Friday, July 29, 2005

Dublin Bound

We leave for Dublin tomorrow, and with no proper internet access, I might not be blogging again until I hit London. But fingers crossed I can fit one or two posts in along the way.

Remembrance of Things Past

This morning a giant jackhammer woke me out of my reverie. Since I had a hard time falling to sleep last night, I felt like it was hitting me, not the pavement. I made a valiant effort to go back to sleep, but then a giant claw-like machine scraping at the pavement started to go to work and I gave up the dream entirely. And it's a good thing I did—I had the most wonderful day in Paris.

There was an outdoor market in Tina's neighbourhood where I bought some fresh cherries (yum!), a cucumber, and perused the various different clothing booths. Then I stopped off at the bakery for my usual pain au chocolat, which is just about becoming an obsession with me. What am I going to eat in Dublin? I also bought two different tourtes for dinner tonight, hopefully Tina will like them. For a brief, charming instant I felt what it would be like to live in Paris all the time, shopping at a market, buying fresh produce, eating yummy things for dinner, and doing it all in a different language.

After eating my breakfast on Tina's veranda, I consulted the trusty Lonely Planet and headed off via the Metro to the Hotel de Ville, which faces out, and I quote, onto the "majestic place de l'Hotel de Ville, used since the Middle Ages to stage many of Paris' celebrations, rebellions, book-burnings and public executions." Ahem, it was slightly tamer when I was there today—they had outdoor beach volleyball set up. As a point of my good luck, I almost got beaned by a ball; it whizzed by but didn't hit me. Had it, I would have had one hell of a black eye, and maybe even broke my glasses. Ahem.

From there I set out on what would become my passion for the day: outdoor architecture. On the way to Musee Picasso (which is wonderful and fully worth the 5.50 Euros), I stopped off at 11 - 13 rue Francois Miron, where there's a great example of a 16th century building. Last night, I decided to spend the day in Marais, with the idea of seeing both the Hotel de Ville and the Picasso museum, but what I hadn't planned was following the Lonely Planet's Marais Medieval Meanderings walking tour. Essentially, I walked all around the neighbourhood looking at really old, really cool buildings—my non-tour pit stops included: the Picasso museum, full of his minor works all donated by his family; Maison de Victor Hugo, which is free but not too, too exciting; and having lunch at the vegetarian restaurant Piccolo Teatro, where they served a gracious (ahem) helping of cabbage and quinoa (but it was good regardless).

The walk was kind of like a scavenger hunt, and each mark on the map held a building instead of something silly like a matchbook, where there was hundreds of years of interesting history. I honestly walked for miles today. The Marais is absolutely beautiful, from the Jewish kosher stores mixed in with the high fashion boutiques, to the remnants of a fortified medieval wall on the way to the oldest private mansion in Paris. And it's funny, because I honestly didn't set out to do the walking tour, all I had on my agenda was the Picasso museum, and I stumbled upon it while eating lunch by myself, reading my book so I didn't feel too, too alone.

It was a marvelous day, sunny with a glimpse of a thunderstorm in the afternoon, and I can't remember the last time I felt so honestly happy. Well, exhausted would be a better word, but I truly enjoyed myself. It's too bad my RRBF's at home, because he would have really loved the walk.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

If Only My Feet Were Bionic Too...

Ouch! My RRBF warned me not to get new shoes for Europe, and he was, of course, right. Sore tootsies at the moment after spending the day trooping around Paris. I got up bright and early this morning, and headed out the door with my fabulous pain au chocolat, an apple, some trail mix and a nectarine. Ha! You'd think there was no food in Paris. Annnywaaay, my first stop was the Louvre. Every single person I spoke to (and including my Lonely Planet guide) told me that it's a totally overwhelming experience, too much to see, and too little time to do everything. "Pick a section and go from there."

I went first into the Denon wing, with one singular purpose: to see the Mona Lisa. You know, it's a wonderful painting, but with the throngs of tourists all flashing their cameras and shoving people aside so they can capture themselves beside her, it's a bit silly. When does art become a tourist attraction in and of itself so much so that it completely and entirely detracts from the natural beauty of the object? I stood there for a couple minutes and got jostled around before I gave up and went into the Richelieu area, my section of choice. Instead of even attempting to see everything, I decided to spend some quality time with the paintings, the highlight of which (for me) was Jan Vermeer's The Lacemaker.

From there I travelled via the Metro to Montmartre, where I had lunch at a wonderful vegetarian restaurant called Au Grain de Folie before climbing up many, many, many stairs to see the Sacre Coeur. It's beautiful, and I really wanted to take the 234 stairs to the basilica, but while my hip might be super-duper, my muscles are most certainly not. Instead, I walked around the neighbourhood for a while, looked at all the crazy tourists getting their pictures drawn, and then decided to visit Espace Salvidor Dali.

Now, I've already admitted I'm not a fan of dale's canvas work, but his illustrations, the majority of what this exhibit, are marvelous. A visionary, to say the least, dale's interpretation of classic stories from Alice in Wonderland and the Bible, to Tristan and Isolde to Milton, are incredible. Most were ink on paper lithographs, but a lot of the biblical scenes were done in watercolour. Just wonderful. The sculptures? Eh.

I walked down the hill to Pignalle Metro station, explored a couple of stores forgetting each time to say, "Bonjour" much to the chagrin of the sales associates who are now convinced I'm the rudest girl on Earth, and am now about to eat some French potato chips and read a book. Ah, vacation!

But, ouch! I wish I had bionic toes that weren't so very sore.

...T-two days to Ireland!

Le Diner

We ate traditional French crepes last night for dinner, and they were delicious. Mine had spinach, egg, tomato and onion. And then for dessert, I had liquid chocolate and walnuts. Couldn't finish either, but certainly tried my best.

I like the French tradition of sitting at a cafe prior to diner and having a drink. Mine, of course, being non-alcoholic because I'm not supposed to drink while taking the imuran (I am certainly going to have beer in Ireland though, Tina's friend Nicole said, "Beer's not that bad." LOL).

Oh! And I do have my pain of chocolat for breakfast this morning, Tina got some when she went out running this morning. Yes, she's active, fit and in great shape. I am sleepy, tubby and bionic, which means one day, I too will finally be able to be in great shape. Now if only I had the energy to start. Today seems as good a day as any.

Life in Paris

Sitting at dinner the other night, Tina's ex-pat friends remarked that when they have visitors from home, they're always amazed at that fact that they don't spend every waking moment being fabulous in Paris. That in addition to working, they've still got errands to run, dishes to wash, laundry to fold; in short, they've got to live here, just like everyone else in the world does to some degree. So, I think I spent a pretty typical day off in Paris yesterday. I woke up so late that all the bakeries were closed so I didn't get to have pain au chocolat (bummer!). I went to a small store, bought some fruit and some muffins, and ran a couple of errands for Tina in the rain.

Then, I napped and read for the rest of the day. It was raining hard, which always makes me think of Sylvia Plath. One of her journal entries reads something along the lines of, "When it rains, days later, poems about rain land on the desks of editors across the country." I'm terrible at paraphrasing, but there's something about a rainy day in Paris that makes you think about writing poetry, thankfully, I was too sleepy to do so.

Now I'm up at the crack of dawn (well, it's 8.30 AM), and am raring to go. Today my plan is to visit the Louvre, see the Mona Lisa and only the Mona Lisa, and then take the Metro to Montmartre. In Montmartre there's the Sacre Coeur and a Dali Museum. Not a huge fan of Dali, but Wiebke, my roommate from university would have appreciated it—she loved his work. Speaking of Wiebke, if anyone knows where she is, Hannah and I would love to get in touch.

Off I go to be a tourist in Paris. These Pumas were made for walking, and not in that gross semi-pornographic way Jessica Simpson's boots are these days.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Sleeeepppp!

Well, it's almost noon here in Paris, and I just woke up? What's up with that? I was so tired after my long day yesterday that my body just conked out and stayed that way. I did go to the Musee d'Orsay, and it was wonderful, full of beautiful paintings and brilliant sculptures. There were a number of works by Van Gogh, which moved me particularly because of his struggles with depression and insanity. There was also a portrait of Berthe Morisot by Eduard Manet, which I stood in front of for a good ten minutes. Her story sounds so fascinating, an artist herself, Morisot and Manet were good friends and she eventually married his brother. Seems that something else might have gone on—it would be a good book for Tracey Chevalier and/or A.S. Byatt to write.

Before I got to the Musee D'Orsay, I walked by the grounds at the Louvre, listened to all the people be confused because it's not open on Mondays, and then wonder what to do. But most of all listening to absolutely clueless people discuss architecture in ways that they just sound foolish, not that I'm an expert, but I certainly don't make proclamations to everyone around about the switch from 15th century (the Louvre) to 16th century (the buildings surrounding the museum). Wha?

After spending a good 3.5 hours in the museum, which including having lunch by myself, something I had never done before, I walked around the Seine to Les Invalides and took a look at where Napoleon is buried. I didn't actually make it to the crypt (by that time I was tired), so I hopped on the Metro and came back to Tina's. I fell asleep on the couch for a while, and then Tina and I visited some friends of hers, had a wonderful birthday dinner.

Apparently there's a group of ex-pats in Paris that form a sort of strange community where everyone knows everyone else and it's only a matter of time before one makes the rounds. They all seem to love Paris, which is wonderful to see. We told funny stories about Canada and the United States, and ate delicious food. They drank. I didn't (stupid disease!) because I'm saving my own imbibing for Ireland (t-three days!).

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

La Cuisine

On the best part of the night last night, Tina and I went out for dinner to this little restaurant in her neighbourhood (I'll fill the name in later, because I didn't write it down). We had the most wonderful trout with julienne green beans, and then for dessert, I had warm bananas in a pastry with vanilla ice cream and molten chocolate poured all over it. It was absolutely marvellous. This morning, the wonderful friend that Tina, I woke up to two fresh pain du chocolat, my absolute favourite and a delicous cup of tea. You know, I've never eaten a bad meal in Paris, it's brilliant how wonderful it is.

Oh, and we were talking about French Women Don't Get Fat, and Tina was verifying that a lot of it is genetics, but that the culture over here is just as obsessed about weight and body image as we are in the west. I said it was a diet book disguised as a fancy lifestyle book, and I think I'm sticking to that original observation.

Paris, France

The Eurostar trip to Paris yesterday afternoon seemed like it would be a dream. When I got on and saw that I was surrounded my older couples travelling together, I know it would be quiet. But then, as with most things you tend to idealize by looking forward to so much, my excitement soon faded.

I find the seats and the trains themselves to be kind of shabby for how expensive they are, and being a single traveller, you certainly get a bit shafted—my seat was beside a mirror—the couple in front and the family to my right had much better views.

After being up essentially for a good 24 hours by that point, I was really looking forward to a nap...until the 4-year-old to my right started playing a video game. Thank goodness I brought ear plugs, they're much better than having a temper tantrum because I'm so tired and can't take the beep-beep-crash-beep of the Game Boy. What happened to playing a couple of games of cards? All three kids in the family took out the games and started playing even before the train even left the station.

I slept for all three hours of the trip, with a brief stop for lunch, which was lovely hummous followed by a nice dish of curried tofu in pasta. It was yummy, and the saving grace of my journey. It's worth the tiny bit of extra money to travel upper class on the Eurostar, just to get a nice meal and not to have to eat potato chips and chocolate bars, or even the bad packaged sandwiches. Well, I'll admit that had a dreamy quality to it, so it all wasn't lost!

Then, the adventure really began. Tina had given me directions to her house, which is all fine and good, but I decided to take a taxi (she said it would be between 12-20 Euros). Except the taxi driver totally ripped me off. We went on a wild goose chase, pretended not to speak English when I tried to tell him we were totally lost because I'd seen the 12th arrondissment and knew Tina's apartment had to be around there somewhere. He drove me around in circles for about 20 minutes and the entire ride cost almost 40 Euros, which is just under $100.00 Cdn dollars. Now I was mad, fuming mad! I made him give me a receipt and never tipped him a cent, but should have gotten out of the car and grabbed my luggage and just handed him 20 Euros. Tina's going to try to get some of my money back. She's feisty. I have hopes.

Today's my birthday. I am officially the same age my mother was when she had the accident. My heart's feeling totally battered and broken, and I miss her so much these days that I think I might just spontaneously turn into a puddle of salty tears. I can't decide if I want to celebrate the fact that I'm a year older or mourn the fact that she never got to see the world past this age. Thing is, it's so hard to because you realize that 34 isn't all that old.

Now I just have to make sure I do something with my life that she would be proud of. These days, I don't know if she would be, and maybe it's because I'm just tired from travelling and frustrated with jerkoff Parisian cab drivers who take advantage of people on the day before their birthdays in a country their mother would have loved, if only she had made it to her next birthday.

Today, I'm going to the Musee d'Orsay. Have my Metro tickets burning a whole in my pocket, and have some crisp new Euros of my own to burn.

Monday, July 25, 2005

London-town

The first part of my trip, the getting there, is almost over. I'm sitting in an Internet Cafe on the South Bank after taking a walk down the Thames. Wasting a bit of time before I board my train to Paris.

The plane ride was uneventful, if by "uneventful" one means putting up with the whinest, screamiest child I've ever encountered on a flight. My seat was awesome, the food was really quite good, and I watched Bruce Willis brood in Hostage. My inner clock's a bit messed up, but the awful wanting to throw myself under the tube feeling I had the last time we visited London and had an overnight trip isn't there—maybe I just knew what to expect.

Took the Heathrow Express to Paddington, than the Underground to Waterloo, left my bag in "left luggage," and walked along toward the Waterloo Bridge, and back again, now I'm off to the station—I don't want to miss my train.

It's funny. I was a bit scared on the subway, but there were so many people, all of them just getting on with their days, their lives, pushing forward because that's just what you do. Then, I took a deep breath and fell into a young man wearing navy jogging pants and running shoes trying quite hard to look like Donnie Wahlberg. Just like every other day.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Hillside: The Festival

As the tradition continues, our 3rd Hillside was quite excellent, with the exception of course, of my ever-increasing allergic reaction to the sun. Here are the top 10 reasons why Hillside rocked this year.

    1. The Guelph Conservation Area / Lake.

    It's really a lovely place to have an outdoor festival. The surroundings are beautiful, and you feel nothing but peace and calm, despite the heat, despite the crowds, despite the awful port-o-potties.

    2. The Program

    There was an excellent line-up of acts this year, the RRBF's band graduated to the mainstage this year and actually opened Hillside. They played a great show and had Guelph's own "Crying Out Loud" choir come up and sing back-up for a number of songs on his new album. That night The Lowest of the Low played, and then The Weakerthans, with the RRBF pitching in for a number of songs as an auxiliary member, quite a night for rock and roll. Oh, and Cuff the Duke played too, they rocked, as per usual. I'm not a huge fan of The Arcade Fire, but it was an interesting spectacle, they don't really live up to the hype, but the RRBF says they're much better in a smaller venue.

    3. Being the Rock Girlfriend

    Means that you get a sparkly green wristband that gives you all access. This wonderful privilege means that you can hang out backstage and see Canadian rock legends like Sam Roberts, who is very short, but remarkably handsome. Oh, we were born in a flame.

    4. Excellent Food

    Well, the backstage food wasn't totally awesome this year, but the vendor's always have excellent goods, especially Mapleton Organic Ice Cream.

    5. Staying in a Hotel vs. Camping

    Um, yeah, the last Hillside where the RRBF played we camped. What a giant mistake that was, especially considering Hillside pays for a hotel for the night that he plays. Annnywaay. We camped amidst a really annoying hippie drum circle, massive orgies going on around us, and totally drunk knuckleheads that use all the toilet paper and puke. So this year, I refused to camp—we stayed at the Travelodge instead, a nice cool room with a semi-comfortable bed and a shower that hits you like a hurricane, so much nicer to go back and spend another hot day outside watching great music.

    6. Swimming

    See #1. The water was beautiful and ear infection be damned. I went in anyway. Even if the rash came back fierce afterwards, I still loved being in the water. Damn it's nasty, my arms look like they've had some sort of blistering poison poured all over them. Stupid disease.

    7. Hanging out With Sam, Sadie and Jay

    Babies are so much fun! Especially when they giggle and coo, and smile and laugh, and play with a plum and kick their feet to the music. And visiting with Sam and Jay is always a pleasure—it's something I should do more often.

    8. Hanging out With the Peeps

    Which is always fun because the RRBF's friends, who I guess by this point are my friends too, but whatever, it's been seven bloody years, are smart, witty, funny, and really fun.

    9. Laughing at the Non-First Aid Tent

    So the hippie-loving, all-inclusive nature of the Hillside Festival certainly doesn't expect anyone to get sick. I went to see if they had any antihistomines for my rash and the fellow said, "We don't really have anything. I can offer you some ice." Wha? Oh, if you break your leg, here's some ice! If you fall and scratch yourself, help yourself to some ice! Heh.

    10. Sundays at Home

    Driving home late at night, smelling the grass and the fresh air, feeling tired but still kind of excited and then getting up today and getting ready to go to Europe!



T-minus about 6 hours until I'm on the plane and bound for London-town. I'll keep you all posted as well as can be expected as I visit Paris, Ireland and London.

Hillside Rocked

And I'm back covered in a rash from head to toe about to jump into bed before I go to the airport tomorrow for my European odyssey. More tomorrow!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Stupid Disease #15792

Well, I was back at the doctor's today. In addition to feeling horribly sorry for myself, I now have an ear infection. Wha? Who knows where it came from or why it happened. And trust me, every single person from doctor to pharmacist asked, "Have you been swimming?" Um, no—there's no way I'm putting this tubby ole ass of mine into a bathing suit this summer, my scars need to heal!

Oh, and creatinine update: it's slightly down at 126, which is really a lot better than 139 or whatever it was the last time I went in.

Well, at least an ear infection is better than a black eye. Won't be nice for the plane ride though.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

#38 The Undomestic Goddess

Sophie Kinsella's latest book, The Undomestic Goddess lives up to every cliche that could ever be said about those kinds of books. It's chicklit to the core, complete with the proto-feminist workaholic right down to the hunky gardener that Samantha Sweeting, the protagonist, falls in love with.

Her writing reads so well, and Kinsella has a great gift for creating fabulous female characters. But maybe she suffers from the fact that she's so successful rather than perhaps benefiting from it. What she needs is a really good editor (I call this the Margaret Atwood Dilemma) who isn't afraid to say, "This plot needs some work," not "your book is so fabulously wonderful and will make us all a pile of money," which it will, but still, perhaps not the point?

There are so many holes in the plot of this book (high powered lawyer makes a huge mistake, causes her a partnership in London's best firm, lawyer runs away and ends up as a housekeeper...and then falls in love) that it sort of ruined the book for me. And I'm not talking about the see-through nature of most of these books, how easy it is to see what's going to happen from half-way into the first paragraph, it's seemingly more than that in this case.

Kinsella brings in characters only to drop them, never to be heard from again. She creates these energetic scenes and then can't write through them well enough not to rely on the cliches that seem to pepper every other paragraph. She creates these heart-stopping situations (something about a poor legal contract that her new employers are about to sign) and then never talks about it again leaving me wondering what the hell happened, and then she's off on the next tangent, rolling into the inevitable conclusion right down to the pap of an ending that involves, ahem, a train and someone, ahem, chasing after someone else. Ew.

It would be nice to say the she's maturing through her novels, this being, what the fifth or sixth? But what seems to happen is that her books seem to be getting more and more derivative. Yeah, the whole lawyer-goes-slumming chicklit plot was already done by Jennifer Weiner's In Her Shoes, which is by far the better book.

Now, I read this book in about three hours, what does that say about me, and about The Undomestic Goddess? Visit your local library for chicklit, don't waste your precious book buying dollars. Or start a chicklit club, and each girl buys one book and then trades. Because they are like sugar, probably not very good for you but impossible not to eat when you've got that craving.

Monday, July 18, 2005

#37 The Kalahari Typing School For Men

Dear Alexander McCall Smith:

I (heart) you. Every page of The Kalahari Typing School For Men made me care even more about characters that I already love. Every time Mma Ramotswe solves a case, cares for her foster children or speaks reverently about her father, I swoon. Soon I'll have finished all six books and then will be left with a gaping hole of nothingness to be filled in pale comparison by some books I have yet to meet.

Sigh.

So Very Tired...

...a brand-new side effect for the new medication, extreme exhaustion. If I could prop my eyelids open with a toothpick, I would.

Shut Up!

Seriously, shut up Leah McLaren and your useless column (link via bookninja.com). Like bookninja, I too find it hard to make it to the end of your ridiculous "articles." And, please, if only ALL of the problems in the world were as trivial as the ones you ramble on about week after week, holy solipsism batman.

You know, having just gotten another contract to write an abridged classic, I feel nothing but lucky for my good fortune. Never once do I sit around thinking, "Oh what a burden to have to write this book, oh what a troubled life to have to sit and be a creative person for the majority of the hours I spend toiling away being fantastic, rich and spoiled." I mean if someone PAID me to write a novel, I'd be pleased as punch, and not to mention the suckers, ahem, like me who once they finish something will have to actually work her ass off to get it published. What reality is she living in, I mean really?

Nothing but ire McLaren, nothing but ire.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Celebrity!

Last night I went over to Wing Chun and Glark's house to play Celebrity with them and some other friends. It's a seriously funny game, and a good time was had by all. I have discovered, however, that I am far better at this than I am at bowling, which is another thing they like to do. In fact, I'm a downright embarrassing bowler, having absolutely no hand-eye coordination when it comes to pitching the ball down that ridiculously long lane.

All in all it was a fun evening. You know, the stupid disease might be killing my kidneys, but at least my new medicine lets me get on with my life. There's a gentle blessing in that.

Oh, and T-one week to Europe! Yee-ha!

Saturday, July 16, 2005

#36 Love @ First Site

The main character in Jane Moore's Love @ First Site, Jessica, gets set up by her friend that's not really a friend on an Internet dating service. A thirty-four-year-old television producer happy being single but who really wants to find that someone, Jess puts herself through a number of awful dates including one who does a runner during dinner and sacks her with the bill, another who complains about smoking and her bad habits only seconds after meeting her, and one handsome man who sees her and decides on the spot that he doesn't want the date to go any further.

The romantic premise of this chicklit book finds Jess looking for love amidst a family crisis that rocks her to the core and brings about some serious life changes. The predictable, almost pat, ending is okay, but it wasn't worth me staying up until 1 AM last night finishing it.

In the end, when you read about characters on or around your age, it's funny how much you impress your own life and experiences upon them, finding bits of yourself stuck on the page, so much so, that you spend more time thinking about the state of your existence than you do relating to the characters. It's a passable book that left me more grumpy than ever about my own impending birthday.

Wedding Crashers

With my other plans falling through (or postponed would be a better word), I managed to go and see Wedding Crashers last night with some friends. The movie takes Old School to a whole new level, manages to be bawdy without necessarily being puerile, and captures the whole stereotypical boy-loves-girls, boy-meets-the-girl within an uproarious and deliciously funny premise of two ladies men who crash weddings for kicks. One hell of a funny movie, and one hell of a way to spend a lovely Friday night trapped in the over-heated city with a brand-new hair cut. I would absolutely agree with giving this movie both an A- and a 'thumbs up'. Heh.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Summer Office Hours

The idea of going home from work before 8 or 9 PM before I got fired from The Boss From Hell was almost unheard of. Now, at my new job, I've got this wonderful thing called Summer Hours. We work extra during the week and then have Friday afternoon off—all summer long. It's a blessing.

Today on my totally free Friday afternoon I went and got my hair done (hello summery highlights!), am blogging at a completely reasonable hour, and will be going to see Wedding Crashers, because I'm in love with Vince Vaughn. Have been for years. But now that he's so cool and not making silly movies with Anne Heche (that I, ahem, paid full price to see IN THE THEATRE), I don't feel like such a girlie geek going on opening day.

So, sit back, enjoy the sunshine and the wonderful, beautiful, blessed concept of summer hours. What was I thinking staying at that other, awful, horrible place for so long?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

We Don't Live Here Anymore

Last night while my RRBF was off working late so he can take time off to tour this fall, I watched We Don't Live Here Anymore. Having just procured a subscription to Zip.ca, and actually kind of enjoying the random nature of the whole online movie renting thing, it's nice to have a selection of movies on hand that you actually want to watch.

Annnywaaay. I'm wondering why so many movies about mature relationships end up depicting the bad ones. Emotionally challenging films like Closer and now this one, that seem to want to honestly portray a slice of modern married life almost always end up with characters either acting deplorably or saying some of the meanest things one could imagine coming out of the mouth of the opposite sex.

It seems to me that Hollywood has a two-fold approach to life, love and marriage: either people are miserable or they're sickly and sweetly happy. Maybe it's a response to the silly sitcom, the Everybody Loves Raymond approach to the world, not that I should be using that show as an example having honestly to say that I've never watched an episode of that show. Maybe it's the need for films inspired by literature to be deep, intellectual and, well, Russian-literature-esque existential. Who knows? The film is well acted, well directed and extremely well written. My favourite line would have to be toward the end when Naomi Watts says to Peter Krause: "I'm not leaving because you were unfaithful. I'm leaving because I was unfaithful."

My Rejection Wanna-be Collection

Well, the rejection letter from The Fiddlehead arrived on Monday. Today, I tried to decode it, but gave up and thought about where I should send the set of poems next (link via Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind). Apparently, the editor wanted more imagery in my poems, but considering I'm not what you'd call an image-rich writer, that might be hard.

I felt sad and defeated, a little upset about the state of my non-writing career, having heard that a self-defined arch-nemesis of mine from grad school has a book coming out soon. She's the kind of girl who's nice to you when it suits her, but then pretends not to know you when she sees you walking on the street. But, whatever, life's not a race, right?

The Way of the World

Of all the crazy-ass sh*t that I've read over the last little while, the news report on yahoo.com today about how unborn babies carry pollutants perhaps freaked me out the most. It wasn't the news story per se, which is upsetting and traumatic regardless, but the fact that yahoo had (I'm assuming) inadvertently dropped a big box ad for health and/or life insurance beside it. The ad's image was of a towheaded tyke being tossed happily in the air by his model parent, and the copy advised people to think wisely about the lives of their kids.

The whole hand-in-glove relationship between the media and the advertisers has never been so glaringly apparent. So, mothers are poisoning their kids in the womb, but not to fear, once they're born you can buy life and/or health insurance for their safety. Ah, the non-genius of subtle advertising. Where's Janet's boob when you need it to really dispel what's important in America?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Make. It. Stop.

I'm as addicted to sugar as I am to this freaking web site. These days, I can't seem to stop reading it and laughing. Oh, and this one too—it's almost embarrassing to admit how often I check these two sites. Well, GoFugYourself is totally acceptable because it's hilarious and totally catty, and that's just awesome.

Ahem, um, when will I grow out of my strange obsession these days with the cult of celebrity? Loving movies is one thing, but absolutely having to see how skinny Lindsay Lohan is this week is completely another. What's missing from my life? Am I that bored with the hot weather and the complete lack of good television (with the exception of Entourage, oh Jeremy Piven, how do I love thee, let me hug out the ways)?

Blog-spectations

On my usual blogosphere rounds this morning, I read about yet another poor, suffering blogger who got fired from his/her job for complaining about it on the web. Yet, for the first time, Beatrice.com author Ron Hogan had the common sense to state:
Here's a hint: If there's something you don't want prospective employers to know, like how you got fired for publicly badmouthing your bosses, don't mention it on your blog, especially not in ways that clearly underline how you blame them for your own mistakes. And what were you doing accessing your blog on your work computer, anyhow?


Exactly. This is a lesson we've all learned the hard way. In terms of my own life, it's not so much the blogging that could be the problem, but the use of company email (in my last job) for anything not related to work. Case in point, we complained so excessively and so frequently about my co-managers and/or my boss from hell on email that even if they didn't officially fire me for it, they were certainly thinking about it. It's hard because the expectation of privacy is there somewhat, and when you're typing that email to your co-worker about how hard your week is or complaining on your blog about how ridiculous your manager's behaviour is (because it's your life), you're not thinking about who might end up reading it, you're simply venting. It's hard not to want to contextualize it all the time—especially when you're in a bad situation. Especially when that bad situation just seems to get worse and you're all miserable together. There's something in us that just wants to get it all out, hence the badly timed, "My boss is such a farking asshole she needs to die" sorts of emails we ended up sending for months before I got fired.

Now, I learned my lesson. But, in this case, I'm still pissed, especially considering the contents of my emails were supposed to remain confidential (according to my settlement), only to learn that the entire department has files up files of my personal correspondence that they're using as evidence against other people who might still be there, which is seriously annoying and insulting at the same time. I'll never, ever, ever use a company email for personal correspondence again. Praise be to the free yahoo.com account that I use for all of my day-to-day conversations with my friends.

But it begs the question, where does privacy really stop? How much of your free time can your employer really control? Granted, this woman shouldn't have been such a knucklehead and blogged at work, but she was still making an assumption that she had some level of privacy. It's frustrating that it takes us all deep into Fahrenheit 411 or 1984 territory, but it also shows how pervasive technology has become in our lives. No one would ever think twice about sitting down and typing up a memo trashing his/her manager, but they'd not think twice about sending an email. It's a good example of how technology has out-paced the work environment in some way, and how we all need to catch up in terms of how far we're willing to put our necks on the line—is free speech really worth losing your job?

Anyway, I do talk about my new job in passing here sometimes, but only to say I've been at this conference or that conference. But in the end, it's just not that important. What I want on these pages is what's important to me, and while I'm enjoying my new job and love the people I work with, the whole point of My Tragic Right Hip is to write more, read more and be more of myself. I almost lost myself for five years when I worked my fingers to the bone and gave myself back the disease from the stress of my last job. Now I feel like writing back to them here gives me a little bit of control over the awful situation, and who cares really, because I've already been fired. It's not like they can fire me twice, you know?

Monday, July 11, 2005

#33, #34 & #35—So Many Books!

The one thing being at the cottage away from a working television and/or any other digital, ahem, diversions, is the time it gives you for reading and writing. So, here are three more books I've finished in the last couple days. The whole mystery trend continues, with the exception of one title:

    1. Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith

    The third book in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series finds Mma Ramotswe investigating her own life when her fiance starts to suffer from depression. My love for this series continues strong through this third book where its message is about how hard it is to be truly moral; how being a detective is more about helping people with their lives vs. solving a traditional murder; and how delightfully different life in Botswana is from life in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

    2. Latitudes of Melt by Joan Clark

    Oh my, Clark is one hell of a writer. The story of a young baby girl cast away on an ice floe when the Titanic sinks, her mystic life, and the wonders of a family living, loving and growing old in pre-Joey Smallwood Newfoundland is one of the best books I've read all year. Honestly and truly, I think that Clark is a hidden gem of Canadian fiction, and I can't wait to read her book coming out this summer called An Audience of Chairs. Highly, highly recommended reading, for anyone who loves a good, solid story and an even greater sense of individual and unique characters who still possess a charming sense of normality.

    3. Case Histories by Kate Atkinson

    I picked up this book on account of the Litblog Co-op. I started it on Sunday morning and finished it by Sunday evening, with a 3 hour car ride in between...that's how easily the book sucks you in and refuses to spit you back out again. The story of a wily private detective in Cambridge (with the awesome name of Jackson Brodie) who solves three very different and, at first glance, unrelated mysteries that have taken place over the years. The characters are fresh, and even though Brodie himself could be read as the most stereotypical (divorced cop, used to be in the army, very masculine, gets into fights), each one brings something new and enlightening to the tale making it addictive as each page reveals itself to be something magical yet simple in terms of the story. All in all, a fabulous read.

Now the only question remains: what do I read next?

The Lake

We left early on Friday to avoid the traffic. But in a city that's more sprawl than anything else, that's getting increasingly hard to do. Driving along back roads that used to be simply farm land, with nothing around but fields and the faint smell of "natural" fertilizer, and seeing complex after complex of cookie cutter houses and depressing strip malls made me want to escape the gerbil tendencies of this modern life forever.

All tolled, it took us about five hours to complete the trip. Considering it's only about 2.5 hours to get up north, I was tired, frustrated and sad when I got there. My grandmother's cottage was full of mouse poo, and we immediately started vacuuming, washing and washing some more.

After a good night's sleep, we got up and I started to tackle other things that needed cleaning. Cobwebs on the outside boards, cobwebs inside on the windows, cleaning up the bedrooms, vacuuming some more. Then, my RRBF and my brother patched the roof where it was leaking. There's something utterly fulfilling in a day of hard work where you feel good about cleaning up the mouse house in the dresser drawer. Feel like the building appreciates it when you wash out the floors with bleach and get rid of the dusty mould from a long winter of closed windows. And it makes me think that modern life caters too much to people having time for careers building on nothing more than virtual jobs in a virtual world.

The weather was luscious. A perfect mixture of sunshine and crisp wind. A wonderful combination of heat and cool breeze. There was a lot to do, and I'm glad we got a good start.

Then, by the time we got home I had broken out in some sort of strange rash. Who knows what it is, maybe poison ivy, but considering I've never had that in my life, and grew up at the cottage, I've got no idea what it actually is. Sigh. Can nothing in life be in balance?

Thursday, July 07, 2005

London Calling

Blogs around the world are all sending out thoughts, prayers, wishes for Londoners today in the wake of the terrorist attacks. Mine is no different.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Dark Days Ahead

It was my monthly check up at the doctor's on Monday. Thankfully, we had an extra-long long weekend and I had the day off. While I was upset at the time, the more I think about the visit, the sadder I get. My kidney function continues to be poor, so much so that he finally gave up the ghost in terms of the CellCept, admitting the drug sort of failed me. Now, I'm back on imuran, which is fine; it's a drug I've taken before and know works, but my creatinine level has never been this high before (it's at 139, a normal level is around 60), and I'm scared of all kinds of things. Not having my kidneys, having to do dialysis, having to have a transplant, being on meds for a long, long time, never being able to have a family, all kinds of stuff that make a tough year even tougher.

A couple of weeks ago, I read this article (link via Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind) by Nancy Pate about how hard it is to be a writer when dealing with a debilitating auto-immune disease. I felt better knowing that, of course, I'm not the only one dealing with this stuff, but at least Pace is making a living from her pen still. I've stopped writing professionally with the exception of the abridged classics and wonder if I'll ever have the energy to do anything substantial again.

#32 Tears of the Giraffe

As I've said before, I'm totally obsessed now with Alexander McCall Smith's The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. I finished #2 last night, Tears of the Giraffe and loved it. The sweet, simple story of the everyday lives of Mma Ramotswe and Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, intertwined with the usual detective work of Precious and her secretary/assistant, make for a pleasant, quick but nonetheless enjoyable read.

In this particular book, Mma solves the case of an American boy who had been missing for ten years, giving his mother peace without necessarily ruining the lives of the other people necessarily involved. As always, McCall Smith has a way with characters, narrative and/or plot that make reading these books like floating along on the lake on a hot summer day in July. I'm starting #3, Morality for Beautiful Girls today.

Monday, July 04, 2005

And While I'm Talking About My Ex-Work

It's nice to know that when it comes to Bosses From Hell, there's at least a history to refer to. I wonder why she didn't make this list—perhaps because she's reigning over a teeny-tiny online department for a Canadian broadcasting company. But I'd swear, she's right up there with Leona Helmsley, in fact, I'd say that's a pretty fair comparison.

But I truly have to wonder what makes people act so completely uncharitable when it comes to money and/or the making of it. There must be so much deep psychological baggage with these people to act this way that no amount of success monetary or otherwise would ever make them happy. Man, it makes me glad to know that I'm out of her rat race. Who ever would have thought getting fired would actually be a blessing, especially considering I'm using a good bulk of the money to go to Europe this summer. Now that's karma for you.

They Might Have Fired Me...

...But they can't get away from me that easily. My friend Sue noticed that one of the sites I used to run has got a picture of me up on their features landing page. It's from an old article I wrote a few years back about the history of cottages, which is actually quite fascinating. But there's me in my life jacket looking quite young and semi-cute. And low and behold, they haven't stripped my byline either, will miracles never cease.

Feeling Groovy!

Last night my RRBF played an awesome gig, ahem, those are rock terms, not mine, at Sneaky Dee's for a series called Wavelength. They headlined, the club was packed, the Hylozoists played as well, and it was a veritable cornucopia of Toronto indie rock gods.

Kevin Drew was there, and I'm always amazed that people recognize me as me, in terms of belonging to some extent to my RRBF, but that my face is familiar as well. He gave me a big hug, and said, "Tell him they were awesome. I'm leaving now. Tell them they were great!" Which is very cool coming from the lead singer of one of the most acclaimed indie rock bands around, Broken Social Scene.

There were tons of fun people there, all kinds of friends, and I danced and jumped and whooped and hollered and had a grand old time. I love my new bionic hip. My tummy held court well and I managed to get some sleep. All in all a brilliant kind of day.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

War of the Worlds

Well, well, Tom Cruise, for all the fanfare, for all the ridiculous virtual time spent discussing your stunt/not-stunt of a relationship, thank goodness Spielberg had the good sense to make a good film.

We went to see War of the Worlds, having seen almost every other summer film out there, it was all that was left. And you know, I liked it, thought that it was scary, realistic and only got somewhat hokey near the end. In the end, worth the full price of admission. Now can everyone stop talking about how crazy he is and get on with things that really matter in the world?

Oh, and did anyone actually go to Live 8? How was it?

Saturday, July 02, 2005

The Fine Line Between Lazy and Ill

A constant battle goes on within myself these days. All at once I feel tired, frustrated, upset and angry because the disease is "grumbling," (in the very technical terms of the doctor). And then I feel incredibly guilty for feeling that way, because what am I really doing with my life? I'm not helping people. I'm not writing the next "great Canadian novel." I'm not really doing anything except feeling sorry for myself and then feeling guilty for not doing enough with this life that was given to me. Perhaps even given back to me when I was nineteen and the disease was at its worse.

Now, with my new bionic hip, I'm not really in pain anymore, and that means I can be more active, except I can't, because I'm both tired and strung out at the same time. On beautiful days like today, even listening to Edith Piaf, planning my trip (T-21 days) to Paris, Ireland and London, I feel like I'm just not doing enough. But what is enough? And what should I be doing with my life? I'm hoping I'll have some answers at the end of the summer.

It's a hard birthday coming up. A milestone, to reach the same age your mother never made it past. My friend, Zesty, said that Madonna had a complete breakdown when she got to that birthday. I'm sort of headed in the same direction. I feel bad because I'm so lazy, rendered relatively incapable of a normal everyday existence by a combination of silly meds and an even sillier disease, and then I feel even more guilty because would my mother really be proud of me wasting my life away—a gift she never had.

It's a hard knock life.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Stuck in the City

Woke up this morning at 4 AM, threw up, and tried to go back to sleep. No cottage for me. Now I'm stuck at home on the couch watching dreck like Shrek 2 on TMN. Is it just me or does that film have just about the worst soundtrack in the history of popular cinema?