Saturday, September 25, 2010

Struck Dumb

I've taken a vow of silence. 

Not to get closer to god, but because if I speak I end up having coughing fits that turn my lungs inside out. Nasty allergies morphed this week into a nasty cold. Poor me, right? Not since that one time when I was twelve have I smoked a cigarette, but still I sound like a 90 year old with emphysema. 

No point in seeing a doctor. The same thing happened last year and I went and all he did was give me something to help me sleep. Which I never took anyway. I just have to wait it out with lozenges and endless pots of Cold Formula tea. And silence. But enough about my gummed up alveoli. 


Earlier this week I was getting my lunch in the break room at the office. It's up on the second floor and the window was open. Someone walked by on the sidewalk below, sending up an operatic chorus. I poked my head out to catch a glimpse of this passing Carmen but no one was there. 


The annual arboreal fireworks display has commenced. I know, it's such a cliché to get excited about leaves. I don't care.

I grew up on the west coast and so everything east of the wheat fields was "Back East" and made me think of knee socks, ivy creeping over brick and maple syrup. This time of year it's true. This time of year I can just about convince myself that I live on the set of a made-for-TV Halloween movie. It makes me forgive all my seasonal ailments. 


Adrien and I went for breakfast this morning. He brought a newspaper as I am mute. I wanted to write about how the loss of one sharpened all my other senses. But then I remembered that speech is not a sense. It feels like one. 

In the car I pulled out my notebook and asked him questions at a red light. 

"Is this a new cd?"


"It's all achy songs."

(Raised eyebrows.)

"A good ache."


Some of the music he listens to gives me a lovely, terrible ache. The kind of feeling that comes from having a hopeless a crush. It's nothing to do with the lyrics, most of which I don't even know. It's the music itself, the lowing melody. 

If Adrien's musical tastes could be distilled into one word, that word would be "catchy". 

If my musical tastes could be distilled into one word, that word would be "unsurprising". I wouldn't say that I have bad taste - who says that about themselves? - but I am not edgy. Still, Alissa convinced me to go out last month to see Juliette Lewis and that felt slightly edgy. Although that admission likely just proves my lack of edge.

Here is one of the songs from Adrien's mix:


Whenever we're out and I see a car pass by with BC plates my heart gives a little lurch of recognition. 


Je n'écris jamais en français. Pourquoi? Ma vie ici est bilingue. J'aimerais voir plus de films et livres qui sont bilingues. Je veux dire, un mélange. C'est comme ça ici, en réalité. Souvent les conversations sont un mélange. Des mots anglais répondent des mots français. Et l'invers. Des phrases moitier-moitier. Des accents, des anglicisms. 

Aujourd'hui j'ai vu un panneau pour A&W qui offrait: 
"1 oncle burger pour 3.00"
Ça fait bizarre. 

I never write in French. Why? My life here is that way. I'd love to see more films and books in both languages. Mixed together, I mean. It's like that here, in real life. Conversations are often a blend. English words answer French ones. And the other way around. Half and half sentences. Accents, Anglicisms. 

Today I saw an ad outside A&W that offered: 
"1 oncle burger pour 3.00"
Which sounds odd. 


On the way home today a car passed in the lane next to us, revving the motor. It was an ordinary sedan, newish maybe, but it didn't look sporty to me. Still, the motor gave a satisfyingly predatory grumble and the two dress-shirted men in the car gave war-cry whoops each time it did so. I looked over at them, wondering how much fun it can be to tease an engine in traffic. 

I forgot about them, though, when a bus whooshed past stirring up fallen leaves. A whirlwind of copper and gold. 

Somewhere above the woollen cloud cover some passing geese honked their solemn fair-well. I wanted to tell Adrien but also didn't want to cough. And my notebook was tucked away. So I'm telling you instead.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Teacup diary entries

I made soup on Monday night. That's how I know summer is over: soup bubbling on the stove. I don't have a recipe to share, it's Whatever Is On Hand soup. Squash, potatoes, carrots, rice. A bit of spice. Quite nice.

Yesterday I went into a Polish bakery. It's just a couple of blocks from the office, and I'd been told it was worth it.

It was. 

I've never been to Poland but I love little shops, like this one, that beam you directly from the sidewalk in Montreal to a counter in Warsaw. Inside it was dark and glittery, lots of wood panels and glowing glass cases. The natural history of pastry.

I waited my turn, after a lanky business man (sausage on a sandwich) and two burly construction workers (cake from the display case).

I just wanted one doughnut, just one little afternoon treat. It's not my fault they had three different kinds: apricot, plum, cream. And also, it would be cruel to get one for me and not bring some home to share. I'm not that cruel. 

So when I said: One of each. 

She said: For only a little bit more you can get six. 

And I said: Two of each!

Is there any softer bite than a freshly made doughnut? I think, next time we meet, I will have powdered sugar on my chin.


On the sidewalk near my building this morning a stylish man greeted me with undue familiarity.

I don't know him. Do I?

"Hi Katherine, how are you?"

He's very friendly but I'm not Katherine.

"Yes, yes, we met just the other day! At your apartment! I'm the new owner, your landlord introduced us."

"I really don't think it was me."

He seems unfazed by my inability to remember him. I'm sure he's confusing me with someone else, even though he knows my apartment number. I remember my landlord picking up the rent check the other day and he was alone. No introductions were made. The stylish man walks off chuckling, wishing me a good day. I walk off, perplexed.


There is a corner in the storage area of the staffroom at the library where all of our Christmas books are kept until the Festive Season begins. The shelf is a mess of red and green spines shoved higgledy-piggledy. Even though today is the 16th of September I lingered.


A Scottish gentleman who is new to the area borrowed the library phone today to contact Bell for a telephone installation. His fluffy grey hair was styled in an unnecessary comb-over and his navy blazer went well with the dinner plate sized spectacles.

His voice was soft, and lightly accented.

"No, I don't have a phone number, that's what I'm telling you. I won't have one until you come set it up for me."

"I'm sorry I can barely hear you..."

"Yes, I have an email address but as I say, I won't have internet at the house until you come set it up."

"No I don't have a phone number yet."

This went on for about thirty minutes, poor guy. The fact that his new home was completely disconnected from any form of telecommunication was apparently beyond comprehension for the customer service agent.

We all shook our heads and gave the patient gentleman grim smiles of encouragement as he battled on.


Some people have such a great deal of presence that they fill any room they enter right up to the ceiling.

Someone like that was here today, working for an hour or so. She's lovely and funny and I like her very much. But she can, as Marilla Cuthbert so aptly put it, talk the hind leg off a mule.

I asked her where she was going on vacation and fifteen minutes later I'd said not a word but she was still telling me about her plans. Shortly after that she segued into her impending surgery.

I'm not sure that she paused the whole time she was here.

As soon as she left we slipped into a comfortable silence that gave way to the distant patter of rain.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mr Sensitive Ponytail Man

Perfect moments are rare. When they do happen I get this tingling pins and needles feeling on the back of my head, like someone's been playing with my hair. Often these tiny perfections arrive for no reason whatsoever. Just: there they are. Fleeting delight. 

One of my clearest memories of such a moment occurred in the living room of a guy I dated when I was nineteen. 

It must have been summer, but early or late I don't know. It was dusk though, the windows were open and the breeze was velveteen. There was soft music playing. There were a few people over, chatting, probably sharing a bottle of wine. The room was open, airy, and there was a nice wooden mantel with carvings and lit candles.

"This is what being All Grown Up feels like." Pleasant shiver. Goosebumps.


We met at an Art History class at the local college. A field trip into Vancouver was organized, to visit some galleries. I didn't drive so I ended up getting a ride with him.

I barely remember the exhibits. Something to do with plastering a room with sheet music. Oh, and a thing where the artist went to sleep at a hotel (in cotton pyjamas, possibly with the aid of sleeping pills) and had some friends come along in the night to take him home. The piece consisted of footage of him sleeping in the back of the car; it was quite dark, with just the intermitent street lights to illuminate rain mottling the back window while the whump of windshield wipers and the hum of tires on wet pavement droned on in the background. It was supposed to illicit memories of childhood, those times when your parents took you out somewhere past your bedtime and then drove you home and transfered you from car to bed without waking you.

I remember wearing a long flowy dress with clunky shoes (it was the 90s). We had lunch together and the fact that John Keats featured prominently in our conversation should have been a bit of a warning sign.

Romantic poets notwithstanding, we flirted shamelessly and ultimately decided that it would be fun to get together sometime outside of a school function.

I still lived at home then and when my parents found out that he was in his thirties they were not impressed. They were too smart to make a fuss about it though, knowing that to do so would only add glamour to the situation for me.

He played it very cool. He even gave me a speech about how conflicted he was - I was so young, so innocent, we probably shoudn't be doing this! I fell for it - thus proving myself both young and innocent - and threw myself into the task of appearing thirteen years older than I was.

It must have lasted a whopping three months. Four, tops. These are the things I remember: his short blond ponytail and thick black-rimmed glasses, ridding on a the back of a red motorbike, his love of Ovaltine, a black and white stripped shirt, a picture of him from the 80s with a perm, his funny little dog called Sobria, mysterious weekly meetings pencilled in his day-planner (viewed by me on the sly and never discussed), feeling like a minx and an intimidated kid in equal measures, watching The African Queen at his mom's place, eating out a lot, and that one perfect moment at dusk in his living room.


I knew things were coming to their natural end when we were at his friend's birthday party playing Trivial Pursuit. A question about Gen Xers was put forth and someone at the table pointed to me saying "Well I don't know if we qualify but she sure as hell does."


I found out later on that despite his feigned protestations I was not the first girl he'd dated who was fresh out of high school. I don't think he was a creep though, just a little lost. Hadn't caught up with his age. Now that I'm the same age he was when we met (and being lost myself sometimes) I can understand that a little. 

I don't know why that one memory of sitting in his living room is etched in my mind. It had little, if anything, to do with him. Maybe it was just one of those instances where the picture you form in your mind about How Things Should Look coincides for a split second with How Things Actually Are.Who knows? I still get goosebumps though when, for a fleeting, minuscule little moment I feel like a grown up. It doesn't happen often. 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

My Enemy Wears Yellow

What a magnificent grump I've been of late. 
As one of my good friends pointed out this morning, I've been a bit distant lately. I know I have, it seems to be an inevitability of mine. Sometimes I flow and sometimes, like now, I ebb. I hole up in my shell. I like being tucked away in here, it's quiet and I can think. The only company I seem to crave is Stephen Fry on ye olde ipod. He reads and I slip through the bricks into Diagon Alley. 

One reason for this habit of mine is that I have reverse SAD. Actually, really, it's regular SAD, it's just that I pass most sufferers going in the opposite direction. Summer finds me clumsy with heat stroke while the onset of winter sets my heart ablaze. Whatever else I am, I am certainly a champion hibernator. Despite my urban postal code I act like a country wife of yore and stoke up the oven, kneading and mixing, baking and roasting. I walk around in a haze of cooking smells, wiping away steam from the windows to peer out at the snow. It's wonderful. 

But not in summer. In summer I swelter and slump. I scowl and bite. There's no denying that it brings out the worst in me. 

By the time the copper tones of August slide down the seasonal horizon I am often in a state of nervous exhaustion. So very ready for the leaves to turn, for the advent of frost and apple picking and pumpkins on doorsteps. Temperatures drop from the 30s to the teens and I rejoice, reaching enthusiastically (if prematurely) for scarves and mitts and warm things to drink. 

But then: enter ragweed. 

Just as I start to feel the relief of Fall, just as my eyes shine in anticipation of the wonderfulness that is BackToSchool-Thanksgiving-Halloween-Christmas-NewYearsEve-MyBirthday I am struck back, my (red) eyes now shining with tears. I am reduced to a sneezing mess with an itchy palate. 
What a kick in the teeth allergy season is. I'm not complaining, not really (yes I am). This is still my favourite time of year. This pencil case toting, molasses flavoured month is lovely. But could someone, for the love of kleenex, please do something about the ragweed? 

Sunday, September 5, 2010


These are a few shots that I took but didn't get around to posting for August Break. It was nice to capture so much of the month on camera, something I am often too tired or too scattered to do. Thanks Susannah for inviting us to play along. It was fun to do and I really enjoyed seeing August through the eyes of lots of lovely people as well. 

Around my neighbourhood at dusk: 

At the park: 

 Mr & Mrs Claus?

Around town: