Thursday, June 30, 2005

News

My father is moving to Sarnia. He told me tonight. Soon, I’ll have no bond with Toronto except a house that crazy people live in and a piano I can’t afford to move.

I guess this means I’m all yours, Montreal. If you’ll have me.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

On the Metroblog

Damn hot.

Hot

The only good thing about this heat is that I get to ogle men, which I’ve been doing a great deal of in recent days. Today, I watched a particularly striking specimen saunter down Bernard Street, clad in loosely fitting army shorts and a cream-coloured linen shirt that was fully unbuttoned, thus exposing a quite attractive torso. Suddenly, I understood the nobler aspects of the catcall: to audibly express admiration of the physical form, and the courage that is required to display it publicly.

Municipal workers excepted--and a few truly are exceptional--I can’t think of the last time I saw a heterosexual man’s chest in the public sphere. In fact, as women’s clothing has become more and more revealing, men’s attire has become correspondingly more modest, to the extent that one must take their corporeality on faith. Worse, men seem to have forgotten that they are legally permitted to remove their shirts, and that to avail themselves of this right during a heat wave would by no means be considered indecent.

Perhaps men have finally become as neurotically self-conscious about their bodies as women, which would be a terrible shame, especially since women are slowly reclaiming their right to inhabit imperfectly beautiful figures. Alternatively, it is possible that the earnest post-eroticism of the asexuality movement is catching on, and that we are doomed to ogle a generation of men draped in burkha-like layers of hemp clothing.

Whatever the cause, bravo to the man in the open linen shirt. You were, indisputably, the best thing about my day.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Things to do: Saturday

Today, with the humidex at forty degrees and the sky heavy with unfalling rain, I decided to clean out my refrigerator. I am, obviously, an idiot. Within minutes of starting what I thought would be a relatively straightforward task, I was dripping with sweat, and continued to be long after I had stripped down to my underwear. Worse, my fridge promptly lost all the coolness it had previously laboured to keep; six hours later, its contents are still stubbornly lukewarm. I am now convinced that I have drained the thirty-year old appliance of its remaining life force, and that I will dine tomorrow on a brunch of curdled milk and rotten eggs.

The thing is awfully clean, though.

The other thing I did today was write an interminably long email to my friend Matthew, who, with his partner Eva, is celebrating the birth of his first child. Matthew and I met through the polyamorous crowd quite a few years ago and we bonded pretty much instantly, which may have something to do with the fact that we share the same birthday. In fact, I do at times see Matthew as an older and infinitely more together version of myself, and, at other times, as the big brother I always wished I’d had.

In any case, Matthew and I had fallen out of touch, and last I heard he had quit his first academic gig in frustration and set off to reunite with his true love, the theatre. As it turns out, he’s since landed a far better academic gig and has just been appointed chair of his department, which is extraordinarily good news. He is also directing plays for a repertory theatre company as well as those of his extremely fortunate students. I couldn’t be happier for him.

In the email I wrote tonight, I imparted the news that Phil and I have split up and actually recounted the story, which I’ve avoided doing until now. I came very close to sending Matthew an email soon after I moved out, but for some reason I couldn’t bring myself to finish it. As I wrote to him tonight, I think a part of me feared that, although they liked “Phil and Vila” well enough, he and Eva might be less keen on just "Vila". In retrospect, I think I worried that a lot of people would feel that way.

In my postscript, I asked Matthew if he had a current email address for Nathaniel, another friend I’ve lost touch with. The odds are against it, but you never know...

Friday, June 24, 2005

Well, that explains it...

Today's Horoscope

Virgo (Aug. 23 — Sept. 22)

Even the most sagacious souls are humbled next to the infinity of possibilities that life presents. Your sense of being overwhelmed is only a temporary state of mind. Your situation inevitably leads to a happy conclusion.

Ed: The stars wouldn't lie, would they?

On the rag; or, didn't I just have an existential crisis?

My day began with a hangover, menstrual cramps, and less than five hours sleep; it will end, imminently I hope, with a long spell of unconsciousness. Some hormonally inflected ramblings in the meantime:

Several weeks ago, my comrades and I found ourselves at the centre of a turf battle between two of Quebec’s most powerful unions. Thus began our crash course in backroom politics, shuttle diplomacy, and crisis management, skills I hope never to have need of again.

To make a long story short, our small band of neurotic and terminally flaky graduate students managed to head off a union war and the potentially disastrous consequences it would have had for our local. I’m terribly proud of us, and I believe we deserved every pitcher of beer we consumed last night. Happily, the union paid for a not insignificant number of them.

Veering slightly, it has been suggested to me on more than one occasion that I should consider politics as a vocation. This troubles me for more reasons than I can count, not the least of which being that I think politicians are assholes by definition. I strongly suspect that they have to be—the political system we are presently governed by wouldn’t function otherwise.

Further, despite my early experiments with anarchism, radical feminism, and animal rights activism, I have proven to be a miserable failure as an ideologue. I hate slogans; I cringe at the sound of protest music; I am almost obsessively concerned with shades of gray. I’m a left-wing smoker, for god’s sake—how fucked up is that?

What I struggle with the most, and near-constantly lately, is the dissonance I feel between the things that I do. I am being “trained” to be a scholar. I pay my rent with politics. And now, for better or for worse, I derive genuine pleasure from writing. So, which one is it? Or, to look at it from a slightly different angle, which one will I regret not doing for the rest of my life?

Perhaps it is my destiny to be a dilettante, that most maligned of occupations: “one who follows an art or a branch of knowledge, desultorily, or for amusement only.” Strangely enough, the term comes from the Italian dillettare: “to take delight in.” I suppose I could learn to live with that.

But first, I have a date with Jon Stewart and a large bag of potato chips. One must prioritize, after all.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Birthday round-up

Happy birthday, prematurely or belatedly, to Martin, Maz, Iso G., and D., Geminis all. I really must make an effort to socialize with other signs more...

Friday, June 17, 2005

I’d like to thank the Academy

While still not sleeping, I discovered the following post on Metroblogging Montreal:

"For the past couple of months, Lauren and the city captains have been scouring the various Metroblogging sites and picking out the most entertaining stories for the Best of Metroblogging page. Vila's chicken sandwich story was selected this week, not bad for a newbie."

Wow. This means I get groupies, right?

On the road

Just home after thirteen hours of playing union man in Quebec City. The bus ride back to Montreal was the best part, all highway views of darkness and the calm of half-sleep. I like the sounds of travelling at night, the subtle things you hear when the lights are off and no one is talking. I think it’s the closest I get to meditation.

My dad tells me that when I was a baby, the only thing that would soothe me to sleep was a night drive. When I was a little older, one of my favourite shows was a late-night program on Toronto’s channel 47 called “Night Drive,” which consisted of an unbroken POV shot of a meandering automotive tour of the city’s downtown core, circa approximately 1979. I suspect I became an insomniac the day the show was cancelled.

Being presently unlulled, I tried Googling “Night Drive” but nothing came up. Damn.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Cool

The heat wave finally broke today. The rain came shortly before dawn and kept coming for hours, until the alleyway behind my apartment was completely submerged. By the time the rain stopped the temperature had fallen sixteen degrees, which was exactly enough.

Late last night, when the air was still thick and hot, James and I escaped to the park and talked. Among other things, he told me that he had asked his brother, an ordained priest, to pray for rain. A coincidence, surely? Whatever the source of the intervention, I am delighting in the sensation of not-sweating.

In other news, I miss Arit. She is reading from France—did you get my last email?—but I am aching to tell her the things I don’t write about here. Soon, she will come home and we will drink iced tea and talk ourselves dry and she will show me all the clothes she bought in Paris. Arit always buys clothes in Paris. Someday, I will too.

Speaking of clothes, I have made a vow to myself: I will wear fishnet stockings at least once before the summer has ended. You’ll hold me to that, won’t you?

Monday, June 13, 2005

You're it!

Iso G.

Khansahib

D.

Maz

N.B. Oblivia has respectfully declined her invitation, explaining "I'm a grad student; I don't like reading." Fair enough.

Book Meme

Bob tagged me on a book meme today--innocently enough, I’m sure, but his email has nevertheless catalysed a fit of melancholy. Last night’s sangria hangover may also be a contributing factor, as is, in all likelihood, the unrelenting heat.

Strangely enough, reading books is something I have done dramatically less of since becoming a graduate student, and virtually none of since becoming a graduate student who works for a living. I’ve done more than my share of skimming, referencing, annotating, and problematizing, but reading is quite a different matter.

Reading is what you do for its own sake. Like other pleasurable activities, it is not especially productive, nor is it directed toward any particular goal. I miss reading in much the same way I miss making music or being near to someone who cares about me. I try not to think about how long it might be before I get to do it again.

The book meme, then.

1. Number of books I own

Approximately seven hundred. I now pay people to carry them when I move.

2. Last book I bought

I stopped buying books when my SSHRC grant ran out. I also stopped going to movies, buying records, and travelling. However, when I got my income tax refund last year I did buy Jonathan Sterne’s The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction. I didn’t earn enough money to get a tax refund this year.

3. Last book I read

Brecht on Film and Radio, Bertolt Brecht/ed. Marc Silberman. One does not skim Brecht.

4. Five books that mean a lot to me

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis

This is the first book I lost myself in, over and over again. I still have the copy I read as a child, which I’m very glad of.

Coming Through Slaughter, Michael Ondaatje

A fictional account of the life of jazz cornetist Buddy Bolden. The book inspired me and two of my friends to call the author from a bar at two ‘o clock in the morning to invite him to speak to our alternative school lit class. To his enormous credit, he did.

The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir

De Beauvoir’s 1949 treatise on gender. I read it for the first time when I was fourteen and the world looked instantly different than it had before.

Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century, Greil Marcus

The book that made me and everyone else I know want to become a scholar of popular music. Marcus spoke at a conference I co-organized several years ago and we talked about writing over dinner at Philino’s. That was pretty cool.

Nightwood, Djuna Barnes

I first read Nightwood when I was seventeen and returned to it again last summer. I can’t imagine what sense the book made to me at seventeen; it made considerably more at thirty-two. I forgot much of it during the intervening years, but one passage stayed with me throughout: the one in which Nora waits for her lover, Robin, to come home.


When the time came that Nora was alone most of the night and part of the day, she suffered from the personality of the house, the punishment of those who collect their lives together. Unconsciously at first, she went about disturbing nothing; then she became aware that her soft and careful movements were the outcome of an unreasoning fear—if she disarranged anything Robin might become confused—might lose the sense of home.

Love becomes the deposit of the heart, analogous in all degrees to the ‘findings’ in a tomb. As in one will be charted the taken place of the body, the raiment, the utensils necessary to its other life, so in the heart of the lover will be traced, as an indelible shadow, that which he loves.


Yes, that makes all the sense in the world now.

Friday, June 10, 2005

My new bras

I almost went into the union office today, but as I approached the front steps I decided to keep on walking. It has been a profoundly stressful couple of weeks, and for the sake of what little sanity I still possess it was high time that I played a little hooky.

So, I went shopping. What else was there to do?

Before I embark upon the story, I should explain a few things. First of all, although I like clothes, I detest clothes shopping. Yes, I know, I am a miserable excuse for a woman, in this and many other respects. Secondly, I’m broke, and at least a week away from my next paycheque, the lion’s share of which is already earmarked for bills. Luckily, I had my credit card with me, which I only ever use in emergencies. Thirdly, it was 37 degrees with the humidity today, so the excursion was largely an excuse to spend several hours in a climate-controlled environment, which both the union office and my apartment most assuredly are not.

Armed with my rationalizations, I set off for St. Catherine Street.

My first stop was Simon’s, whose offerings confirmed the rumour that peasant skirts have been declared mandatory apparel by this year’s fashion police. I still have the one my grandmother gave to me when I was seven, and, since she was actually a peasant, I feel absolutely no need to pay for a cheap imitation of the real thing.

My second stop was the Eaton Centre, where I quickly spotted the only item of clothing in the entire mall that was not a bright shade of turquoise, peach, or tangerine. Fortunately for me, this item—a simple cotton blouse with a moderately daring neckline—was also on sale, so I felt practically obliged to buy it.

Finally, I went into the Bay. The only two consumer items I have ever purchased at Canada’s historic retailer are ties and bras, and, it being nowhere near xmas, my mission today was to procure the latter. Easier said than done, apparently.

Since I last went bra shopping, three significant developments have occurred. One: I lost weight, which meant that I no longer knew my bra size. Two: the lingerie industry was revolutionized by new synthetic compounds, which have transformed the structural composition of bras. Three: breast implants have completely altered mammilarian aesthetics, which currently bear only a passing resemblance to the non-surgical kind, to say nothing of my own.

I started by looking for some bras I liked. My personal lingerie sensibility lies firmly in the traditional/minimalist camp: black, seamless, stylish but not cutesy. I like a little lace but not too much; matronly is definitely out; and keep floral prints the hell away from me.

Out of easily one hundred different bra styles, I found exactly two that suit my taste. I selected my former size, 38B, and took up residence in fitting room number three. I had barely fastened the hooks of the first bra when it became glaringly obvious that I am a shadow of my former self. Better make that a 36A. However, as I soon discovered, the bras I like don’t come in 36A, and neither do two-thirds of the others that are available for purchase. In fact, there are only two broad categories of 36A bra: push-up, and padded.

At this point in the story, I feel the need to pronounce that, despite their somewhat reduced size, I actually like my breasts. I mean, they’re no great shakes, and they’re certainly not as impressive as some of my friends’ or anyone’s on TV, but they work for me, and I thoroughly resent the implication that I should think otherwise. I’m neurotic enough as it is, thank you very much.

In any case, I was faced with a choice: either go braless, or find something I could live with. I spent the next hour conducting a quadrant-by-quadrant search of the Bay’s lingerie department, an experience that was made only slightly more tolerable by the steady gush of A/C. I appraised dozens of strange specimens—one even had gel in it—before finding a suitable compromise: the “molded” bra, which contains but a thin layer of foam in each cup. I collected several varieties of said style and apprehensively reentered the fitting chamber.

The first three, Calvin Kleins all, were evidently designed on the premise that Dolly Parton wears an A-cup. The next two were either mislabeled or else manufactured with stick insects in mind, as I could hardly breathe while wearing them. Bra number six was okay but outrageously expensive, and bra number seven was, it turned out, a convertible, with removable straps that would handily accommodate the prom dress I will never wear.

The winner was bra number eight, a “t-shirt” bra that fit perfectly and actually looked good on my body, a rare occurrence in any clothing store. Bra number nine was even better, and inspired the revelation that my breasts were made for demi-cups. Bra number ten was a creatively-sized version of my old Warner’s stand-by, a 34B that closely approximated a 36A.

So now I had three bras I could live with, with a combined price tag of over a hundred dollars—i.e., way out of my budget. I realized that I would have to sacrifice two bras to save the life of the third. By this time, I had been in the lingerie department for almost three hours, and was in the increasingly manic throes of nicotine withdrawal. I sat down to think beside a mannequin wearing a red lace teddy and matching thong: which one would it be?

That’s when I noticed the signs that were plastered all over the store: 50% Off Sale. I sprinted to the nearest cash counter and asked the saleswoman to verify that the bras I had so carefully selected were, in fact, sale items. She assured me that they were, and asked if I wanted any panties to go with them. I shook my head no and produced my credit card, which stoically accepted the sixty-two dollar charge. It was an emergency, after all.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Good vibrations

Tonight, I lounged on a terrasse with Ellen and Mona and D. We touched base on Ellen’s recent break-up, D’s underwhelming second date with the drummer/mathematician, and the impending marriage and fatherhood of one of D’s ex’s.

Then we discussed vibrators. We concluded: (a) that we all need new ones, (b) that they’re ridiculously overpriced, and (c) that “the bunny” stands head and shoulders (or should that be head and ears?) above the rest. We agreed to go vibrator shopping before D. leaves town, which seems like a fitting tribute to her time in Montreal.

I didn’t mention it tonight, but my mother gave me my first vibrator when I was twelve. She had picked it up at a garage sale and presented it to me as a “massager,” which is exactly what it said on the box. Knowing better, I thanked her profusely for the gift and promptly disappeared into my room.

It now occurs to me that that vibrator weathered almost twelve years of use before its motor finally gave out. There have been other vibrators since, of course, but you never forget your first, do you?

Friday, June 03, 2005

Bloodwork

So, I’m anemic again. I have been, on and off, for years, but I thought I had it licked this time. Not even close, apparently.

It was almost a relief to get the call from the lab. I’ve been feeling slightly fucked up for weeks, somewhere between edgy and scattered and bone-tired. I could feel myself receding from things; the nerves were too close to the skin, and I couldn’t catch my breath. I assumed it was stress, because everything is stress.

Sometimes I worried that it had come to it—that the recessive genes had surged, and that I was finally going mad. Would you know it if you were? My brother didn’t. I doubt my mother did either.

So now it’s back on the iron pills and hoping they take, quickly. I’ve got shit to do.