Saturday, December 31, 2011

A new year, like all the others


January 1, 2000: Cold Lake, Alberta
Kiss Recipient: No one, unless you count the short-lived game of "suck and blow."


January 1, 2001: Cold Lake, Alberta
Kiss Recipient: Kenny 


January 1, 2002: Cold Lake, Alberta
Kiss Recipient: Darryl 

[Photo missing. This was the first night I ever got legitimately drunk. I was supposed to be the DD until I locked my keys in my car and Katherine made me a drink while we waited for AMA. And then AMA took two hours to arrive.]

January 1, 2003: Edmonton, Alberta
Kiss Recipient: My cousin, Katherine 


January 1, 2004: Cold Lake, Alberta
Kiss Recipient: Chloé first, half the bar later.


January 1, 2005: Edmonton, Alberta
Kiss Recipient: Chloé (she later punched me in the face and poured ketchup on my white sweater, neither action with intended malice)


January 1, 2006: Cold Lake, Alberta
Kiss Recipient: Katherine first, half the bar later. (I also broke my toe this night. I suspect Katherine was the cause.)


January 1, 2007: Edmonton, Alberta
Kiss Recipient: Alex Dodd


January 1, 2008: Toronto, Ontario
Kiss Recipient: No one.


January 1, 2009: Toronto, Ontario
Kiss Recipient: Jason H.


January 1, 2010: Toronto, Ontario
Kiss Recipient: Jason H.


January 1, 2011: Toronto, Ontario
Kiss Recipient: Jason H.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Reunited


Whoever said that diamonds are a girl's best friend was an idiot.

Monday, December 26, 2011

When I get that feeling, I need hula healing

I was spoiled all those years with my access to Final Cut Pro.

Nonetheless, upon request here's a special Christmas Day movie, all about my hula hoop. (I've never used iMovie or an iPad before. Also, apologies for my annoying neighbour's dog in the background. No apologies necessary for the Sexual Healing.)

Friday, December 23, 2011

This was not unexpected.

I always knew this time would come. It actually happened later, rather than sooner. I'm glad for the time that I had, for the time that was.

And now? Now there is no more time for flirting or for beer. Now's the time to return home early, prompted by the rolled eyes of wives, to the baby-sitters who are waiting to be paid. Now is the time for the next 20 years, to be played out in repeat, night after night, fuelled on by town gossip, hockey triumphs and the occasional all-inclusive vacation to Mexico.

But it's okay. It's okay because loneliness is what Cold Lake does best.



This is what I miss most about Cold Lake winters. I miss the stillness. I miss going to bed early because there's nothing else to do. I miss the winding car rides past the lake and through what will never be again, the echo of the bathwater as it cools down. I miss the pointless errands, scraping ice off my car, hiding in bed until 11 a.m. I miss when music had meaning.

I miss the quiet and the dark and the cold and the stars and the northern lights. And sometimes, I even miss the insomnia.

But most of all, I miss the kind of loneliness that only comes when you're actually alone.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Shared mythologies

The invitation was issued late at night, as is the case most weekends in Cold Lake. We're a town that leaves for the bar at midnight on a good night and makes it home to bed when the sun is coming up. It's a process that works well in the endless light of summer and even better in the permanently dark days of winter.

Yet, it's a process I had somehow forgotten in the last four months away. But I had nothing better to do so I changed my clothes and quietly left the house, driving in the pitch black to the next town over.

I arrived a little before 11 p.m., parking my rental car, slipping through the back door, past the machinery and towards the music. Inside and up the stairs, there were three familiar faces and a new one. They were playing virtual golf, the shelves lined with empty beer cans and the floor with spilled rum. After hugs and greetings, the new one, the foreigner, approached me. "So how do you know these guys?" he asked.

I didn't give my response much thought. It just seemed that obvious. "I'm from Cold Lake," I said.

He looked confused. "But how did you meet these guys? How do you all know each other?"

"Well, we're all from Cold Lake," I repeated.

"We're locals," chimed in one of the guys, laughing. To him, too, it was obvious. "We all know each other because we grew up here."

There are no other words, no other explanation. Sure, there were water balloons thrown in seventh grade, campfires at the lake, swimming lessons in Bonnyville, teenage makeouts at the CLPS playground and piano recitals. There were a billion nights spent at Kaos, before and after it was the Camel's Toe, and a billion more spent at Legends. There were thousands of kilometres clocked, just driving up and down mainstreet and past Kinosoo Beach. There were next door neighbours and unrequited crushes and roommates in Edmonton. There are stories of falling in love and late nights spent spooning in tents.

And then there is now, when it would be pointless to ever pinpoint where it began.

We're not lifelong friends and we may not have known each other since birth. We didn't go to school together and we may not even be Facebook friends. But none of that matters. Yes, it's a matter of circumstance, but it's more than that. It's not a single story or an explanation. It's a place.

We're locals. Those are the only words. That's all there is to know.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Two Rants, One Blog: The Updates

I wrote something other than a postcard. This is it.

The Job

Two weeks ago, I was called in to an interview for a job. I went. It was okay, but I knew I wasn't right for the position.

When I got home, I checked my sent messages folder only to realize that they had invited me in for the interview without ever seeing my resume. I forgot to attach it to my application. (A shame, too, because my carefully tailored resumes are a sight to behold.) But they still asked me in.

This was really good for my self-esteem.

I didn't get the job.

The Internship

Last week, after an intense application process, I was invited to interview for an internship at a well-known magazine. I went. As I sat in a tall leather chair that probably cost more than my entire wardrobe, I felt beads of sweat running down my back. I was nervous. Unlike the job, I knew that I was right for the internship. It was a great learning and networking opportunity at a magazine that I love.

There was just one hitch: the position was unpaid.

But as I left, I knew I had no reason to worry. I had bombed the interview. I took strange comfort in knowing that.

The next day they called to offer me the job.

It was a hard decision. I thought a lot about my peers, particularly the ones who accepted unpaid internships shortly after graduating and I thought about how far they've come. I wanted that. I want that.

It's not the first internship I've been offered. A week out of school, I was offered a place at one of Canada's biggest magazines. I really wanted it. And sure, it paid. It paid a $800/month, to be exact. My rent at the time was $700/month. The same day, I was offered a meagre salary of $28,000 and benefits at a non-profit organization. Guess which one I accepted?

The post-secondary system is obviously stacked in many ways, most clearly against those who come from lower-income households. But from start to finish, it's also stacked against "rural" Canadian women who want to access employment that doesn't include becoming a health care practitioner, an educator or a homemaker. (All of which are chosen professions that I respect, but just weren't right for me.) In addition to paying twice as much to obtain a degree of my choosing because living with relatives simply wasn't an option (at the time of my application to school, undergraduate degrees in journalism were only offered in Ottawa, Halifax and Toronto), I've failed tests because I didn't know who Ontario Governor General was (classmates were shockedyet they didn't know who Lois Hole was) and had reduced access to Ontario-specific grants and loans.

And then, after we shelled out tens of thousands of dollars to graduate, there were the internships. The unpaid internships. (Where were the jobs, we wondered?)

In the three years since I graduated, little has changed. Show me a person who has accepted an unpaid internship and I'll show you a person who moved home in order to be able to afford it.

No matter how much I wanted the internship, I couldn't accept it.

I sent my resignation (or whatever the equivalent of resigning before you even start is called) email on the way to one of the four jobs that I've been working to make ends meet.

The Work

I know that later I'm going to regret turning the internship down, but right now I'm too busy working to think about it much. I have one new contract and a contract extension into the new year. (Unpaid internship or gainful employment in my field? Maybe it seems like an easy choice, but it wasn't.)

But there's something else that's really been bothering me lately. Despite the fact that everyone seem to think that I sit around my house eating bon-bons and playing with my dog all day while upbeat montage music plays, most days I barely have enough time to shower. (Actually, it's 7:30 p.m. as I'm typing this and it just occurred to me that I have yet to brush my teeth today.) Photographic evidence follows: 

I should at least give myself credit for painting my nails.


So for those who have never freelanced, here's a fun fact: as a freelancer, you'll always feel like you're poor. I still haven't been paid for work that I did in June. When I decline dinner, it's not because I don't have money because I'm too busy refreshing Facebook all day longit's simply because I don't receive a lump sum in my bank account at 12:01 a.m. every other Thursday. And sure, I take off time to go travelling. But I also work seven days a week, sometimes for 12 hours at a time so that I can afford to go travelling.

I'm not asking anyone to sympathize with this. It's the lifestyle that I've chosen for myself (at least for now) and I like it. It's kind of awesome, actually. I can drink hot chocolate in the afternoons, wear my pajamas all day and cuddle with Brockton while I write.

But you know what's not awesome? People criticizing, judging and making assumptions simply because my current career doesn't fit into the nine to five status quo.

You can stop now, please, because it makes me second-guess myself. (It also hurts my feelings. And. . .cue Flight of the Conchords for this montage scene.)

The Friend

My friend moved away. I miss her.

I helped her move further away from me. In the pouring ice cold rain. At night. While I had menstrual cramps. Directly after my weight lifting class.

That's true love.

The Future

I'm going to embody the word "hustle." It's going to be awesome.

But I'm still going to put Amarula in my coffee and snuggle with my dog while I write.





It's a solid plan.


(Oh and 2012? It's totally the year that I'm going to write a bestselling young adult book. It's going to be epic.)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Dear Stephenie



(Normal blog posts will resume at some future point in time. "Normal" being a subjective description of what happens here, of course. In the meantime--postcards!)

Thursday, November 03, 2011

LYLAS

My best friend Angela was beautiful.

She lived just up the street from me and her room was in the basement, where she was allowed to have sleepovers in her bunk bed. (She slept in the top bunk, naturally.) She had a dog, a pet hamster, a Jasmine doll, a real bikini top and Hawaiian grass skirtand she even lived in the crescent. (Oh, to live in the crescent!) Her birthday parties were the best; we'd sing along to Mini Pop Kids, dress up and eat candy. She had naturally blonde ringlets and clear blue eyes.

Angela was the type of girl who would invariably develop perfect "C" breasts by eighth grade, have a boy ask her out before the end of ninth grade, and would never have to worry about wearing the wrong thing. And so what if she told the entire third grade that I had once peed my pants while talking on the phone with her? She was willing to be my best friend, so of course, I forgave her. We were going to be best friends forever.

To this day, I have her phone number memorized.

Every year, after a visit from her grandparents, Angela would be burdened with an endless supply of Polly Pockets and Disney movies. Waiting at the bus stop in the mornings, she'd smile (her lips painted with brand new shade of play makeup) and show off her new clothes (which clearly hadn't been purchased at SAAN or through the Sears catalogue).

Telling my mom about the visits, she would shake her head sadly. "Aren't you lucky that your grandma and grandpa live in Cold Lake?" she would ask rhetorically. "I bet Angela wishes she was as lucky as you."

Up until that spring, my own grandparents had lived just around the school from us. It was just a short walk across the playground and through a farmer's field before we'd burst into grandma's backyard, pockets full of snow and mittens full of burrs. Every year in August, my grandma would take us shopping at SAAN, where we were allowed to choose one play outfit (for me, this usually involved a sweater featuring a kitten saying, "I need a hug!"; for Andrew, neon graffitied t-shirts littered with Bart Simpson catchphrases), one nice outfit and a toy. Afterwards, she'd treat us to lunch at Smitty's, where I'd order plain spaghetti with cheese.

In the spring of our fifth grade yearsometime after my grandparents moved a whopping five kilometres away to a brand new house beside the lake and shortly before I received the devastating news that Angela was movingher grandma inexplicably came to stay. The source of all those new clothes and toys wasn't at all what I imagined. She was stern, thin and younger than my grandma. Angela's basement, which had previously been our stomping grounds, was suddenly off-limits. But the snow had started to melt, so we spent Easter break playing outside instead.

One day, wheeling around the crescent in circles on our bikes, Angela told me that every day her grandma went for a walk. "She says she's going to the library," she told me, "but sometimes she doesn't come back with books. I think she's lying."

Our 10-year-old brains, fuelled by a combination of Sweet Valley Twins Super Chillers (I was always annoyed that Jessica, who shared my name, was the flaky twin) and Ghostwriter reruns, were sure there was a juicy secret behind the lie.

"Maybe she has a boyfriend," Angela hypothesized. A boyfriend? At her age? I scoffed. That didn't seem likely at all. So I came up with a more plausible suggestion. "Maybe she's a secret spy?" I contributed. Her grandma did have a British accent, after all. "We need to follow her and find out!"

The next day in the early afternoon, Angela's grandma announced she was going to the library. This was our chance!

I raced the half block home. I was well on my way to becoming an undercover detective, but I still needed permission. Up until this point, I hadn't been allowed to go further with friends than the playground at the end of the street. (The exception being if I cross-country skied over to Michelle's house. Yes, I was that kid.)

"Mom," I asked hesitantly, preparing myself for an argument. "I'm just going out for a bike ride with Angela to the library. Is that okay?" Maybe she sensed my urgency. Maybe she sensed that I ready to leave the neighbourhood. Or, maybe she was just too tired to argue that day. "Sure," she sighed. "Be home by five."

I raced back to Angela's house. Energized by my little white lie, we started pedalling up the hill, past the playground and on our way to adolescent freedom.

With only one road in town leading to the library, we caught up to her grandma in no time and began following her from a safe distance. But when it came time to turn to the library, Angela's grandma did something unexpectedsomething that my own grandma would never doshe walked towards the lake instead. Angela was right—she'd been lying!

We followed her past Leo's Video Store down to the marina. Stashing our bikes, we crept up the marina's crows-nest and watch as her grandma walked down the breakwater. It took superhuman strength to remain quiet. What was she doing there? Who was she going to meet? Why did she lie? This was the moment of truth!

And we watched her grandma. We watched as as she stood alone in the quiet grey air, gazing out onto the still-frozen lake for what seemed like forever. We watched as she turned and walked back down the pier. And we watched as she headed up the hill home.

Riding our bikes back, we were silent. I was confused. Why would she lie? I had that same feeling in my gut that I got the time that I saw my parents kissing in the kitchen. I had seen something that I wasn't meant to see.

Later that summer, long after the lake thawed and the "For Sale" sign disappeared from Angela's front lawn, I received a letter. She hated Ontario, but she had made a new friend. "Her name is Jenna Rator," she wrote. (I was skeptical. I had never met a Jenna. And who could befriend someone whose name sounded like so much like the loud and smelly machine that my dad used to power the boat's lights?) But that wasn't all. Tucked into the folds of the letter was Angela's sixth-grade picture. Her hair was arranged in curls on top of her head and her eyes were crystal blue. She was beautiful. "LYLAS," she had written on the back.

All year, that photo sat inside my desk. The day I started anger management classes, there it was, tucked neatly in the back corner. Throughout the months my grandpa went to the hospital for testing, it was there. Even after Angela's letters started appearing months apart, I took comfort in it. From time to time, I'd pull it out to read the worn ink on the back and to remind myself that yes, once, I had had a best friend, too.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

You can take me everywhere.



Part One: In which I consume my body weight in cheese.


Part Two: In which I totally fail at being a tourist in London. Again. (And this time, I didn't even have swine flu as an excuse.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Winter Weight


We're still alive. Wading through uncertainty, but we're still here. 

(And if all else fails, at least we're fattened up in preparation for the next round. Switzerland is the greatest country on earth. Where else can you go out for dinner, eat only melted cheese and bread, and not face any sort of criticism or post-meal guilt?) 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Night Two: Ottawa

We drove further north. The geese flew south. We all have places to be.


A 19-year-old that I met before he was 19 came to say hi to me at work today. We caught up and I told him about my trip to Peru and upcoming Swiss adventure.  "How do I get your life?" he asked. "You have to be willing to be poor," I told him.

What I really should have said, sometime between his recollection of his grad trip to Punta Cana and his 19th birthday party the night before was, "How do I get your life?"


But at the same time, I wouldn't trade anything I've got--the good or the bad--to be 19 again. Because at 19, I'm not sure I had the strength and resilience to survive the curveballs that life has thrown at me this last month.

(That, and I really hated living in the university residence.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Night One: Kingston

"Have the courage to write badly." 

Right now, I need to feel courageous. So this seems like a good place to start.


I'm exhausted in a way that no amount of sleep could possibly resolve. And tonight, I'm suddenly alone.

I don't know if I've ever stayed in a hotel alone before. Hostels? Sure. Hotel rooms? Yes. But all alone, in a hotel with no co-worker/friend/relative in the next room over? I'm not too sure.

And yet, it feels suspiciously familiar, like I've done it a dozen times before. I'm here on business, the first night of a four-night journey. (It sounds so official, doesn't it? "Here on business." I wish I had the wardrobe to match that statement. I could leave or take the actual lifestyle, though.) Kingston today, Ottawa tomorrow, Montréal on Saturday, unemployment on Sunday.


Life is rough lately. But all it needs is time. And a little bit of courage I suppose, even if it's just the courage to write badly.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

All my friends are journalists.

Even if you're struggling as a freelancer, there's one surefire way to ensure your name appears in print on a regular basis; only befriend journalists.

Two years ago in the Globe & Mail:


Earlier this year in the Toronto Star:


And the latest one, from today's Globe & Mail, made my day:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Things I Love Right Now

I'm feeling bad about all the hate in yesterday's post, so I figured I'd make up for it by talking about some of the things I love right now:

Yoga Jeans

Why the love? As far as I can tell, there are two main advantages to losing 10 lbs:

1. You have a legitimate reason to invest in a whole new fall wardrobe.
2. You lost 10 lbs.

I like tailored clothing, so pieces that have served me well over the last five years suddenly need to be replaced (or taken in). I'm not complaining. The most recent addition my wardrobe is Yoga Jeans, which are not only amazingly comfortable and reasonably priced--they're also 100 per cent Canadian made. 

Why should you care? This fall, forget the crap that H&M shills and considering investing in some Canadian-designed clothing. In addition to Yoga Jeans, I'm also a big fan of Birds of North America's Fall collection. 

Other fall favourites: the vintage jewellery that recently came my way. Thanks Katherine!

AutoShare

Why the love? Now, to get started, I am in no way getting compensated to write this (nor am I in any way reflecting the opinions of AutoShare in this blog). I am writing this because I actually LOVE AutoShare.

No, seriously.

I LOVE AutoShare.

I keep telling people that AutoShare changed my life and they seem to think I'm exaggerating.

I'm not.

(My love is maybe a little bit out of control. If AutoShare was a boy, I wouldn't just be passing him notes in class--I'd be full-out leaving animal hearts in his locker.)

Brock and I with one of AutoShare's Nissan Leafs (Leaves?) at Open Roof Festival.

I don't need a car because there's one parked directly my building that I can access anytime. If it's cold out and I don't want to drag my groceries home through the snow, I can rent a car for less than the cost of a cab. If I need to get to a TTC-inaccessible meeting, I take the subway to the closest AutoShare location and then drive the rest of the way. If I want to go touring wineries in Niagara, I don't have to trek all the way downtown to go to the Budget rental office during their ridiculous hours. Amazing.

As if that wasn't enough reason to love them, AutoShare recently introduced electric cars. While I'm admittedly skeptical about the sustainability of electric vehicles, it makes perfect sense in the AutoShare fleet. And well, it's just kind of neat.

Why should you care? Because right now, if you're 29 or under, you can sign up for free. (You do have to pay a $29 application fee, though.) Oh and did I mention that you build your insurance history as you drive with AutoShare? Again, amazing.

Loose Button's Luxe Box


Why the love? I have to admit, this is a really peculiar thing for me to love, given that I've maybe set foot in Sephora once in my life and that I've been using the same brand of mascara since 1998. I have zero to no interest in high-end beauty products. And who pays for samples when the whole point of samples is that they're free? So, it's weird, I know.

But who doesn't love getting a ribbon-wrapped surprise parcel in the mail every month? That and I totally would have paid $12 (the cost of a one-month Luxe Box subscription) just for the bottle of Moroccan Oil that was in this month's box.



Why should you care? You actually totally shouldn't for all of the above reasons. But if you do, sign up using this link and I can get a month free. (And we all know how much I like free things.)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Hate Mail: Dear Limo and Cab Tours and Transportation

Hate mail. This time, with pictures. (Boring post, I know. But because they don't have a profile on TripAdvisor, I just want to make sure my hate for LL&C Wine Tours shows up on Google searches from here on out. So ignore the hate and enjoy the pictures.)
_______________________________________________________________________________

Dear LL&C Tours and Transportation and Living Social:

On Saturday, September 17, 2011, I attended a wine tour hosted by Lincoln, Limo and Cab Transportation and Tours, which I purchased through Living Social. I am writing to issue an official complaint. It was hands-down the worst tour experience I’ve ever had and along with the rest of my party (whose voucher numbers are at the bottom of this letter) I’m seeking a full refund and compensation for expenses caused when LL&C failed to pick up my group.

Here are the events that transpired:

On Saturday morning, at 10:00 am, we called LL&C to confirm the pick-up time in Niagara Falls. We were told that it would be 12:15 pm at Niagara Falls Casino.

Upon arrival at Niagara Falls Casino at 11:30 pm, we again called LL&C to reconfirm the tour time and pickup location. We were again told 12:15pm and confirmed that the pickup location was in the same spot at where the coach buses board on the south side of the building. We paid for parking for the day ($10) and headed to the bus pickup area.


We arrived at the bus area at 11:40 am, more than 30 minutes before the pick-up time. While there, we met another group of women who were also on our tour. They had also called to confirm the pickup time and had been told that the bus would be arriving in 10 minutes. We spent the next 30 minutes waiting, watching bus after bus drop people off. Not a single bus arrived to pick passengers up.

By 12:25, when the bus had still not arrived we became concerned. The other group of women called the tour company again, only to be told that we had “missed the bus” and had to make our way to the winery ourselves. They also indicated that they had picked up people 20 minutes earlier and that we must have been late.

It was clear at this point that we were being lied to.

(They said that they send out confirmation emails prior to tours, however NO ONE that we spoke with on the bus had received any such confirmation email. We were also frustrated that the accused us of missing the bus when both groups of women had called to confirm more than once that morning.)


After driving to meet the group at Caroline Cellars in our AutoShare rental vehicle ($5.00 for the cost of driving there), we arrived to the winery to only be informed that we needed to drive to Pond View to meet the group. After verbalizing our frustration to the "tour guide" (orphan quotes intended) we agreed to board the bus to make the most of our day.

Although we knew it was impossible that we had “missed” the bus, we asked other tour attendees if they had stopped at Falls View Casino to pick up passengers. “We didn’t stop there,” said one woman. We drove straight through.” She then proceeded to say, “Whoosh!” and make a rapid motion with her hand to emphasize the fact that the bus DID NOT stop at Niagara Falls Casino to pick up ANY passengers.
Finally, we met a third group of women who had not been picked up from their pick-up location. They were compensated for their cab to the winery, but were also understandably irate.



It was clear that the tour operators were flat-out lying to paying customers.

We hoped the day would improve, but it did not. The following is our account of the tour itself:

This was by far the worst value for money group buy deal I have ever purchased, as well as the worst tour I’ve ever been on.

On our tour, the tour guide did not interact at all with the guests (except to argue with us about “missing the bus”). Nothing ran on time. As an example of a typical stop, at the last winery we were instructed to meet back on the bus at 4:00. By 4:30, the entire tour group had boarded the bus with the exception of the tour guide and the bus driver. Around 4:35, while the entire group waited (and joked about “honking the horn”) I spotted our “tour guide” outside smoking.

While touring wineries, I looked at brochures for similar companies in the area that also offer a tour of one winery, with tastings at three additional wineries. The average price for these tours was $50 to $75 for a four-hour tour, but included lunch. (Some passengers on our bus were provided with a snack, while others were not.) The bus was also overcrowded and not the small passenger bus featured on the website—there were nearly 50 passengers on the tour. (In 2009, I toured the exact same four wineries with a small group of nine people for $75. )

Based on my experience with LL&C, I will never again purchase anything from Living Social and will discourage my peers from doing the same.


I am seeking the following compensation:

• Reimbursement for the cost of the tour from Living Social for all three members of my party ($150)
• Parking in Niagara Falls ($10)
• The cost of the AutoShare rental to drive from Niagara Falls Casino to Caroline Cellars and then back to Pond View (20 kilometers at $0.25/kilometer = $5.00)

I expect that you will reply to this complaint in a timely manner.

Sincerely,

Jessica

Monday, September 12, 2011

A politically-minded dog

An incomplete list of things my dog is terrified of--some legit, some not so much:
  • large trucks 
  • mini-vans
  • construction vehicles
  • lawn mowers
  • old women pushing granny carts (but strollers are okay)
  • full bags of garbage sitting by the front door
  • Dufferin Street (yes, the entire street)
  • curb-side garbage and recycling bins, occasionally including those that are permanently installed
  • any box on the street full of random stuff with a sign reading "free stuff"
  • children on scooters (but bicycles are okay)
  • TTC buses passing by (but not subways or streetcars--and he's totally fine to ride all of the above)
  • pylons
Added to the list today:
  • election lawn signs (but strangely, only those for NDP candidates) 


Saturday, September 03, 2011

I can write.

Screenshots from an article that I'm working on:




I wish I was smarter than this.

I'm not.



Friday, September 02, 2011

The First Tattoo

Despite the language and cultural barriers, I guess you could say that Helka was the first person I ever felt a “connection” with. We came from completely different places, but we were kindred spirits in a way that only teenage girls can be. Hours would be lost together, lounging around her house discussing politics, art, music and current events. And even when I accidentally made out with Jason H. (who she had a long-standing flirtation with) behind the mall, she was forgiving. But above all else, we had fun together.


It was something that we had talked about from the beginning—about how before she left Canada and as soon as I turned 18, we'd get matching tattoos.

At the end of the school year, I found our ride to Edmonton. I didn’t know Kyle that well, but he had a car. And at first, he was enthusiastic about the idea. I suppose it was very punk rock of him (or something like that) to escort the Finnish exchange student and the school freak to the city just to get tattoos.

But as the trip grew closer, Kyle quickly realized that we actually planned to follow through. On the day of, his reluctance to take us on the six-hour journey was obvious. “I don’t want my mom to find out,” he worried.


There was a sense of urgency, though. Helka was trying to extend her stay in Canada, but without approval from the exchange agency she'd be leaving in just over a week. In order to convince Kyle, I sweetened the deal by offering him something that only an 18-year-old boy could appreciate the true value of—two 7-11 dollars and a fully stamped Subway sub club card. (Okay, and I’m sure it also didn’t hurt that we were occasional make-out buddies at the time.)

With that, it was a done deal. We piled into his car—me in a ‘70s rainbow belly shirt, Helka with her red hair piled in a loose ponytail, Kyle with an anxious look on his face and pre-Fergie Black Eyed Peas in the CD player.

I don't remember the drive there. All I remember is arriving in the city and being completely overwhelmed; there were more than two lanes of traffic and we had no clue where were going. It was a classic case of small town kids trying to navigate the "big" city. 

In due time, we found my brother's apartment and Andrew agreed to drive us to Whyte Avenue. It was late, but we managed to score the last two appointments of the day at Divine. "Just so you know, I don't approve of this," Andrew told us in obligatory older-brother fashion.

I went first. The tattoo artist had a lazy eye. While one eye was looking down at my hip, the other eye was vacantly staring up towards me. “Are you sure you girls don’t want something bigger?” he prompted. “I feel bad doing so little.”


But no, it was enough. We took pictures that day--each of us grinning into the camera, thrilled as the black pigment settled into our skin. It didn't feel like the end of an era. It felt like the start of something new.

That night, as we drove north towards Cold Lake, we sang along to Sublime. "Yes," I thought, satisfied with the burning ink on my left hip. "Love is what I've got."