You’ve Got to Know When to Hold ‘Em


I had almost forgotten how much I love trains.

You can’t count the GO train, really. It doesn’t go fast enough to rock you the same way, and it smacks of commuter convenience. There is no sense of exciting destination, though I swear every time I’m on one, I can smell my mother’s roast beef slowly simmering away.

As a child, my grandmother used to take the train every summer to visit her family in Winnipeg. Once or twice, I got to go along for the ride. I have vague memories of sleeper cars, and faded photographic evidence of scenes passing by through windows, but I will never forget this rocking motion. There is also something achingly beautiful about the insistent call of the train’s horn.

I fantasize about taking a very old train on a very long trip somewhere through the mountains. I would wear a very smart travelling suit with a hat to match. Probably charcoal grey, with a teal silk blouse. I’d have kid leather gloves, and a valise, a vanity, and probably a hatbox. I think there would have to be a clever, tiny dog too. His name would be Cagney, and he would keep an eye on our stuff while I napped. It’s not possible to stay awake with this rocking motion. It’s just not.

I’ve met a man who drives trains. Actually no. He does not drive them. That’s the job of someone else. Though he’s explained this in great detail, I still don’t quite understand the difference. What I do understand is that he is the one who guides the trains gently, and carefully together in the yard, using all of the patience and careful judgment required for such a task. Trains can be stubborn, and some of them have been through serious abuse on their many journeys. Sometimes these old cars screech in protest, but he simply goes about the task, intent on piecing things together just so. Of course, he has described near-disastrous incidents involving too much speed and cars filled with highly combustible contents. People can seriously get hurt in those situations. I think it’s highly romantic that someone younger than me wants to spend his life workin’ on the railroad. All the livelong day. And, he also happens to be about a thousand miles away. Even when I am in Toronto.

The lights on this train can’t seem to decide whether or not they want to stay on or off. And the hostess (what do you call these people on trains?) found me a yogurt, which I was so excited about, until I opened it to find a layer of blue fuzz on the top. Sadness. Now it sits on my little food tray, untouched and mocking me.

My destination is Montreal, a city I’ve scarcely spent any time in. It’s strange that someone with such a love of all things French would be able to count on two or three fingers the number of times she has visited the Canadian Mecca for Frenchie goodness.

The trip is for a work conference, so it will be a busy one, but I have a free day on Sunday to explore. I truly wish that I could speak French. I made a promise to myself to learn once I got home from Paris, but like so many of these things that I want to do, it fell by the wayside.

So, this train journey will wipe clean my slate, like any voyage is wont to do. I will go, then return feeling fresh and open to greater possibilities. I’ve been in a little rut. Call it February blues, call it falling into old, bad patterns, but whatever one may call it, this has not been so good. When I left the house today, spring was most certainly in the air. I’m going to hang on to that fresh, clean smell until the buds appear on the trees. And I’m going to buy a beautiful pair of rain boots.

Advertisements

Why Should I Care About My Thighs?


I promise to only do this once every few months…

Sunday’s show was spectacular. It was exactly the kind of high-art, high-class, sexy, sultry, comedic, variety onslaught I’ve always dreamed about.

The resulting photos are phenomenal, of course, thanks to Ryan Visima. There are some really gorgeous shots of the guys and gals, but I found myself cringing at some of my own photos.
I know I’m too hard on myself, and that probably nobody else cares about my thighs the way I do. Or my tummy for that matter. In fact, I know that once the weather thaws and I can ride my bike to work every day, I will feel better in no time, but yeesh.

Why is it so hard for us to be objective about ourselves? I suppose that it might have something to do with the fact that we have back-stage access to all of the crap we carry around inside our heads.

I try not to indulge these feelings, because I think they are stupid. I do think it’s important to share the fact that I feel them though. I grew up really, really awkward. I was bookish to the extreme, with an over-the-top vocabulary, and the giant glasses to match. My adolescence was spent basically unnoticed, until I hit about sixteen or seventeen. I don’t think I’ve ever quite shaken the feeling of being a dorky kid. This is something I’m actually quite grateful for. I learned very young that there had to be other interesting things about a person, besides the way they look. I think my brother learned the same lesson.

We will always have that voice telling us “we can’t”, or “we’re not good enough”. The voice that mocks us with “who do we think we are”? As far as I can tell, in dealing with this voice, we have three choices; we can lay down in surrender to that, we can numb ourselves until we can’t hear it any more, or we can embrace it, stoke it’s angry little head, and tell it that it is loved.

I’m going to try option three for awhile. I’ll let you know how that goes.

On a side note, would anyone like to school me in the proper use of the semi-colon versus the colon? A friend told me it would be a great cure for my penchant for run-on sentences.

Glamour Queen Hurricane


Billie Black, Photographed by Michel Mersereau

This is what I see as I sit in bed, breaking my own no-laptop-in-bed rule, surveying The Fortress.
It’s almost show time, and my apartment is a sea of feathers, and sequins, and silky drawers. There are rhinestone encrusted shoes, wigs, boas, tiaras, scarves, and tassels as far as the eye can see.

Tomorrow night I have cleared my schedule so that I can meticulously work through the set list and put together each outfit for each number. This is one of the show elements I most enjoy.

If you walked into my apartment, and didn’t realize it was mine, you would think someone’s grandmother lived here. The majority of my furniture was made well before I was a zygote, and I have so many old things. In many ways, I really have created my own little world up here.

I have visions sometimes of becoming a gin-swilling Auntie Mame; growing old, and pickled, and still traipsing around in the same flowing robes and perfumed feathers. In this fantasy, I have a grizzled but distinguished cat who follows me everywhere, punctuating my worldly pronouncements with a throaty “Meowrrr”. There is of course a young ward in my charge, perched on the brink of his burgeoning sexuality, to whom I wholeheartedly endorse any and all misadventures. (For the sake of having great stories when your sexy bits have become withered and pendulous)

Until then, I remain Schnoo. I am out of place in these times, yet completely at ease in them. I can smell the need for nostalgia, and communion, and personal interaction with strangers. I and my fierce posse of fabulous females endeavour to bring you slowly, and lovingly into our world where we are all friends. Where we are all celebrating the ability gasp breath. Where we are all beautiful, and tragic, and fragile, and free to explore. Where we are sacred and holy in our humanity.

All set to a jazzy tempo, of course.

The Letter

Little cramped words scrawling all over
the paper
Like draggled fly’s legs,
What can you tell of the flaring moon
Through the oak leaves?
Or of my uncertain window and the
bare floor

Spattered with moonlight?
Your silly quirks and twists have nothing
in them
Of blossoming hawthorns,
And this paper is dull, crisp, smooth,
virgin of loveliness
Beneath my hand.

I am tired, Beloved, of chafing my heart
against
The want of you;
Of squeezing it into little inkdrops,
And posting it.
And I scald alone, here, under the fire
Of the great moon.

Amy Lowell

Of True Hearts and Kind Words



1-12 The Guests.m4a


This song is dedicated to my Valentines. Both of them. Thank you for a very memorable Valentines day.

Is that it then? Perhaps it should be. I was starting to feel too much, and that just made no sense at all. It’s so much easier for me to just turn away and say “enough”.

Try explaining this to anyone on the outside. Try telling your very best girlfriends about such a strange connection, and watch as they arch their eyebrows when you get to the punch line.

But despite that, despite my own reservations, I know this is special. Or should I use the past tense?

On Friday night I felt like I have not felt since over a year ago. My heart just sort of froze, and my claws came out in a fluid swipe, everything went cold and hard. Only one other person has ever affected me so, and I guarantee that you would not like that comparison. What was clear to me was that I had inspired an equally powerful rush of negative feeling. Considerable, if you look at the limitations imposed on us.

We are feeling, and feeling a lot.

And so, realizing that I needed to take many slow deep breaths, I decided Saturday morning to be my own Valentine. I got all dolled up for myself, took myself to brunch with a beautiful woman, a lovely sushi supper with friends, and then dancing and all manner of craziness at the Orbit room. I succeeded in switching off my feelings for several hours, and in the exhaustion that remains I only now sense them creeping back in, but soon I will be asleep and safe again.

I will try not to think about that which I think too much about.

I will cocoon even deeper, and marvel at how thick and fuzzy my protective layer has become.

I will continue to be grateful for the tiny slice of you that inspired so much writing from me.

I will wake tomorrow, and feel more like me than I did today.

Suzanne – The Bloor Line, Spring on the Air, Full Moon

Suzanne – Leonard Cohen

Toulouse is watching me, perched on the back of the sofa. He loves Leonard just as I do. But classic Leonard is best. I worked for twelve hours today. I wanted to use these pages to write something terribly clever, and creative, but my face feels like mush, and I know the words will come out wrong. Still, I feel compelled to write something, and so with free verse on my side, I soldier on.

This was my horoscope today:
Don’t be surprised if you end up having a falling out with one of your friends before the day is through. Your dreams could really help you better understand a few things today. And if you take the time to examine them, you might find that they’ll help to reveal what you really ought to be doing right now

Item 1.) My day started out prickly. How could it not, with Sylvia Plath waved under my nose, and the electricity of the full moon under my ass? But this entire idea raises questions for me. Can you have a falling out with someone you don’t really even know? I mean someone you have never even had a phone conversation with? Is that even possible?

Item 2.) I can’t remember my dreams. A friend once told me this was because I was too focused on the earthly plane, and not in tune enough with the spiritual world. This may be true. At any rate, I hate this fact. Every now and then I can grab snippets of my dreams, but this is rare. Perhaps tomorrow morning I will put pen to paper instead of hitting snooze. Yes, that’s what I’ll do.

Item 3.) Work was great today. I attended an invigorating lecture, and it was yet another “I love my job” kind of day. I tried very hard to not be preoccupied with drafting the perfect response email. As it stands, I’m still not sure how to reply. (See Item 1)

Item 4.) After the lecture, and before heading to the theatre, I checked my voice mail. A florist left me a message because they were trying to deliver something to me (!) Because I knew I would spend the rest of the evening totally preoccupied with who might have sent flowers, I just flat out asked the woman at the flower shop when I called back. She was obviously embarrassed about reading the message in the card, which really intrigued me. She did tell me that they were from my old neighbour, who recently left town, and who recently came for a visit. This made me smile on the streetcar.

Item 5.) The rest of the night was spent picking over a falafel plate from Ghazale, sitting in the darkness of the Bathurst Street Theatre watching about twenty five teenagers sing and dance their hearts out in West Side Story. Highlights included watching them air kiss because they’re saving it for “show time” (When I was a young actor we made out at ANY chance we could!), soaking blood soaked rumble tees in a bucket in the hopes that the stains would come out, and barely noticing that one of the actors had drawn on a full beard during intermission. Those kids make me smile too. They were a godsend last March, and they sure are beating the February blahs.

Item 6.) The perfect email response came to me on the subway ride home. (see Item 1 and 3) At first I was going to post another song, totally unrelated, but vivid in its imagery. Then, as I walked through the parking lot smelling the thaw, the song above came on.

I am hard wired for big love. It is the very fibre of who I am. I feel fortunate that life has thrown lots of “real living” at me to temper my innate romanticism, or I would be one of those truly ridiculous women with impossible standards and expectations. The very essence of my life is romantic and sensual. It is a part of everything I do, and if you refer to your records, you will probably realize that this is what made me appealing to you in the first place. There is no point in faulting me for it now. I won’t waste it though. There are lots of people who are just not good at accepting love. I know this very, very first hand. I can see it right away now in a person. That way is strange and sad to me, and in those scenarios what made me so attractive at first is what makes people feel deeply defensive, and they then behave in all manner of strange ways.

The part I am only now starting to chew on is why people who have such a complex relationship with the idea of giving and receiving love are drawn to me. Or is it me who is attracted to them? Is it safer and easier to invest emotionally in places where it cannot ever yield a comparable return? Is there a very simple, psych 101 explanation of this phenomenon that is foreign to me?

How do people get to know one another? I mean really know each other? Is this possible on paper alone? Is there merit in stripping away the possibility of physical connection? Does it make the relationship more pure? Is it impersonal and contrived? Is it something best left to paper for fear of underwhelming disappointment once our base, fleshy reality can no longer be denied?

Can you really know someone through their letters alone, their songs sent to your inbox, their random quips posted on walls and in blogs? Do the people who read this blog really know me? Is this one great big platform where we can completely create the people we wish we could be? This could be like the ultimate in role-playing games. I paint a picture of a very specific type of woman, when in fact, I could be the exact opposite of this persona. Or perhaps I am both, and they are at war with each other sometimes, and in complete harmony at other moments…

Hmmm…my brain is humming. I should probably go to sleep now. I’m likely to soon start howling at the moon.

Speaking of head humming, you may recall some time ago we asked Brain to take a leave of absence. Well, it seems that Brain has now kicked everyone else out, and is only allowing Gut to stop in for brief conjugal visits. I’m really starting to hope that Heart has a good lawyer.

Rainy Days and Mondays Always Get Me Up

I woke this morning wanting only coffee. I haven’t had any yet. Instead I was led on a journey through the heart and mind of Sylvia Plath.

Imagine giving so much of your love and life to a man who will suck the soul right out of you, lie to you, cheat on you, manipulate you, pull apart the fibers of your very constitution until you question who you ever were to begin with, and hate yourself for ever loving him in the first place!

Many women, (having been taught from day one how to empty their veins into the mewling mouths of emotional vampires) would put their head in the oven.

Some of us though, will hold hope in front of us like a damp wool blanket, and crawling slow and low to the ground, make our way through the fire and ash until we can breathe clean, clear air again.

I give you some Sylvia to chew on…

Spinster by Sylvia Plath
Now this particular girl
During a ceremonious april walk
With her latest suitor
Found herself, of a sudden, intolerably struck
By the birds’ irregular babel
And the leaves’ litter. 

By this tumult afflicted, she
Observed her lover’s gestures unbalance the air,
His gait stray uneven
Through a rank wilderness of fern and flower;
She judged petals in disarray,
The whole season, sloven.

How she longed for winter then! —
Scrupulously austere in its order
Of white and black
Ice and rock; each sentiment within border,
And heart’s frosty discipline
Exact as a snowflake.

But here — a burgeoning
Unruly enough to pitch her five queenly wits
Into vulgar motley —
A treason not to be borne; let idiots
Reel giddy in bedlam spring:
She withdrew neatly.

And round her house she set
Such a barricade of barb and check
Against mutinous weather
As no mere insurgent man could hope to break
With curse, fist, threat
Or love, either.

On Looking Into The Eyes Of A Demon Lover by Sylvia Plath
Here are two pupils
whose moons of black
transform to cripples
all who look: 

each lovely lady
who peers inside
take on the body
of a toad.

Within these mirrors
the world inverts:
the fond admirer’s
burning darts

turn back to injure
the thrusting hand
and inflame to danger
the scarlet wound.

I sought my image
in the scorching glass,
for what fire could damage
a witch’s face?

So I stared in that furnace
where beauties char
but found radiant Venus
reflected there.

Tulips by Sylvia Plath
The tulips are too excitable, it is winter here.
Look how white everything is, how quiet, how snowed-in
I am learning peacefulness, lying by myself quietly
As the light lies on these white walls, this bed, these hands.
I am nobody; I have nothing to do with explosions.
I have given my name and my day-clothes up to the nurses
And my history to the anaesthetist and my body to surgeons. 

They have propped my head between the pillow and the sheet-cuff
Like an eye between two white lids that will not shut.
Stupid pupil, it has to take everything in.
The nurses pass and pass, they are no trouble,
They pass the way gulls pass inland in their white caps,
Doing things with their hands, one just the same as another,
So it is impossible to tell how many there are.

My body is a pebble to them, they tend it as water
Tends to the pebbles it must run over, smoothing them gently.
They bring me numbness in their bright needles, they bring me sleep.
Now I have lost myself I am sick of baggage —-
My patent leather overnight case like a black pillbox,
My husband and child smiling out of the family photo;
Their smiles catch onto my skin, little smiling hooks.

I have let things slip, a thirty-year-old cargo boat
Stubbornly hanging on to my name and address.
They have swabbed me clear of my loving associations.
Scared and bare on the green plastic-pillowed trolley
I watched my teaset, my bureaus of linen, my books
Sink out of sight, and the water went over my head.
I am a nun now, I have never been so pure.

I didn’t want any flowers, I only wanted
To lie with my hands turned up and be utterly empty.
How free it is, you have no idea how free —-
The peacefulness is so big it dazes you,
And it asks nothing, a name tag, a few trinkets.
It is what the dead close on, finally; I imagine them
Shutting their mouths on it, like a Communion tablet.

The tulips are too red in the first place, they hurt me.
Even through the gift paper I could hear them breathe
Lightly, through their white swaddlings, like an awful baby.
Their redness talks to my wound, it corresponds.
They are subtle: they seem to float, though they weigh me down,
Upsetting me with their sudden tongues and their colour,
A dozen red lead sinkers round my neck.

Nobody watched me before, now I am watched.
The tulips turn to me, and the window behind me
Where once a day the light slowly widens and slowly thins,
And I see myself, flat, ridiculous, a cut-paper shadow
Between the eye of the sun and the eyes of the tulips,
And I hve no face, I have wanted to efface myself.
The vivid tulips eat my oxygen.

Before they came the air was calm enough,
Coming and going, breath by breath, without any fuss.
Then the tulips filled it up like a loud noise.
Now the air snags and eddies round them the way a river
Snags and eddies round a sunken rust-red engine.
They concentrate my attention, that was happy
Playing and resting without committing itself.

The walls, also, seem to be warming themselves.
The tulips should be behind bars like dangerous animals;
They are opening like the mouth of some great African cat,
And I am aware of my heart: it opens and closes
Its bowl of red blooms out of sheer love of me.
The water I taste is warm and salt, like the sea,
And comes from a country far away as health.

Mad Girl’s Love Song by Sylvia Plath
“I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.) 

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell’s fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan’s men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you’d return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)”