Monday, December 31, 2007

Whatta Man!

I'm back in Toronto and kicking myself because I'm pretty sure I'm the only asshole who forgot to go to the LCBO on New Year's Eve. I have three Strongbows in the fridge.

Three last thoughts for 2007: Natty is still in Vancouver, it's too quiet in my apartment for a party night and I don't want to ever straighten my hair ever again.

Damn, I can't wait until tomorrow morning. Because then I can put this sucker up on the wall.

My Edmonton firefighter stud calendar is going to replaced with this equally amazing (and equally uncharacteristic of me to have on my wall) Conservative Party calendar. Stephen Harper--whatta man! The contents of my Christmas stocking never fail to impress.

Monday, December 24, 2007

It's a good thing I'm not Catholic

I wonder if there will ever be a point in time when the words "Holy infant, so tender and mild" don't make me want to BBQ?

And now, for a Christmas tale of another kind:

It was early this month, when my west-coast roomate pointed out an intergral Christmas-time difference between Western Canada and Central Canada (or what westerners call Eastern Canada. But I don't want to offend anyone here).

"Did you notice that we don't get Mandarin oranges in Ontario?" Natty asked me. "Instead, they get clementines from Morocco." Natty was right. I hadn't seen a single "Christmas" orange in my last 4 holiday seasons in Toronto.

One day, I brought this up at a McClung's production meeting. "That's so true," said one of our art girls. "My Grandma is from Calgary, and you'll never guess what she calls Mandarin oranges--" she said, pausing for effect, "--Jap oranges!"

"So?" I asked, thoroughly confused. "What's wrong with Jap oranges? They're oranges. From Japan. Jap oranges."

Canice laughed at my small-town, northern-Albertan ignorance and explained to me that Jap is apparently a slur (who knew?) and I probably shouldn't run to Chinatown looking for "Jap oranges." (Although, on that note, I have to admit, I still don't entirely see the problem. Am I being racist against an orange? Is an orange going to feel like it is segregated because of it's origin? And am I not right--it's an orange, from Japan, and therefore, a Jap orange? And in that case, isn't "mandarin" orange, or even "Christmas" orange, politically incorrect? Should I start calling them Holiday Oranges, instead?)

"It's like calling people a wop," Canice patiently explained.

"What's a wop?" I asked.

My professors and my entire masthead quickly caught wind of my ethnic blunder (this is, of course, following a cheeky comment I made a week earlier about Brazil nuts, with the sole purpose of getting a rise out of the Ontarions--which it did--some of them had never even heard the phrase) and teased me about it before I went home for the holidays.

As Andrew and I drove back to Cold Lake on Saturday, taking the scenic route through Lac La Biche and the northern Alberta reserves (okay, I'll admit, it was a very scenic route) with a free-range turkey happily chilling in a cooler in my trunk (or perhaps not so happily, considering it's dead), I related the story of the Jap oranges to him. But when I got to the punch-line, he didn't bat an eye.

"What?" he asked, confused. "I don't get it. What's wrong with calling them Jap oranges?" This, coming from my brother who lives in Vancouver. I told him Jap was a slur.

"But. . .they're oranges. And they're from Japan," he pondered aloud, before concluding. "So. . .they're Jap oranges."

You can't escape where you came from. And that's not entirely a bad thing.


But even though I'm from Alberta, and my mom is the one I picked up the whole Jap oranges thing from, I have to give her props. I'm making vegan saskatoon waffles for breakfast, but she's taking care of the completely vegan-friendly Christmas dinner (with the exception of the turkey--which Alex ironically got from work for my mom). How awesome is that? We're not completely backwoods, after all.

I have to pick Alex up from the Greyhound bus station in 2 hours. I hope his ride is going well. Andrew and I explained to him that it's the milkrun, unlike Ontario buses in every way, hitting every small town you can name between here and Edmonton. But the length isn't the problem--it's the fellow travellers. "I've got my headphones," Alex told us, nonplussed. That's all nice and good, a nearly solid plan--but headphones can't take care of the smell.

Friday, December 21, 2007

What trickery is this?

Last Saturday's approaching "near-crippling" storm had my nerves on edge. "I hope Natty's alright to fly out," I told Alex Dodd.

I had never experienced a winter storm in Toronto (in fact, this year is the first that I've even witnessed snow before flying home to Alberta--I remember walking to catch the shuttle bus in 2004 in nothing more than a blazer--and I was sweating) and I had visions of knocked out power lines and me being one of those sobbing people on the news who can't make it home for Christmas because all the flights are cancelled.

Alex told me thinking I was going to miss my flight was ridiculous. "You're not flying home for another week," he assured me. Little did he know that I was actually flying home on Tuesday.

When the RRJ's loyal editor booked her flights home for the 14th (we were originally told we couldn't leave until the 21st), I decided that I too, would change my flights. So instead of flying home on the 22nd, I switched my flight to the 18th, to coincide with Alex's birthday on the 19th. I'm tricky like that.

When I woke up on Sunday morning, I realized that a "near-crippling" storm just means that it snows a lot. Sure, people really couldn't drive. But that doesn't affect a northern Albertan-bred pedestrian like me. I pulled on my long johns, laced up my boots and burrowed into my jacket. Snowstorm? All that means to me is a perfect day to finish my Christmas shopping (I hate shopping, I'm not crazy about Christmas and I can't stand crowds.)

The day was perfect. I wandered down the middle of streets, frolicked in the snow and jumped on the King streetcar downtown with a huge grin on my face. Flying out on Tuesday would be a breeze.

Getting home from downtown was not a breeze, however. Exhausted from navigating stores, I went down to Queen & Yonge to catch the Queen streetcar home. A couple of women beside me told me they had been waiting half an hour. "It can't be much longer if it's already been 30 minutes," I figured. So I waited. And waited. And waited. I waited for an hour. By that time, the streetcar hadn't passed in 90 minutes. I walked outside. Not a cab in sight. I walked up to Dundas & Yonge. A huge crowd was gathered at the stop. So I mustered up all my courage to walk to the Greyhound taxi queue in the -20 blowing snow, biting wind. Again, not a cab in sight.

I was 3.5 km from home. I had been trying to get home for an hour and a half at this point. So I did the only thing I could--I walked home. There was a small patch of frostbite on my upper right cheek when I stumbled into my apartment, but I felt like a superior Canadian.

And then it was Tuesday. Chloe picked me up at the airport. We grabbed lunch, then went to Planet Organic to surprise Alex. I was informed by his co-workers that he'd taken a half-day. Chloe and I drove to his apartment. All the lights were off. "Maybe he's sleeping?" I suggested. We buzzed, but no one was in. Alex Dodd was ruining his own surprise.

So we went to go pick up my car, and had some tea with Lorin, who has been watching after my little car all fall. Three hours later I called Alex. He was home. "I'm trying to arrange a delivery for you," I fibbed. "Oh, that must of been who was buzzing." "Yah, are you going to be home?" "Yes." "Okay, I'm going to arrange for them to deliver your birthday package in the next hour or so. But I can't talk long, I'm supposed to go out for a drink with Brie right now. Do you want to give me a call later tonight?" Haha. Trickery, indeed.

He had no idea.

However, when your boyfriend has no idea that you are going to surprise him by arriving 5 days early, he's not quite prepared.

The absurd contents of his fridge clearly illustrates this.

Yesterday, I drove 3 hours to Cold Lake to see my family optomitrist. Predictably, he has no idea what's wrong with me. But apparently I'm waaaaaayy blinder than I was a year ago. So I'm getting new glasses, which is exciting. And I have a new eyedrop to try out. I have faith.

It's good to be home, if only for 24 hours.

But now I've got to go. Andrew is flying to Edmonton tonight, so I have to leave right away to drive another 4 hours to pick him up. And then tomorrow, another 3 hours back to Cold Lake.

At least driving makes me feel like myself again.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Last night, I broke all the rules.

I stayed out late.

I drank. (Alcohol.)

I wore makeup.

And the deadliest of sins--I wore my contacts.

It was the best decision I ever made.

I feel like a cloud of some sort has lifted. Maybe it's hangover-induced faux clarity talking, but maybe I just needed to let loose and break all the rules to figure out where my life is going.

The application dates for the newspaper summer internships have passed. I watched my colleagues in their Sunday best, portfolio books in hand, walk in to meet their potential future employers.

I didn't apply for a single newspaper internship. I don't even own an official portfolio. (I really need to get myself one of those. And then once I get that, I need to actually write and publish some pieces to put in the given portfolio. That is, write some pieces that don't involve pictures of me with the word "KILL" spelled out on my forehead in Scrabble tiles, talk about my love of kava, how I only dated men with beards for a year, or that rate lubricants.* While all this writing has been fun, I don't know if employers are really looking for drug-loving, beard-obsessed Scrabble player who is well-versed in lube as an employee.)

I've always been the type of person who gets what I want. I'm determined. I'm persistant. I'm stubborn. And sometimes I'm charming. If I want to go and work in a developing country, I end up in Vanuatu. If I want to get over a break-up, I move across the country. If I don't want to pay for a movie rental, I flirt with the gawky Blockbuster employee.

But I'm graduating in four months and I have no clue what I want. How can I get what I want if I don't know what I want?

All I know is what I don't want. I don't want to work for a newspaper. And I don't want to limit myself.

But today, I do know this--I love my friends. Thanks to everyone who came over to my place last night. I need each and every one of you in my life, especially right now. The last four months have been a long haul, and not being able to see you guys has made it a lot harder. Every potluck, every trip to the movie theatre, every hug I've gotten in the magazine lab helps.

I'm looking for a job in Toronto, and it's not just because of the D. Dodd. It's because this is where you are, and where I want to be. (At least for now.)

And the best part is, despite breaking all the rules, I woke up this morning and my eyes weren't any worse. Maybe the gloomy cloud isn't the only thing that's lifting.

(Also, if anyone's interested, there's an entire frozen peppermint cheesecake in the freezer that I need help eating.)


*The lubricant story was assigned to me. For real.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Diagnosis X

"Well, the virus in your cornea is gone. But your eyes are getting worse. I'm going to have to send you to see a specialist."

"Okay," I said, choking back tears (I always get upset in health practitioners' offices when I'm alone). "How long will that take?"

"That's the problem," he told me honestly. "You're not triaging. It can take months to get in to see a specialist."

At the receptionist's desk I was asked if I'd be coming back again, for what has become my biweekly visit. "No," I told the receptionist. "Apparently I have to see a specialist." Her face fell. I know she's been rooting for me all along. "Oh, sweetie. . ." she breathed out.

So, it's time for a new plan of attack:

1. Antihistamines: Even though I keep being told it's not allergies, I don't believe this.

2. Water: my eyes are dry. I will single-handedly stop this by chugging back the H2O.

3. Daily blueberry smoothies: I have no clue what antioxidants actually do, but maybe they're good for my eyes?

4. Eyebright herb: I'm not going to go to a holistic practitioner quite yet, but I am going to seek out some of this herb and see if it makes my baby blues (or greens, or whatever) bright again.

5. Alcohol + Makeup = Fun (this is an undisputable mathematical equation): I've been working too hard, too long. As soon as I hand in my second draft and McClung's is sent to the printers, I'm throwing caution to the wind, eyes be damned! Who cares if I wake up with pus oozing down my face if it means I can have an awesome night out?

(This all seems vaguely familiar. Am I starting to repeat myself? But if it worked then, it will work now.)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Evil Eye(s)

Eye Update Time!

I get asked two questions on a near-daily basis. Half of the time they're prompted out of genuine sympathy, and the other half of the time they're due to my self-deluded belief that people are genuinely interested in other people's ailments:*

"How are your eyes?"

"You still have an eye infection? I thought that was gone?"

(The latter question is usually said with a note a disbelief that is reserved for hypochrondriacs and those who don't aim to actually cure their ailments because they prefer to complain about them.)

The answer? Yes, the eye infection is still kicking. Every morning I wake up to discharge and have to clean out my eyes. It's fun.

Every night I inspect my eyes to see if they're getting better. They're not. (I really encourage you to click on the photo and check out the high-res version. You can see every last capillary in my eye, which is kind of cool, if you're into that kind of thing. I would be--if it wasn't my own eyes.)

I'm going to the eye doctor again tomorrow. He told me, "It will probably clear up in another 2 or 3 weeks." That was 9 weeks ago. I'm glad I'm paying for this kind of quality medical advice.**

All I want for Christmas is to go home pus-free and clear-eyed. Is that too much to ask?


*Which nobody is, really. Unless it's scabies, a curable STI with a humorous story attached or a parasitic infection.

Things people don't like discussing: incurable STIs, mental illness and mystery eye infections that don't really have any negative sympathy-worthy symptoms or consequences apart from preventing the inflicted from partying, staying up late and wearing makeup.

**I'm actually not paying. I can't afford this kind of nonsense, at $40-80 per visit for this guy to tell me I still have an eye infection (no shit!), so I've been charging it to my Dad's credit card.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Mathematical Help

I own 22 dresses.* Seven of those dresses are black. (Well, one is actually floral, another is black and grey, one is black with white polka dots, and one is black and green. So that means I really only own 3 black dresses.) I am currently $12,000 in debt and being supported solely by my parents, some very small paycheques, and some equally small scholarships.

Should I buy another black dress? Is there any possible way to justify this?


*This figure does not include all the skirts I own, which is an equally embarassing number. And just for clarification, some of these are winter dresses, some are summer dresses. And I didn't buy all of them. At least half of the dresses I own were free or second-hand. For example, the black dresses alone:

1) Black wool cowl-neck dress- $80
2) Black floral- free (hand me down from Chlo-po, once property of the Vic drama department)
3) Plain black spaghetti strap dress- $30
4) Ben Sherman dress- $150
5) Polka Dot Dress- $3 (Value Village)
6) Fancy black Jacob dress- free (hand-me down from Monique)
7) Black and green organic dress- $110

Total spent on black dresses in the last 7 years: $373.00
That works out to $53.29 per year spent on black dresses. (However, most of the dresses paid for themselves in the tips I earned serving while wearing the given dresses.)

As for the 22 different dresses, I wear every last one of them. And I only own 3 pairs of jeans. (This is a new figure. This time last week, I only owned two pairs of jeans, which totalled in value at a mere $90.)

Imagine some bugles

So, there's a huge annoucement that needs to be made. . .

Today, I wrote my the last final exam of my undergraduate career EVER!

This is BIG NEWS people! This is CAPS-worthy! And PUNCTUATION-worthy!!!!!!!!!

I feel like I should feel a huge sense of relief and rejuvination. But instead, I just feel like it I've just crossed another thing off the list of things to do.

Because I'm going to be looking like this for the next two weeks or so. (Photo credit to Chloe for really capturing the essence of "the lab:" poor posture, glazed over infected eyes, generally grumpy demeanour and lust for a Scrabulous break in my eyes.)

Things to Do Still*

1. Second draft of my RRJ feature (includes additional interviews, additional research and re-writing)

2. Fact-checking another student's story

3. Special Projects Research (which involves flipping through back issues of magazines and writing down relevant information)

4. Front of Book First Draft (includes interviews and writing)

5. Everything to do with McClung's until it's sent to the printers (fact-checking, inserting fact-checking changes, copy-editing, heds and deks, pull quotes and a little bit of pulling out hair--should be fun times)

6. Applying to internships and jobs

7. Get over eye infection, make a cheesecake for friends, host a party, get drunk, dance and celebrate


*despite the fact that classes ended on Monday and I just wrote my last final exam EVER!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Mi missem yufellas tumas

Liesa, my group leader from Vanuatu, finally posted some of her pictures on Facebook. And pleasantly, from the 50 out of several hundred, she chose to include one of my favourites. I haven't seen this photo in over a year, but I love it:

This is me attempting to communicate with small children. (More specifically, as part of my small team project, I was responsible for teaching the community about the environment and composting. Exciting stuff.)

From Liesa and Morsen's final report:

Challenger Feedback Form

Jessica works well within a group in all areas. . .her upbeat personality is infectious, and maintains a positive atmosphere in the group. She works hard on the worksite considering she has never worked in construction before. . .

Communication Skills

. . .she shows respect and everybody likes her. She has even managed to get over her fear of dealing with children under the age of 5!

That last bit on the report is a blatant lie. Liesa and Morsen actually changed the report when we returned to Port Vila before they turned it in to the head honchos. The original report suggested that I need to work on my communication with children skills. Case in point? The above photo.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

1200 Words to Go

Okay team, it's time to talk about feelings.

We finally turned the heat on, but the air blowing through the vents seems to be cold. I just stuck my finger in hot wax, then peeled it off, and dropped it back into the candle, pretending that the wax was the ring being dropped by Frodo into the depths of Mordor. My hands are all waxy and I can't use my left index finger. We lit things on fire in Woodbridge today. (More specifically, a bra.) My hair smells vaguely like ash. And then we played with condoms. My fingers smell like candle wax. It's cold outside today. Canice and I had hero burgers. We sopped up malted vinegar with salty fries.

Oh wait, you thought I meant those kinds of feelings?

If you want to talk about those kind of feelings, you can find me in the magazine lab every day for the next two weeks, jammed in between fact-checking packages and Scrabulous games. But I may ask you to spin me in my rolly chair and to join me in singing M.C. Hammer hits.

I miss excessive amounts of wine, dancing instead of sleeping, and fresh coconuts with bamboo straws on Sunday mornings.