31 August 2007

There is no try

Wow, it is really cold at work. I’d put up the hood of my top except that I’m already considered a misfit for listening to music while I do my thing, if what my line manager says is true. Granted he’s managed to botch nearly every important conversation we’ve ever had, so I should probably take things with a grain of salt.

A fairly big grain of salt (if I’m manipulating the cliché properly) is the fact that I will be made permanent in September with an eye to getting a pay increase in 2008. But as a certain backwards talking Jedi Master once said, “With great power comes great responsibility,” and so my job specs will increase exponentially.

I guess I should be excited but I’m a wee bit concerned that news of my good nature and affability has not yet reached even the first tier in the chain-of-command. It makes me question why I’m being offered the job, and what I’m even doing here.

Such is the great mystery and wonder that is life I guess.

My cat was not in the meeting place this morning, though I’d set off a bit earlier than usual to make a pre-work appointment. You could set an alarm to my arrival at any point along my route and probably she’d done just that. Sorry little friend – maybe I’ll run into you Monday. (Do cats read weblogs?)

Last night I saw something that renewed my faith in humanity a little – the Trachtenberg Family Slideshow Players.

I probably could have done with a bit less banter and a bit more singing/slideshowing (the whole affair felt over before it had half begun) but it’s nice to know that there is someone out there who knows how to take life by the scruff of the neck and then poke it in the eye repeatedly with a stick.

‘Weird’ and ‘charming’ were the words used to describe the act, which is an accurate assessment I won’t try and best. I find it heartening that some people can actually make a living by just being themselves and lending a sophisticated eye to the potential magic of adolescent playtime.

It’s only too bad that one day Rachel will grow up and all that magic will be consumed by the tedium of sexist tabloids, which is the unfortunate birthright of any budding female beauty in the public eye. Less so in North America, perhaps.

Even though I’m navigating the peaks and troughs of this new life with a certain amount of decorum and determination, I still get it wrong once in a while. But I try not to let it get me down and I’m learning to just pick up my weakling heart from off the ground and stuff it back into my shirt and get on with things.

30 August 2007

You should hear what they say about you

Can I just say that I hate it when a song employs a full stop mid-song in order to punctuate the moment the music returns? I think it’s the lowest form of auditory titillation ever, as though that brief pause should serve to remind us of how good the music was before it suddenly and completely disappeared. Moreover, I abhor that live audience Oooh, where’s da music gone? face of anticipation followed by the obligatory Yesss! There it is! crashing head-nod when the tune kicks in again. So yucky!

This is one reason I’m not getting along very well with the latest Broken Social Scene album. For the most part, the songs seem like filler for all the good music that was supposed to be there. Also, I’m under the (hopefully mistaken) impression that one of the song’s lyrics goes like this:

You are too beautiful to f***
You’re too beautiful

Is that so, Kevin Drew? Well, happy to be one of the lucky few that deserve to be treated kindly in bed! Good thing I had my teeth straightened back in third grade or you might be ramming me up the a** right now! But instead, we are making sweet, beautiful love. I could cry with gratitude.

It makes no difference now if I’m wrong about this lyric, or that if I’m right it’s only part of the song’s conceptual logic, because that horrible notion is forever imbedded in my brain now. The smut will never wash off!

Possibly I have moved on from Canadian Indie Emo though, because even the likes of Leslie Feist and the much less twee Amy Millan have lost the plot as far as I'm concerned. If anybody can recommend a female vocalist who sounds like she is singing through broken glass instead, I’ll give it a try.

In other news, I think I may be cheating on my cats.

Now before you get all up in arms about it, you should know that I’ve been very kind and patient and understanding about the petting thing. I would never expect a cat to grace me with its affection on the first date, or even the first week. But the fact that it’s been over eight months now and STILL their claws skitter madly for purchase on the fake hardwoods every time I reach for their furry little sides is more than a cat lover such as myself can take!

So yesterday, I was walking to work, minding my own business, when what to my wondering eyes should appear? A black cat with a white bib and half-moustache, crouching in the middle of the sidewalk halfway down Bermondsey Street!

This cat looked so much like my childhood cat that was put to sleep a few years ago that I risked being trampled by early morning commuters to bend down and try a few pats. And you know - she was perfectly amenable to this attention. It was lovely, I won’t lie.

On my way home from work, the cat was not on the sidewalk where I’d seen it earlier, of course. You’re lucky to see the same faces on your direct route to and from work, let alone the face of someone that barely reaches shin-level and has the inclinations and demeanour of a very nimble toddler.

So this morning, I was quite surprised to turn a slight bend on the path and see that same cat crouched exactly where I’d found her the day before. As I approached, I gave her my best come-hither smile and hither she came, as though she’d been up all night thinking about me too. I crouched down, and this time she placed a delicate paw on my knee and reached out with her other paw to grasp some of my hair as she pushed her nose into mine.

After a few minutes of this, I got up and continued onto work feeling a mixture of elation and guilt. Because already I like this cat I’ve only met twice better than I like my own. And I sort of want to see her again.

We’ll see if she comes back to the meeting place tomorrow morning. If so, I’m going to have to concede that it’s fated and maybe even pick up a kennel on my way home.

29 August 2007

The King and I...or is it me and King?

What I find really so very strange is this:

Since I’ve been old enough to know better, I’ve been working towards the kind of life I have now and going about things completely and haphazardly backwards. Battling my ego, battling individuals and institutions that only wanted to help and embracing those who would have liked nothing better than to see me fail, and then failing miserably anyway – I was the poster child for Wasted Potential.

And yet here it is, right on time – my perfect life, and rather than it being the culmination of everything I’ve ever worked towards, it arrived independently of any crooked path that preceded it. My lap turned thirty and into it fell the husband, the job and the big city.

So suddenly I’m one of the loved forevers, the ain’t life granders. And I have no idea what to make of this. If I lost my job tomorrow, if I never exceeded a 20k position or if we never managed to make it out of Bermondsey, life would go on as happily as it did the day I made the decision to come here.

I had to lock myself in a toilet stall for ten minutes because four key decision makers met to discuss my job role and the switch to a permanent contract, and I didn’t want them to see how shaken up I was about that. I don’t expect anything bad will come of it, but it occurred to me how much I like it here (despite the occasional rant) and how relieved I would feel if I could manage to lock down a good-paying position in a lucrative company that will support every life decision I ever make from now on.

At least until I write that book.

But I will have to wait until tomorrow to know for sure. In the meantime, I am updating several sites at once and also posing as our editor in the more schmaltzy bits of content our magazine produces and not letting anything go to my head. Once you do that, you might as well stop trying because you’re not going to learn anything new or make it any further than you are in that moment. I have to stop making unfounded generalisations like that, I know.

Last night I managed to play through the ballad of “Jesse James” and am trying to see practice as a fun thing and not a playground for insecurities and performance anxiety. I like my teacher but not so much that I’m too afraid to play for him, and anyway it’s pretty difficult to invest any sort of conceit in something as unsophisticated as the five-string banjo.

You know, the louder I turn up my music, the louder the sales guy speaks and the harder he pounds the desk to punctuate his tiresome stories. I’ve never met a more obnoxious, childish and clueless person in my life. Seriously. Why do I work here?

Oh yeah.

Anyway, I’m going to extract my eyeball from my bellybutton now and tell you all about Stephen King. Did you know that he was a better writer twenty years ago? Or maybe I’ve grown up as a reader. When he’s not trying to scare you skinless (to coin a nicer term), he’s toying with your compassion for humanity’s weakness. I much prefer scary to well-rounded, but he’s determined to make well-rounded work in Lisey’s Story, which I’m in the midst of reading for fun (well why else do you read?).

He attempts this with a series of ‘isms’ invented for his characters - overly precious in spite of their profound quirks. Characterisms, if you’d like. He takes these characterisms and uses them to create a kind of resonating, symphonic vibe throughout the novel by simply and varyingly repeating them ad nausium. At one time, this tactic would have served to suck me down into the narrative’s gullet where I’d happily dissolve in the digestive juices of the story. Now I just find it irksome.

Simultaneously, he’s decided it best to slough off the uncanny and instead adopt a more homely brand of terror. The effect is pretty underwhelming, as you can imagine. Do the resounding ‘isms’ of the characters at least make you want to cuddle them? No, you kind of hope whatever bland monster is in unhurried pursuit of them will hit its target, sooner than later.

At any rate, though I think Stephen King may be evolving in some way as a pulp horror writer, he’s heading off in a direction I don’t think I can follow. We’re like two ships passing in the night, me and Mr. King.

Incidentally, someone tried to jump off the millennium bridge yesterday. Two police ships circled ineffectively below and a single man in a dark suit stood reasoning with him. I know this because my colleagues were at the window in clusters of five and six, some with binoculars. Suicide is somewhat of a sport in these parts I take it. But the pay is good.

28 August 2007

I'll give you espresso

Bleach, happiness is stifling my creativity. I think I’m going to have to give my mother a call later or possibly throw myself down an elevator shaft. Either/or.

I’ve just re-emerged from a bank holiday which actually achieved the opposite effect of what a holiday intends. Rather than rebuilding morale when it comes to work, an extra day off will dissolve most of the defences I’ve developed the week prior – defences that allow me to do my job without having to reach for the taser gun in my top drawer (kindly administered by the Ministry of Imagination).

The revised holiday sleep schedule (to bed before the birds and up by noon) doesn’t improve the situation any. One of my colleagues keeps interrupting me to say that he’s going to email me something and then he emails me something. I think he could probably make better use of the body text but I can’t think of a nice way to say this, so instead I say, “Okay, thanks.” And grit my teeth.

Thankfully, I’ve so much on that my day is nearly, oh so very nearly over. And you’re so very nearly interested in any of this.

Thank you to Stuart for reminding me that the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players exist, because I really wanted to catch them on tour. As it turns out, we’ll be seeing them on Thursday.

And thank you to Knocked Up, for showing me brief glimpses of the birthing process ten or fifteen years too late. Now that I’m actually contemplating children, I’m fucking terrified.

And a big shout out to the arrogant barista at Waterloo Station for reminding me of the second biggest reason I avoid the bitter-tasting beans of your numbing espresso-based beverages: I don’t like coffee snobs. If I want to drink an Americano, I’ll go to Americano, yeah? Until then, you can either give me a Nescafe or SHADDUP.

But when did this turn into a dedications page?

Hey, so holidays in three weeks! We’re flying to Zagreb and then taking a bus to…somewhere on the coast of Croatia. I’m wondering if it’s worth starving myself now or just waiting until we’re there, since between avoiding restaurants that serve fish stew (not for Bruce) and those that serve pizza (not for me), I likely won’t be eating much of anything.

26 August 2007

From the window

Having spent the bulk of my early twenties transforming from a Little Engine that Would Consider It to a Little Engine that Must, I was sure I’d reached the end of the line not five years later when I found myself chugging tragically towards whatever junk heap those Little Engines that Derailed end up in.

But I picked up my banjo the other day and sat over some music and painfully and then not-so-painfully progressed from one verse to the next and remembered what that felt like - to approach the unknown with respect for its unique obscurity and tentatively put my hands there to see what I could make of it.

With much optimism and few expectations, you can learn just about anything as long as you remember which end of the power dynamic you occupy. A theory, an art from, a scientific phenomenon – it needs you even less than a rock needs to be covered in moss. You have to come at it boldly but with complete humility and concede that you might never know but you’re willing to try.

That funny little caveman survivalist in me, with its repetitious and nonsensical utterances, got snuffed out over the weekend. Rather than beating a path through the garden and tearing up the fairy homes, it’s back to just concerning itself with things like “Is it safe to cross the road?” and “Don’t eat that – it’s well out of date.”

How long has it been since I’ve been able to manage pure enjoyment without poisoning it just a little at the source? Since never, I suspect. But this old dog is learning a few new tricks since it gave up worrying that stale old bone and now all bones are buried in the muck, resting in peace as they should be.

Skeletons in the closet, bones in the garden – does it matter where they end up? Change the facts, change locations, but these fossilized frameworks never lie. They work themselves up out of the ground – they don the watch fob and cane of Great Uncle Fabio and trip the light fantastic for your friends. You have to be a diligent groundskeeper, a better dog than that, to lay those bones to rest.

It can be done though.

Memory is no longer a tragic graveyard of failed endeavours either. It sits in spools of cotton wool and occasionally I’ll find the invisible twine and mock up some clouds on this stage, this quiet potential of existence, and make a little shadow play beneath them.

It’s a beautiful hot, sunny day in London and I’m enjoying it in the only way a person can – as a single slice in the blinds of the bedroom window. These skies, these moments, contain little joy in and of themselves. They’re suggestive of internal states, of experiences half-remembered against this very backdrop: a sudsy pile of clean life stuff just swelling and floating and bursting happily around your head.

I wonder if anyone could be more content than I am today, right now, right in ten minutes and right hereon in as far as I’m concerned. But I won’t wonder for long - I’ll just appreciate the gift I’ve been given: of for once having my feet planted firmly on hard-packed dirt under a half-dreamed sky of blue and sun and little clouds.

23 August 2007

School is now in session

Things I’ve learned about human behaviour

If someone’s being horrible to you and you don’t know why, it’s probably because you’ve done something to upset them and you did it knowingly and you don’t know that they know, but they do. And so they’re being horrible to you until you can figure it out. Which is passive aggressive, but hey: nobody’s perfect.

If loads of someones are being horrible to you, it’s probably because there’s something about you that people dislike generally. And it’s time to take stock of what that could possibly be. Are you overbearing? Are you awkward? Do you like to blow marijuana smoke at your pets? There is a reason people don’t like you and it is a good one. The sad thing is, you’ll never figure it out. Because it’s just the way you are.

If someone is being horrible to you and they aren’t typically horrible to you and you’re paranoid, they’re probably not being horrible to you at all. That’s what’s called a Bad Day. Other people do have them, you know.

If someone is being horrible to you and convinces loads of other people to be horrible to you too and suddenly you find yourself without someone to eat lunch with and then someone throws a rock at your back for no good reason, it’s probably because you’re eight years old. Children are horrible.

Things I’ve learned about London

It’s a beautiful city and it’s full of dirt. These things are difficult to reconcile.

i. Bruce said that it’s strange how you will never see the same person twice in London. He said there’s no sense of community here. I thought about living in a small city and knew that he was wrong. Community is about consciously choosing to see/interact with a person or people – it’s not about running into the same faces over and over again and pretending you have anything else in common except for this.

ii. Where I’m from, the city follows the same tired schedule of events, which you’re meant to get excited about year in and year out. You run into the same people, eat the same food, say the same things and enjoy the same next-day hangover. The next generation of hipsters will put up a gallery of their most creative snapshots and you will attend. London is anonymous when you require anonymity. In London, community is a matter of choice, not a matter of scant population.

It really DOES rain that much here.

There are so so so many people, all of them subdued. It used to be I’d go into a pub in London and couldn’t hear a thing anyone said because they were all speaking at normal volume. Nobody shouts here because imagine what a hellishly noisy place it would be, with so many people clamouring to be heard. Now I can hear everyone perfectly in pubs because my ears have adjusted to the new, low level of speech. Though we don’t often go to pubs.

Londoners don’t gossip! This is a blessing and a curse. Mostly it indicates a healthy mind that is only preoccupied with living.

Most people in London aren’t actually from London. And they will do everything in their power to get in your way while you’re trying to walk home.

Things I’ve learned about love

It’s nearly impossible to communicate.

Even if you’re deprived of love, you find out about it eventually, just like the birds and the bees. Luckily, loving can’t be taught. Unluckily, learning how to receive love must be.

Nobody really attempts to describe it because it’s too sacred. Or retarded?

It makes you daring.

It keeps things interesting.

It rights all wrongs.

Things I’ve learned from Ed

That sound: it’s not picking or strumming, it’s HAMMERING. They HAMMER the strings! With their FINGERS! DO YOU GET ME?!! A whole new world is opening up and out of it fell Jimmy Hendrix! And stuff.

22 August 2007

Two swans

This morning at the bridge, we were whipped by wind and rain and we made our usual pledge to not look back. But then I heard my name and turned around and he was on the bridge pointing into the water. There, on top of the dirty silver churning of waves, were two white swans.

Then we were on our way again; two points moving not-quite parallel on opposite paths, getting smaller, and the wind picked up and propelled hard rain and wet leaves into my face and hair. Walking along the Thames in an early morning rain storm with a banjo strapped to your back is an awesome experience.

We always seem to have a funny moment at the door as we’re leaving for somewhere else. Like ha-ha funny, not like the funny that makes your stomach twirl and your head storm around for a good way to backtrack. We are doorstep comedians, at our most vulnerable maybe, on the precipice of our public faces.

I could tell you about what I think of (remember) whenever it seems I’m trapped in the eternal work dimension but I feel stingy about these things today. I can’t even allow myself to take conscious ownership of certain memories when I’m here and surrounded by the most unsexy objects and people and landscapes imaginable. You have to sink through the weeds to reach the murky floor of buried treasure and hope that fingers don’t catch in the shredded flag of hair succeeding you.

An early fall pelts summer with rain, causing it to retreat and I don’t even mind. I think of warm baths, covers, roasted candied nuts steaming on the wind and all those pigeons huddled together beneath a blanket of mist.

21 August 2007

Ashes, ashes we all rise up

It’s amazing, the kinds of unexpected things that can come along and save you before you even realise you’re in a dangerous place.

All manner of life preservers come my way, none of them ever fitting. There are some tried and true buoys that you can cling to for as long as they don’t dissolve, but then there are the hands that come and pluck you from the whole mess, simply because they don’t exist there at all.

Know what I mean?

Why is it that women have to be so insecure about everything, whilst men can have moments of insecurity but none that plague them for days and weeks on end and make them say or do crazy things? Don’t answer that. I’m educated enough to come up with the answers, but I’m talking about real life now - not just the theoretical underpinnings that effect society as a whole (and so individuals).

For them it’s a series of unrelated, isolated incidents that are easily recovered from. For us, it’s like a long train of injustices that sweep along the ground, collecting others and weighing us down to the point where we can’t function at times. Or is this just me?

And the only solution is to keep on being more fabulous than I am, more fabulous than anyone has ever been – to stay on top of the clamouring masses, to not sink down into it: to walk on water. They've set us an impossible task.

We have to be magicians. Abracadabra and smoke and mirrors and follow the sound of my voice. Tune out all other voices. My voice is the only voice you can hear. You are getting sleepy…sleepier.

Come to think of it, I could use a nap.

20 August 2007

Shot to the moon

I don’t hate work anymore but it’s not an easy place to love either. After a slow and restful weekend indoors (pleasantly pre-empted by champagne and pancakes, then pints at the Pit Bar on Friday), I was even more reluctant to come up against the long faces and nervous energy of colleagues.

This morning the sales guy was irrationally smug about the recent dismissal of a different sales person who has been with us for much, much longer – at least until it came out that the dismissal had to do with not meeting targets. Ahem.

Anyway, it’s lunch and he’s sat across from me with his two bags of crisps and sandwich dripping with mayonnaise and I’m trying like the dickens to ignore him. Try try try.

My banjo lesson is in three days and I’ve practiced far less than I thought I would. Partly because Amy was here and we all know that houseguests trump responsibilities of all sorts, and then a string broke and those things are not at all easy to replace unless you really know what you’re doing (we do now).

I can play the intro bit of Duelling Banjos now, though it’s not strictly homework and probably won’t make up for the fact that I didn’t manage to sort out my fingering. I find it difficult not to lean my fingers against the surrounding strings when I make a C chord, thereby causing my strum to sound a bit muted and out of tune.

But Duelling Banjos!

Instead, I’ve been reading a lot of fictional non-fiction novels and informational weblogs, just to escape the solipsistic vacuum that is my own hellish head, and have developed a theory about the television series Big Brother as allegory for dictatorships and corrupt governments like in Animal Farm except minus the socialism. Um, that’s the theory so far.

I also have a bit of a platonic crush on Richard Dawkins (requires sound), who confronts people with destructive and uninformed opinions about things and then basically messes with their heads. He’s the UK’s answer to Michael Moore, except with a bit of class (and education, methinks) thrown in for good measure. I fully intend to finally sit down and read The God Delusion and love every faith-crushing, afterlife-hopeless moment of it.

Here lies an atheist/ All dressed up/ And no place to go. A harrowing thought, but true* nevertheless.

This photo I took of Bruce at Hampstead Heath was displayed at the Tate Britain for a short while. Ask me how!

Better yet, ask me why!

I’ll tell you how it was received another time maybe (I won’t quit my day job just yet).

Isn’t he pretty though?

*Yes it is.

17 August 2007

Dutch pancakes

It’s 11 and there’s nothing to do at the moment. Everything I need to accomplish in the coming weeks is reliant on others now. It’s a strange feeling, to know for certain that I’m all caught up and not just overlooking something.

The things that make me feel nauseated at the moment are: the vaguely sexist conversations taking place around me; the sales guy who won’t shut up or speak in tones quieter than a yell; the smell of the editor’s deodorant or possibly his cologne.

But my holidays have been approved and we finally booked our flights, so September in Croatia is a go. I can’t wait to have 9 full days away from this place – work specifically but certainly London. I realised in the bath this morning that back when I was in school, my environment was stable enough to allow for my inner landscape to shift and grow pleasantly for months. Here, it’s the other way around – London’s working culture is mutable, even in familiar places, and you need internal stability to manage it properly.

I feel cranky because everyone around me seems to be shouting about something, most of it sports-related, so why should I have to listen? In a meeting, a designer asked if the four of us who don’t work in sales could be moved because the environment isn’t conducive to creativity. Though apparently it costs around £1500/person to move, god knows why. I suggested that maybe they’d use the money to build us our own room.

Since I stopped walking with my co-worker in the mornings, our relationship has been much better. Unlike with my mother, who has developed shorthand for delivering her barbs within the minimum allotted time we have now to talk, distance has turned my co-worker back into the lovely, happy girl with boundaries she once was. We’re planning to meet at lunch to have a catch-up, since she’s going back to China on holiday next week and there’s much to be excited about.

It’s funny to see a particularly attractive colleague negotiate the halls like the weight of her beauty is too much for her to bear, when really, nobody cares. Everyone is too mired in their own issues to notice others much. That’s how I’ve always wanted life to be and now it is. I’m not sure why I still worry about those extra few pounds I’m carrying, or what my skin looks like under florescent lights. I guess these things take a while to mend.

I’m lucky to have married someone who dislikes crowded events and the jostling bodies of self-conscious strangers as much as I do, though I spent so long thinking this was an inappropriate and unhealthy reaction to humanity that I feel vaguely guilty for giving into reclusion so joyously. Now it’s books and laptops, movies and music, banjo practice, cooking, pillows, open windows and the gentle whirr-whirring of the fan. We venture out to a film or to dinner and then hurry back to the safety of this perfect ecosystem we’ve created.

I don’t know how you can love someone in a teeth-gritting, stomach-hurting kind of way and still manage to crack a book, but it’s a compelling contrast.

16 August 2007

No sense

I wish I could understand why it is I feel like crying whenever somebody does something nice for me, unprovoked. Like just now, I was offered a blackberry and I nearly welled up. It’s not as though people don’t do nice things for me on a daily basis. Okay, one person. But I know that if my lovely friends were around, they would tip the contents of their minds on a little plate between us and we’d have them with our coffee for hours on end. I tend to forget there are people in the world who think I’m good company, regardless of how I see things.

Three or four blackberries later and I’m ready to have a stroke (not that kind). Some people flower with more attention and some people shrink. I’m definitely the shrinking kind.

There’s a boy who works across from me – not right across from me, but one section over – who looks like the friend in Ferris Buhler’s Day Off (the wealthy one whose car they ruin) except skinnier and more pinched. He keeps sneaking looks at me and I keep catching him. He seems miserable there in front of his little screen and he never talks to anyone. He’d never talk to me either, but I bet he wonders why I keep to myself and how it is I manage to maintain my sanity when sales and design start to volley tense words at one another over my head. I’m glad that I’m married, because I’m a beacon for tall, skinny, tense boys who want to inflict their misery on just one other person who understands (I don’t).

Last night I dreamt about old friends I haven’t talked to in a long time and woke up feeling like I was not in London and not at home (well, ‘home’) but some in-between place where everything made perfect sense. Then I opened up an email from my mother who sent me a link to the house I grew up in. It’s up for sale on a real estate website. That brought me back to earth.

I wish that I could resolve the difference between their home and the one in my head; between the setting of so many childhood traumas and the first raw materials of imagination – the only ones I had access to for those first ten or so years. Now I have to feel this way about an entire city and I just don’t have the energy. I’ve become very good at encountering strange landscapes and drawing a blank instead of incorporating them into what’s familiar. Sometimes it feels as though the unfamiliar is taking over everything, including everything inside me that was once a given.

Though on the other hand, I’m not giving enough credit to the kinds of improvements I’ve made in the last few months. I can do several things in a row without getting discouraged or feeling like I should be doing something else. I can go days without feeling angry about not feeling angry. I’m always the last to know that I’m doing just fine. I only realise it once I’ve finished dismantling the fine and you stare at me with wounded eyes and I want to take it all back. Because really - I’m fine.

The designer just shouted You can’t handle the truth! Apart from it being funny, I think he’s probably right.

15 August 2007

13 August 2007

Candidly burning bridges

I think egg and watercress is easily my favourite sandwich. I know they have a lot of mayonnaise in them, but they’re no-nonsense in every respect and they seem to do the trick if you’re very hungry.

On the elevator, I realised I’m becoming my father when I noticed how I’ll play with the loose change in my pocket to acknowledge and try and diffuse the awkwardness of being trapped with one other person I don’t know well enough to smile at. Even at work, smiling at strange men when you’re a woman can be misconstrued. I have no real evidence to support this theory, but call it women’s intuition.

The designer calls me by a nickname that only friends back home use. For him, the name saves time, but in my experience, it’s only ever been used to connote familiarity and affection. This tactic disarms me every time and I will pretty much drop anything to answer a question that begins by addressing me in this manner (Bruce has given me brand new names that are more suitable but not easily guessed).

Things are much better at work now that I’ve devised a proper schedule. I can see exactly what needs to be done when, and have even built in time to deal with the many unforeseen issues that can crop up in a week. I’m even busier for this, but I’m working much more effectively and can actually see the impact my work makes here. I fully intend to stay put, if they’ll have me beyond the termination of my temporary contract.

Someone just handed me a template for personal business cards, so I’m assuming I have nothing to worry about on that front (though she also handed the temp a business card template, and the temp handed it right back, so maybe not).

On Sunday we went to the Tate Britain to see an exhibition called How We Are: Photographing Britain. I have to admit - much of it left me cold, especially the older stuff. I’d like to explain why but I’m not sure myself. I’ve always felt this way about history. Maybe the one-dimensional quality of a photograph mirrors the one-dimensional ideology that probably informed these images, which for a long time were posed, stiff and propagandist by necessity (don’t be fooled by the candidness of that featured photograph – there weren’t many like it before 1988).

But afterwards, a holidaymaker gave Bruce and me a bottle of wine he didn’t want to pack or leave behind. It looks pretty good, from what I can tell, and not at all tampered with. It’s not likely someone is going to go through a lot of effort to mock-up a commercial bottle of wine in order to poison a complete stranger, is it?

I’m hoping someone will come over and help me drink it though.

Lots has been going on, none of which I can properly keep up with here. I’m going on holiday in September, to Croatia: where the pizza is lovely, the coast picturesque and the inhabitants vaguely xenophobic (or so I hear). My parents have bought an apartment in Vancouver and are selling my childhood home, which I will never see again. I’m not sure how I feel about that. But our tickets are booked for December and I feel vaguely comforted by the notion that I will see Canada again very soon.

Memories of home are still strong but much less appealing now that I’ve had time to think through things properly. Like I was telling Bruce and Amy, it’s like when you keep outdated food in your fridge to trick yourself into thinking you’re well stocked but only see how truly deprived you were once you clear it all out to make space for new groceries. Small-town Canadian City of my Birth: you were rotten to the core and I’m glad to be rid of you. Sorry, it’s just how I feel.

I don’t know how I’ll feel about Vancouver as a Canadian home base, but I’m looking forward to experiencing superb customer service, which doesn’t exist here.


When you tried to outrun them in a public place, your mother’s voice the leash that yanked you always back; when you plunged from the basement into blotted trees, cement, the sun whiting everything out like a migraine; when you counted the pencil marks up the door, the painful centimetres to freedom - did you realise then that all you would escape was the serrated edge of your senses?

The scuffed sneakers, the hundreds of thousands of millions of pedal pushes, the tarmac oiling thickly beneath rubber tyres; you were running in circles, the block looping back in a friendly, an insistent, a relentless, an oppressive treadmill.

Six years later you blew out a lungful of smoke and the wheels came off your bike. Then you sucked back the sharp, cold, midnight fumes of a bottle and forgot the way back.

Weren’t you pleased when the doctor’s scissors snipped out the lights in the house one by one. And in the morning they didn’t look for you.

And after all these years, there is still no one watching you run. You could run to the ends of the earth and no one would notice. Go on then.

10 August 2007

Before I get into banjos

Since I have fewer than 5% of my readership reading, I think I’ll halve my efforts here and post twice as frequently. That should more than make up for…something or other.

The sales guy was becoming increasingly desperate about being invited out for a drink after work (he’s been asking the team about it since 10 this morning, and they’ve been consistently evasive) so I went downstairs for a snack. I ate my lunch at 11:30 so a 13:45 snack isn’t inconceivable. I got flustered when I realised it was down to a different opus of overpriced fresh fruit and so quickly grabbed a bag of organic, salted popcorn. In retrospect, a salad would have been better, but popcorn elicits nostalgia for me, which contains just as many nutrients.

One of my favourite memories is of a moment during a trip I took to Minneapolis with my parents and Bil, when we were fifteen years old. What the moment lacks in actual activity is more than made up for by atmosphere, though it would be difficult for me to recreate this. But let me try anyway.

The thing I liked best about travelling was the feeling of invisibility that complete anonymity engendered (which contrasted the equally irrational and oppressive sense that everyone was watching me back home) - as though I was a friendly energy passing through shops and restaurants and hotel lounges and dizzying blocks of nothing familiar.

There was no hook upon which to hang judgement and so I accomplished these things easily and without fear of failure. My role was only to filter information, benignly and without purpose, which is something you can do when you’re travelling with people who take care of the details.

Our hotel was both private and ethereal, as once the opaque doors closed, an atrium of clouded glass filtered the dusty afternoon light bluely into the lounge, which was really more of a coliseum of internally balconied second-, third- and fourth-floor rooms with a single glass elevator connecting each.

My memory is of two o’clock, the hour in which a traveller is most comfortably embedded in the day’s intrigue, when it seems as though both time and possibility are at once established and endless. In the delicate lobby near the elevator, situated directly beneath the second floor, were a commercial popcorn maker and hazy sitting area where moored children or friends of sleeping vacationers could convene and rest.

The popcorn was free and the sitting area (chairs pulled to small, round tables) seemed infused by those particular attributes of the city itself, so that spending a few hours there did not seem like a waste of time better spent on the town.

All I can really recall of that moment now (its glittering tail ever decreasing in stardust the further it travels) is the popcorn in its shallow, paper bowl, the diffuse late-afternoon light and a fragment of some song that was either playing at the time or had been a part of my soundtrack that year.

I think about that sometimes, when I’m alone and eating popcorn.

09 August 2007

You've already tried that

It’s remarkable what a massive effect sleep has on my ability to cope. Last night I was the last to fall asleep and the first to wake up. Bruce is on holidays and Amy left today. I walked to work feeling somewhat euphoric for having managed to not only get myself out of bed but bathed and combed and fed and out the door.

Things are much less euphoric at the moment. I’m accidentally smiling at strangers – people who work on our floor but have no reason to acknowledge me – who return the gesture by looking straight through me.

I’ve also been getting this sick feeling of humiliation in the pit of my stomach which I used to get when I was a bit younger and felt I had no handle on myself or my environment. I think it might have something to do with catching an unbearable sense of our mortality and how pathetic that really is. All this sitting around and feeling badly and digesting and trying very hard not to let boundaries bleed together or do or say something inappropriate.

Anyway, despite it all, somewhere in the back of my head is the knowledge that these are and have been the happiest days of my life. There’s no reason to get all bent out of shape about life just because you’re overtired. Someone should write a book that contains such obvious lessons. Mine would go something like:

- If you leave things out and don’t put them away, the house will get messy

- The alarm is set to go off at the precise time you need to get out of bed

- Eat that and you’ll regret it

- But he loves you

- They’re not thinking about you – everyone only thinks of themselves

- Remember to floss

So all houseguests have officially come and gone and it’s back to life as usual. Something I’ve realised in the past few months – I don’t miss home anymore. My home is here.

06 August 2007

This not why

I’ve only ever written two, maybe three good pieces of writing. I know this because they share an important few things in common:

1. They were written without any conscious or subconscious desire to solicit answers. Implicit in this is the inherent mistrust I had in what I was trying to say. Which leads me to the second most important characteristic of what I consider better writing (on a personal level - you might have a different gauge):

2. I believed every word of it when I read it back to myself. It just rung true.

That’s not to say that every good piece of writing is true. But it’s better to take sure aim at something and not miss than to send your arrow into the neighbour’s open window and then turn to your friend and say, “That was okay, wasn’t it?” (And I still can’t seem to abandon my shitty analogies.)

I don’t know why these two elements so often escape me. I wish I were the sort of person who never put something down until I was sure it was just the thing. But I prefer subjecting raw memory to my own inexpert brilliant cut, even if the quality of light it refracts suggests a poverty in the attempt.

This is something I was thinking about while trying to go back to sleep this morning. I’ve been pretty hung over all day, having walked a fine line between pleasantly buzzed and uncomfortably drunk and then having stumbled merrily on the wrong side of it anyway (bruising a knee). I kissed Jennifer on the cheek, which I never do (kiss Jennifer, that is, but friends in general too), and embarrassed myself doing Justin Timberlake at karaoke.

I walked all day in tall shoes that hurt without a shred of fear or anxiety about my place in things, and things were better for it. Things burn at a constant rate if they’re tended - not so much if you blow them out.

It just gets more and more difficult to report back on these things because I’m running out of words for real experiences that take place somewhere between thought and the physics of activity. Or something like that anyway I don’t know.

I’m in love and I’m wasting time. I’ve wasted enough time, I mean. There are things I want to stop thinking about so much (like ‘why’) and things I want to think more about (like ‘this’). And just. I don’t know. Some of what I’m saying feels true.