Never say never
Family rifts lately (my own and friends’) have shown me lately that as one gets older, ‘never’ seems to be acceptable. Ex-communicating daughters, never talking to them again. Things will ‘never’ be OK between your father and I, he’ll ‘never’ say sorry. Why would anybody say those things? What gives you the authority or the license to tell someone for the rest of your life, until your dying day, you will never do something? It’s like marking Xs on every day of your life calendar, signifying each day you will not do. Is it stubbornness? If so, I pity you. Because who wants to live a life that limits the capacity for forgiveness, growth and happiness because you are too stubborn to be the bigger man, take responsibility for your own actions and GET ON with life? It’s like you put a marker in your life’s timeline at the moment you promised never and sentence yourself to a lifetime of consistency. And who wants to live consistently- consistently ignoring daughter, or living in awkward misery with your child’s father.
“Well, I will never fix things, because I know I’m right.” Well you know what? You can go ahead and be right till your dying day, and I’m going to go and make amends if that’s what it takes to move on. Do you really think we’re all put here on earth, given a family of people who you’ll have to be with at holidays weddings and funerals, and then allowed to just ignore some of them? No, it doesn’t work that way. If you want to make yourself a better person, and I know I do, then take some courage drops, grow a heart and take the responsibility of fixing things. If the other person is still too stubborn and selfish to play along, then you can at least know that you did your best. You can go to sleep without burdening yourself with grudges and bitterness. Then you’ve put your good intentions out into the universe and where they go from there is out of your control.
I refuse to believe that just because you’re getting older, you can just choose to live the rest of your life that way. Never say never. What’s the point in that, really? Pride only belongs paired to dignity. You can still retain pride and dignity by growing up, saying sorry, or making the first effort to reconnect with people you’ve excommunicated. In fact, I think that may be one of the best ways to retain your pride.
Don’t say never, people. That’s an awfully big word with lifelong conviction. And how can you ever guarantee that for the rest of your life, you will never, ever do something. Well, only by being stubborn, that’s how.
As we go on, we remember...
Yesterday morning, I attended my little sister's graduation. She's 12, so this was her graduation from elementary school, as she begins high school in the fall. It was a cute ceremony, where all 81 graduates crossed the stage and received diplomas. I felt like such a proud older sister taking pictures of her as she entered the room with her graduating class and posed with her principal, diploma in hand. Her departure from our elementary school also marks the first time since the school opened that a child from my family hasn't attended it. I began kindergarten the year it opened, my brother carried on after me three years later, and then my sister began kindergarten as I began grade eight. That school is a 2 blocks away from the house we all grew up in. We took the bus there regardless until we were in grade 4, due to a nervous mother. The playground has a big crater storm drain beside it, so many a recesses were spent rolling and running down it in spring and fall, and sliding down it in winter. Someone always got hurt sliding on the hill, but that was really part of the fun. I'll miss having a younger sibling to visit there, because it gave me a excuse to call up my own memories of the gym, the wash room breaks with friends, and the hall passes.
Yesterday was beautiful closure to that chapter in my family's life, and my sister has done us all proud. Today, my little brother graduates from high school. He has even been voted the valedictorian, so I have been helping him write a speech that I am confidant will bring peope to tears and make them cry laugh as well. I look forward to going into that gymnasium and entranceway for the ceremony, because I haven't been in there since my own graduation. My last memories of that place are taking a final walk around with my best friends, talking about what we really would and really wouldn't miss about that place. Today my high school friends and experiences carry with me. At downtown watering holes, there are even still places that seem to be reserved for me high school's alumnus.(It's fun to visit sometimes, but others it's like, hey snotty bitches, didn't we all move on from high school?) I'll let you know how today goes.
If I had to re-do any of my schooling experience, I wouldn't. I had major eff-ups, and definitely have been in positions I' not proud of, but it's those same situations that give me some decision-making light today. I also had some killer fun experiences, haven't we all? I enjoy reflecting on those years.
My morning with Mima
This morning at about quarter after eight, I put my iPod earphones in my ears, slung my big, red purse over my burnt shoulders and grabbed my keys. I turned the lock in, walked down the stairs and into the big, bright world on this Monday morning.
I didn’t fret at leaving my sunglasses in my backpack, because the sun was still in its early, breaking phases—not too bright to make navigation by foot difficult.
I listened to Armchair Cynic’s “Coalmine,” crossed the random cobblestone road by my building and began my trek to work. Until…
“Excuse me,” she mouthed, or maybe she said, but I couldn’t hear her with my music playing. I paused it, removed my left earphone. Initially frightened she was a drug addict still awake from a drug-induced high that continued from last night. But she looked normal enough, no sunken eyes, no twitchy movements.
“How do I get to bus station,” she said in an accent I could tell was foreign, but I could not tell from where.
“You need to take the 4,” I answered. She looked up to the bus stop in front of us that had the numbers 1 and 3 on it. She looked back at me with eyes that asked “And where do I get that?” in a way more effective than her broken English could have expressed. I figured she was a tourist with little knowledge of our city’s transit. I leveled with her, relating that same lost feeling I know I have experienced in foreign cities. Sometimes, the only thing to do is ask someone, and even then, risk potential snubs, scoffs or being ignored. I felt bad that this could possibly happen, and then glad she had approached me. I’d take care of her, I’d answer her question.
“You need to pick that up on Rideau Street. She squinted a little as if to ask, “And Rideau Street is where exactly?”
“Here, come with me, I’m walking that way.” She smiled the most gracious smile I have seen, and began walking with me. I found out she was from Switzerland and was staying at a youth hostel I didn’t even know existed, just blocks from my house. I also remembered what my aunt told me in Greece. She taught village children how to speak English, so she let me talk to them for practice. Afterwards, she told me I spoke very fast, and with a strong “Canadian” accent. Keeping this in mind, I slowed down my speech to Mima, my new Swiss friend.
We talked about where she was visiting, what the city was like as compared to “back home.” When we got to the 4, she oriented herself and looked up to confirm that the bus sign listed the 4. I turned to tell her “have a good day” and she smiled again, “Sank you, yes.” With a big smile.
She was so trusting and appreciative and kind. It was one of my top ten favourite ways to start a day that in all likelihood was geared to be just like other workdays. It was a nice universe surprise this morning. Thanks!
And I say hey, a beautiful day
Today, I thought it was time to reflect on what I'm thankful for. Being a type-A personality, I have made a list.
Today, I am thankful that...
1. I woke up before the alarm, because it ended up being ridiculously loud and I probably would have had thumping heart palpitations from it.
2.I had pizza for breakfast-- a nice treat from the boyfriend's mum, instead of cereal.
3. The morning back at work helped calm all my anxieties from the night before. "Did I remember to follow up on that call?" "Did I call him back for the correct spelling?"
4. I got to have a delicious lunch with my dad, and laugh about farts, because he's not mad about the crash anymore.
5. I got to have a heart-to-heart with a new member to the family (cousin's wife) about what it is to be part of this crazy mess. Relating was a nice release.
6. The sun was shining and the market was full of people and I walked through it listening to my iPod like the movie of my life was playing out in front of me, with Death Cab for Cutie as my soundtrack. I smiled and made sure I had good posture.
7. My shin splints didn't bother me on my run.
8. I got to share a lovely dinner cooked by roomate with my best friend too. I love having a night off from food preparation!
9. My boyfriend laughed at me on the phone for being "too lovey." And I laughed more wondering, is there such a thing?
10. No matter how hot it gets in this apartment, I'm only a few steps away from jumping in the shower and being released from the heat by the soothing, cool water that comes in endless supply ovr my shoulders and hair.
Why can't we be friends?
Last night, the universe poked its head through the slits in my living room blinds and threw me a surprise again. It was in the middle of what the newspapers called a violent storm. (I called it a fun one). The sky was orange and gray, and the rain was coming down thick. It was, “big, fat rain,” as Forrest Gump once described. The lightning followed the thunder without hesitation. I saw nothing more fit to do than stand on my back porch, soak, and watch it, hypnotically.
My best friend ran up my back stairs careful but fast in her flip-flops, to get out of the rain. She met me at the top, on my porch, and pushed past to get inside, laughing at how crazy the storm was. She told me she ALMOST got hit by lightning, “It hit RIGHT in front of me!” Screaming and laughing and smiling in the big, fat rain and lightning storm was such a treat.
We settled in to watch “Walk the Line” before game seven started. Other friends of ours were to join us, but until they did, we giggled and laughed and spoke in the tone of voice and with the degree of sarcasm that only two best female friends can enjoy and appreciate.
C and S walked in, and in a way it felt like the party’d been pooped. Best friend and I resumed our “around other people” personas, and cooled down on the goofiness of minutes before. C has been a nice, but always rather distant friend. S has been a fair-weather friend, one I’ve always felt was judging me like a real-life Martha Stewart. I figured she laughed only at some of my jokes, acknowledged my presence only sometimes, and chatted me up at a party only when it suited her most. The kind of ‘friend’ that I handled gracefully at get-togethers but rarely saw at “hanging out” moments like the one were preparing to have last night, watching the hockey game.
Of course, I prepared tea. Nothing unites people like tea. And we watched the game. Before not too long, S was being herself. She was goofy, she was honest. She laughed and shared her thoughts on men. (She prefers asshole hockey players if they look beefy, haha). It hit me last night, as the game filled the screen, the tea and Sunchips were shared, that she is real. She does not exist to belittle or make anyone feel inferior. She does not wake up plotting against self-esteem. She is a person capable of being a good girlfriend, a funny girl, with secrets and habits and unique behaviours. It was just those behaviours I had been misinterpreting, banning her from my friends circle.
I felt ashamed. It was my own fault; I was close-minded. I had missed out on truly enjoying her company all these years past. But on one rainy evening, with four girls gathered in a living room, bonded by tea, Sunchips and the four-way commentary accompanying the hockey game, I understood how nice it is to not have a pickle up my bum. Friends are more fun than pickles in bums.
Morning has broken
What do you think about when you wake up? I like reflecting on my first thing in the morning thoughts. Sometimes I laugh at myself immediately after, sometimes I have to use my extra supply of motivation and sometimes that first thought is enough to have me bouncing out of bed and into the kitchen for cereal, a strawberry or two and a smile.
Today, my morning thought was, “Why is my hair still wet?” I wondered this because, with the 40-degree Celsius weather plaguing my city and the miniscule windows of my apartment, I went to bed the night before with soaking wet hair to combat my rising body temperature, as well as the bedroom’s. But surely, it must be dry eight hours later. Alas, my hair was wet from sweat. Indeed, my efforts to dampen my surroundings, aim the fan at my sleeping self on level 4 and slumber with only a thin sheet were not enough. My room, my apartment, and the entire top floor were in an oven. But, I laughed at myself because I think it’s funny that my scalp became that sweaty. It is kind of a record, I think.
Then, of course, there are the days where waking up feels like the worst thing ever. “Ughhghg!” (Or some other unintelligible sound-thought), why is it morning??? I need sleeepp… But then I realize I have to go to work if I want to make the money. So I make myself get up, convince my grumpy self I’ll feel better about waking up once I’m fed and dressed, and drag my feet to the kitchen. Those are the days I am more likely to stub a toe on the doorstop or sleepily walk into a wall, bruising my hip. Because, as we all know, bad things usually only happen when we least want them to.
I especially enjoy the mornings when I wake up and immediately realize, “Oooooh! I get to see the boyfriend today!!” With our mis-matched work schedules and our unending passion to be sarcastically clever and in love with each other, the days apart are difficult. That kind of first though makes me smile as I brush my teeth, wash my face and dance to my music as I prepare and eat my cereal, skim mill, berries and OJ.
Either way, I usually feel happy as I walk to work because by then, I am always dressed, always fed and always listening to music I pick out on my iPod. I love walking to work no matter what mood I’m in, so it evens out. The market is starting to wake up, and while there is evidence of last night‘s bar chaos strewn about the streets and sidewalks, there is also the essence of “new”: a new day, a new breeze and a new guy cleaning the store window. (At least, it always seems to be a new guy).
Come crash into me, baby
Before yesterday, I looked forward to my next and final round of driver examinations. See, in Ontario, you are required to endure a five-year driver certification program. As my expiry nears, I have one final exam, one additional excuse for the government to take my hard-earned dollars and in exchange give me transportation privileges. Before yesterday, my future exam date seemed like a far away day planner item that would come and go. But then there was yesterday.
I was driving my little sister back to our mum's after buying some supplies for her birthday party next weekend. I crashed my dad's Jeep. It was completely me fault, which is a bit positive since I don't need to waste any energy lamenting the unjustness of it all. No, I rear-ended someone, totally my bad. It took the police THREE AND A HALF hours to show to do a police report (which took another hour and half). While I did improve my tan, I also became famished and tested the limits of my bladder to a new extreme. I felt and still feel bad because I will hurt my dad's driving insurance and because I also have been charged with a driving infraction. But now, my final license exam may be in jeopardy, I've learned.
I spent most of my waiting time yesterday trying to zen myself, reminding my inner monologue that what's done is done, let's just handle this the Buddhist way or something. I will make my amends to my dad as best as my bank and tuition fees allow, of course, but I still feel bad. Carpe diem can be hard when you crash your parents' car. I am having trouble leaving that in the yesterday (especially since today's father's day celebrations are marred by my dad's frustrations over the crumpled front end of his beloved Jeep TJ). We've had to make rearrangements for the organization of this afternoon's dad's day barbecue without use of a car, so it looks like I'll be doing a lot of walking to and from the nearest grocery store. Man, my tan's gonna be fantastic. I have told my dad I'm sorry and told him how I bad I feel about it all. I don't want to feel guilty all day because that won't make things better, right? So, I guess it's onwards and upwards, now via public transportation.
The Buzz on my Drinking
If I hadn’t mentioned before, my favourite cousin and his wife have been visiting the city for the last week or so. I have had fun with them each time we meet up, which so far has been for two family dinners, a road trip and a lunch.
We have traded stories, listened to music (mostly on the road trip), reminisced about the days when we were little and laughed the whole time. I so love bonding with people over meals. It gives us a chance to slow down and truly our enjoy our food, which we eat so slow because we are also speaking, reconnecting with people. Naturally, I paired my lunchtime meal with a pint of a locally-brewed beer.
At one point in the meal, my cousin leaned over and asked how many beers or drinks I’d already had today. I was confused at first and answered, “Well, this is, and before today the last time I drank was with you, your wife and my boyfriend on Monday night.” Our patio able at Parliament Pub went quiet for a bit, so I re-played the conversation in my head. I realized he was inferring I may have a drinking problem, and I was astounded. So, I quickly did a re-cap. I had told him that my girlfriends and I go out drinking about once a week. And I had made off-handed comments about drinking a problem away, but in what I had thought was a ha-ha kind of way. I was in no way serious. After the pause, I offered, “But, don’t worry about me or anything. I mean, I’ve worked hard for what I have and I’m not going to throw it away on something stupid like an actual drinking problem.”
That was that. But after the bill was paid and I walked back to work, the conversation still bothered me. Do people think that about me? Do I drink like any normal twentysomething? I had always thought the answer was yes, but now the seed of doubt was planted. I completed an on-line quiz called, “Are you an alcoholic?” It didn’t give concrete answers, but said if I answered ‘yes” to three or more questions, I may be at risk. But come on, any college-going student could answer yes to questions like, “Have you ever drank until drunk on more than one night per week?”, “Have you ever done something you regretted while drinking?” and “Has your tolerance for alcohol gone up?”
Have I been wrong to pre-drink and then drink when out with my girlfriends at a bar? Am I wrong to have wine with a good dinner and beer with good company? Am I wrong to do these things more than once a week? I live with another twentysomething in the middle of the city’s hottest bars, what do you expect?
I have always compared my own habits and behaviours with other people to decide if I fit into the ‘normal’ category or not. I definitely am on par with my own circle of friends when it comes to drinking frequency, though I will admit to being able to drink any of them under the table. When reading some of my favourite blogs written by other twentysomethings, it seems as though all meals and social gatherings are accented with martinis and cocktails.
A girlfriend of mine once went to the university health councellor for a re-fill on birth control pills. The health counselor ended up diagnosing her with alcoholism because she said she drank more than once a week, would get drunk more times than not out of those, and because she did not exhibit responsible drinking patterns. I remember we all thought this diagnosis was ridiculous. Maybe if we all look back on our twenties, we will all say, “Wow, did we ever drink a lot!” But are all twentysomethings alcoholics?
My only conclusion is that drinking does not interfere with the normal course of my life. I am attending school and working hard to pay for it, I have good friends and whether we drink or not, we have fun together. Drinking is a fun activity that leads to even more funny stories to tell at the next reunion. I am not prepared to sacrifice it because those no longer in their crazy, young days think my habits are irresponsible as compared to theirs. Please, don’t take the bottle away, nooooo!!!!! (Kidding, though don’t test my ability to stay sober, I’m having too much fun)
Oh life, it's waiting for you
After returning to work and jolting in and out of consciousness with the help of coffee and espresso shots, I was quite pleased to receive my pay cheque. I immediately imagined all the things this money would do: Provide me groceries, be put into my tuition savings, twenty dollars to my retirement savings plan (lame, perhaps, but we’ll see who’s laughing at age 65). Maybe I’d even purchase some quality running shorts? I announced my swift departure to my fellow cubicle workers and departed the tenth floor, walking briskly towards the shopping centre and onto the bank. Oh, how wonderful it is to put a pay cheque into the bank.
As I exited the shopping centre, there was only one more street to cross before I arrived at the bank. My right hand was fidgeting and shaking (perhaps from the coffee, perhaps from the excitement). Were it not for the slight delay of traffic, and the imposed wait by the orange stop hand on the other side of the street, I would not have noticed the story unfolding beside me.
Immediately, I noticed the yellow police tape surrounding the underground walkway towards the conference centre. My eyes went a little further left and I saw police cars, and officers speaking with men carrying notepads and cameras. While I tried to recall if I’d heard anything in the news, I heard it.
“I don’t know what to say. He was great, we’ll miss him.” A young man with eyes made a piercing green by his tears spoke softly. A young lady with silver ball piercing around her face leaned into his shoulder, not crying, but looking both confused and concerned. I turned around and was met by a large camera being carried by a CBC reporter. He too had a somber expression on his face as he clearly tried to understand the situation without inflicting more pain on the obviously grieving group of people sitting on the sidewalk.
The neon white figure appeared on the opposite side of the street and so I walked across to deposit my pay cheque. I looked back at the taped off area once more to try and guess what happened. I don’t remember depositing my cheque, gathering my receipt, and replacing my bankcard into my wallet. I walked back across the street and met eyes with the young man. They were half filled with tears, though none dripped down his cheeks. He challenged me with his gaze. I offered what I thought was a compassionate half smile and continued into the shopping centre, up the escalator, out and back up to cubicle land. I didn’t think about what new running shorts I’d buy.
This morning’s papers told of a street kid who’s been hacked to death. That same young man I’d seen was on the cover of the Metro paper. He had been with his friend sleeping in the underpass, as they often did. A drunk wandered in, an altercation began and his friend fought back sloppily before a blade was pulled across his neck, and stabbed into his chest cavity, neck and face.
I don’t know what the lesson is supposed to be to this story. But I know I feel sullen. I feel like my bills and debts and finances are trivial while the rest of my body aches for this loss. I’m surprised I don’t feel bad in a “that’s awful, but glad it wasn’t me” kind of way. The way I typically feel when reading about murders in the paper. I don’t know what I hope the conclusion to this story is. But I know I will hug everyone closer today and even close my eyes when I do it, because I am certainly glad I have love in my life today.
"Hello, it's me, I'm not at home"
I had to take a blog break these last few days. My days were just filled with too many appointments, spontaneous doings and too few sleep hours to find the time to even sit down and write some of it out. I feel now that too much time has passed to explain it all, but in a laundry list I did this:
Friday: Went to my brother’s pre-prom garden party to take pictures, before watching movies with the boyfriend, going for a late-night run and an even later night, post-run meal with him.
Saturday: Cleaning apartment, baking cupcakes, tea with friends, out to the bars with my girlfriends
Sunday: Sleeping in way too late, going to a barbecue at a good friend’s house to celebrate her one day in Ottawa between returning from a six-month stint in Rotterdam and a summer-long stay in Owen Sound. Then dinner with cousins flown in from Victoria, visiting grandfather.
Monday: Drove to Toronto with cousin, his wife and my man for a long time, dinner out with a family friend, watched the hockey game.
Tuesday: Went to Wonderland, the theme park, not the drug-induced haze. Drove to the middle of nowhere and got lost for dinner at my aunt’s house. Drove back in the dark in the middle of nowhere to return home at 2:30, and awake for work today at 7:00.
Today I am drinking lots of stimulants and am quite tired. I also have this balloon that seems to be expanding in my chest cavity that makes me want to breathe deep and just stop, lie down, ad let it out. I think it’s the stress of yesterday still lingering. It was quite trying being the navigator, especially with shoddy directions, not a clue where we were, and being accountable to the equally tired and frustrated passengers/ driver who just wanted to go home.
Out of the trip, I realized a few things that I can add to the compendium that is my life manual:
1) I am not necessarily a planner. I am OK with not knowing where I will sleep, how we will get there or when. I trust easily things will work out. The boyfriend does not.
2) When in stressful situations with boyfriend, it is much better the fight the urge to yell and cry out of frustration and instead make light jokes, rub his neck while he drives and let things smooth over.
I had a great time with him, and was so happy to have a visit with the cousin I am closest with. Back to the grind, now. I wish there were an IV caffeine drip marketed to the public right now.
The Fray Experience
There are two ways one must listen to The Fray’s new CD, “How to Save a Life”: First, in the background. Play it while you do the dishes or read a magazine. Listen to it first in such a way that you absorb the album’s feeling, letting the tunes dance around you and flow through the air. Then, once you have a feeling for what to expect, listen to the words, and let this music hit you right in the core like a huge wage of beautiful musical prose.
I don’t feel this often, but this CD is one of the best albums I’ve ever heard. It doesn’t attempt to revolutionize or tweak a genre. It has catchy chords and musical phrases I feel like I’ve heard before. But the addition of Isaac Slade’s piano complementing his honest and bare vocals hit me so hard I instantly felt like smiling bigger than my face could allow, tears sliding down my grinning cheeks. I couldn’t help it. The Fray demonstrate how lyrics, piano, chords and a solid musical package can assemble to be one beautifully moving piece of music.
Their first single, “Over My Head” successfully captures the attention of anyone checking out today’s top 40 music. It is slightly up-tempo with a message any twentysomething can relate to: Being overwhelmed with what life presents you with. The chorus wraps you in and immediately, you’ll find yourself singing the chorus as loud as you can. “Look After You,” the album’s seventh track is the hidden gem. Paralleled only by Coldplay’s “Fix you” and David Gray’s, “This Year’s Love,” “Look After You” is the kind of song anyone can easily be moved to tears by. Everyone’s reason for weeping may be different, but this song’s power can be felt by anyone and everyone.
Some have compared Slade’s vocals to Chris Martin of Coldplay and the comparison is valid. Each has the ability to journey between almost-talking naïve vocals and joyfully smooth falsetto. Slade has a twinge of desperation in his songs, as if he needs to get his musical message out to me so badly it hurts. Listening feels like a privilege.
The kicker is I picked the CD up at HMV today for 10 dollars. I read on the band’s web site that the title track was written about the singer’s experiences as a mentor to a crack-addicted teen. Breaks my heart and fills me up. I hope you treat yourselves to them. If not, come on over, I’ll put on a pot of tea and we’ll soak up the Fray.
What it is to burn
I knew I was in trouble at the end of high school when it came time to decide whether I wanted to pursue law school or journalism school. I have found, several cocktail parties and fancy dinners later, that answering either, “reporter” or “lawyer” to the “what do you do” question are both wrong answers.
Unless you have time to spend defending your choices, that is. For an argumentative, prose-adoring student, I don’t mind explaining to people why I’d want to be one of “those.”
I entered Carleton University’s journalism school, and am now counting down the weeks to graduation. (Unfortunately, there are still 51). Just this past weekend at a garden party, speaking with another presumptuous recent university graduate, I was challenged with the scoff and eye-rolling response. “Wait ‘til you’re counting change for coffee to write stories that adhere to your editor’s personal agenda,” he said.
It’s popular to pick on “the man.” The media is the vessel through which information is passed to the masses, so why not jump on the bandwagon and slam them for brainwashing. Look, I know that major newspapers are owned by one of the two big chains. I know CBC is a government corporation. But stories are written by journalists, by real people who don't get paid well. In the same way that I will not publish something under my name that I have not thoroughly researched, you can accuse me of being the enemy of society when you have some concrete facts to back up your arguments.
One of my history profs once told me that while my perspective on class issues will be different as a trained journalist and not a historian, my role is actually a historian who writes about thing as they happen. Interesting, when I thought about it after. In high school civics classes and university political science, what defines most real democracies (and not just the tyrannical countries that call themselves the Democratic Republic of…) is that country’s restrictions on the media. On that note, it can be understood that us journalists are actually your democratic tools to call people on their goof-ups.
I attended a lecture given by an American defence expert a few months ago. He said he was impressed that Canadian journalists dared to ask questions that challenge the government’s credibility, as that was almost unheard of around Washington. Last week, 20/20’s John Stossel was on CTV when the reporter asked him, “And why should Canadians believe what you say?” He chuckled and said, “You know, ever since I’ve got to Canada, I’ve been asked that by a few journalists. American journalists just don’t ask those type of questions.”
Slam us if you will, and don’t return our calls when we ask for interviews. We can deal with that. I can even be OK with people scoffing at me, “another reporter, oh good,” at the events I go to cover. But the next time you want to roll your eyes at me because I’m a journalist, know that I’m not going to let you get away with it, just like I wouldn’t let a public official get away with the mismanagement of public resources, or your tax dollars. Boo-ya.
Don't talk Sex Pistols to me and I'll lay off the Kenny G references
Today I walked into the office kitchenette to heat up my cup of Campbell’s Spicy Thai noodle soup. In walks a guy I’d interviewed before and avoided since then. At first, because he gave me the looks pedophiles give children on episodes of Law & Order. Then because his small chat was so utterly stupid it makes me want to pop my eyeballs out with my plastic fork. Today was the worst, because he did that thing where he tries to relate to my age.
Uncles and older cousins are allowed to do this at family get-togethers, because with family, the rules are shot since we’re all stuck with each other anyway. What I’m talking about is the kitchenette “conversation” that went like this:
Him: So you working here as student co-op?
Me: No, I got this job outside school. I’ll probably stay here until I graduate.
-More lame talk about my school program ensued-
Him: Me, yeah I’m going to the UK to do some writing.
Me: Fun. Are you looking forward to it?
Him: Well, it’s a pipe dream. Like I’d be smoking dope thinking how cool it’d be to live in London but now that it’s actually going to happen it kind of blows.
Me: (Focus intently on the microwave countdown clock)
Him: But I hope to go see some wicked punk rock music bands while I’m there. Oh wait, that’s from my generation not yours, heh heh.
Of note in this conversation is his use of the word, “Blows,” and his references to dope-smoking and punk rock music as cleverly described bridges to connect with my age. He is maybe early forties, balding and with a gut.
Now before you assume I’m being a snobby you-know-what, remember: Creepy pedophile-looking guy who works in a cubicle and organizes working groups and boards in his free time. (I know this because of my aforementioned interview with him for a story I’d worked on).
The point is he irked me because he tried using “young, hip” words and drug/music references he thought I’d latch onto. As if all young people are enthralled with pot-smoking and anarchy music. Lame, man.
On the other end of the spectrum, I must be fair. (Or so says my ingrained fixation with presenting a balanced story. Thanks, journalism school). There are also the twentysomethings who pretend they are forty years old. Also lame. They approach job interviews and professional get-togethers as networking opportunities where they shed their true identity for their superhero lame-wad stuck-up, no-fun forty-year-old persona. It’s a persona where suddenly the stock market is enthralling, the recent CIA boss decision is rattling and the only cool thing to wear is a stuffy polo shirt covered in wool sweater with old-man glasses.
What’s wrong with acting your age? Older people would love to get your perspective as a twentysomething, not to hear you pretend to be the people they’re surrounded by day in and day out. And forty-year-olds? I don’t want to be your excuse to reminisce about your high school days. I am not your living Pepsi commercial. I’d much more appreciate hearing the perspective that comes with an additional twenty years experience living than my own life. Save your yearbook flashbacks for your buddies. I do not relate. But props for trying to make some form of conversation in the kitchenette, creepy guy. Even that’s better than the quiet shufflers who pretend they’re invisible and never talk to anyone!
To Peter, the Velveteen and Roger
I think we can all remember a time as young children when we first encountered death in the animal world. Whether it was a dead bird on the sidewalk or road kill on the side of the highway, there was a point where we all understood it was dead. I remember asking my Dad why the bird on our driveway was dead, why it was lying there. I remember feeling so helpless and lost when he explained that it wouldn’t fly anymore because it was no longer living.
This of course shocked me, because I lived in a world where my favourite books had talking animals that wore dresses and overcoats. (Wind in the Willows, Tiggy, the Little Critters, and then some). I had a collection of stuffed animals in my toy box that I would play house with, and assign personalities too. One night when I was being tucked in, I told my Dad I did not want to sleep with Blackburn, the stuffed hound dog, because he was boring. My Dad then gave him a voice, and Blackburn “walked” with his head hung down back to the toy box, moping like Eeyore, until I felt so guilty for hurting Blackburn’s feelings that I slept with him for a week.
We always had a pet cat growing up, and neighbours had dogs, and these animals became part of my circle of friends. Dogs were dressed to fit whatever role we bestowed upon them. My cat became the evil monster that would walk across board games and swat at my stuffed animals.
But now we’re grown up, and I’m not sure I want to stop imagining that animals have personalities. I don’t play with stuffed animals, and I don’t read many books with talking animals. But there is still a part of me that thinks the scurrying chipmunk in my mum’s backyard and the squirrel who runs up my back stairs have little rodent personalities that drive them to scurry as they do. It is this feeling that makes me sad to read about animal cruelty and the like. Logically, my brain tells me that a rabbit is a rabbit and does not know that lipstick is being applied to it in a testing lab. But Beatrix Potter has taught me that even if I can’t understand what it’s saying, the rabbit is unhappy, by virtue of its personality.
I’m not sure if I’m alone on this or if it’s even healthy to imagine that animals have personalities. But I know it’s a virtue and a vice, because I can giggle and smile at the sparrows that bob their heads amongst each other in competition for the bird seed, (I imagine their chirping to be a flighty argument between them, “My birdseed!” “No mine, I was here first!”), and feel sad when I see one fly into a windows, slide and down and be done flying forever.
Lights! Camera! Shh!
Last night, the boyfriend and I went on a double date with a work friend and girlfriend. We decided to see the X-Men movie. I wasn’t particularly keen on seeing it, but I always welcome the chance to see any movie because I could be surprised with a great flick. I love movies. I love how, good or bad, they make you feel something. I love talking about them afterwards, and playing the “what would you do in that situation?” game. I love being surprised by a movie that just blows your mind away with its philosophical addition to your mind’s compendium. I also love teen movies with pop music that let you laugh at fart jokes, turn your brain off, and be entertained. My favourite films are Dead Poets Society (for its message), Mary Poppins (for its cinematography, musical numbers and charm), Zoolander (which gets more funny each time I watch it) and the Virgin Suicides (for its ability to suck me into the mystery and be left forever wondering, just like the narrator). But, I digress. We are sitting in the chilled movie theatre last night…
I had met his work friend before, and he seemed like a nice enough guy who liked to talk a lot, but was generally well mannered. (No judgments, but everyone should have nice manners, no matter what personality quirks they have). He and his girlfriend arrived late to the movies, as the first few previews were rolling. I introduced myself to the girlfriend, and for now, I’ll take it that she was just shy, because she looked at me, heard me, and then sat back again. I made a few whispered jokes with the boyfriend’s work friends as some previews rolled. As X-Men began, so did the work friend’s unending commentary. He had a lot to say, it seems, about the content. He would express his shock and amazement at plot twists by loudly yelling expletives. He would turn to his girlfriend and explain parts of the first 2 film to her, never whispering, oh no, but talking out loud. I suppose it may have helped the people around us who may not have seen the first two films, either. He would express his predictions as to what turns the plot would take, for all to hear.
Typically, boyfriend and I are movie shushers to people like this. Once in awhile, that is, these people require being “shushed” to in order to pipe down and allow the other hundred or so people to enjoy the film’s dialogue. After all, we paid to hear what is being produced on the screen, not someone’s take on “how f*ckin cool” the explosion scene was.
I was not impressed. Now, the pull of X-Men was certainly not its clever and intelligent dialogue. I may not have missed out on key plot points due to the talkers, because the points the movie was trying to make were made clear, several times, blatantly. Boyfriend and I actually finished off the movie laughing at how much this work friend found to discuss. It was comical: he never stopped!
While we were fortunate enough to be slightly entertained by his continual discussions and expressions during a so-so movie, it must be said: Movie talking is a major faux-pas. It is not your living room! I offer this to those movie-talkers out there to protect you from the future wrath of the shushers.
The rainbow connection
I think it’s indicative of how easily influenced our mood is when a room is painted. It has such a staggering influence over how I feel. A plain white room that has been left with bare walls since the builders put the house together really is a canvas left unpainted. I know most people wouldn’t paint a mural ON their walls, but a colour has the ability to evoke many feelings.
Painting is expensive, and unless you are willing to pay people to do it, it is a helluva labour too. There may be priming, taping doorknobs, ceilings and floorboards, laying drop sheets, rolling layer after layer until all the previous colour is covered. And the inevitable panicked effort at cleaning up mistakes before they set. But I really think it’s worth it. My room is painted a deep purple. It makes my small room feel a little smaller than when I first saw it, white and naked. But it also feels like a warm blanket around me, like when you make a tent out of your bed comforter and all you can see is what you’ve brought into the tent with you.
My mum and I recently painted my little sister’s formerly light pink room into a lime green (almost glow-in-the-dark) room. It has made her so happy. And truly, the room is so much more “seventh grade tomboy” than light pink with unicorn border could ever do.
I know that when I am a wife with a family and a home for my kids to grow up in, I want a light yellow kitchen, to evoke a home-sweet-home feeling. I would like my kids’ rooms to be a bright, primary (red yellow blue) or secondary (green orange purple) colour, to encourage creativity, vitality, and vivaciousness. I would like my dining room to be red, to reflect the cultured discussions that will surely take place over fancy dinners at my fabulous dinner parties. My own bedroom will be dark brown like chocolate, or maybe even a dark corral, so I can sleep in darkness on Sundays, and feel like I’m at home.
That’s what painted walls do for me. They make me feel at home because I chose the colours, I made the room what it is. They’re my own final trading spaces revealing a room that reflects how I want to feel in it.
White walls make me feel sad, at the lost potential for their owners to make a room sing.