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.