Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Week

I am typing this in Kelowna, as Christmas Week continues. (Really, it's not just a day is it? Unless you have to work, Christmas stretches on until the New Year's Eve hangover subsides.) 

We go for walks: Dad, Louise and I. Or just Dad and I if Lou is working. We take our cameras-
Dad is trying to forgive me the unpardonable sin of now using a Nikon- and we try and find colour in this monochrome landscape. Nothing is browner than Kelowna in early winter. 

Grey skies, snow-skiffed mountains, steely lake.

We bond through eating, wine and photography. It's what we do together, not what we say. 

I flew up here on the night of Christmas Day, a short, smooth flight. Cheaper than the bus. Up here I am a kid: sleeping, snacking, watching movies and reading. Waiting for news, waiting for the next job, always waiting. Soon I'll fly home and take down the Christmas tree and life in 2014 will begin. What will it bring? What will I bring to it? But for now I am grateful to be a kid, to travel from one parent's to another and be loved and taken care of. I am old enough to know that it can't last forever. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Warning: This Post Is Really Negative.

Okay, I warned you. Right in the title. This post is going to be very negative. Here's why:
  • A few nights ago it snowed. When I woke up on Friday the streets looked like this:

It was a glorious, snowy, pre-Christmas sight that warmed my heart. And now it's totally melted. Thanks, rain! You suck!
  • I woke up sick today. Well, technically yesterday, because it's now past midnight and so today is now Christmas Eve. My favourite day. And I am sick. I need tons of sleep and the next few days will be eating and travel and more eating and having to be sociable when all I want to do is be alone. 
  • Did I mention the eating? Because I feel really bloated and unhealthy; over-stuffed and self-indulgent. Yeah I know. There are so many people in the world who would kill to have this problem. That doesn't actually make me feel any better about myself. 
  • Something I ate or drank has made my mouth break out in horrible sores that really, really hurt. Which is one way to curtail the over-eating, I guess. But not a very nice way. 
  • I went to a really nice party on Friday night but I stayed waaaay too long. Around 2am I was in a hot tub with some drunk and loud people when the last of my alcohol buzz evaporated and I was suddenly profoundly sad. This may have been because my ex was there and although I love to see him and we get along really well I am always filled with a complicated mixture of sadness and failure and guilt when we are together (but not) at parties. So I left the party and went home. In tears. 
  • I felt so lousy the day after the party that I thought I was hungover. I also thought that the next day too so I was almost relieved when I realized that it was sickness, and not a hangover. Because I really didn't think I had drunk that much at the party. 
  • Because the sickness sucked all the happiness right out of my body, I did not enjoy two Christmasy events that I had been looking forward to: dinner at my brother's place and the East Van Pantomime. Although to be fair, I don't think that either of these two events were actually all that great anyway. But when you're a childless adult, if you don't enjoy family get-togethers and Christmas shows, then what's left to enjoy at Christmas? 
  • I feel directionless because I'm not working and I'm not inspired to write anything right now. Except really complain-y blog posts, apparently. Which makes me feel lazy. 
Okay, it actually felt good to vent there. I am going to try and sleep this thing off and hopefully I will wake in a day or two feeling less tired and mouth-sore and sad. I guess I've had a pretty good run of happy lately, so a day or two of sadness won't be the end of me. But dammit, it's Christmas! The timing could be better. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Pretty as a Picture

Holy cow! I have a new camera y'all, and it's fantastic. 
My lovely mother came over to visit me in Victoria and we were discussing cameras (because Victoria is a very photogenic city) and Christmas and before you know it we were at London Drugs and...
Here's what it looks like.  Isn't it pretty? I know it's girly, but I love that it's red.
I wish I'd had it in Hawaii, because some of my pictures from there look a little washed-out. I don't think that's going to be a problem with this camera. You can expect to see a lot more pictures on this site from now on. Photography is one of those hobbies that waxes and wanes with me. Sometimes I take a lot of pictures, sometimes not so many. But I always come back to it. Having this camera, I think that I'll be coming back to it more often than ever.
Plus it has a Selective Colour feature which I think I'm going to be using quite a lot. 
So Victoria was amazing. I LOVE it when I have fears or low expectations about a job and then that job just comes along and blows me out of the water because it's so wonderful. You'd think I'd be more trusting by now but no, I still have The Fear before a lot of my gigs. To be fair though, I had The Fear this time because I felt like I was unprepared and under-practiced. But I came through. It wasn't my best-ever accordion playing, but I sounded good in the ensemble. And it re-confirmed for me that sometimes you don't have to be technically the best player in the room, it's also so much about getting along with everyone that makes you the right person for the job and I really fit in. This show was staged so that all the musicians were also participants in the play (to call us actors would be going a bit far since we only had a couple of lines each, but we were integrated into the show rather than lurking in an orchestra pit) and I was the only musician in the band that had experience being ONstage as opposed to being in the pit.  And I just clicked with everyone.  I kept hearing "We LOVED having you here!" from people. Sometimes repeatedly. So clearly I was doing something right. I came home today feeling as though the last 3 weeks- Hawaii to Victoria- have been a whirlwind adventure: new friends, new experiences, and LOTS of great memories. 
This photo was actually taken with my old camera, which actually did serve me pretty well for a cheap point-and-shoot. 

 Joy, indeed. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

In Which Working With a Bunch of Cute Young Actors Prompts an Inner Monologue About Love and Other Hard Things (Get your minds out of the gutter, people. Honestly.)

They are so confident! So talented! And so very, very young.

Working with a student theatre company, with a bunch of fit, pretty things at the beginning of their careers, is both exciting and depressing. On one hand I can look at these fledgeling actors and honestly say to myself that I am so so glad to be in my very late thirties, even though in many ways my life is more full of drama and weirdness now than it ever was when I was 21. Little did I know, back then. Last night I had dinner with the director, who is an old friend, and we got the giggles all through dinner because we were changing the lyrics of this one song in the show and I was filled with utter joy. Not only because silly out-of-control giggling is very good for the soul, but because I could look at this moment and see all the years of work and life and friendship that had brought me to this moment
(as well as many times of sadness and self-doubt and unemployment) and for once I Got It. I was truly happy to be right here, right now.

You know what else is exciting-or depressing? Secretly drooling over some hot young guy who's in this show and realizing dude, you've probably got 15 years on him. Give it UP. All of a sudden I'm this dirty old lady.

I'm in a weird place right now with love. Just all over the map.
When I was in Hawaii I was very aware of being alone- as I would be, considering that I was in a tropical paradise filled with lovers and families. The very kooky lady I was staying with was 61, looked 10 years younger, and was having relationship troubles which we talked about quite a bit. I was at the bar with her one night just gazing at all these butterfly women in their fifties and sixties. Makeup, short little dresses, dancing to the band. And on one hand, how awesome! These ladies are anything BUT what you would predict a lady in her sixties would be. They were waaaay more glamorous than me, with my flyaway hair, my freckles and minimal makeup. (And don't think that relative youth gave me any advantages, folks. If anyone was checking me out I certainly wasn't aware of it.) But on the other hand I thought I don't want to be playing this game at their age. Fluttering from one date to the next, worrying about ending up alone. (And in Hawaii ending up alone means you have to kill All The Centipedes. Which is a very fine reason to hook up, if you ask me.)
I checked out this blog today and she's giving advice on staying in a marriage. I happen to think it's very good advice, and not only for marriages but for many long-term commitments. Basically she says: The Sikhs say that marriage is the closest we get to God. It's a spiritual journey. And if you look at it that way- as a spiritual quest, if you like- then maybe, just maybe, it'll be possible to stick with it, not to look for something shinier, sexier, newer. 
I couldn't agree more, actually. Even though- and maybe BECAUSE- I've been distracted by the shiny stuff in the last few years. I had some really good things going, and I let them go because I'm sort of like that dog in "Up", the one who means well but just has to yell "Squirrel!!!" in the middle of a sentence because hey, it's a damn squirrel! Nothing's better than a squirrel! Until the next one, that is.
So maybe- just maybe- my spiritual quest is to figure out what the hell I want right now before I inflict myself on anyone else. Right now I'm mostly pretty happy living in my head... which is SO funny considering I'm in a production of "Zorba"in which the whole message of the play is: Get out of your head! Grasp Life by the balls! Live big! But you know what? Zorba's 60-something and he's alone. And every year it gets harder for him to have a woman. So...
So yeah, I'm going to work on continuing to be happy, right here right now, which is a feeling I kind of landed in around September and am still constantly appreciating, every day. I'm going to think a lot about my particular paradox, which is that I'm not the type of person who's made for short random hook-ups, but I can't settle down quite yet. And I'm going to keep staring at the gorgeous young actor I have a total crush on and be both sad and relieved that I will never even cross his mind.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Like a Waiting Room in...?

I have to admit, my B&B makes me think of that waiting room in "Beetlejuice", the one where Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin wait once they're newly dead, to try and figure out what comes next.
Not because there are dead people floating by (at least, not that I can see), but because it's old, quiet, and almost utterly devoid of other people. Like a waiting room. The couple who owns it doesn't live there. There is a housekeeper who comes and goes, and other guests, but we rattle around in this 3-story mansion like pinballs, never meeting. The huge living room has 2 desktop computers (a huge relief to me, who couldn't manage to fit my laptop into my luggage), and instrumental Christmas music playing softly through the speakers, and a lovely Christmas tree in the corner. The loudest noise is the sound of my fingers hitting the keys as I type this. In the mornings, between 7 and 10, a 'continental'-style breakfast is laid out (by whom?): bread, jams, cereals, coffee. I come down around 8:30 and munch, and this is when I meet company: an avuncular retired businessman from Ottawa who's here to visit his pregnant daughter. We chat, he's fascinated by my gypsy lifestyle but tells me he wouldn't want to do what I do- too little security. I tell him that sometimes I feel the same way. We share stories as we look out the windows at Craidarroch Castle, which is literally right behind the B&B. A castle in the backyard!
My bedroom is at the top of the house, filled with a king-sized bed on which I do a gleeful somersault the first night I'm here. I have arrived just in time for a day off and a technical day in which the musicians are not needed. Sigh of relief: I can finally practice this damn score, which is hard. And I can walk around this beautiful city which I almost never visit because well, I don't really know why. The ferry ride makes it seem inaccessible, which of course it isn't.
Is there anywhere more lovely than Victoria in December in a cold snap? I roam the streets at night carrying only my camera and snap dozens of pictures: old houses, Christmas lights, Chinatown, the legislature, and of course, the castle in the backyard, built (if I remember rightly) with the ill-gotten gains of a family who exploited the miners of Vancouver Island and had a tragic history. The perfumed air and sweaty heat of Hawaii seem far away and that's fine. This northern girl is revelling in holly berries and chill night air and a magical, quiet bed and breakfast that seems almost too good to be true.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Things I Like About Being Back in Canada:

  1. Not being on a plane anymore: Think about it. We cram ourselves into a tube that's loaded with highly flammable fuel and roar through the sky tens of thousands of feet above the earth. And we pretend that it's totally normal, no worries, nothing to see here. I love travelling. But I can't forget that the "getting there" part is fraught with dangers. You just have to look around at people's faces when the plane hits turbulence to know that everyone's aware of their mortality in that narrow metal tube. 
  2. Snuggling into a nice warm bed: I liked the tropical heat of Hawaii, but sleeping in a bed that was gritty with beach sand and having to kick the sheets off because I was sweating? Not so fun. I like to bury myself with blankets when I sleep. And cuddle up to my teddy bear, who would have been banned in Hawaii because he's too furry. (And no, that's not a euphemism; I really DO sleep with a big teddy at the moment.)
  3. Being IN my own bed: My saintly mother met me at the airport at dawn today, and was going to drive my straight to the ferry so I could get to my next job right away. As soon as I stepped off the plane I realized that I was just too exhausted to make that happen. Luckily my music director was cool with me coming tomorrow instead, so I had today to unpack, get myself in order for the next trip and... relax. After 9 days of swimming, biking, paddling and exploring, I needed a holiday from my holiday!
  4. No giant centipedes! Really, does this even need an explanation? In the tropics, everything is outsized: the trees, the flowers... and the insects. I was brushing my teeth one night when a monster centipede scuttled into the bathroom. Muffling a scream, I then watched it make a beeline for my bedroom. I spent over 30 minutes sitting gingerly on my bed, freaking out, until I saw it leave. Then I stuffed towels under the door and slept... sort of. 
  5. Seeing my friends... although that's still a pipe dream until I get back to Vancouver for good, in just over a week. Until then, it's Facebook for me. I am so lucky when it comes to my friends; they seem to love me even though I'm not always around for them. 
Um, I think that's pretty much it. Otherwise I miss Hawaii, but I had a good long time there and now it feels like time to get working again. I breathe in the crystal, icy air (yup, I came home to a cold snap- great timing!) and although I'd like to get back to the tropics again, this is my northern home and I'm happy to be back. Mostly. At least I can stop jumping at the sight of real or imagined bugs for the time being. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Kona Kronicles part 2

What an adventure it's been! Sometimes you're just in the right place at the right time. Thanks to my new German friends Maria and Sylva I got to explore a huge chunk of the Big Island on our 2 roadtrips together. This place is amazing in its variety- drive 2 hours and you can go from this:
200 year-old lava flow north of Kailuea-Kona

to this:
Akaka Falls, on the east side of the island
There's also grassy ranchland, green Canadian-looking farm country, steaming volcanos and coffee country. Not to mention stunning beaches, of course!
Hapuna Beach
Now I know why everyone was so insistent that I have a car, and if I return it'll definitely be with my licence, and hopefully a friend as well. 

It's all the little things that are so great as well: waking up at 6:30 every day because that's when the sun appears (as quickly as it disappears around 5:30pm), buying local bananas and coconuts from a roadside stand:
...and watching sea turtles sunning themselves on black sand beaches: 
(I've also nearly bumped into one of these guys every time I've gone swimming)
I've watched people leaping off the edge of the world:
A brave soul jumps from South Point, the southernmost point in the USA
and seen waves smashing against rocks so hard that I was drenched in spray.
Laupahoehoe Point, on the east side of the island. A beautiful spot with a tragic history. 
But of course, this was only 2 days out of ten. A lot of my time has been spent shopping, eating, and exploring on foot or on my bicycle.  And reading on various beaches. It's been all I could have hoped for, really. I hope I'll be back some day.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Kona Kronicles: part1

It's after 9pm, and the German girls and I are looking for a supermarket.
We cruise past a Target, drive 'til we find the highway, and consider making a stop at Walmart before I spot a Safeway just above us. We step in, and I could be in East Van again: a Safeway is a Safeway is a Safeway. But we leave, and it has to be the tropics, what with the heat, and that smell.
Oh, I don't want to get used to that smell! It's so perfect: heat and flowers. At home it would be rain and  ocean, evergreens and city smog. The tropic scent hit my nose the minute I deplaned at Kona Airport last night, stepping into an airport that's open to the island air- no hermetically sealed hallways for this airport! 
My host, Cecily, is a capital-C Character; a Seattle ex-pat who's only been living in Hawaii for 4 years but who's absorbed the state's Aloha spirit in spades. She greets me at the airport with a hug, drives me back to her condo and airily waves away any concerns that her neighbours might have about her renting out rooms to foreign guests: "My upstairs neighbours asked me once if I was renting out rooms. I just told them that I have a lot of friends." She also tells me she can set me up with medical-grade marijuana as she leads me to her favourite local beach. We sit in the dark, having successfully navigated the poisonous spitting toads, and I watch my first Hawaii waves bash themselves against black lava rocks. Cecily has been married (and divorced) 4 times, she's seen at least 2 UFOs since moving to Kona, and she has computers in her ears to help her hear. I sense medical woes aplenty in her past, but she doesn't elaborate. 
My first day is all about exploration: my body wakes me up at 6am (thanks, jet-lag!) and I'm up, washed, and out of the house before 9. And a good thing, too, because I'd seriously underestimated how exhausting the heat can be, so it's good that I get a large chunk of walking in before noon. I walk downtown, I explore and window shop, I dip my toes in the Pacific, I eat. Then I stagger home, dizzy from the heat, and luckily I can borrow Cecily's bike for the afternoon, because otherwise I'd never make it to Magic Sands Beach. Which is where I wriggle into my new bathing suit and proceed to swallow more salt water than I want to as I bob in the turquoise waves. 

I have plenty of time today to think about being alone: in the water, walking downtown, sitting by myself at various restaurants. And sometimes, I have to admit, it kind of sucks. Hawaii is- let's face it- a vacation spot for families and lovers, and I see both all around me. I have moments of wishing that my mom was enjoying this with me, of wanting my dad to take photos with me; I have imaginary conversations with a few of my past loves and it's hard not to picture leaving the beach and heading back to my room- not alone, but with someone (who?) who would help me out of my bathing suit and make naptimes more fun. 
With that in mind, I'm sceptical when Cecily invites me and the 2 German girls who are also staying at her place to come and check out some live music at the Sheraton Hotel bar. The Germans are younger than me, and gorgeous: blond, skinny, tan. I figure I'll spend the evening feeling left out and melancholy. It's amazing how cocktails can smooth things over though: after a couple double-strength rum-based monsters we are all dancing: the pretty Germans, Cecily and her leathery cohorts (older woman and men over here all seem to be skinny, overly tan and skimpily dressed, but they are very sweet) and me. By the end of the night, when we have bought groceries at Safeway and headed home, I have made friends with Sylva and Maria, and even asked them if I can tag along to see the volcanoes with them when they go. 
Maybe one day I'll come back here with a lover, and a car of my own. But for now there will be adventures, and new friends, and a little loneliness, and that's just fine. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

eggplant is an unlikely friend.

I have always hated eggplant. It's right up there with zucchini for Things That Make Me Throw Up in My Mouth: mushy, slimy texture, uncertain yet vaguely unpleasant taste and confusingly tough skin. Why, then, does Afghan Eggplant, or Borani Banjan, make me feel so happy?

It's the flavours: a little curry and turmeric, garlic, and  surprising cilantro, all fused together in a rich tomato sauce. The eggplant becomes infused with all this, and its usually icky texture gives way to a pleasant softness. 
It's been a busy week, socially at least. One friend from out of town has just left, and two more are camped in my living room for the next three nights. I'm still catching up with my local friends as well after my 5 months of being away. So many wonderful people to see and catch up with, and yet I've been feeling a little needy and wistful the last few days. Partly it's not having work and yet spending a good deal of money because I want to have a good time with my visitors. Partly it's nervousness, because my next job requires more accordion-playing skills than I think I have. Partly it's that little voice that always harangues me when I am not working: You should be creating/practicing/writing/exercising...  It's failing to keep up my good eating habits, and not liking my hair, and feeling as if I failed some kind of Date Audition with the guy I saw a couple of times who has completely faded from my life, and... I know: neurotic enough for ya?
Being able to re-create this eggplant dish, which I've had at East Is East a few times, actually made me feel really good, because it actually tasted almost the same as it did at the restaurant, and that's a confidence-booster. Plus I was able to feed my hungry friends when they arrived after their 9-hour drive. They probably didn't feel as ecstatic as I did about eggplant and tomato, but I noticed that pretty soon their bowls were both empty. And my spirits rose. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

"Felicity" and social awkwardness

Is there anything that can nibble away at your self-confidence like an opening night?
I just got back from one, and let me tell you- these things are harrowing. This business is all about making connections, being seen. Schmoozing, if you will. And I hate it. Which is why I don't work more, because I can't sell myself. On a glass or two of wine when I'm dressed up and feeling pretty good about myself, I can hack it. Sort of:
Actor/director/designer you haven't worked with in a looong time: Hiiii! Great to see you! How's it going? What's new? Working on anything? (Eyes already glazing over, skating through the crowd to the next, more interesting person.)
Me: Um, I'm okay. Yeah, I was doing a show. It just closed. (And I've been living my life in two vastly different places and falling in and out of love and oh- did I tell you I just moved? And I crochet a lot and I'm single but I have these amazing friends and I get tons of compliments on my singing so mostly I'm superhappy but also riddled with self-doubt and yeah I know you probably are too but you've worked so much more than I have in this town and when I go to these things I am reminded of how on-the-fringe-of-things I am, and-)

See, I just came up with a theory- like, just this minute. Small-talk takes a lot of confidence, because you have to believe with all your soul that people are actually interested in what you have to say.

Last night I came home from another play (not an opening night, however) with this guy in tow. We'd gone to another play last month and really clicked, so I invited him to this one. And after, we walked the short distance to my place and I said "I'm not trying to put the moves on you, but do you want to come in?" Because last time we'd hung out we had this amazing talk that lasted about 3 hours and then he'd kissed me and I thought well, this is interesting. So we go upstairs and I make tea and we talk again but something weird is happening because at a certain point I start feeling a bit like wallpaper. He's telling me all about school and theatre and I realize I'm starting to feel as if I could be anyone. Because he's stopped asking me anything, he's just telling. We could be acquaintances on the bus, it's that impersonal. And when he leaves, he kisses me again but this time I'm thinking to myself Who are you kissing here? Because you don't know me at all. 

Last year, browsing the shelves of my local library for a DVD to watch, I found Felicity. Now it may have been because the pickings were slim, unless I was into Vietnamese romantic comedies. Or it may have been the premise: young girl changes future plans on a whim to follow her dream-crush to college in New York (so romantic! so impulsive! so stupid! so what I would do!). But something about it grabbed me, and over the course of the spring and summer I worked my way through season one when I had a free evening or a day off in Barkerville, and it charmed me. Yeah, it's very '90s, right down to the Lilith Fair-type opening credit music. But it has some great stories, and although it can be earnest, it never takes itself too seriously.

I also kept finding these weird little life lessons in there. See, Felicity is book-smart, but she doesn't know much about life, and love? Love keeps teaching her these painful lessons all the damn time. She's always overthinking everything, and she blurts out the truth when a more together person might just smile and flirt her way out of a situation. She hurts the steadfast people who love her and pursues the unattainable ideal. And yeah, it's a total tv-and-movie cliche that women over-analyze everything about romance while guys just breezily let things happen, but let me tell you, it's not always that far from the truth either. And while the man-hungry ladies-who-lunch of Sex & the City never captured me, Felicity's romantic heart and social awkwardness reminds me of all the things I both love and sigh over in myself.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Well look at that. I'm all moved in. *
*Not actually my stuff. Subletting rocks!

The first item on my to-do list was to find and destroy ALL the mothballs that the last subletter had thoughtfully scattered all over the closet at the sight of a couple small moths. I suspect I haven't found them all yet, because the smell is still, um, pervasive. But I quibble. The apartment is gorgeous.

Again, not my stuff. But who cares?
This week I would come home from rehearsals, curl up on the leather couch in the living room, and read. Or crochet. My rented double bass looks great in the corner. Candles flicker merrily. My stuffed Paddington Bear dozes beside me when I go to bed. He's not as lively as some of my former companions, but he doesn't snore, so I'll keep him for now. I also have to say: I wake up every day with a smile on my face because I am living alone! For the first time in manymany years! Sometimes I notice that I talk to myself a little more than I did with roomies, but that's kinda fun. And because I have no tv (not a new thing, I haven't had tv for over 2 years) I have to make sure I have lots of books and crocheting in the place. Hence my renewed love affair with the library. And the local yarn store. (Alpaca wool! It's as if tiny angel-kitties coughed up angelic hairballs of incredible softness and someone spun them into yarn!)

My show opened last night and closes tomorrow. After many summers of 200+ shows, a 2-show run seems bizarre. I'll miss this one. There are some jobs where you walk in and immediately feel at home, and this was one of those for sure. I think we're lucky, I tell a girlfriend, because we have these jobs where we get to meet new people all the time. Imagine being stuck in an office with the same people for 20 years! We laugh together. We know, all-too-well, the downside of what we do: financial instability, connections that seem deep until the contract ends, but there are upsides too. 

I am coming to trust the cyclical nature of things, friendships in particular. The ex-lover of 20 years ago  who now takes time away from his marriage and two young children to help me move house, who plays music and writes songs with me. The childhood BFF who lives in a northern city and comes to Vancouver every few years or so. When we meet and have dinner it's as if all those years apart don't even matter. The crush of 8 years ago who I see a play with and proceed to talk with for over 3 hours. Even my own brother, who can be remarkably cavalier about replying to my texts, but will open his house to me when I need a place to stay (my sublet only lasts 3 months). This cycle of friends, work and adventures feels like a good and healthy one, and I can only hope that it's a long one, too. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


J, our director, always greets me with a huge smile and uses my full name: "Hi, Alison Jenkins! It's so great to see you." I've known him for about 15 years; he and my mom are friends and we've worked together before but not for a long time. He has a manic laugh and when things are crazy (which is often, given that this is a show with so many elements and many non-professional cast members) he will turn to someone and say "Can you believe we get paid to do this?" It's partly his way of letting off steam but there is also an endearing truth to it. He is truly happy to be doing this show, which would leave many other directors pulling out their hair.
One day we are working with Mila, a busty Ukrainian woman with little english and a big personality. She sings, I follow her with my accordion while she flirts with the men in the cast. She is having difficulty grasping J's direction, even with the help of Helen, who is translating for her, but when J tells her to approach Steve, who is tall and very handsome, she gives a firm thumbs-up and says "Understand!" "Tell her to flirt more with the audience. Or I'll break her neck," says J, but he's smiling as he says it.
Evening, and I crochet a scarf while the Ukrainian dancers warm up. There are adorable 6 year-olds capering and twirling; teen girls with perfect bodies (although they wouldn't think so); young men and women who can spin and kick in the show-off style of slavic dancers everywhere with their red leather boots flashing. They exercise their brains and bodies, we musicians exercise our brains and fingers, racing through the Kolymykas and Hopaks, always getting faster and faster towards the end, as dances should.
This show is a celebration of a place: the Ukrainian Hall itself, which is where we're performing and rehearsing. So although the acoustics are the worst I've ever experienced- speech and music becomes a mushy wash of sound, and extraneous chatter is impossible to tune out or ignore- there could be no better place to be given that this is a hall with 85 years of history, which we are trying to condense into a 2-hour show. Labour unrest, immigration, racism, marriages, parties and perogy-pinching, all smushed together in 2 hours of... whatever this show will turn out to be. And although I'm not Slavic at all, I wouldn't miss it for the world.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Staining Backward

“Holmes speaks of grief “staining backward” through the pages of life; but Valancy found her happiness had stained backward likewise and flooded with rose-colour her whole previous drab existence. She found it hard to believe that she had ever been lonely and unhappy and afraid.” -L.M. Montgomery, "The Blue Castle" 
Vancouver seduced me this Fall like a guilty lover holding out a brilliant bouquet. The last two years I'd stumbled back into town from the north feeling alienated and a little lost. My moods were dark; so was the weather. Okay, last year the weather was amazing, but I wasn't. So I packed, this time around, feeling apprehensive about this challenging season, and happy to decompress for a few days at my dad's before coming home. 

And I am afraid to tempt fate here, but it's so wonderful to be back! The weather helps a lot, of course, and this October has been literally nothing but gorgeous sunshine and a lot of atmospheric fog. For the first time in the twelve years (!) I've been working at the pumpkin patch, there has been no rain. At all. Now we still have six days to go, so anything could happen. But this is truly incredible, and all of us are very, very grateful. (And yeah, I know: climate change, global warming, blahblah, but...)

That I love my work with all my heart, that I even have work, is also helping. I have paycheques coming in, and the promise of work until mid-December, and it is all 'real' work; that is, work that I am trained for and enjoy doing. I spend sunny/foggy days at the pumpkin patch, or I attend rehearsals for this and am so happy to be doing live theatre again. Or I get together with friends and rent a double bass and play folk music and score us sweet gigs. Or, super-extra-bonus: I get to be on a committee that selects who will be nominated for the Vancouver professional theatre awards (known as the Jessies), so hello! Free theatre tickets to All The Plays.

And lastly, a change of address is coming up. I will miss Hastings Sunrise immensely, but:

Goodbye, loud traffic and incredibly annoying crosswalk beeper!
Farewell, messy roommates!
Sayonara, rat shit in the living room! 

But you know, I've been showered with good fortune before and sometimes it just made me feel tired. And overwhelmed. So I have to think that at least some of the change is coming from me. I am healthy, my spirit is strong, I wake up every morning feeling excited to begin the day. Maybe it's luck, maybe it's circumstance, maybe it's exercise, maybe it's a change in the mysterious chemistry that powers my body (when I think back to the exhaustion and despair I felt at times last year I have to wonder), but whatever it is: long may it last.

Or maybe it's just the coffee. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Wow. Back in the big city again. Sunshine and perfect autumn days easing my transition back into urban life, And friends, always my lovely friends, and family too. 
The night I got back, I was staying at Mom's place and her roommate found two dusty but serviceable-looking bikes leaning against their condo's dumpster. Tires flat as pancakes and the amount of dirt on them suggesting that they hadn't been used in a very long time. I took the more modern-looking one, and with a few minor repairs (plus a new lock and helmet- nothing's really free in this life) I now have a great bike! Which I rode for miles today, zipping up to south Main for lunch with a friend, and then cruising home along sunny backstreets. 
Which goes a long way to make up for the uncertainties of this month: having to unpack from being away all summer and yet start packing again in preparation for my upcoming move to a new (yet still temporary) home at the month's end. A new theatre job starting this weekend- excitement and fear always mixed to a certain extent for a new job. Seeing rat (rat! Ugh!) droppings scattered liberally around my apartment when I got home. (Actually there's no uncertainty there. They are rat droppings, and they make me all the more certain, as if I already wasn't, that I'm doing the right thing in getting the hell outta here.)
Yesterday I felt a bit down about everything, as city life threatened to become overwhelming. Today I feel much better, grateful for a sunny bike ride, for my excellent friend Allan, who has been a huge blessing in my life for the last couple of years, for my sweet mom who does so much for me, and for new possibilities and adventures on the horizon. I know that the instability of my life here makes me worried and afraid sometimes, and that will probably continue, but there are many wonders too, and I feel glad to be able to see them today.*

*However if I actually see a rat in my apartment before I am lucky enough to leave, my worldview will become a great deal more pessimistic again, I know it.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

in transition

I rode the Dog today all the way from Quesnel to Kelowna. But back up: first I rode in a car out of Wells (watching fog rising off Jack O'Clubs Lake as we sped past, whispering a goodbye in my mind as we left)... and the day before that I stood at the top of the old tailings pile with my two roommates and looked out over the lake and tossed quartz rocks over the edge as we said our collective goodbyes to the season. The last few days were rough: we were all exhausted, and some of us were sick. Our bodies knew that the season was over and they collapsed, even though we still had to clean the house from top to bottom, and pack up our stuff. Cleaning, parties, goodbyes. In a way it gets easier every year to say goodbye, knowing that in all probability I'll be back in 5-7 months anyway, knowing that I've made as much of a life for myself up north as I have in Vancouver... in a way it's harder too. I'm not just leaving a seasonal job, I'm also leaving dear friends, a way of life that satisfies me deeply, a home where I feel most like myself. And I worry that by living in two different places I'll only have half a life in both.

But anyway, goodbyes and traveling were the order of the day and despite my worries I actually felt really happy today. I rode the Greyhound, which meant lots of unhealthy snacks and some strange characters, but mostly it meant reading and staring at All The Scenery. I am resting for a few days with my dad in Kelowna, before heading back to the city and jobs! and friends! and Vietnamese food! And (drumroll please)... moving to a new place! (which I am sub-letting for a few months and so basically my life is in transition again: I am single and sort-of homeless and not in school and not looking as glamorous as I'd like to and yet feeling amazingly optimistic, all told.)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Let the (Beet) Chips Fall Where They May

Oh, hi there. Do you want to know where I am?

That's probably a good hint. Yeah, I didn't go back south for school. The person who was going to replace me couldn't make it, for various reasons. I didn't really want to go to school and the one course I'd signed up for put me on a waitlist I couldn't seem to get off of. The theatre company couldn't be happier that I was able to stay. I couldn't be happier to still be here. Win-win. This is one of the reasons why I'm happy to be here:
Meet Jack the Cat.
I am house-sitting again. House Number 4 this summer. Suddenly everyone's decided that I'm reliable (hah!) and I get to drift from one beautiful, funky pad to the next. It gets me out of the somewhat, erm, shabby rental accommodation that I'd otherwise be in, and although I love my roomies there, it's bliss to be on my own for a bit. Hey, I went from a 14-year relationship to living with 2 (very messy) room mates in Vancouver, to constantly sharing a house with 3 or 4 other people up here. It's high time for some alone time, if you ask me.

"Who sez you're alone?!"
We also ended our main season at work, which means that I get 2 days of this week (!!!), and only have to do one show a day except for Saturdays. I did the Shoulder Season (as they call it) 2 years ago and it was wonderful. Gorgeous weather, light schedule, less staff which means that those who stay get very close. I love it. Plenty of time to go on excursions, hang out with friends. And oh yeah, cook.

It's Zucchini Season around here, which means that everyone is in a flat panic. Even folks who love 'em get overwhelmed. Me? I hate them, always have. Memories of grilled zucchini with parmesan cheese can still make me want to gag. So why do I have not one, but three Sugar-Free Zucchini-Banana Loaves baking as I type this, filling the ground floor with their heady scent? Well, because the lady I'm house-sitting for gets a veggie box, as many do around here. And in the veggie box are beets (yum!), cabbage (yum!), corn (double yum!) and... you guessed it. Hence the loaves, the only way I can stomach squash. And the sugar-free part? Well...

Last week I had a birthday. I can't believe it was only a week ago, because it feels as if so many things have happened since then, but it was. I celebrated in a very low-key style this year, involving some close friends, The Dark Knight Rises, and Caramel Bacon Popcorn. (I wasn't sugar-free way back then in August.) I'm working on a list of 40 things to do before I turn forty next summer, and one of the things was to try and go dessert-and-alcohol-free for September. Sugar-Free September has kind of a nice ring to it, don't ya think? So the zucchini had to be used up, but the loaves had to be sugar-free. I found this recipe online, a great way to use up old bananas and the ever-present zucchini.  I made one loaf yesterday, and found that while I didn't really miss the sweetness, there was something... lacking. Today I put in the allspice, which I'd been missing yesterday, and added more applesauce, more banana, and an egg. Much better. Now the oven's heating up to 400 for Beet Chips.

With all this cooking, it's a good thing I'm getting out for some exercise! I ran 10k last Friday, and while it was great, the running I've been doing this summer has done a number on my poor feet. Plantar Faciitis, in both feet, especially the left one. So it's back to biking, at least for a while. Yesterday I biked 30k along a gorgeous, remote road that would have had my Ursa-phobic mother in fits. Luckily for me, no bears were spotted; the biggest wildlife I saw was a bevy of beautiful butterflies.

Today is for cooking. And sloth, something that a cat can always teach you about. Happy Fall!

Sunday, August 18, 2013


It's House music and pre-dinner lollipops. The nights are getting longer and colder, but the greenhouse bursts with life: dark-leafed Basil, sweet peas in pods, the carrots- oh, the carrots! Every time I bite into one I think this tastes like grace and I don't quite know what that even means except that they are so full of life and sweetness. My foot is sore all the time and it's the end-of-the-season doubt and uncertainty mixed with boredom and routine but I run once a week and hobble afterward and there are still moments of humour and fun and joy at work, lots of moments. It's taken a while to find that joy.

See, there was love once, and then we broke it and it sucked. We had to learn to live together and work together far away from home and a lot of the time in the first couple of months I thought that I was living through the heaviest kind of karmic retribution for all the shitty things I did to get this love in the first place. There were a lot of tears. The kind you cry alone in your room until you're not even sure you can stop anymore. Puffy face and sore red eyes. Even then, joy and laughter in friendships, in rehearsals, in performance, but also this lurking sadness which would break into full-fledged misery quite a lot. But it got better, slowly. The other night I made dinner in the beautiful home where I am currently a house-sitter (trying not to break the dishwasher and keep the floors clean and the herbs harvested) and we ate together and watched a movie and then we hugged goodnight and he rode home on his bike and it was totally okay. Completely. Today someone took me to lunch (I am so blessed with new friends this year!) and then I was able to make one of my cast-members laugh a little bit in the four o'clock show and the sore foot and the end-of-the-season doubt didn't matter one little bit.

I am crocheting a shawl right now. Sometimes on stage, where a little bit gets done every day, but mostly backstage and at home. It was going to be a pointy triangular shawl but I started it very wide and didn't taper it enough so now it's a wrap and it will be done when I decide it's done and not necessarily when it comes to a point. It may not be exactly what I planned but it will make me happy and look good and I will have learned some things by the end of it. Which is kind of a metaphor for this summer of heartbreak and renewal, if I wanted to get precious about things.

Sunday, May 26, 2013


Today I will leave this room where I rehearsed the play we are now performing twice a day, and I will run.
 I will run out of town, past the remnants of the Island Mountain Mine, which I have climbed up to and explored, photographing twisted rails and tailings and spooky, boarded-up entrances. Cariboo Gold Quartz Mine is on my left. I have climbed those tailings piles too, every year. Once, as I sat and looked out over the lake, a young fox joined me for a while, curling up just feet from where I was sitting. It felt like a gift, and I was awed and grateful. I have explored overgrown roads and cement ruins up here. My brother and sister-in-law came with me once, and we shouted "NO BEARS!" every few feet to discourage unwelcome encounters of the furry kind. We found core samples, an old pop bottle, a leaning metal building housing an elevator shaft. We walked up to an old mine shaft and felt its icy breath as we moved closer.
Past the old mines, with Jack o'Clubs Lake to my left. Three years ago I canoed its circumference with my friend Venessa. Two years ago, once here due date had come and gone, we took icy dips in it to encourage her baby to be born, although I joked that once he'd felt how cold the lake was, he'd never want to come out! Last year we jogged where I am jogging now, with baby Alexander in a stroller bouncing along in front of us. This year she and her RCMP husband have moved, and my run is quicker, but lonelier without her.
I keep a sharp eye out for bears. It's Spring, and the mother black bears are feeding, often with roly-poly cubs in tow. My muscles are slowly warming up, my legs aching. Past the Information Centre and the taco stand. Two summers ago, feeling equal parts lonely and liberated after a breakup, I would bike to the taco stand once a week to talk to Mark. Although he must have wondered why I appeared so regularly and stayed so late, he never made me feel unwelcome. These days we see each other on the street in the town where we both work and smile, although we don't talk as much.
I reach my third kilometre, near the far end of the lake and stop briefly before turning around, heading back towards home.Seven kilometres past the town where I live is the town where I work.  The theatre where I have known fatigue and frustration, but also so much love and laughter and applause. I have taken countless bows here, sometimes in front of two people, sometimes two hundred. I cried two years ago when I had to leave suddenly, and while I was away they had a fundraiser for me here and raised hundreds of dollars to help me with expenses. When I came back and took my bow on the night of our opening gala  they cheered and I blew the audience kisses because without even knowing when or why, I had started to feel as if I belonged here.
I look up at the mountain peaks that surround me as I run: Cow Mountain, Mount Murray, Island Mountain, Slide Mountain.  I am still learning to match the right name to the right mountain but I am slowly catching on. Last summer I climbed to the top of Mount Agnes with a friend, glowing with pride that I'd made it to the top of a mountain. Even knowing only a fraction of this area's history, my friend and I could appreciate that we were retracing the footsteps of settlers and gold-diggers a century and a half ago.
These towns are my second home, and the places where I test and find myself every year.
These summers I spend up here are summers of hard work and joy, of new friends and mad crushes and falling in love; crying myself to sleep and waking up with a smile on my face. Of backyard bonfires and 'family dinners' and music festivals and rehearsals and shows, endless amounts of shows. Of wearing old-fashioned dresses and fake curls and real corsets and speaking with Irish and English accents. Of clowning and singing and playing and sleeping and biking and running, always running.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Cookin' Something Up

We’ve been doing a lot of cooking around here. At the Theatre Royal, we’ve been cooking up a show. And at home... well, I’m kind of embarrassed at how much baking I’ve been doing. Completely unprecedented. 

This year, we’ve been cooking (and shopping) communally, which I love. Not only is it cheaper, but there’s something about coming home at 5:30 and making dinner together that helps ease the petty frustrations of our work day. We get our own breakfasts before we run out the door to head to rehearsals and shows, and lunches are pretty much always eaten at the theatre, so dinner is the main event. This year there is a tall twenty year-old in the cast and in my house, so I’m cooking and baking for an appreciative audience. Maybe that’s why I’m enjoying it so much. 

The first week I was here, I was craving sugar all the time. After a few days I realized that it was because I hadn’t had a drink since I got up here and I’d had an epic (for me) night of drinking the night before I left (making for a blurry and nauseous bus ride the next day, ugh). But I was chomping my way through treats at the general store every day and it was getting unhealthy and expensive. So I figured I might as well start making my own. I started with what was around the house. Orangette had posted a recipe for cream cheese pound cake that sounded simple and tasty, so I made that. Oh, and 3 fruit crumbles (1 for a co-worker who lives down the road, 1 for the theatre, and 1 for the house). A former roommate had left a bag of whole wheat flour so I used that and everything was a little hearty-tasting, but not too bad. The sugar cravings abated somewhat. 
A few days ago I used up the last of a jar of Kraft peanut butter making 9 tasty flourless peanut butter cookies (recipe on the jar). Needless to say, nine cookies lasted all of oh, ten minutes? Yesterday I begged a bag of all-purpose flour from Norma at the general store (she didn’t have any in store but she sold me a bag of her own stuff later). 

Today is our second day off. It’s still early in the season, so we aren’t mixing too much with the other employees in the park, the street interpreters and the like. Rehearsals on top of shows make us too tired to stay up late yet. There is a peaceful quality to our time off because we all just hang around the house in a sleepy way most of the day. The pound cake was almost gone. It was time to get out the baking pans once again. I made Orangette’s French Yoghurt Cake, and also a banana bread. The Yoghurt Cake is cooling on the counter as I write, and I can say that it is simple and delicious, just as the recipe promised, because I didn’t wait ‘til it was cooled before I cut myself a slice. Tangy, moist and lemony. 
The banana bread is just finishing up in the oven and I will be curious as to how it turns out, because I messed with the recipe a bit. Ground almonds subbing for some of the flour, added maple syrup (because why not?) and sour cream (ditto). It may be odd, but it’ll probably taste pretty neat. And if not, I bet there’s a certain twenty year-old roomie who’ll eat it anyway. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013


A conversation then ensued, on not unfamiliar lines. Miss Bartlett was, after all, a wee bit tired, and thought they had better spend the morning settling in; unless Lucy would at all like to go out? Lucy would rather like to go out, as it was her first day in Florence, but, of course, she could go alone. Miss Bartlett could not allow this. Of course she would accompany Lucy everywhere. Oh, certainly not; Lucy would stop with her cousin. Oh, no! that would never do. Oh, yes! 
-E.M. Forster, A Room With A View

There was a moment, while I was unpacking my things in the hotel room that first night, that I had a twinge. Here we were, two related, unmarried spinster ladies brushing our teeth and folding our underwear; already tired at 8pm! I was holidaying with my mom: how un-cool! Would this trip be a disaster? Then I shook it off. My mom is no Cousin Charlotte and I am no Lucy Honeychurch (in more ways than one since I am far too old for one thing). This roadtrip was a chance to spend some time together before I vanished up north for the summer. I chose Seattle because it is in another country and therefore exotic, but it is less than 3 hours' drive away and therefore easy to get to.

Oh Seattle! Being there is like being in an alternate-universe Vancouver: there is a market, and an ocean view, and mountains, and delicious restaurants... they are so alike, and yet there are differences too. More brick buildings (a shame if The Big One hits Seattle, but so lovely in the meantime). More visible history. Less soul-destroyingly boring condos. Better liquor laws. Neighbourhoods that feel vibrant and funky and have managed to keep Big Business at bay. I was trying to quantify the different vibe but all I could come up with was that people in Seattle seem to have a true appreciation for the finer things in life: food is crafted with care, cafes are lovingly decorated, buildings are painted inside and out, communities are cherished and nurtured, the arts are supported. I know that I am seeing it through the rose-coloured lenses of a quick pleasure trip, but that's how it feels to me.

Anyway, the two spinster ladies got along famously, and if we did have an alarmingly uncool tendency to fall asleep around 10pm clutching English mystery novels... well, we had an excuse: we walked between four and six hours a day. And Seattle is not a flat city. I had a little guidebook which suggested various neighbourhoods we should visit, and every day we picked a few and trekked around them. I think we basically did a marathon, but we stretched it over 3-and-a-1/2 days with lots of food stops. My mom is the kind of person who looks as if a good wind might topple her, but I mapped one of our days of walking and it was over 10k. She is also totally game for trying out my vague suggestions: "I remember eating breakfast about 7 years ago at this great little Mexican place in Beacon Hill- I think it's the one that's mentioned in this newspaper. Can we try and find it?" "I think there's a park at the end of this road. Can we check it out?" "I read about this play that's about Scottish soldiers in Iraq. Shall we see it?" And she'd smile and nod, and off we'd head to Beacon Hill/Golden Gardens Park/the Paramount Theatre.

We also stopped in at Delancy and Essex, which I'd read about here. In fact, we bookended our trip with 2 visits there, because: succulent pizza! Seductive cocktails! Little cauliflour-and-pine nut-toasts! Lovely ambience! and the second time we met Molly Wizenberg, who owns both places with her husband. It's a little bit weird, meeting someone whose blog (and book) you've read, because you feel like I know all this stuff about you and yet of course, you don't really know them at all. But she was very sweet, and it's nice to know that down south in Alternate-Universe-Vancouver there is a little pizza place and cocktail bar that is just as lovely in real life as it sounds in print.
The elegant Essex.
My hands-down fave community in Seattle is Ballard, and I like to think there's an Alternate Universe Alison who's just opening a little bar or bookstore there (okay, enough with the alternate universe stuff, it's getting a bit creepy).
This? Oh, just one of the many reasons I didn't lose weight in Seattle.
I like to think I know a little bit more about Seattle now, and I certainly know enough to want to go back, and soon. 
Golden Gardens Park, Ballard.

It's funny, finishing this post now, because I'm back up north, have been since Saturday. When you travel very quickly from one place to another, totally different place, time has a funny way of playing tricks on you. I was still in Seattle this time last week, but it seems like a small lifetime ago. I got home from the States, finished packing and moving out, crashed with my long-suffering mom for 2 nights, got epically drunk with my brother, took the Greyhound early Saturday morning (still dizzy and nauseous from the cocktails), and... arrived. I'm cat-and house-sitting for friends this week, which means I have cushy digs all to myself for a while. I've been unpacking, catching up with friends, enjoying the unseasonal warmth, and getting more exercise in a few days than I ever get in Vancouver. Work starts tomorrow. I look out at the mountains and the bog, and marvel that I was somewhere so different just a week ago. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Baby Steps

It's been a banner week for health: On Sunday I ran ten kilometres with my brother and sister-in-law in the Vancouver Sun Run! I managed to do it in an hour and four minutes- not bad for someone who literally hasn't run in months (I can't actually even remember the last time I ran before the Sun Run, so I was amazed that I not only ran it, but didn't have to walk once.)
Here's a picture of me running the race.
I'm on the left in the grey. I look fierce.
I actually beat my family, although to be fair, I only beat my brother because he is chivalrous, and ran the whole way with his wife. They crossed the finish line holding hands. Me, I'm pretty competitive when I run. So I steamed away as we crossed the start line, and met up with them after the race. I know, I'm klassy that way.
I also did my weekly workout with Leslie and walked part of the seawall with a girlfriend. But today.
Today was a new exercise in crazy personal best. 
My buddy Ari convinced me to walk from his house in Kits all the way to New Westminster. I knew it would be a long walk, but even I quailed a bit when he told me "it'll take about 8 hours." That's a full day's commitment. But it's my habit this time of year to enjoy my city as much as possible before I leave it for the summer. Plus I wanted to see if I was capable of an 8-hour walk. So I agreed, and at just after 9am this morning, we set off. There were train tracks:


River vistas...

...and at the end, there was Barbeque:

Nothing has ever tasted so good. Sitting down has never felt so incredible. MapMyRun clocks our trek at about 28 kilometres. I am very proud. And sore.
All this has been great because there have been some difficult things in my life lately and I haven't been handling them as well as I could have. But getting outside or working out has made a huge difference not only in how I feel about myself but also in how I react to negative situations or people. Just like performing, exercise throws you a whole bunch of endorphins, so the this winter's blues and bad moods haven't made a comeback because I am active. The sunshine helps a lot too. I find self-help books and trite daily 'meditations' incredibly patronizing and annoying, but a daily "sweat meditation" can bring new clarity and peace of mind to even the most fraught situation. Every mile run, every sunny-day walk, every weight I lift brings me a little bit closer to inner peace.
Not to mention that they can help you squeeze into a tight costume.