Lately

November 12, 2007

Days, entire weeks, are passing in half-remembered nights and hangovers, lingering coffees and long meetings, drafts tossed off the table in frustration or fury, frantic scrawling on the back of any scrap of paper at hand, sneakers slapping kilometre after kilometre along the canal, late nights and vigorous moaning mornings. I looked at the calendar and noticed that the garbage needs to go out, that it’s November.

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Thanksgiving…

October 11, 2007

the Ontario habit my parents won’t let me shake. I made new mixed cds and we hit the road. The glove compartment was air-conditioned – such decadence! GB pointed at the train each time it raced alongside the highway, snapped pictures out the window as we crept up on my hometown. The sign for kilometre 666 is still missing on the 401 West. The layover in Toronto went by too quickly. Drunk in my parents’ basement we giggled like teenagers, tiptoeing excessively to sneak out late at night for a smoke. We clambered down rocks determined to make our way to the base of the waterfall, we sunbathed and swam at the beach (seriously). The meals were enormous. I stocked up on Baco Noir at the LCBO. We dallied long past Monday; it’s somehow now the middle of another week of meetings and lectures and I’m terribly unprepared, but at least the weekend is fewer days away than usual.

Je me souviens

September 11, 2007

I spent my first year in Montreal bouncing between Vieille Europe, Copacabana, the Miami, and Parc Lafontaine I played countless hours of pool with two old friends who had made their way here, and a guy with a phenomenal handlebar moustache who I later discovered was a coke dealer (one of many roads not taken). Ryan Larkin often weighed in on the essays I was marking. It was a rough year – the love of my life was six hours away, I was in a new city with a largely staid and uptight cast of colleagues, and I leant heavily on one of my dearest girlfriends. Generally miserable, I whiled away the hours between my weekend travels with beer and pool.
Tonight, years later, the scene played itself out again. And I realized that I’ve made real histories here. Handlebar Moustache remembers me, I still can’t consistently make bank shots, my girlfriend and I talk like we haven’t been separated by years and time zones. I have memories that can be re-enacted. That is both beautiful and profoundly sad. Watching her grin at me as she sinks the eight ball, I side with it being beautiful. We should all be so lucky.

The last few bits of the last long weekend are ebbing. Tomorrow the fall semester officially starts, which actually means very little – this is the first September in six years that I won’t be teaching. Both of my parents (teachers as well) retired in June; we’re trying to revel but there’s an undertone of trepidation. How do we fill time now? My answer seems so simple – write the diss (it’s not my diss now, but the diss; a crucial distinction, as lately it’s been writing me). But first, snippets of how I spent my summer vacation:
Socializing: Added up, more than a month was spent entertaining visitors. The last (not counting one arriving this week) left yesterday. Having my space back is both appreciated and a little lonely (I might even miss the cat). Such serial visits make one observation unavoidable: my friends are fabulous.
Travelling: Retirement parties, a shower, a wedding, a funeral. Flurries of activity and stockpiley trips to the LCBO.
Biking: Useful and economical – 12:30 is too early to call anything quits, and cabs are financially unfeasible for someone of my proclivities, (un)employment status, and geographical location. I tried so hard to enjoy biking everywhere. But I just don’t. I’m a pedestrian.
Writing: I wrote a decent draft of about a third of the diss. Not as much as I’d have liked, but summers here are notoriously unproductive. I blame Montreal.
Fucking: I slept around a bit. It was fun. And easy (which isn’t the same as uncomplicated, but what’s summer without a little light drama?). I like how thank-you emails are becoming de rigueur.
Running: I hit the 10k mark mid-June, and have been doing that three times a week ever since. I’m toying with the idea of training for a half-marathon, but could just be looking for an opportunity to toss around the word ‘fartlek.’
Preening: I officially if grudgingly accepted that I look good in hot pink.
Listening: Boxer by The National. Writer’s Block by Peter, Bjorn and John. The Reminder by Feist.
My parents will be gleefully sleeping in tomorrow morning. I’ll be up, futzing with the coffeemaker and wondering how to organize my non-semester. I’m not comfortable with unstructured time. Summer is always a needed reprieve, but after four months I’m antsy again. Sans students until January, I’m compiling a list of fall distractions, er, plans. My tentative triangulation: the St. Henri pool, a diner with free refills, and Allez-Up.

Birthday

August 21, 2007

It started innocently enough – me reaching into the back of the cupboard to draw out the Baco Noir that had waited in reverent darkness for almost a year. The bottle and I curled up on the porch and watched the cats hunt, the moths bounce off the balcony’s bare bulb, the night pass. My doorbell rang early Saturday morning and the rest of the day I shopped with an old friend, picking up our rhythm like it hadn’t been paused for the past ten months as lives and careers moved us to different countries, time zones. We came home to find a more recent friend climbing my back stairs. He held out his hands – in one a bag of young green shoots poking hopefully out of their training pots; in the other, bacon. More people materialized as the day wore on, some were even found serendipitously on the street. The bar closed its doors as we left and stumbled sideways for poutine.
Morning: coffee, Advil, bacon. Sunglasses before venturing out for the afternoon’s provisions (the market for strawberries and the SAQ for white wine). We sprawled carelessly on the balcony and devoted the actual birthday to our characteristic conversational swings. As dusk dropped we dressed up and pranced prettily through the door of my favourite restaurant. The waiter applauded the alcohol consumption, saying most women would have passed out under the table. We drained an expensive bottle of red upon our return, christening the just-renovated porch with its first set of wine stains.
And now… Stash’s vodka has been roundly depleted, days with the California blonde ostensibly left us with nothing to talk about and yet we couldn’t stop. She’s flown back to San Fransisco, and I’m on a train to London, my black skirt and shoes stowed safely in the overhead compartment.
I knew my grandfather had died. I knew halfway through my parents singing “Happy Birthday” – my father was hammier than usual and off the phone quickly. But for the rest of the evening I pretended, like my parents, that I didn’t know. They called early the next morning and everything has been in motion ever since… rent a car or take the train? Quickly send emails postponing or bowing out of the week’s obligations. Find a cat-sitter to take over my cat-sitting, and get a spare set of keys cut. Slide down to the floor and sob my way through a Cat Power song. Decide train, definitely. Call a girlfriend in London and ask her to make up the spare bed. Do a load of laundry, freeze the rest of the birthday bacon. Water the plants, change the cat litter, just keep moving…
The Tetris-like tension of such details breaks as I’m on the train. The tourists in front and behind me (Eastern European and Australian respectively) are captivated by the postcard scenery. My eyes are just as fixed out the window, but I’m seeing different things. The sunlight drops behind heavy clouds and light rain as the train hurtles further west; I try not to read too much into this. I’m quietly anxious. My brother is picking me up at the train station; until then, I tuck my legs under me, turn up the volume on the iPod, and keep staring out the window.

they might be the type of people who get really giddy the first week of their retirement. They might call you around 2pm on a weekday to ask how to make Jell-o shooters, and not believe you (with good reason) when you say you don’t know. They could threaten to look it up on the internet. And you could spend the rest of the afternoon really glad you shell out the extra few bucks a month for call display.

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.

Dinner

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.

C’est l’halloween!

October 31, 2006

Halloween pics are making their way up. It was of course a great party, with the most disturbing costume being a simple horsehead (I didn’t get a shot of it, but one’s up on the host’s blog). I went as a trashy undergrad, which was a surprisingly easy costume to put together at the last minute (just tuck some baggy jogging pants into some ugly boots and you’re halfway there) and was immediately identified by everyone, which says something about the uniformity of the McGill ghetto girls. I know they look different parading their wares along the Main on a Saturday night, but I don’t have the boots for that look. And yes, I made sure that a skinny black thong was clearly visible above the rolled-down waistband (that photo probably won’t make an appearance). More thoughts on undergrads later – they’ve been on my mind as I’ve been putting my two courses together for the winter. If you’d like a preview, I’m lecturing about the Canadian film industry for CANS 200 on November 13th. Further inter-related thoughts on costuming/identity, teaching, and Canada later…