Apr 11, 2017

Lancing the boil

Many months ago, I was out dancing with a friend at a club I frequent when a stranger approached me and informed me that people were laughing at us while we were dancing. There was a gleeful malice to the way she passed this information on that astonished me. This wasn't friendly. She meant it to hurt. And it did, for two reasons.

Reason the first: I knew this girl to see her; we have many mutual friends, and although we had never met, I had seen her name and picture pop up on other people's facebook pages. She seemed fun and I admired her style. She was one of the cool kids.

Reason the second: To quote Madonna, only when I'm dancing can I feel this free. I love the communal aspect of the dance floor, dancing with friends and strangers to songs we all love, sharing the groove, singing along. And while I am ashamed to admit that I have been guilty of judging others in the past, particularly those who cannot seem to find the beat (the beat for me is like breathing), I have come to the realization that those who dance, however badly or off beat, are having way more fun than those standing on the edges of the dance floor watching and judging. And so I have a few drinks and I dance, and I don't care what people think because this song makes me wanna feel, makes me wanna try, makes me wanna blow the stars from the sky...

I would never ever tell someone that they look stupid, that they are being laughed at and ridiculed, for doing something that brings such joy. It was like this girl, this stranger, took something away from me in that instant, and for what reason I couldn't fathom.

I didn't let it interfere with my weekly dance therapy, but it was undeniably there, this doubt, this insecurity. Her message and her malice stuck with me the way the words of that boy in high school have stuck with me (even now, being as comfortable in my body as I am, the phrase "thunder thighs" carries a sting).

So last night at the club, she was there. I had seen her around often enough, but last night I had had enough vodka and enough of feeling bitter whenever I did see her to confront her about it and ask her why she chose to deliberately hurt someone she didn't know.

She didn't remember saying anything. She blamed whiskey for making her mean, and she said it didn't sound like something she would say. She said she was a terrible dancer herself, so why would she throw stones? I assured her that she did and she apologized, but her not remembering made her motivation unknowable, assuming she was telling the truth. She seemed legitimately contrite, so I'm choosing to believe her. Maybe she'd just had a bad day and too many shots of whiskey that night.

Amusingly, the bouncer kept his eye on us. I wasn't going to start a fight, and she was actually quite lovely and gracious when confronted with a drunk weirdo coming up to her out of nowhere telling her about a mean thing she did months ago that she didn't even remember. I just wanted to know why, and maybe I also wanted her to know that what she said hurt, that she had hurt someone and that that wasn't cool. Things ended amicably between us, and I'm glad I finally said something. Letting negative feelings rot and fester is not my conflict resolution style, as a general rule.  

The old adage about not saying anything if you can't say something nice is a wise one. I don't think it's possible to eliminate that part of human nature that criticizes others, but it is certainly possible to not verbalize these criticisms, especially if they don't affect you personally in any way. There are enough shitty things in the world already without us consciously adding to them.

Being kind can be hard as hell. There's a lot of pettiness and competition and judgment in the world. I'm no angel in this department myself. But I try every day to be better and to make people feel good about themselves if I can. I try to stick up for the little guy, because we are all the little guy at some point.

Thanks for reading, and be kind to each other, okay? Because kindness counts for a lot.

  

Apr 7, 2017

Gimme an R!

I watched the (edited-who knew there was a version with boobs?!) video for Rock You hundreds of times as a kid, because Video Hits needed Canadian content and Helix was prime CanCon, so I was pretty pumped for some spelling tonight at the iconic band's hometown show.

Brian Vollmer is reminiscent of a rock and roll version of the Cryptkeeper at this point, but, accompanied by the hijinks of the band, still put on a great show. I kept hoping the long, stringy-haired guitar player's willy would fling out of his ripped up jeans and leather chaps (dude did a lot of calisthenics), to no avail.

Of the couple hundred or so attendees (even Jesus wasn't loved in his hometown, as the lyrics of one of the band's more recent songs go), a solid 67% of the men were bikers. (I hung out with bikers fairly frequently as a kid, as my hippie mom was part of that scene, and I'm a little embarrassed to admit that, as a not-unattractive woman, I'm kind of scared of them now. We have some serious biker gangs in my town, and a couple of years ago, one of them started hanging out at the bar I frequent. I know that not all guys in gangs are rapists and murderers, but that dude was scary as fuck, and I was glad when he stopped coming around.) The rest of the guys were dads in Danier leather jackets or dudes in light denim and white sneakers. There were also a lot of shirts and jackets bearing liquor logos or Iron Maiden patches.

The heavy metal love ladies in the crowd were of the middle-aged bad-haircut-and-highlights variety, although there were a number of younger women in tight Classic Rock Free 98.1 tank tops or (inexplicably, as this local opener was truly abysmal - the lead singer was chewing gum, for fuck's sake) After the Lounge t-shirts.

I saw them and I loved them all. (Except for that weird teenaged couple humping awkwardly near the front of the crowd. If that kid's jeans weren't covered in jizz by the time we shouted our last "Rock you!", I'd be pretty surprised. Ah, young love...)

Despite the small turnout, there was a lot of love in the crowd for these aging rock and rollers, who probably still get their fair share of backstage blowjobs, if the amount of animal print in the audience at this show is any indication. So if Helix comes to your town and you have fifteen bucks lying around, you should probably go. Because whatcha got? ROCK! And whatcha gonna do? ROCK YOU!

Mar 31, 2017

On It (with a spoiler about Cujo, so consider yourself warned)

From Holly's Bookshelf: It, by Stephen King



This fact may come as a surprise to you, but I was an avid reader as a child. I read everywhere, all the time: in the car, at school when I was done my work (I was precocious and always done early), walking to and from school, in my closet when I wanted to hide, and in bed under the covers with a flashlight when I should have been asleep (which I blame for my myopia). We were poor, so libraries were my holy place, but there were always books in the house.

My dad read new age books about past lives and astrology and other non-fiction that was of no interest to my fiction-hungry heart, but my mom (thank you forever, Ma) read trash, thick paperbacks by Sidney Sheldon and John Saul and Danielle Steel and Dean Koontz. I wasn't supposed to read these, of course, but I did, sneaking chapters a few at a time when she was busy, flipping through and rereading the good parts (sex scenes, natch) whenever I got the chance.

My mom was also a big Stephen King fan.


(The amount of terror this rather quaint cover caused me as a child is laughable today. Also, you couldn't get away from it. Those goddamn hand-eyes are also on the spine.)

The first Stephen King book I read was It, and It scared the hell out of me. I was 13, and all the things I was already afraid of made appearances, and even things I didn't know I was afraid of, like blood burbling out of the bathroom sink when I was in there alone. (I never peed so fast as in the months after reading that book, a horror which revisits me even now on occasion if I am in the house by myself.) The monster's final form was something I should have predicted but didn't, and if you haven't read the book I won't spoil it for you, but suffice it to say that I have not, and never will, grow out of this particular phobia.

It was about a gang of loser kids, which I could identify with, but it was also about the adults those kids turned into, which was cool, given my budding adolescence. It had everything an imaginative girl with a decided fondness for the macabre could ask for: terror and violence, sex and romance, swear words and sacrifice. I read It, and then I read every other Stephen King book that was published. (His short stories are some of my favourites. If you haven't read The Long Walk, you should probably get on that.)



King is a prolific writer, and he would release a new book almost every autumn, just in time for my birthday. I read them and I loved them all, although I was fondest of the ones without happy endings. (Nothing upset me more than watching the movie version of Cujo, where the kid fucking lives. I was furious.)


(I own The Green Mile in serial form. I can remember waiting for the next one to come out, which is almost impossible to imagine doing in the gimme-now society of today.)

After King's near-death accident, I noticed a definite trend toward happy endings, and I eventually moved on to rather more sophisticated fare, so I stopped reading his books somewhere along the line, but there will always be a terrified place in my heart for his particular way of digging right into our collective unconscious to root out our greatest fears, his brilliant use of dialogue and italics, and the way he identified me personally, with affection, as Constant Reader. Nobody spins a yarn quite like the King.

Mar 27, 2017

On Inequality

I believe with all my heart and intellect that, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, or income, people should have the ability to provide a safe and comfortable life for themselves and their families, an education, access to health care, and the right to treat their own bodies as they choose.

I believe that, as a society, we should help people with physical / mental / emotional impairments in whatever ways we can (so things like ramps to public buildings for people in wheelchairs, described video and little chirpy sounds at crosswalks for the blind, extra time on tests for students with dyslexia, etc.). I believe in equal rights and opportunities for all of humankind.

But I do not believe that we are all created equal.

Some of us are smarter, faster, or stronger than others. Some of us are more motivated, more artistic, more tech-savvy, more empathetic, more generous, more logical, or more inventive than others. Some of us are better drawers, builders, drivers, planners, teachers, dancers, or nurturers. Some of us have better eyesight or a better sense of smell or a better sense of direction. Some of us are better spellers and some of us are better mathematicians and scientists. Some of us are better at telling jokes and some of us are better at small talk. Some of us have asthma or a peanut allergy or astigmatism.

I think it's ridiculous to treat everyone as if they were the same, when we are clearly not all the same.

A woman is superior to a man in her ability to give birth and breastfeed a child.

Sighted people are superior to blind people in their ability to describe the colours in a sunset.

A person with the working use of both their legs is superior to a person in a wheelchair in the ability to save someone from a burning building.

A non-pedophile is superior to a pedophile in not regarding children as objects of sexual desire.

A tall person is superior to a short person in getting a good sightline at a rock show.

A person with dark skin is superior to a person with pale skin in not getting a sunburn at the beach.

I could go on, but I think you get my point. The only way of creating true equality is to erase our differences, and that, as dystopian fiction makes abundantly clear, is a terrifying prospect.

So I guess what I'm saying is that I believe in equal rights and opportunities, but I don't believe in equality. Ah well, and riot on.

Mar 15, 2017

On Glass

I grew up in the halcyon days before the internet and portable video games, when your options as a child having to endure grown-up tasks such as Thanksgiving road trips across the prairies or trips to the laundromat were limited to what you could come up with to pass the time given the restrictions of environment and volume allowance. So reading, Mad Libs, bugging your little brother, and pretending the laundry hamper was one's only protection from the lava floor were pretty much your only options.

One afternoon, rather than spend a couple of hours watching for the red sock to come around, my childish cohorts and I were running up and down the aisles of agitating washers and spinning dryers. For a reason lost to the depths of my childhood memory, I decided to escape the suffocating confines of electric heat and the cloying smell of fabric softener and make a break for it. (I was in general an obedient child.)

But when I pushed on the heavy door leading to the freedom of the outside world, instead of doing its doorly duty and opening, it shattered into a million tiny shards of glass around me. I remember standing there in the doorway, bits of glass glittering in my hair and around my feet, stunned. It was my first experience with the impermanence of the world. It was also an indication of my immense power.

The things I could count on - the loyalty of best friends, the protection of mommy and daddy, my own strong body - were no longer the bastions of solidity I assumed them to be. Best friends could move away. Parents could divorce. Bones could break. (So could hearts.) If glass doors could shatter rather than simply swing open as doors were created to do, there was no telling what chaos lurked in the shadows.  

But I had created this chaos. I was the bringer of this destruction, albeit unintended. What previously untapped potential had I unveiled to myself and to the world in that remarkable instant?

On the day that glass door shattered, I learned that I was a being both formidable and fragile. Ah well, and riot on.







Mar 10, 2017

9 Things Tonight

1. My thumbnail is too long. My forefinger keeps going back to that excessively long thumbnail, running over the edge of the nail, feeling the fingertip too far beneath, worrying its unfamiliarity like a tongue worries a canker sore or the flap of skin on the roof of your mouth from hot pizza cheese.

2. As a girl myself, I sometimes find girl friendships difficult. You never have to comment on a boy's haircut. There is no expectation of noticing a new top, a new lipstick colour, a new nail polish; no fall-out from the failure to notice these inconsequential things. We have to constantly tell each other how cute we are, how great, how worthwhile. (This emotional bolstering is perhaps our way of countering airbrushed magazine ads and gap-thighed supermodels. Still, I find it tiring.)

3. I would like to start composting. Make something useful out of decay. 

4. I turn the labels on the food in the fridge and pantry out and line everything up so I can see what I have at a glance. I like the tea towel to hang off the oven door handle just so. I alphabetize my books (by author's last name and then alphabetically by title unless it's a series, in which case, chronologically) and records (by first word in the artist's name, excluding "The" but counting "Thee" and then chronologically). I like things to always be kept near the place they are used. I hate dust. (I also hate dusting.) These traits remind me of Julia Roberts' psycho husband in that movie where she secretly takes swimming lessons and then pretends to drown in order to escape him but he finds her and she knows that he finds her because everything in her house is lined up just so. I wonder if I am a little bit psycho.   

5. I know I am only a little bit psycho because I just toss my pajamas into the bottom drawer without folding them and rarely make the bed and never iron anything.

6. Every single time I sit down to write something at night, without fail, the Supertramp lyrics "There are times, when all the world's asleep, the questions run too deep, for such a simple man" run through my head. I wish something cooler than Supertramp was my night-time writing muse. Sometimes I want to write something angry and visceral, but then this goddamn philosophical Supertramp song pops in there and adds its wistful, nostalgic air to whatever it is I'm writing. I fucking hate that. 

7. It would be an exaggeration to say that I almost died a few weeks ago during a routine surgery, but I did experience dangerous complications due to my body's rather alarming reaction to a certain substance used in the surgery. Intellectually, I am aware of the transience of life, but I have to admit that I can't fathom actually dying. This is why I walked through the murky, potentially-shark-and/or-crocodile-filled waters between sand bars in Costa Rica, why I think nothing of exceeding the speed limit on the 401, why I crossed the protective barrier and peered over the cliff edge into the Grand Canyon, why I ride my bicycle without a helmet. It only takes a moment to die.

8. I am not afraid of living. I am not afraid of taking chances and embracing opportunities, of being uncomfortable, of looking foolish, of being rejected, of admitting to not knowing. I want to know things and do things and go places. (And look at how fucking wistful and nostalgic and philosophical this has gotten. Thanks, Supertramp, you insidious asshole. Every goddamn time.)           

9. Well, the laundry is done and the night wears on and sleep beckons and dreams await. Also, I have to pee. Ah well, and riot on.     

    


Feb 17, 2017

Narcissus

I have, in the past, been criticized for being egotistical and narcissistic (and even if you've never brought it directly to my attention, you might have thought it), but I don't believe I am any more self-absorbed than anyone else (although I probably express it more often). Shouldn't we be the most interesting people in the world to ourselves? When you get right down to the real nitty gritty, we're the only thing we've got that can't be lost.

I am fascinated by my own thoughts. The intricate layers of thinking: the concurrency of the song running through my head, the imagined conversation, and the memory. How can the present, past, and future exist simultaneously in my brain?

My body is also fascinating to me. The way it looks and the things it does, the things it is capable of doing. I very frequently feel like an interloper in this bag of flesh and bones and blood. How is this body so intrinsically entwined with who I am in my entirety? This thing that bruises and bleeds and breaks and heals all on its own. (And don't forget aging, the way the body weakens and softens and wizens.)

In a crowd, at a club, I am invisible, unnoticed, looking out at the world from a face that does not belong to me, or to the essence of me. I feel awkward standing still. What do I do with my hands? (Is this why we hold bottles of beer at concerts? To give ourselves something to do that makes us feel less ungainly? Am I the only one who feels this disconnect?) That feeling of looking out, which suggests that there is something in. 

I like taking pictures of my body parts, itemizing them, cataloging. Here is my navel, here are my breasts, my hips, my legs, my hands. Here are my bruises; here is my blood. Here is my face, this thing I will never see except in reflections. I cannot take a photograph of the in, so here are photographs of the out.

I can't help that I am the most interesting person in the world, to me, and I can't stop trying to figure myself out. Understanding of one's self leads to an understanding of others, and an understanding of others leads to an understanding of the world (or so we hope). So forgive me my self-absorbed musings and memories. I appreciate your indulgence, and I sincerely hope that you are the most interesting person in the world to you.