Saturday, December 31, 2011

It's a Vinyl World

Yeah, yeah, Happy 2012 and all that. Now. LOOK AT THIS!!!

For some reason, I've been itching to buy- and listen to- records. I missed the slight hiss and pop, the album art, even the skips and jumps. This has been an on-and-off yearning for a while, but while I was at the Culture Crawl last month, I saw a suitcase record player in someone's studio, and I was hooked. No complicated (and expensive) hi-fi system. No external speakers. Just a small, funky unit, minimum dollars, and I could start buying used records and become an audio nerd!
Well, after much online research, and then after traipsing around downtown today, I ended up with this little guy for all of SIXTY DOLLARS. And no, it's not as retro cool as the suitcase turntable I originally wanted, but let me repeat, it was SIXTY DOLLARS. And I got it from the drugstore two blocks from where I live. Not only does it play vinyl, it also rips it to MP3 format (so I don't have to haul the turntable or the records up north with me this summer). AND there's a CD player, an FM radio, a headphone jack and USB and memory card ports. I think I'm in love. Right now I'm listening to Duke Ellington's Concert of Sacred Music while I blog. Heaven.
Of course, it wouldn't have been smart to buy a record player and then have no records to actually play, right? Right. So I stocked up while I was visiting Dad in Kelowna. Well, 'stocked up' may be an exaggeration. I bought 6 records.

As well as the aforementioned Duke Ellington album (featuring the Duke himself), we have:
The Police, "Syncronicity" (an absolute '80s classic, in my opinion)
Alberta Hunter, "Amtrak Blues" (this was a shot in the dark. She's great. Now I know)
Baaba Maal & Mansour Seck, "Djam Leelii" (I LOVE jangly, hypnotic, repetitive African pop music!)
Stan Rodgers, "Turnaround" (...and I love Stan. He's a Canadian troubadour, and he died way too early)
a Smithsonian Folkways recording of someone reading the poems of Robert Service. (Two words: Gold Rush)
So while I don't have too many albums yet, I think there's enough variety to keep me going for a while.

January 2nd-
New Year's Day was on a Sunday this year, which means that today (Monday) has still seemed part of the holiday limbo, the last holdout before all the stores reopen and everything gets back to dull, rainy, winter-in-Vancouver normal. The lights are coming down. Soon my little tree will get tossed in the dumpster and Christmas will officially be over. I didn't want to mess around though; I wanted to at least start the new year on a high note, so I've been making lists and crossing off 'To-Do's' as I get through them:
Study for Learner's License
Tally receipts for 2010 & 2011
Apply for a recording grant
It helps that I can now listen to music (records! radio! hee hee!) while I apply for grants and get my tax stuff ready.
The year is young, but so far I've been a good girl.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year!

Still working out the sizing bugs! You may have to save this comic to your desktop in order to zoom in on it... but if you feel like it, then Accordion Girl wishes you a very happy 2012!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Every Christmas, I want the storybook experience. And the wonderful thing about still being the 'kid' generation in my family is, I get it. I get the lights and the carolling and the solid month of singing, AND I get paid to do it, too. This Christmas Eve, I got a delightful dinner at my mom's cozy East Van condo, surrounded by some of my favourite people. Then I got to lie around, grazing and digesting, on Christmas Day with my mom and her delightful roommate. Then I took the midnight bus to the Okanagan, and now I am at my dad's, where there are more starry-eyed delights, like skating on the local pond (skating! outside! the quintessential Canadian Experience!), a slightly drunken walk through fast-falling snow in the dark, and more rich food than I should have touched (I may go home with a few extra pounds, but by god I have eaten well this week). The only thing that would have made things better up here would have been if my brother and his wife could have come too, so that we could have been lazy 30-something kids up here together. I have transcended the whole Present thing (I got very little in the way of material things this season); the delight is almost all wrapped up in the gift of family and friends, lights and music and snow. I thank the gods, as I do every few months, that I truly LIKE my family, as well as love them.

Here's my secret confession: If my Christmas is like a storybook (and it has been, truly), then I wish that my New Year's Eve could be like a movie. If Christmas is a week or so of childish self-indulgence wrapped in delight, then I wish that New Year's Eve could be a night of sleek, shiny pleasure. Cool Venue. Dancing. Live music. Maybe a chase scene, followed by The Best Kiss In The World at midnight. Am I the only person who feels like this, or do we all secretly long for it?

(Spoiler Alert: I don't think this is going to happen this year. Not the dancing, not the chase scene. Certainly not the Kiss. I will have a perfectly nice time at my friend G's New Year's party, and I will be grateful and happy to attend. And I will refuse, dammit, to lower my expectations.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Seasonal Sum-up

Journey Mama wrote a post in bullet points today, and I am shamelessly going to steal this idea, since I don't have a long story to tell you today, just a few shorter ones...

* I realize that I haven't said anything here about how awesome my job is right now. And sadly, it's almost over. Three more days of caroling and then of course, we're done, because Christmas will be upon us. Getting paid to sing is like getting paid to breathe, for me. I'm always kind of quiet before the first gig, letting the chatter of the others wash over me in the car as we drive to the gig. And then we sing, and the loveliness of the harmonies washes over the four of us, and over the people watching, and it's a kind of Christmas-y magic. We've had some great moments, like when a guy spontaneously bought us cookies while we were caroling outside a mall. And a young skater kid watched us all through "Silent Night" and then told us how his Socials teacher had been telling his class about the German & English soldiers who sang together on a Christmas Eve during the first world war. Lots and lots of happy old folks at the seniors residences which are our bread-and-butter gigs. Hitting that perfect, sweet high note at the beginning of a carol and hearing the room fall silent. Balm to the soul, as they say.

* While it's true that Christmas is not the easiest time to be alone, I have been so lucky to stay nice and busy with work, and to have some wonderful friends to see. Yesterday I went skating with my friend Galia, her husband and their two kids, whom I have doted on since they were born. And then I partied with my five wacky friends from C-Level, which is the purely-for-fun a capella singing group I'm in. We drank copious amounts of alcohol, talked about sex, watched "The New Girl" and tried to stumble drunkenly through our favorite Christmas carols. And I've been connecting with other friends as well recently, both in person and online. And although I joke a lot about my eccentric rathole apartment, I actually love it, AND my roomies. Feeling very lucky and loved right now, in general.

* Gonna spend Christmas Eve with Mom and bro and some assorted friends and family here in Vancouver, then bus up to Kelowna to see my dad right after Christmas. Not having any upcoming work (arrrrgh) means I don't have to rush back for anything. Poor mom's in the thick of rehearsals right now, but she's determined to hold this Christmas Eve dinner. We'll all eat way too much, of course, and I'll probably sleep over at her place and lie around digesting on the 25th.

* Only four months and change until I'm back in Barkerville! Hard to believe, and it'll go so fast. I want to take a career exploration course (there are some free ones available) in the new year, and also get my driver's license at long last! I really hope some interesting work comes along, but I hope that I can use this time to create some new opportunities for myself as well. I wouldn't say no to a date, either, before I'm back in the northern wastelands where the men are few, and far-between, and just plain odd. But I'm not holding my breath on that score.

And finally...
This is a time of huge confusion and change and scariness; not just for me, but all over the damn place right now. So when life is getting me down, I just look at this photo, and it makes me smile.

"I am the Goaltending Owl of Christmas!!!"
Merry Merry. Happy Happy. May your days be merry and bright, as the song says. Drink and eat and have fun with whoever you spend your holidays with.
Much love.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Oh man, I was so lost, this week.
This virus came from nowhere and BAM! I was sick, and tired, and so, so low.
"Depression" is such a weighty word, but I could feel it knocking on my doors. I could feel my eyes stretched wide with sadness, with not letting tears fall. I would be walking down my wonderful street, and I could feel my face contorted in a sad, furious mask.
No one left emails. No one called.
I felt invisible. I felt like no one would ever love me again, and that all my friends had forgotten about me.

Yesterday I was raw. I saw the sun was shining so brightly outside, and I decided to walk a long, long way to meet a friend. The walk was longer than I expected, but it was very sunny. Along the way, I took some pictures. My mind was still spinning in a sad, repetitive cycle, but I could feel the sun, and the warmth of the day, and at least some of that got through.

Then I met a friend for lunch and had another walk. It was hard to feel so bad when the weather was doing this, and I was here:

By the time I went caroling last night, I was exhausted. Too much walking and the sad feelings were still there. So I went skating afterwards. Skating on top of a mountain. There were even reindeer up there!

I skated around and around (it's all I can do; I can't do fancy tricks or even stop very well, but by god I can skate in a circle), and after half an hour I was pretty much cured. Skating meditation. The bad thoughts had receded. Even though I lost my cel phone up there I was not reduced to a sniveling mess. And today I woke up and felt so much better inside my head, even though it was rainy and damp and I had to go caroling outside at a mall.
And then I came home and sang MORE carols with a bunch of friends and heard from some other ones online and felt less alone and much more loved.
It's hard, you know? I feel like a wimp saying this and I know there are so many larger problems all around and people suffering and I GET that, I really do, but this is my problem right now. You create this life with someone, you build a family. And then one of you might tear it down and you have to build something entirely new. Where there was once always someone there, for better or for worse, now there are holes. And sometimes you feel as though you might just fall right through one of those holes and there would be no one there to catch you.
So this is what I would say, in the end: I want to be brave enough to pick up the phone more, to make more plans with people I don't know well but want to get to know better. Even just send some encouraging online notes.
I want to be the kind of friend who's there to catch you, if you feel like you're falling. And I want to be caught, too.

Monday, December 5, 2011


Today was a rest day, an all-day-in-bed kind of day. I've been felled by a persistent virus, and after days of pretending it wasn't there so I could keep going through various gigs, I had to admit defeat on my day off. I have absolutely no energy at all; I feel low and lonely and depressed, (the virus at work; I've actually had some wonderful gigs and good fortune recently but it's hard to stay happy after days of feeling shitty), but I WAS lucky enough to have an entire day to rest.
So, I stayed in bed, but I traveled the world via the magic of movies. What better way to take a holiday from a sick body and sad mind?
My journey actually began a day or so ago with the French movie "Monsieur Ibrahim". Today I made stops in '80s America ("Charlie Wilson's War" and "Say Anything"), Belgium ("Moscow, Belgium") and Siam ("Anna & the King", which I'm taking a break from because it's long and not totally grabbing me). I also recently watched "Nowhere In Africa" (Germany & Kenya- one of the best movies I've seen in ages) and "Lost in Translation" (Japan, but more importantly, one of my favorite movies of all time).
People may complain about Netflix' selection, but I'm enchanted by all the foreign movies on there. The only problem I have is deciding what to pick!
Now, of course, I am itching to pack my bags and get on a plane to... where shall I go? I've been drawn to European movies lately, but I'm dying to get to somewhere warm, to a place where I absolutely won't shiver, not even once. Not a resort, not something fake and manufactured for tourists who want to be served everything on a platter. I want a tiny, eccentric place to live in, a new language to learn, a few people to befriend. I want a local market to shop at, and a bar/restaurant I'd be comfortable eating alone in. I want sun, water, simplicity, music. Given my limited budget, I'm thinking somewhere in Mexico where I can learn Spanish and hide out for a week or so. A total change of scene.
Of course, I know what's behind this (and probably sort of behind the illness, too): I am learning to be alone, and it's proving to be a tough lesson. Hence the need for a change of scene, I think. I need to toughen up, but it will take time. I need to learn confidence in my body and my Self, the essence of who I am, but it will take time. I need to learn to ask for help, and for company when I am feeling alone, but that will take time too.
I think the thing is that my whole concept of what is 'normal' has been severely toyed with, so I doubt everything. I left a stable relationship at a time of life when most people seem to be settling down and having babies. I got sick when I thought that I was invincible. I live in two vastly different places per year. I have roommates and live in an eccentric building and I own next to nothing. I fell madly out of and into love but I have no idea what to do about it. There is no roadmap for this life, and I know that everyone feels like this. We are all trying to find our way, and when we glance at the map we can only see the path we've taken, not the road ahead.
I love my life, the weird, winding, rocky, beautiful little path I'm on. I really do. But tonight, I will put the headphones back on soon, press 'play' and start another movie so I can escape for a while. When I get some energy back I'll start planning a little trip, I think. Because there is only so much watching I can do. I need to start starring in my OWN movie.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


oh, her email tonight
out of the blue:
I JUST read your email from months ago-
are you okay??

I thanked her
gave her a brief summary of what she missed:
yes, surgery; yes, breakup; yes, moved and
yes, am okay

re-reading my answer to her it is clear-
There is a difference between what I pitch to people:
I am a professional musician!
I have never been healthier!
'Freelance' means I have my own schedule!
I am single and loving it!

and the murkier depths of reality:
I am riddled with self-doubt about my abilities and my career choices!
I scarf down pizza slices on the way home from rehearsals!
I work out, go running, then bum cigarettes from my roommate!
I am either ridiculously busy or still wearing pyjamas at noon!
I write random, newsy, funny things to a far-away guy who probably wonders what on earth he did to deserve these notes he gets from me!
And in the meantime, my own city is remarkably free of anyone who wants to love me!

the constant struggle:
not to let the pitch and the reality separate too much.