april fool

My laziness has reached new heights.

It appears to me the obvious signs of an adult life well lived are the practice of hobbies.  My sister keeps pressuring me to take up knitting.  I would, except that I just don’t really care about wool that much.  I have as hobby interest in fashion, but my budget is not as big as my dreams.  I’m too embarrassed to even recount the events of the first part of my day, but the words tv and internet are a big part of it.  If you work nights, I think you are supposed to reverse your day, but still this colossal uselessness is kind of killing me.

I’m trying to cope with the project-sized hole left in my daytime life now that my degree is completed.  I made a deal with myself not to do anything until May 1st.  This gives me one month to flounder.  It also gives me one month to contemplate hobbies and force myself to move.  I am going to run in the rain (I think…) (oh god…).

Oh man it’s been a long time.  Too long.  Embarrassingly long.  I mean this in all kinds of ways.  Let me count the angst.  The last I checked in we were leaving that town.  Town of winter and misanthropy and longing for beautiful things and missing family and missing the ocean and if only i could just get back to vancouver it would all be alright, but also town of finally standing on my own feet and filling my life with good people and being supported by these people and working with purpose.   Oh gosh, those were days, some good and some bad.  It’s been a long time, blog.  I hope I don’t leave again, but I can’t promise anything.

During the months I’ve been gone, I’ve thought about writing.  I debated posting updates and telling you what I’d been up to.  I wanted to tell you how our drive across the country was.  I thought you would want to know how totally grueling it was to drive for four days, battling weather, and prairies, and a final day of 22 hours without a driving break to get to Kelowna where we stopped for five more days.  There I unpacked my computer and began to write again.  On the fifth day I finished my last chapter and proudly proclaimed I was done(!) my thesis (!), even without an intro or a conclusion or anything.  Then we got to Vancouver and Veronica called to say that chapter was shite and I would have to start again.  I cried.  We moved.

We live on the east side.  It’s dangerously close to Burnaby, and that isn’t even in our town.  We took a basement suite that had been fully decked out with the comforts of home and was available right away.  The suite seemed pretty and moving sooner meant we could get off Judah’s floor.  It’s been great, but it’s dark, and it’s cold at night, and I feel far away from the things I came home for. Also, sometimes when I’m out in the day, if it’s really nice, I cannot bear to come home to the cover of darkness.  Checklist for a new apartment grows: Windows, light, some small outdoor space, an office nook, and do you take cats? Anywhere between Clark and Oak, above broadway.

I took a job in a restaurant.  It has given me some freedom.  I have a bit of money, so I can shop again.  Also the evening hours provided me with some ability to write during the day.  It was writing all day and working all night that finally resulted in me finally finishing my thesis on the 2nd of January 2011 (between the months of July and January I would proclaim I was done exactly twice, each time receiving a new set of revisions with new directions for improving the argument).  Working helped to divide my attention and ensure that I remained a social person.  Occasionally during the process I would get calls from irritable family members who seemed to not to understand that working on my thesis meant hoeing potatoes until it was done.  Hoeing potatoes, as in ‘keep your head down and continue with the endless and minor revisions until everything is complete, or potato season is over — whichever happens first.

I thought it would never end.  Two weeks before Christmas I called Kama crying.  The revisions kept coming.  The criticism was hard and I told Kama I felt like this thesis was ruining my life.  I took a week off to celebrate the holidays (difficult for different reasons) and came back to it after boxing day.  I wrote the conclusion, I re-wrote the introduction, I got over the feeling of failure that washed over me when looking at the 50+ pages of writing that Doug had crossed out — literally a big black X.  I just did what they told me to do.  Obedient me, I finished in a hotel room while the McCloskey’s skied on new years day.

Then waiting.  Waiting, waiting.  The external gets it, likes it.  Voila!  Like that, I find myself travelling back in time to Peterborough.  I’m with the boys from my class — gosh they’re nice — and it’s cold again, and there is beer.  It’s like nothing changed.  Except it did and I did too.  I defended with success. I’m done.  Now what?

Last week, my friend Jesse wrote me and asked me if I am experiencing the same sense of nihilism that he said hit him post-defense.  At the time, I said no.  But today?  I don’t want to do anything.  It’s too soon to pick up new projects.  I’m exercising but not today.  I feel troubled and swamped when I have even the slightest obligation.  I feel restless and locked away and honestly a little sad.  But no solutions.  I’m just waiting and blogging.

the long drive home

I’m going home.  In 10 days I will get inside our car and start driving west towards the sea.  I won’t live here anymore.

Last night I met my classmates for food and drinks.  These people have become my genuine friends.  Strangely though, as I was sitting and chatting and enjoying the company, I had a very funny feeling come over me, like I suddenly felt the weight of permanence – or maybe residence is the right word – lift away from the table.  When I arrived here I kept having the sense occur to me like I wasn’t really here.  Last night at the table, my brain told me the same thing.  It’s silly, crazy even, but I felt like something in me already started the journey and just left my body here.

When I take plane flights, I always suffer from terrible jet lag and I often think it’s because it takes longer to arrive then it does for your body to get to a certain place.  Maybe whatever started traveling last night at the table was preparing to meet me on the coast so we can start again, at the same time.  God knows it took a long time for me to feel present in Peterborough – to stop having the nagging feeling that there was another me sleeping in my apartment on main st.

I guess travelling and new situations can produce a kind of ghostly doubling, or cause some other sense of the uncanny to bubble up when the unconscious desire to travel back to the place you’ve been meets the conscious conditions of the present.

toronto eats

I can give an enumerated list of 1 for all the things I love in Peterborough:  1. Farmers market.  Everything else that I love I brought with me, and will come home with me (Save for my cat Kimchi…sigh…RIP).  I do feel a small amount of disappointment over missing my chance to live in Toronto, a city where I always feel at home.  Toronto is not as pretty as Vancouver but it’s also not as boutique as Vancouver.  This is a good thing.  Here are 6 other (mostly edible) good Toronto things :

  1. The Hoof Cafe on Dundas, across the street from its sister restaurant the Black Hoof.  Vancouverites are no stranger to a charcuterie and cheese menu, but this one is done with real panache, blending house cured specialty meats with a real simplicity that lacks in the Vancouver versions.  It might be the perfect combo of Vancouver and Toronto.  In fact, Paul worked with the Hoof’s executive chef in Vancouver when Jeff cooked at C and Fuel.  I highly recommend brunch here.  Order the inspired pigs tail and grits; It may not sound like it, but it might be the best thing I ever ate. The pic on left is from my lunch last week.  It’s the Ploughman’s with bone marrow, toast and jam. P.S. The rhubarb and vanilla jam they served was pretty amazing.  I tried to copy it yesterday.  It turned out wonderfully.  (On medium heat, boil 2 bunches of rhubarb with half a vanilla bean – seeds scraped into the pot, pod thrown in too and pulled out at the end – with 3/4 cup water, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup orange juice, and 1 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar until consistency is jam like.  Jar or freeze.  Makes about 4 cups.  Note: this isn’t their recipe, it’s my approximation, but I don’t mind telling you that whatever I made was really good.)
  2. The Gladstone Hotel at Queen and Gladstone has the most amazing old wind up elevator, a beautiful bar, and a commitment to art.  Every room has a different theme, designed by a different artist.  I’ve stayed in the Racine room, and the Peacock themed room.  Go to this entry, the last three pics I took in the hotel.  (I think I may copy the watermelon colour of the lobby in my next apartment.)
  3. The Beaver, Walk outside the gladstone and turn east on Queen.  Two doors down is The Beaver.  Owner Will Munro died two days ago after a long fight with cancer, leaving a big hole in the Toronto art and music scene.  The Beaver is good-looking, a good place to eat breakfast, drink coffee, and dance all night.
  4. Clafouti at Queen and Bellwoods makes the finest croissant this side of Paris.  Paul asks for these as a special treat every time I go to the city without him.
  5. Cross the street with your croissant and snack in Trinity Bellwoods Park.  It’s an amazing city park, reminiscent of european parks, not in the aesthetic way  because this park has its dingy qualities, but in the very public way.  There is a lot of life in this park.  Good people watching.
  6. On Spadina, north of Dundas is a crawly, dingy kitchen with a neon sign in the window that beams “Got Dumpling.”  Paul and I found it quite by chance and knew in an instant that it would be amazing.  Women stand in the front window hand rolling chinese dumplings all day, 7 days a week.  The menu is small, the light is fluorescent, the tea is lukewarm, but I make no exaggeration when I say that the dumpling here is the best I have had in several cities, one of those cities being the chinese capital of north america.  It’s dead cheap to eat here, a splurge for 2 costs 20 bucks.  A meal with my brothers, Paul and I, sparing no expense, cost 40.  After dumplings, you can cross the street for fresh mango bubble tea.  Don’t question, just go.

My friend Eliana Lev is a writer in Vancouver.  She just posted her list of happy on her blog for the Vancouver Observer.  Turning less and less to drinking and Nick Drake, she asks herself the very important question: am I happy?

Am I happy?  I never ask myself this question.  I’m programmed by a mom prone to depression to ask myself sooner and more frequently: am I sad?  Mostly this is what this blog is about: checking in on the sad, the frustrating, the well-worth-complaining.  But it is an interesting exercise – to ask oneself, “am I happy?”  Elli lists five things that lift her spirits.  Here are my five in no particular order.

1. I am married to a man who loves me, whose company I enjoy, who supports me, who I love to eat with, and talk to, and who thinks I’m funny.

2. My little brothers are pretty great.  Link to one here, and one here.  They are really funny, and if you move across the country, they will come visit you.

3. Finishing a big piece of work.  I finished that chapter.  It’s the behemoth.  One more to go, and then I’ll be really happy.

4. A new dress.  I’d take any of these designed by my dear friend Jean Okada in Vancouver.  She’s so talented, and I’m so lucky to know her.

5. Paris

Some other things: Teaching; My cutie pie nieces and nephews -Visit them on my sister’s blog; Strong coffee in the morning and Mosel Riesling at night; Amazing meals – in the house and out; Farmers markets; Smock tops and short shorts; Warm weather; Swimming in the ocean; the prettiness of Victoria; the greenness of Vancouver; the cityness of Toronto; these shoes; Judd Apatow movies; Kittens; Puppies; and this:

Is this a new routine?  It seems I like to update on monday.  The obligatory confession: I failed to meet deadline number four – though I had an excellent day writing on thurday and friday.  Chapter three clocks in at 25 pages and counting.  I surmise I have ten more pages to write.  New Deadline (deadline number 5) is wednesday.  Fingers crossed.  I have a meeting with my supervisor on thursday and I must present some kind of product to her then.  Also I’ve been saving a trip to toronto up as reward for a finished chapter and I NEED TO SHOP!!!

I hum and haw over these updates.  A friend of mine once told me that one must never reveal one’s rules – that way you can never be judged for breaking them.  This is hard for me.  I live a detrimentally honest existence, I say too much always, I can be rude, uncensored, I’m a very poor liar, and if something is on my mind then I have to talk about it.  This is why you will read about my writing progress until I complete it – broken rules and all.  Today Paul is going to talk to a friend of his who owns a cottage on a lake about 40 minutes from here.  I think I’m going to try solitary confinement as a method for finishing faster.  I read somewhere that Douglas Adams’ editor locked the two of them in a hotel suite for three weeks to ensure that So Long and Thanks for all the Fish would be finished without further delay.  Veronica probably wouldn’t want to lock herself away with me, but I’m going to try to do it to myself and see what happens.

I had a good weekend: Dinner with Matt and Jesse to consecrate the ending of TCP; feast of plenty from the farmers market, and a slow sunday nursing a hangover.  Paul and I watched no fewer than seven episodes of 30rock.  And now it’s monday.  I’ll write.

mid week

“anxiety is part of the picture–for the best profs I know and certainly for myself to date.  It has to do with the unconscious–and the way our needs and desires neither can nor do fit our conscious existences.”

The above quote is from my professor in LA who wrote to me last weekend.  I’ve been pretty public about this recent bout of writers block.  Last week was like writing in a vat of wet concrete – or quick sand.  Sometime I feel like I’m sinking, slowly.  Still, something about Richard’s gentle commiseration was encouraging.  Writing is an ebb and flow process, at once painful and masochistically great.  Anxiety is to be expected.  Surely it is part of this process.

An update:  Having grilled the academic community, I feel in good company.  I didn’t move my desk, and I am dutifully writing away.  I passed three of my self-made deadlines, but I’m going to make the fourth.  This friday I’ll be two-thirds complete.


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