Monday, April 28, 2008

GCA: qu'elle suprise!

Gotcha! yeah, that's right - nothing comes between me and my blog, though much has tried. I don't have a lot of time (16 mins) but suffice it so say only 51 hours into our Great Canadian Adventure (GCA) and already so much has happened. So far, the highlights include a 12-hour delay, a derailment and rowdy party in the observation car. Also: juice and cookies. Anyway, right now, I'm chillin' like a villian in the Radisson-Winnipeg instead of chugging along on a train to Thompson. Did we miss our chance with the Polar Bears? Fear not, sweetlings: we're being flown in. Yeah, you read right. When did life get so... cool? I have stories, poppets, I have stories.

Missing you (in RL and online).

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Few Introductory Words

I’m a chatter. A listener. A writer? Not so much. Although I email constantly throughout the day, I’ll often reply to an email (especially one of those multi-paragraph ones) by picking up the phone. So why did I decide to start blogging? Well I started blogging for work – I work as a publicist at a mid-size Canadian publishing house (no the other one) – and found it to be quite relaxing; especially on a Friday afternoon when my brain just can’t focus on actually working with the sun shining through my window. Also, my friends, especially DissolvedGirl and Semi-Optimist, have been pushing me to start a blog citing that one if you’re not on the web you don’t exist and two since I lead such a “drama-filled” life that I would have plenty to write about. I think they were just tired of listening to me and really I don’t blame them; I’ve put them through a lot since the New Year. Honestly, my life, although it’s been pretty drama filled the past few months – recently got out of an unhealthy relationship; one of those he was great on paper but we were on different paths, his to Alaska and mine to settling down — it’s pretty mundane for the most part. Although I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a blog, I was still hesitant so when this opportunity presented itself I decided why not? Let’s try it out.

So what can you expect for the next three weeks? Well you can expect stories from the publishing world, musings on what it’s like being back in the dating world, on movies I’m watching and books I’m reading. I can’t promise that all my posts will be as witty as DissolvedGirl’s, but I do promise to try to keep you entertained so that the next three weeks fly by.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

C is for cookie

The last time I joined a Century Club, it wasn’t pretty. Sadly, I’m not spared the lurid details by a merciful bout of drunken amnesia; no, I remember every sordid moment. From the shot glasses that looked too small to be of any consequence to the choosing of my poison (Corona... I can’t even look at a bottle without gagging); from the 67th shot where I said “I think I’m done” to the 98th coming back up to join the 99th. Yeah, it was pretty dirty. But I manned up and did my one hundred shots.

I’m happy to say that this Century Club is not nearly as painful... well, perhaps it is for you who must read it, but not for I who gets to write it.

It seems fitting that I leave for a sabbatical after hitting this milestone. I’ve copied out our rough itinerary below, so you’ll sort of know where I am at any given moment. I’m just not brave enough to build in “free time” so, yes, every leg is meticulously planned.

I’ll see everyone in 23 days – be good!

Apr 26-27: Toronto-Winnipeg
Apr 27-May 1: Winnipeg-Churchill-Winnipeg
May 2-3: Winnipeg-Saskatoon
May 3: Saskatoon-Moosejaw-Regina-Qu’apelle
May 4: Regina-Saskatoon
May 5: Saskatoon-Edmonton-Calgary
May 6-7: Drumheller/Alberta Badlands & Banff/Lake Louise
May 8-10: Calgary-Jasper-Vancouver-Victoria-Nanaimo-Port Hardy
May 12-13: Prince Rupert-Queen Charlotte Islands-Prince Rupert
May 14-15: Prince Rupert-Prince George-Jasper
May 16: Jasper
May 17-18: Jasper-Vancouver-Whistler
May 19: Whistler-Vancouver-Toronto

PS: While I’m gone, Kaylee will be blogging in my stead, just to give you something to look at. Welcome her with half the warmth you’ve shown me and I’m sure she’ll not want to give it up.

Friday, April 25, 2008

99 blogs, and I bitch in all

Somehow seems appropriate that on the eve of the Great Canadian Adventure, I also cusp upon the Great 100th blog. I wish I had something monumental to share or even or a nice little ramble, but alas... I do not.

Last night, I went to an open house for a financial services company. The regional vice president has been our family's money guy for a long time and he's been semi-recruiting me to join the company. I don't want to overstate this: I have no financial background (I just like playing with money) and have never worked in the banking industry. But he says he sees a "natural acumen" that he wouldn't mind developing on the company's dime - he has offered to pay for my accreditation if I consider working for him. Must say: mighty tempting. I've been wanting to go back to school for something - anything - and this seems to be a good way to do it without shelling out for it. Not being a very big risk-taker, I know I didn't want to quit my job and do that full-time. Then he says, okay... work part-time. Part-time? Really? And I get free school? And he says "why not? you'll be making so much more money doing this, you'll quit your other job on your own."
I suppose I shall have to look into that when I get back. Good thing he doesn't know about how I paid the wrong VISA last week - not much financial acumen showing there.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

what the...

Five days after the best cake, I get a text message: "am sick. have fun on your trip." umm, thanks? I don't even know whether I should be responding to that. My first instinct is, of course, to do what I do best: offer chicken soup. But, are we friends now? Can I do that? And, really - I don't want to be exposed to any sicknesses less than 48 hours before departure time. I think I may text him back with "hope you feel better" on Friday night before I shut my phone off.

In other news: I will be working Canada Day this year, yet again. The job description will actually ask for "happy peppy people" (or, "pro-active customer service" in HR-speak), so you know I'll be faking that after five hours. At least there will be ice cream and fireworks afterwards. Who's in?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

a robot scorned

So, last night I couldn't sleep. It was 1am and I was making phone calls to various car rental companies (cancelling, booking, amending, you name it). After that, I went downstairs to annoy my brother for a bit - my, how the tables have turned. He was playing some song by a pixie-voiced chick called GLaDOS singing "Still Alive". Unfortunately, the plastic strumming drowned out the lyrics, so I showed mercy and left him alone to go up and youtube the song.

Little did I know it was a pixie-voiced robot chick. And boy, was she mad. Love the cold sarcasm that drips precisely from her voice. Love the tiny vicious snipes (while you're dying I'll be still alive / and when you're dead I will be still alive). Love love love the lyrics. Then I re-listened and thought: boy, is she sad. I'm happy to know that my 2am delusions aren't completely baseless. Makes me wish I'd played the game; though, I will admit, watching a friend play it that one time almost made me seasick. He's not one to "teach" people how to play - more of a "look what I can and you can't do" type.

Also: made me want to eat cake. So I did.

Monday, April 21, 2008

my cup runneth over

Doesn't it figure that the week before I leave for (arguably) the most intense vacation ever, is also the most swamp-worthy at work? Good Lord. Committees that have lain dormant lo these many months have suddenly decided that now - this very instant - is when we should draft proposals and have endless meetings. So not only do I have my normal workload (which isn't that bad), but I'm trying to get things done in advance for three weeks, stay involved in my committees and not work too many extra hours in the process.

Meanwhile, life doesn't pause: I still need to take care of last-minute trip details (QC Island tours, cars from Calgary to Jasper, stuffing 23 days of clothes into one backpack), condo obligations (granite anyone? anyone?), bridesmaid dress fittings for not one but TWO weddings, farewell parties, welcome-back parties... I need to pull a Monkey King and clone myself.

What a stupid idea to vacation less than three months before I move. A horribly stupid idea. I can't wait to be on the train this Saturday. Just so I can sleep.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Now Playing: The Forbidden Kingdom

What can I say? Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Collin Chou in one movie - there was no way I was going to miss this. I was a little worried - Jackie Chan was getting old (as is Jet Li) and I was hoping it wouldn't be disappointing to watch them go at it... so happy to say it wasn't. There were a tonne of fight scenes and none fo disappointed. In fact, the opening major fight between the Monkey King (Li) and the Jade Warlord (Chou) was so much fun to watch, I almost forgot they were fighting. What I really enjoyed though, was the character of the White Witch (Li Bingbing, playing Ni Chang, though I don't remember her being called that) - her little throwdown with Sparrow at the end was beautiful to watch. She's just so menacing in walk-soft-and-carry-a-heavy-stick kind of way - I want to be her for Halloween. The fact that she's hot and has razor-sharp silver hair didn't hurt.

The script was actually quite funny, with plenty of great one-liners from Chan (though, it's Li's physical comedy that gets the biggest laugh). Even horribly cheesy moments are nicely deflected with a little fourth-wall humour. There is, however, nothing to be done about the corn-fu: the wire-work seemed a bit obvious (more Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - less Matrix in terms of realism); death scenes abound; any villain wearing eyeshadow that isn't Malcolm McDowell loses his scary factor.

Check it out - 3.5 stars out of 5.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Puerto Rican Princess and the Fresh Prince

Wasn't today one of the most gorgeous days ever? For those of us in the GTA, it was the kind of day you wanted to call in sick, sit in a shaded park and read a juicy book . And I would have too, but I had three compelling reasons to actually get myself to work.

1) Today, I completed my third year of being a Librarian. I started in Children's and am now in Sciences - talk about opposite ends of the spectrum. Anyway, I had my appraisal today. Quite frankly, I was a little scared. I haven't been performing nearly as well in Sciences as I should be, but I can't seem to muster up any enthusiasm for the department. Thankfully, my super-involvement in Central projects in general saved me. The highlight? Right there, in black and white, an "exceeds expectations" in publicity and outreach initiatives with a note complimenting my creative and artistic skills - colour me floored. Did I mention I almost failed Grade 7 art?

2) The Boyz n' the 40K. I work every other Friday night (so I never have to work a Monday morning) and usually this leads to me being uber-grumpy. Lately, however, I have discovered a group of guys who play Warhammer 40,000 on Friday nights. They like to play here because we have nice big tables and non-judgmental atmosphere. Also: the only other people who actually stay in the library on a Friday night are the employees and the couples who want to use the study rooms for their practical anatomy labs. Anyway, these guys are great. They make me feel young again and their geekery is so gosh-darned cute. Some sample conversations:

Upon seeing their Warhammer storage cases.
Me: wow - that's awesome. I wish I had a jewellery box like that
John to Mike*: dude, she just compared your arsenal to a jewellery box!
Me: oh, sorry! I mean, I like it! It's like my makeup container at home, so organised--
Boyz: *groan*

Upon inspecting their figurines.
Dave*: ...and that's how you set up.
Me: I see. But I don't understand how these "Orks" have lazer guns - what kind of medieval weaponry is that?
Dave: they're in space; it's not traditional Warhammer.
Me: Orks in space? Didn't the Muppets have a skit called Pork in Space?
Justin*: That was Pigs in Space
Me: Pigs, pork, same thing.
Dave: Orks are not pigs or pork.
Me: Yeah, well, the point is none of them belong in space.'d think they hate me by now. Instead, they offered to play any board game I liked next time we saw each other and we settled on my favourite: Puerto Rico. Let's just say, two rounds of colonists and corn/indigo crops later, the Boyz have dubbed me the Puerto Rican Princess. Next time: Settlers of Catan. Poor saps, they have no idea I'm the Grand Dame of Catan.

* = I have no idea if these are actual names, but they all have generic Canadian names like Mike, Dave, Justin, Jason, John, etc. and I can't keep them straight.

3) WillSmith. He'd offered to pick me up after work, but I said I'd get there on my own. He'd already given me secret directions to the "best cake house in Mississauga" - I didn't have the heart to tell him I'd already been there. It was really cute how he went from scanning the road intently to casually leaning against a wall when he saw me pull into a parking spot. No, he wasn't nervous at all. I know I was and I wasn't even hiding it. I'd already prepared my "It's getting late; I have to go" line. The worst part is when I'm nervous, I talk. A lot. About absolute garbage. To distract myself, I started making a pros and cons list in my head:

Pros: cute; sweet; trying really hard; TALL (love that); not old enough to be my father; makes bad jokes; laughs at my bad jokes; seems to know a lot about random things; kissed my cheek good night without hesitation.
Cons: wears hat to one side, even when we're sitting in a restaurant; young, barely past the half-plus-seven rule; doesn't "get" fiction; has a name I cannot say without thinking of someone else; can't seem to talk about anything for more than four sentences without becoming quiet.

...He has my number: he'll probably call; I'll probably answer. The slippery slope begins. How do I tell a perfectly nice guy with perfectly good potential that I'm just not feelin' it? Am I hopeless? Am I waiting for something that doesn't exist or can never have? Am I sentencing myself to perpetual singlehood? Should I just go with this because it's easy and unoffensive and hope that something grows out of it? I don't know; I wish I was better at this.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

dates in the dark

WillSmith kept me company at Million Dollar Baby last night. No, not the Will Smith. For those in the know, this is the same guy who tried so valiantly to get me to accompany him to coffee a couple of months back, the one who looks like the Fresh Prince, complete with hat to the side. Let me back up here.

Last week, I was hosting Superman Returns. The auditorium where I'm screening these movies is really really dark, so I had no idea next to whom I was sitting until after the movie was over. I couldn't help but let out a little *snork* when Lex Luthor threw his crystal-encased-in-kryptonite into the ocean and out popped an island. The guy sitting beside me leans over and says "I'm sorry, I think you may be doubting the scientific validity in Lex Luthor's method." I reply, "no, I'm doubting his real estate acumen." I guess you had to be there. Anyway - the movie blew the first time around but at least I was being entertained this time by snarky commentary. When I turned on the lights, lo and behold what do I see? WillSmith staring back at me. We exchanged the usual "hey, don't I know you?" lines before I went to pack up the equipment. This took me forever, because we had gotten a new set-up last week and I wasn't used to packing up the new gear. When I exited the theatre, the lobby was empty, except for the Portuguese cleaning lady; however, she kindly infomed me that my "friend" was "waiting" for a "while" but he left already. Teehee!

Fast forward to yesterday and we watched MDB together. A definite lack of snarkage, as this was actually a decent film - though he did make a few Dirty Harry jokes, which went over my head. Afterward, he hung out in the front row while I packed up the equipment again. When he saw me put everything away in under two minutes he says (almost) seriously, "Wow, you must have been avoiding me if you're such a pro with this stuff." My "new gear"explanation sounded lame to even my ears, despite its veracity.
"Listen," he says, "make it up to me with cake."
"You do like cake, don't you?"
"Who doesn't like cake?"
"Marie Antoinette fans?"
I had no witty comeback for a French history joke, albeit a faulty one.

I think we're having cake. I think this would be a date. I'm a little freaked out - I haven't dated in an aeon. And this time, there will be no 15 foot Clint Eastwoods or Kevin Spaceys to distract me. I'm hoping cake is neutral territory, so if it's going horribly, I can just bail with my "early work" excuse, which is brilliant because it's true. Did I mention he wears his hat to the side? And I think he may be younger than me? Oh, why couldn't we just continue having our dates in the dark?

Monday, April 14, 2008

only 74 hours of work stands in my way

Tomorrow begins another 11-day work week and then we leave on our trip. While we've accomplished the bulk of the planning, we still don't have a place to stay in either Saskatoon (always a contender for the murder capital of Canada - yay!) or Prince George, and we're hoping that Skidegate (or QCC) will prove friendly enough to do things on the fly (because we haven't rented a car or anything for the day and half we're there. We've now begun to pack: so far, I'm bringing the shampoo and body wash, Nish is bringing toothpaste and bug spray. eww - bug spray. I've gotten my makeup down to three eyeliners (this far, but no further! I will NOT go down to two) and a chapstick. I'm trying to only take a backpack and a shoulderbag, because I want my hands free. This means rationing out things like "jeans" and "socks" - thank GOD for Saskatoon Stu and his condo complete with shower and laundry! I'm so not ready - but I will be by this time next week. I promise.

To give you an idea of the scope of the trip:
...all in 23 days. God, we're insane.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

dusting off the skeletons

I guess everyone thinks their family is weird. I mean, whose family life actually reflect the Beavers or the Waltons... or even the Bundys, Simpsons or Griffins? We never seem to find a suitable model for our families in mainstream media, so we all think our families are strange. The older I get, the more I realise that my immediate family is very normal. Two working parents, one sibling and no pets. Nothing very strange or exciting about these guys. But my extended family... hoo boy, they're a whole different story.

I think I could, if I had the talent and the patience, write a Roots-like saga of my family's history. Chequered as it is with pirates, slaves, priests, "ladies", thieves, heroes (decorated and undecorated alike)... well, you can see I have the fodder. There are tales we have: continent-crossing camel caravans, sea voyages around the Horn, indentured servants marrying their keepers, husbands with two even three wives... my family is the anomaly in being so normal in this tapestry of strange events and interesting people.

So, it comes as somewhat of a shock when we get an email from my mother's cousin in England saying that he has tracked down my mother's oldest brother's family in Israel and would we like to contact them and could they contact us. Not only is it amazing to find a whole family in a country I never thought I'd see but now just might visit - I didn't even know my mother HAD older brothers. She has two, in fact, from my grandfather's first marriage (first marriage?) - or, I should say had, as neither are still living. My cousin (half-cousin?) sent us pictures and I was just floored to see what looked like my brother in girl-form staring back at me, waving across continents, across oceans and deserts. For the first time, I feel what all those explorers and adventurers hidden in my family tree must have felt: itchy feet. Israel calls and I'm desperate to answer.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Now Playing: Street Kings

Full Disclosure: I have an irrational, baseless love for a certain Keanu Reeves. I don't care how bad of an actor he is, his moments are rare but woah-nderful. What this means is that I will watch every movie that he makes, regardless of reviews or premises. Let's face it, he's not ever going to be an academy-award winner, but he entertains (intentionally or not) and isn't that what going to the movies is all about?

Now, for Street Kings.

I read a review and prepared myself for the worst; thankfully, I'm not alone in thinking this wasn't a total was of time. With a plot that is obvious from the get-go, SK needed to have an actor in the lead who could convince you that, yes, there are people dim enough to not see the conclusion a mile away. Not just any conclusion: a standing-on-train-tracks, hearing-a-train-whistle, seeing-a-bright-light-coming-towards-you kind of conclusion. And still... still he manages to look hurt and confounded when he gets hit by that goddamned train.

Do NOT watch this movie for its plot, script or Keanu. Instead, watch it for some of the best kickassery moments of action, Hugh Laurie's smarmy best, Forest Whitaker's take on a B-movie bad-guy and one of the funnest chase scenes ever. Also, the lines:
- leaning over the bullet-riddled body of his ex-partner, kneeling in a small pond of blood, Ludlow says "stay with me!" - audience cracks up.
- Disco asks Ludlow: "so, we're just going to go in there and kill him?"; Ludlow replies, "No, I'm going to ask him some questions (long pause) then we're going to kill him."
- Wander: "you went toe to toe with evil and you won!"
- quite possibly in the most racist-yet-ironic sentences I've ever heard on screen (and right before Ludlow gets the piss beaten out of him): "It means you got eyes like apostrophes, dress white, talk black and drive Jew. So how am I supposed to know what kind of zipperhead-dog-munching dinks you are if you don’t." ...anyone else find it interesting that this is coming out of the mouth of a someone with a Hawaiian-English-Chinese background?
- finally, Wander: "You want to talk? Let's talk about my foot up your ass."

and let's face it: I watched it for the Keanu. 3 out of 5 stars.

sleep writing

Some history: I have always been susceptible to what doctors call "night terrors" - this is different from a common nightmare in the sense that, unless treated, NT can actually lead to destructive behaviour and physical harm. It also leads to things like sleepwalking and amnesia. I have been dealing with them for a while and have basically gotten them under control. I usually only have them now when I'm having moments of high anxiety (university was particularly spotty). As a child, I had them all the time, but could never recall actually having them; being a sickly child with heart issues, my parents were understandably worried. One of the ways to deal with NT is to keep a journal near the bed so you write down as much as you can remember (first, one has to train oneself to actually remember the dream, something most people can't do) and then deal with it in the harsh clarity of day. Often, nightmares are precursors to NTs and so if you can figure out the trigger, you can usually avoid the entire episode. Though I have been having far fewer NTs in the past few years, they have been resurfacing of late. In the past few weeks, I've filled my pad with unintelligible scribbles that (except for a few words here and there) I can't decipher. I've decided to turn these lemons in lemonade and post the translatable ones here. Here's what came out last night:
4:53 am There are trees, I think, or at least branches, I don't know, something sharp and snappy is hitting my face and scratching my arms as I run blindly through the ... forest? bush? jungle? I don't know. Lions, though - for sure there are lions - in a forest? that doesn't seem right - but I can hear them growling and I can hear my sharp intakes of breath - seems so loud in the forest - definitely a forest - and I'm running hard now, jumping over roots, ducking under branches and I can hear the soft but determined padding of paws steadily trotting behind me. I don't look back - I'm scared to look back - I know he's there - he? - so why bother to even confirm it when I should spend all my energy trying to get out of here - is there a way out? I can't see it or feel it. I think it's there, but I don't know if it's there and am I running toward the exit or just deeper into the forest. I don't know - I'm still running hard, but I can feel him closer behind me now, brushes of fur against my legs, distinct against the trees, hot gusts of breath against my clammy neck - run or stay - run or stay - run to fight another day - stay and make it go away, run or stay - I trip, head first on a stump and then - I'm awake.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

when life hands you lemons, just remember...

worry not
this, too, shall pass
nothing is static or fixed
all is fleeting

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

i choo-choo-choose you

The Great Canadian Adventure approacheth and I'm finally starting to get more excited and less nervous. Despite having to negotiate mandatory appointments with the granite/marble/flooring people (who all have that tone in their voice that says I'm obviously insane for going on a three-week trip less than three months before I move in), not having booked all our car rentals, missing Jadek's birthday (for the first time since we've met) and staying in hostel situations - I'm excited! Still nervous, but excited!

The lists have begun: things to buy, things to pack, things to print... I really wish I could bring my laptop with me on this trip. I've found out that VIA offers WiFi on all their trains for only $30 for 30 days and that each seat has an outlet to plug into - but my Timmy weighs a solid 8 pounds and I can't imagine lugging him with me (not mention having panic attacks regarding security in hostels, etc). I will be actually physically writing in a journal on the trip - and will have to transcribe it all when I get home (or, if I get access to the internet, transcribe there).

One of the major rules of blogging is to write. Always. So as to not lose your audience. And here I am, leaving for three weeks, with no updates! I'm sure to lose my audience - all two of you! - in the meantime. What can I do? I'm considering a guest blogger - "think of it as an opportunity to talk about me behind my back on my very own site!" I said - but I don't think that's going to happen. I will simply have to ask you that of which I myself am not capable - patience.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Man and Boy: a novel by Tony Parsons

Full Disclosure: I picked up this book because I had finished my last one on my break and I had an entire lunch hour in front of me with nothing to read. Unfortunately, the most prominent display in Reader's Den was "Chick Lit" - ugh! - so I was forced to peruse the smaller display "(not) Just For Guys" with its usual fare of James Patterson and Tom Clancy and all those other testosterone-fulled texts. Hidden amongst them, stood Tony Parsons's unobtrusive Man and Boy. Just looking at the cover, I knew it wasn't your typical Guy Lit. Without so much as reading the back, I checked it out.

Perhaps it is because of my non-expectations, but I found I couldn't really get excited about this book. There are some great points to appreciate: Cyd's cynicism, little Pat's Star Wars/Gangsta Rap obsession, Harry's Dad (whose name is mentioned but once and I can't remember it right now), and a couple of nuggets of wisdom buriedwithin. Other that that, it just seems like a story I've read before - possibly watched before - with a lot of the tired clich├ęs that seem to pervade stories such as these (heroic new dad, vindictive ex-wife, doting grandparents, wary new girlfriend, etc.). Coupled with all that, the trite ending seems so out of place with the rest of the book, that I couldn't help but feel disappointed. Is this how guys really think? How they feel? If so, it's no wonder that the divorce rate is so high - it's not that they speak another language, but Tony Parsons would have us believe that modern men don't want to fight for anything - their wives, their kids, their jobs. My favourite character, funnily enough is Harry's Dad, a decorated WWII vet whose kindness and capability is what I kept hoping Harry would develop, but never does. I should have nothing in common with this man - he's a throwback who believes single parents are all welfare leeches and is as affectionate as a porcupine; but he finds a way to express his love without sacrificing his strength - something Harry never seems to learn how to do. All in all: a quotable disappointment.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Mahler's Symphony No. 5

When I was four years old, I almost drowned. True story. I grew up in a little country off the Bay of Bengal. Every summer, we used to take weekend trips to the (in)famous Cox's Bazaar where the water was clear, the beaches were endless and the crustaceans left us plenty of souvenirs. It was just after monsoon season and we were basking in the sun which had reappeared after a three-week hiatus. My extended family (must have been at least forty of us) had commandeered an entire train (complete with engineers, cooks and ayahs) for the four-day adventure. When we got there, my cousin immediately scoped out the area and found an excellent sand bank a few hundred metres away, just past a hip-deep dip in the water. Of course, we all went out there. I remember it clearly: the sand was perfect for castle building; though the water kept eating up any of our progress, we just took it as a challenge to build faster. When that grew boring, I set about doing what I looked forward to doing every beach trip: collecting. This little bank was teeming with old conchs, tiny snails, sea shells, starfish and urchins. I filled my gunny sack to the brim.

Shortly after yet another cousin's castle tumbled into the water, a slight panic set in. The tide had risen around us without anyone really noticing, the sky getting darker and meaner. The hip-deep dip was now well over the head of my tallest uncle. The catch? Only two people in our entire party knew how to swim. Some background: the Bay of Bengal is known for its sudden storms and ferocious riptides. Hurricanes and tidal waves are a way of life for the coastal villagers that dot its shores. Its current easily swept away any but the strongest swimmers - and we had but two. My dad, thankfully, was (and is) a very capable swimmer. He made the decision to get the kids across first, then the adults. Being his only kid, I was the first to get hoisted to his shoulders, instructed to hold on - tightly now - to his still-long hair and told to not be scared. I wasn't scared. My papa was my hero.

I was wearing one of those bathing suits with a frivolous tutu around the waist. Wading through the water, I had thought it made me look like an underwater princess in a ballgown. Sitting on my dad's shoulders, with the waterline dancing about my knees, it suddenly looked much more like trailing seaweed. The silvery water, which had mere hours ago seemed like so much fun, was now dark and swirling, its clarity muddied by the sand my dad was kicking up in his wake. When we were about halfway, I felt my dad lose his footing - the dip was simply too deep for him to walk across. He told me we were going to play dolphin and that he would swim and I would ride him and wouldn't that be fun? and don't let go. I clutched his hair like a pair of reins. My dad began swimming.

There is no question that a riptide was in effect. I could feel it sucking at my legs and skirt, trying to separate me from my dolphin. I could see my dad swimming straight but moving diagonally. I could hear him using words he never used around me. Hold on, he kept saying, one arm grabbing at my leg, the other trying to pull us to shore. I was terrified of losing my grip but I was fascinated by this strange intense pull of water. It's a sensation I have striven to recapture ever since (the closest I've come is filling the bathtub with water and putting my fingers in the drain as it emptied - just enough to feel the pressure without blocking it entirely). I was giddy with excitement, fear and nerves - I think I may have been slipping into hysteria. It seemed like hours before my dad put his foot firmly on sand again - in reality, it was less than a minute. Within a few more minutes, my dad and my uncle had escorted everyone across and we went back to picnicking: we ate bhaji, biryani and chicken tandoori until we burst; I boiled my captured snails (gunny sack brought over courtesy of my cousin) in an empty cooking dish and later, we strung necklace after necklace as the sun set.

It was a day of great anticipation, of castles and hunting, of raucous screams. It was a night of campfire songs and full bellies, of stringing seashells by the seashore, of falling asleep safe in my mom's lap. But in between... in between was a murky, glittering interlude full of gravity and dark excitement, paralyzing fear and unexplainable yearning. In between was the tide which had threatened to sweep away all the happiness of the sand bank and the promise of the beach. In between I felt my father's strength and my mother's trepidation as though they were solid objects that willed me to keep a death grip on my dad's hair instead of giving into the temptation of drowning myself in the alluring world just beneath the surface. Just beneath.

Tonight, watching Benjamin Zander conduct the Toronto Symphony Orchestra through Mahler's heavily layered Symphony No. 5, it was as if I was reliving that day all over again. What a gift.

Friday, April 04, 2008

I'm so not ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille

A picture surfaced of the book launch and I'm happy to report that I am only viewable from the back! This innocent comment had Madox asking why? (Actually, his precise words were "what are you, native?" - that made me giggle.) Alas, I have no religious or cultural reason for hating to have my picture taken. I am simply the most unphotogenic creature to ever exist. Seriously. Ever. More so than a diseased Tasmanian Devil (okay, maybe not, but you get the idea). I looked great in pictures when I was a kid - but I think that's just some biological imperative at work and nothing to do with me. As soon as I became awkward with glasses and (really really) bad teeth and chipmunk cheeks, I gave up on my modelling aspirations.

No matter who takes the picture, I always seem... wrong. You know, eyes too squinty, grin too wide, cheeks far too chipmunky. I'm all out of proportion and pictures seem to emphasise these flaws. I'm hoping that it's the pictures anyway, because if that's what I look like in real life... *shudders* I think the last set of pictures I took that I was actually happy with was from my eighteenth birthday and that's only because we re-shot every picture until I didn't look like a complete mess. Candid shots? Speak not of such evil.

I know this sounds really pathetic and low self-esteem and yadda yadda - but it really isn't. I don't particularly miss being the pretty girl - it always seemed to garner the wrong kind of attention anyway. There's nothing at all creepy about some old man telling you what a smart girl you are, what a clever girl you are, what a talented girl you are. I prefer my compliments to be about what I can do, not what I look like. And I most certainly prefer being behind a camera than in front of it. So if I am going to be in a picture? I'm more than happy to be shot from the back.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Pete Faulkner, Casa Loma and that second glass of wine

Yesterday, in support of Senator, I attended the Kickstart Book Launch (published by Dundurn) at Casa Loma. The thing started at 7pm and I was there an hour early (I always seem to overestimate how long it will take me to get downtown after work). As I walk in, a tall (very young) gentleman asks if he can help me and I reply that I'm there for the event and that yes, I know I'm very early. He says that's okay, it's good to be "fashionably early" - I think "what charming people work at Casa Loma". I decided to walk around and case the joint - unfortunately most of the rooms were closed. I did, however, get a chance to check the conservatory and the library (no Colonel Mustard in sight!). Biggest disappointment? The Casa Loma Library is full of fake books! Heart. Breaking. Anyway, I took a few pictures (more on those later) and settled into the conservatory (technical term: Cold Marble Room) to read a few chapters of my book.

Little did I know, a few mere metres away, AnCe sat reading in her car in the parking lot. Can you tell we're Book Clubbers or what? Both Nish and AnCe finally wandered in and we claimed a table (right by the entrance where the servers entered, hoping to be the first pit stop for any food-bearing trays - we were rebuffed more often than not). Caught our first glimpse of Senator making her rounds, "working" the room - we were very proud. I had just downed my first glass of red wine when AnCe and I attempted to be very chi-chi-fon-fon by having a literary discussion. It went something like this (complete with snooty accents):
AnCe: is this your first launch?
Me: oh, no! I'm a veteran of the publishing circles.
A: ah! have you read the latest by, er, Faulkner?
M: William Faulkner? I'm afraid he's dead, my dear.
A: Oh! uh, no, I meant Pete.
M: Pete Faulkner?
A: oh yes, he's amazing! I thought you said you were a veteran of these things?
... did I mention we were wearing almost matching purple silk tops? Oh yeah - classy.

Halfway through my second glass, Senator finally made her way over, dropped her purse off and promised us food before winging away again. Full disclosure: I was already buzzing. Wine is my weakness, my kryptonite, my Achilles heel! In my defense, they were not serving anything else. I took this moment to check my pictures and see if I could get a few more in - but I couldn't focus on them and I thought "whoa, I'm really toasted". DrunkDizzie = FunDizzie apparently.

Senator also brought over NorthOf60, her love interest of late. But none of us knew this - and this is important to the rest of this story. Let's be frank here: NO60 is one hell of a package. He's cute, funny, social and very likeable. When he got up to look for another chair, we all debated whether he was her brother or friend, whether he was single or married. That's right - three single girls and six glasses of wine make for an interesting conversation. When Madox finally joined us, even he wondered if NO60 could be gay.

All of this is moot, however, since we soon found out that this was indeed the NO60 of our recent discussions - the same one who would act like he wanted to be dating (8-hour dates, late night phone calls, etc.) but say that he didn't. While some would argue that actions speak louder than words, I would beg to differ. People will treat you how you allow yourself to be treated. If Senator kept giving up the milk* for free, no way was NO60 going buy the cow - why should he? Would you? Cows are a lot of work. So, if he's outright told you he's not wanting a relationship, then you need to respect that and not think "I can change his mind" - that's just a setup for disappointment. We pretty much depressed the hell out of her, but I think she kind of needed the reality check.

As an aside, I've got to say I really am the worst poker player on the planet. The minute I found out who NO60 was, I was... bitchier. He didn't win a single verbal spar and, drunk or not, I couldn't get myself to be nice to him any more. I'm happy to say I wasn't alone, that everyone was the same way. But I know I was trying not to show my contempt and I still couldn't help it. I guess that's the downside of being honest - being completely readable at all times.

BTW: those blurry pictures? Not due to drunkenness - when I came home and uploaded them I realised the lens was smudged. Maybe all I needed was the excuse of wine in order to do crazy things like raid the Casa Loma kitchens.

BTW II: that young charming guy who said I was fashionably early? Paul Matthews, one of the authors for the book we were launching.

BTW III: met Valerie Pringle and her lovely daughter.

*Edit: I in no way meant to imply that "milk" is anything more than the pleasure of one's company.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

night time scribblings

so, he says to me "even if I said I was sorry, would you forgive me?" and I say, "you should say you're sorry and see what happens" and he paces around the room, looking at everything but me, his face pretty much a blank and I think "I'll never know what he's thinking" and I say "tell me what you're thinking" and he says "it's so pointless, this back and forth" and I say "yeah, it is, so stop going back and forth; decide if you want to be here or not" and he says "I do want to be here but I don't want you to be there" and I try not to feel hurt when he says that because at least it's honest, at least he's talking, at least something is being said instead of terrible, unfathomable spans of silence and I say "well, you can't control where I am" and suddenly I realise that neither can I and that even were I to try I couldn't possibly answer why I'm sitting here instead of standing anywhere else and I can see he doesn't like that answer, that he wanted me to say something else so I ask "what do you want me to say?" and he replies "what do you want me to say?" and there we are - at an impasse of our own making - one struggling to keep her emotions in check and the other not struggling at all. Not at all.