Wednesday, July 09, 2008

i don't want to push it

It's like standing at the end of the dock, I guess.
Standing at the end of the dock for the first time of the season, when you're not sure how warm the water is yet, and you're afraid you'll lose your nerve if you dip a toe in. It's all or nothing, and you don't want to seem like a girl but you're pretty sure there's something moving down there under the water. You don't want to look too closely, so you just do it.
You say you'll count to three, and when your voices get to "two" together, you jump, pulling him in with you. His elbow hits your ear on the way down, and when you surface together, he spits the water out of his mouth, panting, and says "I thought we were going on three!"
And the sound and motion and breath and night time just carries off across the water, and you're in.

Monday, April 07, 2008

just what i needed, that's what i was thinking of

our lady of seven sorrows

I read a book recently in which a character said that love is the greatest of the seven sorrows. So great, in fact, that he had forgotten the other six.

That reminded me of this.

When I was in grade nine I had two wishes.
One was to marry Daniel Johns, who was the lead singer of Silverchair, and with whom I planned to have two children, one named Neon and one named Ballroom.

The other was to be Catholic.
My friend Melissa and I often had sleepovers at her grandmother's house in Peterborough, where we would camp out in the basement and watch the videos for "Anthem for the Year 2000" and Will Smith's "Miami." One weekend while we were there, I got blue streaks dyed into my hair.

Another time, Melissa's grandmother gave me a medal of St. Christopher, the patron saint of travellers, to wear around my neck. My paternal grandfather has been travelling all his life, but he didn't like it -- papism makes him nervous. In 1969, St. Christopher started making the pope nervous. I lost the pendant sometime in 1999.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

this might be a shout out

Another list/post inspired by the genius of Que Sera Sera. I have some friends with stories that basically define their personalities, or at least, the window through which I see them. The story that I'll shamelessly say "Okay, so tell me about that time that you...." over and over again. Particularly if I haven't seen them in a while, or if I'm introducing them to someone new. This includes stories for which I was present, and stories that I've heard so often that I could recite them verbatim, leading to frequent interruptions to correct minute details.
Such is the life. You're all saints, kids.

  • Rachel - "That time your dad got lint on his pants and made the Zimbabwean tour guide pick it off."
  • Streets - "That thing you overheard at Coffee & Co."
  • Beav - "That time Ben got in a fist-fight with a turkey."
  • Bale - "That time you fell in love with the heir to a tea dynasty"
  • Jordon - "That time you refused to get an ashtray" OR "That one time you studied Howl and NPR at Dal."
  • Barbeau - "That time it was your birthday and you had to go to the bank really quickly." OR "That time we saw MO. [in the Biblical way]"
  • Tee Eff - "That time you saw Bran Van 3000 and told them they were the future of hip hop."
  • Scheidt: "That time you had fleas at the apartment."
  • Dorian - "That time you guys stole those boxes from Steve and he went to jail"
  • Emmy - "That time the ferrets were running all over you" OR "That time we snuck in the backdoor at the Horseshoe and met the Gords."
  • Carleigh - "That time you saw Chingy."
  • Zeb - "The border crossing when you ran for the woods" OR "That time the car broke down in South Syracuse"
  • Colin - "That time you stole the school bus"
  • Meghan - "That time you bro'd down with John Tory at Little Shop of Horrors" OR "That time you wished you knew he was on ecstasy."
  • Kate - "That time that guy's mom thought you were his ex-girlfriend when you were peering in his windows and started yelling 'It's okay, Sarah!' when you and your friends ran away."
Tell me more, tell me more.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

a case of who?/i bet you think this post is about you/will you still read me tomorrow

This month's Vanity Fair has a story about three Rebel Angels--Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell and Carole King. While there's a lot of gratingly intense celebration of the fact that the three are women (!) writing songs (!) (including the use of the word 'Everywoman') that sort of invalidates a lot of the really great art they made, it does a good bio of Joni Mitchell (more so, at least, than the other two women), complete with descriptions of high cheek bones and a "Canadian Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz."

And of course this description of famous alum of the Seven Sisters schools made my mouth water: " stovepipe pants and ponchos, raising fists at political rallies, debating literary lions now viewed as troglodytes, producing theoretical tracts and carnal novels."

Check it (if only for the pretty pictures of hippy kids with guitars). Pretty sure the whole thing's online.

PS. In the article, Weller describes King as "getting younger as she got older (as one could do only back then)."
I've got a handwritten letter from my baby sister pinned to my bulletin board (one of those "if the house was on fire, and you could only save one thing," kind of possessions [sorry 'bout the drumkit, CS]) and a perpetual love for chasing the wind that pray that era's not over.

Johnny & Joni do "Girl from the North Country"
Joni - A Case of You

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

and what follows is this:

All my favourite stories are on the road.

Emmylou, doing Townes Van Zandt's Pancho and Lefty, a song that always reminds me of Don Edward's song, Coyotes.

baby do you know what i mean

Listening to a ton of Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris music right now, and finding it's the soundtrack to a rich life.

One of my favourite blogs, This Recording, has this post about the glory of Gram (including soft, earnest interviews with the martyr himself) which is definitely worth checking out.

Gram on Emmylou:
"She sang like a bird, man, and that was it... She can sing anything that you're doing in perfect harmony as long as you look at her. If you raise your eyebrows when you're going up on a note, she goes right up with you. She's beautiful."

Emmylou's farewell song to Gram, Boulder to Birmingham always stops my heart a little bit.
So far, this blog is the only place I can find it online, so go there, and click play.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

writing to reach me

Originally published here, along with a ridiculous photograph.

In those awkward, self-aware years between childhood and adulthood, when I was buying Seventeen magazines in order to imagine the life of a 17-year-old and keeping copious records of descriptions of boys I liked, friends who had betrayed me and arguments with parents, it seemed as though I was always being instructed to write a letter to myself in the future. A time capsule to open in the year 2000 or when I graduated from high school or something, a memento of times past, a purpose-fuelled inspiration to motivate myself at 12 to dream big, and at 18 to pursue those dreams. The capitalist’s dream summed up in a Dr. Phil moment of self exploration, facilitated by a small-town schoolteacher whose favourite phrase was, “The sky’s the limit.”

I found one of them the other day, a record from my last year before high school, tucked between the pages of a pink diary guarded by the words “keep out” written in menacingly sparkling purple nail polish.
In the letter, I'd written myself about who my best friends were, (using the classic initial-only last name unique to public school days: “Ashley H.”), my favourite bands—The Beatles, Oasis, Tom Petty—and what I wanted for the future: “To become a famous author, and also a doctor (maybe).”
While I’m pretty impressed by my pre-teen enthusiasm for music that’s still dear to my heart, I’ve given up on the dream I no longer remember having to be a doctor.
The whole exercise, though more than 10 years in the making, was fairly anti-climactic. Far from mourning the loss of failed dreams, of being inspired by the purer hope I had once had, I was mostly creeped out by the letter’s eery and narcissitic address—”Dear Meghan,”—and signature: “Love, Meghan.”

The letter did, however, make me think about the tragedy of the one-way passage of time—how much better it would be if I could write a letter and pop it into some time-travelling post system that would take it back to the days of dollar-store eyeliner and “group dates.” I would write to myself about the things that really matter—that diary I kept, the books I was reading, the music I was clinging to, family, friends who were good at being friends—and the things that don’t: Grade 9 math class, boys who make fun of curly hair, bra size. Again there would be a distinctly Dr. Phil-like vibe to the whole thing: “hindsight’s 20/20.”

Now I’m in my fourth year of university, on the edge of something even bigger than high school appeared back then, and I don’t feel half as secure as I did then. There’s no road map from here on out, and I’m not really keen on drawing one just yet.

Dear Future Self,
The sky’s the limit.
Love, Meghan

Thursday, March 13, 2008

the only people for me are the mad ones

Amidst the snow and sadness of the winter, I've been bunking down in the ivory tower (a.k.a. Stauffer Library) with my homeys (see photo) catching up with my first love, the Beats. Though they've become the cliched territory of stoner-buddhas and supposedly high-minded frat boys, I've always felt pretty sincere in my affections for Jack and the boys. I read Dharma Bums for the first time when I was 16, and it felt like waking up--like I'd been asleep for my whole life. In honour of these two crazy kids, long hours at the library for no reason, over-the-counter uppers and late nights (or early mornings) singing along with Dylan, a list.

Top Ten Things To Do in a Kerouac Novel/Poem/Letter

10. Get all confused and hung up.

9. Abstractly refer to Buddhism, God and America. Interchangeably, if possible.

8. Take bennys.

7. Worry about your mother. Refer to your mother, her cat, and your belongings as “the ménage.”

6. Get a ride with/pick up some hitchhiking Okies.

5. “Ball” with girls. Descriptions of said girls should be based on their occupations and hair colour. Note: if in spiritual phase, refer to sex as “yabyum.”

4. Reminisce about your golden youth in a small and snowy New England town.

3. Go and never stop going till you get there. You don’t know where you’re going, but you gotta go.

2. Drink a lot, worry about how much you’re drinking, swear to stop drinking, repeat.

1. Dig/be dug by someone.

Haven't changed, haven't much to say

Since I started slingin' dirty pints at the local I can't get Paddy's Day off the brain, and with half my heart in Dublin (the pretty lady pictured at right), it's Irish time. Video-stylez.

Jape - Floating

PS. I want to marry this song.

The Frames - Lay Me Down

Note: I love that the scroll on this video mentions the Olympia, former work place of the loveliest Dubliner.

Redneck Manifesto - We Still Got It

NB: They still got it. This video makes me think of: a) high school, and b) the opening credits for Almost Famous.

And because this list would be incomplete without them (or rather, him?)...

Thin Lizzy - The Boys Are Back in Town

So...I sort of want to borrow Brian Robertson's high-waisted denims. Also, that in-screen video showing the whole stage means that The Future is here.

But seriously, the best place that I know of to find St Patty's music is Hi-Fi Popcorn, which is straight outta Dublin. Check it.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hey friends and lovers,
Whether you're a love-lover or love-hater today, Minnesota Public Radio has you covered. They've created two hours-long sets of Valentine's Day songs. The "Greatest Love Songs" show is five hours of The Flaming Lips, Iron and Wine, Billy Bragg and
Nina Simone to get you in the mood, while the three-hour long "Greatest Break Up Songs" has Patsy Cline, Jeff Buckley, Sebadoh and The Seeds singing about how they've lost that loving feeling. Click here to listen.

Monday, February 11, 2008

things that everyone should watch.

Ike and Tina performing "Proud Mary" live (1974-ish?)

Beyonce at the Kennedy Centre Honors -- honoring Miss Tina. (2005)

Tina and Beyonce last night on the Grammy's. Tina's 68 years-old.

LOVE it.

Hating even our shoes and our hats

Once upon a time, I had an Anne Sexton poem posted in these pages. It still makes me catch my breath, so here it is again:

A woman who writes feels too much,
those trances and portents!
As if cycles and children and islands
weren't enough; as if mourners and gossips
and vegetables were never enough.
She thinks she can warn the stars.
A writer is essentially a spy.
Dear love, I am that girl.

A man who writes knows too much,
such spells and fetiches!
As if erections and congresses and products
weren't enough; as if machines and galleons
and wars were never enough.
With used furniture he makes a tree.
A writer is essentially a crook.
Dear love, you are that man.

Never loving ourselves,
hating even our shoes and our hats,
we love each other, precious, precious.
Our hands are light blue and gentle.
Our eyes are full of terrible confessions.
But when we marry,
the children leave in disgust.
There is too much food and no one left over
to eat up all the weird abundance.

-- Anne Sexton, The Black Art

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

We know the answers, we fill us in.

Here's a link to a rock and roll song that I like a lot.

Guided By Voices - Everywhere with Helicopter

That's all.

Monday, February 04, 2008


I have a feeling that the past year marks a turning point after years of complaining about Kingston's music scene (generally summed up as a cyclical issue: lack of venues, and therefore an absence of local bands). Though finding venues is still difficult, a few musicians have broken through the local ennui and are forming bands. Really good bands. (See The Gertrudes, listen to Nich Worby's album when it comes out later this spring, go to Apple Crisp).

Magic Jordan played their first show last May, opening for Woodhands. The night was indeed magic: the gallery was hot, crowded and sweaty, and between sets, the crowd piled out into the street, lured back inside after show promoter Greg Tilson handed out sparklers. The band was electric--members were trading places, cheering their own band name and barely controlling their own energy. In the four or five times I've seen them since, the act has become tighter but the energy is still there. The band has a songwriting chemistry that brings focus through fantastic tunes that lyrically cycle and rhythmically wander. Bass player and singer Paul Saulnier's cover of Gary Numan's iconic electropop tune "M.E." (sampled on that Basement Jaxx "Where's Your Head At?" track) is not to be missed, and their first song, "Magic Jordan Part 1," just keeps getting better.

Jenni O'Neill-keys, vox
Paul Saulnier-bass, vox
Benjamin Nelson-drums, vox
Jeff Barbeau-synth

Add them up, already!

PS. All of their gig posters are wonderful. Paul and Ben do them, and Paul and Ben are wonderful.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

are you the favourite person of anybody?

Things John. C Reilly should spend more time on (and you should too): Miranda July's short stories.

"It comes to me that fear of death is, from another angle, love of the world."

Originally printed in the Journal (Vol 135's Literary Supplement) in a collection of books for each season, this is the book I've been talking about to anyone to will listen lately.

When I Was Young and In My Prime - Alayna Munce

During the season of short days and long nights, it's easy to find refugre in that which is static--though life, as this book's narrator discovers, rarely stands still. When I Was Young and In My Prime skips between and around generations of one family, telling their stories with raw and beautiful concision, from Mennonite children in revolutionary Ukraine to broken bones on backyard ice rinks in rural Ontario to the painful awkwardness of old age.
Through diary entries, lists, poems and prose, over and over again, Munce nails the everyday, the mundane, with knowledge that comes from the heightened awareness of pain.
Our narrator is a young woman in her mid-twenties living in the Parkdale area of Toronto, who splits her time between waitressing in a bar* and writing. She's a version of Munce, and the book walks a blurred edge between fiction and autobiography--its truth is that palatable.
When I Was Young paradoxically provides comfort in its realism and its simple acceptance of the things that are beginnings, ends and everything in between.

(Need more? The title of this entry comes from the author's description of biking home through Toronto's rush hour, towards the sunset. Truth.)

*Rumour has it the bar she works at in the novel is Mitzi's Sister (pictured above). Live music every night. Queen West at Dowling, or so.

Monday, January 21, 2008

that said,

My latest addiction is Fecal Face's Photo of the Day. Lurk it regularly:
More POTDs:
• Toronto's Daily Dose of Imagery (doesn't that title sound a little bit Orwellian, with the caps and all? I love it.)
Paris Daily Photo, taken by a cute old dude who introduces himself as a "Friendly Parisian (yes, it does exist!)
• Torontoist's (nearly always) interesting collection of photos, which they scoop from the Toronto Flickr group
• And finally, the super-cool Panaromist. 360-degree views! Science and technology!

rainbow's end

I'm reclaiming Breakfast at Tiffany's.

The beautifully sad 1961 film has been pigeonholed, painted over and made into something it's not. I can promise you this: it's not the stuff of cheap photo purses in Chinatown, it's not wallpaper for co-eds' dorm rooms, it's not an early chick flick.

The original novella, written by Truman Capote (arguably one of the weirdest damn fellas of the 20th century), is a sort of autobiography (Holly Golightly's real name? Lulumae. Capote's mother's name? Lillie Mae.), maybe also the document of a gender crisis, and certainly an intricate story of those things most complicated: of sadness, of letting-be, of growing up, of not-knowing.

I saw the film for the first time when I was very young--probably too young. I certainly didn't understand Holly's professional life, and I was terrified by the scene where a drunken partier cries into a mirror. I was old enough, though, to be charmed by Holly. It wasn't classic opening scene, it wasn't the diamonds or the beehive or the long dress.

It was the Holly who wasn't sure who drew me in. The Holly who sings on her fire escape and who answers her door wearing an eye-mask and ear-plugs and who refuses to give her cat a name.

This is a movie that's grown with me, and that I've grown with. I didn't understand how sad Holly was, because I was too busy looking for a why. Now I'm starting to understand that it's the lack of Why that can make us saddest, and that maybe this whole movie is about a girl trying to make her own Why (there's no shortage of men trying to do it for her).

Now, peep this:

"The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you're afraid and you don't know what you're afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?"

Two drifters, off to see the world...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

sometimes a person's hands are the only words she knows

Something new I've stumbled upon this year (one of those so-close-you-trip-over-it discoveries) is the writing of Bronwen Wallace. Born in Kingston, Wallace taught at Queen's and St. Lawrence, worked at Interval House (a women's shelter) and wrote. Wrote, wrote, wrote. Wrote her heart out, wrote till it was spilled out and wrote till it was stitched back up. She had a weekly column in the Whig during the '8os (ahh, the institutional legacy: some comfort in a past that nothing can buy out), she argued about the usefulness of language in feminism with fellow poet Erin Mouré, she wrote intelligent, angry poems about violence against women and she wrote poems about the land north of Kingston in which, through disconnected family lines and dusty county lines, I've come to find something of a home.

Wallace died of cancer in 1989, and I'm feeling the loss of her 20 years late.

If I had a god,
I'd say we were holy and didn't know it,
but I see only what we make of ourselves on earth,
how long it takes for us to love what we are,
what we offer to each other only in our best moments,
but carelessly, without shyness,
like food grown in plenty,
our mouths blessed with it every day.

--Bronwen Wallace, from What It Comes to Mean, in Common Magic, 1985

*This spring, Queen's is hosting a conference called Common Magic: The Legacy of Bronwen Wallace in March. Kingstonians, and others, look
here for more. Rumours that Emmylou Harris might be playing were unfounded--the big concert is Kate & Anna McGarrigle.

**Grace O'Connell, former writer for the Queen's Journal, a former "who" of the University's literary "who's," etc. was one of three finalists for the Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers (the award was recently picked up by RBC and now comes with cashola to the tune of $15 000 for the winner). Marjorie Celona won the award for her story "Othello."

And one more:

It's never easy.
Even the effort of a few steps
from the bedroom to the kitchen, say,
or a few muscles, opening my eyes
to find you still there in bed beside me
is an act of magic or faith,
I'm never sure which.

All I know is that it's learned
by doing, over and over again,
like any other trick,
until you don't need to think about it.
Like now. Like the way I'm walking home
to you through this city I've learned to accept
as the only kind there is: five o'clock,
night coming down and rain
just hard enough
to make the crowds on the corners shove a little
when a bus finally splashes to the stop.
Outside a restaurant, two men shake hands
and a little boy holds his father's
as they watch a toy airplane turning in a shop window.
It could be anywhere. But what I want you to notice
are the women. They are wearing white nurses' shoes,
or dirty sneakers or high-heeled boots.
They carry briefcases and flowers, bags of groceries
as they hurry home to their husbands and kids,
lovers, ailing parents, friends.
We all have the same look somehow.

See: over there by the bank
how that stout woman lowers her eyes
when she passes that group of boys,
how her movement's mimed
by the blonde, turning her head
when a car slows down beside her.
Even the high-pitched giggle of the girls
in that bunch of teenagers is a signal
I've learned to recognize. Tuned in
on my own tightened muscles, jawline or shoulders.
In fact, you might study the shoulders.
The line of the backbone too; arms and hips,
the body carried
like something the woman's not sure what to do with.

I've already told you that this is an ordinary city.
There are maps of it and lights to show us
when to walk, where to turn.
What I want you to know is that it isn't enough.

On a trip to Vancouver once
I discovered clearer landmarks. Red ones,
sprayed on sidewalks all over the city.
They marked the places
where a woman had been raped,
so that when I stepped out of a coffee shop
to find one on the pavement by the laundromat
geography shifted.
Brought me to the city I'd always imagined
happening in dark alleys, deserted parking-lots,
to somebody else. Brought me home in a way,
no longer the victim of rumours or old news,
that red mark planted in the pavement
like the flag of an ancient, immediate war.

I used to hope it was enough
that you are gentle,
that I love you,
but what can enough mean any more,
what can it measure?

How many rapes were enough
for those women in Vancouver
before they got stencils and spray paint
made a word for their rage?
How many more until even that word
lost its meaning
and the enemy was anything that moved out there.
Anything male, that is.

How can any woman say
she loves a man enough
when every city on the planet
is a minefield
she must pick her way through
just to reach him?

It's not that we manage it though.
It's that we make it look so easy.
These women wearing their fear
like a habit of speech or movement
as if this were the way
the female's body's meant to be.
The way I turn the last corner now,
open the door to find you
drinking wine and reading the newspaper,
another glass already filled
and waiting on the coffee-table.

When I turn on the hall light
the city will retreat into the rain,
the tiny squares of yellow
marking the other rooms
where men and women greet each other.
It's a matter of a few steps,
magic or faith, though it's not that simple.
The way the rain keeps watering the cities of the world.
How it throws itself against our window,
harder, more insistent,
so that we both hear.

--Bronwen Wallace, To Get To You, from Common Magic

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

without prejudice

It's been a long winter already--the wind-blowing and up-hill both-ways kind that makes some kind of summer of the mind seem impossible, and that reassurance that you are indeed the grasshopper this time around (however unwilling). My comfort comes in that Farmer's Almanac kind of knowledge that life rolls through in seasons, and change is the only constant.

This is the diagnosis:

I am a broken lip,
and a fat arm,
and a cauterized hip.
I am cataract teeth
and measles mouth,
I am a stained eye and
a rash smile.

*I titled this blog with the cautious hope that ideas are circles and everything is joined. Were I risky enough to grant credit where it was due, it would be to one who dares to write even when the rest of him is being changed and saved and forgotten.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

on hiatus, and other wintry things

Short days and long nights and uphill both ways in blowing snow, that's sort of been the way of things lately.