask. Uh, so we know you have a bass player in this show. And you arranged a lot of your music for his bass, among other things. But, um, his bass isn't going to fit on this stupid fuckass miniature train that the band is playing on. So, um, can you change everything after page 33? I don't even have the energy to write about it at the moment. It's just after 7am now and I can try to go back to sleep or I can get a shitload of work done before I have to go to rehearsal. I'll be very dozy and grumpy today, but then, I probably would be anyway, given the way things are going.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

rehearsal life.

The world shrinks to a tiny bubble when you're in rehearsals.

World events, friends, family, all take a backseat to the microcosm of what goes on 8 hours a day, six days a week in a room that's almost always too something: too hot, too cold, too small...

Faced with a particularly challenging play I've tucked myself away from the world until the time when I'll be spat out (hopefully not too chewed up!) at the end of this gong-show process. I had a strangely nice 2 days in Kelowna- not the deathbed vigil I'd feared, but a 2-day whirl of beaches, sun, step-nieces and nephews; bonding with step-family and seeing my stepmom enjoying life while she still can. Then, feeling slightly guilty for missing a rehearsal day, I stepped onto a plane and 40 minutes later was back in Vancouver and sucked back into the hermetically sealed bubble that is rehearsal life.

Today, covered with a stinky mist of sweat and dust I threw in some laundry and raced to Trout Lake with only an hour or so left before sundown. Bliss! Can't believe I haven't swum there since I was dating someone else light years ago and I went in the water and came out with every hair on my body covered in green algae. Ok, well maybe I can believe it. But this time the water was soft, cool, and inviting, and pleasantly low-algae. I paddled around in my Crocs and bathing suit, watching the sun setting over this small-ish park only blocks away from me, surrounded by the urgency and urban-ness of East Van, and couldn't believe my luck. The stress of the had day slipped away altogether by the time I headed home, soggy and content.

Friday, August 1, 2008

dreams & reality

Last night I had a dream that my rehearsal today would go well... and it did. I love it when dreams like that come true. Today I found my place, at least for the time being, and watched the music fitting in to different scenes in the play and listened to 10 or more voices singing music that I arranged and it was balm to my tired ears.

We rehearse for 2 more days this week and Sunday night (technically Monday morning) I'll climb aboard a Greyhound bus (with some trepidation, after this week's gruesome decapitation incident) and head to Kelowna to spend two quick days with my Dad and my stepmom and her family and... I don't know, exactly. Say goodbye, I guess. Celebrate what's left of my stepmom's life while she's still fit to enjoy company. Get to be Auntie Alison to her grandkids and plant the seeds of a relationship that I promised my stepmom I would continue after she goes. Try and give my dad some support. And then fly back to Vancouver Tuesday night and go back to work.

Yesterday I looked over at my mom, who's stage managing this play, and she looked old to me, for almost the first time ever. Lines around her mouth I'd never noticed. And I thought this is only the beginning of learning how to say goodbye to people I love. Almost 34 years old and I've had it so, so easy.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

the call

I start the week nervous- first day of school nervous- as rehearsals begin on this new show. Every time it's like will this be the time I fall flat on my face? Will this be the one where I bite off more than I can chew? And there's never a totally comforting answer inside me, just: you'll claw your way through this one, don't worry so much. Sometimes you'll feel overwhelmed, sometimes you'll feel on top of the world. But you'll make it.
But this times it's harder. Because today, at the end of day 2, with song snippets spinning around in my brain, I get The Call. The call from my stepmom that says the cancer's spread, it's in my liver and it's going to get worse and I've decided not to have the aggressive chemo because what's the point.
So her daughter and son-in-law and the grandkids are flying in from Ottawa to spend 9 days in Kelowna and say goodbye. Because she may be around for a month more or so, but she wants to have a happy week with her family while she still can. And will I be there?

Will I?

I'm damned if I do, damned if I don't. Go to Kelowna, let down all the people in this play. Stay in Vancouver, let down all the people in this family of mine. So I'll try and please everyone, and it will be one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.