Thursday, December 30, 2004

Au revoir, Atomic.

Please take care of yourself, and say hello to the Ayatollah for me.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Chill

No matter what I did, I couldn’t get warm today. My bed was cold, even under the comforter and two blankets. My living room was cold, even with a cat on my lap and the heat turned up high. The Café was cold, even at the warmest table right next to the radiator. Ada’s kitchen was cold, even with the space-heater going full blast. I am cold as I write this, and I fear I won’t be warm again until spring.

I have been watching the tsunami coverage on CNN, which has been handed over to the station’s European bureau until morning. According to AP, the earthquake that triggered the massive waves actually disturbed the rotation of the earth. “‘All the planet is vibrating,’ said Enzo Boschi of the Italian National Geophysics Institute.” I wonder if an American scientist would have phrased it in quite the same way?

I feel like I should be making New Year’s resolutions. Some possible contenders:

Clean out Inbox.
Write music.
Drink less beer, more hard liquor.
Re-read Leaves of Grass.
Download everything ever recorded by the Magnetic Fields.
Use moisturizer daily.
Buy more winter socks.
Go dancing at Club Korova.
Play the lottery.

Or, I could just hibernate until May.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Seasons Greetings

Merry Christmas to Arit, who is keeping vigil at her grandmother’s bedside in Toronto.

Merry Christmas to John, who is waiting for Arit to come home.

Merry Christmas to Ada, who is catching her breath in Northern Ontario.

Merry Christmas to Maz, who is having epiphanies in Victoria.

Merry Christmas to Ellen, who is wearing a Santa Claus hat in Philly.

Merry Christmas to Atomic, who is packing suitcases for Tehran.

Merry Christmas to Oblivia, who is cooking up a storm in the Plateau.

Merry Christmas to Setare, who is not cold in Hawaii.

Merry Christmas to Martin, who is under the stars in Saskatoon.

Merry Christmas to Esther, who is watching movies at a loft in Parkdale.

Merry Christmas to Sally, who is awaiting the arrival of her Scottish boyfriend.

Merry Christmas to George, who is visiting from Finland.

Merry Christmas to Madame D., who is eating fudge in California.

Merry Christmas to Matthew, who is being quirky somewhere.

Merry Christmas to my Dad, who is on the Internet.

Merry Christmas to James, who will come to dinner tonight.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Bah, humbug.

Having succumbed to a brief spell of holiday cheer, I foolishly decided that I would go Christmas shopping today. This act not only annihilated any good feeling I previously possessed, but it also reminded me that as both a Marxist and an atheist, I have no reason whatsoever to give a fuck about Christmas.

I set off for the journey downtown in my heaviest sweater and parka, only to discover that Montreal was immersed in a nearly tropical warm front. In addition to being hideously overdressed for the freakish weather, I found myself wading through slush puddles the size of small lakes to get to the bus stop. As I waited for the Parc bus, it began to lightly rain, which made me curse myself for forgetting an umbrella that I should have had no need of again until spring.

The bus proceeded to crawl down Parc Avenue, which was clogged with lumbering SUVs, and took over twenty minutes to make three stops. Walking briskly, I can travel this same distance on foot in ten. It would be forty minutes before I arrived at St. Catherine Street, which was clogged with lumbering pedestrians so accustomed to driving SUVs that they have completely forgotten how to walk in an urban environment. Even at the best of times, Montreal pedestrians have a tendency to be annoyingly slow; during holidays, they are positively catatonic.

The shops were predictably crowded, and within minutes of entering the Bay I was beaded with a parka-induced sweat. The main floor was festooned with garish Christmas decorations and reeked of a thousand clashing notes of perfume, which, if there was any justice in the world, would be as strictly controlled by municipal authorities as cigarette smoke, if not more so. Gasping for breath, I made my way past a meandering herd of disoriented husbands who stood square in the middle of every aisle, blindly peering into jewellery display cases for some trinket that might inspire their disillusioned wives to give them blow jobs slightly more often, or at least to feign interest in their jobs or professional sports. I circled the accessories department at least three times trying to find the escalators, which finally drew me down into the very bowels of the store—i.e., Men’s Fashions.

Here, I was surrounded by conservative, Canadian hyper-masculinity, all fake oak and thick, shirt-collared necks and almost ascetically formless trousers. Maybe the poor sods’ wives would up the blow-job quota if they would just show the slightest suggestion of ass once in a while, at least on Casual Fridays? As though sensing my thoughts, the aisle I was following led straight to the underwear section, where I briefly fraternized with a small army of Calvin-Klein outfitted mannequins with identical Ken-doll packages straining against their wares. I wondered how many conservative, Canadian men actually wear Calvin Kleins under their tan chinos, and of those, what percentage is gay.

Having secured gift number one, I exited the Bay, whereupon I discovered that the light rain that fell earlier had since become a torrential downpour. By the time I reached HMV I was drenched, which made the experience of shopping at HMV that much worse. It has been quite a while since I shopped at a record store—I’m sorry, multi-media outlet—and having reacquainted myself with the experience I have vowed never to do so again. The mainstream entertainment industry deserves its imminent demise for saddling the consumer with ridiculous prices, lousy selection, and practically brain-dead staff, and as far as I’m concerned it can’t come soon enough. Chapters was as bad as HMV but in a superficially literary way; any bookstore that stocks more self-help books than works of philosophy and literature combined should be rewarded with immediate bankruptcy.

By the time I returned home the temperature had dropped ten degrees, and the lakes of water at every corner had already begun to freeze. Maybe if I try hard enough I can sleep through Christmas and arise, Jesus-like, in the new year?

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Au revoir, papa.

Le père headed back to Toronto yesterday, which, he promptly informed me, was seventeen degrees warmer than Montreal at the time of his arrival. Since waving goodbye to his departing cab, I have retired the sofa-bed, done two loads of laundry, and washed a sinkful of dishes, which are now drying in their rack. I am a bachelorette again, in a strangely still apartment.

It was an exceptionally good visit. Among the highlights:

Arit explaining the art of photography to my dad.

James and my dad playing to a draw in their first game of chess.

My dad dispensing relationship advice to Ada. (“Maybe you should try a Latin lover? I hear they’re very good.”)

My dad dispensing relationship advice to Atomic. (“Maybe you should marry a big shot at the UN? Then you’d always have work.”)

Telling James and my dad old punk rock band stories, complete with artefacts.

Eating Polish sausage for the first time in seventeen years.

My dad reminding me of all the friends that used to hang out at our house when I was a teenager, and telling me that Mike was his favourite.

Making Serbian onion-noodle soup.

Drinking whisky-on-the-rocks.

My dad announcing his plans to visit Serbia for an extended period next year, and his entirely remarkable reasons for doing so.

Enjoying living with someone for a little while.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

The Visit: Day Five

Today, I made a pot of Serbian onion-noodle soup for my father. My mother used to make it when I was a kid, explaining that it was the soup you made when you had no money. For a time in the 1970s, my family ate it a lot.

The broth has virtually no nutritional value, consisting exclusively of onions, paprika, and obscene amounts of salt, which is its only discernible flavouring. Nevertheless, the soup is actually quite tasty and the closest thing to a home-cooked Serbian meal I know how to make. Not having eaten it since he separated from my mother two years ago, my father was very appreciative.

The recipe is as follows:

Fry one small, finely chopped onion
Add one tablespoon of paprika
Add water and salt and bring to a boil
Strain
Add egg noodles, cook until tender
Add two dollops of sour cream
Enjoy!

The Visit: Day Four

Le père retired early tonight, the mid-point of his stay in Montreal. I am sipping a glass of whisky and enjoying the alone time, which I tend to forget I need every once in a while. Together, my father and I have chain-smoked our way through three late nights of drinking and conversation, the first on our own, the second with Arit, and the last with Atomic and James. I like the fact that my dad gets along with my friends, and that my friends get a kick out of my dad. It’s a strange kind of family, but it works.

Maybe it’s the whisky talking, but I am starting to feel something not unlike Christmas cheer. It's probably the whisky.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Le père est arrivé...

... and he brought non-scab Ontario wine! Pinot Noir, anyone?

PS. Maz -- can I get back to you next week?

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Twelve little stories about Mike

I met Mike at a party when I was fourteen, both of us stoned and pretentious and a little fucked up, and for some inexplicable reason we hit it off instantly and stayed best friends for ten years.

Mike had curly brown hair and a nose ring and he smoked Player’s Light cigarettes and wore striped polyester pants. I have an Indian cotton shirt he used to like wearing in a box in my bedroom closet. For a long time, it still smelled like him.

We spent hours talking on the phone at our parents’ houses, me curled around the telephone table in our downstairs hallway and him sprawled out on the carpet in their basement rec room. When we burst out laughing even though we were trying to be quiet our parents would yell at us to go to bed, but we never did.

On Wednesdays, we would drop acid and go out dancing all night. Once, we climbed onto the roof of Toronto City Hall in the middle of a snowstorm and looked out at the muted city, me right at the edge and him three steps behind, and he said that I was beautiful and I actually believed him.

When I broke up with Mark and couldn’t stop crying, he didn’t say anything at all. Instead, he made me lie down on my futon on my stomach and gave me a long, slow massage and kept his hands on me until I felt loved again.

We would talk about going to university and imagined ourselves becoming great intellectuals and seeing our names in footnotes instead of lights. Then we would argue about love because he didn’t believe in it and I did in my way and we’d try to convince each other until we both got bored and talked about books instead.

When I started seeing the Ex I asked Mike what he thought and he said that he liked him and that he thought he was good for me. And I was glad because it could never, ever have worked if Mike didn’t approve.

When he went out hitchhiking he would steal people’s calling cards and call me from truckstops between small American towns and tell me all about where he had been and what he did there. Except for the time he got raped, when he just cried for a long time as the trucks drove past.

By the time he moved to Vancouver, he was a junkie but tried to pretend that he wasn’t. He ODed a couple of times and would laugh about it, like he was just trying to freak everybody out. Then he started stealing stuff from people he knew and it wasn't funny at all.

The last time he called he was so happy that he kept giggling and then he told me he was in love for the first time and that he was gonna get clean and go back to school to study anthropology and that I could come stay with him and his boyfriend at their warehouse and that he would make us both pancakes in the morning. And I giggled too and told him that of course I had been right all along and that I expected to be served my pancakes in bed.

Then he ODed again and was placed on life support and his parents flew out to B.C. and the doctors told them his brain was dead and three days later Allison called and said, “I’m sorry hon, he’s gone.” And his brother asked me to call his friends because I was closer to him than anyone so I called thirty people to tell them and they all cried but I never did not even at the funeral or when everyone got drunk afterward because all I could feel was rage and alone.

Now it’s ten years later and it’s his birthday soon and he would be thirty-five except that he’s been dead for as long as we were friends. But I still love him and miss him and wish he would call, so that at least I could tell him I’m not angry anymore.

Monday, December 13, 2004

The Dinner Party

It has been some time since I last suffered from a truly excruciating hangover. Having flirted with moderation the last several weeks, I spent most of the weekend ensuring that I would soon become reacquainted with the experience. It is exactly as I remembered it, only more so.

I attended my first Christmas party of the season on Saturday night, a girls-only affair that was lavishly hosted by Ellen. Predictably, much of the alcohol-fuelled conversation that transpired there concerned the subject of men, and, as two of our number are presently experiencing relationship difficulties, the tone was distinctly jaundiced. As the usual litany of injustices was recounted – jealousy, infidelity, insecurity, slovenliness, dishonesty – I felt a momentary elation at being single, which I celebrated by drinking until eight ‘o clock in the morning.

Thinking about it again in the deep fog of a hangover, I realize that it is not simply a matter of A or not-A, relationship or not-relationship. The more interesting question is, I think, what kind of relationship? Is it Oprah-relationship? Whitman-relationship? De Beauvoir-relationship? Further, upon what premises is the relationship based? Assuming heterosexuality, are its participants essentially different or fundamentally the same? Is its form predetermined, or does it create itself? Does it inevitably lead to cohabitation? Marriage? Children? Does it assume a dichotomy between reason and passion? Commitment and individuality? The self and the other?

I suspect that the way in which we answer these questions has something to do with the kind of relationships we find ourselves in, or not in, as the case may be. It may also account for the gulfs of misunderstanding that we routinely encounter when we talk about them. I am reminded almost daily that what I mean by relationship is not necessarily what others mean by it, and that in certain conversations, the only commonality that may exist between speakers is the word itself.

Radical nominalist seeks same for relationship of undetermined nature. Likes: drinking, occasional travel, and hot sex. Dislikes: hangovers, winter, and Oprah Winfrey. Smoker preferred.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

On Edge

The nerves have been close to the surface of late. There is too much to do and not enough time and never enough money and the surly, rebellious teenager in me is rising up like a scream. I think she wants to play. Or fuck. Or start a band.

I attended a book launch the other night, and in the middle of the reading I was struck almost breathless with wanting the stage. At first, it was just a slight yearning, as when one fondly remembers a good meal or a warm day. Then, it crept into my limbs like an ache, spreading out under the surface of the skin. Then, in an instant, it surged in me like desire surges: the pure, blind need to perform.

I have since realized that everything I write is meant to be voiced. Essays are meant to be lectures. Blog posts are meant to be stories. Emails are meant to be late-night phone conversations, or dialogue in a play. Suddenly, I want this as much as warmth or food or sex, but there is no corporeality in anything I do.

Last night, I dreamt that I was swimming with Spalding Gray. I shudder to think what this means.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Retreat

Suddenly, it’s winter. The sidewalks are covered in a skin of ice, which today was overlaid with snow. Feeling psychologically unprepared for this turn of events, I decided upon waking that I would not leave my apartment today. I do occasionally have small moments of wisdom.

In ten days my father will arrive for his semi-annual visit. He will take the five ‘o clock express train from Toronto and I will be waiting for him at the station at precisely nine. When I meet him he will take my head in his hands and kiss my cheeks three times, then we will sit down to smoke a cigarette and he will tell me all about his journey: who he happened to talk to en route, how loud the train was, whether it slowed down or stopped completely and how often. Only then will it be permissible to hail a taxi and drive past the mountain towards home.

Once, having other commitments to attend to earlier in the evening, I suggested that he come from the train station to my apartment on his own. This obviously hurt him deeply and I’ve never made the suggestion again. As I came to understand, the ritual of greeting a loved one after a journey is terribly important to my father, in part, I suspect, because he remembers when the experience of travel was still something extraordinary.

In the village, the whole extended family and a smattering of neighbours would accompany a traveller to the main road, where buses to and from Belgrade would stop twice a day. Drinks would be proffered and gifts given, and when the time came for the traveller to depart there would be a rush of triple cheek kisses and a crowd of people waving goodbye as the bus pulled away. Though my father has lived in large urban centres for almost fifty years, in this regard he is still a villager and always will be.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Company

James ran away from home today and is temporarily holed up at my place, which on most days has something of the feel of a UN sanctuary. We ate an unremarkable dinner together then fired up our respective computers, at which we are now both quietly working.

Observation: This is the first time I’ve written a blog entry in someone else’s presence.

When I moved out on my own after the break-up, I put a great deal of time and effort into making my apartment a place I liked being in. It’s brightly painted and blessedly quiet and strikes, I think, just the right note of airy coziness. The cats prowl its rooms at a leisurely pace, carefully deliberating which cushioned surface they might like to sleep on next. The light is best at mid-morning and sunset; at night you can just barely feel the trains going by.

I realize that I’ve been cautious about having people over. Ada joins me for dinner occasionally, not often. Arit comes by more frequently, for iced tea or laundry or just to catch up on the week. And James has, over time, become a regular visitor, usually after-hours but sometimes not, though he stays up late with me either way. Otherwise, I’ve guarded this space without really knowing why.

I think I shall have a Christmas party this year.