Thursday, November 6, 2014

Passages

Sad news... 
Two words that mean something bad is coming down the pipe.
Tonight it came to me as I sat on the couch with my sister-in-law, enjoying a quiet night in. Just us two girls, plus the cats, plus the old dog; all of us snuggled in the living room watching movies and gathering together against the dark post-daylight-savings-time rainy evening. I spent the day doing nice stuff: shopping for food, walking the dog because my roommates are so busy right now; walking him right into a local shoe store, where I bought some expensive and stylish rain boots. My sister-in-law and I were doing the usual thing of half-watching the movie, half-checking our phones and various devices so we didn't miss a thing.
A message, short and sad: Rob is dead. Cancer. I know you weren't in touch but I thought you'd want to know...
Rob was my boss, years ago. He breezed into the bookstore where I worked, and he made working retail fabulous. "Life is a banquet," he'd quote from Auntie Mame, "and most poor suckers are starving to death." He was gay, and out, and proud. "Love you!" he'd proclaim loudly down the store phone to his long-time boyfriend, and he didn't care who heard.  He could be a customer's best friend or worst nightmare, depending on who they were, what books they were interested in, and what kind of a day he was having. He reviewed an autobiography of Pamela Harriman by saying "she slept with all the best people." He was catty, bitchy, and incredibly kind and sensitive.
He smoked a gazillion cigarettes a day, always smelled like them. My memories of him are smoke-tinged. I can't imagine him talking without picturing him blowing smoke out of his mouth and nose. He was the manager of Blackberry Books, and I his assistant. Our "staff meetings" were more usually smoke-and-gossip sessions outside the store. Years later, when we became Facebook friends, I couldn't believe his transformation: little Rob, with his ever-present cigarettes and his nerdy physique, had transformed into a mid-life stud: muscular, handsome; posing shirtless in photographs with jeans saucily unbuttoned. I guess I'll never find out now what (or who) was behind this metamorphosis, but it never ceased to amuse me when I saw his pictures. Do you still smoke, Rob? I'd wonder to myself. He performed in a gay comedy troupe called Tops & Bottoms. I always meant to catch a performance but never got around to it. He wrote me an absolutely wonderful reference which I used for years; I wish I still had it. For a while, he was an important person in my life; a co-worker and a true friend.
Am I the only person who looks suspiciously over their shoulder when bad things start to happen? Trust me, I don't have the monstrous ego to think that this spate of deaths has anything to do with me, and yet... My bandmates and I met up last weekend to find that everyone had had a brush with death last week; death or illness had come too close to all of us and we shivered as we felt its icy breath.
I am healthy and happy; I have an exciting vacation booked with a dear friend, and a new man whose saucy, romantic texts can sometimes leave me breathless (not to mention his presence, which causes similar difficulties at times).
I don't want to die. I don't want my loved ones to die.
At the end of the day it's what most of us wish for; as the song says: Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to go now.
I pray for more of what we all want: time. Time to laugh, to make love, to enjoy my friends and my life. No more deaths for a while, no more sadness. But I am getting older, and so I know that this is only the beginning.


Friday, October 31, 2014

No escape.

Just returned from a 2-night 'date' with my new sweetheart. Starry-eyed mutual admiration. Long walks in the neighbourhood and kissing on the beach in the late-October rain. I come out of the public washroom to see his neat, lean form waiting for me and I think is this for real? This is passion and chemistry and lust, yes, but it's also cuddling on the couch, watching movies late into the night and then talking so much we suddenly realize it's 4am. We fit together, he and I. He's talking about how much he'd like to go motorbiking in Europe and he shoots me his mischievous grin and says "wanna come with me?" I know it's all hypothetical right now anyway but I bump his hip with mine and match his grin and say "I'll go anywhere with you, baby." And I mean it.

We can never predict the future. This time last month I was saying goodbye to one of the best summers I've ever had and feeling blue as I watched the seasons changing, saw my friends (and I) leaving the little town I love so much, wondered when I'd find someone who'd love me. Now I have just finished up another job I adore, I see my two best girlfriends from up north right here in Vancouver on the regular, and there is a lovely new man in my life who seems as thrilled to be with me as I am to be with him.

"And I don't know a single woman who has not had to deal with violence. Not one."

I see that on someone's Facebook wall and I feel cold inside. We are all debating the Jian Ghomeshi scandal on our FB pages, our blogs, our newspapers... What started off as disbelief that someone would be persecuted for their sexual kinks has flipped, for so many of us, into another kind of disbelief altogether. Again, I utter a silent prayer of thanks for my life. My lovers have been, without exception: kind, sweet, gentle, loving men who knew that they held the balance of physical power and strength and never, ever used it against me in any way. I have never been attacked, raped, or harmed by a stranger. I have experienced my share of harassment, like all women, but it's been pretty mild, all told. Unless this changes (and I pray that it never does),  I will continue to be a member of an extremely fortunate minority. And the fact that I'm an anomaly is so terribly wrong. 


I know a woman who suffered such horrific sexual abuse as a child (a child!) that she has permanent injuries. I know a woman who is verbally abused by her partner in front of other people, the same partner who loves her and looks after her in his way, and who probably has no idea that the way he talks to his girlfriend is wrong. 


I open up my Facebook app on the way home this morning and see that a lovely woman, a member of the Wells and Barkerville community, has died very suddenly in the night. Another Facebook friend wrote: "I really can't believe that everyone of us is going to have to face death, there is no escape. It's so hard to be conscious of these things, it's hard to live and know this so clearly."

Amen to that. All I can do in the face of so much bad news, so many sad and violent and heartbreaking stories, is gather my loved ones around me, be compassionate to others who are not so lucky, and try to appreciate my happy little life as much as I can. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sick Day.

The baby cat is delighted to have company at 9am. She darts around my room, stopping to weave happily against my legs or rub her furry body against mine. Although I love her, I am not so delighted this morning.
I am home because I am sick. Strep Throat, or something else that has made my tonsils pop up like golf balls. I sleep for over 8 hours, and I wake up feeling like hmmm, I could use a nice long nap right about now. 
I don't have time for this! I was supposed to be at the pumpkin patch today, on the last of the really busy days, working 6 or 7 hours to give my paycheque a final boost. I've been pushing through the last few days, but last night I realized that there was no way I could go in today, and I called in sick. I never call in sick.
I am seeing a sexy-hot motorcycle-driving man who thinks I am- to use the words of my 19 year-old friend- the bomb. I had to cancel our date last night because I realized that I was too tired and sick to even take pleasure in the thought of making out with him, let alone the reality. Not to mention that when you have infected tonsils your mouth tastes as though something died in it. He texts with offers of hot soup or a ride (in a car co-op car, not the bike), and I thank him and refuse. I've known him for less than 2 weeks; I don't want the sick, hairy-legged version of me to make an appearance in our lives just yet.

Last night I went shopping for late-night snacks with my brother and it was as though a split personality had taken over: in my stash were lemons, ginger, Kombucha, superfood-salad-mix... and also jalapeƱo cheese puffs, Skor Bites and Sour Cherry Blasters. I ate a bit of all those things last night and let me tell you, the health foods and the non-health foods were both equally delicious.
I get my computer out to do some accounting while I sip my green tea. Three hours later I've switched to coffee, the receipts are still un-tallied, and I've been Facebooking, blogging, and looking at online boot and clothing sites for far too long. Fail.
The baby cat flops onto a patch of sunlight and rubs against the other cat until she starts grooming her. Love me. I feel too horrible to love: sore, tired, unwashed.
Time to slow down, whether I want to or not. I check the calendar to make sure: yep, it's been only 2 & a 1/2 weeks since I got back and a myriad of things have occurred: friends, dates, passion, concerts, dinners, music, rehearsals, workworkwork... I read one of my sister-in-law's health mags this morning: Average time before readers think you should see someone before sleeping with them: 3.9 months. 
Oops.
I guess my body made an executive decision amidst all this craziness and just shut me down the only way it could: by disabling me for a while. Time to take a me-day or two.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Leaning Into the Turns

Where did you come from, sweet stranger? 
I've known you for two hours and all I can think of is kissing you. 
You showed up at the cafe with your retro motorbike and an extra helmet for me, and I put my arms gingerly around you, expecting to be terrified as we roared away. Instead, I fell in love.
With the bike. The bike. I hardly know you

But I want to.
You're easy to talk to.
Or you would be, if I didn't get so flustered every time we made eye contact that I stammer and reach for my water glass. Which would be fine, except it's been empty for the past ten minutes. 

I have no context for this. This is why I've never 'dated'. When you meet people through work you have a mutual background, mutual friends, mutual lifestyles.
You rehearse, say,  a show together. You are thrown into the pressure cooker and you become close. Also, you have a reason to be together, every day.

But we steal time together around our work. Our decidedly non-mutual work.
An impulsive coffee date four days ago and I've seen him every day since.
I learn to love the feeling of the wind against my body as we roar down the highway. I learn to wrap my arms and legs around him, lean into the turns, shout conversation at red lights. On the bike, I feel totally safe with him.

He drops me off at home and we kiss in the alley at the back of my house. And kiss. And kiss.

Until the shadowy neighbourhood tomcats are jealous
Until our noses are cold
Until my brain turns to mush 
Until we disengage, reluctantly, and kiss again, and wave goodbye. It's 1:30 am. I get up at 7. 

I don't know what this means. I don't know what this is. I don't know if that matters.

Today I am tired, running on empty after my late night. Sitting on my hay wagon, singing children's songs to enthusiastic strangers, I remember the cause of my late night, and grin.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Thanks. Giving.

I'm "home" again. Wow. From a town of 250 to the big city. I'm budgeting like crazy these days, so Vancouver's coffee bars and restaurants are mostly off-limits to me as I try for the first time in my life to save money, to live within my means. It's actually kind of exciting to do this after years of turning a blind eye to financial planning.

I literally don't have a moment to re-aquaint myself with my city; it's full-time hours at the pumpkin patch for the first time in years and although it's hard to get up early in the morning, I enjoy the job so much that I can't complain. I'd rather have the routine (and the paycheque) of work than be floating aimlessly.

Time, as always, becomes elastic; it's as if I've never been away and yet there are changes, of course there are. The baby cat has become an adult in my absence; businesses have closed, or opened, or burned down; best of all: I have new friends from the north who I now know and love right here in my city. After an amazing summer I have new confidence which I bring to my work, my home life... Even the Vancouver rain can't bring me down. Yet.

I love my pumpkin patch job, did I already say that? It's been at least a dozen years since I began there (good lord) and it changes a little bit every year but basically the combination of outdoors and music and goofiness and routine is just perfect for me. Today I had to fill in for the Pumpkin Princess, and as I pranced around in a borrowed wig and costume, waving a wand made of a leafy twig I'd found, I figured that I was either the luckiest 40 year-old in the world, or the most pathetic. I lean towards the former.

Today was a funny day at the patch. The power kept going out on stage, leaving the band high and dry. I had to fill in for someone, hence the Pumpkin Princess role. It got rainier as the day went on, so it was quieter than usual. I forgot that my friend wasn't working there today, so I took the long way to work. I dropped my brand-new smartphone on the sidewalk, resulting in scratches on my new baby. My accordion straps parted ways from the instrument, only minutes into my shift.  Then, as I finished singing to a wagon-load of people, a 6 year-old girl said to me "Can I have your hand for a minute?" Bemused, I gave her my right hand; she took it in hers and held it to her forehead. "Oh, she's blessing you," her mom told me. Slightly weird, and yet her blessing jolted me out of my frustration and reminded me to be grateful and happy for what I have.

I went on the first of my internet-induced dates the other night. He's too old, of course. I've been with older guys but he looks like an old man and his hands are too small. I don't think I can feel attracted to him. But he has a lovely smile, he's funny and smart, we have a lot in common. We sit over a fifteen dollar sushi meal and talk for hours. He walks me home, we kiss chastely. I don't want to be a tease, but at the same time I don't want to let him go out of my life because we have a connection, whatever it is. I like his emails a lot... I guess we'll figure it out as we go. I have another date with someone else on Tuesday.

Not to mention dinner with family, friends... I finish every bite of the chicken and roast veggies on my plate, cooked by my brother who is also a friend and room mate, and I know that I am a lucky girl. And a happy one. Thanksgiving indeed.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Transitions. Again.

Kelowna.
I get up early this morning, determined to get my sweat on before I spend the rest of the day sampling wine and nibbles at various wineries with my dad and his lady. It's a tough life here in the Okanagan. Since my dad lives halfway up a mountain, there are two choices facing a runner in this neighbourhood: straight up then straight down, or straight down then straight up. As I like to get the shit part over with first, I choose the former option. I get a respectable 5k in before breakfast. Also planking, also squats. My life includes a lot of 30-day challenges these days as I strive to find new ways to keep fit. I love knowing that I can do things (like running uphill without dying; like 70 squats and it's no big deal) that I couldn't do a year ago. Exercise, in its own way, is as addictive as food, as cigarettes. When I don't do it now, I feel weird. We'll see if this survives into one of Vancouver's horrible rainy winters. I hope so. Yesterday I spent over 8 hours in a car with one of my best friends and her husband as we left the Cariboo behind and came to warmer climates. Today I am defiantly wearing a short skirt despite looming clouds. I'm not quite ready to admit it's Fall.

I've joined a dating website, because why not? A friend of mine did, and now she's waxing lyrical about her new-true-love. I hope it works like that for me, but even if it doesn't I'll probably have some interesting coffee dates. I check for new messages, deleting the ones who are clearly just trolling for fish, any fish (do you really want to be my friend, mister man from Illinois? I don't really do long-distance, you know...) and reading with amusement the new notes I get every day or two from guys who seem interesting or quirky. Most of them are a bit older than me, but that seems to be my prime demographic these days. I have no problem with older guys, and no, I don't think that I have Daddy issues. (Maybe I should check with my dad, since I'm visiting him. Nope, maybe not.) I click on various pictures and try to find truth in the faces there. I try and judge more by words than by images because how can you quantify chemistry in a photo? I just can't. I think of the people who've struck sparks in me lately and I know that no website, no algorithm, no surveys would have linked us together. We'll see.
Transitions, again. New times, new jobs, new life...

I am a former couch potato in search of the perfect exercise-fueled endorphin high.
I am a former financial idiot with a new budgeting app and the will to use it.
I am a former historical interpreter looking for a new line of work.
I am a summer-small-town dweller heading back to the big city.
I am trying to leave old loves, hurt and expectations behind and find new adventures.
I cross my fingers, take a deep breath, and leap into the semi-unknown, again.



Monday, September 29, 2014

Saying Goodbye

My friend D came to our last show yesterday afternoon with her 5 year-old twin girls. At one point I came onstage and sang my ballad, "Over the Hills". One of the twins began to cry, tears streaking down her face. D asked her what was the matter and she replied "This song is about saying goodbye".  

Goodbye to rehearsals and more rehearsals. Goodbye to my beloved double bass. Goodbye to blissful days off at Bowron Lake, and paddle board trips and floating down the river with pool noodles. Goodbye to blasting Katy Perry in Tanya's car, The Bumblebee, and listening to Graeme change the lyrics to something much ruder. Goodbye to movie nights at the Panabode, and playing new songs at cabarets. To biking, swimming, running. To espressos on the porch before heading through the stage door to work. To 30-day challenges, eating healthy, and sometimes chucking it all in for way too many sour candies or desserts at the Bear's Paw.  Goodbye to another amazing ArtsWells with plenty of friends to dance with (for once!). Goodbye to the best weather I can ever remember having up here, and the best people to enjoy it with. Goodbye to frustration and drama at work, and also to tons of laughter and unexpected delight, both onstage and off. To old friends and new friends and letting go of old, useless loves. To birthday parties for a landmark year. Goodbye to living in the 1860's, to corsets and petticoats, tourists and gold. 

There's gold enough for everyone
For those who're brave enough to come
To leave their homes and sail today 
Over the hills and far away

O'er the mountains and the streams
To all the towns on Williams Creek
My heart commands and I obey
Over the hills and far away

When duty calls me I must go
Back to the ones left long ago
But part of me will always stray
Over the hills and far away

But I would rather go with you
And look for gold in Cariboo
Along the road to come-what-may
Over the hills and far away...