Monday, August 29, 2011

Love at First Bite

As a child, the thought of my very own puppy consumed my every waking moment. But since my parents refused to get me a dog, I knew there was only one way it was going to happen--Santa Claus.

My letter that year was carefully crafted. I'd been a very good girl, and surely Santa, unlike my parents, would understand my need for a furry companion.

On the day that Santa's reply arrived, I eagerly ripped open the envelope and asked my mom to read it aloud. While the other kids in my class had received relatively generic letters about their demands, Santa's words were heart-breakingly specific.

"I'm sorry, Jessica," it read, "but a puppy would get too cold in my sleigh." (Years later I found out that my mom, who worked for Canada Post, was also one of Santa's elves. She volunteered to help him write letters.)

I bawled. It made perfect sense why he couldn't deliver a puppy to me. Without Santa, there was no hope.

But the dream never died.

So when Jay and I drove up to Owen Sound last September to pick out my first dog, it seemed too good to be true. Falling asleep that night (and every night for the next eight weeks) I said words that I thought I'd never get to say. "I have a puppy," I'd say in hushed disbelief.

Despite my giddiness, I couldn't shake the worry at the back of my head. "I don't want to tell anyone about our dog or put any pictures of him on Facebook," I confessed to Jay. "I'm worried that something's going to go wrong and we're not going to get him."

I was in Guyana when I received an email from the breeder. With less than a week to go until he was supposed to come live with us, our puppy was sick. "The only dog that picked up this virus was yours," she wrote. "So you have several options. You could wait for him to get healthy or you could pick a different puppy." Reading between the lines, I realized that there was a chance that he might not make it.

Again, I was heartbroken. I had only spent a few minutes with the dog, but he was my puppy. Crying, I called Jay and explained the situation, worried that he'd want to pick another dog from the litter. "Well, we'll wait for him to get better," Jay said with complete certainty. "He's our puppy. We're not going to abandon him."

It was the right decision. A week later, Brockton came home to live with us.

I'm going to be honest--it's not everything that I dreamed it would be. Part of me hated him at first. He had giardia and it felt like we had to take him to the vet every week. And every hour, on the hour, I'd have to bundle up (and bundle him up) to take him down the flight of stairs to the alley outside our condo. He cried and he whined and he didn't have a single solid bowel movement.

But sometime, somehow, despite the laser shit, I managed to fall in love with him.

Happy first birthday dog. I think you're pretty neat.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The last gasps of summer

Sometimes, just sometimes, I guess the city isn't so bad. (Rooftop BBQ FTW.)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Girls at the Rock Show

8:30 PM "I just ate pizza sauce off your face." -Courtney and I like to pick up where we left off last.

9:19 PM Free illicit wristband for the floor? Yes, please! (We're not doing drugs in the bathroom, we swear!)

9:20 PM I legitimately forgot that people smoked pot at "rock" shows. Then again, I also forgot about Box Car Racer. (But didn't we all?)

9:23 PM Mosh pit anticipation. I suspect I'll last 2.43 minutes. (Okay, maybe less. I left my crowd surfing days in the last decade.)

9:30 PM Lamest mosh pit ever. This would explain why I wasn't into Blink as a teenager.

9:47 PM A boyfriend once told me that the song "Girl At the Rock Show" reminded him of me. Strange because I would never drop out of school because I'm failing.

9:55 PM Brie hid a flask in her crotch. How exactly? I'll leave that math question for you guys to figure out.

9:56 PM What's my age again? That's exactly how I feel right now.

10:46 PM I like Travis Barker's solo. But that's more due to my love of pounding rap music than his drumming.

10:48 PM Okay, they just won my heart by acknowledging how ridiculous fake encores are.

11:04 PM Wait. This was the "Honda Civic Tour"? That has to be the least badass tour name ever.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"I ain't no high class broad"

We made it just in time for last call. 

After a night of smoking cigars, igniting flaming Sambuca shots and playing dress-up, we decided it was time to leave the groomsmen alone to continue their manly activities—and to get the groom to bed before the big day.

We wandered down the street to 901, a shady bar in Cold Lake proper. It was packed and Chloe couldn’t resist the lure of karaoke. She carefully read through the binder before finally settling on a Loretta Lynn number. Last call was announced and the final singer was called up to the DJ booth—but the name they called wasn’t Chloe’s. She was from out of town and small town nepotism had won out in terms of the karaoke lineup, it seemed.

“Sorry, you’ll just have to come back tomorrow night,” the DJ told us.

This was not an option. “She just flew in from Toronto yesterday and we have a wedding to attend tomorrow night,” I protested. “This is one-time only. And it’s a performance you don’t want to miss.” 

The DJ didn’t even humour my plea. “Sorry girls, I can’t do anything. The bar is closed.”

But Chloe already had the microphone in her hands. “C’mon, let me sing,” she said, her voice coming low through the speakers. "Yeah, let her sing!" I agreed.

And somehow, somewhere in the back near the pool tables, a rumble of a chant started. “Let her sing. . .let her sing. . .”

As the lights came on, people who had been filing out the door towards home stopped to watch. Then they joined the chanting. “Let her sing! Let her sing!” (The whole bar was cheering for her! For us!) It was a tense moment. The DJ and the bartender eyed one another and then eyed the crowd.

“Okay, but you have to make it quick. I need to get home to my woman.” 

As Chloe started singing, women from the bar joined us, enthusiastically shouting the lyrics. Her request for Loretta had been lost, so she opted for the next best option, a sure crowd-pleaser. “Cause I’m a redneck woman, I ain’t no high class broad. . .”

Holding hands, Chloe and I followed Lakeshore Drive home from the bar, passing the familiar landmarks: the Harbour House, Kinosoo Beach, the MD Park. We were in agreement—the night had been quintessentially Cold Lake. 

The next evening at the wedding--sometime between losing a dance off against a nine-year-old (I was told that she defeated me due to her use of “high kicks”—a move that if I’d tried to duplicate, I would have likely kicked her in the head—or worse, exposed myself) and arguing that Bunnicula, is, in fact, a real book series--there was a defining moment. As we related the story of our karaoke triumph to a captive (albeit somewhat inebriated) audience, a couple of guys piped up.

“We were there!” they told us, excited. “We were cheering for you!”

Indeed, it had been Cold Lake at its finest hour.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Scenes from a Small Town

There are endless jokes about how flat the Prairies are. You can see your dog running away for days. When you leave your grandparents house, you can wave goodbye for three hours. And if you look very carefully into the distance, you can see the back of your own head.

It's not true.

(And even if it is, that's what makes it beautiful.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Ghosts of Another Kind

The first two weeks, I was consumed. It was the same struggle that I go through every time I come home--attempting to reconcile where I came from with where I live. Attempting to understand where I started and where I am.

My life is dichotomized. My Cold Lake life versus my Toronto life. My life before and after. They're two separate, parallel lines, rarely intersecting. And there's ghosts around every corner.

I never belonged here, but I don't belong there either. Neither was a life that I felt like I chose for myself. One I was born into and one I fell into by accident. 

The most difficult challenge of all has been grappling to find the words to articulate all this. 

I still haven't found them.