Homeward bound

June 26, 2007

Of course, expecting my mother to be waiting silently for me is too much to ask; she’s always got something to say. I leave tomorrow morning for about a week, home for a few days and then to a wedding. My bags are packed and I’m ready to go… except it’s not a jet plane, it’s a compact rental car. Travelling and visiting in the summer isn’t like the holidays. There’s less chocolate. The car windows stay down the entire trip. And without extended family around to mediate, my mother’s comments become more unpredictable. She’s been uncharacteristic lately – asking about my writing, supporting some of my decisions, offering sorely needed financial assistance. Then there’s the wedding – a reunion of sorts for me, since I haven’t been back in two years. Anticipating the acres of ground to cover with old friends at the same time as I’m looking back on what’s been trod with more recent ones, there’s a pervasive sense of shifting emotional continents. The motion of a few friends’ lives has picked up – jobs are changing, cities are changing – and along with it there’s a scramble to check the anchors. Some fixed points are necessary for navigation: the ones that know who you are now, the ones that know you so well you can’t see behind you without them. Such thoughts recur each time I head home to stretches of sky and of water and of stars. This time tomorrow you can find me standing in the field behind my parents’ house, staring upwards, marvelling.

More fun than Facebook

June 24, 2007

Sure, you could join a social networking site. Or you could get six people from various parts of Canada and the U.S. together, soak them in cocktails, and the networks reveal themselves. This is the way it should be – face to face you see the arms waving incredulously at every new recognition of shared people, places, events. The world is small. We circle back to each other eventually.
The drinks continued, a cab was shared. I walked home in the morning, wishing desperately for sunglasses and aspirin, not noticing my underwear was on inside out.


June 23, 2007

There is a kind of quick intimacy forged in sharing food and wine. Your hosts draw you into their history. Theirs is an epic love story spanning years and continents. She says she looked for him in everyone else, he says he wasn’t going to let her go twice. “Moon River” plays in the background. Your self-deprecating disclosures are met with a heartfelt laughter that lets you see them differently. You look at yourself in someone else’s bathroom mirror and notice how the day, the week, is sloughing off as you sit here. The moon is still bright and high in the sky as you walk back to the metro, relieved – that they were barefaced, that you were as well, that there were more plans exchanged. Someone sees you quietly smiling to yourself and it catches them – they smile too.


June 22, 2007

Nothing says solstice like a speculum. And the discomfort was only aggravated by the doctor attempting to distract me by asking about my dissertation; what an odd thing to be championing when someone is scraping your cervix. “Lookin’ good” was the cheerful unofficial diagnosis (not the most glowing review I’ve received – I once had a doctor tell me “Your vagina is fabulous!” Such things I wish I had in writing).
What else is happening, you may wonder, abstractly, when it occurs to you. Not much, and everything. The diss is behind unofficial schedule and yet, as my supervisor informs me, it’s coming together. Constructive criticism at this point (note the qualifier) is largely structural. I’m knee-deep in masculinity studies, trying to understand ‘men,’ which is ironic – not so much work imitating life as paralleling it. As usual, I’m sure to hit theoretical rather than empirical paydirt. I’m taking vitamin D pills. Despite the heat I’m inching back to my winter running time, clocking in lately at 70ish minutes. There’s a road trip for a wedding soon, and I desperately long to go dress shopping yet lack the capital (c’mon, Marx, some praxis here). I sidetrack myself with the biggest novels I have on hand (currently Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and next Perdido Street Station, Infinite Jest having been read enough already and Underworld out on loan). I’m about to relive for the umpteenth time the bane of my existence as a grad student: bidding geographical farewell to a dear friend. Travelling across the city I stare blankly at my reflection in the metro window pondering the possibility of patterns and of mistakes; I wake in the middle of the night instinctively reaching for bodies that aren’t there, and can’t decide whether I’m okay with that or not. Sleep comes later and later. Neighbourhood cats wander in and out of my house with an undeserved but endearing sense of entitlement. Time passes – writer’s block, doubt. Summer.


June 16, 2007

Perhaps I’m getting a little too wrapped up in reading and writing about gadgetry, but this really appeals to me.

Those friends

June 15, 2007

I was just talking about, the stalwart supporters back ‘home’… one of them has just launched her own eco-fabulous fashion biz (and some of the much-missed others are her foxy models). Check it out.

Life as an explat*

June 6, 2007

I have wanted to live in St Henri since I moved to Montreal. I would glimpse it from the window of the train and think “There – I want to live there.” After a stint in the Plateau and then the Village, I’ve finally made my way here. I love it – the canal, the hushed nights, the fascinating collision of condos and history, the Atwater Market a quick stroll down the street. But I’m learning that being removed from ‘the action’ is a double-edged sword. Pop-bys have dropped off precipitously, which lets me live without fear of being found slovenly. I don’t mind the sense of distance, but on this (as with many other things) my wallet disagrees. There’s travel time and costs – no night buses venture into St Henri, so I either must become more adept at cycling drunk, or drink less and cab home, or not go out as often. And I’m finding that for my Plateau/Village/Mile End friends St Henri has the aura of the rabbit hole: with cheerful trepidation they approach it as somewhere bravely ventured, a bona-fide excursion. As one put it, “Well, at least it’s close to… whatever places it’s close to” (tautologies, boo).
Apropos of home(s) – I talked for hours with one of my old girlfriends the other day, and we made giddy plans for a friend’s upcoming wedding. She had a list of the things we should do when I was ‘home,’ i.e. back in St Catharines. It struck me after I hung up the phone how naturally I accepted that phrasing – I lived there for three years while I did my MA, and it was the closest any place in my student life has ever come to being home. Not the city per se (that honour goes to Montreal – I feel the city thrumming in my feet) but the people, the pace. There was a sense of camaraderie, of spending rather than passing time, and the pleasure of knowing that I could walk into any one of my (limited) haunts and find someone. Social life works differently here – as a matter of geography and demography it’s more diffuse. If home really is where the heart is, then I’d like to transplant many people to this city (they don’t have to live in St Henri) so I can stop feeling torn between these competing loves – the comfortable nice guy appeal of old dear supportive friends or the intoxicating bad boy charisma of Montreal’s passionate history, rollicking nightlife, energizing arts (we all know how that scenario ends… when have I ever picked the nice guy?).
*This being my latest neologism, meaning an expatriate from the Plateau.

Stock photography

June 1, 2007

I just received a shipment of books by mail (will someone please divest me of my evil credit card?) and after greedily tearing away the strip that lets the box unfold to reveal your books in all their unread glory I thought briefly that there’d been a mistake in my order – two of the books had the same cover. Compare:

I’m wary of how this is the image for ‘female television viewer’. It’s reproducing the same ideal and idealized female audience that feminist cultural commentary often wants to expose as a pervasive and loaded construction. Out of all the stock images, I get why this one is used, just as I get why chick lit covers are daubed in pink and glitter and high-heels. It’s a shorthand for the audience the publisher wants to create; they want women to see themselves, imagine themselves, as such a woman – affluent, white, sassy who will watch what she wants when she wants to and will make her own meanings in the face of institutional, economic, and narrative logics. It’s easier to market to ‘women’ when you can subsume their diversity and divergences under such an apolitical avatar.
Prime time television is all about such women. But its audience and its critics look decidedly different. The breadth of contemporary feminist media criticism is astonishing and inspiring… I wish its iconography could capture that spirit, rather than reiterating the stock imagery that is proving so problematic in the first place.