Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hot Chocolate

I have sustained two dog walking injuries in the last two weeks. The first involved an excitable dog freaking my dog out causing me to get tripped over by the lead (leash dear North Americans). The most remarkable factor in this fall was that even though it was a bit dramatic and I wailed very loudly, it didn't end up hurting. The excitable dog-owner seemed to be kind of relieved I wasn't going to sue him or something. Helpfully he gave me his own assessment of the situation to encourage me not to get litigious 'You are ok. You are strong.' I am? Oh, thank you. Perhaps you should consider a dog lead of your own.

The second fall was just me slipping comically on the frosted street. One moment I was admiring the way the frost sparkles in the morning sun and the next I was slammed into the road. Ow. This one still hurts.

Right afterwards I overheard two women chatting outside the school and passed by just as one asked the other 'So do you think hot chocolate is out of the question?'.

I spent the rest of my limpy walk racking my brains to imagine circumstances in which hot chocolate might indeed be out of the question. It seems so unlikely. I couldn't come up with anything. Hot chocolate is always a great idea, especially with the addition of tuaca.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How To Achieve Super Soft Cheeks

Are you sitting comfortably? I have a funny story to tell you.

All this smiling I've been doing lately is directly correlated to the fact I went to a concert and met Sahti. It's not her real name. It's the name of a real beer though, but more importantly, the name of one of my favourite book characters.

After three weeks of meeting and eating and pretending we weren't actually dating, that we were just friends, I went to Sahti's house. I met her family, ate roast chicken (with brown skin, crucially) and her cats didn't make me sneeze.

Later, when we were sitting so close I could practically see into her pores, I finally got the cojones to kiss her. My stomach felt like it had gone white water rafting.

The next day I spent 99% of the day replaying it in my head, pausing just once when I got out of the bath and realised I was absentmindedly moisturising my bum with hair conditioner.

Only The Fridge Knows

Something's up.

I just listened to Mariah Carey singing 'All I Want for Christmas' voluntarily.

I might, under ordinary circumstances, be compelled at least once in the festive season to listen to the adorable kid on Love Actually sing it. These are not ordinary circumstances. When you realise you really like someone new, it makes you like everything you like already a little bit extra. It can even make things you didn't really like all that much seem not just tolerable, but enjoyable. Like jingly jangly Christmas love paeans.

I even like the dog more. I got licked on the face twice from hugging her. She's probably the only one here who knows something is up. If I'm at work in the kitchen (the majority of daylight hours) and I feel that huge, lopsided, unstoppable silly grin of happiness start to creep onto my face I just go to the fridge, open the door and beam quietly into the light.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sahti

Hey there.

You know that feeling when you think of someone's name and you get a goofy grin slapped on your face that can't be removed no matter how hard you try to pull a sombre expression?

It's irresistible. I should know, because I tried to resist it.

I tried, on the basis that said person was 12 years old at the turn of the millenium, on the night I drank peach Bacardi Breezers (never again) and broke the pub clock. It's no use because every time I think of her name I get the kind of look a crazy person might have that makes everyone avoid sitting next to you on the bus.

Monday, November 29, 2010

It Tastes Like Home

When I express anxiety about my eating habits to my beloved people they don't really take it all that seriously, so I try not to worry too. Yet today I ate a Cadbury's Dairy Milk bar as an appetiser before lunch.

I don't think that's a good sign.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Important Decision

I forgot something on that list of stuff that happened:

13. I got a twitch in my right eyebrow that lasted about 12 hours. It's hypnotic if you stare in the mirror at your eye twitching.

My body has subtle and obvious ways of saying 'Dear Cass, you are managing to have fun because you have buried all the things that concern you way down beneath your stomach. I will remind you periodically that you need to deal by twitching your eye, withholding menstruation indefinitely, providing a tight knot between your shoulder blades and giving you episodic bouts of tinnitus. love, Your Body.'

It's nice to know it cares about me.

Time for a pop quiz!

When you are 29 almost thirty, which is the most viable option for prolonging your youth, thus giving yourself more time to do the things you thought you would have accomplished by now?

a) get married
b) get a real job
c) get a Master's degree

If you answered a) or b) please go back and read this whole blog before I get all snot-and-bullets on you, yell that it's like you don't know me at all and slam the phone down.

Obviously the answer is c) and I have decided to go to graduate school. It is not called 'grad school' in England, and to my English ear that sounds faintly obnoxious. However the term postgrad is even more pretentious sounding, because it reminds me of postmodern. By the way, I appreciate pretension in small portions so this is not a slight.

The best thing about this decision so far is that it gave my Dad an uproarious laugh on the phone when I told him. He managed to sputter in his delerium, which was so infectious I couldn't stop laughing either, that I'd be able to pay off my student loans from my pension and skip the bother of working in between studying and old age.

Last year I couldn't decide whether to move to London (again) or Paris, or Vancouver. This year I can't decide whether to study in London (again) or Paris, or Vancouver. I'm going to apply everywhere and see who'll take on my poor brain.

What's Occurring?

I just got home from walking the dog through 6 inches of slush. It rained all over the beautiful carpet of snow I was too chicken to go out in. I was afraid my fingers, used to a milder climate, would fall off since it dipped to minus 20.

Eleven days flew by since I last wrote. Here are the highlights:

1. I got a new crush due to this hilarious advice column/lip synching duo.

2. I re-ignited an old crush due to no.3.

3. I caught up on Season 6 of How I Met Your Mother.

4. I went to a supermarket for the first time in 5 months. Actually I went to Wholefoods recently too but that's more of a social occasion.

5. I was asked if I attended the local high school. ! . By a guy on the bus. I was so startled I blurted 'I'm 29!' somewhat indignantly. He responded that that was ok, it doesn't matter. Thanks buddy. I wish I'd pointed out to him that if I did go to high school he is definitely too old have been attempting to chat me up on the night bus.

6. I discovered I can still bind a book (sort of) even after 3 glasses of wine.

7. I caught up with WK and discovered he's realised he lives in Van and is thus still coming to terms with issues I have long since managed to drown out by singing along loudly to Tegan and Sara and accepting that the internet is a legitimate avenue to making friends here if you don't harbour a penchant for cycling or smoking* like everyone else in the vicinity.

8. I found out how much I hate it when the lids are left off things. Like, it's actually possible in this house for someone to open a jar of honey (or worse, yoghurt! That stuff needs refrigerating dudes!) use it, then leave the lid off and the jar standing naked, and then leave the house. This happens all the time.

9. I witnessed someone roast a chicken with a lid on. My little heart broke a bit for all the skin that wouldn't go brown and crispy. Then the lid came off for the last 10 minutes and the fat spurted out and flames roared. That's what a gas oven does, apparently.

10. I asked Robin Sparkles to 'civil union' me and move to London. I didn't get down on one knee since it was via gchat. I want to steal her so we can live together in a commune forever and adopt children and bake. I guess her beau Swarley can come live in the commune too once he graduates.

11. I was surprised and kind of embarrassed to think that my country is way behind Canada and that a 'civiil union' even exists. Especially when so many unions are uncivil.

12. I made an important decision.


* not cigarettes, duh, Vancougarites are too healthy for that

Monday, November 15, 2010

Reflections

I wonder what it's like to have children.

One of the sweetest things my Mum has ever said to me happened when I felt a pang of guilt for the fact me and my brother have failed (and will continue to fail for years to come, probably) to bestow any grandchildren upon her. She had just returned home from a neighbour's house that positively groans with the patter of many tiny feet spawned from all three of their kids.

Perhaps spawned is not the right word. Sprung forth from their loins? Whatever, it either sounds needlessly grotesque or absurdly acrobatic in those terms.

My Mum defended her own babies valiantly, in the only real way that counts, by slagging off the breeders.

"Well, you two aren't boring like they are.'

I have never loved you more, Mum. And no one will ever love me more than you do, which is the crux of the desperation most children have in light of their parents' affection. Love for us will never come easier to anyone than our mothers, which is why there is such ambivalence connected to their approval; is so yearned for and at the same time dismissed as something we don't need because we are each our own person. We don't want it to mean as much to us as it does. There's too much at risk. Your mother wants to love you. Even if she can't, even if she fails, she wants to be able to.

So if someone who is predisposed to think well of you doesn't, it is so much worse than what anyone else thinks.

This is why your mother will always be able to make you cry. No matter how old you get.

My mother has not made me cry in a long, long time, but I am thinking about this because it occurs to me how strange it must be, and how difficult, to have a child that grows up and turns into someone you don't recognise.

I have my mother's face. Since I was tiny we have probably been stopped in the street about 300 times to be told how much we look alike. There isn't anyone that knows us both who hasn't commented on our similarity.

But that's mostly where the similarity ends. (Aside from sharing mannerisms and a knack for making each other laugh.) How weird it must be, to grow someone up with a face just like yours, and then hear them say things and feel things that you would never say or feel. It is like I am a reflection of my mother and yet it's a lie, I don't reflect her at all.

I hope it's exciting and she likes it. Because that's all I've got to give. At least until I spawn another one of us.

In a Pickle

At home, my family would never dream of trying to advise me on who to date. They wouldn't think it was appropriate, nor would they want the responsibility, of finding a mate for me.

Thank goodness.

Yet here I am on the other side of the world, working amongst another family who have known me just a few short months, and dating guidance/encouragement is issued at least once a week.

Previously the lady of the house (I am the leading lady of my own life, at least, but in this house I am the understudy) was steering me towards a local Mexican business owner she took a fancy to.

Since I remained uninspired to go and check out Jose at his workplace after many weeks of prodding, I think she got the hint because now there is a new flavour of the month.

His name is Pickle and he has a lazy eye.

These are the primary bits of information relayed to me. Following this, I also learned that he is English (because I couldn't find an English guy in England!) and he is from the north. I am from the middle of England, so if you think of English land as a caste system like in Hinduism then the north is the Untouchable part. (If you are from the north then it is the south that would be considered the Untouchable area.) There is a considerable divide, not as politically strained as in Italy, but a cultural reality nonetheless. The people up north are warm like buttered crumpets, but the rest of the country doesn't care, because it rains more and the car exhaust sticks to the sandstone and makes everything look dirty.

Or maybe it's just me. I never said I wasn't a total snob.

Anyway, Mr Pickle is a Health Inspector. I was treated to one of his fecal tales of Health Inspectorism, from Mrs X, who raves about him. Apparently he bakes which is no good to me as baking is one of the feathers I was hoping to bring to the cap of any relationship. Everything I bake tastes like crap compared to when Robin bakes it, but whoever I am with will never get a chance to try any of Robin's baking while I am around to scoff it all so my baking-mediocrity may never be revealed.

The lazy eye factor is a curious one. I hear I had a lazy eye when I was six years old, but I don't remember it. I don't think I had a lazy eye at all, I'm just generally lazy and maybe that one eye just really couldn't be arsed. Not that Ptosis can't be peculiarly attractive but if I were trying to sell someone I might not have mentioned it as many times as Mrs X has referred to it.

By the way, 'Mrs X' comes from that nanny movie with Scarlett Johansson and it occurs to me it would be easier to use a moniker so I'll steal this one.

For one thing, I'm kind of unnerved and slightly insulted that Mrs X thinks I can't find my own man. I'm pretty sure if I were looking I'd be able to scare up all kinds of unsuitable specimens right here in Van (you know; musicians, 18 year olds, those with serious defective personality disorders - the usual).

Maybe I should just bite the bullet and say 'You know what? Penises are not my friends right now. Keep them to yourself.'

On the other hand, I may not need to get so dramatic. I accidentally brought up same sex marriage over breakfast. (It wasn't my fault, I went to see T&S again and Mrs X asked if they were married. Come again? I have never been to see a band before and been asked whether the musicians were married or not. It's the least relevant question I can think of. Maybe there are more single health inspectors she is taking it upon herself to hook up.). Anyway, I talked about how progressive Canada was with it's same sex marriage equality and then, lest it became apparent that it was a subject close to my heart, felt the need to cover it up by getting randomly political about other things like the fox hunting history at home and illegal dolphin hunting in Japan.

There's a good chance Pickle will bake himself into marriage sooner than I get the gumption to ask that the impromptu dating service be retired.

I Only Want Everything

I've been thinking about an earlier post and that line from the song Floorplan.

I wonder why I am not honest about what I need and want in relationships. It must be because I am afraid I won't get it. And because I am afraid it is unreasonable. I have been so well trained in politeness and the understanding that unreasonable behaviour is unattractive, that I have frequently put what I really want on the shelf and ignored it. It's not ok to ask for what I want, or to expect it. Because what I want is a bottomless pit and you might fall in.

It can't be true that unreasonable behaviour is wholly unattractive because I have a history of being attracted to people who have ultimately behaved quite unreasonably in various circumstances.

Maybe I don't think I deserve to get what I want, that no one would give it to me anyway. And yet there are scores of people out there singing and painting and writing and wailing about wanting and needing and demanding the kind of attention I want too.

These whiney, clinging, needy creatives are just being honest. I'm a whiney, clinging, needy creative, I just pretend I'm not, because it's unreasonable and I know it. It's unattractive. You can't very well meet someone and once you fall for them admit the truth of what you expect in return. Not if the truth is something along the lines of I want you to hang on my every word for the rest of your life.

However much attention you give me it will never be enough.

I want your lungs to stop working without me.

I love it when I meet someone upon whose words I am willing to hang. I want that much back.

Did You Know...

...it is possible for oatmeal and cranberry cookies to taste good even when eaten directly out of the freezer?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Black Apple Wannabe

Does anyone know why the 'e' is left out of the words tumblr and flickr?

Whenever I used to look through my clothes deciding what to wear, I would frequently get the feeling that elves had snuck into my wardrobe at night and replaced everything with ugly things that looked horrible on me. Shopping makes me come over all Rebecca Bloomwood, I can feel my pulse racing the moment I step into Anthropologie. This may account for some of my historical inexplicable decisions made under harsh flourescent lighting about what to buy.

These days, I love my clothes. Maybe because I have so few of them in Canada compared to at home. It's still true that my outfits could double as costumes for intrepid circus performers - I like colour and print and texture. I'm not afraid to mix them. For the first time though, I feel like I'm dressing as myself, and I get slightly sad thinking that there is no record of this era when I am snuggled up cosily in hats and cardigans like I jumped out of a Christmas time Gap ad or I'm swathed in silky flippy skirts and layered in jewels and chains.

There is no record because there is no one on hand to take photos of me. Taking pictures of myself resluts in something too close up with one fat arm (the arm holding the camera). I need someone as devoted to me and my wardrobe as I am. My beautiful friend who is soon to be a bride, let's call her Bridal Betty Page since her style channels icons of the past with a lovely freshness and effortlessness, has a love/hate relationship with the Black Apple. The woman behind the Black Apple is so into her clothes she documents many of her outfits. BBP's irritation stems from the sideward coy glance that every single photo of the Black Apple incorporates while I am just envious of all her shopping at clothing heaven Anthropologie.

I also recently stumbled onto Fit For A Femme. This interests me even though I hate the word 'femme' and loathe to use is to describe myself. It brings to mind only 'femme fatale' which instead of 'hot' makes me think 'I am going to have sex with you and then bite your head off' like a praying mantis. Ugh. Anyway I was interested in what a self confessed femme wears as well as other peoples' self obsession (being rather self obsessed myself). Fit for a Femme is married so she clearly has someone on hand to document her cute outfits and cover girl poses. I was struck by the sheer number of pictures and FFF's personal exposure. I was raised in a climate (family/culture) where modesty is prized, obsession is impolite. Genorosity and interest in others is important so surely admitting to your own total fasciantion with yourself is not on, and neither is your need for other people to love you as much as you do.

There is a lyric I have been thinking about a lot recently, in Floorplan (Tegan and Sara) that goes 'I want your lungs to stop working without me.' Somehow it's ok to admit these things in art and no one is freaked out, because maybe everyone secretly feels that way sometimes. I'm feeling powerfully inspired lately, to not only dress as myself, but also to be myself, so maybe art will become the focus of my narcissism. As well as this blog, haha.

Economical vs Ecological

Here is something I don't like that I have been exposed to here: fake ecological concern.

British Columbia, and Vancougar in particular, seems to have a reputation for environmental awareness. Even way back in the countryside where my hometown is nestled (among people who actually miss fox hunting) recycling has become second nature.

So it doesn't surprise me that I am constantly refilling small containers from big containers of oil/soap/everything else to save packaging (and presumably money). This is good.

The smallest member of the family (the smallest human member, not the cat) requested some yoghurt in small pots. Our yoghurt is mostly homemade so is stored in giant vats that need decanting for a packed lunch. (It's delicious.) The smallest member's mother gave a detailed explanation about the environmental impact of packaging and how she didn't believe in buying small pots of yoghurt.

The next week small pots of yoghurt filled up the fridge. It turns out the small pots were on sale. So, the real issue is small pots are a waste of money, but when they are on sale the environment can go to hell or wherever.

Maybe I'm just being pissy because I get made to feel guilty about all the nail varnish remover I use and how 'it gets in the water and contaminates it'. I gave up meat for 10 years, but the thought of giving up nail varnish is just too much. (I'm currently favouring black, it's the last vestige of my teenage years and I plan to cling onto it for as long as it doesn't look ridiculous.)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Sandwiches

America, did you know it was National Sandwich Day for you the other day?

I hope you celebrated appropriately and ate sandwiches with fillings 5 inches thick.

In England, we like to solemnly remember war time rationing by keeping sandwich fillings as sparse as possible, especially if the sandwich comes from a supermarket.

During a recent online search for things that Vancougar might offer me other than walks in the woods and opportunities for uncharacteristic flirtations with hairy dudes, I was looking for an alternative bookshop where I might source my copy of the new Erika Lopez book. Ok, ok so I was looking for somewhere I might spot cute girls in Van who can also read, but anyway, I found an ad for a gay establishment that included the initials GBLT*.

My only thought was:

Gay Bacon Lettuce & Tomato?

Maybe they were just really happy to be celebrating the upcoming National Sandwich Day.

Of course to be truly gay this sandwich would have to be made using Fakin' Bacon.

* for the uninitiated, the initials usually used to denote gayness or gay friendliness in an establishment/publication/service or whatever are variants on LGBTQ with Q being a relatively avant garde addition. I have never, ever seen GBLT before, but it does promote my status as 2nd in the line up as opposed to 3rd, so who's complaining?

In, Out, In, Out, Shake it all about

Dear Beloved Readers,

I've started feeling really self-conscious about the direction in which my writing is going. It's reflecting my life in Van of course, so the gayer life here gets, the gayer this blog is likely to get. I love you for reading this and I don't want to alienate you. Mimi is the only person for whom this isn't weird, because when we met I was busily living with one girl while falling in love with another. She introduced me to all her friends and they had a mutual friend with the same first name as me. They differentiated between us by naming her the German one and me the Lesbian one.

I recently met a woman who sounded thrilled to be bisexual, she talked about it positively, while I have hidden from it for years because the reaction the word gets mortifies me.* I never once went to Gay Pride with my friends in London, even when I lived with a woman. Why? Because I'm too lazy to march? Because I was afraid people would look at me and wonder what the heck that straight girl was doing there? The simple answer is, I didn't go to Pride because I wasn't proud. As much as I stolidly held to my high expectations of everyone around me, looking to them for support and acceptance, I was busy raging against homophobia while realising I harboured internalised homophobia against myself.

This seems deranged.

It has only recently struck me though, that I actually don't know what it's like to be straight. You think everyone thinks like you until you find out they don't. My newly minted bisexual friend recently married a dude and only later she realised her love of girls in not something all straight women have on the side. She's happy with that, the self knowledge and understanding and experience of meeting other women who feel the same way is enough for her.

Being bisexual for me is like doing the bloody Hokey Cokey for the rest of my life. I wish I knew where it would lead. I wish I didn't have to follow my heart because it is suddenly expansive and wide and taking me places I am afraid to go. And I'm taking you with me. Maybe it'll be fun, think of it as an anthropological case study.

I hope I'll learn to embrace being the unicorn of sexuality; that mythical creature: the bisexual. The gayness is actually not a problem for me, nothing makes my heart jump and down in excitement more than the realisation that the whole world makes sense to me from that perspective, it's just the alignment of it with my ungay self along with all my expectations of growing up to be like Samantha from Bewitched, minus the magic.

In related news, I recently saw WK for the first time since my birthday and told him he was off the hook, that while most of my heterosexuality is currently used up on my crush on him (the rest is still for Lee Min Ho) I would be exploring other avenues henceforth. I didn't actually use the word henceforth, because who does? There's something delicious about employing fancy pretentious language in the written word that you can't get away with in real life speech.

Kind salutations,
Me x

* I am possibly referring to the reaction the word gets from me, myself. Go figure, as they say on this side of the Atlantic.

p.s. edited to add this note - sometimes I just love people so much, like the people who created Bisexual Index, it makes me want to do a better job of not disparaging my own people.

p.p.s. it would be easier not to disparage my own people if their t-shirt section did not look like this. (Although I may have spat something onto the screen laughing at the 'Bi-furious' one, WTF?) Totally 'mo t-shirts are way cooler. Please get me one for Christmas or I could be single for yet another year/the rest of my life.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Breaking News

I went for a run.

Shocker!

It was more of a run/gasp for breath/walk/run/gasp/stumble cycle than a straightforward run. It's been 18 months at least since I attempted such a thing.
(I do frequently run for the bus however.)

I would like to thank my Fellow European for the suggestion. Little does she know that she was instrumental in making one of the least likely events of the year actually happen.

I would also like to thank the left over chocolate frosting sitting in the fridge.
Dear, luscious frosting, once I caught myself eating you off a spoon, I knew it was time to get off my bum.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Be Cool, Sodapop

I have been caught out. By none other than the worldliest of Vancouverites, Douglas Coupland. I was mentally cheering my local library again for the 27th time this year when I discovered a copy of his book City of Glass.

I loved his wry portrait of Kits ( a neighbourhood of fit people from a beer ad/commercial) and his insight into the Pot-a-holic side of this city.

But then I felt suddenly alone, as if my integration here is a distant and perhaps impossible thing. (Of course I am also slightly perversely pleased at this.) The reason for this is Doug's insistence that no one but people from the far reaches of the east coast (i.e. clueless folk) call Vancouver 'Van'. I do it all the time. Think of the hours I save not typing the whole thing out every time. Doug insists that since the neighbourhoods of North Van, East Van and West Van are so specific, no one would dream of being so generalist as to call any part of it merely Van.

Also, apparently, it is 'dweeby' to be carrying an umbrella. Nevermind that my umbrella is the most adorable thing I have ever seen and it was good enough for Paris, the chicest wet city of all time. However, I am, despite being made to feel like a moronic foreigner, able to see that it is the lot of the hardcore Vancouerite to be under the impression that an anorak is man's best friend.

No; that would be a credit card. Or an umbrella.

Mix Tape Memories

I miss mix tapes.

They were such a labour of love. Making tapes for people, or even for myself, I was always obsessive over pressing stop on the tape recorder at the end of a song at exactly the right moment. The transition had to be clean. It wasn't until I met NME (his pseudonym, after the magazine), who became one of my greatest friends, that I realised there was even more to consider; like the notes one song ends on and the chords the next song begins with. The tapes NME made for me during our sweet and hidden courtship (it was that long ago that seems the appropriate word) are some of the best compilations of songs ever to grace my ears.

On this nostaglic note, I have to go. The cat is retching.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Dishwasher Initiative Failure

Oh, woe is me.

The new Dishwasher Initiative that started a few weeks ago in this house is failing miserably. The mother decided the children were old enough to rinse out their own dishes and place them in the dishwasher themselves after eating. Sounds easy enough to me.

More often than not they just get slung anywhere in the vicinity of the sink, resplendent with gunk left over from whatever they ate. I am at that jaded stage of feeling like it's just easier to clean up their mess since even if they do it themselves I generally have to re-do everything anyway. Was I a horrifically messy pre-teen? I have no recollection of this.

It's as if I just came out perfectly formed, with the mind of a 30 year old even as a new born. This is why my Grandad called me 'Here Before' perhaps.

This can't be true, yet the level of detritus left in the two sweet girls' wake leaves me frequently incredulous. The worst thing about the abject failure of the Dishwasher Initiative is that the parents contribute to its failure on a daily basis by slinging their own plates in or near the sink rather than putting them in the dishwasher. It's as if I am the dishwasher conduit and nothing may be cleaned unless it has first been placed artfully in the machine by my own fair hand.

The other day the mother made a note on this aloud telling me 'That little girl is going to need reminding to put her dishes away!' while simultaneously shoving her own dish in the sink, oatmeal quietly crusting at the edges.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Culture

Winter in Van is on the way, the rain was torrential yesterday.

I spent my time holed up in the basement being warmed from the inside out by Gloria Steinem's interview on the CBC. I can't express enough how much this is worth listening to, if you are a woman or know someone who is.

In other news, I have a new crush. Her name is Ariel Schrag. See earlier post about how the best things in Van are free - the libraries. I borrowed all four of Ariel's awesome autobiographical comic/graphic novels on Thursday and today I am finishing the last one. If you have ever wondered how comic book sex looks, or would enjoy a flashback to that time you had to tape your friend's miniscule dress together as you got ready to go out while No Doubt blared in the background, then locate the last of your glitter eyeshadow, slap it on and put the kettle on. These are books to be devoured.

Also, Erika Lopez has a new book coming out soon. I was horrified (at first, because I am a selfish snob who wants to be cooler than the other graphic novel readers, but then of course I was pleased and delighted for her success) to discover people know who she is; like the writers of Bust who just interviewed her. I am nervously excited to read it. I was at university when I fell for her incredible wit and deliciously trashy illustrations that look like they were drawn by a horny, yet exceedingly talented, fifteen year old boy with a Betty Page fetish. Opening the first page will be like going back in time. I can't wait.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Helloween

The 31st of the month is not yet upon us, but I have already decided I don't like Halloween.

When I was little I used to dress up as a witch and just walk around the house in my get-up. There was nowhere to go, Halloween didn't really exist then in England.

Here people have had their homes decorated for weeks. I walked by one the other day and I thought lots of plastic bags had got stuck in the bushes but on closer inspection I saw that each plastic bag had a face and that they had been purposefully tied on to resemble ghosts swarming near to the house. I saw another very similar thing a few days later. I always liked the idea of pumpkin carving but as the inevitable draws closer I am finding it hard to work up any enthusiasm.

Maybe this is because I have agreed to dress as a fairy godmother. This is because it's the only outfit in the house that fits me. There are hordes of frightful dressing up things, but I fit into a 70s broderie anglaise dress and a towering sequinned princess hat, almost as if they were made for me. There is also the upsetting truth that in Walmart the week before last I bought a bumper bag of Halloween sweets and they haven't even lasted until Halloween. (A hundred packets of Rockets which are the Canadian version of Fizzers. )

My initial reaction was that Rockets are not as delicious as Fizzers but after 100 packets* of Rockets I can't remember what Fizzers taste like anymore.

* Sadly not an exaggeration

The Best

I remembered! The absolute Best thing about Van is the public library system. My library on the North shore has the incredible bonus of being newly constructed with mostly glass walls so that if you go to the 3rd floor during the early evening you can watch the splendour of the sunset from the study section. This isn't just any sunset, it is the sunset over the ocean, from a pleasing height. It really is gorgeous.

This does not even have anything to do with the cerebral pleasures contained within the library's heaving shelves. Yes I can make the library sound sexy, because it is. (Especially the downtown library, which appears to concentrate on hiring nymph-like yet vaguely androgynous looking graduate students; the type that have Dewy decimal numbers tattooed on their wrists.)

I like to test the library, just to see if it is really as amazing as I like to think. I think of books I read long ago, books I only half recall the title of, then I look for them on the online catalogue and see if it true that this library could take all my crappiest thoughts on Neanderthalic North 'Cougar and flush them down the loo. This library just never fails. I found the wondrous works of the seemingly unheard of Elizabeth Knox, a book I recalled wanting to read that had Trieste in the title (Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere by Jan Morris) High Art on DVD, the whole of Veronica Mars, the legacy of John Marsden who scared me witless (delightful!) as a teenager....but then the best gift of all. The entire High School Comic Chronicles of Ariel Schrag.

Downtown I was awed to discover that the library not only carries another healthy selection of comics and graphic novels, but it has an entire section devoted to Zines. I had thought Zines were purley a mid-90s phenomena that sprung up solely to inform me of new bands and bad poetry that was being created across the country before the internet was even a figment of our collective imaginations. As it happens, they still exist. I shouldn't be surprised, since Book Art as a genre still exists. Book Art however, protects itself with the sparkling yet invisible cape of chic mystery bestowed upon anything with 'art' in the title. Zines are clearly made by people who do not believe in the value of the invisible cape, they think that what they scribbled on their wall last nigt at 3am is art and that computers and our reliance on them is the true embodiment of evil.

They are my people.

The reading room at the Regional Assembly of Text is another pure joy and it offers a selection of handmade books that wear the Book Art cape but have Zine-like sensibilities. I could live in there.

Grease the Wheels

The other day I was mentally composing what to write here as I felt I had discovered the ultimate Best and Worst things about Vancougar. I even wrote a note about it later on something I cut out of the Georgia Straight (my notice board is full of newspaper cuttings regarding obscure events I rarely end up going to).

I lost the note. I no longer have any idea what the Best thing about Van is, but I definitely remember the worst:

It is almost impossible to get drunk.

It's not even that I want to get drunk, just to enjoy some drinks, but it takes a tremendous amount of effort. You can't buy alcohol in Safeway or at the 7-Eleven. Nowhere but at a liquor store (an off-license to people at home) or a bar. At bars you are often encouraged to sit and be waited on. This takes away the brilliant opportunity to drunkenly make friends with other patrons while standing at the bar waiting for a drink or to flirt with the bar staff. And drinking here is expensive!

However, my Fellow European and I are intrepid in our such for fun and alcohol in this rainy yet strangely dry metropolis. This led to my great idea of attending the book launch for Inkstuds at Blim. Inkstuds is a book of interviews with comic book artists (made from a radio show) and Blim is an art workshop/gallery space in Chinatown. Oh, my poor, beleagured artist's hopes were high for a night full of drinking cheap book launch wine and chatting to nerdy looking comic-book reading dudes with glasses and tattoos and sultry art school drop-out girls. In other words; heaven. (If you're 15. Or me.)

Having once (5 years ago) co-thrown an opening-night-of-an-exhibition-do along with 7 artful friends, I feel qualified to assert that I know the ropes*; I know how these things should go down. Namely, alcohol should be thrust upon you as soon as you enter.

The theory behind this is that hopefully you will get tipsy enough to ask questions about the art work so the artist can revel in describing their artistic intentions or enjoy making up a load of bollocks on the spot. Also, people get emotionally attached to pieces of art when they feel emotional. In the sense that they may simply have to buy that seven foot tall paper mache and cigarette butt sculpture of David Beckham right now, no matter what.

I liked the feel of Blim, but it was too reticent an opening to inspire us to stay when cocktails were calling from Guilt & Co. down the road. We looked at the book (which looks interesting) and we chatted to a nice but wary guy behind the book table, but it was too much like hard work.

* Please note irony, or something else if that is not in fact irony, it's too cold for my brain to function at optimum capacity.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The trouble with love....

....is that it is akin to carrying a bucketful of water on each shoulder.

On one shoulder you have the bucket containing your love for a person, and on the other shoulder is the bucket containing their love for you. When it's weighted evenly like that you can't feel the pressure of it. You're content to carry it forever.

Only when the balance drops does the burden of carrying one bucket reveal itself. It weighs you down so low, whether someone has withdrawn their love from you, or you have withdrawn your love from them, you are left with one heavy bucket to carry and nothing to balance it with.

I don't know which bucket is heavier, when you're left with one full of your love for someone who has left; or when you're stuck with a bucket of love you can't accept from someone else.

Eventually though, carrying it around unevenly, sloshing it about like that, or due to a hole in the bucket itself, it slowly empties and the weight is lifted.

There was probably a hole in my love bucket for Linus even at the start of our relationship. It must have been tiny because I didn't notice it. Even when it became evident, I didn't care. I just wanted to stare at him and listen to him sing. (Are you noticing a pattern?)

I was left with the heaviest goddamn bucket of love for that boy that one woman ever tried to carry alone. It nearly broke my back. But it didn't, and I would like to announce to the world that with a little help from home and the people in it, from Robin's unwavering support (because blood might be thicker than water, but golden syrup is thicker than blood) and from the lilting French accent of a hot 18 year old intern, that bucket is now empty.

That's not to say all the love goes away, that it all spills over and out or leaks and leaves. There is a residual sheen, like an undercoat of paint. I don't regret a single moment I sat on the kitchen floor of a 1920s apartment, and stared at Linus, and listened to him sing. I just don't need to do it again.

Shipping Forecast

I can hear the long low bellow of a ship's horn. The quay is a half hour walk away if you don't want to hurry.

At night, or early in the morning, you can be woken by the moan of the ships as they slowly move their hulking weight through the harbour. The noise sounds like the ache of a whale's belly.

I never use the word belly for humans, I think it sounds ugly; it sounds huge and distended. We have tummies. Whales, though, have bellies that are gigantic and fit to swallow you whole. The rumble a whale's belly would make if the whale felt hungry is the sound of the horn. Or the low tone of a whale when it is sad, a deep baleful call because it can't cry tears underwater.

Wino Forever

As mentioned in the previous post, my lengthy Kevin Costner fantasy was replaced when Jordan Catalano came into my life when I was 13, the exact age that he leaned his way into Angela Chase's life in perhaps the best celluloid interpretation of teenage angst ever: My So-Called Life.

Jordan was replaced by Winona Ryder. I had forgotten about Winona. I thought of her just the other day as I was vacuuming the hall floor. I have forgotten a lot of things, a lot of early influences, which is why I am re-hashing them now. It occurrs to me that who you once were is not irrelevant to who you are now. Like the first time you realise that the reason you keep getting your heart wrecked is because of the people you choose to sail it with. It's just the same person, again and again, in different incarnations.

See this post for an introduction to this topic, but lately I have been playing an ongoing game with myself called 'How gay am I really?' It's a very intresting game. Try it yourself! I know I fit between the two big categories of hetero and homo which is why this game interests me - I'm just like everyone else, pushing myself to see if I can swing it over one way and pick a side. Wouldn't that be easier for everyone? Most of all for me. I'm kidding. To be honest, I'm just curious. And surprised.

I was once told by my very lesbionic friend 'You are the gayest person ever' and it just so happened that the majority of my cultural leanings, thoughts and influences were, upon closer inspection, really very gay indeed. I read Stella Duffy and Carol Ann Duffy avidly. I listened to Sleater Kinney and Bikini Kill. I watched every movie Winona had been in, and when her portrayal of Jo in Little Women made me believe nothing could make me love her more, I wrote to her to tell her so. I don't actually remember anything I said in the letter. I blocked out that I wrote a love letter to a woman when I was 14 (14!) and didn't think there was anything remotely gay about it.

I went to a girls' high school and never once noticed any of the girls in it. I was never in the closet; I lived in Narnia. I was so deeply entrenched in my own world (where I never once questioned my sexuality - why does that word sound like a disease?) that I wasn't even aware a closet existed.

Of course Winona had to move over for River Phoenix who in turn (once reading not one but two of his biographies had influenced me enough to turn me into a vegetarian for the next 10 years) had to make room in my adolescent heart for Dave Grohl (awesomely talented and bearded frontman of the Foo Fighters who had been the lanky, long-haired drummer in Nirvana when I fell for him).

Now Dave was the real deal. I spent hours comtemplating our future together, how I would meet him at The Laundry Room in LA, (his recording studio) how we would sit in a diner and he'd sing 'Big Me' from the Foo's first album (which I had borrowed from the library, ha!) and most of all I worried about how much he smoked and whether I'd be able to get him to stop. These were my real concerns. I never imagined kissing him even though I was sure we would be married. I just wanted to stare at him and listen to him sing. Eventually I had a boyfriend who was incredibly cool (he still is! and he's getting married, but that's a whole other post) and he took me to see Dave play live. I wore my favourite dress, a little black number with an empire waist (adds boobs) a mesh overlay and adjustable spaghetti straps. I bought it with my first ever wages/paycheck (bar what my brother paid me for picking raspberries for him at his summer job and the five quid I earned for forging his signature dozens of times on his personalised business cards in his Ferris Bueller days). When I saw Dave on stage I actually cried a bit.

I was 20!

Ha! Just a year later I was confounded when during a flirty conversation with my not-yet first girlfriend, she declared I would have to fight her for Dave, whom she adored. I didn't understand; she was a giant homosexual, she had said so herself. Surely the rights to Dave would be all mine. Even then I knew I liked her so much I would allow her to encroach on my long held Dave Grohl fantasies. On the street where the bus stopped nearest her house, there was a shop I always wanted to go in to. It was a cute, adorable looking little boutique in Stoke Newington in North London. I saw it every time I got off the bus to go to see her, and I never went in. Going in would have meant reaching her later. Even if I just went in for a minute, it would mean I would reach her a minute later. I couldn't do it. I literally walked as fast as my legs would carry me.

That seems like madness now. Much later, when she was gone and all my longing belonged to another girl who seemed to give me an electrical charge every time we were in the same room, I went back to that neighbourhood. I visited that little boutique and spent an entire week's salary on an Orla Kiely handbag. (It was in the sale even then.)

Now of course, I understand it all completely differently. Probably no one is completely blinded to the attractiveness possibilities in each gender. Kind of like, I can see that Jude Law is attractive, but that's as far as I'd take it. My crush on Dave did not inherently have more value in it that my crush on Winona, merely because he's the opposite sex. My attachment to a man is not superior to an attachment to a woman. This is true for me, and and that is all I can say. I know it's not true for the world.

And so now, even though I will continue to defend the many hideous hairstyles Lee Min Ho deigns to wear in his Korean TV performances, Min Ho must move aside, for my current celebrity crush has a face that lights up like no one else. She also has a pony tail.

The reason I am boing your arses off with a post practically idenitical to one I wrote recently is that I can't keep this stupid smile from spreading across my face every time I think about this. It's like I've been set free. My to-ing and fro-ing over WK, and all the date-ish non-dates I had over the last year with perfectly fine gentlemen (where I kept hoping they wouldn't kiss me) left me feeling as if there was a hole in my heart space that was never going to fill up again, not quite to the brim.

I was wrong. The space isn't empty after all. I've just been barking up the wrong tree.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bodyguard

As well as chief cook and bottle-washer, another of my roles in this job is 'bodyguard'. This does not involve singing that song where each word has about ten syllables, and I almost never think about Kevin Costner anymore (although I had a long, involved fantasy about him after he appeared in Dances With Wolves, which came out when I was 9, and lasted until Jordan Catalano came into my life 4 years later).

I have to take the dog with me when I do the school run. And the ipod, otherwise I would be at risk of enjoying the silence of nature. Then I wait on a patch of grass while the dog rolls around slobbering. After a while (about four or five songs) the Little One comes up the steps from school accompanied by her rather worldly classmate. I put the ipod away, greet the girls and they tell me little bits about their day at school. Then we proceed to walk home. I walk behind with the dog, and the two girls walk in front of me chatting about their substitute teacher, the boy who has a foster mum, whether they like Amanda (usually), how much candy they won during class for answering questions correctly (yes, really!) and possibly a trillion other inanities of school life. I don't know any more because by the time we have reached the pedestrian crossing I am fully immersed in my role as bodyguard and start wondering why I left my mirrored shades at home.

The classmate would be walking home alone, if it wasn't for me being provided as courtesy escort. So every day I get the overwhelming feeling, as I follow these two giggling pre-teens, that I am nothing more than a bodyguard. One who walks at a discreet distance while trying to keep up, having to stop to pick up poop once in a while.

Having to take the dog really ruins my image.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Spirit Level

When I consider my own sexuality (gasp!) I always visualise a spirit level.

In our house when I was little, we had an orange spirit level with a yellow bubble that sat in the middle when the spirit was level, as it were. This is a memory I am not certain of, perhaps I invented the orange colour, but it's what comes to mind.

When I let myself (or make myself) consider it, I know I am not straight. I also know I am not gay. As Al Gore might put it, this is an inconvenient truth.

My Fellow European hit the nail on the head for me by using one word in reference to this over a glass of wine the other day:

Coherent.

The reason it is inconvenient is it is difficult to build a coherent identity, an idea for yourself and also an idea for others (especially other people you love) to have of you when they can't be certain where the bubble on your spirit level lies. This is due to the impossibilty of separating your sexuality from every other facet of your life. It's true that it impacts other areas, but I know truly and completely that I am exactly the same person, in essence, as I was before I ever found out I could be in love with someone of either gender.

And this issue is not about what you do with someone, not for me. It is about who you do it with. It is about love. In the absence of any faith that grips my heart except the faith that love inspires, I am beholden to it and spend my life in it's joyful and heartbreaking pursuit.

I can say without any doubt that when I have truly loved someone I have never doubted that they were the 'right' gender for me. For me there is no right answer, no right team to play on, just a right person. I think I've loved the right people so far. (Of course I would eventually like to love someone who is so right for me, who I am so right for, that we stay together for a billion years and have 27 children.)

I think my gayness (I'm single so I don't have anyone to sway the balance; let's call it 50%) is more deeply rooted than I first thought when I fell in love with a girl at university. I thought it was just her - the way her hair smelled like rosemary, her contrasting boldness and sensitivity, her fine bone china tea cups and the floral, lavendery Earl Grey tea that they always held. It didn't occur to me before that I was different from a lot of girls way before then. I'm still not sure now, because I have no one to measure myself against. I don't know if my childhood devotion to Rosemary Ford (the glamorous assistant on the Generation Game) and passionate support of Jennifer Capriati at Wimbledon in 1991 when I was 10, was just a normal growing-up thing, or if it meant I always saw girls differently than most girls do. That girl at school in the year below, with the pale blonde sheet of hair that waved to me like a white flag after a fight and made me happy each time I saw it; did I just admire her lack of frizz or did I have a crush on her? Does it make a difference now? Why am I thinking about it at all?

I haven't thought about girls in a long time, about the way I feel about some of them. Last weekend I went to see a band play and it is not an exaggeration to say that it rejuvanated my zest for, well, absolutely everything. There is still a spring in my step that had been lacking for months before. The music was awesome, I had fun sharing it with a friend and seeing Stanley Park for the first time. But that wasn't it - the magical part was that it made me remember something I like. When you forget what you like, you forget who you are.

I have been here, swamped and wading around, directionless, forgetting all the tiny things that make me who I am. No wonder I have been so miserable. Since the show I have set myself the task of remembering them; I want to chart the influences on my life since the first time I went to see that particular band play when I was 21, to now, till I saw them on my 29th birthday and felt like something in me was bursting open.

This is a totally self absorbed project that I don't plan to write too much about (but hey - if I turn out to be self absorbed enough I might change my mind on that later). The point of it stems from seeing this woman on stage, singing to me as I stood in the mud in a crowd of 2000 people, and remembering the first time I saw her. It was in the bathroom of the Metro Club on Oxford Street in London and as I was washing my hands I noticed a petite, dark haired girl wearing a parka with a furry hood washing her hands next to me. It was Sara Quin, one half of the band Tegan and Sara. When I realised I recognised her I wanted to hug her I loved their EP so much. I was absolutely too shy to say hello, or thanks for coming to London, or your new album rocks, or anything like that. I loved that show and the one I went to 2 years later, both venues so tiny that they played in front of me as close as Sara had been to me in the bathroom that time.

Six years after that first Tegan and Sara show I saw them play in LA and was astonished to discover their rise to fame meant fans were sleeping outside the venue to catch a close up glimpse of them (in Hollywood! Instead of being synonymous with 'glamour' it should be synonymous with 'dirty on the ground', don't sleep outside!). Within a few weeks of seeing that LA show I had the utter pleasure of bumping into another woman in a bathroom, who's music and attitude and face I have loved since university. You can bet your sweet anything I didn't let the opportunity of meeting Pink (or Alicia as she's known to good friends like me!) slip by, I said hello and chatted to her for a good five minutes in the bathroom of Hotel Cafe. I didn't faint or anything!

How things have changed.

When I bought Tegan and Sara's EP (before I had even heard their voices - I admired the cover) I didn't know they were both gay or that it would be important for me later. Or maybe I did, maybe my gaydar was so super duper and subconscious that I knew without knowing.

Either way, it's knowledge about myself that can't be undone. I don't want it to be. I don't know where it's going to take me. I'm going to try to stop fretting about that part.

p.s. I remember one of the most confusing things anyone ever said to me regarding my gay behaviour; she asked how I ended up being friends with a girl I had just met (who was also exploring her own signs of gayness at the time) in the manner of 'how come you don't fancy her? she's gay too, so how do you know who you fancy and who you are just friends with?'. This was useful for me as it really gave me the idea that maybe some women grow up without their version of Rosemary Ford, maybe some people have no capacity for empathy with that. To me it's obvious - straight women (and me too) are able to distinguish which men they fancy and which they don't. It's even more pronounced than that, we can distinguish which men we fancy, which we don't mind, which we are repulsed by and which we view in an asexual manner (i.e.brothers). I can do the same with women too. Instead of being all in one group of 'don't fancy' there is a scale and my friends all fall under the 'not attracted to, at all' category while Pink comes under 'definiftely attracted to but can maintain composure during surprise meetings'. It's not that you aren't totally beautiful, my friends, I just don't fancy you.

p.p.s. This does not even touch on the anxiety produced in me by the term 'bisexual'. I can't deny the real meaning of it about myself, because it's true, yet the term has been hijacked so completely by society, by both gay and straight communities, as being a purgatory for people who are sitting on an imaginary fence, people who are polyamorous (this is so not what it means - 'bi' should stand for 'either' not 'both') or people who want to have their cake and eat it too, who are confused or lying to themselves and everyone they know. That's why I rarely use this term in reference to myself, but if you need a term to process me with, its the only one I've got to offer you. If you are reading this and were not already aware of it and think that I should have mentioned it to you before, please know that I often forget that the fluidity of sexuality is a big deal to some people, and that to some others it is a foreign concept altogether. I wouldn't imagine regaling everyone I know with intimate details of my early 20s if they concerned a boy, because I don't think it matters. (Except you Robin and Mimi, you get to hear all the fun stuff, sorry!) The fact that much of that time concerned girls, I tend to think is only relevant to me. Oh goodness it has taken so long to organise my thoughts for this post it is past 3am and I am now ravenously hungry. Either that or my basement-fellow's pot smoking session earlier has given me the munchies. I must go and sacrifice the last Dairy Milk in my stash. Thanks for listening.

Drinking the Kool-Aid

Back in the present, I am experiencing some strange, unfamiliar feelings of contentment. For now, I am content to live in Vancougar and see what happens for a while. I'm not promising I won't come home screaming shortly, but maybe I will last a bit longer than I originally thought.

Maybe it's autumn. It really is stunning here. At every turn, and most frequently when I am without my camera, I come upon rows of trees alternating golden and bright red leaves, or startling blue sky above defined mountain peaks. Then there's the sunlight.

I was on the bus travelling over the Lions Gate Bridge with my friend (whom, in a reference to the timeless Bewitched, I shall call Sam) when we became utterly speechless at the site of the city at sunset. The sunlight hit the glassy buildings in such a swathe of rays that the result was a heavenly shimmer of golden reflected light. The soft sparkle was beguiling and gorgeous and I couldn't take my eyes off it, not even to gaze over to the other side of the bridge where I would have been met with the site of the sunset against the ocean.

Tonight I watched the sunset on the ocean side as I was travelling home a little later and missed the bedazzled buildings spectacle. Huge ships from Japan and Korea occupy the harbour here and 3 of them were far enough out that I could see their twinkling lights underneath the orange horizon. Not to mention the dark shoreline spreading out to the intense, behemoth mountains behind.

In other news, I carried three bars of Dairy Milk and two Mars Caramels around London Drugs (Boots/Walgreens equivalent) today for ten minutes while I looked for shampoo, and then I put them back. I got a packet of Tropical Trident gum instead. Proud of me? My Uniqlo jeans are. They want to be worn again.

Something else that wants to be worn again is my yellow party dress, which has such a profound effect on my mood I really ought to wear it every day. It's a frothy chiffon confection and I wore it to my birthday drinks. It was truly sad, having to research a venue online because I haven't been out enough here to know anywhere to go. It was even sadder recruiting my friends' friends so that it actually resembled a birthday gathering. It was even more tragic when the extra friends couldn't make it. Go ahead and get your tiny violin out. What turned out to be fabulous though, was that my research paid off and I spent my birthday drinks party here. The pretention factor of such a very cool and arty venue was offset by the fact that when I walked in they were playing the Amelie soundtrack and I felt like I had come home. Added to that, the cocktails were inventive and yummy, you could go up to the bar and get your drinks yourself, all the staff were friendly and one of them even complimented my yellow dress. The evening gave me so much confidence that I finally had the courage to confront my good friend WK about his shirtless behaviour and request that he stop it if didn't have any ulterior motive. I would quite gladly have taken advantage of any ulterior motive, mind you, but if he thinks he can platonically parade his finery in front of me, he is quite mistaken. He took this news good-naturedly and with assurance that he is as affectionate to all of his friends as he is to me and there was nothing to it. Although my super sized ego isn't entirely convinced that this isn't a load of tosh, I have taken it onboard and accepted the truth that sometimes one 10 year crush is only good for one historical, champagne fueled kiss (circa 2009). Or like, 200 kisses if you divide up how many make one hot half an hour. Suffice to say, I like leaving no stones unturned so full investigation of this particular stone's potential leaves me satisfied.

This evening I came home from a gloriously sunny day of exploring independent record shops (horrifyingly expensive, they made me miss Amoeba, Head and the late Fopp with a pronounced longing pain) and as I was walking from the bus stop through my neighbourood, admiring the firey red end of the sunset I could smell the hot sugar scent of candy floss in the air. I got home to find half of the family outside sitting around a fire pit underneath a canopy of vines, toasting marshmallows on long sticks. When I sat down to join them I regaled them with the incredible true story of how this was my first time toasting a marshmallow over an open fire. I was really able to appreciate the autumnal bliss of the evening and of the delicious burnt caramelised taste in my mouth as the fire was not a campfire, and I was free to go and sleep in my bed afterwards.

So autumn's beauty has hypnotized me and I'm gaining more willpower. I've happily left my long time crush in the realm of non-possibility where it safely belongs. Does this mean you are in for a boringly contented blog? Never fear. The orange haired aunt returns to the house for an overnight stay next week, with one of her men in tow. I doubt I've developed enough willpower to withstand her prying without coming up with at least one huffity teenage response. Stay tuned to rate the immaturity level!

(N.B. I must not discount the possibility that almost 3 months of passive smoking in VanPot means I am now as brainless laid back as the rest of them... that would also explain the overeating tendency)

False Advertising

This job is not what it said on the tin.

Two weeks ago I received a lesson on how to clean the sink with a toothbrush. Yes you read that correctly. Also, it is pretty hard to give childcare when the children are never around. The main part of this job is meant to be a responsibility for and relationship with the children. In reality the state of the bathroom takes precendance as the children take a constant stream of classes (school of course, plus 25 kinds of dance, sport and music lessons.) I love my parents even more than ever before. I love that they let me grow an imagination. Who cares if I don't know judo or how to play the clarinet? Our weekends were spent together, frequently walking around large National Trust estates where I alternated my different horse-riding-princess fantasies. (I felt positively fated to become an aristocrat.) Here no weekend is free to do anything except ferry the younger half of the family to their respective appointments.

My struggles with the job have recently been discussed between me and the mother of the house, and the outcome is I feel more at peace than I have since I arrived. Although no resolution came from the conversation, and nothing has actually changed, the tension of having to keep my anxiety over it in a tight little ball that was hip hopping all over my stomach, has dissipated. I don't feel like re-living it too much to be honest, but it did end well even if in the most awkward hug of all time, not initiated by me, needless to say. I am quite a tactile person usually, but there is such an air of oddity about all physical contact I have experienced of late that I am beginning to retreat slightly.

Both girls had days off school recently and on each respective day I set up a one on one craft class to help them make some jewelry while I made them something for them too. It was relaxing and fun and they hugged me in thanks. Even though every time I get hugged here I feel a sense of Stepford Wife-ness about the place, there is genuine good intention behind it and that is reassuring. I am fascinated by these kids. When I was 14 I was listening to Nirvana constantly, and nursing crushes on Courtney Love and River Phoenix while spending all my spare time on the phone and painting my nails, often simultaneously. Here there are no thrashing guitar sounds coming from upstairs and no one is tying up the phone line (except me sometimes). There are no posters of Jared Leto on the ceiling (I stole that idea from a Judy Bloom book, which is how you can tell I was still a kid at heart) and no one ever slams a door.

I wonder how long it can last?

Maturity

I have come to the conclusion, upon turning 29 and spending time with a 14 year old, that I have matured in ways I had not previously suspected. Much of the time I feel I could very well be 14 myself, but after experiencing the truly grossly immature habits of a real 14 year old, I can proudly say that I never ever leave gum stuck to my bedside table, so I have definitely evolved into a mature woman.

Having said that, I was recently startled by the depth of my own special reserves of immaturity that I keep deep inside to dip into when necessary. I have a lump and bruise the size of a tennis ball on my right knee to remind me of this.

This is what happened...

Someone touched me. After months (yes over 12 months makes a year but that is too depressing to type) of fending people off (including an over zealous Frenchman) someone touched me and I didn't push them away. I didn't grab hold of them either, I just stopped breathing and wondered what it meant.

It means I am alive. It means even if I can't let anyone in my heart (or the space where it once was - it's like a hologram at this point) that I might be willing to let someone in somewhere else... somewhere more easily accessible.

It wasn't just touching. It was...shirtlessness. The same person thought nothing of stripping off to finish painting a wall, while I lay on his bed watching in awe. Like a pervert.

Having woken up to this I ended up getting mightily confused since the person in question, the aforementioned old friend I shall reference as WK, was alternately intensely affectionate and then forcedly casual to the point that it drove me quite mad. I got so angry with the whole situation that when leaving his house after we ate lunch together one day, I marched out like someone storming out from a big fight, even though he had no idea of how irate his hot and coldness was making me. It had rained heavily and the front stairs of his house were sodden. I slipped and fell unstoppably, earning the enormous bump on my knee that subsequently turned seven shades of purple. And green! And yellow! (Arnica gel helps abate this by the way.)

I was so furious at this unfortunate turn of events that I screamed a blood curdling scream, partly from pain and frustration, but mostly for attention. When this failed to elicit a response from inside the house I clambered up and huffed and puffed my way to the bus stop.

Later that night (and 13 outfits later, give or take) I returned to the house for a big party that was being held in honour of WK's birthday. I barely saw him. He didn't make much effort to talk to me, and I didn't make much effort to talk to him. I was seized with annoyance at his fickleness (I appreciate the irony) and proceeded to drink most or all of the bottle of wine I brought with me. Over 5 or 6 hours it didn't seem too much, but since I spent the last couple of hours sitting on top of a cooler in awfully close quarters with a tall, dark, handsome stranger, it may be that it was rather too much indeed. I don't remember much about the tall, dark, handsome stranger, except that he was cute in that way that you instantly know he's trouble. Despite being trouble, he was not my type. At all. He adored Vancouver. He was Persian! (Persian = extraneous hair, presumably. While I know someone who actively seeks this out, I am definitely not partial to it.)

Then I woke up in WK's bed, having retired early, letting him sleep on the settee. I felt sort of bad about ignoring him at his birthday in favour of the attention of a hairy Vancouverite, and stealing his room, so I got up and proceeded to collect 95% of the discarded beer cans strewn about the house before the others woke up and started cleaning. There were a few cans of some mixed drink called something like Palm, that pertained to be 'a sophisticated drink' on the front of the can. Something tells me if the manufacturers have to write the word sophisticated on the can, a high level of sophistication should not be expected. I didn't try it so I can't tell you, I am far too sophisticated to drink in the mornings. Not to mention too hungover.

Anyway, of all the immaturity I displayed recently, worrying about this situation for a whole week and wailing about it to my friends was the most immature. It all turned out rather differently than I expected.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Pot Paradise

I read today, in a Douglous Coupland book about Van, that it is not uncommon for hordes of Japanese teenagers to visit the city with the sole aim of having a pot smoking holiday. Although calling it 'pot' in England makes you sound impossibly '60s and like you have no sense of humour, in the US and here pot still seems to be common parlance. I could be wrong about this, but I dislike the English term 'weed' anyway, since it sounds like a gardening activity and for some reason brings to mind grimier images. Pot sounds perky! Weed sounds gross.

It's all gross to me now anyway since I have outgrown any fascination by, let's see, over a decade....which is why I was clueless when I first moved into my room here. It's in the basement and the rest of the basement is rented to a dude who has been renting here for ten years. I don't think he ever opens the windows. He's very white, like Jim Gaffigan, and he coughs a lot. The coughing might have been a clue about what was causing the strange pee-like reek I noticed soon after I moved in that occasionally permeated my room.

Although only occasional the smell was so strong that I leapt up from the bed where I may have even been typing this blog, to dance around my room sniffing things, including myself. It took literally weeks for me to realise that the dude next door was busy toking himself into his next coughing fit and that my room's ugly pee smell was actually eau de pot coming through the walls.

Note to Self

....and to everyone else:

Don't attempt to make a birthday card involving the use of super glue half an hour before you leave home to attend a birthday party.

Such antics could result in a severe medical condition, known colloquially here in Van as 'reptilian hand'. This occurs when you have left card-making to the last minute due to 4 outfit changes. (It's true that it's tough to choose appropriate get-up for a birthday at a Mexican restaurant where the birthday boy will end up donning a sombrero and being serenaded.)

Anyway, if you plan to use super glue to adhere a Love Heart sweet that reads 'Cool Dude' to a card for a boy you have harboured a crush on for about one third of your life, then you should avoid rushing this delicate activity. A bubble may pop up from the super glue and burst all over your left hand, rendering it unfit for use.

Even after the successful separation of glued fingers by desperate swabbing with nail varnish remover-soaked cotton pads, a scratchy crocodile-skin feel remains. This leaves the hand unfit to be touched by humans, especially any humans who might be having a birthday and for which you carry a very small, yet persistently burning torch.

However if you do encounter this difficulty, you may be lucky enough to come across transit issues on your way to the birthday, causing you to walk for 40 minutes across the city in your carefully chosen party clothes. That way you are sure to arrive at the party destination hot , sweaty and irritable which is perfect since sweat is the most convenient thing for breaking down super glue chemicals and allowing your skin to regain it's usual texture.

Not Twenty-Eight

When too much happens, I don't write.

Suddenly it's October. I really missed my brother on Friday, October 1st, when no one snuck up to me to pinch and punch me in the arm and say 'Pinch, punch 1st of the month'. I had no chance to respond 'Flick, kick for being so quick' with a Karate Kid flourish.

It's not the first month to go by since I left home, but it's the most monumental so it struck a chord.

I was 28 when I left to come to Vancouver, and now I'm not. Twenty-eight sounds grown up, yet still fun; it sounds witty and brave and knowledegable and flirtatious. Twenty-eight owns an awesome handbag collection and can afford to actually buy books from shops. Twenty-eight is certainly beloved by someone and able to cook.

Of course, all these things weren't necessarily true for me when I was 28, but I liked the sound of the number, and these are the images conjured when I read about other people who shared my age. She's 28 too! She must have it together! Yet her boobs won't have fallen down yet. Cool!

Twenty-eight is hot, it rocks. I don't intend to stop aiming for hotness or rocking on occasion, but 29 just doesn't create the same kind of mental image. In fact, 29 only says one thing:

Almost thirty.

I can hear the chorus now; Robin Sparkles (formerly LNB takes her new name from How I Met Your Mother) 'It doesn't matter these days!' and Mimi, my friend in Milano 'You've earned every line on your face!' and my Mum, specifically, 'Whatevs, you still look 12 in a pony tail.'

But maybe it should matter. It's a milestone, like turning 16 (and cutting all your hair off the exact week that the meanest girl in school, who happens to share your first name, also got all her hair cut off, whatabitch!) or leaving home (for the fifth time).

I am 29 and I live in Vancouver. How did I get here? Before investigating this I plan to back up a little and mention a few notable exploits from the last 3 weeks.

p.s. there is inconsistency in the way I have expressed numbers in this post. It's because I don't properly understand the rules on this and a cursory googling led me to divergent results. I know you can't start a sentence with a digit, but then I wrote out 'thirty' instead of '30' to give it more weight.

p.p.s. I have been reliably informed that this blog is home to numerous typos. While this horrifies my sensibilities, I re-read all the posts before publishing them yet I am obviously unable to see my own errors (much like in life!). I've decided to try to let it go. This isn't easy and it haunts me at night.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Seething While Polishing Makes Things Shinier

This evening, I was seething as I polished the granite counter top. (Don't ever get a black granite highly polished counter top if you value your time in any way whatsoever, unless you can afford a slave... I mean 'help')

To be honest it doesn't take that much to make me seethe, as I quite enjoy it. But this was not seething in a venty, let's-rant-about-it-over-cocktails kind of way, it was serious having an argument in my head type seething.

The arguments you rehearse are always so much more eloquent then anything you can conjure in real life ( TV never reflects this truth - remember the verbosity of Dawson's Creek?) and almost always you decide precisely what you want to say after the fact.

Anyway - I hate being told what to do. In the most perverse manner. Even if I wanted to do the thing I am being told do a little bit, I will stop wanting to do it if someone keeps insisting that I go ahead and do it. And then I will absolutely not want to do it, at all, ever. This might be to my detriment but it doesn't matter, as long as I win, and I only do what I want to do and not what someone said I should do.

Of course there is a loophole - at work I frequently do what people tell me. But this involves using a whole other facet of my personality that barely would see the light of day otherwise, in which I try to be helpful at all times (providing there is a cash reward). This is leftover conscientiousness from when I was Lisa Simpson. I mean, a child.

Anyway this evening the sister of the lady of the house decided to give me advice/barrage me with probing questions and accusations on my relationships. I have to say, I could assume this is a cultural difference. Perhaps in Canada it is not rude to tell someone you barely know what they should be doing with their love life, even instructing them in a patronising tone that you need this book. (Don't follow that link - it's new age self help, you don't want to see it.) But in reality I think unsolicited advice on relationships from a virtual stranger is as rude here as it would be at home, especially when it comes from a sixty year old single woman who's had 3 different love interests since I arrived here (they are a frequent topic of the family). Plus her nosey assumption of my 100% straightness was really irritating and she kept labouring the point of my waning fertility (not outright or I might have poked her in the eye).*

What really rubbed me up the wrong way is that I am not 19. I don't even look it. One more grey hair spotted this week! (Scratch that - today I picked up the little one from school to discover I was in the same outfit as most of the kids - skinny jeans, converse and a hoodie. I don't look 19; I look either 28 or 12, depending on the clothes.) Not being a teenager means I have accrued 11 years experience at loving people other than my family, and you can learn plenty in 11 years.

This extemely annoying bright-orange-haired lady then proceeded to recite to me the following saying with an up and downy 'you know what they say' warning tone of voice:

'If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got.'

For anyone who even knows me a fraction, it is obvious that my current stance on relationships (as in, I'm only bothered about myself) is certainly not indicative of me doing what I always did.

For the first time since the year dot, a/n other is not the top priority. Obviously this allows too much time for navel gazing (re blog) but it does allow for trips all over England and abroad to see friends, and the realisation that I'm feeling relatively good about being by myself right now.

I must add to this that the lady of the house, (and now her little dog sister too) are trying to hook me up with a local guy they vaguely know. My time out has stretched a bit longer than I thought, but I've been on dates, kissed friends I probably shouldn't have and fallen inappropriately and disproportionately in love with a French intern's accent...but unless you are this guy, in the flesh, then my plate is full enough thank you very much.

p.s. I realise that links to a photo of Lee Min Ho in flip flops sitting in what could be a teenage boy's bedroom (only much cleaner), which denotes he is too young for me. This aint Vancougar for nothin'.

* Yes, it's a sensitive subject already in case you couldn't tell

Hanging In

Recently I have been the recipient of a number of concerned emails from the readership of this blog.

Of course I was stunned and delighted to discover that a readership does in fact exist. I don't know how many people you have to have checking in to qualify as a 'readership' but it sounds way better than 'bunch of friends I emailed my blog link to with a plea for them to read it'.

Every one of my lovely friends are still waiting for a response as this week I was attacked by a Back To School Frenzy induced lethargy that I didn't expect to have to deal with until I was actually a parent. But naturally it's not the kids who had me knackered and falling asleep before 10pm each night, it's the housework. Doing it properly is no joke. Turns out I have zero experience in doing it properly, so I am indeed shocked at the inadvertent workout I'm getting. Hey if I wanted to be superfit I'd be hiking that bloody mountain outside my window wouldn't I? It's always glaring at me reproachfully.

Anyway this is just to say please don't worry too much. As my Dad sweetly reminded me on the phone 'Well, you're warm and dry.' I reminded him I'd hoped to be shooting for a little more just two weeks shy of my 29th birthday, but he isn't wrong. I'm not in physical discomfort. And emotional anguish, however superficial, is what all creative endeavours stem from, right?

Having said that, one thing that may have serious lasting effects (and please feel free to write letters of complaint to my house) is that I am suffering from an overdose of Enya. Yeah, I liked Enya too, when she was new, in the late 80s. When I was seven.

There's only one thing more disturbing than the eerily quiet dinnertimes here; and that is when Enya's sonic tranquilizer floats around us at dinnertime. It's as if we are in the waiting room of a private plastic surgery clinic (J - please write and tell me if this is true ;) and I feel I am being put into a deep Celtic trance of relaxation.

It makes it difficult to chew properly.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Benefit Review

Feel free to skip this if Sephora means nothing to you. It's mostly for my Mum who always asks me what make up I wear cause one of her colleagues asks for recommendations. I don't like hearing that since said colleague is about 40, and I still harbour the vain hope that some day my skin will be perfect. The only thing that truly aids my skin is water. I have to drink a LOT to get good results, but it's worth peeing every 45 minutes to have a better complexion.

In the meantime I am devoted to Benefit. It's not the best at everything (Nars has better blusher, Urban Decay's eye shadow primer is number 1, and I wouldn't trade my Max Factor mascara for anything...except maybe Dior's) but here is a run down of what's in my collection, so you can reference it if you're ever having once of those days when you feel the need to Tippex out your face and start again:

Boing - Concealer
They don't call this industrial strength concealer for nothing.
This makes my face resemble it's former self; before year of staying up too late to finish work I should have done earlier/ hours of crying over no good boys and girls/ doing tireless research on how well the public transport system works in various cities in the middle of the night, after consuming as many Lemon Drops as my wallet would allow (That's not many, Mum. They're expensive!). Please note the packaging has downgraded to look particularly crappy these days - some nonsense about how the inclusion of a mirror causes condensation on the concealer. Having no mirror is much worse, but it's worth the hassle anyway.

Erase Paste - Concealer
This is so awesome I have it in 2 shades. Number 1 for when I am pale in winter and need the extra brightness, number 2 for when I am generally tanned.
Hilariously, it actually comes with a little plastic trowel enabling you to properly spackle your face. Don't use the trowel, just a light finger tip. It's a lighter texture, a looser creamier feel than Boing. It's better for under eyes but less durable on other facial areas.

Eye Bright - Um, I don't know what this is supposed to come under - trickery?
I have this in pencil form, excellent for one's handbag, and in a genius contraption that LNB gave me for Christmas. It is half Boing and half Eye Bright in a cute compact complete with mirror (the original Boing packaging no less!). It makes you look awake when you're not. I'm not sure how convincing it is, but I really like it. It works for me, but is more of an added extra than a necessity.

Some Kinda Gorgeous - Foundation, kinda
I want to like you, Gorgeous 'foundation faker', I really do. You have such cute packaging, with your old school record shape design and very chic compact mirror. But I only think you're ok. This is because in a matter of weeks I have slapped so much of this light base onto my face that I can already see the plastic at the bottom of the compact. If you actually have perfect skin and are just pretending to need make up, for the glamourous application factor or the packaging or whatever, then this is for you. I actually need help so this does not give enough of a foundation for me. I long for Hello Flawless which is about twice the price but since I have used it many times in the shop I know it covers more and stays on longer. Plus I really want to own something in a shade called 'Me Vain? Champagne'. It's adorable.

It Stick - Concealer
Another concealer? Really? YES. This is perfect for under my nose where is gets red. Hey, I like wine and I'm Irish, it's only going to get worse with time so I have to combat it now. This works inexplicably, it's a pencil you actually draw on your face with. Follow your artwork with the lightest of pats to smooth it in and you are ready to go out in public without looking like a wino.

Bad Gal Eyeliner - like it says
How different can one stick of charcoal be from another, you might ask? The answer is very. I would never have found this out, preferring to pay 2 squid for a Revlon version back home, if it wasn't for a free Bad Gal I got with a copy of Glamour magazine. This stuff is smoky and gorgeous and glides on. Wear it with the Urban Decay primer for punk rock eyes that would stay on for days if you were actually going to rock out. Or 'oot'.

That Gal - Primer
That Gal aint for this gal, that's for sure. It feels nice putting it on, it's pink and is meant to give you a glowy pink freshness. I honestly can't tell whether I have it on or not. If you want a primer you can feel the difference with try Smashbox or Laura Mercier. Yeah, I know, and a Porsche while you're at it. It's hard to pay so much for an invisible film that goes on your face before any actual make up, but just because That Gal comes in a pretty shade does not make it work for me. Absolutely gorgeous tube though.

Hoola - Bronzer
Hahaha! You will laugh at yourself in the mirror when you first put this on. It needs a really light touch if you're to refrain from looking like a guest on Jerry Springer (that is to say - seriously muddy fake tan). I actually love this though; be light, swirl it in well and top with a little bit of blusher for summer perfection. Look! You're luminous!

Dandelion - Blusher
I haven't owned one of these in a long time but it's a long standing favourite ( it got edged out by Nars's fabulous yet dumbly named Orgasm Blush). It is sheer and pink and gives a lovable rosy glow. Like you've been kissing and eating fruit; sexy yet wholesome all at the same time.

Dr. Feelgood - Primer/skin 'protector'
This does feel good. It's like a seriously smooth talking date. By the end of your first encounter the medicinal old fashioned scent and silky feeling you get will have you convinced it's a keeper. But once you realise the lid of the tin gets permanently stuck on and can't be worked off without some kind of heavy duty utensil, you will lose patience and your love will quickly fade. Fond memories remain though, and I'd give this retro little accessory another whirl anytime. If I also had a screwdriver handy.

Benetint - Blusher/lip stain
I LOVE this. How can you not. It's made of roses, it smells of roses, and leaves you looking like you have delicious, devilish thoughts running through your mind constantly and that you are a lot more fun than you actually are. (Maybe I was applying too much?!) Too bad the lid broke before I was even a quarter of the way through using it. If this leaks in transit you are going to have one rose tinted mess on you hands. Not worth the worry. I like the lip balm version more.

Stay Don't Stray- Eyeshadow and Concealer Primer
Cute name! I like this. I think. It's hard for me to give it a chance as I am already in love with the Urban Decay version. See if you can get a free sample of both and try them out. What? You don't have that kind of time on your hands? Well don't worry, you probably have a real job to go to. You could probably afford to take the bus to visit a friend without having to arrange a salary advance.


Hey, at least I'll be the most well-concealed woman on the bus. And yes, I understand that probably the reason I am so broke right now is because I spent my 20s purchasing all the above products. It was worth it. It's not akin to spending $40,000 on shoes, like Carrie Bradshaw.

Noonchee Oppsah

If ever there was a backhanded compliment contest, the one I received today wins hands down.

The mother of the house got an email from a girl who had wanted to work for her from the aupair/nanny website. She has another job in the vicinity and wonders if we could introduce her to any other young women, show her round etc. This morning over breakfast the mother told me the reason she hadn't hired her.

'She was just drop dead gorgeous! I saw her picture and I was thinking there's no way she's coming into this house!' The last part of this sentence was delivered with a nod towards the much younger Mr of the house who was sitting in the next room.

This was followed by about 5 minutes of glorification of this hot 19 year old German's hair, figure and everything else. It was blatantly obvious I had been hired because I would not pose such a distraction.

Another 5 minutes later and the implication of her raving about the German made the mother backtrack a little 'I'm not saying you're not pretty. I just realised that sounds like I was saying you're not pretty. It's just you looked a lot more down to earth and more like us.'

Being called down to earth is not a compliment, it's a consolation.

Don't worry lady, I certainly won't be pretty after I've eaten you out of house and home and acquired a forehead that needs Botox from all the frowning I'm doing.

Mountain Equipment Co-op

If I ever decide I want a boyfriend, I know where to go.

Mountain Equipment Co-op is positively crawling with dudes. I was their accidentally, accompanying my charges and their mother while they spent a small fortune on camping accessories for a 2 day hike. I had plenty of time to wander round, contemplating the vast assortment of freeze dried space food (including a Neopolitan ice cream sandwich!) available for people to take camping.

There were guys everywhere, they were generally not unattractive, and in an appropriate age range for me to be noticing. Sadly I can't avoid the obvious fact that if I actually knew any one of these men they would inevitably ask me to go hiking with them. Or camping. Or kayaking, Or any number of outdoor, healthy, dirty, wet and cold activities that result in you becoming dirty, wet and cold. Oh yeah, and healthy. But whatever. It's not like I smoke. How much do I really need to be outside? I can be healthy while safely indoors. Even if I did leave my yoga mat in England.

Anyway, I perused the jackets as it turns out the $9 I spent on a second hand Zara jacket at the Salvation Army did not in fact buy we a waterproof bargain. It bought me one very wet arm (one arm has to stay outside the umbrella so I can hold the dog's lead). The jackets cost more than I make in a week so I am going to return to the Salvation Army and find something with a very big hood, so even if it looks hideous, I'll be in disguise.

I'm sure I don't need to explain that people here wear Northface and Gortex in the streets in the city every day, that there is no such a thing as a Banana Republic trench, a Gap duffle or G-Star Raw anything. My friend, the Fellow European, owns a vintage designer coat (Dior, Prada, some big house but I can't recall which one) that actually bewilders her colleagues because it's not a parka. This all sounds like I give a monkeys about labels, and for a woman who lives in Forever 21, I honestly can't afford to care. It's the absence of labels I care about, in a city this size. The absence of any acknowledgment of the outside world that does not involve mountain climbing unnerves me.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy being surrounded my mountains. I just preferred it when I could see the Hollywood sign nestled amongst them.